29 November 2009

Tchotkes, Fandangles and Thoughts


(Tchotkes: Knick-knacks, trinkets (Yiddish); Pronunciation: \ˈ'chääch-kə, ˈ'tsääts-\ )

When I arrived at No. 3 this afternoon, I found on my desk a certificate which had come in the mail from the “Pro Bono Referral Project,” the agency which attempts to find lawyers who will do pro bono (free) legal work for poor people. Pro bono work is required under the rules and doing it willingly is at the very least a moral obligation of members of the bar. I do not presume to comment upon how much cheerful service goes into pro bono work as a general practice in the bar of West Virginia, although the reporting system doesn't record anywhere near all of the work that is done. In any event, the certificate that came was for “Good Service” or something of the sort. I’m a big believer in certificates and such. When I was president of the local Boy Scout council, I used certificates, patches and the like liberally. All a certificate takes is a pack of REAL GOOD paper, the high-cotton content, heavy-weight kind in some sort of off color, a decent color printer, and a $7 frame from WalMart. (Giving a certificate without a frame says, Hey, thanks, but not enough to spend seven bucks.) This creates a “thing” in the physical world which a person can hold and look at and say, hey, somebody appreciates me. Naturally, it’s important that certificates be hand-signed by more than one person, to show that it is a consensus, not a mere unilateral solo gesture, and always signed in an ink color that shows it wasn’t copied. For motivation, “thank you”s cannot be overdone.

Businesses use tschotkes for a different purpose, usually to promote name recognition. That is particularly good for unusual services such as chimney sweeps.

While I have used and do use them, I must say that certificates don’t really impress me on the receiving end. (That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the Pro Bono Project’s gesture, it just isn’t something that punches any of my buttons.) I don’t have an “I Like Me Wall.” Many people do, and there’s not a thing in the world wrong with that, they show demonstrable achievements and events. I’m just not into that for deeply held personal reasons. I’ve no idea where my diplomas are (and don’t really care), have no idea where photos taken at “events” are (ditto) . . . well, you get the picture.

But last week, I did get “certificate” of a sort that I will keep and treasure. It will never see a frame or a wall or even anyone else’s eyes. It’s an email with pictures attached from a woman and child I represented in a pro bono case. At the end of the case, they escaped an unspeakable domestic situation with a man who later committed murder. They relocated. (Dang, I forget where they went - seems to me it’s somewhere between Key West, Florida, and Adak, Alaska.) Her email? THAT’S tschotke.


This is the first Sunday of Advent, the Christian celebration culminating in Christmas. Pastor Josh, not one for mindless adherence to the lectionary, is using parts of Handel’s Messiah as jumping off places for sermons for the four Sundays of Advent. Today, he used the first few verses of Isaiah Chapter 40, the familiar passage which begins “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain . . .” We as a nation have strong Judeo-Christian roots, and much of our literature and thought, including political thought, references such Scripture. Unbeknownst to Josh, I’m betting, is that our beloved Senator Robert C. Byrd (himself a noted Constitutional scholar and Biblical scholar) often recites Isaiah 40 when talking about public works, particularly as it applies to the construction of infrastructure in West Virginia. In many of these hills, construction of so simple a thing as a four lane highway is so scandalously expensive that those from areas of more forgiving terrain have difficulty picturing the obstacles.

And speaking of the Messiah, permit me to offer a mildly irreverent address for a video of the silent monks doing the Hallelujah Chorus. Why do I not insert a link,you ask? Because, I answer, I've attempted it several times and it's either put in the address or . . . well, I put in the address, let's leave it at that, just for now, OK?


Self-Righteous or Merely Dumb? You Decide

Recently, I noted the lack of character that posting anonymously displays. One of the (anonymous) blogs most blowsy about the little faux Fairmont Scandal of the Week recently added a phone feature that people could give the "writer" (term used loosely) information (1) only if that person gave the (still anonymous) writer his/her name and (2) with interesting consequences if the informant said anything the (still anonymous) writer didn't like. Oh, let me use Moron #35's own words:

"I will not answer any call when I don't know who is calling. However, you can always leave me messages with any information that you think may be of interest to this blog. If you wish for me to call you back, a number or e-mail must be left and will be kept confidential, unless you trash me or this blog."

A Good Judge

Last week, Judge Daniel McCarthy of Clarksburg died. He had been retired for several years. He presided in several cases as a Senior Status Judge and did a lot of mediations in hard cases, and always let the litigants be heard. He was a kind, decent and honorable person.

Pippa passes.


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