Thursday, January 31

My daughter's teacher recommended a book. It was one that her own daughter (6th grade) had just read, and she thought Katie would like it. I can't recall the title right now, but it's about a girl in Korea after World War II. The content is a little tough, but that's okay. And it's obvious from the following conversation that some of the tougher stuff is over Katie's head anyway:

She had me read a page and asked me to explain it to her. In the story, a grandmother was explaining to her granddaughter what had happened to some young women of the village - they'd been taken away to be "Spirit Girls" for the Japanese. What's that? Katie wanted to know.

Me: Well, uh...they were taken to...entertain the soldiers against their will. They were forced to go and..

Katie:You mean, like be belly dancers?

Me:(relieved) Yeah. That's it.

Katie: That's awful! (She starts crying.)

You know, I figured if the thought of forced belly-dancing was enough to set her off, I could spare her anything worse.

After all, my motto has always been, just tell them what they want to know, which is usually not as much as you think. There's that old joke, of course, about the parent who was asked, "Where did I come from?" and proceeded to explain the birds and the bees in great detail. The child listened patiently, and answered. "Toni's mom said she came from Indianapolis."

That, in turn, reminds me of the moment a year and a half ago I told Katie I was pregnant. She paused, reflected, then asked (regarding her stepfather), "Does Mike know?"

Maybe this will mellow the Chinese:The Teletubbies are coming to Chinese television:

The series will be renamed Tianxian Baobao - Mandarin for Antenna Babies - and aired on CCTV1, the major state TV channel.

I've seen all of two minutes of Teletubbies and find them deeply creepy. Some people I was chatting with at the airport advised me to have Joseph watch Teletubbies if I wanted him to learn to wave. Thanks, I think we can handle it without Tinky Winky. So far, Joseph's television viewing is pretty much limited to Blue's Clues. He likes Steve's big old face grinning out at him from the screen.

Memories of an older clerical scandal Remember the Irish bishop who was revealed to have fathered a child living in the US? Well, he's finished up in Ecuadaor and is signaling his desires to return home. He's 71 and would be officially retired, but some are afraid at what his presence might unleash (apparently a mix of revulsion and reverence - I guess the guy was popular). He was supposed to have been laying low over the past few years, but...

Some bishops have not forgiven Dr Casey for returning to a relative's funeral in 1994 wearing full bishop's regalia and for turning up at a World Cup game in Orlando where he was photographed with Irish fans.

More secular columnists weighing in the Boston scandal:

Michael Kelly, who really doesn't have anything new to say


John O'Sullivan in the National Review, who does.

No worldly cynic would have behaved as stupidly as the elders of the Church did. He would have handed Geoghan over to the cops and sought the moral credit of dealing honestly with the Church's most embarrassing problems. And everyone, including Geoghan, would have been better off.

So weak is the argument of avoiding "scandal" in this case that one is inclined to treat it as the rationalization of a deeper failing. And that failing is a bishops' lack of faith in their own religious mission and message.

Yes, language matters.

The government will now refer to human fetuses as...unborn children. Which is what "fetus" means, in Latin, of course.

Abortion opponents got a morale boost from the Bush administration Thursday when Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced that fetuses would henceforth be redesignated as "unborn children."

The immediate purpose of the reclassification was to give low-income women access to prenatal care, but the change would allows abortion opponents to more forcefully make their case that prenatal children should be afforded the same rights as their postnatal counterparts.

The word is out in Boston. Read the Boston Globe's account of the scores of settlements in sex abuse cases over the past ten years. Don't neglect to read the articles linked on the sidebars, either.
Veddy interesting article about the highly segregated Greek system at the University of Alabama. Depressing, too, not just because of the racial issue (which isn't surprising, and is more complicated than it appears), but because of the cringe-making portraits of those whose gender I share, especially, this concluding paragraph describing the climax of Rush week, the day on which the Rush-ees gather in the stadium (surrounded by friends and family???) and open the envelopes with their bids:

As the young women filed into the stadium, they were handed envelopes and led to a section of bleachers. Once they were all there, a dean stood in front of them and said the magic words: "Open them up!" With that, the squeals began. The women jumped up and down, clutching the envelopes to their chests, and they began to run--down the bleachers, out of the stadium, and on to sorority row. They ran past their parents and friends and toward their new houses, where their new sisters were waiting for them. As they went, they dropped sunglasses and cell phones and purses. They yelled and screamed. Some were crying. It was, more than one of them would later say, the happiest day of their lives.


I started to read this article because it's about an issue I'm following: the Andrea Yates trial in Houston, and I continued, mouth agape, marveling at the treasure trove of crass caricatures and unthinking generalizations it contained regarding the composition of the jury:

[Jury expert]Hirschhorn noted that none of the jurors has a large family, which he believes favors the prosecution.

"Couples with one child tend to center their whole universe around that child," he said. "It's hard to believe that anybody could do anything bad to such a precious being. There's a big difference between couples with one kid and lots of kids."

Oh. So people with lots of kids would "understand" the act of killing one's children????

Schreiber noted that the jury also includes two military veterans, an engineer, energy technician, lab technician and a plant operator -- careers that require people to see things in black and white, rather than in shades of gray.

"Those individuals who think in the abstract may be able to consider the evidence, apply it to the question and acquit her," Schreiber said. "However, the majority of jurors -- and very likely the leaders on the panel -- are more likely to reject anything but the criteria for acquittal provided for within the jury charge."

Did you get that, you engineers, military vets and technicians? You can't see things in shades of gray. All you're mentally equipped to do is mindlessly apply the law. Oh...and if you can see shades of gray, of course you're going to acquit Yates.

IMHO, Yates was deeply psychotic, and I don't know enough about the mysteries of psychiatric illness to know to what extent it impacts culpability. The "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea doesn't wash with me, though, and never has. "Guilty, and insane, too" is more like it. Lock her up for the rest of her life, for her own protection and everyone else's. And while we're at it, find a reason to put the creepy husband away, too.

You're not going to believe this, but we have walking. Okay, not race-across-the-room walking, but some very purposeful steps, nonetheless. Last night, Katie and I were sitting on the floor next to the coffee table where she was working on an essay for school. Michael was lying on the couch, reading about St. Therese. Joseph was wandering around, mostly trying to get Katie's pencil. Then, in the midst of his cruising around the table, he stopped, looked at me, grinned, let go of the table, and took three steps towards me, and then (of course) fell into my lap, laughing. It was as if he knew he could do it, and was just saving it for the right moment. I always knew he'd walk before he was a year, I just never thought his first steps would be before he was even ten months.

What's most amazing to me is the self-consciousness. The awareness that he done good. One more argument against the materialist's version of evolutionary development, if you ask me.


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