A. B. Richard in JESUSLAND!

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Sunday is the new Tuesday, in deadline terms; my deadlines for the weekend column have been advanced by 72 hours, so I have to write Sunday for Sunday next. Yes, that’ll ensure my stuff is minty fresh, eh? This means I can either start the Bleat week with lame excuses and 300 word apologies, or write on weekends, or write weekends AND stay up late Sunday blathering on about whatever didn’t make the column.

And what wouldn’t make the column? Well, the Northern Lights were out tonight. Don’t see them often down here in the city, but when I headed north with Jasper after supper (Quiche, although we pretend it is Spanish, not French, and pronounce it “Kee-Chay.” Either that or God-Fearing Freedom Eggs Baked in a Bacon-studded circular fashion. It varies depending on my mood) and there it was, the celestial curtain rippling in the solar wind. Made me reluctant to turn the corner and head south, but it was chilly tonight. Saturday: short sleeved shirts and seventy temps; earmuffs on Sunday night. Gnat went out and rode her bike in her underwear yesterday; tonight the furnace rumbles in the basement. Insert obvious overwritten conclusion about meteorlogical vagaries here.

See? No column there. Well, I can’t write about ordinary boring domestic matters, like a piano recital.

Remember a few years ago when this site fell silent for a couple of days, and I came back to announce – surprise! – we had a new baby girl? I do. Like it was yesterday. But it doesn’t seem like yesterday; it feels exactly like four years and change, because I’ve been there every day. Friday was one such day. Gnat had her first piano recital.

We’ve been taking lessons on Friday. We practice every night. I had worried about her performance, since she seemed bored with the piece and played it with desultory enthusiasm. It’s “Froggy on a Lily Pad,” and consists of do-re-me-fa-me-re-do. Do-re-me-fa-me-re-do. DO. DO. DO. DO. Do-re-me-fa-me-re-do. The run-through today went well enough, although she added a coda: I can’t dissuade her from repeating the main theme at the end. After lessons I took her to a friend’s house to play, then went home to get her dress for the recital.

Poor kid; long day. Lunch school in the morning, then lessons, then the play date, then the recital. En route to the recital she was cranky, giving me the cold slitty eye-beam treatment in the rear view mirror. But she cheered up when she saw Mommy at the recital: you made it! The room was packed; two classes plus parents plus extended families. One hundred people and almost as many cameras.

She had chosen at the last minute to sing Froggy as well as play it, suggesting I have a little Tori Amos on my hands.

In the run-through, she came after a kid who’d chosen the most difficult song: Stars are the Jewels of the Sky. And so she decided at the last minute this would be her piece. She did okay, considering she’d played it once or twice before – but before the teacher could give suggestions I stepped in, and reminded her that Froggy was her piece. Oh right. Well, in the recital she followed a kid who played Hot Cross Buns. And she started to play “Hot Cross Buns” before she said "Oh I Mean" and switched to the song she really meant to play.

Did I tape it for the whole wide world to see? You know the answer to that.

Afterwards I drove home in a mood of sheer delirious glee; the workweek was over, pizza was in store, and after dinner I’d walk the dog and have a cigar and do the graphics for the next week and watch the Friday Noir movie with a single-malt. Whoa: pizza. Right. I whipped out the communicator and called the pizza guys. The fellow who answered the phone took my address and name, my request, then said “morning glory, evening grace” – Hugh Hewitt’s tag line. Man, when your pizza guys are in your corner you’re truly riding the groove. They said they’d trade me a pizza topped to my desires for an autograph on the new book.

Life = good.

I can’t write about movies; not my job. As for this weekend’s movie – well, let me put it this way.

Ever eaten a Cadbury Egg? Delicious, if a bit much. It’s a chocolate cackelberry, filled with gooey yolk-and-white hued sugary goodness. I used to eat one a day around Easter time, many years ago.

Remember the first cathartic moment you got from music? Be it the time you first threw out your neck when Page’s solo started in “Stairway,” or the first time you heard the end of Mahler’s First?
Remember the first time you drove really fast on the highway? Recall, perhaps, the most impressive fireworks show you’ve ever seen? Add them all together – egg, music, speed, spectacle – and compress them down to one second. Repeat that second 60 times in a minute and you’d find yourself thrilled, then amused, then jaded, then annoyed, then bored, then downright depressed over how quickly pleasure had been ruined by needlessly intense repetition.

Why yes, I saw “Van Helsing.” Why do you ask? It made me long for the langorous pacing of “Armageddon.” It was certainly exciting, but you could say the same thing about a quarter of super-cooled mercury shot up your catheter tube. It had a good Frankenstein, I’ll say that. But too damn much CGI and too much stoopid action clichés, such as characters falling 150 feet through wooden roofs, landing on stone floors, then getting up and running away. Uh huh. Yep. Those famous 19th century titanium endoskeletons that were all the rage.

Relentless action. Thrill free. I got more out of the season opener of “Enterprise” (Yes, I’m behind) which had seven seconds of the ship in aerial combat with Nazi fighter planes over midtown Manhattan. For that alone I was deeply grateful. Note to the producers of “Van Helsing” – sometimes one drop of Tabasco on an average piece of meat is preferable to a quart of Habenero sauce with a fleck of jerky floating in the bottle. Just a thought.

Finally, post-election thoughts. On and on, no resolution. This graphic has been floating around here and there. (Doesn’t come from the German paper in the link.) If the Democrats ever wish to become the majority party again, they should run this graphic past their strategists, ask them what they think, and fire anyone who says “well, we need to learn how to reconnect with Jesusland, obviously.” I’ll give you one boring example: additional federal funding of stem-cell research. I don’t support it. But I do not favor a ban on private funding. I think it’s one of those morally gray areas, and perhaps we had best not force people to pay money for this sort of thing. Ah, but I’m opposed to defense spending, can I withhold my taxes? No, you can’t. Defense is one of the obligations of the government. You could argue that the government is obligated to fund any sort of medical research because it provides for the general welfare, but you could say the same thing about subsidized cable TV rates. You could say that about anything. Hence it’s one of those things I prefer to leave to the private sector.

So I’m not particularly impressed when someone concludes that this stance, as well as a few other “moral issues,” results from my habit of handling snakes on Sunday morning. Nuance, people. Nuance. Let’s look at another example: let us postulate that objection to the gay marriage isn’t based in “homophobia,” but an unwillingness to redefine a long-standing institution. At least without a vote. There are two possible responses:

1. Gay-basher! Bigot!

2. Hmm. Really? Interesting; can't quite agree, but go on.

If the Democrats want to get back in power, they’ll be wise to choose option two. I’m a live & let-live sort of guy when it comes to this; I’m in favor of civil partnerships, legal protection in the workplace, hospital visitation rights, societal-wide acceptance of the utterly NO DUH notion that gay relationships have the same essential emotional qualities of straight relationships. I support gay adoption - unless there’s a M/F couple in line, in which they should get preference. That has nothing to do with sexual identity or heterosexual chauvinism. I think a kid does best growing up exposed on an elemental level to both male and female characteristics; does that make me a raging bigot? Can we not even talk about that?

If wanting to take some time and think about it, and yes, vote on it makes me an automatic member of Jesusland, well, then, Jesusland it is. I think the best expression of this sort of blunt rote dismissal was found on that “get your war on” clip-art comic site that was all the rage in 03; Treach provided the link. The author, in an attempt to buck up the troops and remind them of their moral superiority, wrote:

“Hell, our atheists are more Christian than their Bible-thumping motherf****ers.”

You’d spend an hour hacking through the thicket of nonsense in that one line alone before you got to a clearing where you could take stock and find common ground. Or, correctly, you would conclude:

Why bother. I'm late, and I gotta get to work.