Monday, August 30, 2010

Dedication to Lady

I called my mother up tonight to make some plans for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.  Towards the end of the conversation, Mom informed me that her aged border collie, Lady, was put to rest last week.

Lady was a fine dog.  When she was young, she used to get in trouble for running into the neighbors' yards.  It's not that she was causing problems or anything, she just wasn't supposed to leave the farm property.  Gradually, she grew out of that behavior, but she always got so excited when people came visiting.

Like a good border collie, she made sure that everything was kept in its place on the farm.  The cats stayed in the barn, the squirrels stayed in the trees, and the empty water bucket was kept near the garage so that she could toss it around whenever she felt the need.  She loved running after tractors and the Yamaha.  Even when her health began to fade, she pushed herself to keep up as early as this past May to keep up with the boys as they whipped around and around the house on the Yamaha.  Her tractor-chasing almost led to an early death.  One summer when she was just a couple years old, she literally got run over by my father while she was performing one task or another.  Fortunately for her, it was extremely snowy and she got pushed down into the tire groove.  She was sore for a few days, but nothing was broken.

Then 2 or 3 years back, she was hanging out along the highway and received a glancing blow from a passing car.  Fortunately, the driver stopped and alerted my dad about the accident.  She whisked Lady into town and she was able to pull through.  Her one hip was never quite the same and she continued to walk with a severe limp despite ongoing range-of-motion exercises.  But she survived the accident and was able to remain an ongoing companion for my father during his final years.

Over the past year, Lady began experiencing a series of mini-strokes.  Her health and stamina would fluctuate from week to week.  She would soak up the sun for a few hours or come out for a while to be around visitors and then turn around and spend the next couple days collapsed in the garage.  Her health continued to deteriorate and my mom ended up making the difficult decision to help her transition peacefully from life.

Lady lived a long life and a good life.  She will be missed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Faith UCC Pastor Brian in Paper Supporting Corboda House and our Muslim Neighbors

Pastor Brian Brandsmeier of Faith UCC here in Iowa City wrote a letter last week supporting the Cordoba House in NYC and solicited others to add their signatures alongside his.  After reading the letter, I decided to add my signature to the list.  An adapted form of the letter was submitted to the Iowa City Press-Citizen and published in today's edition.  Brian asked that this message be forwarded on with the spirit of love and support:
Standing by Muslim neighbors

We, as religious leaders in Iowa City, would like to help our community see the beauty of the Cordoba House project. Plus, we also would like to reassure our Muslim neighbors who may be sensing an upsurge in anti-Muslim sentiment that we stand with them in friendship and in defense of religious freedom.

Cordoba House is protected by the First Amendment. This amendment protects the freedom of religion for all Americans -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, etc. If the builders of Cordoba House, a Muslim community center, aren't guaranteed this Constitutional right, then the freedom of religion for all people is threatened. This is something to take very seriously. It is understandable that at the very mention of Sept. 11, Americans are stirred emotionally, but to allow the pain of Sept. 11 to usurp the religious liberty of all people would be to encourage and empower the violence of religious extremists.

Cordoba House is being built by The American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, two organizations that seek to improve the relationship between Islam and the West. In the weeks after Sept. 11, we asked these moderate Muslims to step forward and speak out. Now that they are coming forward in such important ways, we should welcome their efforts with open arms.

Cordoba House is being organized by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who works to improve relations between Muslim Americans and other Americans. Many
people, including University of Iowa alum and progressive Muslim author, Reza Aslan, consider Rauf to be an important leader of Islam in the U.S. because of his commitment to pluralism.

Cordoba House is named after Cordoba, Spain, a city where Muslims, Jews and Christians thrived together successfully for many years. This name is significant because it reminds people that, in the words of Feisal Abdul Rauf, "Muslims created what was, in its era, the most enlightened, pluralistic and tolerant society on earth." We should hold Cordoba up as an example for the U.S. Our nation should be a place where all people, no matter their religion, can live together in peace and prosperity.

Cordoba House is a community center that will feature a fitness center, culinary school, child care services, etc. It also will feature a prayer room. Such a building would be similar to a JCC or YMCA. These kinds of organizations provide services that are good for the entire community.

Cordoba House would share the neighborhood with a mosque, Masjid Manhattan, that has been in the area for more than 30 years. Clearly, Islam has been a part of the heritage of New York for a long time. Muslims are not exotic outsiders to be feared. They are friendly neighbors to be treated like we would like to be treated. The Torah and Gospels remind us to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves." And that includes our Muslim neighbors.

Cordoba House is a product of moderate Islam. It has nothing to do with fringe, fundamentalist groups like al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is political fundamentalism that has declared war on everything and everyone that stands in the way of their political agenda. Conversely, the form of Islam that is promoted by the sponsoring organizations of Cordoba House would be a peaceful form of Islam. We must not hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of extremists that claim their religion any more than we would want to be held accountable for the actions of extremists that claim our religion.

As religious leaders, we support not only the Constitutional right of the building of Cordoba House, but we also support the moral imperative of standing beside people who work to build a more peaceful and pluralistic world.

Rev. Brian Brandsmeier,Rev. Denny Coon, Rev. John McKinstry, RabbiJeff Portman, Rev. Paul M. Shultz, Rev. Mel Schlachter and Pastor Dorothy Whiston

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jesse Haworth Benefit

One of my co-workers, Christine, has an adult son who is struggling with a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma.  Chris and some of Jesse's friends are attempting to raise $3,000-$4,000 to help pay for expenses related to his medical treatment.

A fund-raising benefit/raffle has been scheduled from 8:00 AM to noon on Saturday, October 2nd, at Meredith Drive Reformed Church, located at 5128 Meredith Drive in Des Moines, Iowa.  Tickets for this event cost $5.00.  There will be a breakfast and then a series of raffle prizes will be drawn for, including...

*Iowa Cubs Tickets
*UNI Football and Basketball Tickets
*Gift Certificates to some great restaurants
*1 night stay at a couple local hotels
*Free rounds of golf at Jester Park and Finkbine
*2 airline tickets to about anywhere in the US aboard Air Tran

I seriously encourage you to attend this benefit, if possible.

Even if you cannot attend, cash donations are welcomed.  They can be forwarded to:

Jesse Haworth Benefit
Hills Bank
1401 S. Gilbert St
Iowa City, IA 52240

Please make checks payable to "Jesse Haworth Benefit"

Here is Jesse's story:
Jesse is 28 year's old. He is currently engaged to Andrea, and has a 7 year old son named Kalen. He is employed at Proctor and Gamble in Iowa City.

In the fall of 2009, Jesse was hit with a line drive while playing softball. Upon getting a CAT scan for a concussion, doctors saw a spot on his brain. After a couple months of deliberation, Jesse decided to have surgery to remove the tumor. Jesse went through surgery in the winter. Doctors were confident that they removed "most all" of the tumor. Once biopsied, the doctors found the tumor was cancerous (mostly stage 1 but some cells were stage 3). The doctors decided to start Jesse on a fairly stringent radiation and chemotherapy regimen. After 6 weeks of radiation, Jesse is set to start 6 months of chemo treatments in June 2010. Upon completion of chemo treatments, Jesse will have to undergo monthly MRI's.

Jesse is an amazing guy, and has held a great attitude this entire time. The family is asking for all the prayers they can get. In addition to prayers, the family would also accept any donations to help with medical bills. Being a young family, this bump in the road is taxing for them financially. My goal is to help them raise around $3,000 - $4,000 for medical bills. Any money raised above and beyond that would be donated by the family to the American Cancer Society. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on Jesse, and where and how you can help this family out in their time of need.

Pet Avengers Watch

I was checking out my favorite online comic book resource this morning to get a sneak-peak at next week's comic books.  Nothing immediately jumped out at me, but I pulled up some previews.  Good thing, too!  I was going to skip on one particular comic book, I Am An Avenger #1.  We get a lot of comic books and this one seemed from the initial previews to be a good one to avoid.  I mean, I like the Young Avengers, but that would have been the only reason originally for me to purchase this series of short stories.  Except, I totally missed from the previews that one of my favorite female super-heroes, Squirrel Girl, is also in this book.  However, the most important reason to buy this comic book wasn't even mentioned in the early previews, but luckily was shown in the CBR preview images: a new Pet Avengers short story!!!! 

As everyone who reads this blog knows, the Pet Avengers are the coolest super-hero team that I (nay, make that the world) never knew it needed until Marvel Comics created them.  The team consists of various super-heroic animals, including Lockjaw, Frog Thor, Lockheed, Redwing, Hairball, Zabu, and Ms. Lion.  In their short history, they have gone up against (and defeated!) death-worshipper Thanos, the spoiled uber-child known as the Golden One, Red Ghost's super-apes, Franklin Richard's Garbage Monster, and the Midgard Serpent of Asgard.  Fin Fang Foom (minus the Fin Fang Four) is slated to battle the Pet Avengers in October, but he doesn't stand a chance against Marvel's coolest super-team.

My only concern about this short story centers on the story's title, "Gnu Recruit", and the topic of my next poll, which was to focus on who should become the Avengers next recruit.  Maybe this story's "gnu" recruit will end up being a spoiler candidate.  Otherwise, I'm going to have to come up with a brand new poll topic very quickly!

Check out I Am An Avenger #1 next Wednesday at your local comic book shop and let them know you're doing it to show your Pet Avengers pride!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trying to Tweet

I joined Twitter this afternoon.  I thought it would be fun to monitor (i.e., stalk) significant and interesting people on the web and learn their most secret thoughts, observations, and activities.  So far, I've been followed by a porn peddler and I've tweeted about my burnt pizza.  I haven't decided if I'm gonna stick with Twitter quite yet.

One of the things that I'm most interested in is pulling interesting tweets from Twitter and using them as a jumping point for discussion on this blog.  I've seen other blogs post Tweets and it seemed like it would be fairly easy to do here.  No such luck.  I can copy Tweets posted on other sites like Iowa Independent or Joe My God, but I can't copy them off of Twitter myself.  If you know the trick, give me instructions in the comments.  Otherwise, I might have to bug Pastor Brian, who's been tweeting for a while.

It is kind of fun to follow the progression of tweets.  Take former Iowan right-to-life activist/current RNC member Kim Lehman's recent (and inaccurate) assertion that President Obama is a Muslim.  It's funny to watch the various reaction tweets.  Senator Grassley having to "take (Obama) at his word" that he's a Christian, ACCESSline editor Arthur Breur having to take Grassley at his word that he's really a Christian, and of course columnist Ted Landau opining that Lehman might not be a Muslim, but she definitely is an idiot.  It's all pretty ridiculous that this is even a national discussion.  Then again, this country needs pointless distractions to keep us entertained and polarized.




Anyhoo, I'm giving Twitter a week.  If I can't figure out how to manipulate it better, the account will be deleted.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Does God Love Michael's Two Daddies?

I was hopping around Amazon.com earlier today looking for impulse purchases when I came across a new children's book called Seth & Sara Ask... Does God Love Michael's Two Daddies? by Sheila K. Butt (who just happens to be running right now in TN as a state representative on a "traditional families" platform).  Here's the book's description:
In a world that is constantly changing, God’s Word remains the standard by which we must judge all human actions and lifestyles. In Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies?, Seth and Sara learn that God loves all people, even those who are disobeying Him. But they also learn that the only way to have a relationship with God is to stop sinning and turn to Jesus. For the last 15 years, the homosexual community has been publishing children’s books promoting homosexuality, starting with the book Heather Has Two Mommies, Daddy’s Roommate, and My Two Uncles. To our knowledge, no comparable children’s book designed to combat the promotion of homosexuality is available on the market -- until now. Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies? is a professionally designed and illustrated book that promotes God’s love for all individuals, while at the same time showing, in a loving way, that homosexuality is out of harmony with Bible teaching. This book has tremendous potential to influence positively the lives of thousands of children growing up in tumultuous and confusing times.
I'm surprised that I've never heard of this book before. On the one hand, I'd really like to read and review the book. In fact, I was this close to purchasing the book. On the other hand, I don't want to financially support this stuff and eventually decided against making the purchase. Ultimately, I don't want my money to support someone else's artistic bigotry.

It was pretty interesting to read the various reviews, such as J. Martin's pithy response: "Of course God loves Michael's two daddies...just like Jesus loved his two daddies."

There was a another excellent review that helped me make my decision to not purchase this book, written by T.S. Piccolotti. Here is some of that review:
How does the author reconcile the condemnation of homosexuality with the concept of a loving God? She makes three valiant, if vain, attempts. First, she depicts a heterosexual home as happy, secure, and God-approved, as opposed to the instability of a gay home. Second, she attempts to show that the issue of gay marriage negatively affects the children of both homosexual and heterosexual families. Christian children are affected negatively because gay marriage confuses them, in other words, it makes them question their parents' values. Third, she skirts the issue of what Christians actually believe will happen to Michael's parents when they don't end up in Heaven…

Michael is depicted three times by the illustrator, in all instances alienated from his Christ-loving friends, a fearful grimace of uncertainty plastered on his face. In the first illustration Michael's security is derailed when he learns that normal families have a mom and a dad, not two dads. In the second illustration an anxious Michael waves goodbye to Seth and Sarah who stand beside their loving mother. Michael waves from the back of a bus. Apparently children of gay, interracial couples are bused to this school district, while hetero Christian moms pick up their children. In the third illustration Michael cowers behind the chair in which Black Dad sits, as Black Dad reads the Bible, presumably Leviticus, to White Dad. Indifferent White Dad turns his back on both of them to sip a latté out of a large purple mug. Perhaps it is dawning on Michael that the Bible is going to break up his home, and that his future in a God-ordained world is less than certain.

Across the ideological tracks, hetero Christian Dad explains to Seth and Sarah that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. Christian Dad continues, "But in this world there are some men who want to live together like they are married."

LIKE they are married. Like a fake marriage, fake parents, a fake home…

It's hard to tell if the author objects more to Michael's dads being a gay couple, or an interracial couple. The book's idealized depiction of Christian marriage is of a man and a woman of the same race. Michael hides in fear behind the chair of adamant finger-pointing (angry?) Black Dad, while later Black Dad cowers in the shadow of a white Jesus tied to a cross. On the road to normalcy, Black Dad comes to accept his place. He's purchased by the blood of the lamb.

There is one more illustration that may be of Michael - he has the same face, and very similar clothes, but he's older - a teenager. Hetero Christian Dad has explained that Michael's dads are sinning. The concept of sin is illustrated with the boy who looks like Michael stealing a magazine from a store. Apparently Michael is so confused about sin and gay marriage that he no longer knows the difference between right and wrong. Gay marriage leads to stealing, and worse - maybe even dancing.
Hopefully the real-life Michaels of this world don't turn to the real-life Seths & Saras of this world for their eternal validation.  God might not always be pleased with the choices of Michael or his parents, but I know that He loves them.  That said, maybe Sara and Seth's parents should worry less about God's love for Michael's two daddies and focus on their own family.  We're all sinners and fall short of God's glory and that includes the real-life Seths & Saras, not just the real-life dads of Michael.  What must God think of the doubt and rejection that's being directed towards Michael and his father by the Christians within this book?  Surely those actions fail to warm God's fuzzy-loving inner heart.

Of course, God loves Michael and both of his dads.  He doesn't reject them for loving one another or creating this family.  I'm sure that He aches when Michael shoplifts or when Michael's white dad chooses to turn away from God.  Then again, God is the God of second chances.  This book might have ended with images of Michael stealing, but Michael has until his dying breath to seek God's love and forgiveness and I'm not cynical enough to believe that he and children like him don't understand right from wrong just because they have two dads or two moms.  God is always there for forgiveness and that forgiveness is not dependent on the number of moms or dads living in your home.

God loves Michael and his two daddies.  May God forgive anyone who tries to convince them of anything different.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Thoughts on "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World"

I finally talked D'Angelo into seeing "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" this afternoon.  It rattled D's mind and shocked my afternoon.  I'm still buzzing from the clever dialogue, digital humor, and video game fight scenes.  I cannot adequately describe the high energy generated by this movie.  The ADHD-like transitions from scene to scene and happy to sad were satisfyingly effective.  There were no glancing-at-your-watch-and-wondering-how-much-time-is-left moments.  It was an amazing movie.  It aggravates me to no end to learn that this wonderful film is struggling at the box office.  I mean, it's being trounced by Vampires Suck.  Not cool.  Maybe that's the point, though I wish more people would give this movie a chance because it really deserves it.

Here's the nutshell.  Scott Pilgrim is still struggling over the loss of his ex-girlfriend, Envy.  In a fit of insanity, he begins dating a 17-year-old high school named Knives Chau, much to the chagrin of his younger sister, his band members, and his gay roommate.  His world is suddenly rocked when he meets Ramona, a punk-haired alternative girl who skates through his subconscious and delivers DVDs for Amazon.  He spends the rest of the movie battling Ramona's League of Seven Evil Exes in their battle to break up this newbie relationship.  Scott starts off battling for Ramona's heart, but eventually comes to understand that he's ultimately fighting for his self-respect.

Got Talent?

This one's a shout-out to all you folks with musical gifts.  The United Church of Christ's communications office is in the process of producing a Christmas-themed television special that will air this December on NBC:
The special celebrates Christmas through the music and memories of children from different faith denominations across the United States. The UCC communication office is looking for children's and youth choirs, bell choirs, and soloists, up to age 18, singing or performing inspirational Christmas music.

The producers also are looking for children and youth, up to 18 years of age, willing to talk on camera about their fondest Christmas memories, and what this holy season means to them.
It was recently pointed out by my kids that I definitely DO NOT have musical gifts that are talent-worthy, but I know there are others out there that fit the bill.  (Sara, maybe???)

If interested, you have a little over a month to pull things together. Performances are to be videotaped on DVCam or Beta Cam SP and must be submitted by October 15, 2010. Submit videos to Jean Robinson (video producer); United Church of Christ; 700 Prospect Avenue; Cleveland, OH 44115.

Contact Jean Robinson (robinsoj@ucc.org) for more information.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Marin Says "I'm Sorry" on CBN

I'm not sure if it was filmed for a segment on the 700 Club, but Andrew Marin and the Marin Foundation were recently spotlighted on CBN.  The piece talks about Andrew and his bridge-building efforts between the evangelical Christian communities and the GLBT communities, as well as TMF's recent "I'm Sorry" campaign.  I was actually surprised at how unbiased CBN was in this piece.  There was nothing terribly offensive, obnoxious, or stereotypical stated or portrayed in the segment, with the exception of the pornography spiel immediately following Andrew's piece.  I didn't learn much about the Marin Foundation that I didn't know already, but I did come away wondering how far poor Andrew had to trudge along the streets of Chicago for that six minute segment!  They had him walking everywhere!

This is how the Zombie Apocalypse Begins

I'm almost positive this is how Dawn of the Dead began. Or at least 28 Days Later.  From today's Iowa City Press-Citizen:
An Amana man is in the Johnson County Jail after he allegedly attacked his estranged wife and bit her new boyfriend.

Jesse Keith Hill, 30, was arrested early Friday morning for first-degree burglary, domestic abuse and assault causing bodily injury after he allegedly broke into his estranged wife’s Tiffin apartment and attacked her and her new boyfriend.

According to the arrest report, Hill kicked in the front door of his wife’s apartment after yelling at her and ringing the door bell several times just before 1 a.m. Once inside, he got into a physical fight with the alleged victims, biting the unidentified boyfriend on his abdomen, taking a small chunk of skin away, and biting his left arm, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said.
Both victims refused medical treatment and are walking the streets.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Mr. Hill was arrested for this alleged assault, but his male victim really needs to be observed for a couple days for possible infection.  Amana's not that far from here.  I don't want to wake up hip-deep in zombies.  You know what I'm saying?

This isn't the first time Johnson County's had a brush with possible zombie apocalypses.  Just last year, a would-be victim fought his way from the jaws of the undead at a local restaurant:
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa City police are investigating an early morning assault in which a man accused another of being a zombie, then punched him twice. Police said the assault occurred at 1:17 a.m. Sunday at an Iowa City restaurant south of the University of Iowa campus.

A man was ordering food when he was approached by another man who called him a zombie, then hit him in the eye. When the victim tried to call police on his cell phone, the man punched him again, breaking his nose.

The man then ran out a back door.

The victim was taken by ambulance to a hospital.
It's unclear what happened to the zombie once it was whisked away, but hopefully the ambulance personnel were wearing strong skin barriers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iowa GOP: AIDS = Gay Plague?

It's been an interesting week for state GOP politics and it all started up on Facebook.  House Representative candidate and GOP ticket holder Jeremy Walters started out the week expressing his thoughts on the Bible, homosexuality, and AIDS.  More specifically, he believe that AIDS was prophesied in the Bible as God's punishment for gay people, according to what's written in Leviticus (presumably gay men, since lesbians appears to be least likely to catch the disease):

Walters' statements were quickly repudiated by One Iowa's executive director, Carolyn Jenison.  "Jeremy Walters’ comments are offensive and they have no place in this year’s election.  We call on the Republican Party of Iowa to denounce Walters’ comments immediately.  HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that does not discriminate.  It’s a matter of life and death for many Iowans."

Surprisingly, Matt Strawn, the Republican Party of Iowa's chairman, agreed with Jenison and issued the following statement: "Mr. Walters’ comments are inappropriate and in no way represent the beliefs of the Republican Party of Iowa... HIV/AIDS does not discriminate and our hearts and prayers go out to any Iowa family facing this disease."  Within an hour of that statement, Republican Party of Iowa communications director Danielle Plogmann communicated: “We just learned Mr. Walters had previously signed up to work the booth as a Polk County volunteer (at the Iowa State Fair booth)... This is no longer the case.

Within a half-hour of that, despite earlier assertions that the Facebook statements were absolutely never coming down, Walters took down his status updates with the following comment:
I am not against people having a gay lifestyle, and the statements made on Facebook have been taken the wrong way. The statement regarding gay homosexuality was not meant to be offensive and I deeply appologize.

As far as the quote from Bible; I was replying to someone elses post. It should have been posted as a comment on their page, not my Facebook wall. I appologize for the mistake and if this statement offened anyone. Both postings have been removed and these comments do not pertain to my campaign or the Republican Party of Iowa. My passion is to listen and learn from the people so I can represent them at the statehouse. Everyone makes mistakes, please forgive me.
Now color me surprised, but who'd've thunk that the Iowa GOP, after a year and a half of gay-baiting, would make a positive statement for people with HIV/AIDS or that a Republican candidate could get shamed into half-heartedly apologizing to gay people and admitting that, if elected, he'd actually be representing gay constituents and people who came about them?

Thankfully, my shock was short-lived and reality reared its ugly head.  Earlier today, GOP state Senate hopeful, Dave Leach, spoke about against the Republican Party of Iowa for publicly spanking Walters:
Everyone knows sodomites suffer [HIV/AIDS] far more than the rest of the population, and that sodomy’s practices, which are so embarrassingly unsanitary that you dare not detail them in one of your articles, would inevitably create such a disease if it did not already exist. It seems “inappropriate,” to use Strawn’s word, to apologize for saying what the Bible says, with which everyone agrees. It is “inappropriate” for anyone to ask such a thing. I am sorry that Jeremy gave up his ground, although at least he stood it for awhile, which is more than most will do.
Leach found Walters' statements about gay blood and AIDS as God's punishment to be "theologically clumsy, but it seemed close enough to Biblical truth to not merit a censure from the Republican Party."

Maybe it's true that AIDS is actually some sort of blood born disease created on Earth through God's intervention as means for punishing gay men.  If true, why aren't lesbians as susceptible to the disease of gay men or straight people?  Also, why did it take nearly 2000 years for the disease to really get moving?  And how come uninfected gay men cannot infect other uninfected gay men?  I've had plenty of opportunities to get infected from my husband and yet 16 years have gone by and we're both still HIV negative.  If gay marriage is such an evil institution, you would think that God would have come up with some sort of spontaneous runaround virus by now.

The truth is that AIDS is just a virus that got spread around by a population of men who didn't understand its existence until it was too late.  There are a few ways to reduce infection: 1. Remain sexually abstinent.  2. Refrain from sexually risky behaviors and use condoms and other barriers during riskier sexual practices.  3. Assume that your sexual partners are HIV positive until you know better (and then continue with that assumption).  4. Maintain a sexually monogamous relationship with someone that you know if HIV negative.  5. Don't share needles with anyone else. 

Nothing is absolute, but nobody is condemned to becoming infected.  No matter what they believe about God or gays.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vander Plaats Takes Aim at Iowa Supreme Court Justices

Thrice-failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats recently announced a new organization called "Freedom for Marriage" with one specific goal: to unseat the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices up for retention votes during the November 2010 election:



On top of that, Vander Plaats wants to pass another statewide DOMA law that specifically includes a provision that would prevent the courts from reviewing or overturning any aspect of that law:
He is also now advocating for the legislature to re-affirm a new version of the Defense of Marriage Act including a provision in this new legislation limiting the jurisdiction of the courts to review the law or strike it down. This is something that Vander Plaats didn’t talk about on the campaign trail, but it is a position that Jan Mickelson, the morning radio show host on WHO Radio, has advocated for.
Personally, I don't have a clue what the goal of all this is.  The court decision has already been made.  I guess it has a two-fold goal: to punish these three most Republican court justices for making one unanimous court decision that he doesn't like and to warn future court justices that they too will be targeted by Vander Plaats and his ilk if they don't toe his line.  I checked out the website for the AFA-financed group.  From what I can tell, their chief argument is that these court justices will overturn every freedom that Iowans hold because they found the DOMA law unconstitutional and that is why they need to go.

This fight will never be over, will it?  The political and religious right will never respect my freedom of religious expression or recognize any ounce of positiveness in our family.  Heck, they will never admit that there is a family living under this roof.  The same goes for any other gay or lesbian family in this state.  They will keep attacking and attacking and attacking our families, all the while claiming that their families are under attack.  I'm sick of it all.

I Don't Like Tomatoes

I decided to go to a nearby Mexican restaurant today where they make a good and quick taco salad.  I ordered my usual: Taco Salad with no tomatoes or sour cream and a Coke. I then read a newsletter and ate my complimentary chips with salsa.

First, the waiter screwed up my soda. I like Diet Dr Pepper and Diet 7-Up. That's pretty much it when it comes to diet sodas. He served me Diet Coke. I don't like Diet Coke. Not at all. He replaced it fairly quickly and things were fine. No biggy outside of the fact that I apparently look like somebody who needs a Diet Coke.

Then he served my taco salad.

And stared at me for a moment before asking, "You don't like tomatoes?". "No. I don't like tomatoes." "You know that there are tomatoes in your salsa," he informed me with a smirk. I glared at him. That pretty much ended our conversation.

Let's get something out of the way. I grew up in the country. I know that food comes from the ground and from animals. I'm not clueless about planting food or harvesting it or jarring it or using it as ingredients for other foods. I know that salsa has tomatoes in it. Just like I know that it has ground up onions and peppers and other veggies that I don't like. I just don't like the taste or consistency of actual tomatoes.

I don't need to justify my food preferences to anyone, much less a cocky waiter who'd already messed up my drink order and who was presumably awaiting a monetary tip at the tail-end of the meal.

I've come to the conclusion that I need to eat in more often.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Squirrel in a Box

Do you ever find your memory pulled back into long forgotten times? I've been stuck back in 4th grade all morning. Not quite sure what triggered it. It's not as emotionally painful as these memories usually are.

I was the fat, unpopular kids throughout much of school. I didn't have a lot of friends and was teased by many of the kids. Fortunately, there were a few other kids lower on the totem pole than I. This looping memory has to do with one of these kids. I don't even recall his name. "Dewey" seems right, though I don't think that's it. It'll do for today.

Looking back, Dewey's crime was that his family was dirt-poor, his clothing was obviously handed-down, and he was physically... different. It's hard to describe. If I was a parent and saw kids teasing him for any of these reasons, I would tell them to knock it off. As a kid, I was just happy for the tease-buffer.

I didn't know Dewey very well. I'm sure he tried to get others to like him better. I know that I did, too. It's one of these backfired attempts at being cool that I'm thinking about today.

In 4th grade, we were still doing weekly show-and-tell sessions. You could bring special things from home to share with your classmates. Maybe a new toy or a souvenir from a recent vacation. Dewey brought a live squirrel. In an empty box of Tide.

Thinking back, I really did think it was pretty cool to see a squirrel up close. But I laughed and pointed at Dewey like the other kids. The teacher was livid and, in a rare move, actually sent Dewey walking home early in the day carrying his little squirrel in its Tide-boxed cage.

I remember watching him trudge away towards home through the classroom window and feeling so bad for him. He was trying so hard to impress and that attempt bombed so badly. He lasted at my elementary school only through the rest of the school year and then disappeared for some unknown location.

People are so quick to hurt each other to demonstrate their superiority. I have to work hard to curb my own impulses. Or at least minimize them. It reminds me that we're not as different from our animal cousins as we try to imagine.

Poll Result #1: And the Winner is... Ms. Lion!

Readers of this blog hopefully remember that I initiated its first ever poll early this month with the ever important question: Who Should be the Pet Avengers' Team Liaison?  Nine people ended up voting in the poll and we actually ended up with a two-way tie for the lead.  After a moment of deliberation, I decided to leave it up to my boy D'Angelo to cast the winning vote for this decision.  His poll-winning choice...?

Ms. Lion!!!!  Imagine this cute little face confabbing with those three power-women up above.  Priceless.

Here's how the actually voting (minus D'Angelo's final vote) played out:

Who Should be the Pet Avengers' Team Liaison?
Ms. Lion 3 (33%)
Howard the Duck 3 (33%)
Dani Moonstar 2 (22%)
Shanna the She-Devil 1 (11%)

My plan is to forward the results of this poll to Pet Avengers creator/writer Chris Eliopoulos.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Christian Busybodies

I was hopping around YouTube tonight and came across this beautiful version of "In The Sanctuary" by Jambalaya Spirit, apparently some sort of European praise group.  So I'm enjoying the song and decided to check out some of comments. It's filled with a bunch of busybodies who have nothing to do but call the women of this group whores because of their outfits. All three women have nice clothes that reveal their shoulders. Apparently, the message of their music means nothing because they're distracting the audience with sexual imagery.



A few years ago, the United Church of Christ came out with a couple 30-second commercials as part of its God Is Still Speaking campaign with the message, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." One of the ads featured a couple bouncers turning away people on Sunday morning from a local church, including a disabled person, a presumably gay couple, and a non-Caucasian person. A similar ad was released a year later where other less-desirables (such as a more obvious gay couple, a mother with a crying baby, a man with a walker, and a few others) got sprung from pews by a minister with an ejector button.





Many networks, pundits, and churches (including those in the UCC) did not like those ads because they felt like the UCC was accusing everyone else of being inhospitable towards others. I suppose we were, though the GISS training that I attended before the initial ads were released stressed our own failings at being more inviting to newer folks and taught strategies for turning around such behavior.

But the honest truth is that churches contain some of the most exclusive, negative, finger-pointing busybodies around. "She's dressed like a whore." "We've always done it this way. It was good enough for our great-grandparents then. It's good enough for us now." "Can you imagine what those men do to each other in bed? How disgusting!"

Meanwhile, churches are dying out. People, fed up with religious bigots and hypocrites, are establishing alternative ways to connect with God and each other. Home churches. Internet prayer groups. Meditation. New pathways of faith.

This situation just highlights to me the never-ending process of letting go of pride and ego within the church community. Until the church is able to do this, we will continue to hemorrhage good folks with great talents and ministries.

My Thoughts on "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore"

D'Angelo and I decided to see a movie this afternoon.  I wanted to watch "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World", but D' really wanted to see "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore".  Being the kind father that I sometimes am, I relented.  Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that I should have stuck to my guns and insisted on watching "Scott Pilgrim".  Ah well, live and learn.

The short version?  Check out the trailer.  It has most of the best material.  Anything good not shown in the trailer isn't really worth the hour and a half that it takes to watch this flick.

Don't get me wrong.  Check out my previous movie reviews.  I'm not a movie snob.  I'm all for kids movies being kids movies and I don't go in expecting fine art.  I loved the original Cats & Dogs movie back in 2001 and was anticipating more of that.  Instead, I got the worst elements of Marmaduke, with liberal smatterings of Zoom.  Bleh...  There were tons of brilliant voice actors in this movie and yet it all played out so terribly flat.  And what exactly did Chris O'Donnell's character add to the movie?

There were some elements that I really digged.  The Bond-inspired opening theme music was superb and I haven't seen (or, I guess, heard) Bette Midler so deliciously villainous in her title role of Kitty Galore since her witchy days in Hocus Pocus.  Beyond that?  Not so much.

D'Angelo, on the other hand, said that he liked Cats & Dogs.  Then again, nothing jumped out at him that he really liked about the movie outside of the scene where German Shepherd agent Diggs got tickled by a bunch of kittens, something we could have watched over and over for free on TV.

Favorite Trailer: Yogi Bear:  This Christmas 2010 movie looks like a lot of fun, with one major exception.  Who had the brilliant idea to cast Dan Aykroyd as Yogi's voice actor?  At least Justin Timberlake appears to be making an effort to sound like Boo Boo.

Ronald McDonald Cleared of Pot Possession Charges

I vaguely remember this story that came out of Iowa City early this year.  In a nut shell, the police arrested Ronald McDonald and two of his friends on marijuana-related charges after finding a stash of the illegal drug in his home and after McDonald admitted to smoking it.  The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported earlier this week that all charges have been dropped against Ronald McDonald:
Charges have been dismissed against two Iowa City men charged with possession of marijuana in February.

Police went to 2023 Taylor Drive, the home of Ronald McDonald, on Feb. 14 after receiving a report of a suspicious smell. Police said responding officers could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from the residence. Police said they found a quantity of marijuana and other drug use paraphernalia in the residence. A jar containing marijuana residue allegedly was found in McDonald's room and he admitted to smoking marijuana, police said.

As a result of their investigation, McDonald was charged with possession of marijuana and permitting a gathering for the use of drugs. Also charged were Deandre L. R. Irby and Sven M. J. Hovland. Irby was charged with possession of marijuana. Hovland was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver after police found marijuana, a scale, ledgers, a pipe and cash in his possession. Hovland allegedly admitted to providing marijuana for the gathering.

Hovland later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation. On Aug. 5, the court dismissed the charges against McDonald and Irby.
The article doesn't actually explain why charges were dropped against McDonald, though a comment on the PC website indicates that he dropped a clean urinalysis before the most current court hearing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

13 Weddings on the 13th

My church hosted thirteen weddings earlier today.  These men and women traveled here from St. Louis, MO.  Four different religious leaders officiated weddings.  Three were Christian, one was Jewish, and one was an Ethical Humanitarian.  Ten of these couples were lesbians and three were gay men.  They all traveled here as part of the 5th Marriage Equality Bus.

These couples represented many demographics.  Some were older; some were younger.  Some had been together a few years; others had been together for decades.  Some anticipated parenthood; one couple brought their daughter; a couple others were grandparents.  A few had already participated in commitment ceremonies and decided to take the ride primarily to obtain a bit of legal stability for their family; others walked down the proverbial aisle for the first time.  Some brought friends; while others came on their own.

The love and excitement was palpable.  I was one of several folks who attended from Faith UCC.  None of us knew any of these couples before today and yet we were repeatedly brought back and forth from laughter to tears as we heard these couples' stories and witness their joy and commitment.  It was an honor to participate in this special day.  I truly hope that Marriage Equality Bus #6 (and 7 and 8, etc...) blesses us with its presence during future trips.

Here are the 13 new sets of brides and grooms.  Thank you all for blessing me, my church, and my community with your weddings:


Check out Faith UCC's blog for a television news article about these weddings.