Wednesday, April 27, 2005

King Blog's back from holiday, Marie Lupescu's grey
and King Alexander is watched in Marseilles...

After Abortion: Amazon lists of novels with an abortion plot or subplot, and abortion recovery books.

The Lawrence Journal-World has a special section marking the 40th anniversary of the publication of In Cold Blood. Includes journalism students revisiting some of the people involved. (Via About Last Night.)

LifeNews reports:
A national group of pro-life Democrats has joined pro-life Democratic members of Congress, adoption agencies and pregnancy centers unveil a package of legislation designed to significantly reduce abortion in the next 10 years. ...

The initiative outlines 17 different policy programs designed to empower and promote women as well as protect unborn children.

Some of those include a national toll-free number for pregnancy support, studying why women have abortions, funding daycare on college campuses, increasing funding for domestic violence programs, and making adoption tax credits permanent.

more; GetReligion comments here.

Bible Literacy Project press release: "American high school students are deficient in their academic knowledge of the Bible, and it is limiting their ability to study literature and understand art, music, history, and culture, according to a new landmark national study of high school English teachers—funded by the John Templeton Foundation ( and published by the Bible Literacy Project." (more) Via E-Pression.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Blogwatch, beware!
The government won't protect you;
They'd like to see you turned into Blogwatch stew...

Amy's Fiction: Amy Welborn has a fiction blog! The first story is fun (with nuns).

"A Roshonda By Any Other Name: How do babies with super-black names fare?"

The Snowflake Process for Writing a Novel.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

TWO MORE: Nice thread at Amy Welborn's--basic reactions and stuff.

And this quote: "Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain." Yay--one of the themes of my senior essay in college.
SO THAT'S WHAT ALL THOSE BELLS WERE! His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. Am shaking invisible pompoms. ...As one of my colleagues once said, "Go Ratzy Go!"

PS: Was immediately struck by the thought of what an awesome responsibility and gift it must be to serve as Pope; this thought swiftly followed by humbling thought that the responsibility and gift of membership in the Catholic Church is equally awesome.

Two snippets from Amy Welborn's comments box (link is above): "For those who feared a Ratzinger papacy: Benedict will at times surprise and at times disappoint both those who are elated in this moment, and those who are disappointed in this moment. Viva il Papa!"

"You follow Christ, not a human being. Read the homily he preached yesterday, about the mercy and love of God. Eyes on Christ--it's what he wants."
PULSE OF FREEDOM '05: "The Home Page for Lebanon's March to Freedom & Democracy--published by the protesters at Martyrs' Square, Beirut." Via The Corner.
PETITION TO PREVENT SELLING OF CONSECRATED HOSTS ON EBAY. The Old Oligarch points out, "(Also, note the link address. Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.)"

Sunday, April 17, 2005

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure--a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.


Friday, April 15, 2005

"RECOGNITION": LATE NIGHT, MAUDLIN STREET. So, I wrote a thing. It's about... hrm. It's about identity formation; homosexuality; children; grace; what constitutes a happy ending; and what we can know or assume or understand about other people. It's short (one-shot), and it's here. And maybe it should really have been an essay. I feel like it's too polemical to be fiction and too obsessive to be journalism. Anyway, I doubt this is its final form. So your comments, questions, criticisms are, as always, more than welcome.

One caution: This piece probably has more obviously autobiographical details and turns of phrase than most of my fiction. There are two big honking reasons I use details from my own experience, and they're more or less diametrically opposed:
a. Something I experienced strikes me as an especially powerful representation of something I believe to be true about the world. Experience as elective affinity, if you like.
b. I'm writing about an experience that isn't my own, and in order to ensure some degree of verisimilitude, I use details from my own experience.
So, in other words, if you happen to recognize a detail or even a set of details, please don't conclude that the narrative in which those details appear is taken from my own experience.
CHURCH OF THE MASSES: Neat stuff there. Barbara Nicolosi's speaking schedule (she's coming here! yay!)--she's awesome. Go see her! She runs a writing program for Christians working in or seeking to work in Hollywood. She has a terrific grasp of artistic integrity as well as, obviously, the Gospel.

She does offer this parodic suggestion, though, which I think actually would be awesome: "Immaculate?--A pulsing, mind-bending tribute to film-noir, set amidst the seamy mystery of the conception of Christ." I'm now very interested in writing a film noir take on the Blessed Virgin. The possibility of being "immaculate," and what that would look like, and what implications genuine innocence would have for the people around the innocent person, are basic noir themes; I want to work with them.
NOTES FROM A PREGNANCY CENTER: Thought some of you all might be interested in the notes I keep (in my "furry book," a commonplace book with faux leopard fur cover--I love this so much!) on counseling at the pregnancy center.

1. Christ came for (at least) 2 reasons--a. reparation
b. example
make amends, pay what you owe, but also, His sacrifice is the model for ours. He gave everything for us; we must give everything for Him.

2. Repent and believe in the Gospel--inseparable

3. Virtues-Based Analysis [this is based on something I saw in Hugo Schwyzer's comments box, a while ago]:
a. PRUDENCE: What are all the possible outcomes for this act? Do I have the means to support a child? What about the person I'm having sex with--how well do I know him?
b. TEMPERANCE: Am I hurting myself in some way through over-indulgence?
c. JUSTICE: If a child is conceived through this relationship, what is fair to the child? What is fair to the father?
d. FORTITUDE: Do I have the strength to live with this? If I become pregnant and have an abortion, how will I feel? What about adoption? Parenting?
--> This approach is flawed (for example, it makes abortion sound like a test of strength)--but might be modified into an interesting approach.

4. "If you put the milk out there, the cats will come"--and is that what you really want? [Not sure I'd use that language, but I think the idea is sound: How you act affects whom you attract, and I don't think the women and girls I counsel typically want to attract men like the ones they do in fact end up having sex with.]

5. "What do you have to do to get to Heaven?" --most important question of counseling session--if you only remember one thing, remember that.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

"HELPED TO DIE": From the Telegraph:
Nearly half the newborn babies who died in Flanders over a recent year-long period were helped to die by their doctors, a new study reported yesterday.

Paediatricians in the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium either discreetly stopped treating the babies or, in 17 cases, illegally killed them with lethal doses of painkillers.

The study, published in The Lancet, examined the deaths of every baby who died within a year of birth in Flanders between August 1999 and July 2000.

The results of a survey on the causes of death were stark: paediatricians who responded to the survey admitted they had taken "end of life" decisions in more than half the cases.

Most commonly, that involved withholding or withdrawing treatment because physicians believed the baby had no real chance of survival or the baby had no chance of a "bearable future".

more (via the Old Oligarch)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"ANDREA DWORKIN AND ME": Maggie Gallagher
...Yes, I received a gift from Andrea, the kind of gift which, intellectually speaking, you can receive only from someone with whom you profoundly disagree. From the opposite ends of the political spectrum, we had each glimpsed a piece of the same truth. Against the backdrop of a pornographic Playboy culture that tried to teach us that sex is just a trivial appetite for pleasure, radical feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote that "sexual intercourse is not intrinsically banal."

I was not alone! Andrea saw it, too. As I wrote in "Enemies of Eros": "In sex, persons become male and female, archetypically, exaggeratedly, painfully so. And to us, corseted in modern sexual views, femininity appears incompatible with the personhood of women. ... What Dworkin observes is essentially true. Sex is not an act which takes place merely between bodies. Sex is an act which defines, alters, imposes on the personhood of those who engage in it. We wander through the ordinary course of days as persons, desexed, androgynous, and it is in the sexual act in which we receive reassurance that we are not persons, after all, but men and women." ...

...For as she spoke, it occurred to me that everything I had written about (as everything I've done since) was a deliberate and desperate attempt not to live in her kind of world. I longed to find marriage ties as binding as the ties between mother and child. I wanted not only to get, but to become the kind of person who can give that kind of dependable love, the kind that can be taken for granted because it lasts.

According to Reuters, "Dworkin is survived by her husband, John Stoltenberg, also a feminist activist and author."

Maybe in the end, she found that kind of love, too. I hope so. Rest in peace, Andrea.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Life is blog,
Life is watch,
The world is blog,
The world is watch...

Here, have some Ovid. Via Suburban Banshee.

Not Dead Yet has updates on legislation on health care for the profoundly disabled; plus lots of commentary and links, like "8 things that need to happen to safeguard against non-voluntary euthanasia in the U.S." Make it a regular stop. Via Noli Irritare Leones.

"Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest": From the NYTimes:
...Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.

For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.

Via Hit & Run.

"Mourning Our Younger Brother": Jewish Week obituary for Pope John Paul II. Via Kesher Talk.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I watched a blog in another life;
When I think of past lives, you are not my wife...

Pirate Fonts.

A couple lefty parody things that are a lot of fun even for reactionaries like me: Daily Mail-O-Matic (really brilliant) and Michael Howard Sings The Smiths (more of a one-trick pony, but still fun for Smiths fans).

A statue of Riff Raff, in Richard O'Brien's hometown. (blurby thing)
READ ECONOMICS IN ONE LESSON ONLINE! Via, appropriately enough, JaneGalt. Free-market economics for people who have a hard time so much as divvying up the bar tab.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

FINDERS KEEPERS: Coffee_and_ink on why you should be reading Finder. Her interests are really different from mine, so it's especially cool to see how many kinds of pleasures this excellent comic provides.
WHAT BULIMIA DOES TO YOUR BODY. Why Terri Schiavo had her heart attack. Powerful.

Monday, April 04, 2005

THE MINISTER'S BLACK VEIL: This is a fascinating set of questions and answers about masking--from Aeschylus to the Mardi Gras krewes. Just really excellent stuff about America, social roles vs. individual identity, the physical process of creating a mask, and much more. (And it implicitly explains why Rorschach can't speak in complete sentences!) I do wonder what the author would make of the Nathaniel Hawthorne story which gives this post its title. Masks are usually thought of as concealing something (which this guy is casting as the American interpretation) or slotting a player into his social role. Either refusing language or entering into the social positioning without which language and communication generally can't occur. But in "TMBV" the veil is harshly revelatory, shocking, challenging--yet it reveals only that there is something to be concealed. It should be an invitation to language, but turns out to be a rejection of language.

Anyway, your thoughts on this interlocking set of subjects would be welcome, since I'm working on a story with a strong masking theme (working title: "The Wise and Foolish Virgins"), and I really want to hear anything you have to say about the issues raised in the post I linked. Or anything about "TMBV," a story Ratty turned me on to. (Onto which Ratty turned me? Sounds like the story is my helpless victim. Very Anxiety of Influence.)
THREE THINGS WHICH ARE TOO WONDERFUL FOR ME, YEA, FOUR THINGS WHICH I KNOW NOT: This post at JaneGalt is must-reading on libertarianism, tradition, and gay marriage. It's long, but look, it's almost certainly the most important blog post you'll read today, so why not click through?
ONE IN A MILLION MEN CAN CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL. Wow. Via Amy Welborn. (And yes, apparently this is my week for taking Pet Shop Boys lyrics places they were never meant to go. If they can use the signifiers of my faith, you know, perhaps I can use the signifiers they provide. Anyway, it's all about changing interpretation of ambiguous text, not original intent, right?)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

SHADOWS SEARCHING FOR WHAT CAST THEM: From all that I have said to this point it emerges that men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable--a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves.
--John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (my comments, for what they're worth)
"DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING?": An amazing essay from Fr Richard Neuhaus, on a "near-life experience." The reactions of others; the altar as "axis mundi"; the horrible noises of a hospital at night; the way that when you're really sick you can't imagine being well, and when you're well you can't imagine being really sick; the distance, but also the commonality. Sick and well feel like different species, but of course the latter is just the former without apprehension. And of course, the former can't be expected to see it that way.
...The "living soul" of Scripture is the whole corporeal and spiritual totality of a person whom the breath of God has wakened to life. Thomas Aquinas, interpreting centuries of Christian and pagan metaphysics, defined the immortal soul as the "form of the body," the vital power animating, pervading, shaping an individual from the moment of conception, drawing all the energies of life into a unity.

This is not to deny that, for Christian tradition, the soul transcends and survives the earthly life of the body. It is only to say that the soul, rather than being a kind of "guest" within the self, is instead the underlying mystery of a life in its fullness. In it the multiplicity of experience is knit into a single continuous and developing identity. It encompasses all the dimensions of human existence: animal functions and abstract intellect, sensation and reason, emotion and reflection, flesh and spirit, natural aptitude and supernatural longing. As such, it grants us an openness to the world of which no other creature is capable, allowing us to take in reality through feeling and thought, recognition and surprise, will and desire, memory and anticipation, imagination and curiosity, delight and sorrow, invention and art. ...

I doubt even the dogmatic materialists among us are wholly insensible to the miraculous oddity that in the midst of organic nature there exists a creature so exorbitantly in excess of what material causality could possibly adumbrate, a living mirror where all splendors gather, an animal who is also a creative and interpretive being with a longing for eternity. Whether one is willing to speak of a "rational soul" or not, there is obviously an irreducible mystery here, one that commands our reverence.

Granted, it is easiest to sense this mystery when gazing at the Sistine Chapel's ceiling or listening to Bach. But it should be evident--for Christians at least--even when everything glorious and prodigious in our nature has been stripped away and all that remains is frailty, brokenness and dependency, or when a person we love has been largely lost to us in the labyrinth of a damaged brain. Even among such ravages--for those with the eyes to see it--a terrible dignity still shines out.

more (via GetReligion, I think)

Friday, April 01, 2005

FOR ONCE, YOU MUST NOT TRY TO SHIRK THE FACTS: Kesher Talk remains a necessary source for understanding what happened to Terri Schiavo.

Again, I think this is the most important thing most people can read about this case.

All of us have an inoperable illness. For the best of us, death is the crown of our lives, the title of the story. For those of us in the wealthy West--where, honestly, I'm not going to die from a mine explosion or a suicide bomb or a factory fire--death is at least one of three things. It's the expression of the most humiliating, unconquered urges (all those hamburgers, all those cigarettes, all those whiskey-and-Diet-Cokes); or it's the unfair, weirdly singular fact of a genetic problem or a sudden illness, where you're singled out and it's horrible because no one else is; or it's the last laugh of all us carnivorous, smoking, drinking people against the rest of you. "Hah, you're dead too!"

None of these three situations is especially attractive.

Richard Brookhiser cited this limerick on the seven ages of man:
Seven ages: first, puking and mewling;
Then very pissed off at one's schooling;
Then fucks; then fights;
Then settling chaps' rights;
Then sitting in slippers; then drooling.

I've been thinking a lot, lately, about humiliation. I think at the very least we should all be deeply skeptical of any worldview that attempts to present humiliated, helpless human lives as somehow less worthy than autonomous, dignified lives. It's bullies and torturers who try to convince us that if you can show someone humiliated and helpless you've somehow shown her as less worthy of sympathy.
CIGARETTES AND WHISKEY AND WILD, WILD WOMEN: Reviews of comics and movies and TV.

Comics: Planetes v. 4.2. I don't know why this is "volume four, part two" rather than something sane like, say, "volume five." Nonetheless, I loved this manga book. (Manga = cheap. You should read it!) It's really funny. The Golden Age sci-fi wonder at the beauty of the universe is still brilliantly combined with a 21st-century disillusionment about human perfectibility. (Wherever you go, there you are.) And in this volume, we seem to be set up for a three-way final conflict between Christianity or something close to it; a vague and emotional secular humanism based on a Christian-derived understanding of "compassion" (she said, unsympathetically); and a ferocious, attractive, driven desire to become God through technological conquest of nature. I'm really loving this series. This book is the best since Planetes v. 1. Go read it now! Character-rich, sweet, funny, philosophically intriguing, just lovely.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, issue 1. Oh, how many ways did this issue suck. I... I really wanted to like this, you know? I'm not much for DC Comics. I don't know why. For whatever reason, I've never yet read a Batman comic that grabbed me, let alone Superman (why? why is he here? why isn't he incredibly creepy?). The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is pretty much the closest I ever got to enjoying Superman comics. So I accept that I'm not the target audience here.

Still--I thought it sounded neat. Superman as creepy alien overlord, Lex Luthor as fierce representative of all that is best and worst in humankind. So I picked it up.

Oh lordy. Here's an inventory:
a) too many captions. Why? Why??? WHY???? It is not hard to just not write a daggone caption! Are these people paid by the word? If so, could they consider Top Ramen as a dining option, just for my sake?
b) LL comes across as weirdly condescending in scenes where I think he's supposed to be Connecting with The Little People (= his janitor). I really hated him in these scenes.
c) Ooh, a female! This is a great opportunity to draw someone with man hands, creepily exposed cleavage, a rear end that somehow finds its way into every picture, and no brains. GROWL.
d) LL has these forehead-wrinkles that... just... no human has ever had. He's vaguely Klingon here. And not the cool, "Trouble with Tribbles" Klingons, but the lobsterhead "Woof!--I mean, Worf!" Klingons.
e) Oh and there's no plot. If there had been a plot, I might have considered picking up later issues anyway, because hey, price of an ice cream cone really. But there are just hints and insinuations that if I stick around long enough there might be a plot later. Therefore, no.

Wow. I loathed this comic. Three dollars I could have spent on, like, an ice cream cone! Or slapping myself in the face; or having a mime follow me around pretending to be in a glass box, or a chewed-on My Little Pony. GRRRR.

Movies: The Castle. Australian libertarian flick (Australibertarian?) about eminent domain and why it's evil. This is a manipulative, cheesy, incredibly effective film. I loved it. It's about a family whose house is gonna get taken so the government can do some corporately-approved thing, I forget what. It's sweet and it goes for cheap laughs and I adored it anyway. Just a real heartwarmer. Play it for all your lefty friends.

Galaxy Quest: I saw this because Alan Rickman is in it; but he's not the reason it's good. Basically, if you ever loved Star Trek: The Original Series, you will adore this movie. It's an homage/parody that hits every single cliche, every single opportunity for loving mockery. It isn't mean-spirited, and it doesn't misunderstand or fail to care about the reasons people love space opera in the first place. It's engaging, fluffy, and utterly pleasing.

Ripley's Game: Based on the same sociopathic Patricia Highsmith character as The Talented Mr. Ripley. Ripley in this film is played by John Malkovich, whom I liked a lot--I think this is the first time I'd experienced him and his gentle, chalky, dissociated voice--and the wonderful Lena Headey is also in it. Nonetheless, it felt a lot more standard-issue than TTMR. That might just be because it hit on fewer of my personal obsessions than that other movie, which is a lot more concerned with homoeroticism, loss of identity, and what it means to be American. I liked this, but could have lived without seeing it.

Uzumaki. Live-action movie version of the uber-creepy Japanese killer-spirals horror comic. A pretty good movie. The leading girl (Kirie) was great, and looked freakishly like her comics equivalent; her best friend (Shiho) was also fun; some of the minor characters were great (the snail-boy, the freaky father). The special effects didn't start seeming dumb until the very end, which, for me, is a big thing in horror movies. I do think this idea worked a lot better in the comics, though. It's a very visual idea, and those visuals can't really convey the same sense of surreality when they have to be somehow faked through SFX. Maybe that's why some of the most horrifying moments came via the soundtrack (for example, the noise the kiln makes). Anyway, this was a good movie, but really only worth seeing if you already liked the comics. The comics, on the other hand, I'd recommend to any horror fan.

Television: Just saw the first Netflix disc of "Absolutely Fabulous." Just watched it twice, actually. For about one and a half episode, I thought this was pretty lame. I hate fat jokes, and thought Edina's actress was overacting (which is true really--I mean, I know it's supposed to be overdone, but there's OTT and then there's just kinda embarrassing--but once you get used to her it's fine). But I'm now thoroughly in love with Patsy Stone, and I could watch this more or less endlessly. This show brings out all my dykiest impulses. Purrrrrr. Champers, darling?