December 2007


I was walking to somewhere in my neighborhood recently, or more accurately, coming home from having walked to somewhere in my neighborhood, when I saw a curious bumper sticker.

It was an old stationwagon, one that makes me think of the 80’s, though it is more likely from the 90’s. What kind? Well, sort of blue, I’d say. The house at whose curb it is parked is an unassuming and pleasant house, with a porch on which I never see people sit. Of course in this neighborhood they’re either fantastically wealthy (they have a house, after all), or they’ve lived here for a long time. I’m guessing the latter.

The bumpersticker appears to be a campaign bumpersticker. The normal type, some name, some slogan, some year. The year is 2008, and the slogan is “why vote for a lesser evil?”

And this is an interesting thought. Are we ever completely happy with our choices when it comes to elected officials? Or potentially elected officials? I don’t think I am. I might agree with them on certain issues, and be absolutely disappointed, sometimes to the point of disgust, with their stance on other issues. I’m tired of the two-party system, and I think many people would heartily welcome the ability to vote for someone on the basis of their merit, feeling like worthy candidates had a chance, that it was up to the entire body of citizens to have a say, and all that without being told that we were “throwing away our vote.”

As if voting for the “lesser evil” isn’t doing the same, really.

And so the bumper sticker caught my eye. I wasn’t sure, at first, whether it was a joke, or just a candidate I’d never heard of. I saw reference to the name a couple weeks later, as it happens, and that question was answered for me.

election bumper sticker

But was it really a joke? If it was, it was a thought-provoking one, at least for me. And perhaps that’s the point. A dark-humored joke that’s not quite as funny as it could have been, because it hits a bit too close to home.

Well there’s always the ability to write in our candidate of choice, after all.

An odd topic, if you knew me!

Here’s what got me started – it goes back to Northern Exposure! I was telling a coworker about the Worldwide Church of Truth and Beauty that Chris, my favorite NE character, was part of. Also known as the Universal Life Church. This ended up in a conversation about marriages, specificly the performance of them. And the legality of the performance.

First, I’m clearly not the only person who starts thinking about these things! I googled and the first thing that came up was a NY Times article, Great Wedding! But was it legal?, which you might need to sign in to read. The article does a good job of discussing the issue and some of the details, and I recommend reading it if you are curious!

The path my mind was following was slightly different. Marriage is a legal contract for sure, and often has spiritual/religious connotations as well. Though clearly atheists get married also, which makes marriage’s intersection with religion a “sometimes” not “always” occurrence. In various cultures there were accepted sort of interim marriages. The handfasting in Ireland and Scotland comes to mind, of course, but also in the Western United States, when it was being settled, and not every town had a minister and there was no government to speak of, people would very often live as if they were married, and would for all intents BE married, and the ceremony would be performed the next time the minister came through town.

Currently in this country there are common law marriages in, I believe, 12 states, which require that people live together as if they were married for a certain amount of time. Colorado and Montana also have something similar, but slightly different in an interesting (to me) way: putative marriage.

In Colorado, which is typical, “Any person who has cohabited with another person to whom he is not legally marriaged in the good faith belief that he was married to that person is a putative spouse until knowledge of the fact that he is not legally married terminates his status and prevents acquisition of further rights.” Section 14-2-111, Colorado Revised Statutes.

Putative spouse status is a remedial doctrine designed to protect the reasonable expectations of someone who acts on the belief that they are married, and generally entitled a putative spouse to the rights a legal spouse would have for the period from the putative marriage until discovery that the marriage was not legal. It is possible that a person could have both a legal spouse and someone is a putative spouse[clarify], in which case, courts are directed to do what seems appropriate in the circumstances.

Unlike a common law marriage, which is possible only when both spouses are legally eligible to marry, putative spouse status can be unilateral. For example, if a husband is married, but goes through a marriage ceremony without informing the woman with whom he goes through with the ceremony of that fact, the husband is not a putative spouse, because he knows that he has no right to marry. The wife however is a putative spouse because she in good faith believes that she is married, and has no knowledge that she is not legally married. See, e.g. Carndell v. Resley, 804 P.2d 272 (Colo. App. 1990) and Williams v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co., 670 P.2d 453 (Colo. App. 1983).

In the example above, the putative wife who believed she was married could seek the property division and alimony awards that a legal spouse could have, when the putative spouse discovers that she is not legally married, but the man she believed she was married to could not seek a property division of property in the putative wife’s name or alimony from her, because he knew that they weren’t married.

So, all those different definitions of what it takes to be legally married, sometimes needing no officiates at all. Sometimes needing a church official, other times certain government officials. And then there are the online ministries where you can purchase a minister’s license (or pope’s! It is a pretty good bargain.), which is where it starts to get a little more cloudy legally. There are four states that outright do not recognize someone as a minister if they became a minister only to perform a marriage ceremony (as states the wording in connecticut) or in other places if the minister has no congregation. Well, it isn’t that hard to get a congregation, I’m sure. I never left my friend, Adrian’s, congregation, so technically I’ve been a member of his ULC congregation for over 10 years!

Still, no matter how you look at it, not all places will recognize a ULC minister as legally able to officiate a wedding.

Captains, at least according to legend, are legally able to marry people at sea, right? Well, it is a little more complicated than that, but then, isn’t it always? The important thing is that sometimes, someplaces, it is legal! And apparently just about everywhere, all it takes to perform a marriage is to be a notary. This actually makes a lot of sense to me.

Okay, so in my general thought meanderings here, I’ve come up with three general types of people who can perform marriage ceremonies:

  • ministers
  • captains of boats (sometimes)
  • certain government officials

And this makes me think more about this institution of marriage, and why it matters who performs it.

Aside from obvious religious motivations, back in the olden days in England, it was the parish ministers or maybe curates who kept the record books for the region. Marriages were recorded in the local book, and that is what was used to prove legality or precedence or whatever needed to be proven. That goes back to when government was a loosely organized thing, where the “lord of the manor” was very often the magistrate for the region, purely by virtue of being born to the position, surely not by any training or talent. I’d bet it was because the rich lords were the ones most likely to be able to read and write the necessary records.

At least for weddings performed by the Church of England, you still need the “banns” read at three different services before the wedding. In two provinces of Canada the banns are also required to be read, and the banns, or posting public notice of the upcoming wedding, can take place of a wedding license.

In the Canadian province of Ontario, the publication of banns for three consecutive weeks remains a legal alternative to obtaining a marriage license. Two same-sex couples married this way at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto on January 14, 2001, since the province was not then issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. The marriages were ruled valid in 2003. See Same-sex marriage in Ontario.

In the Canadian province of Québec, equivalent formalities are required for all marriages, although the statutes do not use the word “banns”. There is no requirement for a government-issued license, but a written notice must be posted at the place of the wedding for 20 days beforehand, and the officiant verifies the eligibility of the intended spouses.

Quite a tangent I’m on! It makes a lot of sense, historically, that it fell on ministers to perform the majority of weddings, and why the cross-function existed where they were able to legalize a union despite being in a religious position, rather than governmental, though a marriage is a legal contract. (Who performed their own marriages, I wonder?) Then again, when weddings were performed in those days, women were property, not individuals, and they had no rights of their own.

One of the functions the minister or curate of old would probably perform is checking, to the best of their ability, for the existence of prior and still valid marriages. Since people would go to their local churches to get married, it was also a verification that people were who they said they were.

This is all very interesting to me, but in the end, I think that since marriage is a legal contract, regardless of whether it is also a religious undertaking for the individuals involved, that them signing the contract is what should make it legal, not necessarily who is there to witness the signing. Yet it does makes sense to me that a notary has the official “power” to witness and perform a wedding ceremony, so I suppose what I really mean is that I think there should be the same requirement for anyone performing a wedding ceremony that is meant to be legally binding: they should be a notary, whether they are a minister or a ship’s captain, or your best friend who you’ve always wanted to be the one to do the ceremony for you.

A notary public is an officer who can administer oaths and statutory declarations, witness and authenticate documents and perform certain other acts depending on the jurisdiction.

So, what was the point of all that? Just something my mind got on that I turned into a long and boring post!

goats at ps

FightingWindmills wrote a post today about workers rights; specifically about the coalition of agricultural workers in Florida. We’ve probably all heard at least bits and pieces of this issue, which is essentially that these workers want the fast food chains to pay them a higher (aka living) wage. These workers work hard, but the fast food chains have an immense amount of power, because they are so huge and purchase such a quantity of things like tomatoes that they dictate prices more than a smaller organization could. I’m not going to look up to make sure I’m accurate, since I’m running out of time tonight for blogging, but if I remember correctly one of the other issues with the fast food chains is that some of them owned some of the farms, and thus the tomato pickers are essentially direct employees. In an economically depressed area. Another way of saying this is that the largest employer in an economically depressed area has almost complete control over the wages it will pay.

Anyway, go read FightingWindmill’s post on the workers, and her own question of what can she do to make change, to support these people, to live in a way that’s more sustainable and less wasteful.

I made a really long comment on there, but the whole issue, the question, the post, it all made me think about consumption in general terms. I’m vegan, so I think about consumption A LOT. The animals I work to help are all victims of human consumption on some level. Religious sacrifice, milk, eggs, meat, entertainment, humans have found no end of “use” for these animals, who are given no choice in the matter. Humans are so driven to consume, it is scary sometimes. And at least in the U.S., we are so unbelievably wasteful. For political reasons, a huge amount of grain rots in silos in the midwest, farmers are paid to not sell these crops, and meanwhile children half a world away are starving to death. You don’t have to actually go half a world away to find children starving to death of course, but Darfur is a really huge example.

Did you know that during that horrible famine in Ethiopia in teh 80’s, they were exporting food?

Politics is at the heart of world hunger, yet sustainability is an ever increasingly important issue. The human population is ever increasing. We have to think about sustainability.

It isn’t just about food, though. It is everything we “consume”, by which I mean everything we purchase. We need to think about the “stuff”. Do we need it? If we need it, is there an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to the plastic junk that we’re looking at in the store? Is the wooden furniture and paper products from old growth forests? Are we conserving energy and water, are we thinking about our STUFF?

We need to. A couple links to check out:

But really, please go watch this video, The Story of Stuff . It is a 20 minute video that talks about, well, stuff. It is important for all of us, for all of these issues: environment, human rights, worker rights, sustainability, and on and on. It is all connected. WE are all connected.

wheelbarrow at ps

Service annoucement of a sort: WordPress bought Gravatar a while back, and the gravatar service now works on wordpress blogs. Here’s what they say:

So we’ve enabled Gravatar support for all of WordPress.com.

What’s that mean? When you have a WordPress.com account you can have an avatar by your comment, but now if someone isn’t logged in or registered but they have a Gravatar attached to their email account that will show up by their comments too.

This isn’t just for WordPress blogs, either. Any site that has Gravatar enabled will let you take your avatar with you. All the wordpress bloggers already know this (I’d assume), and as long as they’re logged in I imagine they don’t care in any case when they’re commenting on wordpress blogs! So this is for anyone else who might be interested.

sacred chow food

Rich, talking to that guy today about NYC restaurants has me in a serious Sacred Chow crave!

I was at the bookstore yesterday, glancing at the calendars. Mostly, I admit, because I’m getting curious about specific aspects of other people’s photography, what I think makes it speak. Calendars are not a good place to look, I concluded, with one exception. I found this calendar, Urban Trails, which is filled with pictures of and brief stories of Alley Cats. The pictures were compelling, the particular publisher only publishes on recycled paper, and I made note of the web site.

And I’m yet more impressed. I know a lot of people involved with feral cats, I often mean to get involved myself, but I never see them in my area. Some people, it sounds weird, but seriously some people must have this silent call, and stray dogs or cats find them. I’m not one of them, but I know many people who are always finding animals that need rescuing.

Anyway, I still plan at some point to help out a feral group in my area that does TNR. I don’t know what form my help will be in, but the plan is there.

So reading the associated website was fascinating, and heartening. These are people who really see these alley cats, and see them as thinking, feeling individuals. The photographer captures their heart, soul, and personality in the photographs, as well as the grim reality of their lives.

It is beautiful, really, what they do. Visually as well as the lives they save, the suffering they prevent. (They do TNR, in case anyone is wondering.)

I urge you all to check out their site, and read the stories, view the photos.

Remember these pictures with more than your minds. Remember them with your hearts and consider. . . . .

Homelessness, with all its loneliness, deprivation, hunger, illness, fear, prejudice and cruelty, is not just a human condition.

Like humans, alley cats love, explore, play to exhaustion, frolic, and even dance.

Often alley cats, like people, find themselves in situations that call for sheer guts.

As with human babies, alley kittens can be exquisitely beautiful or truly unsightly.

Some alley cats, as some people, must bear either physical or emotional scars for life.

When you see our pictures, allow yourselves to feel. Cats exist with us, fellow travelers in this universe. They are not an inferior species, simply one on a different plane.

 

And here’s one of my favorite former ferals, who adopted one of my favorite humans.

 

beanie

My mind churns a lot. Sometimes the effect is more like endless paging, or churning, which is a computer term when the virtual memory swaps constantly, and the computer’s processing is taken up by the VM swapping and nothing actually gets done or processed. In human terms, this would be if you were multitasking to the point that you spent all of your time looking from one task to the next, but never actually working on any of those tasks.

Sometimes my mind’s endless “on” means that I travel down the well-worn negative thought paths. I read to escape this. It helps me relax, but something I notice when I’m in a heavy fiction reading period: I live more and more in my fantasy world. I think about the novels, which isn’t a bad thing, but I live them in a way, as well as other scenarios. I avoid thinking about my life, I avoid being present in my life.

This is normal to a point, but it is balance I need to find. At what point am I just going through the day to day motions instead of living my life? At what point is living in that fantasy world simply a way to avoid facing life itself?

I will always need to escape sometimes, because that might very well be the only way for my mind to relax, take a vacation. And recharge. But the catch is that no matter how far or fast I travel in reality, dreamscapes, or fantasies, I’m still here waiting when I return. The escape isn’t real. Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes it is frustrating.

So, conscious living. That’s probably a term that has a lot of meanings – for me, it is about living in the moment, about feeling connected to others instead of separate, alien.

It is a goal, clearly.

pigs at ps

We did a shoulder stand today in yoga class. I don’t remember what it was called. We also did tiki something or other, aka firefly. That was hard for me – I couldn’t get my hands flat on the mat behind my heels, so I couldn’t really do it. But then we did crow, which I’m an old hand at, and so that was fun. It was a lot of upper body via hip openers (we were befuddled too, until our yoga teacher showed us!), and so it is really no surprise that there was a shoulder stand in there.

My left shoulder comes out of joint. Always has. Loose ligaments, shallow joint, I’m what the doctor called a “voluntary dislocator.” I don’t know how medical of a term that is, but what he meant is that he couldn’t get the damn thing out of joint when he was examining it, but as soon as he asked me to show him, I slipped that sucker right out of joint. And yes, the ball really is coming right out of the socket. And no, it doesn’t hurt.

Except that time I was doing too much Butterfly at swim practice, and my shoulder finally had enough and slammed in and out. I’ve always been wary of it since then.

Even Downdog can be a challenge if my shoulder is tired. I was nervous about the shoulder stand, but I pushed through that. Wait, that’s getting ahead of myself – when we started out, it was in the general position of doing downdog, but instead of tipping down on your hands, you are on your forearms. So then we sent one leg at a time up in the air, to get a feeling for it, but that never really helps me, maybe because I’m neither flexible enough nor strong enough to get the leg up very far. So finally, I took a breath and kicked up. I didn’t get very far that first time, but wow.

There is something about going upside down. We do it all the time as kids, and think nothing of it. It is so natural, so much something to not fear. And then we stop doing it, and our bodies change and it becomes scary again. Maybe we are just no longer used to falling.

I didn’t mind not getting my legs all the way up the first time I kicked up. I just was amazed at how it felt to be free for that instant. I did make it up after that – the fear was gone, the hope and joy was there. I was able to hold it fairly well once I was up as well, and I definitely was working my shoulder. It stayed in joint. I was very happy.

I was looking forward to class all week – it is the highlight of my week, and Jacob shows you pretty much how I feel afterwards, which probably tells you why I look forward to it so much.

jake

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