Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I've had two otherwise reasonable people argue with me recently, saying that English should be the official language of the USA, and that everyone who lives here "should" learn English. Apparently, not learning English is "un-American," and we "waste" tax dollars on teachers who teach in other languages (I've yet to find proof of this).

What I find un-American is this attempt to undermine the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. The most basic part of speech, before you even get to the words, is which language you are using. So not only does our Consitution guarantee you the right to say obnoxious or offensive things, it allows you to say them in any language you choose. AND - the government cannot dictate which language you say things in, just as it can't dictate what words you say. So this attempt to dictate which language people speak to each other is little more than thought control, which is expressly forbidden in the Constitution. These folks who think they are being so very "American" in their assertion are in fact attempting to undermine the founding document of our government. They themselves are thus un-American.

As for tax dollars, I'd like to know how my friends would pay to make sure everyone in this country spoke English. Are they willing to drag folks to classes against their will? How would these classes be paid for? What standard should we hold people too when we test them? Should those born in this country be assumed to speak English and thus not be tested? (I've encountered many who think they are fluent in English because they were born here and yet don't know good grammar from a hole in the wall -- should these people be taught too at taxpayer expense?) If someone takes these classes and these tests and fails, what punishment should be meted out? How do we pay for the bureaucracy necessary for all this?

Apparently English just somehow, magically, is the language of this country. When I asked where that was written down, either in the Constitution or in some other legal document, I got a blank stare and and the assertion that it just is true. I was told that in France, people must learn French, and it's the same in other countries. Even if that is true, which I doubt, why should America become more like France? Should we violate our own Consitution to become more like a country where you are guilty until proven innocent? The freedoms guaranteed to Americans are what make this country great, and they are what draw immigrants here, including every single one of our ancestors, barring those of Native American descent.

I think mostly people just don't want to be inconvenienced. I have a Russian landlady who struggles with English, and I've had my frustrating moments trying to communicate with her. But guess what? The Constitution doesn't protect you from frustration. It doesn't protect you from being offended. In fact, it very specifically allows people to be offensive and frustrating. That's freedom, people. It's messy. It means we all don't think the same, look the same, talk the same, and act the same.

Welcome to the messy, polyglot economic powerhouse that is America. Welcome to every shade of skin from whitest white to darkest black. Welcome to every language, every creed, every orientation. The US Consitution is a document outlining a country based on the principle of freedom. This is what it looks like. This is what it sounds like.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Adorable Children

I know I'm biased in thinking that my friends have particularly well behaved and adorable children. But really - they just are! Herewith, proof, at least of their physical cuteness. I visited my friend Ruth this weekend, and took these photos. First, there's Emma, now five.

And here's Dash, all of two. He has a fondness for machinery already. At this point he can't operate a car or a saw, so he has fun with simpler tools, like this juicer, or the mop and bucket. He needs to come over to my place and make me some fresh squeezed orange juice before tending to my hardwood floors.

As you can see, Dash is a redhead, so I sometimes feel like he might be mistaken for mine when I'm pushing him on the swing at the park while Ruth is off playing hide and seek with Emma. But both kids really do look like their lovely Mom.

For more proof that my friends have adorable children, scroll down to see Hunter and Logan playing with sparklers. Although my obvious talent for photography might have something to do with it too... cough cough.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Remember when sparklers were the coolest thing, and you couldn't wait to write your name with them on the Fourth of July? I got a chance to recall that kind of excitement at a friends' BBQ on the 4th.

Maritza lit up the sticks for the kids, who reacted warily at first to the jumpy fire at the other end.

But pretty soon they were jumping around, throwing down poppers, swinging those sparklers like swords.

You gotta love Burbank, that bastion of suburban life. You can't buy sparklers there -- Maritza had to go all the way to Asuza to find some. But they had a fiery display spurted out from the Starlight Bowl that led to a traffic jam of SUVs in the Burbank foothills.

We adults, full of barbecued meat, veggies, and Death by Chocolate, lounged nearby and awaited the fireworks, which burst nearly overhead thanks to Pam and Scott's excellent location. We concluded, that amortized over 30 years of July 4ths, the view of the fireworks had to add at least a quarter of a million to the value of their home.

Young Hunter's commentary during the display was even more entertaining than the fireworks themselves. During one burst he said, "It's a puppy!"

The Emmy's - Now with Only One Foot in the Grave!

My latest and most popular column so far is up at Monsters and Critics (http://smallscreen.monstersandcritics.com). I take the Emmys to task and am rather opinionated, shall we say, in my views. One opinion begets another, so there are already a few comments from readers. Some praise me. Some say I am "very small in my thought." Whatever -- it's all good! Hate me, but read me!