Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'M IN DALLAS, and just visited the Meadows Museum, which you really should not miss if you're ever in this area. It's on the SMU campus, and features a terrific selection of Spanish art, from the end of the Middle Ages through the 20th c.--El Greco, Goya, Ribera, Zurbaran, Miro... you get the picture. (Sorry for no accent marks! I'm in the business center of a Best Western and don't have time to do them.) There's also one Giacometti.

I really wish the museum had a book of its collection. Oh well.

One extra-cool thing about the second-floor galleries is their arrangement: chronologically in a big circle. So the first room starts in, if memory serves, the last quarter of the 14th c., and then you go room-by-room until you hit the cubists and Miro and all that jazz... and then you're back with the medievals again.

This was great for me because I have a really hard time with both the medieval works and the modern ones, but seeing them right next to each other made me see how much they have in common with each other, especially in contrast to the Renaissance-through-1900 works I love, which are generally in that darkness-and-whiteness, brooding, exalted Spanish style.

The medieval and 20th-c. works were more iconographic, more alphabetic, less focused on personality. When they showed a cow it was The Cow, not this cow here. The medieval and modernist faces aren't selves in the same way, with the same internality; or else I can't see it, maybe. The textures and colors were very similar too: flat textures, no depth of field, and superhot, rich, highly contrasting colors--like those DC front yards where the hot pink azaleas are planted right next to the orange ones and the purple ones. Deep orange and deep blue lying against one another in huge flat blocks.

So, just some very scattered thoughts....

My other note on Dallas is that the very first mulberries are already out!--and yet the bumblebees came to DC before they came here, which seems utterly perverse.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"AND ANY MAGAZINE FEATURING THE SMITHS." I can't even tell you how much of this is one of the many master keys to the mystery that is me.

I did a book review of QUEER in high school. I helped put up posters saying, "YES I'M A DYKE AND I'M A BIG MEAN DYKE AND THAT'S MS. HOMOSEXUAL TO YOU."

This is life as I know it.
LADY POVERTY: My review of Catholic and Feminist is available to everyone now, not just First Things subscribers.
All of these questions are just side effects of two main questions: If there really is a conflict between one’s Catholicism and one’s feminism, should Catholicism ever win? And, perhaps most central of all, can there be a feminist theology of submission--or does the feminist focus on equality and power relations necessarily crowd out any hope of understanding why a woman might find joy in kneeling, grace in bowing her head?

For the record, that wasn't my title; esprit d'escalier suggests "The Missionaries of Parity," though I don't think that's quite right.

Friday, April 17, 2009

DIES IRAE: This was supposed to be a blogwatch, but then I kept talking.

College Jay on the Day of Silence against bullying of students perceived to be lgbt.

I think silence is basically the exact opposite of what you should do to combat this stuff, but... that might be because I spent my high school days getting yelled at for being an idiot by the left-wing administration of my private HS (who thought gay kids were fine as long as we didn't make a big deal about it). I'M SORRY I WAS TEN YEARS AHEAD OF YOUR SORRY ASS. And... every memory of talking with the administration is a reminder of privilege. Maybe sometimes silence is the best anyone can do.

But I hope not. More soon.

And btw, I think Jay's response to the whole, "Why not just a day against bullying in general?", thing is right.

And also, more importantly, I don't really think a lot of straight Christians get how important this stuff is. You can be a straight Christian and be sweet and awesome, and love your neighbor, and grow up in an atmosphere where you very rarely see anti-gay bullying--especially if you're female--and so this horror, where your actual parents wake you up and tell you to get dressed and go get beaten and humiliated, never needs to be real to you. And so it's really hard to even imagine that this is as pervasive as it is.

It isn't everybody's experience, obviously. It wasn't mine. I got taunted a little bit but no more for being gay than for being generally kind of a hilarious weirdo. But it's really hard, I think, to be gay in America and like other gay people and not know stories which would make your hair curl.
DAY JOB: One! more! time!!... or, recent stuff on MarriageDebate.

From the bottom of the page to the top, we've got: thoughts for white parents of interracial children; a review of the looks-fascinating new book Marriage-Go-Round; the new kept woman; "Friday Night Lights" and the teenage virgin; and (from an interview with the author of Marriage-Go-Round):
Q: You were already well versed in the subject of marriage in America, as you have been studying families and public policy for much of your career. Did any of your discoveries surprise you as you wrote THE MARRIAGE-GO-ROUND?

A: I knew that our divorce rate was higher than in other countries, but I didn’t realize how much higher than even in supposedly vanguard countries such as Sweden. One statistic that stunned me: take two children, one growing up with married parents in the United States, and one growing up with unmarried parents in Sweden—which child has the higher likelihood of seeing his parents’ relationship break up? Answer: the American kid, because children living with married parents in the United States have a higher probability of experiencing a break-up than do children living with unmarried parents in Sweden. That’s how high our break-up rates are. ...

Q: Why is same-sex marriage so debated in the United States? How does this compare to other countries?

A: Same-sex marriage has been more of a battleground in the United States than in most other countries because marriage is more important to Americans than to people in other countries. Same-sex marriage is sometimes portrayed as a legal rights issue—the right to file taxes together, visit partners in the hospital, etc. Those rights are important, but that’s not the main issue. If the fight were only about legal rights, then civil unions would be sufficient. They are not sufficient to gay and lesbian activists in the United States because of the great prestige of marriage. The real issue is symbolic: who gets to wear the marriage badge. In some European countries, gay and lesbian activists are asking instead: why, at this late date, should we buy into the oppressive, archaic institution of marriage? But in the United States many advocates say that only a marriage ring guarantees first-class citizenship. And they are right, because marriage matters more here than elsewhere.

All that and so much more, for one low, low price!
Bow your head. Beg for your life. Death without burial.
And there--as if
Inside a moonlit sandstorm God allowed
The columns of Palmyra speech--
The Greeks encouraging their host:
"I am here. I will help.
Stand still and fight. At any moment they will break."
Though they do not.

--All Day Permanent Red

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WEAR YOUR INSIDES OUT: Remember how I promised you a post about how God's like a killer mutant cat? This is that post!

I can't now find the post at Secular Right which triggered this response, but I recall it as an ingenue, even a gamine, in which the author asked why theists so often assumed that the atheist worldview was bleak or depressing: How can we feel bereft when there is Mozart and springtime?

And yeah, I'm really sympathetic to that view. I used to believe that people generally chose the worldview whose position on the afterlife was hardest for them to accept, because that was what I and my godfather and several other people I knew had done. Mozart and springtime can prompt astonished feelings that reconciliation has happened, somehow, when we weren't looking.

Perhaps some of the reason I reject that view comes from a difference in temperament. But I'm more interested in exploring whether my difference with this atheist-amid-cherry-blossoms worldview is based on our divergent approaches to the relationship between beauty and meaning.

One could view beauty as its own meaning, in the same way that it's its own justification. I... don't actually know what that would feel like, or look like, because I don't do it, but conceptually it seems possible.

But to me beauty is always an arrow, always points beyond itself; it's always lack as well as presence. It's always both two faces, and the vase in the negative space between them. When I'm most present to beauty, it seems to me that I can hear the blood pulsing beneath the skin, the life and vulnerability and horror beneath the musculature. Samuel Delany--maybe in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand--? but I think actually in Babel-17--anyway, he described a man's muscles as "like snakes in milk." And the glamour and danger of the snake deepens the beauty of the man.

Which brings me to The Uninvited! summarizes its plot with, "A killer mutant cat that hides inside another cat." And a) that is one of the most awesome things I have ever read, but also b) that's pretty much what I think beauty is. A cat, with all the reality and life of a cat... but inside the cat's skin, there's something else, something more powerful, something more real. When I talk about "meaning," which I should do less often (it's an easy crutch for the theist), it's this killer mutant cat-within-the-cat which I mean.
Think of a raked sky-wide Venetian blind.
Add the receding traction of its slats
Of its slats of its slats as a hand draws it up.
Hear the Greek army getting to its feet.

Then of a stadium when many boards are raised
And many faces change to one vast face.
So, where there were so many masks,
Now one Greek mask glittered from strip to ridge.

--All Day Permanent Red
POLITICS AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: I haven’t written anything about the recent gay-marriage decisions. I really didn’t think I had anything to say that I hadn’t said already. But apparently I do... because I have too many friends?

This post was prompted by an ad from the National Organization for Marriage, which a friend of mine described as “Orwellian”; in his view, the ad said that love is hate. So here are three thoughts about the ad [EDITED: It's that "Gathering Storm" one--I'm too lazy to find a link, but I'm sure YouTube can hook you up] and that adjective, in order from least interesting to me to most interesting to me, because a) the last shall be first, yo; and b) I acknowledge that your priorities may not be the same as mine. So this post is about the implicit concessions of the slippery slope; religious liberty; and how our language acknowledges the divergent forms of eros.

Full disclosure: I do weekly html monkeywork for NOM. I have exactly no input into their ads, but, you know, if I really disagreed with what they do on a fundamental level, I’d quit. My bosses don’t know I’m writing this post, since they don’t read my blog and I don’t plan to bring this to their attention.

That said, the ad. It’s really, really cheesy.

It’s fearmongering, and I feel really conflicted about that. I don’t want to become so missish on this issue, so much in thrall to political prudery, that I reject the gutter-punching, tabloid ethos I profess to love.

And yet at the same time, I wonder whether this ad goes against John Paul II’s Gospel admonition to “Be not afraid!” We’re told to “duc in altum,” to put out into the deep. Maggie Gallagher, a.k.a. my part-time boss, told me once that the slippery-slope argument is already a concession. The implicit premise is, “Well, gay marriage isn’t really that bad, but look at what it might cause!” I think the religious-liberty ad partakes in the same concession. It’s the kind of ad you’d expect from a lost cause. We’ve lost, but please, can’t we have our small enclave of resistance?

And yet, and yet. There’s probably a reason I don’t get to do these ads, you know? Am I just using effective ads as my redshirts? Am I using them as the demotic worldview from which I, as a Respectable Person, must distance myself? Am I giving in to the pressure to rule all arguments against gay marriage out of bounds as bigoted? (A move made quite strikingly here, for example, where “I don’t want my children to be taught things deeply contrary to my faith” becomes “Gay people molest children!” If the ad described in that comment is out of bounds, what argument could possibly be permissible?)

John Corvino describes a similar dilemma from the opposite side, here.

And it’s not like the ad is wrong. I guess I just can’t understand how people mock or disagree with the basic premise, or call it paranoid or hysterical. It’s obvious to me that the whole culture changes when gay marriage happens. That’s what gay marriage is for.

I don’t think you can say, “You are just like the bigots who oppose interracial marriage--but nothing will happen to you as a consequence!”

If you’re at all interested in the religious-liberty implications of gay marriage, I’d recommend Marc Stern’s and Chai Feldblum’s chapters from Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty. For a shorter overview, you could try Maggie Gallagher’s “Banned in Boston” article, which in my obviously-not-neutral opinion is very fair.

The best counterargument is the same as the best counterargument on all gay-marriage topics: “This isn’t just about gay marriage but about a whole panoply of prior changes, most of which have obvious good qualities as well, so you’re not seeking status quo so much as rollback.” Dale Carpenter makes that argument ably and concisely here.

I see the force of that argument, and of course I acknowledge that there’s no way we would be having this conversation without the prior cultural changes which led to e.g. laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. For that matter, every single day I take advantage of the cultural changes which have made it possible for me to be an out lesbian while facing very limited explicit hostility.

But I still disagree that gay marriage is only a trivial turn of the ratchet (do ratchets turn?? I’m really not the home-improvement kind of dykey!), a mere formality, or something you can only worry about if you also reject all of the prior cultural moves which brought us here. I think prudence can allow you to draw a line, and frankly, gay marriage is a really obvious place for that line. Gay marriage is a big deal for the same reasons given by its supporters!--it is a real change in the culture, a deeply significant change, and a change with far-reaching public implications. I don’t think you can write paeans to marriage as a public and cultural status, then turn around and say that gay marriage will have very limited public effects. Marriage isn’t designed to have limited public effects.

For a more mechanism-focused take on this stuff, check out Eugene Volokh here; or, I can’t stress this enough, Stern’s and Feldblum’s essays cited above.

Or take public schools. NOM and its allies were ridiculed for suggesting that where gay marriage is legal, public schools will have to teach about it. What I never understood was--why on earth wouldn’t public schools teach about it? Was it to be legal yet shameful? Of course not! Public schools already embrace “family diversity” for families reshaped by divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation—none of which bear the same “if you think this is troubling, you might as well put on a white hood and sheets!” baggage as gay marriage.

(continues in next post)
“'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'": And now I come to the thing I care about most: songs.

For it seems to me that there is one way in which the gay-marriage movement deserves the adjective “Orwellian.” It is designed to make any sense of the uniqueness of heterosexual eros unspeakable, and ultimately unthinkable.

There are boring practical reasons to have a separate and specific language for describing sex between men and women. I talked about that stuff here and here. The task of marriage is to make intercourse fruitful rather than devastating, since it has such great potential to be either.

But there are also ways in which heterosexuality is uniquely beautiful, and our language of marriage developed to recognize this, too. Here’s one way to get the quick thrill of encountering a foreign belief system: Check out the Mattachine Society’s 1953 brief against gay marriage. Mattachine was one of the first gay-rights organizations in this country; and yet here, the writers sound not even like John Paul II but more like Paul VI. I don’t think I would wax this rhapsodic about the sanctity of motherhood! [EDITED: Well, I should re-read things before I link them; this is fascinating in its way, but less unpredictable than I'd remembered. Thoroughly skippable. Ah well.]

There’s something uniquely lovely about bringing together the two halves of humanity; about bridging la difference; about moving He and She past mutual incomprehension and suspicion, into harmony. (This is of course related to procreation, but separate from and prior to it. That’s why JPII roots his “theology of the body” in Adam and Eve’s couplehood in Eden--before they had children.)

There’s something uniquely lovely about recognizing the sexual Other as one’s home.

(I’d suggest that there’s also something uniquely lovely about homosexual love, insofar as through love, one’s sexual… compatriot? likeness? whatever is not “self” nor “Other” but “similar”… becomes an Other. Eros is the complete union of two beings who nonetheless remain distinct, remain Other to one another; this is why heterosexual union is such a frequent Jewish and Christian symbol for the union of God and Israel or humankind. My experience of lesbian love is that it tends to draw out and heighten the ways in which the beloved is Other, or even transform her into Other, so that she can be the target of love. This is perhaps a rebuttal to the criticism that homosexuality is narcissism. Nonetheless, it is clearly a different form of eros than the heterosexual form, in which metaphysical Otherness is iconically represented by physical, sexual difference.)

And yet now, if you try to talk about “the halves of humanity,” or anything at all which might be unique to heterosexual eros, you’re a bigot. This is a new development. There have been cultures--I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again--which honored some forms of homosexual relationships, while still considering marriage to be something separate.

I don’t know if that’s a path our conflictedly-Christianized culture can take. Still, it would be more accurate and more poetic than the moralistic, bourgeois denial of heterosexual uniqueness which fires the rhetoric of the gay-marriage movement.
To the sigh of the string, see Pandar's shot float off;
To the slap of the string on the stave, float on
Over the strip for a beat, a beat, and then
Carry a tunnel the width of a lipstick through Quist's neck.

--Christopher Logue, All Day Permanent Red: The First Battle Scenes of Homer's Iliad Rewritten

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Worth checking every day.
BREAK FAST: KITCHEN ADVENTURES. Some stuff I tried, to celebrate Easter.

Lemon-roasted Cornish hen: I used: a lemon, a small yellow onion, a small Cornish hen, some fresh rosemary, s & p, lots of butter.

Set oven to 425, 450, or thereabouts. Peel the onion. Cut a wedge of lemon and a wedge of onion--these two together get stuffed into the hen, so you want pieces which will fit. Then wash the hen and pat dry. Take out the giblets if they're in there. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, onion, and a few branches of rosemary. Squeeze the rest of the lemon over the hen and add salt and freshly-ground pepper.

Grab a handful of nice soft butter. Just rub that all over the hen. You want it slathered.

Then the hen in its baking dish goes in the oven. Roast it for... you know, however long it takes. I think with my oven it took about 20-30 mins, but yours might cook faster or slower. Check and baste the hen every ten minutes or so. It's done when the juices run clear.

The verdict: Yum! This was a completely predictable and tasty dish--you really taste every flavor. Totally enjoyable. My one thought was maybe more onion next time--roughly chop the other half of the onion and add it to the dish halfway through cooking?

When you're done feeding, throw the squozen lemon halves, the hen carcass, some whole peppercorns, a bit of salt, and some more rosemary branches into a pot. Just cover them with water. Bring to a boil, then cook uncovered for about an hour. Strain, and now you have a lemony hen stock, for your soups, pastas, etc.

Wild mushroom egg roll things: I used: assorted wild mushrooms; egg roll wrappers; olive oil; fresco asiago cheese; salt; various spices.

I covered a baking tray with parchment paper and set the oven to, I think, 450. I laid out some wrappers on the tray.

I scattered cut-up mushrooms on the wrappers, and cut the fresco asiago into kind of like Lincoln logs. Each wrapper got one Lincoln log, and a pinch of salt. I used different spice combinations: plain; cayenne; chopped fresh rosemary; cayenne-cumin-curry powder-powdered ginger-tiny hint of cinnamon; and cayenne-ginger.

Then I did my best to roll 'em up and seal them, keeping my fingers wet. I'm terrible at this! I managed to make various mushroom packages, but I don't think you could really call them "rolls."

Then those got rubbed with olive oil, and into the oven they went! They cooked for about 11-12 minutes; I checked on them at the nine-minute mark but they were only just starting to brown. You want them brown, but not burnt, with the skin starting to blister a bit.

Once they'd cooled, I tried the rolls and made some more. These were fairly satisfying, but I don't think I got the wrapper-to-stuffing ratio right--the rolls were either bulging or slightly empty, especially since the mushrooms reduce a bit in size as they cook.

The best flavor combination by far was pretty much anything with the ginger. I'd use fresh ginger if I did this again. Ginger and wild mushrooms... totally delicious.

If those wrappers are still workable tonight, I'll make wonton cigarettes with cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne, for dessert. I'll let you know if that works!
Green and beautiful low-income housing? This sounds like an oxymoron. The usual standard for housing for the poor has been cheap and functional. But only this year came Intervale Green, a low-income apartment building in the South Bronx that might just be a model for developers. ...

Welcome to Intervale Green Apartments. Quietly but clearly it engages in a dialogue with the old psychology and social policies that say the poor don't need beauty--just basics. But Biberman understands that beautiful places change people's attitudes, reduce stress, improve productivity, and also give people hope.

more (I forget where I found this)
Too frail and puny to play with the other boys, Caldwell spends his solitary days sitting high up in his favorite tree. There, hidden behind a veil of Spanish moss, he takes from his pocket an old Bull Durham sack in which he keeps the mementos of rural Southern boyhood/sensitive division: a frog's skull, a cameo with half the face sliced off, and the pennies that closed his grandfather's eyes.

Caldwell would be content to spend the rest of the book thumbing through these talismans, and Gonad Manque, who has no sense of plot, would be equally content to go on writing about them. But it's That Summer, a season unique to the South, when Something Terrible Happens.

Suddenly Caldwell's woodsy retreat is invaded by inhabitants of the outside world. When "they" come, his sensitivity receives a jolt. Perched in his tree, he watches copulating couples, escaped prisoners committing sodomy, a seven-foot black named Raoul staring at a dead fish, an old crone burying a jewelry box containing the other half of the cameo, a weeping stranger castrating himself, and the town idiot masturbating over a crushed flamingo.

--Florence King, "The Gay Confederation," Southern Ladies and Gentlemen

Friday, April 10, 2009

RADIO SILENCE UNTIL EASTER MONDAY, but I'll leave you with Amy Welborn's post rounding up blogs and stuff by people entering the Catholic Church this Easter!

...Plus, more somberly, a post from Amy's comments, about some reasons people fall away from the Church after conversion.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era.

more (via Mark Shea)
GO DOWN, MOSES: Okay, the symbolism here is pretty intense, regardless of my other opinions of the President:
This year's Passover is then infused with additional meaning, being marked by the first African-American president of the United States, who will be hosting a the first ever Seder at the White House.

more--and the rest of the post is definitely worth reading as well.
WHY CAN'T WE HAVE A FOOD SAFETY POSTMODERNIZATION ACT? No, but for real, Walter Olson breaks down how a proposed bill would push small/artisanal farmers out of the field:
...Patrick, and the other writers linked just above, warn that the law may drive out of business local farmers and artisanal, small-scale producers of berries, herbs, cheese, and countless other wares, even when there is in fact nothing unsafe in their methods of production. Many informal makers of ethnically or culturally distinctive food items will go off-books or simply fall by the wayside, overwhelmed by the reporting and batch-tracking paperwork. Many foreign producers who ship in less-than-mass quantities will give up on the U.S. market rather than try to comply with challenging standards that differ drastically from those imposed by European markets or their own countries of origin, which in turn will mean that many interesting and safe specialty foods will simply no longer be available for purchase, at least legally.

much, much more, with delicious and nutritious artisanal links. Comments thread is shortish but substantive so far as well.
RAGGED THOTS (aka Robert A. George) is in Colorado at the Conference on World Affairs, talking about the future of the Republican Party and also comic books. I was a total shank and failed to post this before his first panel, on Monday, but he's got a few panels left before the conference ends--he's a cool dude and he wants your thoughts (or thots?), so you should drop him a line....
"Will you speak falsely for God,
and speak deceitfully for him?
Will you show partiality toward him,
will you plead the case for God?
Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
He will surely rebuke you
if in secret you show partiality.
Will not his majesty terrify you,
and the dread of him fall upon you?
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes,
your defenses are defenses of clay."

--Job rebuking his "comforters," Job 13:7-12

Thursday, April 02, 2009

...O'Brien, the first and only homeless person to belong to the Harvard Square Business Association, said he is tired of fighting City Hall.

His story is a long, involved one that includes getting arrested twice, obtaining various permits, and being moved onto subway grates by the Cambridge superintendent of streets, only to have the MBTA say he couldn't set up on its property. When he tried to open a book business in a nearby church, he found he couldn't get liability insurance. When he tried to get a tax identification number, he said, "they wanted all sorts of paperwork" that he couldn't provide, especially since he had a half-dozen other homeless people working for him on commission. Now his peddler's permit has lapsed, and he said he has grown weary of filling out forms.

"It's the paperwork that killed me," O'Brien said. Decades of living on the streets have weathered his face beyond his 55 years. He says he ran a similar business in New York and was never hassled.

more (via Hit & Run)

The Institute for Justice, here.
For those who are new to our community, Thistle Farms is a non-profit business for women who have survived prostitution, violence and addiction. By hand we make natural bath and body products that are good for us and for the environment. But we are connected not just by what we were or even what we are today, but by our remembrance of what it feels like to be broken. We all remember what it feels like to have been in the ditch, when everything in your life seemed to fall apart. The enduring gift for most of us is that this experience allows your heart to be so open. There is humility and compassion for others because you have learned how human you are. Whatever has brought you to our blog today, we hope you will feel the love and grace that binds this community together through the voices you'll read on these pages.

(that post) (the whole blog)
FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF EGYPT, patroness of penitents.

OrthoWiki on the saint; Wikipedia (with bonus Nalo Hopkinson--I did not know that!); more, plus an icon.
I arose to open to my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
upon the handles of the bolt.

--Song of Solomon, 5:5

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

IF YOU STOP PAYING A SURROGATE MOTHER, WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FETUS? I should really make you guys go to MarriageDebate for this stuff, but I thought this would be of interest:
If you're angry about the AIG scandal or Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, check out what's happening to the infertile couples and surrogate mothers involved in a California womb brokerage. It's a familiar tale of vanishing funds and defaulted obligations. But this time, the potential loss is bigger than property. It's pregnancy.

Whose pregnancies are at stake? That's a tricky question. Through in vitro fertilization, a fetus can have two mothers: a genetic one and a gestational one. Last week, for example, we looked at a Japanese case in which a doctor mistakenly put one woman's embryo in another woman's uterus. Weeks later, the second woman was told of the error and aborted the pregnancy. The first woman wasn't told about anything for two and a half months.

That's what can happen when you separate pregnancy into two stages. One woman can abort another's offspring.

And that's not the only way it can happen. Thousands of women have hired themselves out as gestational surrogates. If you're the child's genetic mother, you can put a clause in the contract stipulating under what circumstances the surrogate can abort the pregnancy. But no court will enforce that clause, because you aren't the one who's pregnant. The surrogate is. She can choose abortion unilaterally. All you can do is stop paying her for carrying the child.

But what if it's the other way around? What if you stop paying her first? If you had hired her to sew booties for your kid, she could respond to your nonpayment by halting work on the booties. But her job wasn't to deliver booties. It was to deliver the kid. If she responds by halting work on the thing you've stopped paying for, that thing is your child.

Presumably, if you care enough about the baby to have hired a surrogate, you'll pay what you promised. But what if you don't control the payments? What if you delivered the money to a broker, and the broker lost, stole, or squandered it? You did your part, but the surrogate is no longer being paid. And she has every legal right to end the pregnancy.

That's the scenario unfolding in California.

NOT AN APRIL FOOL'S JOKE.... Hey guys, if you tried to go to Saran Malene M's show at Twins Jazz tonight, I really apologize--I had no idea the place was closed! It looked like they lost their liquor license or some similar problem. If I can find info about her next show I will let you know about that. Again, my apologies if you got rained on....