What Part Of Equality Don’t You Understand?

LoveSeriously, I don’t get it.

The Supreme Court of the United States started to hear arguments today concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages until the proposition was deemed unconstitutional by both the Federal District Court in San Francisco and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Consequently, the social interwebs are abuzz with activity on the subject, and many of my Facebook friends and I have temporarily changed our profile photos to the marriage equality symbol you see above, as sign of solidarity with our LGBTQ friends.

Still, one of my “friends” posted on Facebook that he disagrees, accompanied by this graphic:

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And you know, I find that absolutely stunning.

I mean, what kind of people come right out and say that they are in favor of discriminating against a certain other group of people and believe that said group of people do not deserve the same rights as everyone else?

Exactly! And so, I wonder how my “friend” feels about being in that company.

Whenever I think about this issue, I always think of that document that means so much to so many Americans across the entire political spectrum, irregardless of party affiliation, the Declaration of Independence, which famously states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Now, I’ve researched this, and I’ve been totally unsuccessful locating that other draft of the Declaration, where that quote continues, “…except for gays and lesbians.”

God, I Quit.

Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates Holy MassSo, the big news this morning is that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, the headlines are filled with the story, and #pope is trending on Twitter.

No offense intended to Catholics, but all I could think of when I heard the news was the many jokes that will most certainly arise…and sure enough they already have.

As a friend on Facebook posted this morning, “I didn’t realize that you could resign from being Pope.”

And, I didn’t know that either.

Can you imagine that letter of resignation?

Dear God,

Hi. How are you doing? I hope You and Your Son are well, and that neither of You have been hit by that nasty flu going around.

Say, speaking of health, I know I made a pretty big commitment to You, when, upon election, I responded, “Accepto!” But, the thing is, I’m really, really tired. I mean, I’m totally pooped. I’m a totally pooped Pope!

Seriously, do You have any idea how much that big hat and gold cross weigh? I’m exhausted from schlepping those things all over Your green Earth.

That said, I hate to leave You in the lurch. I know there’s a lot going on, with all these gay people getting married and smoking legal marijuana.

So, even though I am badly in need of a very, very long nap, I’ll agree to stay on as Pope until the end of the month. This should be ample time for the College of Cardinals to elect a suitable replacement. (Might I suggest someone significantly younger, preferably an athlete of some kind?)

It’s been a blast serving You, God, and I look forward to hanging out with You in heaven in the not-too-distant future. (I’ll bring some Peroni beer and a pizza from your favorite place in Naples, the one with the red and white checkered table cloths.)

Say hi to Jesus for me!

Regards,

Joe Ratzinger

Upcycling: Recycled Bottle Buddhist Temple

Now THIS is upcycling!

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Yes, that’s a Buddhist temple in Thailand, constructed using 1.5 million recycled glass bottles.

I know, amazing, isn’t it?!

Via Inhabitat:

The Wat Pa Maha Chedio Kaew temple has found a way to bottle-up Nirvana, literally. The temple, which sits in Thailand’s Sisaket province, roughly 370 miles northeast of Bangkok is made of more than a million recycled glass bottles. True to its nickname, “Wat Lan Kuad” or “Temple of Million Bottles” features glass bottles throughout the premises of the temple, including the crematorium, surrounding shelters, and yes – even the toilets. There’s an estimated 1.5 million recycled bottles built into the temple, and as you might have guessed, they are committed to recycling more. After all, the more bottles they get, the more buildings they are able to construct.

The monks started building this structure in 1984, so that’s a lot of years of accumulated karma!

It’s beautiful, practical, and it helps the planet.

Very cool.

Here are some more photos (quality’s not great, but they still tell the story):

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Best of Fish & Bicycles: Confessions of a Jewish Scotsman

Originally Published: December 1, 2009


I was raised Jewish, my wife’s whole family is pure Scottish, and we like to jest that we are honorary members of each others’ heritage. My wife lights the candles on Chanukah, and I accompany her and our son to the Scottish Highland Games every year.

But once upon a time, about 13 years ago, we met an amateur Jewish scholar who insisted that Scots (all Celts actually) constitute one of the lost tribes of Israel, and therefore all Scots ARE Jews!

Is it just coincidence that both Scottish and Jewish people are stereotyped as being frugal cheap?

I think not!

Having been raised a Jew, I’m as sensitive as anyone to derogatory stereotyping, yet my wife is the first person to admit that she’s a quintessential cheap Scottish lass. That said, when was the last time you heard someone say, “He tried to Scots me down”? I had a stranger in a Sky Train station in New Westminster, British Columbia just a month ago say to me, “He Jewed me down,” while talking about having sold some extra U2 concert tickets, and I’ve been hearing that phrase my whole life.

While a very interesting article from BBC News doesn’t mention the Jewish-Scottish connection, I did find it a fascinating read from my Jewish-Scottish perspective.

And then, there was this comment from a reader that I thought said it all.

Americans will never learn to be Scottish, until they start to enjoy misery.
–Emily, Edinburgh, Scotland

First, I think that’s pretty funny. Second, if that doesn’t sum up the Scottish and Jewish experiences I don’t know what will. No, it’s not that authentic Scots and Jews must enjoy misery. Rather, they must be able to joke that they enjoy misery.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: My kingdom for a deli!

Originally Published: April 15, 2010


If you are Jewish and not a vegetarian and you gaze at this photo and don’t start salivating uncontrollably, then you probably don’t have a pulse either.

As I wrote during Passover, I’m not much of a Jew in religious terms. But damn! I read an article today in the New York Times that stirred something Jewish deep inside of me.

My stomach.

Can the Jewish Deli Be Reformed?

New delis, with small menus, passionate owners and excellent pickles and pastrami, are rising up and rewriting the menu of the traditional Jewish deli, saying that it must change, or die. For some of them, the main drawback is the food itself, not its ideological underpinnings.

So, places like the three-month-old Mile End in Brooklyn; Caplansky’s in Toronto; Kenny & Zuke’s in Portland, Ore.; and Neal’s Deli in Carrboro, N.C., have responded to the low standard of most deli food — huge sandwiches of indifferent meat, watery chicken soup and menus thick with shtick — by moving toward delicious handmade food with good ingredients served with respect for past and present.

Excuse me, but what exactly is indifferent meat?

I don’t know about this revolution in Jewish delis, because I do know that one of the positives of having been raised Jewish is having been introduced to the joys of a corned beef, pastrami, cole slaw, and Russian dressing on rye bread sandwich, with a crisp kosher pickle on the side. There is NOTHING indifferent about that!

Bellingham does not have a Jewish deli, and I’ve been living here long enough (17 years), so thoroughly distracted by the magnificent natural beauty, dynamic community, a family, and a career that I’d managed to completely forget the waves of pleasure that would course through my body at the first bite into that sandwich and the pickle chaser. But one read through that Times article and a look at the accompanying photos brought it all back, and I feel the loss from every day of every week of every month and of every year that I’ve been without this food of my people.

Since Shakespeare’s been on my mind lately, let me put it this way: If Richard III was Jewish and had been deprived of corned beef and pastrami and pickles for 17 years, while he might have been concerned that justice was closing in on him in the battle of Bosworth Field, he absolutely would have given his kingdom for a deli rather than a horse.

Marriage Equality: Way To Go Washington State!

You know, I haven’t been very pleased with the government here in Washington State lately. (Just one example.)

But, this morning I woke to some good news for a change.

Via The Seattle Times:

Historic Senate vote clears way for gay marriage in state

The state Senate passed legislation Wednesday night that would legalize gay marriage. The bill now goes to the House, where it’s expected to pass easily.

It’s always puzzled me that in a country where heterosexual marriages end in divorce 50% of the time, heterosexuals somehow still think that only heterosexuals should be allowed to marry.

Happily, Washington is poised to become the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage, and I only hope that that number will continue to grow.

TED Talks: Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun

I’m continually surprised by how many times I’ve recommended TED Talks — those incredibly thought-provoking, inspiring, often moving products of the various TED conferences held around the world — to people who have never heard of them, for I find them so thoroughly accessible, with each talk lasting no more than 18-20 minutes.

I mean, we can all find time for a few of these a day, or more scattered throughout the week. Right?

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted a TED Talks video, and today I’ve got a juicy one for you.

This was a challenging video for me, as I suspect it would be for most of my fellow peaceniks. The assertion made by Peter van Uhm, Chief of Defense for The Netherlands, that guns and armies are necessary tools for peace, rubs me the wrong way. And yet, having been raised Jewish, I carry the inherited trauma of the Holocaust, and I’ve struggled my whole life with the question of whether or not violent military action is justifiable in order to save people from oppression or genocide.

Now, I don’t agree with everything that Mr. van Uhm says, but I admire the TED organization for inviting him to speak and present his case, and he does so eloquently, with great sensitivity, and with great respect for his fellow TED presenters and attendees, who are trying to make the world a better, more peaceful place via a variety of other means.

Reckless Rogue Sperm Donor or Altruist?

Just when I thought I’d heard and seen it all…

A man from the San Francisco Bay area has fathered 14 children in the last five years through free sperm donations to women he meets through his website — and is now in trouble with the federal government.

The case of Trent Arsenault of Fremont has drawn attention to the practice of informal sperm donation, which physicians and bioethicists call unsafe but some people say is a civil liberties issue…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent Arsenault a cease-and-desist letter late last year telling him he must stop because he does not follow the agency’s requirements for getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases within seven days before giving sperm. The FDA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Violators of FDA regulations on human cells and tissues face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to guidelines published on the agency’s website.

Now, Arsenault states that he does get tested regularly, but even more compelling…

Arsenault says he donates sperm out of a sense of service to help people who want to have children but can’t afford conventional sperm banks. The 36-year-old minister’s son has four more children on the way.

“I always had known through people praying at church that there’s fertility issues,” Arsenault told The Associated Press on Monday. “I thought it would just be a neat way of service to help the community.”

Sounds incredibly reasonable, doesn’t it?

I mean, how many Don Juan types are out there right now, impregnating women left and right the old-fashioned way, and here’s a guy who simply wants to help people, and he’s facing a year in prison and a hefty fine?

His website is loaded with information about himself — his medical records, his lifestyle and diet, even a criminal background check — so it’s hard to argue that he’s being reckless. What emerges is a picture of a pretty extraordinary guy. He’s the son of a pastor and states he’s a churchgoer himself, and yet…

He says he believes his case comes down to constitutional issues of a right to privacy and reproductive choice.

On his website, he includes this quote from the Guttmacher Institute, and he emphatically added the underlining:

…women, in consultation with their physician, have a constitutionally protected right to have an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—that is, before viability—free from government interference.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Trent will sell out and end up with his own reality TV show, but for now I’m inclined to admire him for his desire to do good.