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Friday, December 24, 2010

Auguri e Buon Natale a tutti! May your holidays be filled with warmth and joy!

Auguri e Buon Natale a tutti!  May your holidays be filled with warmth and joy!

This poem always makes me smile and brings back some of the most wonderful childhood memories of the holiday season.  Remember, this is the season for giving and sharing.  So, I'm sharing this poem with you and hope that it brings a smile to your face.

Benedizioni,

---Vinnie









THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chthonioi Alexandrian Tradition - Beyond an Initiatory Line and into a Tradition

The following is a statement of identity of a "Line" of Alexandrian Craft that grown into a Tradition .  We began the writing of this document at the Chthonioi Family Grand Council held on May 30, 2009 C.E. and finished it in celebration of Samhain, October 31, 2010 C.E.  We are now making this document public.  Please feel free to contact me ( Vinnie Russo custserv@arsenic.com ) for additional information.

Chthonioi Alexandrian Tradition (of Wicca)
Beyond an Initiatory Line and into a Tradition:

The Chthonioi branch of the Alexandrian Du Bandia Grasail (DBG) Line has developed innovations that were and are significantly different from the practice of the more traditional DBG family, and from the practice of the wider Alexandrian community. The results have led to an extraordinarily rich heritage comprising Sabbats, Esbats, Initiations, Elevations, and kabalistic rites which acknowledge the ceremonial magic which Alex Sanders brought into the Gardnerian foundation of his practice.

The heritage of the Chthonioi is one of thoughtful, committed, and reverent worship, practice, teaching and service. It includes a tendency to teach about the perils of "glamour" and to mandate the practice of self-awareness techniques that minimize glamour. This has allowed the Line to produce generally sane and effective, sequential leadership through the daughter covens. As a result, the Chthonioi covens maintain close family ties with each other and even in some cases with "cousins" from the more traditional branches of DBG. We consider the Chthonioi Line to be a distinct path which is Alexandrian-derived, and we have practiced as such since 1974 alongside and in harmony with those Traditional Alexandrians who consider us Kin.

As is proper in a hierarchical tradition, we discuss questions of tradition with our elders, both within the Chthonioi family and with our traditional Du Bandia Grasail Line cousins, and come to a consensus. In this case, many generations of Chthonioi, as well as other traditional Alexandrians in the Du Bandia Grasail Line, have discussed the changes in our practice over the years and have concluded that we do, in fact, deviate enough from core Alexandrian practice that we should add the modifierChthonioi” to our Line name. Based on the long established working relationship and history with our kin, we feel that a clarification in name accomplishes several things:

1.   It defines us as an identifiable derivation of the Alexandrian Tradition without claiming to be Traditional Alexandrian
2.   It allows the more Traditional Alexandrians to choose for themselves if they want to acknowledge our Line as kin without having our praxis imposed on them
3.   It allows those Traditional Alexandrians who do consider us kin to still share with us a diverse magical working relationship and attend each others′ events, as has been done since 1974/5 (the birth of Chthonioi Coven/Order of Ganymede), as well as to cross-train students in more than one family line.

Claiming the right to define ourselves, based on consensus from many available generations of elders in our line, we have made the decision to formally establish ourselves as the "Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition" or “Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca”.

Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca, a brief description:

The term “Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca” is used to describe the practice of the Boston-based family of covens directly downline from and including Coven Chthonioi. Coven Chthonioi (and daughter Covens) grew out of the Alexandrian practice of its founders in the 1960′s/1970′s, and is the oldest continuous Line descended from Du Bandia Grasail, the first documented Alexandrian Coven in the USA. Chthonioi and its downline are, in general, open and non-secretive, on the principle that the Mysteries guard themselves well enough without us throwing additional obstacles in the path of understanding.

Originally purely Alexandrian, Coven Chthonioi early on changed its worship from that of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of Britain to that of the Gods and Goddesses of Greece (Greco-Roman Pantheon and Isian worship), and changed its ritual form somewhat to suit this change in mythology. Many of the original founders (Chthonioi/Ganymede) were students of comparative religion and Classics. Given the enormous effect Greek and Roman culture has had on American arts, architecture, law and politics, since before the founding of the country, this pantheon has proven especially well-suited to our culture and our focus on social workings.  In addition, the comprehensive documentation of Greco-Roman religious practice and philosophy allowed early leaders of the coven to easily form a coherent Tradition.  Nonetheless the basic ritual form we use (Casting the Circle, Drawing Down the Moon, Initiations) is closely enough based on our Alexandrian background that most all of the local  completely traditional Alexandrians consider us Kin or “kissing-cousins”.

Most Traditional Alexandrians consider themselves to fall under the description of BTW or British Traditional Wicca. The term "Wicca" here refers specifically to the lineaged, initiatory mystery religions with roots in the New Forest region of Great Britain, manifested today through various "traditions" all linked with a common ancestry back to the New Forest area. "Wiccans" or "The Wica" are the properly initiated and lineaged members of those Traditions. Like our more traditional Alexandrian kin, our Tradition′s members are properly initiated and lineaged members who also trace our lineage back in an unbroken initiatory succession to Alex Sanders.

Coven Chthonioi is the originator of the cycle of rituals that has become known as the Book of the Provider (or Provider Cycle). The Provider Cycle is a series of rituals performing sacred enactments of ancient fertility lore surrounding the Wheel of the Year within the growing and harvest times, and using the symbology of the Earth Mother/Harvest Maiden and the Sun King/Harvest Lord. Most Covens in the Chthonioi-Alexandrian family practice a recognizable form of the Provider Cycle as part of their material and pass down the original Alexandrian Book of Shadows (the “Burned Book” version) as well as considerable additional material.

The name Coven of the Chthonioi, which is Greek — χθωνιοι— means “the People of the Earth,” or “the earth-born,” since first in our prayers we call on Earth, the Mother of us all. The name also refers to the gods of the earth and the realm under the earth, especially Demeter and Persephone, who are central to our Book of the Provider. These were the gods particularly associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, the ancient initiatory religious tradition that inspired most, if not all, later secret initiatory societies.

General practices:

We share many things in common with our Traditional Alexandrian Kin. We celebrate the eight Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, and we celebrate both the New and Full Moons (with variations from coven to coven.)  The original Book of Shadows material passed to our Line is present within our Lore and rituals (sometimes obviously, sometimes hidden) and honors our origin and core practice. As a family we do not believe that the Book of Shadows defines or limits us, rather it provides a starting point from which to grow. We feel that Tradition and Innovation are two sides of one coin that, when wisely integrated together, foster healthy growth and fruitful spirituality.

The Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition is organized into Covens, and families of Covens. It is not possible to self-initiate into the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition; it is only possible to be Initiated into the Line by someone already in the Line authorized to do so. Each coven is autonomous and we claim the sole right to determine for ourselves what constitutes our core practices. As of this writing, Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca has at least 6 generations of active Covens.

Covens in the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca tend to emphasize the creative and dynamic character of the Alexandrian Tradition. Since Alex Sanders himself continued to change and evolve his practice of Wicca throughout his life, the Chthonioi branch feels empowered, and even obliged, to continue the creative growth and development of the tradition. These covens place a great emphasis on group ritual, and often incorporate ideas and techniques from non-Wiccan forms of ritual magic. The magic practiced in this branch is primarily theurgic in nature, aiming to effect a subtle inner transformation of the spirit. It is our deeply held belief that Wicca, and specifically Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca, is a living growing being of beauty and strength.

Some features that distinguish us from traditional Alexandrians include:
  1. The use of pantheons other than the traditional gods of Wicca, primarily but not exclusively Greek/Greco-Roman. In particular, the Tradition works with gods that were involved in the ancient Eleusinian and Isian Mystery religions. Some covens have developed rituals based on ancient mystical and initiatory traditions from other regions as well. The approach taken to the worship of the gods involves both scholarly study of ancient traditions and direct experiential interaction with the gods.
  2. The teaching and use of the Provider Cycle and other materials written by Lucifer, the founding High Priest of Coven Chthonioi, and expanded by others.  The following selected excerpts from “Raise the Song of Harvest Home” [1] give an idea as to the nature of the Book of the Provider/Provider Cycle:
    1. The Provider Cycle( PC) is a series of rituals performed during the growing season starting at the New Moon or Full Moon (depending on timing) immediately after the Spring Equinox, and continuing on each Full Moon until the closest one before Samhain (October 31st).  (Note: some Covens practice the PC throughout the entire year by using material in addition to the original.)
    2. Arachne, a Sister of the Order of Ganymede, states in her published remembrance of Lucifer, “The Cycle is perhaps best seen as a rewriting of the Mysteries of Eleusis appropriate to our time and climate; a celebration of the endless cycle of life and death.”  The PC owes much of its meaning and drama to its representation of a “Sacred King cycle”.
    3. The Provider Cycle is an example of successful creation of modern “traditional” ritual.  Traditionalization of these new rites was accomplished by careful incorporation of material from pre- and post -20th Century literary sources.  The old materials were chosen for their ability to be supportive of the flow of the ritual story, and are made to appear as part of the larger PC whole by the context in which they appear, and by judicious word substitution that does not break the flow of the original meter.
  3. The concept that the polarity of “male” and “female” energies and their immanent divinity reside within each one of us, and can be accessed at will. This may be influenced by physical gender but is not necessarily bound by it. The work of polarity magic is expected to take place primarily on the inner planes. The goal of the work is for each priestess and each priest ultimately to have access to both God and Goddess energies within themselves, and to be able to encompass the full creative polarity each within their own auras.
  4. Some branches of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian have incorporated Same-Sex Initiations (SSI) as a way of acknowledging the importance and validity of inner contacts and true connection to the divine regardless of physical gender.  Although not universally practiced by all within our Tradition, we nonetheless acknowledge SSIs as equally valid, lineaged, proper Initiations and part of our Tradition.

Standards of Conduct:

Chthonioi-Alexandrians adhere to the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law. We do not charge money for teaching or ritual, beyond a fair sharing of actual ritual expenses. We are mindful of the power differential between Elders and students and so strive to avoid inappropriate personal, material or sexual exchanges within the context of coven relationships. Exploitative or abusive relationships of any kind are not tolerated. We have a strong ethic of personal initiative, responsibility, and accountability, and encourage the kind of personal development that allows members to function highly in these respects.

History of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Line:
                (The following is paraphrased from “Witches at the Hub of the Universe [2])

The Du Bandia Grasail Line is one of the oldest continuous Alexandrian-derived lines in America, dating from the initiation of Summanus by Alex and Maxine Sanders in 1969, and his development of the early coven which became Du Bandia Grasail. Summanus was the original founder of DBG and worked with the coven for several years before turning the leadership over to "Lucifer" (who took his name for its original meaning, “Light-bearer”) in 1973.

In 1974, Lucifer and the other coven elders recognized that, even at that time, there were already differences within the Alexandrian Tradition and they as elders were unable to decide which direction the coven would or should take. Lucifer returned to consult with Summanus on the issues involved.  Lucifer was advised to set up his own group, one that could celebrate all the “traditional” holidays, but also allow them to continue to  build on the original Wiccan system.

As the original coven was unavoidably going to break up, and since none of the factions could truly be said to embody the original coven any longer, none of them were to retain the Du Bandia name.  Instead, in 1974, the DBG line split in into three traditional branches which kept to rituals more closely based on the original Alexandrian BOS, and one more progressive branch (Chthonioi/ Ganymede Line), which kept the original Alexandrian BoS at its core but continued to expand, change, and actively incorporate further materials.

The original daughter covens of the original Alexandrian DBG coven were:
·         Coven of the Chthonioi / Order of Ganymede, 1974-present (originator of the cycle of rituals that has become known as The Book of the Provider)
·         Astreas, 1973-1984 (Dubuque 1973-75, Milwaukee 1975-84), merged with outer court Sophia ca. 1978, and still continues through “hives”
·         Uil′iomlan Tri-fillte Mathair ("Gefilltefisch"), 1974-1976
·         ArDealrach Baintighearna, 1974-1981

DBG Today:

The Lines off the original DBG coven, both more traditional and more progressive, continue and prosper today in Massachusetts and elsewhere, with active training given by people who were present in the 1970’s and later. Some members of the DBG line are responsible for the development of the Society of Elder Faiths, (a 501(c)3 Pagan church) which has been providing public ritual, workshops and retreats for thirteen years.  Other members of the DBG line have  been active in helping to produce some of the major festivals and newsletters which drew pagans together in the decades before the Internet made it easier for people to find each other.  And others have quietly offered public ritual in small occult stores for decades. These positive outcomes were made possible by members of both the more-traditional Line (Uil’iomlan Tri-fillte Mathair) and the more-progressive Line (Chthonioi/Ganymede) working loosely with each other as members of the same Family, as equals.

Finally, a small disclaimer and a word of thanks:
Because Elders are autonomous in our Tradition, none of us can possibly speak for all of us. Because we value individual autonomy within our Tradition, we understand that there may be disagreement over particular choices made by covens or individuals of our Line. We consider dynamic and enlightened exploration of such disagreements to be healthy, and do not see them as creating barriers between friendly, working relationships within our Wiccan family. In light of this, we do not expect all members of our family to agree with everything presented.
It is with thanks and deep appreciation that those of us "old enough to remember" wish to acknowledge the Protean Line of the Gardnerian family, and specifically Judy Harrow.  Proteus and its downline have an analogous relationship to the Gardnerians as the Chthonioi Line does to the Alexandrians. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their willingness to declare themselves different, liberal and progressive, while nonetheless definite members of the Gardnerian Family.   May the Protean Line always prosper!

This essay was written, edited, compiled, and approved by the following Elders and Initiates of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca and made public in celebration of Samhain, October 31, 2010 C.E.:


Vincent Russo HP, Coven Synchronos, Sheaves of Dememter
Raven HPs, Coven Synergy
Arachne HPs, Symbios

Lakshmi HPs (Current), Chthonioi
Shamash HP, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Steve Wage, Delios Eros, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Astrea, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Albion, Cthonioi
Gwyddion, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Mabon, Chthonioi
Lucia, Ganymede, Chthonioi
Iris, Moonfire, Ganymede
Marilyn Bernstein, W.W., Chthonioi, Ganymede
Janus HP, Spawn Far Coven
LoriJoy, SpawnFar Coven
Iris, Symbios
Pomona, Symbios
Aurora, Symbios
Briannan HPS, Amaltheia, Sheaves of Demeter
Ain, Sheaves of Demeter
Thymele HP of Synergy
Binah, Coven Synergy
Ash, Coven Synergy
Cypress, Synergy Coven
Hanuman HP, Holoklaros, Ganymede, Symbios
Dragonfly HPS, Holoklaros
Epona, Holoklaros
Tree, Holoklaros
Blackthorne, Holoklaros
Anubis HP, Kouretes
Runa HPs, Kouretes
Miranda, Kouretes (Symbios, Earthclad, Amaltheia)
Nyx, Kouretes
Marta, Kouretes
Berta A. Miller-Daniels, Order of Ouroboros
TreeFire, Mnemosyne′s Well, Spawnfar, Silver Cauldron
Wade Birdwell, Urla 303, Rabbit Hole Koven, New Orleans
Rowan, Persephone’s Midden/Coven Temenos
Bran, Temenos/Solitary

Sources:
[1]  Raise the Song of Harvest Home: The Created Ritual Cycle of a Modern Wiccan Lineage – A research Essay by Betty Widerski, © 2002 (selected excerpts).
[2]  Witches at the Hub of the Universe: The History of Du Bandia Grasail and its Successors (Summanus’ Account) – Part 1 & Part 2 (selected excerpts).

Resources
Coven Chthonioi: http://orderofganymede.org/
Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition: http://chthonioi.org/ (This is the website of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition, a progressive Alexandrian based tradition of Wicca.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This Much I Know Is True

EDIT: The title of the book is "I Know This Much Is True" (Sorry for the typo!)

Wow.  On a recommendation from a friend, I bought "This Much I Know Is True" by Wally Lamb
(http://www.amazon.com/Know-This-Much-True-Oprahs/dp/0060987561)

(CORRECTION: the title is actually, "I know this much is true".)

I just finished it and I'm not really sure what to say about it.  I don't recall ever having had a book touch me quite like this one has.

At first, the attraction to reading this book was that it is the story from the perspective of the grandson of a Sicilian immigrant.  It is that, but it is also much more than that. It is the search for who the narrator is, the process of grief and the need to live even when death touches us, about sibling rivalry, and about - ultimately - self discovery, peace, humility and the importance of family and forgiveness.

There are pure gems of wisdom hidden in the pages of this book.

Buona lettura,

Vincenzo

Friday, October 8, 2010

Great Fall Family Recipe - Vegetable Barley Soup

 For Coven last night, I made a tasty & flavorful vegan/vegetable barley soup.  It was really gratifying to see folks enjoying it so much!


I modified the original recipe that I found here:
http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/beakers-vegetable-barley-soup/Detail.aspx



INGREDIENTS:
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 1/4 cup uncooked barley
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, red or green, or yellow

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 small green squash, sliced or chopped
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 onion, chopped
3 - 4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons of Balsamic Vinegar
2 teaspoon white sugar (very important to smooth the "bite" from the Balsamic Vinegar

DIRECTIONS:
1.    Pour the vegetable broth into a large pot. Add the barley, carrots, celery, tomatoes, squash, garbanzo beans, onion, and bay leaves. Season with garlic powder, sugar, salt, pepper, parsley, curry powder, paprika, and Balsamic Vinegar. Bring to a boil, THEN cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 90 - 100 minutes. The soup will be very thick. You may adjust by adding more broth or less barley if desired. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Mangia e statti zitto!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Long distance learning - some rambling thoughts...

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve written an actual blog.  It seems that my little updates on Facebook have taken the place of regularly writing a blog.  Just so much easier to send a few quick thoughts to Facebook rather than to sit down and come up with a couple paragraphs of something that I think people might find interest.

One of the things that Mike pointed out is that if I want to regularly do a blog isthat I really should be focused on writing topics that are of interest to me.  After all, if I’m not interested in what I’m writing going to be much harder to sit down and write a blog.

I’ve been particularly interested in the topics that have been coming up recently in a lot of different discussion as to whether or not someone can effectively learn/teach Wicca, Stregheria, or magic “long distance”.  I think it’s possible to do long distance learning/teaching OF Wicca, Stregheria, or magic but that’s different from actually teaching/learning it.

There are wonderful academic and folk lore resources About Wicca, Stregheria, and magic that will give readers a good background or basis of these topics.  There’s a wealth of resources about the historic and modern practices but these are all intellectual descriptions of things that really have more to do with the subconscious, spirituality, and sharred experience.

Most traditions of Traditional Wicca define their tradition based on praxis (or correct practice for their Tradition) and the shared experiences that comes from following that praxis in a group or coven setting.  In a way, praxis is the framework that hold the oral teachings of the particular tradition and it is a combination of praxis an oral teachings that leads to the shared experience of a particular tradition of Wicca.  Since Wicca is based around group work, shared experience, and specific practices, that would seem to make it very difficult to teach someone longest distance.

Stregheria, or the Strega Tradition, is also a tradition of the Craft. Where Wicca is based on specific praxis, Stregheria is based on a balance of Old Traditions and living family Traditions, personal gnosis, hospitality, respect, and honor and living the Tradition.  To learn Stregheria, you need to live Stregheria and the best way to do that is by example.  I’m not sure how you would do that without being physically present.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn about theset things from books and articles or from forums, networking sites, or discussions.  Learning about these things will let a person develop their own spirituality and way of connecting with the divine.

On the other hand, I know of a few very dedicated individuals who have combined both distance learning WITH regular visits to their teachers.  They are very motivated individuals who do the work that their teachers give them, practice what they can on their own, AND  also go to great lengths to meet as often as possible (in person) with their teachers.  That way, they get the passing of knowledge and shared experience that is crucial to the passing on of a Tradition.

If someone wants to learn about Paganism or modern “eclectic Wicca”, the framework of knowledge is out there and it can be turned into a valid and powerful personal practice.  If someone practices on their own, does the Work, records their experiences, discusses them in places such as forums and meetups, and learns and shares, then they are just as much a Witch - even if it isn’t “formal training” or Traditional Wicca that they are practicing.

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Rev. Vincent Russo, Proprietor (SKYPE)
Arsenic & Old Lace:  http://www.arsenic.com
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Was getting the iPad worth it?

Was getting the iPad worth it? That is the question that I have repeatedly been asked over the last month. The broad, general, without clarification answer is "yes, it was worth it".

What do I like about it?
The screen is big on real estate and the virtual keyboard works very well.
It doubles as a Kindle for my ebooks.
For media consumption it works well (videos, music, books, social networking).
There are a huge number of apps so I have a several screens sorted by use - work/productivity, web pages frequently visited, multi-media, networking sites and programs, personal fun (comics, recipes, yelp, translator).
Lighter and more convenient than a laptop and easier to use than a small mobile phone.

So, what don't I like about it?
There are so many apps that it is hard to know which ones are useful and which are crap. I wish that for the paid apps, you would automatically get a free trial of the app - even if it was just for one day.
Apple is still being stupid about not allowing Flash to work on it's mobile devices. That is a real pain for quite a few websites. At least I can itch most of the "instant play" on Netflix.
I am still searching for a secure FTP program, a remote desktop (from iPad to laptop) program, and a program to let me mount the iPad from my laptop as a remote drive. If you know of any, let me know.
With a little bit of effort, I can run the store from the iPad. That means that we can take orders and process them even when we go off to a festival.

All in all, I honestly ink that the answer to the question is yes.

Oh, one more pro: it's so easy to type on it that I have been doing more writing an before getting it. This blog, for instance. :-)

Ciao,

---Vinnie
Arsenic & Old Lace

Monday, May 17, 2010

Crows

As you know, I have a particular affinity for all things corvid.  :-)

I recently decided to look into the greco-roman myths surrounding crows and discovered that there was a connection between crows and Apollo.

Below are some of my favorite snippets.

Apollo and the Crow -

The Crow was the god Apollo's sacred bird. Apollo was associated with prophecy and wisdom, with music and poetry, with medicine, law, philosophy, and the arts. When the Olympian gods were set upon by the monster Typhon, the god Pan shouted a warning, and the gods changed themselves into animals to escape. Aphrodite and Eros changed themselves into fish. Pan too tried to become a fish, but ended up as only half a fish. Apollo changed himself into a Crow.


How the Crow Became Black -
It is said that the Crow was originally snow-white in color, but it was the Crow who brought Apollo the awful news that his love Coronis had been unfaithful to him. Apollo took out his anger on the poor Crow turning his feathers into the mournful black color that crows have worn ever since.

Would anyone else like to contribute any tidbits of corvid lore from the Mediterranean?

Benedizioni,

---Vinnie

************************************************************************

Rev. Vincent Russo, Proprietor
Arsenic & Old Lace: http://www.arsenic.com/
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Basic homemade tomato sauce

Ciao a tutti,

A few folks have asked about a recipe for my sauce. To be honest, I don't really have a recipe in the traditional sense.  I have a list of general ingredients and a system of putting them together.  However, tha's about as close as it gets to a recipe.


It may sound kind of hokey but I think that my sauce tastes so good because I make it with love.  You be the judge. Take a look at it.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Enjoy!

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo


- - - - - - - - -

Basic homemade tomato sauce:
     - leave off Step 1 & 2 if you want to make a vegetarian sauce.

  1. Brown ground beef (1 - 2 lbs) in a sauce pan with olive oil and garlic.
  2. If desired, add finely chopped Prosciutto (1/2 - 1 lb).  When browned, drain.excess fat.
  3. Add another tablespoon of olive oil, a bit more garlic, and either crushed or diced tomatoes (at least 28 oz, I use more).  Simmer for 15 minutes. If using canned tomatoes, do not drain the water. If using fresh tomatoes, you might need to add some water. (If you're making a vegetarian sauce, make sure to sauté the garlic in olive oil and then add the tomatoes to it.)
  4. Add veggies of choice (red, green, and yellow bell peppers / mushrooms / diced red onion / zucchini / chopped black olives, etc.).
  5. Add wine - red or white depending on whatever flavor you want to add. I like to add some Chianti, Merlot, or even Pinot Grigio/Gris. A good ratio is: 1 cup for the pot, 1 glass for the cook.
  6. Either simmer (and stir) until sauce begins to thicken (a long time!), or add tomato paste to thicken if you don't have all day.
  7. Add Optional Ingredients – to taste based on preference -
    • Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper, diced or dried flakes
    • Red Pepper Flakes for hotness if you desire
    • Grated Carrot for sweetness if you so desire
    • Scallions, finely chopped
    • Prosciutto, finely chopped
  8. Add Herb Mix - - I make a batch of herb mix to keep on hand for convenience and it is easy to make. Use more or less equal parts based on personal preference. Because Rosemary and Orange Peel are so potent, I tend to use a smaller amount of them than I do of the other herbs -
    • basil
    • marjoram
    • oregano
    • rosemary
    • thyme
    • sage
    • savory
    • orange peel (finely grated if fresh)
  9. Add some grated Parmesan-Romano or Pecorino.
  10. Keep stirring while sauce simmers.
  11. Add fresh ground black pepper and sea salt to taste.

Remember, stir counterclockwise to stir out all stress.
Stir clockwise to stir in  love, respect, and honor.

State zitto e mangia
(Shut up and eat)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saint Sebastian


I recently compiled the following information for the Coven.  It occurred to be that other folks might find some interest in this as well.  It is just a bit of history about my family and the patron saint from the town where the paternal side of my family both cam from and immigrated to.  Enjoy!

I wanted to mention a little bit of family history.  My dad’s family originated in Melilli, Sicily.  The immigrated to Middletown, CT with LOTS of other Sicilians at the turn of the last century.  Middletown and Melilli are considered sister cities and they both celebrate a feast day on May 4th dedicated St Sebastian.  The feast is called "Festa dei Nuri". (Festival of the Naked).

Unofficially, he is associated with Apollo and some feel that he is a patron/protector of LGBT folks.

Martyr
Born c. 256;  Died c. 288
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church

Feast: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_of_saints>
January 20 (Catholic)
December 18 (Eastern Orthodox)
May 4 (Melilli Sicily & Middletown, CT)

Attributes: arrows <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_symbology>

Patronage: Soldiers, plagues, arrows, athletes, Patron Saint of Middletown, CT and Melilli, Sicily

Because Sebastian had been thought to have been killed by the arrows, and yet was not, and then later was killed by the same emperor who ordered him shot, he is sometimes known as the saint who was martyred twice.

Saint Sebastian as an LGBT icon -
Many LGBT writers and artists have interpreted Sebastian’s life story as suggesting that he was gay. This association was first made explicit in 1909 by Georges Eekhond’s “Saint Sébastien Dans la Peinture,” but existed anecdotally earlier. Oscar Wilde, for example, used Sebastian Melmoth as an alias during his declining years in Paris.


Some other info if you are interested –

Info on Melilli can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melilli

Info on St Sebastian here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Sebastian


Thus endeth today’s history lesson.

Ciao,

---Vinnie


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Konrad Maziarz: Had to share this.

I just don't understand the problem, some violently, with the Health Care bill.  Sure, it is NOT perfect.  There are even some pretty significant issues with it.  However, ANY health care bill that actually supplies health care is better than having NO health care.  I've listened to the arguments of the folks who oppose health care reform and when you actually go to independent non-politically affiliated sites to research the issues, all of the opposition arguments fail.  They're either misinformation, gross exagerations, or outright lies.

It saddens me that our law-makers play this game and and do childish things like the republican "pout-fest".  It saddens me even more that the people they serve would rather be led in a campaign of hate and ignorance rather than think for themselves and consider other points of view.

Konrad Maziarz: Had to share this.


Had to share this.

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watched this while eating breakfast of US Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory. I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to send via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it's valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post on freerepublic.com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bitching about the Health Care Bill? Read this...

I don't know Konrad Maziarz, but this was a post that he did on Facebook here:
http://www.facebook.com/nivho#!/note.php?note_id=376184907947&id=1474759419&ref=nf


I honestly don't understand the problems that people are having.  The bill isn't perfect.  However, something is better than nothing. I have yet to hear EVEN ONE objection that isn't either completely false or a gross twisting of the facts or a reaction  based simply in fear.  Come on folks, grow up and chose information over ignorance.

Benedizioni,

---Vinnie

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Community is important

The title of this blog might be self-explanatory to most of us, at least is it for most of my friends and immediate community.

As Pagans, Witches and Wiccans, part of our religion or spirituality (indeed, a major part) is serving the Gods.  That means different things to different people.  Generally speaking, for someone who is Wiccan it means that we hold to the Rites of our particular Tradition.  Our Rites honor the Goddess and the God, turn the Wheel of the Year, and connect us with Them through aligning ourselves with what is happening in the world around us.  This might take the form of Sabbat and Esbat celebrations or other devotional Rites.

However, a big part of my personal spiritual practice is community.  Specifically, service to the community.  I don't understand Witches who say that community service (at least community interaction) is not a part of their practice.  Yes, our Rites let us connect with Them but the easiest and most effective way of seeing Them manifest in the world around us to to see Them in the very faces of the like-minded folks in our community.  If I can see Them in the people with whom I interact, how could I not serve Them?  Seems like a no-brainer for me.

For a number of years, I've been in a state of semi-retirement from teaching the Craft and from actively participating in community events within the greater Boston community.  Mostly because I was burnt out due to my perception of "entitled Pagans", bickering about definitions, witch-wars and flame fests.  Last year, that began to change with my involvement in the Society of Elder Faiths (the SEF).

Over the past year, I've had the opportunity to attend social events, open Sabbat celebrations, and network with folk who I might not otherwise have met. What was surprising to me was that I was enjoying myself. Through attending the SEF open events, being encouraged to actively participate, and offering
to coordinate the Befana Yule event, I gained a valuable and renewed perspective and appreciation in regards to community.  What I came to realize is that community is more important than I was letting myself believe and experience.


As a direct result of interacting with the SEF community, I have come out of my semi-retirement and am once again participating in community. It was a direct result of positive community interaction that prompted me to start the Sheaves of Demeter and, once again, begin teaching.  It was a direct result of positive community interaction that prompted me to attend the Feast of Lights and reconnect with some old friends that I hadn't seen in far too long.  It was a direct result of positive community interaction that prompted me to offer my serviced to the SEF as a potential board member to nurture community and grow positive connections with others.

Recently, I was appointed to the Board of the SEF and I am happy to say that I look forward to the coming year (and longer!) where I can offer my services to help nurture such a wonderful community.

If you can afford the time and effort, I would encourage you to become more active in your local community especially if your local community isn't doing what you'd like to see it do or if it is not quite as positive as you would like it to be.  Remember, if you want change and a more positive community, YOU need to change it.

Benedizioni,

---Vinnie

Friday, February 26, 2010

Busy, busy!

I just realized that my last post was January 22 when I responded to CNN and the Haiti relief effort.  My how fast time passes.

I've recently been reviewing my life and the things that I do to fill my time.  One of the things that I realized is that I often overschedule myself with things that have no REAL purpose other than to fill time.  After sitting myself down and looking at WHAT I do, I made a few changes.

I'm still as busy as I've always been, it's just that the things that fill my schedule are things that are important to me rather than time sinks.

So, what's new?
  • I've started a new training coven that will be practicing both Sicilian Witchcraft (The Strega Tradition) as well as Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca.
  • I've devoted time to network and work in my local pagan community through the Society of Elder Faiths.
  • I've set aside time for a healthy home life, including date night.  It's important for us old married folks to take time to reconnect with each other and what's important. :-)
  • I've begun planning my trip to Italy.  It may not happen this year but it's a first step on the journey.
I have an Italian phrase-a-day calendar and when there is a particularly relevant phrase, I keep it tacked to the side of my computer monitor to remind me of it's meaning.  There we 3 of them this week.  In no particular order:
  1. Sapere è potere. (Knowledge is power.)
  2. Ridi ogni giorno. (Laugh every day.)
  3. Se è davvero cosÌ importante, troverai il tempo di farlo. (If it's that important, you'll find the time.

Good advice.

Benedizioni,

---Vinnie

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sent to Robin at CNN HLN

Hi Robin,

I am currently ON one of the cruise ships that has been to Haiti and our port of call was this past Tuesday. 

The folks that are being critical of cruise ships going to Haiti are missing a few important points:

* the ships are bringing relief effort in the form of supplies and bottled water
* many passengers booked and paid for their vacations up to a year ago so that money was already spent
* the ships are going to unaffected areas and employing people in the local communities
* diverting ships to other locations deprive Haiti of valued supplies and tourist dollars

Our own ship, Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, brought over 60 pallets of bottled water and other supplies to the island.  They also donated all money spent by the passengers that day to the Haiti relief effort.  In addition, in little more than 24 hours, over $140,000 was raised for the Red Cross relief effort by the nearly 3000 gay and lesbian passengers of this cruise, the tour company Atlantis Events, and past customers of Atlantis Events.

So for the critics, let me tell you what we did - Rather than texting $10 (which is vitally important), we donated our vacation.  We put money directly into the hands of families that were affected by this tragedy.  We helped to employ people who have family and friends that were affected by this tragedy.  We listened to local Haitians tell us about themselves, their culture, and how this effects them on a personal level.

We all do what we can, when we can, how we can.  People should talk less and do more.

Sincerely,
Rev. Vincent Russo

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

Although this article is very long, I strongly encourage everyone to read the whole thing.  It is very well thought out and respectful.

---Vinnie


Find this article at http://www.newsweek.com/id/229957  © 2010

The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage
Why same-sex marriage is an American value.

By Theodore B. Olson | NEWSWEEK  
Published Jan 9, 2010

From the magazine issue dated Jan 18, 2010

Together with my good friend and occasional courtroom adversary David Boies, I am attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8—the voter-approved measure that overturned California's constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex.

My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?
My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation.

This bedrock American principle of equality is central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike. The dream that became America began with the revolutionary concept expressed in the Declaration of Independence in words that are among the most noble and elegant ever written: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Sadly, our nation has taken a long time to live up to the promise of equality. In 1857, the Supreme Court held that an African-American could not be a citizen. During the ensuing Civil War, Abraham Lincoln eloquently reminded the nation of its found-ing principle: "our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

At the end of the Civil War, to make the elusive promise of equality a reality, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution added the command that "no State É shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person É the equal protection of the laws."

Subsequent laws and court decisions have made clear that equality under the law extends to persons of all races, religions, and places of origin. What better way to make this national aspiration complete than to apply the same protection to men and women who differ from others only on the basis of their sexual orientation? I cannot think of a single reason—and have not heard one since I undertook this venture—for continued discrimination against decent, hardworking members of our society on that basis.

Various federal and state laws have accorded certain rights and privileges to gay and lesbian couples, but these protections vary dramatically at the state level, and nearly universally deny true equality to gays and lesbians who wish to marry. The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society; any status short of that is inferior, unjust, and unconstitutional.
The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that marriage is one of the most fundamental rights that we have as Americans under our Constitution. It is an expression of our desire to create a social partnership, to live and share life's joys and burdens with the person we love, and to form a lasting bond and a social identity. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a part of the Constitution's protections of liberty, privacy, freedom of association, and spiritual identification. In short, the right to marry helps us to define ourselves and our place in a community. Without it, there can be no true equality under the law.

It is true that marriage in this nation traditionally has been regarded as a relationship exclusively between a man and a woman, and many of our nation's multiple religions define marriage in precisely those terms. But while the Supreme Court has always previously considered marriage in that context, the underlying rights and liberties that marriage embodies are not in any way confined to heterosexuals.
Marriage is a civil bond in this country as well as, in some (but hardly all) cases, a religious sacrament. It is a relationship recognized by governments as providing a privileged and respected status, entitled to the state's support and benefits. The California Supreme Court described marriage as a "union unreservedly approved and favored by the community." Where the state has accorded official sanction to a relationship and provided special benefits to those who enter into that relationship, our courts have insisted that withholding that status requires powerful justifications and may not be arbitrarily denied.

What, then, are the justifications for California's decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive.

The explanation mentioned most often is tradition. But simply because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must always remain that way. Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors' prisons. Gays and lesbians have always been among us, forming a part of our society, and they have lived as couples in our neighborhoods and communities. For a long time, they have experienced discrimination and even persecution; but we, as a society, are starting to become more tolerant, accepting, and understanding. California and many other states have allowed gays and lesbians to form domestic partnerships (or civil unions) with most of the rights of married heterosexuals. Thus, gay and lesbian individuals are now permitted to live together in state-sanctioned relationships. It therefore seems anomalous to cite "tradition" as a justification for withholding the status of marriage and thus to continue to label those relationships as less worthy, less sanctioned, or less legitimate.

The second argument I often hear is that traditional marriage furthers the state's interest in procreation—and that opening marriage to same-sex couples would dilute, diminish, and devalue this goal. But that is plainly not the case. Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?

This procreation argument cannot be taken seriously. We do not inquire whether heterosexual couples intend to bear children, or have the capacity to have children, before we allow them to marry. We permit marriage by the elderly, by prison inmates, and by persons who have no intention of having children. What's more, it is pernicious to think marriage should be limited to heterosexuals because of the state's desire to promote procreation. We would surely not accept as constitutional a ban on marriage if a state were to decide, as China has done, to discourage procreation.

Another argument, vaguer and even less persuasive, is that gay marriage somehow does harm to heterosexual marriage. I have yet to meet anyone who can explain to me what this means. In what way would allowing same-sex partners to marry diminish the marriages of heterosexual couples? Tellingly, when the judge in our case asked our opponent to identify the ways in which same-sex marriage would harm heterosexual marriage, to his credit he answered honestly: he could not think of any.

The simple fact is that there is no good reason why we should deny marriage to same-sex partners. On the other hand, there are many reasons why we should formally recognize these relationships and embrace the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and become full and equal members of our society.

No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces. They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends. They yearn for acceptance, stable relationships, and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.

Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another. Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable "lifestyle" should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.

When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.

I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural; and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law. Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination. The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California's Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia. It seems inconceivable today that only 40 years ago there were places in this country where a black woman could not legally marry a white man. And it was only 50 years ago that 17 states mandated segregated public education—until the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that practice in Brown v. Board of Education. Most Americans are proud of these decisions and the fact that the discriminatory state laws that spawned them have been discredited. I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society.

Reactions to our lawsuit have reinforced for me these essential truths. I have certainly heard anger, resentment, and hostility, and words like "betrayal" and other pointedly graphic criticism. But mostly I have been overwhelmed by expressions of gratitude and good will from persons in all walks of life, including, I might add, from many conservatives and libertarians whose names might surprise. I have been particularly moved by many personal renditions of how lonely and personally destructive it is to be treated as an outcast and how meaningful it will be to be respected by our laws and civil institutions as an American, entitled to equality and dignity. I have no doubt that we are on the right side of this battle, the right side of the law, and the right side of history.

Some have suggested that we have brought this case too soon, and that neither the country nor the courts are "ready" to tackle this issue and remove this stigma. We disagree. We represent real clients—two wonderful couples in California who have longtime relationships. Our lesbian clients are raising four fine children who could not ask for better parents. Our clients wish to be married. They believe that they have that constitutional right. They wish to be represented in court to seek vindication of that right by mounting a challenge under the United States Constitution to the validity of Proposition 8 under the equal-protection and due-process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In fact, the California attorney general has conceded the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, and the city of San Francisco has joined our case to defend the rights of gays and lesbians to be married. We do not tell persons who have a legitimate claim to wait until the time is "right" and the populace is "ready" to recognize their equality and equal dignity under the law.

Citizens who have been denied equality are invariably told to "wait their turn" and to "be patient." Yet veterans of past civil-rights battles found that it was the act of insisting on equal rights that ultimately sped acceptance of those rights. As to whether the courts are "ready" for this case, just a few years ago, in Romer v. Evans, the United States Supreme Court struck down a popularly adopted Colorado constitutional amendment that withdrew the rights of gays and lesbians in that state to the protection of anti-discrimination laws. And seven years ago, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down, as lacking any rational basis, Texas laws prohibiting private, intimate sexual practices between persons of the same sex, overruling a contrary decision just 20 years earlier.

These decisions have generated controversy, of course, but they are decisions of the nation's highest court on which our clients are entitled to rely. If all citizens have a constitutional right to marry, if state laws that withdraw legal protections of gays and lesbians as a class are unconstitutional, and if private, intimate sexual conduct between persons of the same sex is protected by the Constitution, there is very little left on which opponents of same-sex marriage can rely. As Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented in the Lawrence case, pointed out, "[W]hat [remaining] justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising '[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution'?" He is right, of course. One might agree or not with these decisions, but even Justice Scalia has acknowledged that they lead in only one direction.

California's Proposition 8 is particularly vulnerable to constitutional challenge, because that state has now enacted a crazy-quilt of marriage regulation that makes no sense to anyone. California recognizes marriage between men and women, including persons on death row, child abusers, and wife beaters. At the same time, California prohibits marriage by loving, caring, stable partners of the same sex, but tries to make up for it by giving them the alternative of "domestic partnerships" with virtually all of the rights of married persons except the official, state-approved status of marriage. Finally, California recognizes 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the months between the state Supreme Court's ruling that upheld gay-marriage rights and the decision of California's citizens to withdraw those rights by enacting Proposition 8.

So there are now three classes of Californians: heterosexual couples who can get married, divorced, and remarried, if they wish; same-sex couples who cannot get married but can live together in domestic partnerships; and same-sex couples who are now married but who, if they divorce, cannot remarry. This is an irrational system, it is discriminatory, and it cannot stand.

Americans who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and equal dignity before the law cannot sit by while this wrong continues. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.

Find this article at http://www.newsweek.com/id/229957
© 2010