Thursday, December 25, 2008

I THINK I'M SUPPOSED TO HAVE A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE. So, rejoice!--this was written about 40 years ago and yet if you're reading this, you're probably not dead! Woohoo!

On the other hand, I note that your local Catholic church can probably hear your confession.

I'm just sayin'.
...AND BE FORGOTTEN WITH THE REST. Awful news from Mory's Temple Bar--a place I loved, but which had been showing increasing strains in the past few years as it struggled to cope with an ethos of not merely egalitarianism (you don't need to be a Weatherman to weather that one, at Yale) but health- and temperance-fascism.

I remember countless hangover hot chocolates and lunchtime soups bought from Au Bon Pain, the year I was working in a New Haven suburb after college. I would replace all of them with raw cauliflower and dirt, if I could have Mory's back the way it was when I was new.

Keep that in mind the next time you confront the choice between convenience and tradition.

And... the first day I worried about the future of Mory's was the day I learned that the Party of the Right could no longer count on them to wink at underage tippling. I very, very rarely saw anyone get drunk at Mory's--far less so than at parties on campus. Mory's provided a camaraderie of drinking, an ethos, even a "shame culture," which made drunkenness less appealing--and abusive drunkenness, whether in terms of fighting or of sex, even less acceptable. So it is especially gnawing that stepping up enforcement of our catastrophically stupid drinking laws may have led to the death knell for Mory's.

If I had Liddy Dole here right now, I'd be hard-pressed not to smack the lipstick off her face.
[...] the devouring gorgon romantic love, toward which, as toward wine, unfaith is renewal
--Marianne Moore, as excerpted here

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The first service of religion is to show to man, "isolated in the universe and unable to compare himself to anything," "how much he cost." The sacrifice of the god himself demonstrates "the enormity of the crime that demanded such an expiation; the inconceivable grandeur of the being that could have committed it; the infinite price of the victim who said here I am."

The inconceivable grandeur of man that required to redeem it an infinite price is emphasized all the more when Maistre cites Aeschylus's Prometheus: "Look at me, it is a God who has made a God die."

--A Modern Maistre


Sunday, December 21, 2008

SAVING THEMSELVES FOR YALE: My review of Donna Freitas's intriguing--yet frustrating--Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses is in the current Weekly Standard. Subscribers can read it online here.
GHOSTS DO NOTHING NEW: Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #2. Well, this was a polarizing comic. My vague impression is that the two Ghost Boxes issues were marketed as "steampunk" X-Men. And... I pretty much desperately don't care about steampunk as a thing. I know people like both corsets and contemporary philosophical assumptions, but that doesn't impress me, as a combination.

So I was okay with the fact that Ghost Boxes #2 isn't that, at all. It's a pricey (just about a fifth of the comic is script pages for what we've already seen) look at a post-apocalypse, all gray painting and melodramatic narration.


Some more backhanded compliments: I liked some things about the art. The weepy-feathered, Goreyish birds in the second story are fantastic. The grays feel creepy and even nuanced (they're harder in the first story, cloudier in the second), rather than merely oppressive. The suspense and reveals are handled very well--the pacing is great, so great that you don't even notice until much later that these aren't stories. These are two X-vignettes... at best.

That's fine. I got nothing against a good vignette. But both of these vignettes were the same story. Things go horribly wrong; the X-Men respond with suicide or euthanasia, because how can you have a story without killing things?

On first reading, these two stories were both really, really powerful for me. I thought the Scott characterization was plausible (his own survivor's guilt was the subtext of Joss Whedon's Emma arc), and in general I'm okay with the other characters' portrayals. But on re-reading, I wonder why these stories. Aren't these the easiest ones? "I lost, so I killed myself/I lost, so I killed everyone who would suffer." Those storylines provide obvious endings, but require--frankly--very little thought. It's a lot harder to come up with storylines about rebuilding, acceptance, perseverance... or, even, letting people make their own decisions about what it means to die a good death.

I found myself comparing Ghost Boxes #2 to a particular fanfiction story. I won't link to it because I'm unsure of the etiquette there, but email me if you want to know more; it's not an X-Men story, but it's about an apocalyptic disaster, and how the people caught within that disaster still try to have compassion and solidarity in the face of devastation. They don't win. They don't solve anything. They just figure out a better way to die.
"Well, that's the problem with living in the clouds, Commander...

"You can't see the big picture from this far down."

--"Agent Brand," Astonishing X-Men: Torn

Saturday, December 20, 2008

AND A BAND CALLED "AMERICA" SINGS A SONG ABOUT THE DESERT, AND A HORSE WITH NO NAME: Inside Catholic did a symposium about how Catholics can move forward from what has been--let's be honest--a devastating eight years.

I'm on page three, I think. I guess my entry is kind of, "Oh hey, powerlessness! Double down!"

So take it for what you paid for it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'LL BREAK YOUR FACE. If I have readers who wonder why there are comics, or what comics might possibly add to other narrative forms like movies and paintings and symphonies and novels... I think this video might help. Imagine if you could have the broken-faced panels and the action, while still controlling how fast you flipped the pages....

Imagine if you had God's camera, and you were drunk--or in ecstasy, or caught in memory. Comics exist because we want action and suspension, sin and repentance, contorted faces and identity, all at the same time. Comics are time and judgment combined. Comics, because they're endlessly re-readable and because you control how fast the page turns (if ever), are ecstasy as addiction. The panel is the sublime moment--unintelligible without its context, yet importantly separate from that context--and when you turn the page you place that sublime moment back in its necessary context of narrative: sin, and repentance or the lack of it.

We may love comics because they take us out of time. But if we want to understand them, we have to release them back into time. This is why comics are like music: Comics are time and eternity held together in one hand.

This is why comics are like regret.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Your ecstasy is your apostolate,
For whom to kick is contemplata tradere.

--an only intermittently awesome poem; but when it's good, it's very very good

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

THEY CLOSELY RESEMBLE THE THANKSGIVING BIRD: Kitchen adventures: leftover edition.

First, my own contribution to the family Thanksgiving, because it is the easiest thing ever: Chocolate-Covered Strawberries.

Step 1: Buy some fair-trade chocolate. Buy the same amount of strawberries.

Step 2: Microwave the chocolate, stir, micro, until the stuff is a thick sludgy liquid. Seriously--everyone thinks you need a bain-marie for this, and you really really don't.

Step 3: Dip the strawberries in the chocolate.

Step 4: Refrigerate, or let sit, for a while. Sure, you can eat this stuff while the chocolate is still melty, but it will be much better if you wait until the strawberries have begun to give up their liquor.

result: So nom nom nom I can't even convey it to you. This is a delicious crowd-pleaser which takes literally five minutes.

Next Christmas I plan to branch out a bit: stirring espresso into the chocolate for some strawberries, and maybe trying out a habanero-chocolate bar for some of them.

The leftover melted chocolate, in its plastic dish, was easily re-melted and spread across buttered bread. Yum.

Turkey sandwich: Bread (I used Pepperidge Farm Light Style Oatmeal, because I like it, but you should use whatever you like) buttered, and then cooked in a pan with a slice of munster cheese, sliced Granny Smith apple, leftover turkey, and sliced onion, then some more munster and buttered bread. Basically, a grilled-cheese sandwich with turkey, apple, and onion.

verdict: amazing. This was totally delicious and satisfying. I really loved eating sandwiches of just dark meat turkey, oatmeal bread, and freshly-ground black pepper--the bread pushed into the turkey and it all became a delectable mix--but sometimes you need something more complex. The apples and cheese made this work. Bosc pear slices might also have worked in place of the apple.

Soup: So this was cheap central. I got a can of creamed Del Monte corn for sixty-nine cents, which is great. So I threw into a pan the rest of the apple from the previous recipe, most of the rest of the onion, and then the turkey. I spiced it all up with whatever I had--you guys will know what you like, but I chose cayenne, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and cinnamon, in about that order--and then threw in the creamed corn. Cook cook cook. Schlup it in a bowl, and cover with whatever yummy cheese you have on hand.

verdict: Hm, well, it is filling and tasty. But it really tastes like a thing you'd cook with leftovers. For the price, it was fantastic!--homey food for very little money. But it's not like you'd eat this if you had money.

The apple really worked, though. That's something you should keep in mind. Turkey and apple worked deliciously in every combination, and I think you could even do cold salads, cold sandwiches, and other things where those two ingredients could combine.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

LYDIA BENNET BECAME A FAN OF... OFFICERS. Austenbook! Absolutely adorable, even if you're not an Austenite; probably via Overlawyered.
I WANT TO DO EVERYTHING: In which Joan Jett is the Catholic Church, and I'm a reform-school girl (as is traditional).

Friday, December 05, 2008


Third Order is a magazine of "faith, fiction, and the occasional extraterrestrial."

My story in this issue is the one I've sometimes summarized as "Catholicism = AIDS," and other times as "Anthony Bourdain as a Vietnamese chick in space." So if that sounds interesting to you, go read it--it's short.

I haven't had a chance to read the other stories in this issue yet, but I can definitely recommend the awesome cover illustration!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN. A new blog from serious scholars. One hundred percent worth your time... if not more.
IT WAS CHRISTMAS EVE, BABE, IN THE DRUNK TANK: I have a thread up at Ladyblog for your favorite "nontraditional" Advent and Christmas music. Go and contribute!
AND SUPERHEROES COME TO FEAST...: A great comics gift guide. There are obvious (and admitted) gaps--I'd probably promote the dearly departed X-Statix series for fans of both Marvel and ridiculousness, for example--but overall this is a fantastic gift guide. It's already inspired both generosity (I really want to buy or make some of these things for others!) and covetousness (oh man, there's stuff on here I want badly) in the breast of this little black duck. If you love comics, or if you know someone who does, this guide may be just what you're looking for.

Link via Sean Collins.
NO EASTERN KINGS CAME BEARING GIFTS/INSTEAD, THE ORDER CAME TO SHIFT: If you're in the DC area, I hope you'll consider the Christmas concert being held to benefit the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center:
Date: Thursday, December 18
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Washington Community Fellowship Church at 907 Maryland Avenue, NE

We will not be selling tickets, but will be accepting free-will donations at the concert. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kristen Coulon ( or Abby Huber (

We hope you can join us to support the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, a non-profit organization, which serves families in DC with free counseling services, pregnancy tests, parenting and childbirth classes, material resources, and much more.

I wrote a little about my early experiences volunteering at CHPC here (reprinted from the Weekly Standard). There are few charities, if any, I'd recommend more warmly.
Spender told Auden he wondered whether he, Spender, ought to write prose. But Auden put his foot down. 'You must write nothing but poetry, we do not want to lose you for poetry.' 'But do you really think I'm any good?' gulped Spender. 'Of course,' Auden frigidly replied. 'But why?' 'Because you are so infinitely capable of being humiliated. Art is born of humiliation.'
--oh yeah