Friday, January 28, 2005

COLD, TIRED, MUST WORK THEN SLEEP; HERE, HAVE SOME LINKS. Profile of the Institute for Justice, via everybody and his libertarian momma. Have known IJers; them's good people.

"Her Secret Heartache"--advice on talking with a friend who has had an abortion. Via After Abortion.

Church of the Masses wants your help spreading the word about their awesomely awesome program for Christians seeking to write for Hollywood.

Now I'm going to go sleep, then riot for a weekend in Sunny New Haven. (Assuming I can riot in high heels, in the snow. It always worked for me before!) When I return, expect comics reviews, a quick question about war and contemporary media, and the usual mental flotsam.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

THE MORE I HEAR ABOUT LUXURY BARGES, THE BETTER DEATH SEEMS: Nice, spoiler-free review of The Secret History (Tartt, not Procopius). Some quick thoughts:
1) re "places and seasons," the moment I knew I loved this book was the description of Richard's heatless winter in Vermont.
2) re ancient vs modern, I thought the clash between the class reading and the weekend parties was brilliant--showed us people seeking some kind of ekstasis, across the centuries, but also showed how degraded this ideal is for most contemporary college students, and how much more we can ask from Dionysos. Also thought the whole idea of "seeking ekstasis in today's world" was beautifully highlighted by having Richard grow up in California.
3) wow, someone liked Hannibal???
HOW FUNNY, A BED; A BED, HOW FUNNY: It took me a few days to be so obsessed with this that I finally Googled it; but now I know: Eiluned Price = Strong Poison. Eglantine Price = Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

You should read both. Even though I'm kind of fed up with Dorothy Sayers now, and have been for a few years--with the exception of The Documents in the Case, which features neither Peter "I Have Fallen in Love With My Creation" Wimsey nor Harriet "And So I Wrote Myself Into This Story" Vane. (The chapter headings in Have His Carcase, from Death's Jest-Book, are still fantastic, though. Oh, and what is with me and stories about poisonous mushrooms? I count three without even stopping to think. Apparently I mistrust Nature.)

If you care, my favorite Sayerses are, in order: The Documents in the Case; The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; Have His Carcase; Strong Poison.
JESUS PRAYER: Mark R. writes:
I had spent time in a Byzantine Catholic parish and attended a Byz. Cath. seminary for one year. Now I mainly attend Latin rite services. I do not think there would be much of a differing point of view re. the Jesus prayer between East and West. Since it is mainly a product of the East it is pretty much interpreted and approached in the context of Eastern sprituality. (That said, it must be emphasized that in the East...especially among the schismatic Orthodox there really is no differentiation between spirituality, theology, liturgy and hierarchy. All is part of a single whole much more so than in the West, though I get the impression that the mission of Vatican II was, in one sense, to restore this kind of "integrity" to the Western Church.)

It seems that in the Rosary the actual words occupy a second tier to the Mystery in question. This, of course, cannot be the case in the Jesus Prayer. There is no subject for meditation but the actual words of the though Mystery and words are one in the same. They are short and simple words, but sum up man's position before his God and what God is to man. They are Trinitarian words too, as they illustrate the Godhead of the Father, Jesus' sonship, and the Holy Spirit is implied, as St. Paul teaches that no one can acknowledge the Lordship of Christ unless by the Holy Spirit.

I am sure you are aware that different words or groups of words in the Jesus prayer can be emphasized to allow for a variety of nuances...sort of like in the old acting exercises. Next to this prayer, the Rosary seems very formal. Only on rare occasions would the Jesus prayer be said publicly and in unison (I think it is included in various Lenten vespers). One will not find an Orthodox or Eastern Christian praying his prayer rope before or during liturgy as one would the Rosary before or during Mass. Meditative prayer in the East is prayed in private in ones room or while walking or engaged in some kind of repetitive work. It is recommended to be prayed with each brush-stroke when "writing" an icon. When I was younger and when the prayer was new to me, I enjoyed getting some kind of "feeling" or "result" from praying this prayer. Now that I am older and a bit wiser I know this is not the purpose of prayer. However, due to the repetitions, one cannot but help to feel or sense compunction, reverence or the awareness of how Christ and the pray-er fit in the proper order of things. This may be the result of the wording of the prayer, or the fact that merely saying the prayer blocks out and keeps ones mind off bad thoughts and distractions through occupying the mind with something more elevating. That said, to me it is the best prayer to pray when one had nothing left to say to God.

Sincerely yours,

Mark R.

P.S. If you have not read Charles Peguy, you should! I am reading now his writings anthologized as "Basic Verities" translated by Julian Green!
DEATH AND TARIFFS: "Tsunami-hit Thais told: Buy six planes or face EU tariffs." Via The Corner.

And: "Less than two weeks after a 40-foot wave flattened massive swaths of Southeast Asia, the United States slapped a tariff on millions of dollars worth of seafood imports from India and Thailand. As the federal government promised $350 million, and private citizens pledged even more, the message to surviving shrimp farmers was clear: Have our marines, our pity, and our cash, but for the love of God, do not send us your cheap shrimp." (more)
THE ROMANCE OF ERRATA: Some notes on the big gender post below.

1--I think that post focuses too much on pregnancy as a risk, rather than a reward. That doubtless reflects my volunteer job and my general bachelorette lifestyle, among other things. But the post should have had a much more positive view of pregnancy and childbearing.

2--Jim Henley is overreading me, here, though that's partly my fault--the last para. of my post is really unclear, sorry. The post isn't a persuasive argument against same-sex marriage in part for the fairly basic reason that it isn't an argument against ssm at all. You can agree with all of it (except the Catholic one-liner at the beginning...) and still support ssm. That just isn't what I was trying to talk about. I wanted to do a much more narrowly-focused post on sex differences and whether homosexual and heterosexual relationships are "the same." Obviously, your position on those questions will affect your views of ssm, but, like I said, it's not dispositive.

ETA: No, that's not quite right. It was thinking hard about the meaning and societal implications of sex differences that led me to oppose same-sex marriage, so I do think this argument eventually goes there (among many other places it goes). But I wasn't trying to take the argument all the way there in the "Romantic Comedies" post, so again, it isn't a persuasive case against ssm at least in part because that isn't what I was trying to write.

(If you do want a really good exchange on ssm, though, you cannot do better than the debate between Maggie Gallagher and Jonathan Rauch that you can find here.)

3--I do want to point out that I was talking about a level of friendship and non-sexual love that's a lot more than "going to football games together or being fond of your siblings." But I suspect that ranting more about the contemporary denigration of friendship would be riding a dead hobbyhorse, so I won't. Well, maybe a little: Here's Camassia on the "if it isn't eros, it's crap!" mindset--which I don't think Jim shares; I just want to clarify that I'm talking about a larger conception of love between people who have no romantic relationship than his rhetoric in this one case acknowledges. I think he'll find that he was misconstruing that paragraph as an anti-ssm argument, which threw off his reading on the broader "what is love?" points as well.

4--Anyway, I do appreciate the links and comments, from both Jim and Peiratikos (who connects my post with Love and Rockets!--there's lots of wonderful comicsness in that post, and, in the comments, Rose catches a stupid turn of phrase on my part).
COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Via Andrew Sullivan.
You think you're young and original; get out before
They get to watch your blog...

First: That piece on Roe at 25 I posted below is by the National Review editors, not Ramesh Ponnuru. Very sorry--fixed now.

<em>Reading Lolita in Tehran to be a movie (third-to-last paragraph). Via Dave Tepper, who adds, "And Shoreh Aghdashloo rocks not only my world, but all possible worlds."

Spirit of America is sponsoring an Iraqi election blog project. Via The Corner.

"The other half of the story: Men and abortion." By former blogger Peter Nixon, who also wrote that awesome prison-ministry piece. ...Via Amy Welborn, I think.

And: "A PREMATURE baby that the High Court ruled should be left to die by hospital doctors has survived against the odds. So remarkable is the little girl’s progress that lawyers for her parents will this week go to court and ask for the ruling to be lifted." (more) Via The Corner.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

ROMANTIC COMEDIES: So, I said I would reply to Sean Collins. And here it is. If you don't want my opinion, don't rattle my cage.

His email reads thus:
Hi Eve!

[Eve said, re Sullivan:] "Andrew Sullivan: 'And, as I've said many times, homosexuality is very easy to understand. It is exactly the same as heterosexuality, with the gender reversed.' Um, only if men are interchangeable with women. So, no."

But my wife is not interchangeable with my friend Jesse's wife, or Paul Newman's wife, or whoever. Does that mean that my heterosexuality, Jesse's, and Cool Hand Luke's are all fundametally different somehow, a la Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-X--Heterosex-Sean, Heterosex-Jesse, Heterosex-Paul?

I dunno, obviously we're never ever gonna agree on this, but I always thought this aspect of your argument was spectacularly weak and relied on assertions based on a faith that not everyone shares. Men are certainly different from women on several fundamental levels, but in terms of couples, love is love.

So let's take this bit by bit.

SAME DIFFERENCE. First of all, it might be helpful to point out that you can think two things are different without thinking one is better than the other. For example, I think men are different from women. I don't think guys are better than chicks, or vice versa. I don't, as you all probably know, think that homosexual relationships are good, whereas heterosexual relationships can be (although I totally agree with Camassia's comments here about the ways in which sinful relationships can be infused with love and apparently-okay relationships infused with sin). But I think, actually, that you can agree with everything I'll say in the rest of this post and still think gay sex is a-okay.

I want to say more than that, really. Actual existing queer people don't all sign on to this belief that homosexuality is mirror-heterosexuality. It might be worthwhile to listen to people who do think that, even absent Societal Prejudice, a guy who wants guys would not end up identical to a guy who wants girls. It might be worthwhile to listen to people who have actually dated chicks and dudes (hi! *waves*) when we say that it really isn't the same.

Are the differences cultural constructs? 1) Probably not all of them, yo.
2) If they're cultural constructs, doesn't that just push the weight of explanation back one level? Why these cultural constructs and not others?
3) If they are cultural constructs, do we really want to live without them? Do we want an androgynous world, or do we find men and women, ladies and dudes, sexy?

TYPICAL GIRLS... ARE SO CONFUSING: I think a lot of opposition to any talk of sex differences at all is based in the belief that acknowledging sex differences will mean oppressing women. I wrote here about sex differences that don't rely on some mythos of the "angel in the house." If that's why Sean leaned so heavily on individuality in his email, well, let the record show that I agree. I'm sure there are men with whom I have lots of things in common that I don't share with most women. (The Old Oligarch's attentiveness to abstract theory ["world-animal lobster"!], to take the most obviously gender-coded-male example.)

HEY--WANNA TURN THIS INTO AN ART DEBATE? But look, I'm a writer. I write fiction. That's the biggest reason I can't accept the philosophy that men and women, or homosexual and heterosexual relationships, are the same.

A friend recently pointed out ways in which Jack Stafford, in "Kissable Pictures," didn't talk like a guy. That's just true. I need to fix it, so that his character will be believable. If I'd defensively responded, "But why can't a guy act that way?", I would have lost credibility and would have lost the opportunity to write a different and believable character.

Similarly, I've written stories that address both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. I'd be lying if I portrayed them the same way; they're not the same! "Desire" is the most blatant statement of that, with the confused-but-perhaps-intriguing "Ship Comes In" a close second; but in almost all of my stories, to change the central relationships or orientations would have deeply disrupted the story. I couldn't write "Judge Me, O God" about a straight girl (or guy, in the sections from Charles's POV), and I couldn't write "Why Can't He Be You?" (current title of the story that used to be "A Separated Soul") about a lesbian. It's obvious that one woman won't necessarily act like the next--compare Suha and Laila, who are sisters!--but it's equally obvious that women don't generally act like men, and that sexual relationships will differ based on whether a) both partners are women, b) both partners are men, or c) one is a woman and one is a man. Honestly, I don't get why this should be hard to acknowledge.

OH BONDAGE! UP YOURS! 1-2-3-4!: I don't know. I'm not, maybe, in the most accommodating mood to answer these questions, since I spent 2 1/2 hours at the pregnancy center tonight. If you want to have it rubbed in your face that women who sleep with men take different, specific, culturally- but also biologically-imposed risks, why don't you go do pregnancy tests for women who were on Ortho-Tricyclin, or women who'd had their tubes tied? (I did both tonight.) Women who pretend that sleeping with a man is the same as sleeping with a woman will get hurt. They will get hurt because intercourse still makes babies, despite all our efforts; they'll get hurt because women aren't raised the same way men are, despite all our efforts. They'll get hurt because, from the ice age to the dole age, gender propels us into action, and gender shapes our actions and reactions. The women I've known who have been able to take control of their lives have understood that.

THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND CRIME: Finally, is love love?


Seriously. I'm beginning to be fed up with this astonishingly imprecise term, "love," and this is a perfect example. Is the love of a man for his stepdaughter the same as the love of a woman for her husband? Obviously not. What about the love of a best friend? Is the love of a woman for a man necessarily the same as the love of a woman for another woman? Well, how do we even know? Certainly in terms of risks and rewards faced, they're not the same. (Pregnancy and dealing with The Weirdness That Is Men vs. societal and familial disapproval, for example. That's not a universal comparison--some heterosexual couples won't deal with pregnancy, although virtually all will deal with the possibility/expectation/desire of pregnancy, and not all homosexual couples will deal with comparable degrees of societal or familial disapproval. But I hope the example will at least give a sense of what I mean, that different structures for relationships provoke different reactions in both outsiders and the couple themselves.)

In "The Lion in Winter," does Henry love Eleanor?

I am perhaps oversensitive here, as I find that gay-marriage proponents tend to denigrate my closest chosen relationships (hi, I'm single) in favor of the Real True And Only Possible Love that is sexual. So yeah, I get a bit snippy (as I think that last sentence did!), and I want to point out that deep abiding love can be as strong or stronger between people who have no romantic relationship as between people who do. I get the impression that our current cultural understanding of "love" is deeply confused, and so I'd rather have it all spelled out (in this case, "Homosexual relationships must be treated equally to heterosexual relationships because a, b, c, which are the relevant factors in [societal honor, governmental preference via marriage, or whatever is really being argued]") rather than relying on imprecise terms like "love," which cover all kinds of relationships, and a myriad of sins. Like I said, I'm a writer; but I'm also a tabloid journalist. I want to know the details.

Monday, January 24, 2005


The editors of National Review on Roe v. Wade at 25:
Everything abortion touches, it corrupts. It has corrupted family life. In the war between the sexes, abortion tilts the playing field toward predatory males, giving them another excuse for abandoning their offspring: She chose to carry the child; let her pay for her choice. Our law now says, in effect, that fatherhood has no meaning, and we are shocked that some men have learned that lesson too well. It has corrupted the Supreme Court, which has protected the abortion license even while tacitly admitting its lack of constitutional grounding. If the courts can invent such a right, unmoored in the text, tradition, or logic of the Constitution, then they can do almost anything; and so they have done. The law on everything from free speech to biotechnology has been distorted to accommodate abortionism. And abortion has deeply corrupted the practice of medicine, transforming healers into killers.

Most of all, perhaps, it has corrupted liberalism. (more)

A gut-wrenching piece from San Diego News Notes (archdiocesan newspaper)--hard to read. ("I wasn't made for an age like this./Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?")

And some essays on the moral status of the embryo. Several of them touch on one of the crucial facts: Individual human lives don't earn value through their abilities. The useful, the interesting, and the competent are not worth more than the dependent, the difficult, and the desperately needy--and not only because we are all desperately needy.

The Second Look Project.

And: I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. It's not something that comes easily to me--I'm not naturally good at guiding people through difficult decisions, or witnessing to them, or anything like that. I needed training, and in a lot of ways I'm still in training after about three years. But working with these women and their families inspires me and changes me, every week. Please consider volunteering--if you're not called to be a counselor, maybe you can donate a stroller, buy diapers, address envelopes, sort clothes, or answer phones. There are between 3,000 and 4,000 pregnancy centers in this country. Why not consider helping the one nearest you?
My first steps--
Hope it's for the best--
Someone I blogwatched...

There will be real posting tonight. We will die free chickens or die trying!!!!

Libertas: A forum for conservative thought on film. Via The Corner, I think.

And I expect many of my readers would be interested in any blog calling itself Home, Throne, and Altar. (But does he think that culture's highest time was that of Galahad?) Via Hugo Schwyzer.

PubliusPundit: Following news and commentary on free elections. Focuses on bloggers in unfree countries. Fascinating. Via Andrew Sullivan.

And: prison rape. Here, not there. Via Virginia Postrel via Dappled Things. C.S. Lewis wrote, in his introduction to The Great Divorce, that every part of Earth was claimed either for Heaven or for Hell. Our choices determine which it is. (I just thought you should know.)
I AM ASSAULT. I cause a reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact. What does this mean about my personality? It means that I'm all style, no substance.

Which intentional tort are you?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Marine blinded in combat: "I have seen everything I need to see. I saw my son being born, I saw my Drill Instructor smile at me when he said congratulations Marine. I saw a lot of sunsets in places that they talk about in the Bible. I saw a lot of my friends go home from over there, I saw a lot that didn't. I saw the Iwo monument in Washington. I saw how proud my dad was when I graduated boot camp. I'm satisfied with that." (more) Via Cacciaguida.
I watch a blog--
A chihuahua...

The Volokh Conspiracy: Immigrants' contributions to national security.

Nat'l Catholic Register's best-of-2004 movies list. Some unexpected choices, lots of interesting stuff, and content advisories for those of us who would prefer not to view camels giving birth.

Department of Take Me Home, I Don't Like It Here:
"BRITISH Muslims are to boycott this week's commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz because they claim it is not racially inclusive and does not commemorate the victims of the Palestinian conflict.

"Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, has written to Charles Clarke, the home secretary, saying the body will not attend the event unless it includes the 'holocaust' of the Palestinian intifada." (more)

I note that I have no idea how many actual Muslims this dude purports to represent, and I'm sure not all of them share his madness. Nonetheless, depressing. Via The Corner.

Two links on affirmative action and Richard Sander's recent research: Vikram David Amar with criticisms (most of which aren't persuasive to me, but they might be to you), and Newsweek with another, related study.
He keeps falling through the holes in his head, though he no longer knows which holes were made by Arab terrorists way back in 2001, and which ones were always there...
--In the Shadow of No Towers

Friday, January 21, 2005

Appreciation (overview of deceased/foreign director)
--one of the columns in the 2005 Writer's Market listing for the magazine "Directed By"
Baby, baby, baby, where did our blogwatch?

Hi there. I'm back, but only just getting back to speed. ...It was somewhere in the 80s the day before I left California, whereas I got snow in my sandals as I hauled my luggage back to the apartment (Mom, if you're reading this, I do have other shoes, I just didn't bring them to CA), and I already miss The Rat. But when the plane dipped low enough so we could catch our first glimpse of the lights of DC, my immediate thought was, "Home sweet home." I'm back where I belong.

Dappled Things: How to prepare for Mass. And the skull in Christian iconography.

Mark Shea: "Hey! My latest book is out!... It's Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings from Mythopoeic Press, an anthology of critical essay by Tolkien fans and scholars (put me in the former category). The book includes my whimsical piece 'The Lord of the Rings: A Source-Criticism Analysis' as well as a bunch of other fun essays by a bunch of different writers."

In thrall to ratdom. Via Arts & Letters Daily.

And last, but most emphatically not least, a real live blogchild--the daughter of the Old Oligarch and Zorak of E-Pression has been born! Mom and baby are flourishing.
Our hero is trapped reliving the traumas of Sept. 11, 2001... Unbeknownst to him, brigands suffering from war fever have since hijacked those tragic events...

His memories swirl and events fade, but he still sees that glowing tower when he closes his eyes.

Meanwhile, an anniversary came and went... Many happy returns! (Amazing how time flies while it stands still.)

--Art Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's easier to say "I blogwatch"
Than "Yours sincerely," I suppose...

Ratty and I had a wonderful lunch with Barbara "Church of the Masses" Nicolosi. She was a dynamo as always!

The Art of the Apology. How to apologize (and how not to); plus, how to accept an apology. Why do I suspect I'll be getting a lot of use out of that first bit in later life? Via Unqualified Offerings.

They Fight Crime! Very funny. Also via UO.

The Volokh Conspiracy wants examples of "magical legalism"--"stories about law or lawyers that are basically set in the real world but with some magical or fantastic twist."

Later today, when I'm back in DC, I'll do a longish reply to a nice email from Sean Collins about sex differences, homo- and heterosexual relationships, individuality, and art. (The "and art" is all me, not him. Ratty and I used to be infamous for sidling up to each other while our debating society was discussing war, or public schooling, or modernity, and hissing, "Hey--wanna turn this into an art debate?" For me, everything is an art debate; and every day is Poetry Wednesday, which I'll also be posting when I'm home and dry.)

Monday, January 17, 2005

PICTURES OF YOU: Got to meet Noli Irritare Leones and her husband yesterday. We went to Crystal Cove and explored tidepools--tons of fun. You can see pictures of the three of us (Lynn, Ratty and me) by scrolling to the bottom of the blogroll here. Muchisimas gracias!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

LEARN TO SAY THE SAME THING: Nice note from SCC on repeating traditional prayers:
Perhaps you'd like to take a look at "The Way of a Pilgrim" if you haven't done so already. It's a book about a wandering monk/hermit in 17th or 18th century Russia who's trying to understand the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on me a sinner"). It's a very interesting examination of repetitive/traditional prayer and its effects on the soul. If you ever do read it, I'd like to hear your thoughts, just to see how the Eastern and Western mind may differ on the subject.

The book is something of an abbreviated version, conceptually, of the "Philokalia," a collection of sayings by the Fathers on prayer of the heart (arguably the book behind the Bible in terms of spritual benefit).
HEY LITTLE GIRL, PLATONIC REACTION: Disputations defends Aristotle.
"RETCON": ELSEWORLDS. It's done. I ended up writing a huge big lump of it, so I'm posting it in, uh, a huge big lump. Anyway, this is a short story. It's done now. In this segment, Sarah and her father walk on the beach, something is found but some things are still lost, the prose continues to be workaday at best, and Madeleine appears not at all. Let me know if you think she needs to come back, if only for symmetry's sake. I suspect this story is predictable, but I haven't ever seen these particular elements combined in this way, so I like it. As always, your comments are not merely welcomed but fervently encouraged--and this is a short piece, so really, why not take a butcher's? Here for whole story from the beginning, here for last section.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Yes, sir, that's my blogwatch...

Annunciations: Lenten retreat with Michael Dubruiel! It's in Indianapolis.

The Morning Retort has a great reply to my "repetitive/traditional prayer" post: "To turn their comments on their heads, I would like to claim that evangelical Christians are doing too much 'vain repetition.'" Much more.

Woodstove/Lutheran in a Tipi on contemporary worship styles and the language of tradition.

And, via Hit & Run:
News accounts, congressional testimony and independent investigations suggest the spy agency has covertly delivered at least 18 terrorism suspects since 1998 to Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Middle Eastern nations where, according to State Department reports, torture has been widely used on prisoners.

The actual number of CIA-run renditions, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, is believed to be far higher. Officials say the CIA's role has varied widely, from providing electronic and other covert surveillance before raids to flying blindfolded terrorism suspects from one country to another on a Gulfstream jet the agency uses.

"It's a growth industry," said a recently retired CIA clandestine officer who worked on several "renditions" in the Arab world. "We rendered a lot of people to Egypt, Jordan and the Saudis in particular.... Ultimately, the agency just wants these people to disappear forever."

At the gate she turned and looked across to Ben's grave. The air was iron cold and still. She would never, never, never be able to accept his death, and she didn't try. This wasn't an illness she would recover from; it was an amputation she had to learn to live with. There was a great and surprising peace in acknowledging this.
--Pat Barker, Double Vision

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I blogged through the desert on a watch with no name...

Old Oligarch: Mary, Gate of Salvation--great post on Theotokos.

Volokh Conspiracy: Good basic post noting that the question of "fairness" in media coverage isn't solely or even primarily about how stories get covered but about which stories get covered.

Places to read about torture and US policy thereon: Disputations (via Noli Irritare Leones); Andrew Sullivan (yeah, I know--scroll past the random overreadings of innocuous Bush professions of faith, etc.); Balkinization; Unqualified Offerings.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"RETCON": SHE SAYS. More lack of interest in Sarah's squid. Here. Whole thing will be finished in the next few days.
eta: Eh, scrapping this scene and doing over. Whole story should be done by Monday though. That link above will still get you the first scene of the story.
SEEKERS, SEARCHERS: MLY writes an incisive reply to that Jonah Goldberg column about pragmatism:
Re the G-file on "pragmatism" : When I read it I thought that Goldberg seems not to be attacking pragmatism, but to be making a pragmatic case against utilitarianism. That is, I read his remarks to be saying something like:

"Don't teach people that the reason to ban murder is economic efficiency, because then fewer people will observe the ban on murder, and that would be inefficient."

Goldberg seems not to be attacking pragmatism, but instead to be making a pragmatic case against utilitarianism. That is, I read his remarks to be saying something like:

"Don't teach people that the reason to ban murder is economic efficiency, because then fewer people will observe the ban on murder, and that would be inefficient."

And on a related note, I thought that last sentence could logically precede the statement "It's more efficient to have society live by a lie."

Then I read two posts on Gideon's blog that seem to support my interpretation. And from what little I've read of William James (just The Varieties of Religious Experience), Posner, and Holmes (only a few opinions and a few selections of The Common Law), I agree more with the long post on Gideon's blog for Friday, January 7, 2005. Worth checking out, I think.

I should admit right now that I have neither time nor inclination to re-read the JG piece. I liked the one-liners (that bit about calling politicians Aristotelian [by the way, Aristo's lack the extremist-sublime that characterizes Plato--if you like Aristotle, why don't you email me with an explanation, since right now I pretty much think of Aristotelians as people who won't admit to their parents that Plato is the Bomb--anyway--]) and the bit about "the fat is the best part." I will say that, in my strong and perhaps strenuous reading, Jonah is not merely saying, "Self-interest doesn't produce conventional morality, a.k.a. the Prudent Predator exists." He's actually making--I hope--the more intriguing statement, "We humans are not only interest-seeking missiles. We're also truth-seeking missiles. We want to know that what we do is not merely efficacious but right. And this desire both implies and rightly finds some true object outside itself." That final clause--that belief that our human demand for disinterested truth is not an evolutionary trick--is what I've called the nuptial meaning of the mind. Introspection discovers that the self is not enough.

So I guess all I'm saying is that if I were Jonah, that's what I'd mean if I said the cute things he says about pragmatism. If he means something else, that's unfortunate, but it doesn't make his riffs on the insufficiency of pragmatism for satisfying the human heart any less powerful. It just means he doesn't take the human heart seriously enough.

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, SEVERUS! (Else what is fandom for?)

(In case you're wondering: Because I love traitors and hate children. You can imagine how this makes my work for IMAPP both easier and harder, respectively.)

mood: heh
music: eh (I reread Liberty/License, and now I have "Horse with no Name" stuck in my head)
THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG: Some interesting stuff at MarriageDebate. We're talking about love; I'm quoting "Dark Harbor" and the court of the Countess of Champagne. Other things of note include a remote area of China with "no husbands, no fathers"; campus conservatives who see same-sex marriage as a rejection of the sexual revolution; a fantastic piece by a Unitarian who asks what Unitarians can do besides supporting the right to marry and the right to divorce; Andrew Sullivan and marriage and "outsiderdom"; and our question of the week, which is this:


In most current discussions of same-sex marriage, supporters of gay marriage focus on the present--couples denied benefits or social support--while opponents focus on the future--the risks and harms of fundamental changes in our understanding of marriage and family life.

But as some SSM proponents, most notably Jonathan Rauch, have pointed out, nothing stands still. Even if Massachusetts's court ruling is overruled by amendment, even if no state so much as flirts with gay marriage in the future, our understanding of marriage is not going to get stuck in 2005 (thank God), nor will it return to 1950 or 1880 (thank God). Rauch and others argue that failing to enact same-sex marriage will teach children that cohabitation (by gay couples) is a-okay, and that sex and marriage can rightfully be separated. They predict that some, maybe even many, heterosexual couples will shun marriage as a discriminatory club. (Some people already do this.) And they predict that without same-sex marriage we won't just have marriage and not-marriage; we'll have a bewildering array of quasi- and pseudo- and kinda-sorta-not-really-marriages, like domestic partnerships and civil unions and "well, we had a commitment ceremony at our synagogue, but obviously we're not married" and individualized contractual arrangements.

Are these predictions right? For opponents of same-sex marriage, would preserving marriage turn into a pyrrhic victory? What do these predictions imply about human nature, American values, and political trade-offs?

As always, email me at with any comments.
"RETCON": NETSUKE SQUID. First section of current short story. Writing is workaday here but the story itself is, I think, pretty swift. Sarah meets her father's girlfriend and tries to figure out what happened to her squid. Here.
SO YOU WANT TO SELL YOUR NOVEL. Teresa Nielsen Hayden Explains It All for You. With lots of other stuff, too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

You ain't nothin' but a blogwatch;
Quit snoopin' round my door...

Andrew Sullivan: "And, as I've said many times, homosexuality is very easy to understand. It is exactly the same as heterosexuality, with the gender reversed." Um, only if men are interchangeable with women. So, no.

Hit & Run: Hilarity re Bush cabinet of comics creators. Stan Lee for UN Ambassador is a stroke of genius.

You should be reading Unqualified Offerings every day.

A Jewish and Israeli blog contest. (Via Kesher Talk.)

I'm linking to this article on Iraq and Internet-raised soldiers to remind myself to read it. (Via Hit & Run.)

Michigan Student Pregnancy Program becomes law. Hooray for Feminists for Life. Via Amy Welborn.
REPEAT THE SOUNDING JOY: Some really nice responses to my post (immediately below) on traditional prayers.

Lots of great stuff from Amy Welborn and her commenters, including points about how ritual connects us to other people.

Verbum Ipsum on praying the daily office.

Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk: "Ahhhh. This is the Catholic version of the daily Amidah.

"To me it is an immense relief to not have to make up my own words, to have a checklist prepared for me. Esp since the sages were much smarter than me."

And MLY: "Re traditional prayers, I agree. I say the shema every night, and it often surprises."

Monday, January 10, 2005

"OLE GOLLY, OLE GOLLY, OLE GOLLY": So I was re-reading Harriet the Spy, the way one does, and I came to the scene where Harriet awakens from a nightmare screaming the name of her nurse over and over. And yeah, I cried--sue me. (I overidentify with self-centered, half-observant, slightly crazy budding writeresses.) But what I actually want to talk about is not this fantastic children's novel, but traditional prayer.

I've run across Protestants who get it fixed in their heads that prayers like the Hail Mary (but not, I hope, the Our Father!) are the "vain repetitions" condemned in Scripture. I've never understood that view, since really, there is nothing less repetitive for me than repeating a traditional prayer.

Sure, I talk to God in all kinds of other ways, bringing up what I'm struggling with or thankful for, the usual mix of praise and thanksgiving and petition. (I'm weirdly blank about contemplative prayer and don't rightly understand it.) But there are three ways in which repeating a traditional prayer sustains me:

First, traditions always surprise. Traditions remind us of the things we wouldn't say of our own accord. Most times, when I pray the Hail Mary or the Angelus or what have you, I find that the words of the prayer act like prisms refracting my own concerns and shedding unexpected light. (The rosary is especially good for this, since it's keyed to a series of different events and experiences that might seem remote from our own lives but that always, always have relevance. How does the Nativity respond to what I'm praying about? What about the Assumption?) Part of the point of traditions is that they break us out of our obvious concerns, the worries and beliefs we know we carry, by offering a different and initially alien perspective.

Another part of the point of traditions is that they tell us what to do when we're shaky and unsure. Traditional condolences help us express our compassion for the grieving without being self-centered or being misunderstood. (I talked a lot about this stuff in my JWR piece on Miss Manners.) And traditional prayers help us praise God and give thanks and ask for help without worrying about whether we're saying the right thing, or sounding stupid, or forgetting something.

Finally, and relatedly, I fall back on traditional prayers when I really don't have the strength or self-confidence to shape my own sentences--when I just feel desperate, composed entirely of need. There have been a lot of times when the Hail Mary is my personal equivalent of "Ole Golly, Ole Golly, Ole Golly!"
"AFTER MAKING LOVE WE HEAR FOOTSTEPS": Neat piece in Touchstone on bioethics and the President's Council thereon. (Here's a piece I did on ditto.)
...Back in Being Human, though, I ran across a provocative poem by Galway Kinnell. Titled "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps," it describes a small boy who sleeps through all nighttime disturbances except his parents' quiet lovemaking, which wakes him and sends him running into their bed to snuggle and sleep. I wanted to affirm the poem's warmth toward the "familiar touch of the long-married," as Kinnell puts it.

But I was disturbed that the poet thought it sweet, even good, that "habit of memory" propelled the boy "to the ground of his making," in between his parents. It seemed almost disgusting to think of a third person involved, even only proximately, with sex; making love is for two people, between two people. And yet, thinking further, I started to question my own reactions: Why wouldn't there be a mysterious connection between making love and a child? That, after all, is the pattern of human reproduction--intimacy between two lovers becomes parental love. Babies follow sex.

What is more, I have begun to suspect that God's design for procreation, as in so many other areas of life, might contain hidden blessings. In the poem, the parents' lovemaking grows deeper, infused with new affection and wonder, with their son's appearance: "In the half darkness we look at each other and smile and touch arms across his little, startlingly muscled body." The son, too, benefits by the stability and love of his family, "his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child."

Do we miss some of the good gifts of marriage, sexuality, and family by stripping out the procreative mystery of sex? The poem portrays a family flourishing through connections that are greater than themselves; its spirit is one of awe and gratitude, the very opposite of the need for control we so often require.

WHAT DO THEY DO WITH THE CHILDREN OF TAX COLLECTORS AND WOMEN CAUGHT IN ADULTERY? Sometimes I wonder why I get up in the morning, you know? (Well, technically, the afternoon.)
...One of the things that confirms me in my decision to keep doing this work is the reaction I get when I tell people about it. It's not that they react negatively; for the most part I find people are very supportive. Rather it's how quickly they tell me that they could never imagine doing it themselves.

Prisoners may be one of the closest analogues in our society to the lepers of Jesus' time. As Jesus' contemporaries feared disease, we fear the social pathologies that afflict many of those behind bars. Increasingly we seem to have given up on the possibility of rehabilitation and are content simply to keep offenders away from our communities for as long as possible.

But if we are to be followers of Christ, we need to challenge that worldview.

"THE HE-MAN PRAGMATIST-HATERS CLUB": This is a very good Jonah Goldberg column. This is not. This is a response to the very good Jonah Goldberg column, but it should be a rebuke to the very bad one. More soon.
--Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What must you do to make God love you? What are the basic requirements?

Or, put another way: What does it take to make God stop loving you? Mortal sin? Excommunication?

Answer the question for yourself based upon what you know of the moral law.

What you should have answered to both questions is, "Nothing. Nothing at all."


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

IF YOU PRAY: All three of my clients tonight were moving toward marriage--or they'd just arrived there, as my last client got married today! So if you pray, could you please pray for FR, Latasha, and J and I (the newlyweds)? Thanks!

Monday, January 03, 2005

WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF WRITING: I think the best book on writing I've read may be William E. Blundell's Art and Craft of Feature Writing. It's basically the Wall Street Journal Guide to Practically Everything. It's designed for journalists, but the skills and way of looking at the world it teaches are equally applicable to fiction writers: It explores how to assess causes and consequences, how to find the important angles and plotlines in a real-world story, and where you'd be likely to find people who know what you need to know. It's also a fun, fast read. Highly recommended.
ENCYCLOPAEDIA MORONICA: Or, "I'm sorry, all of our subplots are currently busy. Please hold while I transfer you to the Department of Backstory."

So my sister turned me on to this site, "Limyaael's Fantasy Rants." This person basically has read way too much horrible, horrible fantasy writing, and has turned trash into treasure by penning rants on everything from POV shifts to dwarves. ("Dwarves... dwarves are very upsetting....")

They're great! They're fun to read--though doubtless more fun if you've read too much fantasy--and I've found all kinds of things that are helpful in my own writing. I have a few different fantasy-ish projects in the works, which does make the site more helpful; if you don't write fantasy at all, the ratio of useless to useful will likely be far lower for you than it is for me. But the rant that gave me the most-needed kick in the ass was the one on servant characters--even though I haven't written any servants. But "servant" can be read as "any minor character who is in some way class-coded as worse off than or serving the needs of the protagonist," and the rant really helped me 1) see where I was writing minor characters who didn't have any richness, any depth, any "offscreen" lives of their own, and 2) get ideas for fixing that. None of the characters I'll be fixing are in a fantasy story. So the rants' pertinence isn't necessarily limited by genre. (One of Limyaael's recurring themes is POV and how to avoid muddling it, which is an area where I'm still in the "pardon our dust, we are remodeling" stage.)

Also, some of the errors discussed are so horribly bad that realizing you've committed one is quite shaming; and as Limyaael points out in a rant about characters changing in the course of the story, shame is a great motivator for personal improvement!

So, if all that interests you, go check it out. I suggest reading the LiveJournal versions of the rants (her LJ is here), since although there's a lot of randomness and chaff in the comments, I've also found neat stuff there, including some corrections to the rants.
With the world's weight resting on your blogwatch,
You're gonna need someone on your side...

BeaucoupKevin: I'm number three! I'm number three! ...I get smacked in comments, though, for going over the 35-word limit. I don't know how I missed that, since I was using a cute little word-count program. But my entry was about Planetes, and Planetes is all about how human error and human weaknesses can't be overcome through technological change, and so... um, yes, shutting up now. Anyway, woohoo!, congratulations to winner Dave Lartigue and second-place finisher Johanna Draper Carlson, and props to Kevin for running this neat-o contest.

Sarah Dylan: Putting Herod back in Christmas. Good stuff. Via Noli Irritare Leones.

Volokh Conspiracy: Interesting review of The Plot Against America. "Roth seems completely unaware of the irony that the presumed savior of the Jews (and democracy) is the only president who ever actually consigned an American ethnic group to concentration camps in the hinterlands; the Japanese are never mentioned in the book."

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Best book read in 2004: THE EYE IN THE DOOR
Best movie seen: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
WITH BEST HOPES FOR THE NEW YEAR. I stayed in, taking notes for fiction and talking for hours with the Rat. It was great. ...Unqualified Offerings has its best-of-blogs list up, and a best-of-comics list as well. Go thither!

In worst-of, rather than best-of, news, here's a link roundup on the revisions to the Justice Department's definition of torture. Haven't read yet but will soon.

On Wednesday, I'm flying to sunny California for two weeks to visit Ratty (!!!!). If you are in the greater L.A. area, live in fear, I will be near. Blogging will likely be lightish but not nonexistent, and I have several projects in the pipeline that I hope to be able to post soon: two comics pieces, plus some more comics reviews; some stuff about Alberto Gonzales and torture and Bush; and new fiction that is good, rather than bad.