Monday, May 28, 2007

Honest Abe, Politician

Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," is difficult to review in a brief blog. Goodwin discusses Lincoln's political skills by way of parallel biographies with his three major rivals for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination, William Henry Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. Along the way, Goodwin also discusses the lives of Mary Todd Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, Gideon Welles, the Blair family, and other figures in the Lincoln Administration.

Lincoln was the least likely of the four major contenders for the 1860 nomination. He had served on term in Congress, in the late 1840s, and he had lost Senate elections in 1856 and 1858 (back when Legislatures elected Senators). Moreover, he lacked the formal education and media stature that his opponents had attained. Seward was the front-runner by far, but Lincoln emerged as the consensus choice of delegates who were concerned that Seward, whose rhetoric on slavery was more inflammatory than Lincoln's, might damage the Republican Party in their own states.

Lincoln was able to emerge as the consensus candidate thanks to a number of factors, one of which was his cadre of loyal and canny political operatives in Illinois. Lincoln had the rare gift of making loyal allies as he lost elections, and he was a tireless political organizer. His allies were able to obtain the 1860 convention for Chicago before Lincoln made clear that he was a candidate, and they worked the delegates and packed the building with Lincoln supporters. Seward, Chase, and Bates, on the other hand, had the misfortune of alienating important groups and individuals as they won elections; those groups for the most part ended up in the Lincoln camp.

Once elected, Lincoln watched helplessly as the Southern states began to secede and President James Buchanan did absolutely nothing to stop them. Lincoln included Seward (Sec. of State), Chase (Sec. of the Treasury) and Bates (Atty. Gen.) in his cabinet, despite the fact that they had run against him. He later brought in Stanton (Sec. of War), who had personally humiliated him wrt a court case years earlier. This, in a time when one-term presidencies were the rule and not the exception. Seward and Bates recognized Lincoln's greatness, but Chase intrigued against Lincoln in hopes of securing the 1864 nomination for himself. Lincoln held his cabinet of former Whigs and former Democrats together through a mixture of timing, manipulation, and personal humor and kindness. He even kept Chase around, due to Chase's uncanny ability to raise money to fund the Union war effort. It didn't bother Lincoln that Chase was always scheming against him. After he accepted Chase's resignation, Lincoln nominated Chase as Chief Justice, knowing that Chase was absolutely committed to the rights of African-Americans, which Lincoln saw as the most important legal issue that would arise after the Civil War ended. Oh, yeah, and Lincoln held the Union together in the face of a string of military defeats, incompetent commanders, and political defeatists.

Goodwin explores the evolution of Lincoln's views on slavery and race, though that issue is addressed in more detail in Garry Wills's "Lincoln at Gettysburg," another book I highly recommend. Wills discusses the Gettysburg Address in great detail as well, finding influences going all the way back to Pericles. Goodwin, however, does provide an interesting take on the Gettysburg Address. She discusses Lincoln's childhood, in which he listened to his father tell stories ad nauseum. Lincoln himself loved to tell stories, and used stories to drive home important points he wanted to make. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln, in a little over two minutes, told the story of the past, present, and future of America:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Liberty, equality, and democracy are the political ideals of most Americans, whether we may disagree on the precise meanings of those words and whether we have a ways to go before we fully achieve them. "Team of Rivals" is an excellent book, though it is very long and portions of it did not seem particularly relevant, particularly the parts involving minor players like Katie Chase and the various members of the Blair family. I got bogged down in some of that minutiae. However, I like the idea of using comparative biography to show just how exceptional our 16th President really was.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

How will it end?

Damn, no Sopranos this week. I've read a few spoilers as to how the show will end, but the show is about as secretive as the Bush Administration, so I doubt any of those spoilers are nearly 100% accurate. I do think we can discount Meadow ending up as da boss. Been there, done that, in Godfather III. Anyway, here's my guess as to how it ends. I figured I'd put it up so I can see how wrong I am come June 10:

Phil Leotardo's underling insulted Meadow Soprano last week, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that Phil would go after A.J. Phil seems obsessed with killing a close relative of Tony's as retaliation for Tony cheating him out of killing Steve Buscemi (aka "Diet Tony" on TWoP). Now that Christopher is gone, there aren't any mobster relatives left except Uncle Junior, and it's not like Tony would care if Junior got capped. I don't count brother-in-law Bobby here, but maybe I should. Anyway, Tony's children are civilians, but that doesn't seem to matter to Phil. One spoiler has A.J. beating Phil to death with a metal pipe. Perhaps the New Yorkers will kidnap A.J., and he will escape after killing the NY boss. That would be consistent with the Lincoln and Kennedy references in the past two episodes. Moreover, having a "civilian" like A.J. take out a boss would be a sort of cosmic revenge on an audience that identifies a bit too closely with the mafiosi on the show, an issue that has bothered David Chase since the show premiered.

Phil gives an order to "whack New Jersey," much as Lucchese boss Vic Amuso did in the 1980s. After several of his guys are killed, or to find A.J., or both, Tony turns to the FBI's Agent Harris, and ends up relatively impoverished in the witness protection program. He may actually become Kevin Finnerty of Kingman, Arizona, just like in the coma dreams early in Season Six. It's possible that Agent Harris--who is personally fond of Tony--may begin this process by tipping Tony off about Phil's extermination order (I had to use that phrase). At the end, Tony will have lost his arrogance like the Tibetan monk told him to do in one of the coma dreams.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Carmela will pick up again with her curiosity about Adriana's disappearance. She did see the ghost of Ade in her Seven Spirits dream at the very beginning of Season Six, and that ghost has hung around throughout the season. At the end of the show, Carm will be left with "Sekhu, or the remains," of her life of luxury and wealth as First Lady of the Mob.

I don't see Tony having a "life goes on" ending as the boss of the New Jersey crime family. His coma dream showed him a little of what an alternative life would be like. Also, he did not enter the house of the dead when Steve Buscemi tried to show him in. In the last episode, he spoke with Dr. Melfi about there being something undefinable, but "more" out there. He also spoke about how mothers are like buses that drop you off, but you keep getting back on the buses. Could Tony's subconscious be telling him to get off the Livia bus and out of the Mafia? There are only two ways out for a guy like Tony--either in a body bag or in the witness protection program. One of the themes of Season Six seems to be reducing the alternatives available to the major characters.

The Sopranos arguably is the most significant phenomenon in American pop culture in the past 10 years. The mobster aspect of the show is the tip of the iceberg as far as I'm concerned. The show works with symbolism, subtext, metaphor, and the subconscious mind better than any popular entertainment I've seen. C.G. Jung could be on the writing staff. And has an actor ever nailed a part any better than James Gandolfini has nailed Tony Soprano? This go-around, "The Sopranos" has pretty much blown everything else out of the water.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

My Own Private Gene Pool?

The other day, I read Gentle Reader Sideon's post about attending his birth mother's family reunion. Like him, I am an adoptee. Recently, I've also read some articles about how accurate genetic testing has become wrt health conditions that run in families. Additionally, many geneticists believe that autism has a genetic link, and it might be helpful to have as much genetic information as I could get wrt my own kids. We've volunteered for a genetic history study, and it would be nice to give up as much information as we can. Anyhow, I was motivated to get on Westlaw and see what information I might be able to obtain about my own birth parents.

Texas, like most states, currently requires a court order for an adoptee to gain access to his or her entire file, but state law allows adoptees to obtain a genetic and health history of birth parents, to the extent such a history has been reported. I may request that information, though I doubt much will be there. The Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the disclosure of birth parents' actual identities, but, as it stands now, that bill won't apply to me. I don't really care about the identity of my birth parents for its own sake, but I would be interested in any genetic information I could get. In the end, I may need to petition for a court order and hope to obtain the entire file, then go from there.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Life after Law

The owner of the deli featured in this article used to be a coworker of mine. The food at his place is pretty good, actually.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Sopranos: Sins of the Father

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

--Exodus 20:5

It all comes back to that swimming pool and those ducks. In the very first episode of "The Sopranos," Tony fed a family of ducks that settled in his swimming pool, and he was saddened when the ducks flew away. Dr. Melfi opined that the ducks represented Tony's family. There have been a number of references back to the ducks through the years, and the swimming pool has served a symbolic function as a reflection of the state of the nuclear Soprano family. In last night's episode, "The Second Coming," the clinically depressed A.J. Soprano attempted suicide in the swimming pool (cement shoes, anybody?). Fortunately for A.J., he had second thoughts, and he used too much rope to keep him under involuntarily. In that first episode, Tony's fear was that his family would leave him, flying away like the ducks. Last night, it looked as if Tony's son would, symbolically, at least, die for Tony's sins, and, at the same time, serve as a symbol of the death of the Soprano family. Moreover, A.J.'s gasping for air when Tony showed up to save him reminded me of Chris's gasping for air just before Tony killed him. Predictably, Carmela blamed Tony--placing the blame on his genetic predisposition towards depression and totally overlooking Tony's profession, her complicity in that profession, and the corrosive effect that those factors might have had on A.J.

Not sure what to think of Melfi's therapist accusing her of enabling Tony's criminal behavior. She has encouraged him to get out of the Life on several occasions, but she also continues to see him despite knowing that he is a professional criminal. Also, with regard to Melfi, I recall her making the moral decision not to tell Tony when she was raped. Last night, Meadow made the opposite moral decision and told Tony about the disrespect paid to her by one of Phil Leotardo's gangsters. Is Meadow making her peace with her father's profession?

I'm not sure what to make of the Lincoln references throughout the episode. Combined with the fact that one of the girls in last week's episode was named Kennedy, I'd guess there's going to be a high level whacking or two in the final two episodes of the show.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Grandparents' visit

DW's parents, having just completed a busy wedding season, flew into Alexandria for a visit with DW, our kids, and me. On the way up, I purchased a new digital camera, one that works much better than our old one--hopefully, I won't need to take 10 pictures to get one good one. Anyhow, back to the in-laws' visit. We were concerned that the kids might not take well to having extra people in the picture during their routines. The kids have seen DW's parents several times before, but they hadn't seen them in a couple of years before yesterday, and they hadn't seen them during an Alexandria routine.

Is this my son A. or one of the gentle readers of this blog? The likeness still amazes me. A. was in a particularly good mood yesterday. It took him a few minutes to warm up to his grandmother, who sat in the back with him. Once we got to WalMart, he was peachy keen with things. He even allowed DW's mom to push the cart, with him using his body and head to direct her around the store. A. also was happy to have his grandparents play with him in the swimming pool, in our hotel room,and at the park.

A. looooves the ice cream at his favorite local restaurant.

T. also enjoyed the visit, though he was a little high-strung, especially after a hotel housekeeper inadvertently reinforced T.'s vacuum cleaner phobia. At one point, DW accidentally referred to her mother as "grandma," something that made T. look a little uneasy, but that confirmed my theory that he really didn't much like my mother by the time we parted ways. Once we referred to DW's parents by their first names again, he was perfectly happy about the situation.

T. wasn't angry or upset, but he sure looks like it in this picture. IIRC, he was shouting, "the CAR!" while I was checking him out for the day.

It was nice for both of our boys to get reacquainted with their maternal grandparents, and it was a relief that the boys didn't object at all to having them here during their routines. DW's father commented about how astonished he was at the boys' progress since the last time he saw them, and at A.'s improvement in particular. The visit was good for all of us. DW and I both want our boys to know they have a family that loves them, most importantly, the family members who are named as their guardians in our wills. That's a little difficult when most of that family lives 2000 miles away, but it's certainly not impossible. We prepped the kids for this visit with telephone calls and pictures, and, in T's case, teaching him his grandparents' first names. It all seemed to work pretty well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Telemedicine network

St. Mary's Residential Training School has completed the installation of its real-time telemedicine network, part of joint venture with the Tulane Medical School, which allows specialists to consult with school staff on medical issues and to look in on ABA training sessions. Very cool. Also, my kids' ABA programs will be amped up in the near future, something I'm looking forward to.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Sopranos: the Death Spiral. Spoiler alert

There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I cant hear what youre sayin.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

--Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb

Well, it wasn't a complete surprise, but, wow! It was foreshadowed a little in last week's episode, and you knew something very, very bad was going to happen when Christopher inserted the CD soundtrack of "The Departed" and cranked up Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." I didn't catch it, but Tony Soprano evidently sang "the child is grown, the dream is gone," while listening to the song during last week's episode, and that verse of the song was the last of the music before it actually happened. Still, it was a major "wow!" "It" was Tony murdering his surrogate son, Christopher, in the immediate aftermath of a car wreck. Christopher had been Tony's great hope for the future of This Thing, to the extent Tony cared about anyone but himself. Chris's history of drugs and other screw-ups had been tolerated for years, but, as the song says, "the child is grown, the dream is gone."

Chris's death coming right at the beginning of the ep. made for brilliant television, as we got to see Tony's denial and self-deceit at its worst for the rest of the hour. Tony was rather uncomfortably numb. Not only did he convince himself he was happy to see his biggest personnel problem solved, but he was annoyed about having to hypocritically pretend to be grieving, and about having to be around people who genuinely were grieving. He even attempted to convince others that Chris's death was cause for relief.

But does anybody really think Tony is okay with killing his surrogate son? To get away from the sad people, he went to Vegas, met and slept with one of Chris's goomahs, and did some drugs--most significantly, peyote--just like Chris used to do. Hmmm. Interesting. Also, Tony won big at roulette, in contrast to the big losing streak he was on a couple of weeks ago. Again, interesting. There were a couple of moments in Vegas in which the peyote-stoned Tony looked into a light, much like in his dream sequence of going to the house of the dead (Steve Buscemi, doorman) in season six, part one. At the end, the high-on-peyote Tony shouted, "I get it!" into the Sun as if he had a moment of personal enlightenment. What might that be? I could venture a guess that Tony realized the meaning of his Kevin Finnerty dream when he was in a coma, but, on this show, who knows?

Was this Tony Soprano's Shamanic Journey? Thus far in season six, we've had Carmela's dream with William S. Burrough's version of the Egyptian seven souls; Tony's dream with Tibetan monks; and, now, Tony using a Native American religious hallucinogenic substance to achieve some kind of major insight. These aren't the types of metaphysical experiences one would expect Tony and Carmela to have. As Tony asked A.J. a few years ago, "can't you be a good Catholic for fifteen fucking minutes?"

We could be some major irony coming up, as the writers have been running parallel storylines involving Chris and Tony's actual son, A.J. We may yet see Tony do some grieving of his own as A.J.'s depression and involvement in criminal activity both deepen. Should A.J. commit suicide or some serious crime, Tony won't be comfortably numb, Carmela will place all of the blame on Tony, and Tony's marriage will be over.

Oooh, I read on TWoP that next week's epsiode is titled "The Second Coming." That may help explain Tony's choice of Las Vegas as his getaway destination. Or it could just refer to A.J. and his mini-mob.

This show is some dark stuff this season. It won't end well.

[Edited upon a second viewing of the episode]

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Here we go again

With hurricane season rapidly approaching, it's unclear whether the New Orleans levee system would hold in a catastrophic, Katrina-type storm or be overtopped in even a moderate, category-II, storm. Let's hope we don't have to find out, and that the Corps of Engineers will have time to rebuild the entire system to withstand another major storm.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A good weekend


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T. played for hours in the swimming pool this past weekend. He also worked diligently on his underwater swimming techniques, insisting that I stay away from him as he practiced. I got out of the pool and just stood by, watching. He then had me bring DW out so he could show off for her. I am a reasonably strong swimmer, and I do scuba on occasion, and T. seemed a little annoyed that he can't dive down to the bottom and swim around as well as I do. Showing off for his mom was a little different. There is an emerging ego here, and I try to be sensitive to it.

T. is also in an avaricious shopping phase--anything with buttons to push and anything that looked like a notebook was an object of desire. He actually played with some of the toys he bought, which is actually a little unusual. It took immense concentration for him to work his MyFirst Leap Pad (or whatever it's called), but he did it. He had me buy a shiny, fancy, glow-in-the-dark Crayola product at the Baton Rouge Target the other day. I knew that he would be disappointed by it, but I couldn't offload it in the store. I managed to hide it in the car, and he didn't look for it when he got out. I returned the product on the way home, and the customer service clerk said, "you bought it for him this morning and you're returning it tonight." She was amused by watching my attempts to offload the thing and him making sure that I bought it. So the staff of yet another retail establishment has been taken in by the charms of my children.

I took A. out for a couple of hours in Alexandria yesterday (DW was home, waiting on the appliance repair people). His demands jiggled our routine around to the point where I didn't have time for part of it, and I didn't want to go too close to a couple of places on the way to our usual Burger King, so I chose to take him to a BK near the local mall. I didn't know that there was a Pizza Hut right there. He knew, and he let me know that he wanted to go there. The problem with A. and pizza is that if the pizza is not on the table when he gets there, he'll throw a huge tantrum and start stealing food from other people. I felt bad, but I didn't take him there.

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T. is into Spider-Man, though I think he's only seen the cartoon version. Anyhow, I happen to have three Spider-Man II posters hanging in my office, and a couple of coworkers have asked whether I will have anything from the third film. The answer is probably not, but I picked up a Spider-Man version of Mr. Potato Head yesterday. The box says "Includes Peter Parker Parts," which made it too funny to pass up.

Childrens' TV ain't what it used to be

The former narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine speaks to Dora the Explorer over the telephone.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My Celebrity Look-Alikes

Well, I'll flatter myself that I look like Michael Rosenbaum and Val Kilmer, though, of course, I look like neither of them. They probably matched me up with anybody who hadn't taken a shave in a day or two. I had the idea for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at a 4th of July Picnic a few years ago, only to have the idea stolen telepathically by Nirvana, so I'll take Kurt Cobain too. That's why I always wear a tinfoil hat in public, btw, it keeps rock bands from stealing my thoughts. Alec Baldwin's phone tapes might be inexcusably mean and stupid, but he was good as the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine. Hey, didn't Team America, World Police, whack Alec Baldwin anyway? But Mary Kate Olsen? WTF?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Shy guy

I was just paying a visit to Gentle Reader Christy's blog, and I found myself identifying some with one of the people she was describing. This fellow was a kind, gentle father and husband with a severe case of depression, and Christy found him to be very shy. That prompted memories of the days when I wore a younger man's clothes (though I'm hardly a Piano Man).

My inherent shyness was very painful growing up--so painful that I can see how it could tie into a serious case of depression. The thought of asking a girl on a date absolutely terrified me, and, outside of the purely academic realm, I lacked the self-confidence or courage to assert myself in the slightest. That kind of shyness strikes at the heart of the human ego and at the heart of the stereotypical concept of masculinity in America. I'm sure anybody whose read my stuff for very long knows that I have real issues with notions of ego and masculinity. There are other reasons I've always been tied up in knots over such things, but my inherent shyness certainly is one of them. My wife thought I was something of an stand-offish, snooty asshole when we first met, but she told me it was kind of endearing. She couldn't figure me out for the longest time (she's standing here telling me this as I type). My brash, outgoing Internet alter-ego is the exact opposite of that person--a shadow poser piece, I suppose. The current me falls somewhere in between. I suppose it's only natural that I eventually would gravitate to a philosophy that downgrades the ego.

I can think of a few factors that have been significant in making me a more assertive person. The first, I suppose, was that I was always relatively successful academically. Second, I managed to assemble a group of wonderful friends over the years, people with whom I grew confident in discussing whatever was on my mind or in my heart. I've made a point of staying in touch with a few of these friends, even if we do live far apart and never actually see one another IRL. Third, my profession requires a certain degree of assertiveness, and, after a while, it dawned on me that I'm not half-bad as a lawyer. Fourth, my adult involvement in the LDS Church saw me in various positions that required me to gin up the confidence to interact--and initiate conversation--with a wide range of people. Fifth, there's nothing more effective at making anybody get aggressive than advocating for one's own children. I've been surprisingly assertive, yet diplomatic, with the various systems that have been involved with us over the years. Sixth--and back to my shadow poser piece--the anonymity of the Internet has allowed me to express ideas more forcefully than I might express them in person. And, of course, I've made some real friends via the Internet.

Good gosh, I'm talking about my personal shyness on the effing Internet. There's something not quite right about that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dharma Warrior and "The Mormons"

I actually found myself watching most of PBS's "The Mormons." On Monday, we were channel-surfing, and I put it on an A&E rerun of "The Sopranos." However, it wasn't one of the better epsiodes, and DW turned it to PBS. Last night, I got back from the Zen center and found DW watching part deaux. She commented about how she had forgotten much of the early history of the LDS Church. She is a multigenerational Mormon, so that history is her history. I'm a second-generation Mormon, so I can't personally lay claim to that history. Moreover, it's a fascinating history, the bad along with the good, and it's a shame more people don't know much about it.

The post I originally drafted about part one used a comment by feminist Mormon Margaret Toscano as a jumping-off point to discuss how, since my early teens, I've been tied up in knots over specific personal issues that somehow got whooshed up with the Church in my mind. On the drive home last night, I remember that a Zen author--I think it was Kosho Uchiyama--described zazen as a sword that cuts through the knots in one's mind. I was pleased by the image of myself as a dharma warrior, chopping away at my own mental knots.

Not even part two of "The Mormons" could mess with that image, and a number of the issues that have bothered me about the Church were discussed during the segments I saw. That's not to say I've changed my mind about any of these things; I guess I've just gained enough distance from them that I can look at them without investing much emotion into them. I suppose it helps that I never experienced first-hand the pain of people like Trevor Southey and Margaret Toscano, who were formally expelled from the LDS Church and were rejected by their loved ones, while I just slowly drifted away. Were I in the position of people who had been kicked to the curb on the basis of my scholarship (Toscano) or my sexuality (Southey), I'm sure I would still feel very hurt by it. Come to think of it, I'm still a little stung by the way my family was rejected by the local congregation. So, with the metaphorical sword of zen in my right hand, I walk the path of the dharma warrior, chopping away at those metaphorical knots. Now, the thought of me carrying a sword of any kind is pretty damn ridiculous; it's just one of those zen paradoxes.

ETA: The photo of Kosho Uchiyama I originally posted here disappeared, so I replaced it with the hand of Uma Thurman.