Thursday, March 30, 2006

"MARRIAGE IS FOR WHITE PEOPLE": Fr Tucker wanted to know if I would blog about this Washington Post piece, which is very much worth reading. I don't know that I have too much to add really--here's a relevant passage from my 2003 Weekly Standard piece on working at the pregnancy center:
...Growing up fatherless affects how women view their own relationships and their pregnancies. Because so few of our clients have known men who consistently met their family responsibilities, they rarely demand responsibility from the men they date. Even women who want children generally view adult men as a fleeting part of the household. Men flit in and out of women's lives, exotic but untrustworthy creatures, exciting but ultimately irrelevant to the formation of a family.

We see some boyfriends who want to be responsible. But men too suffer from the lack of strong models of paternal and spousal responsibility. Our observations coincide with the findings of Jennifer F. Hamer, author of a study of the attitudes of black non-custodial fathers published under the title "What It Means to Be Daddy" (though not with her policy prescriptions). Hamer believes that marriage is not a necessary or even a superior way to harness men's desires for fatherhood. But even the men she studied who tried to be more than "absent fathers"--more than statistics--didn't do many of the things that distinguish reliable fathers. Because they didn't marry the mothers of their children, they didn't refrain from fathering children by different women (thus splitting their resources and attention, and creating "drama"), or become stable fixtures in their children's homes. Women didn't demand this--and the women's mothers sometimes even shooed the men away, viewing them as threats, rather than encouraging men who wanted to take responsibility to do so. (In my experience, mothers are also at least as likely as boyfriends to pressure their unmarried pregnant daughters to have abortions.)

The women we counsel say they want to get married, just as the men Hamer interviewed want to be good fathers, but they have little sense of how to get what they want. ...When marriage is a chimera, there's nothing to wait for, no reason to be chaste. There's nothing for a woman to demand from men, no reason for her to put "responsible" above "fun" on the checklist of qualities to look for in a potential boyfriend. When responsibility is almost unknown, where would a man acquire the notion that the best thing he can do for his girlfriend is stop having sex with her; or, if she conceives, that the best thing he can do for his child is marry and love the mother? Instead of attitudes conducive to marriage, fatherlessness fosters the second huge problem, fatalism.

(the rest)

And when I interviewed the guy who worked with the boyfriends who came to our center, he pointed out that a lot of the younger black guys would use the term "wife" to mean their "main girl"--their steady girlfriend, basically--but they'd still have, as he said, "a side dish or an appetizer"....
LINKS...: Christians in Iraq (and elsewhere in the Muslim world):
Baghdad's Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Abouna has given his bleakest assessment yet of the situation in Iraq, speaking of the despair that is driving more and more Christians to leave the country. Describing a worsening of the security situation since last December's parliamentary elections, the Chaldean prelate told how people were living in fear of their lives.


Fasting and prayer:
Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of Baghdad has proposed April 3-4 as days of fasting and prayer for peace in Iraq.

more (via Disputations)

And from Amy Welborn, links on the martyred monks of Tibhirine, in Algeria (killed ten years ago):
Theirs was "a message of poverty, of abandonment in the hands of God and men, of sharing in all the fragility, vulnerability and condition of forgiven sinners, in the conviction that only by being disarmed will we be able to meet Islam and discover in Muslims a part of the total face of Christ," the priest said.

HA!: Jaroslav Pelikan, from his new book:
...Every age has its own heresies, Pelikan says, and ours seems "especially vulnerable to an aestheticism that finds the ultimate mystery of transcendence in the beauty of art and music, which have the magical capacity to transport us into an otherworldly realm without calling us to account for our sins in the presence of the holy God and the righteous Judge of all mankind".

We modern, half-non-believing aesthetes, who ooh and aah over the words of the Bible, gushing over their exquisite beauty, are, he says, like people who stand admiring a shiny set of dentist's instruments. Until, that is, the drills and knives are set to work. "Then all of a sudden the reaction changes from 'How beautiful they are!' to 'Get that damned thing out of my mouth!'"

(via Amy Welborn)
Blogwatch makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel...

Claw of the Conciliator: He's started a series of posts on Christianity and science fiction and fantasy; scroll up from here. And this is a really interesting, fun post about how attempting a "view from nowhere" damages one's understanding (of religion, in this case, but I think the point has wider applicability).

Disputations on my post about forgiveness.

The Rat on V for Vendetta.

Virginia Postrel makes containers interesting:
...My column barely mentions one important part of the story--the regulatory environment. At first, containerization grew through cracks in the rigid regulatory structure of the 1960s. But today's fully integrated systems became possible only after trucking and rail were deregulated in the 1970s and maritime rates were deregulated (to very little fanfare) in 1984. Assumptions about transportation regulation have changed so radically that reading about the bad old days seems like science fiction.

The love story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God's will increasingly coincide: God's will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself.
--Deus Caritas Est

One of (at least) three things seems to happen to me each time I attempt this self-abandonment: 1) I remain trapped in the self, feeling spiritually clumsy, very caught up in my own feelings and reactions, confused and ashamed and bored!--focused inward; 2) I get distracted, the mind goes elsewhere, I attempt to make a mental escape from the situation and its demands, and thus escape all the problems of my own will--focused outward but not on any Person; 3) I am able to apprehend, even briefly, God's love and His creation of this world, and it's actually very joyful and fulfilling just to kneel and pray and be there, to get a sense of what is really always going on whether I notice it or not--focused on God, usually on Christ. My own attentiveness and perseverance are necessary for 1) or 2) to move, even fleetingly, into 3). I need to be attentively, not passively, receptive to grace. ...I also, yes, I know, need to go to Confession and receive Communion much more often. Very basic things cause major changes in one's spiritual life....

Monday, March 27, 2006

RAHMAN TO BE RELEASED--but that isn't even close to the end of the story....
..."It's us they hurt," added the second man. By this he meant immigrants and their children, particularly the residents of France's suburban ghettos, where unemployment runs as high as 50 percent. And, of course, he was right, as everyone with even a rudimentary grasp of economics appreciates: If employers are unable to fire workers, they will be less likely to hire them. It is now almost impossible to fire an employee in France, a circumstance that disproportionately penalizes groups seen by employers as risky: minorities, inexperienced workers and those without elite educations, like the outraged man sitting beside me.

This is the second time in four months that France has been seized with violent protests. And in an important sense, these are counter-riots, since the goals of the privileged students conflict with those of the suburban rioters who took to the streets last November. The message of the suburban rioters: Things must change. The message of the students: Things must stay the same. In other words: Screw the immigrants.

The issue at stake is not, of course, the CPE, which in addition to being unknown in its effects would apply only to a two-year trial period, after which employees would still, effectively, be guaranteed jobs for life. The issue is fear of a real overhaul of France's economically stifling labor laws. While some of the suburban hoodlums have joined in these protests -- after all, a riot is a riot -- it is clear that unless this overhaul proceeds, the immigrants are doomed. If so, last year's violence will seem a lark compared with what is coming. ...

...If the CPE is enacted, said one young woman, "You'll get a job knowing that you've got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked."

more (via Hit & Run)
...Every so often, he apologises. He keeps saying, 'Sorry--I'm ranting.' He tells me not to quote him when he curses too much. He develops his theme, getting more and more animated. As he keeps saying, the problem of nutrition is very easily solved. But circumstances conspire against it. He tells me that, when he lived in east London, a lot of his neighbours were unemployed. And what was in their trolleys? Packets of processed food. Nothing fresh.

'It's cheaper to buy raw ingredients,' he says. 'And it's tastier. And it's better for you. But there's one thing missing in this country, which is the knowledge to turn a beef shin and two carrots and an onion and water and a pinch of salt and pepper into an incredible glippy bastard of a stew that you just wanna mop up with some good bread that costs bugger all and will feed eight people.'

So why can't we cook? One of the reasons is that children are taught very little about cooking in school. Jamie says, 'Twenty years of governments don't see a serious place for food. We've given up teaching kids how to cook at school. How can that be unimportant? How can looking after yourself and, most important, just prepping you in the bare essentials to be a young parent not be a part of it?'


And Theodore Dalrymple on "the starving criminal":
...Moreover, unlike the people who spoke so fluently of the food deserts, I had, in the course of my medical duties, visited many homes in the area. The only homes in which there were ever any signs of genuine cookery and of eating as a social activity, where families discussed the topics of daily life and affirmed their bonds to one another, were those of the Indian immigrants. In white and black homes, cookery meant (at its best) re-heating in a microwave oven, and there was no table round which people could sit together to eat the re-heated food. Meals here were solitary, poor, nasty, British, and short.

The Indian immigrants and their descendants inherited a far better and more elaborate cuisine than the native British, of course, but this is not a sufficient explanation of their willingness still to buy fresh food and to cook it: they continue to cook because they still live in families, and cookery is a socially motivated art. Even among Indian heroin addicts (principally Muslim), the kind of malnutrition I have described is rare, because they do not yet live in the solipsistic isolation of their white counterparts, who live alone, even when there are other people inhabiting the house or apartment in which they themselves live. Drug addiction is thus a necessary condition for much of the malnutrition that I see, but not sufficient.

The ancient world had dimly perceived that man's real food--what truly nourishes him as man--is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom; this same Logos now truly becomes food for us--as love.
--Deus Caritas Est

Sunday, March 26, 2006

..."Who wants to be in a movie called 'Snakes on a Plane'?" asked one talent agent at the time, seeming to echo the studio's concerns.

But once production began, a funny thing happened. Movie fans began noticing the black sheep of the New Line slate. They seized upon the title and created fan sites, blogs, T-shirts, poems, fiction and songs. The title itself, sometimes abbreviated as "SoaP," has emerged as Internet-speak for fatalistic sentiments that range from c'est la vie to "s--- happens."

"The title is so clear and so straightforward," said Brian Finkelstein, a Washington, D.C., native who created the blog and who hopes to score tickets to the movie's premiere. "You know exactly what you're going to get."

Like Harry Potter, whose first suggestion that he's got magic on his hands comes when he discovers he can talk to snakes in their language, New Line got the message. Deciding that so many anonymous fans couldn't be wrong, the studio decided to revert to the movie's original title.

Jackson publicly endorsed the move. "That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title," Jackson told entertainment site He added, "You either want to see that, or you don't."

more snakes!
via Ratty.
WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?: Not a trick question. Those who know me well might know that this is something I've puzzled about for a while. I want to know when it's over!--when have I finished forgiving these people who irk me?! ...Which is not really a helpful approach. Still... here are some very scattered thoughts about how to forgive, for people, like me, for whom this is far from obvious.

a. Act to promote the other person's well-being. Seriously. Take some specific action to make the other person's life better. This only counts if your action is not related to the things you dislike about the person!--i.e. you can't be all, "Telling her she's a great big moron was my way of contributing to her spiritual well-being! It's tough love, baby!" No--take particular, specific actions that improve the other person's life.

b. What if it were easy? There is probably at least one person in your life whom you find it very easy to forgive. This is a person you love: a spouse, a friend, a parent, a child, somebody. If this person goes around being horrible to others and to you, you don't just sit there and take it--for her sake, you tell her why what she's doing is wrong. You do your best to stop her from acting wrongly. This even though she's the person you forgive quicker than anyone else.

From this experience we learn one important thing: Challenge isn't separate from love. You adore her, therefore you try to stop her when you think she might harm herself or others. Love doesn't mean, "Okay honey, do whatever you want, I don't care."

Okay... so try to apply this, analogously, to people you don't immediately love. What if you loved them? What if it were easy to forgive them?

You still wouldn't pretend like they had never done anything wrong. Forgiveness doesn't mean pretending the wrong never happened. It doesn't mean that you can't take the wrongdoing into account when trying to figure out if you should trust the other person with a confidence, or a $20 bill.

c. See her best self. What forgiveness does mean is that you will look for the person's best self. You won't make up fantasy selves for the person; you won't pretend she's stronger than she is. But you will keep always in your head a vision of who she needs to be.

If you do that: You won't gossip about her. You won't interpret every lapse as yet another piece of evidence that she's always like that. When you find yourself yelling at the image of her you carry around in your head, you'll stop yourself, and go find something shiny to look at instead.

d. I don't even know who said this, but there's this saying that refusing to forgive is like taking rat poison and hoping that the rat dies. And this is the crux. Look--if your best friend was the one who refused to forgive, what would you want her to do? Wouldn't it break your heart to see her so wound up about the people she dislikes, or the people who have hurt her? Wouldn't you want her to act as if the important people in her life are the ones who love her?

So okay. I'm trying to live in a more forgiving way. This is very hard for me, because I do tend to carry around images of Those Who Thwart Me!!!! in my head. So if you all have other thoughts on forgiveness, I'd really like to hear them. I can use all the help I can get!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

ABDUL RAHMAN: Please keep praying, writing to officials, and praying some more. This Web-Elf roundup also has a lot of links on the more general situation for Christians in Afghanistan, and is very much worth your time.
SADDAM'S ULTRA-LOYAL Fedayeen martyrs were ordered to carry out bombings and assassinations in London, Iran, and "self ruled areas" of Iraq in May 1999, according to a newly released Iraqi intelligence document. One such operation, codenamed "Tamooz Mubarak" or "Blessed July," was apparently intended to hunt down Iraqi dissidents and bomb other unspecified locations.

Thus the Song of Songs became, both in Christian and Jewish literature, a source of mystical knowledge and experience, an expression of the essence of biblical faith: that man can indeed enter into union with God--his primordial aspiration. But this union is no mere fusion, a sinking in the nameless ocean of the Divine; it is a unity which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one.
--Deus Caritas Est

Friday, March 24, 2006

ABDUL RAHMAN--very updated, many links, inc information on contacting your local Afghan embassy.
I picked up a blogwatch--he's good with a knife
Says anaesthetic's a waste of his time
Works in a hurry but always worthwhile
Knows they won't be back for a long long time....

Andrew Sullivan: It's rare that I get to agree with Sullivan on Gay Stuff, so I'm commemorating the occasion with a link: If Paul Cameron told me water is wet, I'd run to the tap and check.

Get Religion: If you read anything about Ben Domenech's resignation from the Washington Post, read this.

And why did no one tell me that Sean Collins is blogging again??? You have all been remiss, people. Remiss I say!
The man who enters the whorehouse is seeking God.
--GK Chesterton (or possibly just attributed to him? I don't know where it's from...)--and fairly influential in my conversion.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

YOUR REMINDER that the next St Matthew's Cathedral theology of the body seminar-discussion-thingy is this Saturday, at (sigh) ten a.m.
TORTURE: Balkinization: "No blood, no foul":
...In early 2004, for example, an 18-year-old man suspected of selling cars to members of the Zarqawi terrorist network was seized with his entire family at their home in Baghdad. "Task force soldiers beat him repeatedly with a rifle butt and punched him in the head and kidneys, said a Defense Department specialist briefed on the incident." And in January 2004, "the task force captured the son of one of Mr. Hussein's bodyguards in Tikrit. The man told Army investigators that he was forced to strip and that he was punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited." (Army investigators were forced to close their inquiry in June 2005 after they said task force members used battlefield pseudonyms that made it impossible to identify and locate the soldiers involved. The unit also asserted that 70 percent of its computer files had been lost.")

much more

...A survey by the Pew Research Center in October showed that 15 percent of Americans believe torture is "often" justified, and another 31 percent believe it is "sometimes" justified. Add to that another 17 percent who said it is "rarely" justified, and you have two out of three Americans justifying torture under certain circumstances. Only 32 percent said it is "never" justified, while another 5 percent didn't know or refused to answer.

But the portion of Catholics who justify torture is even higher, according to the survey. Twenty-one percent of Catholics surveyed said it is "often" justified and 35 percent said it is "sometimes" justified. Another 16 percent said it is "rarely" justified, meaning that nearly three of four Catholics justify it under some circumstances. Four percent of Catholics "didn't know" or refused to answer and only 26 percent said it is "never" justified, which is the official teaching of the church.

more; via Amy Welborn
ABDUL RAHMAN: (the Anglican Web Elves) has a large link round-up on the Afghan Christian currently in danger of execution for converting from Islam. More here and here.
Flying, domestic flying,
And when the blogwatcher is near do not show any fear...

Agenda Bender: On the French riots: "'If it wasn't for occupations they wouldn't have any occupations at all,' I can almost hear you stage whispering in your jaded but squeaky way."

First Things: This commentary on Acts of the Apostles, from Jaroslav Pelikan, sounds really cool. It's recommended by the awesome Fr Edward Oakes!

Scrutinies: Really thoughtful reactions to a Catholic school field trip to an exhibit of plasticized cadavers, here and then here. And: fun with toadies.

And the blog of a chaplain in Iraq. Via Dappled Things.
"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us."
--Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est--this was really striking to me on second reading, b/c of the way it links "God is love" with "man is made in the image of God." So we are made in the image of Love....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"CONTROL ROOM": This is the documentary about Al-Jazeera. The first thing to say is that you should see it. The criticisms below should be seen as footnotes to that larger point (except for the very last point, which is probably the most important thing in this post). So okay, beyond "you should see it," here is my basic take.

1. There is not enough of any one storyline here. The main storyline of the movie seems to be the character arc of a Marine spokesman, Josh Rushing, who is portrayed as going from inept and all culture-clash-y to thoughtful and in-touch. But even that storyline doesn't give you enough to work with, really--you don't see what worked the change, how it affected him over the relatively long term, etc.

2. More irksomely, I don't think that was the right storyline to choose. Rushing is compelling, yeah. But on a superficial level, you know who eats up the screen every time he's on? Samir Khader, a senior producer of Al-Jazeera. He should have been the star. He fascinated me completely, he came across as ironic and self-reflective, and--hey, weird!--he's actually an Arab guy who works for the station, rather than an American who doesn't.

Tim Cavanaugh argues, here, that the real storyline should have been "the much more obvious story, of how a group of reasonable, intelligent, educated people gradually come to drink the Kool-Aid of Arab nationalism." I'm not necessarily making that point, although it's an interesting one--all I want to say is, Shouldn't this have been a story about Arabs, rather than another story about an American, again, still, some more?

This is a problem in tons of newspaper movies really. The Paper does this--the innocent black kids are treated as a macguffin to motivate changes in white characters' lives, not as individuals in their own rights. His Girl Friday does this with the death-penalty plot. I guess Control Room flips the formula by making the journalists the people who exist only to catalyze changes in important white people. ...She said, snarkily.

3. Movie lacks context. I wanted much more about how Al-Jazeera covered Arab dictatorships in general, and Saddam Hussein's regime in particular. Now, yes, if I want to know that I can go and find out, it's my responsibility. But it would have made the movie stronger--either supporting the station's claim to "just present the news," or complicating that claim by suggesting that Al-Jazeera will only, or can only, show cruelty, terror, and grief when they can be blamed on Americans.

4. Check out the differences in when and how people laugh in this movie. You can learn a lot about power.

5. OK, re Rushing, it is cool that he provides a commentary track (and I think it was the right choice to make his track separate from the one with Hassan Ibrahim and Samir Khader). I'm about to start watching that track now. Apparently it is something of a counter-narrative to the main documentary. ...OK, even just from a few minutes of Rushing's commentary, I'm into it, and after you see the movie you should watch both commentary tracks too.

6. So now the most important point: Better than Control Room (which you should see!) is the New York Times Magazine piece, "The War Inside the Arab Newsroom." Check that out, seriously.
"WITHNAIL & I": Immensely fun movie. 1987 flick set in 1969; about two layabout, unemployable actors who stagger off to the countryside, where they drink, starve ("I want to eat something's FLESH!"), attempt to avoid being buggered by Harry Potter's Muggle uncle, lie, cheat, and run screaming at a bull. ...A few minutes after the thing started playing, I thought, "Okay, this has serious potential to be completely awful." But it isn't. ...It's somewhat reminiscent of a much more self-indulgent, much less scathing Absolutely Fabulous (with Withnail as Patsy). Not sure what else to compare it to. The guy who plays Withnail (who also starred in Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life, which I Netflix'd instanter) has a kind of Crispin Glover vibe--very o.t.t., stretchy-faced and hollow-eyed and morose-dramatic. ...Anyway, lots of fun, highly recommended.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

DONORS CHOOSE. This seems like a very neat thing: "DonorsChoose is a simple way to provide students with resources that our public schools often lack.

"Here, teachers submit ideas for materials or experiences that their students need to learn. Individuals like you can choose a project and make it a classroom reality."

There's stuff like "Send my girls to Cirque du Soleil!", buy computers for the Alternative to Suspension center, send third-graders to hang out with wild animals (hee), just a whole lot of interesting projects. ...Via Television Without Pity.
DEATH AND TAXES. Picture thing showing where your tax dollars go. Via Hit & Run.

Friday, March 17, 2006

VENICE/ROME: Leftover from the Anthropomorfics experiment:

You're older, best, but never will be home.
They'll never see your arches and think, "Yes."
Poor thing, green swamp-rot beats a brilliant dome;
Oh Rome! O pale Eternal! sister less!
You get them at the death--they want you then--
when they think they can't crawl out from their mess.
I get them when they look for memory, when
their hearts are sick of homely cities made for men.
CONSTANCE WILDE: I don't actually think this is how it was, you know. But I can't resist the fact that this woman had the most appropriate name in the history of ever. None of us deserve a great lady like Mrs. Wilde.

My darling husband sailed his coffin ship
To the pubs where his panthers would feast.
Exploiting the slip 'twixt my cup and his lip
He got me to pay for the keep of his beast.
He was my sons and he was my sorrow;
My anchor, my crown, who begged for the priest.
I never begged in the path of the harrow;
Women always stand in the way of their tomorrow.
THOUSANDS ARE SAILING (or, The Dead Have Come to Claim a Debt From Me): In honor of St Patrick's Day, America as Socrates--denying the gods of the city, turning children against their fathers, corrupting the youth.

And not wrong.

And the boys in the NYPD choir are still singing "Galway Bay"....
I finally found someone to turn me upside-down
And nail my blogwatch where my head should be...

Amy Welborn: A post about Rome, including this quote from a Holy Whapper: "You can't say you've seen the Forum until you've sung Ecce Caesar Nunc Triumphans to the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine in the shadow of the statue of Gaius Julius himself."

Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics. Via Amy W.

From Across the Pond: Does republicanism cause assassination? Really good, interesting post, responding to an Oxblog question. ...Readers, if you blog about this, or comment at FATP or Oxblog, please let me know.

Get Religion: Kelo vs. the churches. I'm trying to think of a good "Your Eminence" pun, but can't.... Anyway, a fascinating and important roundup of eminent-domain cases involving churches. Lots of potential to use em-dom against unpopular local minorities....

Hit & Run: "...Because, you see, 'speech' doesn't really count if someone has to pay for it. Unless, that is, it's paid for by the corporation that owns an old-media newspaper, in which case exemptions are necessary to preserve the sacred liberties of people with official press passes."

RachelManija: The five worst, most embarrassing, and/or weirdest plays you've ever seen. Oh the cornucopia of suck. Truly, truly hilarious.

The Silent Penultimate Panel Watch. This is awesome. Via Hit & Run.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I took the jeers and drank the beers and crawled back home at dawn
And ended up a blogwatch in the morning...

While most movie posters in the United States pretty much showcase the standard corporate style imagery to hawk the film, the fine folks in Poland have a brilliant dramatic license when marketing Hollywood's finest in their country, resulting in some of the most brilliantly surreal and amazing pieces of movie artwork ever created. Some of them are obvious, some seem to be crazy nonsequiters that have nothing to do with the original picture, while others seem to change the focus of the movie altogether. Weekend At Bernies now looks more like a horror film, and Polish poster for The Terror of Mechagodzilla looks as if it was animated by the folks that made Yellow Submarine. Enjoy this sampling of their wares, and then visit to see more, and maybe even buy one. They are all originals with no reproductions, so be prepared to empty out your polish piggybank.

link (via Relapsed Catholic)

and Jonah Goldberg:
Every sane economist understands that this is an untenable system. Unemployment among French workers under the age of 26 runs at about 23 percent, and it's higher than 50 percent in immigrant-heavy suburbs. ...

America, according to French politicians, journalists, and intellectuals, is an economic state of nature. But in 2004, according to economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, only 13 percent of unemployed American workers couldn't find jobs in 12 months of looking. In France, 42 percent of unemployed workers couldn't find jobs within 12 months. (In Germany the number was 52 percent, and in Italy it was 50 percent.)

IDENTITY VS. BEHAVIOR, OR, YIPPEE-KAY-YAY... MADAM: If Vita Sackville-West married Oscar Wilde, would she become Mrs. Wilde-West?

(Alternate hypothesis: Do I need more sleep?)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NAPOLEONS OF CRIME: Comics reviews. Big, flaky-pastry, melting-chocolatey napoleons of crime.

X-Statix: Good Guys, Bad Guys. Totally fun, fluffy entertainment about a commercialized, reality-TV superhero team that's "famous, mutant, and mortal." Soap operatics, with the expected genuinely moving interludes, and general wigginess. I'd forgotten how much fun X-Statix was. Now I'm going to track down the rest of the series (with the likely exception of whatever happened to their scuttled zombie Princess Diana parody, "Di Another Day").

I will admit that the art, this time around, went kind of hinkity at points. The comic is drawn in a joyful, poppy-zoomy-wow style, all candy-coated rocketship colors and big thick black lines, and I love it. But this time some of the proportions seemed really off, especially around the mouths.

Still, I had a blast--it's like a trip to the amusement park, seriously--and the Wolverine/Doop team-up, "The Pink Mink" (drawn by Ed Brubaker, and now I want more from him--any of you all seen his work?), is pure pop pleasure.

Daredevil: Decalogue: Wow. OK, so the Bendis Daredevil arc started out pretty rockin', what with Matt Murdock being outed as Daredevil and getting in legal trouble and generally having his life go haywire (...again) in a faux-gritty, police-procedural way. But then the arc wavered, and I wondered whether we were seeing more of the thing where Bendis starts off incredible (if you have not read the first volume of Alias, please, pretty please with caramel on top, stop reading my blog and go get it right now!!!) and then loses the plot. I mean, I liked King of Hell's Kitchen and The Widow quite a bit, and even Golden Age wasn't a bad idea; but these volumes weren't firing on all cylinders.

But Decalogue... oh, yeah.

Its genre is crime/horror crossover, rather than the crime/superhero crossover we've seen for most of the Bendis arc. It's set in a church support group for ordinary people affected by Matt Murdock's public takeover of Hell's Kitchen. It's keyed to the Ten Commandments (which leads to the irksome grammatical blurp of titles like "Thou Shall Not Lie," rather than either "You Shall" or "Thou Shalt," sigh). It's Bendis's first attempt to treat Murdock's Catholicism, and you know, it really worked for me. I think it's actually pretty insightful of Bendis to realize that when Daredevil is a Catholic story, it's more likely to be a horror story than a noir crime/procedural story.

Alex Maleev's art is beautiful as always, able to capture the glory of the dirtiest parts of New York or the most ordinary woman on the street. I'm reminded of somebody's description--Harold Bloom?--of Eliot and Milton as the great "poets of women's hair." Yeah, Maleev still can't quite do action sequences, but I have no intention of caring. He gets ordinary human interaction exactly right, bringing depth and individuality to the briefly-glimpsed characters who populate the support group.

I understand that other people will have other perspectives, but for me, Decalogue was pretty close to being the perfect Daredevil story. I got into him because of his local, street-level love of place; his lawyer/vigilante internal division; his Catholicism, obviously; his interactions with friends (usually Foggy, whom I love, but here the also-lovable Milla); the way he couldn't quite make his life work. This book touches on all of those elements. I completely, stupidly loved it.
PRETTY GIRLS ARE IN DEMAND: THEOLOGY OF THE BODY NOTES, WEEK ONE: Dude, this was awesome. You should be going! St. Matthew's Cathedral, conveniently located right by the Dupont Circle metro, every second and fourth Saturday at (...shudder) 10 AM. (They have free coffee!)

Here are my notes from the second meeting (which likely reflect my obsessions rather than the actual discussion... and lightly edited to add clarity, links, and a joke). Keep in mind that where I don't draw conclusions, it's because I don't have any. I'm not being coy here, just laying out the areas I find most interesting:

1. Though He No Doubt Delights the Eye/Of Other Hippopotami: The Genesis accounts of creation separate humans from the other animals, and emphasize that we must understand ourselves primarily through our similarities to God, rather than through our similarities to or differences from other animals. We are the only creatures given a job in Paradise. All the platypus has to do to fulfill its telos is, like, be its weird-ass mammal egg-laying self, whereas humans can't get away with just being "human, all-too-human." We actually have a task which we can either accept or refuse.

Implication: We can't learn much about what we're supposed to do by studying other critters, no matter how interesting a chimpanzee might, inherently, be.

Query: What about vicious dogs? We often talk as though they are somehow culpable for their actions; or, if not culpable, at least definitely not fulfilling their telos as dogs. We're fine (...I think?) with sadistic cats toying with mice, but bitey dogs bother us. Why is this? CS Lewis basically said (in The Problem of Pain) that a dog's vicious or virtuous actions were attributable to its owner. I am not sure to what extent I buy that claim. I know I was deeply unsympathetic to Lewis's project in that chapter (I have zero empathy for other species--empathy for other human beings is hard enough!) and so I am not the best judge of his argumentation. (In general, I find that lack of charity in debate leads to lack of understanding.)

2. I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day. (or, A Man of the Corydon Class): In Eden, Adam and Eve do not have children. The theology of the body takes Adam and Eve as icons of the human person. What does it mean that the nuptial meaning of the human person was expressed, in Eden, prior to and in the absence of procreation (co-creation)?

(Insert discussion of art vs children which is wildly fascinating to me but possibly less fascinating to most of my heterosexual readers)

What do we gain by viewing the male-female couple relationship as special and set apart, prior to any claims about children?

People bubbitz about "complementarity," and while I don't necessarily disagree with that discourse (see here and here), I also don't really get a lot from it. I think what the nuptial imagery of man and woman says to me is that reconciliation is at the heart of human personhood. Marriage, in this view, is an iconic representation of reconciliation--concordance... a kind of compromise where each participant is more than before, rather than less. --Or to maybe be more clear, marriage is an iconic representation of eros as desire for union with someone different--complete union, without subsuming the beloved within the lover, without diminishing the differences. Which of course is how we relate to God; cue "bridal mysticism" soundtrack.

I think, or hope, that queer readers can also accept that, at the very least, the man/woman nuptial relationship is somehow different, intense, metaphorically charged, and suggestive of this kind of eros and reconciliation, in a way that man/man and woman/woman relationships are not.

On this tip, a) I wondered what the alternatives might be to the Edenic, nuptial-icon view of human personhood. The only thing that immediately came to mind was the story of the round people (you know, from the Symposium, purr hooray), which is lovely and suggestive but also deeply self-centered IMO. I mean, in the round people story, the solution to human alienation is another particular person. This strikes me as a giant opportunity for exploitation, imposing one's own image of the beloved on the actual existing beloved, treating the beloved as a means toward self-realization, and, generally, cruel and silly romanticism of the "I know you're my wife, but my graduate student really understands me--with her breasts!" school. And

b) do defenses of homosexuality rely on anti-iconicity? (Is that even close to being a word??? I suck.) Do defenses of homosexuality rely on a kind of "We are all (only) individuals" reading of the human person, where the maleness or femaleness of the body drops out of the analysis, subsumed under the particular desires of the autonomous individual? If so, is that a philosophical fact or a psychological one?

(My point here is that yes, of course we're individuals, but what do we gain if we also view ourselves and one another as icons?)

...insert lots of half-formed thoughts here, of which perhaps the most interesting is whether homosexual iconicity (sorry!) would necessarily be or has historically been a "shadow dance," a play of refractions of the self, and whether that's bad.

3. Isn't everything the theology of the body? Why is sexual difference the core of the "theology of the body"--as opposed to e.g. what workers can be made to do with their bodies, or what guards can do with prisoners' bodies? ...JPII's (and Jesus's!) focus on the Genesis account should highlight that although everything we do, we do with our bodies, there is something primary and essential about our sexual identities, according to the Bible. The Bible doesn't present Adam and Eve as icons of the employer/employee relationship, the comrade/enemy-soldier relationship, or even the parent/child relationship. We start with a man and a woman. Why?

What do we learn from asking "why"?

4. "Father, how far can you go with a girl?" Opposition to abortion and to torture both stem from an iconic view of humans: The particulars aren't the only things that matter (fetuses are incompetent, Al Qaeda members are guilty), the point is that these are human individuals, and as such they are made in the image of God. They (we) are always, from the beginning 'til the end, icons of the living God. Nothing we do or fail to do can undo our iconicity.

This is why the question in the David Lodge novel comes up in the "torture debate." But it's the wrong question. If you ask--in the sexual or the just-war context (or in what we're learning is so frequent and compelling to sin-sunk man: the nexus of both)--"how far can you go?", you won't actually get an answer. The only way to get an answer to that obvious and necessary question is to go back to the beginning: Who is this person with whom you're dealing? Who is this girl? Who is this terrorist? Start there, and your question will become, not "how far can I go?" but "how can I serve?"

...Of course, I live a few miles from the White House, and so as soon as I had this thought the sharper part of my mind asked, "Oh lovely, and how do you serve Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, darling?"

I don't know the answer. But I do know that it's the right question; that framing the question that way derails the pro-torture arguments; and that the right answer to the question is never "I serve him by degrading him and treating him as subhuman."

Now that I think about it, I have one basic rule for politics: Before you enter politics, you should know, for sure, what the word "humiliation" means, in the cash value of experience; and you should empathize instinctively with those who suffer it.

5. Workers of the world, get back to work! Humans are, intrinsically, workers (see point #1); there is work in Eden. It's perhaps easiest to see this when we think about the anchorless, helpless nature of a life without work. (Fr. Caulfield, who leads these TOTB things, pointed out that "It's sometimes an 'out' for us to think" that our work lives are detached from and irrelevant to the Gospel.)

My query here is: Are any of my readers equally familiar with the rhetoric of the Catholic Worker movement (esp Dorothy Day herself, who is Teh Awesome with a big anarchy A) and Opus Dei? Both seem to focus on the person as worker. It's kind of obvious to me how they differ. How are they similar?

So yeah. This was a fantastic experience and I am really looking forward to the next meeting, on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. You should come!!!
JESUSLAND AND J.D.s: I am looking for Protestant resources on homosexuality that are not: a) false (...i.e. against the teaching of the Catholic faith),

b) reliant on falsehood (for example, studies "proving" that all gay men die before age 15 from a combination of syphilis, AIDS, tuberculosis OF THE SOUL, and being featured in the obituaries of gay newspapers in the mid-1980s... and yes, if you're thinking I'm intensely uninterested in anything featuring the surnames "Socarides" and "Nicolosi," you're two hundred percent right),

c) predicated on the belief that the only good gay is an ex-gay,

or d) generally lame.

Thus far I've found precisely nothing. I accept that this is because I am provincial. A friend gave me an almost-but-not-quite! pamphlet from Athletes in Action, all about lesbianism in women's sports (quite good in a lot of ways, but in thrall to the "ex-gay" ideology), but I trust there is more and better out there. ...Yeah?

ETA: OK, now I have a better grasp of what I'm looking for: practical stuff, less about theory or Biblical interpretation, more the kind of thing you'd give somebody whose kid just came out, you know? Also, Courage-esque groups would be great to hear about. ...Also, similar stuff from a Jewish perspective would also be fantastic. If you want a really awesome, up-front interview ("Gay sex or Jew. How come Jew won?"), go here now.
MORE SERIOUSLY, I have now beat my forehead against Wallace Stevens for weeks and I still think he is what Alice's cousin (? Alice herself?) was talking about when she dismissed books without pictures and conversations. Even his pictures and conversations aren't pictures or conversations!!! It is so infuriating!!!

If you all want to dispute, or tell me what I am missing, please do. I will note that I really loved the poem below, which has both pictures (inherently beautiful and sublime imagery) and conversations (shivering, half-grasped gossip about consciousness and mortality).
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Such a cold winter
with scenes as slow as Pinter
Synchronise blogwatches...

(I totally thought that line was " slow as panto." Sigh. I like mine better.)

Claw of the Conciliator: More on The Man in the High Castle: "...This really reminded me of the stunning stained-glass-window summation at the end of The Glass Hammer, when the protagonist decides that the nature of the world precludes vast, sweeping action for good, and that even God must act with only the lightest of touches, the gentlest of nudges. Like light through stained glass, or no glass."

Commonweal has bloggers--including none other than the excellent Peter Nixon! Very good choice on their part. See?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

MAIL-ORDER MAIL-ORDER NINJA: Friend of this blog Joshua Elder writes:
"Mail Order Ninja" vol. 1, my first full-length book, is now available for pre-order! Please share this information with anyone you know who would be interested in purchasing the book as the more pre-orders I have, the better the book will look to the publisher and to the retailers. And the better it looks to them, the heavier they'll promote it and the more copies they'll order. So please, please pre-order.

My review of the Tokyopop collection that included the award-winning original "MONinja" story is here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

CLAW OF THE CONCILIATOR: Swift blog name; plus post on The Man in the High Castle!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I knew a man who raked them over;
He's still blogwatching...

Asymmetrical Information: "We are finally starting to get a hazy idea about which poverty programmes solve more problems than they create. Given the huge questions about its effectiveness, and its obvious inferiority to programmes such as the EITC, it's hard to understand why raising the minimum wage is even in the standard liberal policymaker's toolbelt." (more)

Eavesdrop DC: Things you hear people say on the street.... Via the Club for Growth.

An Iraqi blog roundup from Al-Jazeera. Via Oxblog.

And: "Odd though it may sound, somewhere in Baghdad a man is working in secrecy to edit new Arabic versions of Liberalism, by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, and In Defense of Global Capitalism, by the Swedish economist Johan Norberg. He is doing this at some risk of kidnap, beating, and death, because he hopes that a new Arabic-language Web site, called -- in Arabic -- can change the world by publishing liberal classics." (more) (via Hit & Run)

Friday, March 03, 2006

This is a blogwatch that is fasting from pop music...

Andrew Sullivan: Kurds, torture, and stuff. Scroll down for more.

Blogging Baghdad: NBC News correspondents in Baghdad, inc. local Iraqi journalists. Must-read. Via The Corner.

Done With Mirrors: Archaic bawdy! Via Dappled Things.

Family Scholars: US prisons shackling women in labor.

MarriageDebate: Excellent, ongoing discussion of marriage, family, same-sex marriage, European and American demographic changes, and the "Second Demographic Transition," sparked in part by Maggie Gallagher's column this week:
...Over the same period, the U.S. illegitimacy rate rose from 18 percent to 33 percent. Our crisis is bad, but European countries have now surpassed America in many key indicators of the Second Demographic Transition, which is the one that leads to demographic death. Amidst America's serious marriage crisis, we are also showing signs of "American exceptionalism."

But not all over America. In a fascinating recent study, Lesthaeghe and a colleague looked for evidence of the Second Demographic Transition in America. What states are leading indicators of SDT, as measured by postponement of marriage and children? California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and (the most extreme outlier of all) Massachusetts.


The debate includes (in ascending order of how much I think they rock) MV Lee Badgett, Stanley Kurtz, Jonathan Rauch; and The Maggie-nator, who IMO has the best of it so far. Plus assorted comments-boxing. A quote from Maggie to get you going:
I would like to say, just for the record, that I did not say and do not believe that gay partnerships caused the fertility collapse or the retreat from marriage.

What I said and believe is that cultures deeply committed to generativity, to marriage as a procreative norm, are going to find it hard to get to gay marriage. While cultures in the middle of the Second Demographic Transition are going to find it a very congenial idea. In my view gay marriage and SDT are therefore both the product of the same cultural trend, or tendencies thereto.