Friday, April 30, 2004

DOUBTLESS YOU'VE ALREADY SEEN THESE, BUT JUST IN CASE: American soldiers torture Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison. Appalling. Truly evil. From the Post account:

The commander of the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been transferred to Iraq to oversee the treatment of 8,000 detainees as part of an investigation into alleged sexual and physical abuse at a U.S. Army-run prison outside Baghdad, officials said Thursday.

The officials also disclosed that the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, has ordered administrative penalties against seven unnamed officers who supervised the Army Reserve military police unit that was responsible for the Abu Ghraib detention facility in November, when Iraqi prisoners allegedly were subjected to beatings and sexually degrading acts by American soldiers.

Criminal charges were filed in March against six members of the unit, the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cumberland, Md. The charges included conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another, the military's term for sexual abuse.

Three of the suspects have been recommended for court-martial. The other three face preliminary hearings in May and June to determine whether a court-martial is warranted.

An Army spokesman said charges are likely to be filed against a seventh soldier, and three more soldiers are still under investigation and could face criminal charges.

According to sealed charging papers that were provided to The Washington Post, soldiers forced prisoners to lie in "a pyramid of naked detainees" and jumped on their prone bodies, while other detainees were ordered to strip and perform or simulate sex acts. In one case, a hooded man allegedly was made to stand on a box of MREs, or meals ready to eat, and told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off. In another example, the papers allege, a soldier unzipped a body bag and took snapshots of a detainee's frozen corpse inside.

Several times, soldiers were photographed and videotaped posing in front of humiliated inmates, according to the charges. One gave a thumbs-up sign in front of the human pyramid.

The documents add to growing accusations of improper prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib, which was Iraq's largest and most notorious prison during the rule of ousted president Saddam Hussein. In addition to the military's announcement in March that soldiers had been charged, details of the abuses and photographs from inside the prison were broadcast Wednesday night by CBS's "60 Minutes II."

On Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed that the images were authentic and said they had taken several steps to stop the mistreatment of prisoners. ...

In addition, Sanchez has ordered new training on the requirements of the Geneva Conventions and on the military's rules of engagement. He also has ordered the creation of a team of officers that would retrain prison guards on conditions of confinement, "with emphasis on treating detainees with dignity and respect," said the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. ...

The military would not disclose the administrative penalties that Sanchez has recommended against the seven supervising officers, who can contest the orders. The possible penalties range from an oral admonishment to a formal memorandum of reprimand that could effectively end an officer's career. ...

In January, after a soldier tipped off investigators about abuses at Abu Ghraib, Sanchez suspended 17 soldiers from their duties and ordered separate criminal and administrative investigations.

The highest-ranking officer to be suspended was Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, based in Uniondale, N.Y., to which the 372nd Military Police Company was temporarily attached. Karpinski was responsible for all U.S. military detention facilities inside Iraq. ...

A separate review, which grew out of the criminal probe, will examine interrogation practices in the prison, officials said. A new unit, the 16th Military Police Brigade, has taken over responsibility for Abu Ghraib. ...

Sivits said his son was trained by the Army as a mechanic, not a military police officer. "He's never had military police training," he said.


Arab television stations broadcast images of US soldiers humiliating Iraqi inmates

Soldier accused in POW prison scandal wrote that Iraq prison lacked rules, rights: A soldier facing a court-martial for his role in the alleged abuse of Iraqi war prisoners says commanders ignored his requests to set out rules for treating POWs and scolded him for questioning the inmates' harsh treatment.

Army Reserves Staff Sgt. Ivan ''Chip'' Frederick wrote that Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad lacked the humane standards of the Virginia state prison where he worked in civilian life, according to a journal he started after military investigators first questioned him in January.

The Iraqi prisoners were sometimes confined naked for three consecutive days without toilets in damp, unventilated cells with floors 3 feet by 3 feet, Frederick wrote in materials obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. ...

He wrote that he questioned the inmates' treatment and asked for standard operating procedures when his unit relieved the 72nd Military Police Company at the prison last fall. His requests were ignored until Jan. 19, five days after his first visit from investigators, when he found the Geneva Convention rules for handling prisoners of war on the Internet, Frederick wrote.
RAUCHWATCH 2004: Finished the book. Will blog on various aspects of it later. For now I will just update the RauchWatch to note that we never did get talk of mothers and fathers. Grrr.

I did throw out the dahlia, so it is no longer like a ghostly cricket, creaking where a house was burned.
"'I wanted to try this new drink: That's all we do, isn't it -- look at things and try new drinks?'"
--Ernest Hemingway, "Hills, Like White Elephants"

Thursday, April 29, 2004

THERE'S NOTHING ORIGINAL IN ME, EXCEPT...: So I ran across this person who says she doesn't believe in original sin.


But what I want to know is, what does she call it? What does she call that yearning toward hate, that reverse heliotropism? What does she call the damage that all of us bear from the time of our earliest memories? Is it that she genuinely believes in Good People vs. Bad People? There must be some explanation for the fact that so many of us would rather have five million things other than goodness--even when we know goodness will make us happy. There's a--maybe it's Garfield?--a cartoon about how absurd we find "the things people would rather have than money"--but when I look back upon my life, from age three to ten a.m. this morning, it's hard not to think how absurd and pathetic are the things I'd rather have than wholeness.

Something has gone wrong. Calling it original sin, with the narrative that implies, is by far the most hopeful description I've ever run across.

I'd also like to ask believers in "total depravity": That's fine. But what do you call our knowledge that something has gone wrong? What do you call the memory of beauty, the memory of self and sureness, that is our only possible link to truth and the only thing that allows us to discern the difference between truth and insufficiency? As I understand things, those who believe we need no salvation mirror those who believe we are totally depraved, insofar as both think there are some people who have no access to the truth of our insufficiency, and therefore no sense of our need. But I think everyone has access to the truth that something has gone wrong--we should not be this way, and we know better, and we need to find our way home. We are exiles, not natives of this isolated outer space. We are traitors--not people who have only ever known an evil state. We know sin because we know beauty: Both are the same knowledge, the knowledge that we knew better.
"KISSABLE PICTURES": GIRL TROUBLE. This section is more explicit than I expected, don't click if you don't wanna, etc. etc. Not approved by the Comics Code Authority. It all starts here; the most recent section is here. Your comments, esp. critical ones, most welcome.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


act one inc. and Artists for a Renewed Society present,

Making a GOOD Writer GREAT

A Creativity Workshop

Saturday, May 22, 2004


Linda Seger, PhD (Making a Good Script Great, The Art of Adaptation, Web Thinking, Creating Unforgettable Characters)

Barbara Nicolosi
Tom Provost

Join Hollywood insiders Linda Seger, Tom Provost and Barbara Nicolosi for an intensive, day-long workshop focused on the writer as artist.

What’s holding you back? If you want to be more than just a competent writer, a firm grasp of craft is not enough. A writer needs something extra to take his talent to the next level--to create work that is truly original and meaningful.

Learn to think and work more creatively.

This unique workshop will cover such pivotal creative concepts as nonlinear thinking, visual thinking, metaphorical thinking, oppositional thinking and utilizing one's unconscious mind.

Learn how a mature faith can improve your writing--and how an immature faith can hinder it .

The Christian writer should have a leg up on greatness. So why are non-Christian writers often better than Christian writers? The workshop will examine how Christians tend to let faith play the wrong role in their writing, and we will attempt to define its proper place in the work of the artist. Finally, we'll take a look at the works of Flannery O'Connor, one of the great Christian writers.

The Making a Good Writer Great workshop is for novelists, screenwriters, and playwrights at any level of experience.

Take your writing to the next level. ...

Saturday, May 22, 2004

John Paul II Cultural Center
3900 Harewood Road, NE
Washington DC 20017


8:30 a.m. Registration / Continental Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Opening Prayer and Greeting - Barbara Nicolosi
9:30 a.m. Making a Good Writer Great - Linda Seger
12:30 p.m. Lunch (provided)
1:30 p.m. Making a Good Christian Writer Great - Barbara Nicolosi
3:30 p.m. Flannery O'Connor: A Great Writer is Hard To Find - Tom Provost
5:00 p.m. Closing Prayer


The cost of admission is $75.00 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and a copy of Linda Seger’s Making a Good Writer Great.

The deadline for admission is May 14

To register with a Visa or Mastercard, call (323) 462-1348 or email Anthony Platipodis at
Send a check or money order to:
Great Writer Workshop
Act One Inc.
1763 N. Gower St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

All registrants will receive a complimentary copy of Linda Seger's Making a Good Writer Great. Register now to receive your copy early!


Dr. Linda Seger is the author of five popular books on screenwriting and filmmaking, including Making a Good Script Great, Creating Unforgettable Characters, and The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film. She created and defined the job of script consultant in 1981, and since that time has consulted on more than 2,000 film and television scripts and presented seminars for ABC, CBS, NBC, Disney, Turner Network, the Motion Picture Academy, the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, the American Film Institute, UCLA, and USC, as well as for companies around the world.

Barbara Nicolosi is Executive Director of Act One Inc. She has been a director of development, a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a consultant on many film and television projects.

Tom Provost adapted the French Film Garde a Vue into the screenplay Under Suspicion, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. He has worked as an editor for independent films, television shows, and hundreds of promos for the WB and Bravo. He has worked as a television actor and had a recurring role on the first season of Steven Spielberg's SeaQuest DSV.

But that lucky old sun
Ain't got nothing to do
But roll around Blogwatch all day...

I'm back from NH, but feeling sickish, so posting may be light until I am back on the attack. For now, why not check out these fine people?

Church of the Masses: Great post exploring the "Christian as leaven" metaphor, and also giving us a sneak preview of her upcoming Nat'l Catholic Register column: "Applying the Holy Father's philosophy of personalism to entertainment and the arts would be a wonderful beginning. How can some methods and themes in entertainment inhibit broad human freedom? How can certain stories make us want to be more who we are supposed to be? We can propound the idea that entertainment is not optional, but a constituent element of human development. There are places we need to go in our entertainment time to stretch the muscles of our inner person, our soul and psyche; places that our normal worlds of work and activity will not take us. There are diseases of the human spirit that mere reality cannot heal."

Dappled Things: The rending of the Temple veil and the rending of Christ's flesh.

Shrine of the Holy Whapping: Catholic bumper stickers. Including:

Biretta on board.

Support your local Subdeacon.

To err is human. To really screw up, you need a liturgist.

We have a penance for that.

My altar boy excommunicated your honor student.

Warning: Driver is in the Fifth Mansion.

Warning: Occasions of sin are more proximate than they appear.
As the bridegroom to his chosen,
As the king to his realm,
As the keep unto the castle,
As the pilot to the helm,
So, Lord, art Thou to me.

As the fountain in the garden,
As the candle in the dark,
As the treasure in the coffer,
As the manna in the ark,
So, Lord, art Thou to me.

As the ruby in the setting,
As the honey in the comb,
As the light within the lantern,
As the father in the home,
So, Lord, art Thou to me.

As the sunshine in the heavens,
As the image in the glass,
As the fruits up in the fig tree,
As the dew upon the grass,
So, Lord, art Thou to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

TOM LEHRER, "BRIGHT COLLEGE DAYS": With this I take my leave--off to Sunny New Haven until Monday. Back then with a whole passel of goodies.

Bright college days, oh, carefree days that fly,
To thee we sing with our glasses raised on high.
Let's drink a toast as each of us recalls
Ivy-covered professors in ivy-covered halls.

Turn on the spigot,
Pour the beer and swig it,
And gaudeamus igit-itur.

Here's to parties we tossed,
To the games that we lost
(We shall claim that we won them someday).
To the girls, young and sweet,
To the spacious back seat
Of our roommate's beat up Chevrolet.
To the beer and benzedrine,
To the way that the dean
Tried so hard to be pals with us all.
To excuses we fibbed,
To the papers we cribbed
From the genius who lived down the hall.

To the tables down at Mory's
(Wherever that may be),
Let us drink a toast to all we love the best.
We will sleep through all the lectures,
And cheat on the exams,
And we'll pass, and be forgotten with the rest.

Oh, soon we'll be out amid the cold world's strife.
Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life.
But as we go our sordid separate ways,
We shall ne'er forget thee, thou golden college days.

Hearts full of youth!
Hearts full of truth!
Six parts gin to one part vermouth!
ALLEGATIONS OF UN BRIBERY/OIL-FOR-FOOD SCAM: Stolen with love from Oxblog--everything that follows is their words (but you should really read all the links--there's esp. important stuff in the Christian Science Monitor link, including corruption in the Iraqi Governing Council as well):

BRIBE-TAKING SCANDAL AT THE UN: Reports have surfaced that three principal UN officials, including the undersecretary general, accepted millions of dollars' worth of bribes from Saddam between 1997 and 2002, in return for permitting Saddam to in turn make billions of dollars illicitly from the UN's oil-for-food programme.

This unprecedented amount of UN corruption is being referred to as "Kofigate," and is receiving coverage from across the spectrum (see Telegraph, Independent). If there's one edifying part to this entire sordid spectacle, it's that the story was initially broken by an independent Iraqi paper, Al Mada--showing that when it's allowed the safety to follow a story, the Iraqi Quatrieme Etat can hold its own with the Fourth Estates of the big boys.
STOIC NEWS. For all your Stoic news needs.

Via Dappled Things.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

USA TODAY ON IRAQI BLOGS: ..."We suffered for years under Saddam Hussein, not being able to speak out," says Omar Fadhil, 24, a dentist. "Now, you can make your voice heard around the world." ...

Fadhil's blog,, tells of his life and the lives of his two brothers. One brother also is a dentist, and the other is a pediatrician. "We wanted to help bridge the gap, not just between the U.S. and Iraq, but with the entire Islamic world," says Ali Fadhil, 34, the pediatrician. "The media is always taking a look at the bad stuff. We want to show the good progress in Iraq." ...

There are about 30 Iraqi bloggers in Baghdad, plus a few other blogs written by Iraqis abroad. Not all share the Fadhil brothers' optimism. "You have your Fox TV. I am offering a counter response," says Faisa Jarrar, whose blog is critical of the U.S. occupation. Her mixed Sunni-Shiite family began in December with a joint blog, Now, each of Jarrar's three sons has his own blog. Raed, 26, Jarrar's eldest, is studying in Jordan. Khalid, 21, and Majid, 17, are in Baghdad. ...

"Dear Raed," she wrote to her son April 7. "Americans are gathering near the entrance of our neighborhood. Tanks and soldiers with machine guns. They look terrifying. ... We will spend the night in the 'safe room,' the one we used to hide in last year during the war. ... Only god can protect us from what's happening. These days are much darker than the days of Saddam Hussein." ...

The brothers [at Iraq the Model] say they won't bow to the high-tech threats. They say their postwar access to the Internet has been a form of liberation. "I am not afraid," Ali says. "I was afraid all my life. I will not go back to living in fear."

"As it happens, I experience my homosexuality as a (mild) disability. If I could have designed myself in the womb, I would have chosen to be heterosexual, because I feel I am missing out on something special and irreplaceable by not being able to conceive and raise a child with the partner I love. On the other hand, I say the disability is mild because most people need to do without some important opportunity. Life is like that. We play the hand we're dealt."
--Jonathan Rauch, Gay Marriage; can't remember the last time I heard anyone say that.

RauchWatch 2004: Book is good. He has now talked about sex quite a bit, and on page 144 we even get our first (fleeting) reference to the existence of actual human bisexuals. Now the words I want him to use are "mother" and "father." He has 52 pages in which to do this.

DahliaWatch 2004: It's now more depressing than cheerful, so I should chuck it out. Well, that was quick.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

PRO-LIFE TEACHERS VS. THE NEA. I forget where I found this--maybe Mark Shea?
"The marriage certificate is a kind of currency, like paper money. We value it because others do."
--Jonathan Rauch, Gay Marriage. Still quoting bits I like.

RauchWatch 2004: In chapter three, we at last get sex! And it's really well-done. (Yes, I do feel like a thirteen-year-old skimming Ulysses looking for the "good parts.") But it's immediately followed with, and possibly supported by (I need to think about how heavily Rauch's claims about sex rest on this historical/psychological account), some just astonishingly fatalist, unsourced, melodramatic, and just-not-true! fake history. I would love some footnotes here to see where Rauch is getting this stuff. I expect much, much better from him. ...More when I've finished the book.

DahliaWatch 2004: Mostly dead. But as Miracle Max tells us, mostly dead is partly alive!

Monday, April 19, 2004

DEATH, TAXES, AND CHILDBIRTH: Jonathan Eason writes: Margaret Mitchell once wrote, "Death, taxes and childbirth . . .there's not a convenient time for any of them."

Fortunately we filed our taxes through, which I heartily recommend (only $29.95 even if you have complicated Sched C, etc.), and our state gummint allows us to file State taxes online at no charge. But the main thing is this:

Keep EVERY receipt from EVERYTHING you buy, even food, and keep up with them, even if that means just throwing them in a shoebox. At the end of the year, gather your 1099s and aforementioned receipts and seek out a tax professional. The money you spend for one will be more than rewarded in the money you get back from Uncle Sam.

I've been in the situation of having only 1099 income before, and it isn't pretty; but with the right knowledge, you can get out of it relatively unscathed. The important thing is, don't trust to your own knowledge if numbers scare you, as they do me (I consider myself 'math-impaired').Chances are that there are lots of things you can take as deductions that you don't know about (because you are too busy writing, reading, etc.) but could benefit you.

I really enjoy your 'blog. Reading about comic books takes me back, let me tell you . . . but I haven't picked one up in years, probably not since I got married. When you suddenly have grass to cut and so on, it's hard to make time to practice the piano/voice/etc., much less pleasure reading. This (and the fact that I took over the cooking in 1999 so my wife could run her own business) is why I haven't written any new music in four or five years.

Keep up the good work, and next year, get professional advice! And start early -- it will save you time AND money in the long run.

Eve replies: Thanks so much for the advice! It's pretty likely that I would have saved money if I'd been more organized and more willing to engage the services of a tax professional. Sigh. In re comics and real life, I note that this is also why you should spend your college years pursuing truth and beauty with relentless zeal. It is much harder to do that when the four-year detente with reality is over and you must feed the pets and water the mortgage.
PAINTINGS WITHOUT PICTURES: Terry Teachout of About Last Night asks: Do you only like music that has words?

...Well, yeah, mostly. I far prefer music with words, with the romance of the human voice. I like musical instruments that sound like voices (violins and also fiddling; sometimes trumpets; sometimes cellos and oboes; sometimes pianos). I dislike attempts to make human voices sound like musical instruments (this is why I have a hard time with opera).

But that's more my problem than my aesthetic stance. A better answer is that the musical vocabulary used by non-vocal music has been far better developed than the visual vocabulary used by most nonrepresentational painters. There's a common musical language, and the point of most nonvocal music (even fairly experimental stuff) is to use that common language to speak. This musical language is in some ways like the language of lighting and camera angle used in moviemaking, or panel shape and layout in comics. It's also sort of like the half-onomatopoeia that derives from our associations of certain sounds with certain images or sensations--Walker Percy points out that although "boom," "pow," and "tick-tock" are obviously onomatopoetic, there are all kinds of other words like "spatter" and "slice" that feel onomatopoetic because "the signifier and signified have been interpenetrated through use by the sign-user" (i.e. we socially create associations and thus create "false onomatopoeia").

Most contemporary/recent nonrepresentational painters, by contrast, seem to be attempting to avoid common visual language in order to strike out on their own. This gets either purely sensual or wilfully obscure, IMO. (Or, of course, both.)

...Another reader brings up the common "Man, I could do that with a toothbrush and a bucket of paint" complaint. I think I disagree that this is a valid objection to a piece of art. Ordinary people, who do not think of themselves as artists, should be able to make art. Ordinary people sing and have insights and tell stories, yes?

And in fact, part of the problem I have with the "stripey people" is precisely the way in which it's not true that "my kindergartener could do that." There's either pure sensual joy in color and shape, which a kindergartener could do and that's wonderful but is also much more like craft than like art; or there's such a high level of cerebration and involved mental processing ("involved" as Milton uses the word, folded in on itself like a coiling snake) and isolation in the artist's own skull that there's just no way a kindergartener or any average person would think to paint such a painting.

I should repeat that I'm exaggerating my problems with the "stripey people" in order to explore whether this is just a personal problem of mine or whether it's a valid aesthetic objection. More research is needed!
OOH, BURN. It's been in the nineties for the past few days. I am incredibly happy and basically incapable of rational thought. Also slightly sunburnt. But happy.

I'm killing a dahlia. We all got dahlias at a pregnancy center in-service thing, and mine is quite pretty, but given my track record I expect it to keel over any minute now.

Re-reading Love and Rockets from the beginning.

Slowly hacking at next scene of "Kissable Pictures."

Listening to Patsy Cline.

Oh, and... work. Right. Yes. Back to that.

Wait! There are more! My readers might especially appreciate Aquino da Rhino.
WELCOME, WEIRDOS! Your irregularly-scheduled list of search requests that brought people to my lovely little corner of the Web.

does weed smell like cheerios
Egalitarians of Nevada
Plato hates the idea of cloning why
grinch's biological problem
latex too long title
what to look for in a man
morals galore
Hey you checking your referrals Isn't it a little creepy to be addressed directly
Tobey Maguire voice gets on my nerves
tobey mmm
Given e and k h is true if and only if c is true
Cheerios Poem
Alcolhol is good for every age people
how many kinds of hippopotamus are there
jaguar south american cathouse
unicorns reformed epistemology
washington dc infiltrator
a poem about mexican man and a mexican girl with sex
washington monument rocks inside of priest
publicist asian american work magic
What Are some Words that mean something to the Dominicans
OPINIONDUEL: A National Review/New Republic debate site. Pretty cool.

Via Oxblog.
STOPP: STOPPING PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Profile in Newsweek--how small pro-life groups can score victories.
Do the blogwatch!
Out in the parking lot,
Do the blogwatch,
Yeah you stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp...

Dave Tepper: His report on our abstract-art conversation. (I don't understand how his permalinks work, so you'll have to scroll down to "Scenes from a Thai Restaurant.") More on this soonish.

Grotesque Anatomy: Silver Age hilarity. "Before I hit the water, I'll dance the cha-cha-cha -- wave my cape like a flag -- then finish the dive while saluting with one paw!"

"It's silly, but I actually feel jealous of my own robot, who is only following orders!"

"In a way I'll miss that second head! It was almost like having...a twin sister!"

And: It's a blogging monk!
"Most of what are usually thought of as the legal benefits of marriage are really gifts with strings attached. Or maybe strings with gifts attached."
--Jonathan Rauch, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America

I'm going to refrain (mostly) from arguing with this book until I've finished it, so I figured I'd quote you a true and nicely-put bit instead of one of the more problematic bits. I will note that if Rauch doesn't start talking about sex soon, instead of only about caretaking, I will either scream or propose to him (since, after all, it's not like we'd have to have sex or anything).

Friday, April 16, 2004

LAW AND WHAT I'VE BEEN THINKING: So I maybe get a bit aggressive on the subject of nonrepresentational art. Tepper provided by far the most interesting explanation of its appeal that I've heard so far. I will share with you all and see a) what you think of it and b) whether you agree with me that this seems like a very legal approach to art. (That's neither an insult nor a compliment.)

I have found it hard to see the point of very abstract art. You know: what I called, talking to Tepper, "the stripey people." The paintings that are just blocks or strips of color. Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt. On one level, I like them, the way that I like eating escargot, or Ghirardelli. There's a strong sensual pleasure to be obtained from a particularly red red, an especially longing blue, or an unusually interstellar green. But this strikes me as craft (like cooking), not art. There is more meaning to be found in the contemplation of the sun setting orange over the low District skyline; and I am a meaning junkie even more than I am a pleasure addict. I am sure this is related to what I've called here my "lurid" tastes. I want blood and guts, and have a hard time taking the beautiful without a very high-proof shot of the sublime.

Dave offered a couple intriguing descriptions of the Rothko appeal: a) It's a puzzle. You learn that Rothko was a landscape painter and suddenly all the studied abstraction falls into place like the solution of a Christie novel. Click-click-click, the sound of a key working the tumblers of a lock. He, though only at my urging, compared this to the logic puzzles on the LSAT (which I used to love--parents, please subscribe to Games magazine!).

b) It's the same thing I was getting at when I quoted Witch Week here on the blog: "Charles liked poetry because the lines were so short. You could think your own thoughts in the spaces around the print." You can fill in the blanks, and to some extent write your own text (as the postmodernists say), fill the gaps in the art with the presence in the self. I objected that this might be interesting but was unlikely to be surprising, and surprise is a large part of what I seek in art. Nonetheless, the fact that I did quote that Witch Week line should suggest that I see the appeal of this perspective--and it really is part of the attraction of poetry over prose, even as it's also the reason I neither read nor write poetry nearly as often as I read or write prose. I don't, anymore, much, read to escape the self; but neither do I read to encounter her, anymore, much. What I want to encounter is characters, world.

c) So my theory: It's not just the logic-puzzle aspect of modern highly abstract (like uber-impressionism, as Dave pointed out) art that attracts the legal mind. Much of law is about filling in gaps. This is most obvious in common law, where you're specifically supposed to be figuring out what the prior tradition and the gaps in that tradition suggest about the case at hand; but it's also blatantly present, though often denied, in statutory interpretation as well. So this is a natural mode for the legal mind. But also, highly abstract art (as vs. surrealist or expressionist art, which are pretty much the opposite of abstract art!) is cerebral, depending for its impact on preexisting philosophy rather than serving as the bedrock of experience upon which philosophy can be based. Now, this is pretty obviously an exaggeration! But I do think it may help me, personally, figure out why I love both highly rational, syllogistic philosophy (the Parmenides, go read now) and character-rich, lurid literature and even modern art. The former can only subsist upon the meat of the latter; whereas abstract art seems to me to depend too much on preexisting worldviews to be able to radically reshape those worldviews.

On the other hand, I've been known to be wrong! That's what email is for, friends....
OUTSIDE OVER THERE: Today was as social for me as all of last week put together.... Ran into Shamed on the way to the coffeeshop; got a letter from Ratty; then ran into Tepper at Jonathan Rauch's book talk and had a wonderful conversation of which slightly more presently.

Also, taxes are done. TurboTax: Because numbers frighten me. Apparently the government does not want people to be entrepreneurs. This year I filed no W2s, only 1099s, and let me tell you, I can't believe that horrible thing just happened to my bank account. I am still in denial. I have seen things I cannot unsee. They looked like fang-marks on my wallet.
Blogwatch, it's not a blogwatch so you feel a bit insulted...

Camassia on blogging and faith: "Book learning is, I'm sure, deeper than blogging for people who already have had in-person experience with faith and church. But for those outside, with no idea where to start, blogging is a much better way in.

"If Telford had never started his blog, not only would I never have met him, I most likely would never have met anyone like him."

Family Scholars: Beautiful post from Elizabeth Marquardt about marriage and gift-giving. This is the opposite perspective from that standardized one that always must point out how "gift" in German is "poison." Marquardt acknowledges how much most of us want to give gifts; in fact, to refuse someone's gift is often a grave insult because it is like a refusal of the person and his affections. We want to be gifts to one another. And more here, from a different writer: "Keeping a running tab on your partner's contributions doesn't exactly make the heart grow fonder. And depending upon your partner for nothing but emotional sustenance does not necessarily bind you together when the going gets tough."

Kross & Sweord: "What a difference four decades makes! In 1962 Leander Perez and several other Catholic politicians in Louisiana were excommunicated by New Orleans Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel. Their offense? Opposing Rummel's pleas to end racial segregation in schools."
"If the scientist is the prince of the post-religious age, lord and sovereign of the Cosmos itself through his transcendence of it, the artist is the suffering servant of the age, who, through his own transcendence and his naming of the predicaments of the self, becomes rescuer and savior not merely to his fellow artists but to his fellow sufferers."
--Lost in the Cosmos; I only wish you could read this line in its full context so you could hear the self-irony and steel. Walker Percy is one of the modern geniuses of what I think Harold Bloom first called "self-overhearing."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

WALLOWING WEDNESDAY: I actually haven't been wallowing all that much (relatively speaking). But this week's Poetry Wednesday feature would suggest otherwise. Here, have some Housman, doubtless you deserve it for your sins. (I love this poem.)

I to my perils
Of cheat and charmer
Came clad in armor
By stars benign;

Hope lies to mortals
And most believe her,
But man's deceiver
Was never mine.

The thoughts of others
Were light and fleeting,
Of lovers' meeting
Of luck or fame;

Mine were of trouble
And mine were steady,
So I was ready
When trouble came.
A NEW LIBERAL VISION: Krubner is part of a multiblog discussion aiming at a new, revived vision of progressive politics. There look to be many interesting posts already. I, as you know, could never sign on to any vision of "progressivism" that is willing to abandon the most vulnerable among us. But good ideas are welcome wherever they emerge, and I highly recommend this discussion to all my readers, including those who don't expect it to be their kind of thing--there's lots of good stuff there.
BLOGTONES: Music for your blog. Neat!
"One semioticist defined the subject of his study as the only organism which tells lies. ...

"The semiotic history of this creature thereafter could be written in terms of the successive attempts, both heroic and absurd, of the signifying creature to escape its nakedness and to find a permanent semiotic habiliment for itself--often by identifying itself with other creatures in its world."

--Lost in the Cosmos

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"KISSABLE PICTURES": CARELESS WHISPERS. First section of the new story. Jennifer Smith and John Smith wonder what you think of them.
We are all just blogwatchers here
Of our own device...

Amy Welborn: The heart of the matter: "I was thinking tonight, as I was playing computer solitaire in Joseph's room, waiting for him to go to sleep, about Graham Greene and John Kerry. ...

"So there's no nobility or sainthood there, but there is honesty. There's a recognition that here is the Church, and here I am, and while I may live outside of the Church and sin and cast a jaundiced eye its way--there it is and there I am. No matter what I think of it, I'm under no illusion that all the Church needs is to be remade in my image or even 'accept me as I am' in all of my choices. God's mercy is wide and deep and always waiting and found in the oddest ways and by the most flawed people, but mercy it is, mercy in light of my sins. Which are sins."


Army of One: What makes Father Tucker (Dappled Things) tick? Great interview: "Q: What do you think is the most important thing you could communicate to people?

"A: The beauty of God's holiness and the beauty that He has poured into His creation, beginning with the individual I'm talking to at the moment. To my eye, the world is full of wonder, and each person is so amazingly, uniquely splendid, that it's hard not to be overcome by joy at it all. Christ was so moved for love of this creation that He willingly grasped it to Himself in the Incarnation, died for it on the Cross, and drags it into Paradise with Him through the Resurrection. I think that if we are able to glimpse a bit of that beauty -- and to see in further reflection its connection to goodness and truth -- we'll fall in love and find it nearly impossible not to glorify the One Who made and preserves it."

Plus Catholic-libertarian goodness (although I no longer consider myself a libertarian, I have lots of sympathy for 'em, and have been known to use the quickie formulation, "I am a conservative because I believe in that authority which can only be accepted in liberty." For more on that tip, go here and here) and addressing some Protestant concerns.

Old Oligarch: Praying at an abortionists'. Good Friday thoughts, including a request for prayers for three new Catholics we know. Hooray, hooray, and hooray, and praise God!

Relapsed Catholic: New book! "A few years back, I wrote a series of columns about the 12 Steps. I'd been watching the Steps getting co-opted by New Age nutballs, and wanted to do my part to rescue them. The 12 Steps, as one early observer noted, actually resemble the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Early A.A. literature was unapologetically Christian -- call it Bill Wilson's flawed but sincere attempt to justify the ways of God to drunks. And I wanted to explain the Steps to ordinary people who thought they were all about 'making excuses,' 'avoiding reality' and narcissistic 'self-improvement.'

"These columns are now collected in a slender volume called A Seeker's Dozen: The 12 Steps For Everyone Else. This book is NOT available in stores, or via You can only buy it through me and"

more (I have already bought my copy.)
"Why is it no other species but man gets bored? Under the circumstances in which a man gets bored, a dog goes to sleep."
--Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

Sunday, April 11, 2004


darkness: Lost, waiting--it takes so long for my eyes to adapt. I know there's something there, the pews and statues and pillars that I can almost see and navigate around. I almost know this place. Because we can't really tell what's going on in the dark, we have to rely on the people closer to the aisle and the altar to give us our cues: when to stand, when to sit, where to look.

fire: The fire at the back of the church snaps, and glitters in one altar-server's glasses. It's constantly in motion. It looks alive, unquiet.

humans: We're all very awkward. Lots of shuffling, hissing "Is someone sitting here? Oh, I'm sorry," lots of ushers trying to look efficient as they move through the dark hunting for empty seats. There's no danger of feeling "ethereal" or pretty-pretty here.

hunger: Hunger draws my focus inward: I'm hungry! I want! But looking inward, what I discover, what is most noticeable, what is most relevant to me and most immediate, is not what I have but what I lack. I seem to have shaped myself around this need, and I am going to go out seeking whatever will fill it. Introspection forces the mind outward, knowing it has a proper object of love, even before it quite knows how to tell meat from poison. Hence, the nuptial meaning of the mind.

prayer: Everyone in this church came to this Church at a different moment, and most people, apparently, are ahead of me. This is my seventh Easter vigil and I still don't know the responses specific to this day ("Christ our Light"/"Thanks be to God"). I can't read the program in the dark, so I wait and try to catch what everyone else is saying, and then come in low and hesitant at the tag-end. By the second go-round I've got the hang of it and can keep up--though still off-key, of course.

a city church: Headlights sweep across the dark church and sirens howl by outside. We are not home yet.

intercom: The men at the altar are very small and very far away, framed by the big, obvious pillars that are right up close to me. (I came before Mass started, but nonetheless too late to get a close-up seat.) But their voices, as they read the word of God, are close and hang all round me.

bells: The bells aren't serene. They're hectic, urgent, like fire alarms: Wake up! wake up! They're raucous, like that huge relieved laughter you hear when some great danger or embarrassment has passed. Clamor pours down like tickertape on the victory parade.

"except ye become as little children": Here's when I get twitchy and fidgety. People are being baptized into Christ's death and resurrection and I'm woolgathering and drawing elaborate letters with my fingertip on my program. And watching a brother and sister, look to be about ten and seven, go through the exact same "whyyyyy are we waaaaaaaiting" edginess.

humans: Everyone prays in a different posture: back straight, head up, looking bright and clear toward the altar; picking nervously at the fingernails; stifling a yawn and adjusting the glasses, then deep breath and a rush of clarity in the mind (that was me...); bent forward, face in hands; fingers laced or folded hand-over-fist.

Eucharist: Darling (darling, darling), I can't wait to see you.
Your picture's not enough--I can't wait to touch you
In the flesh....

after: There are beggars outside the church, but I didn't bring any money with me. There are the people who can't help but sing along with the Hallelujah Chorus as we file out--funny to watch them, preoccupied, trying to find a way through the crowd, and yet still singing, almost muttering in tune to themselves. And there's the Spanish guy who gossips with his friend about some guy who spent nueve an~os en la carcel, and then bursts out with this shambolic, loud, reeling, drunken-Handel "Hall-le-lu-jah! Hall-le-lu-jah!" until his friend laughs and shuts him up. Children complain and ask what they get for being good for all those hours. Their mother tells them they get Jesus. I grin and head home and wonder what I will make of this five-hundredth second chance I've been given.
EASTER IN AMERICA: What I posted last year. Because they're worth the repetition.

AMAZING GRACE: Lyrics by John Newton, except for the last verse, which is by an unknown author--
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, Who called me here below,
Shall be forever mine.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.

I SAW THE LIGHT: Lyrics by Hank Williams Sr.--
I wandered so aimless life filled with sin
I wouldn't let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I'm so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Just like a blind man I wandered alone
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.


I was a fool to wander and stray
Strait is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Thursday, April 08, 2004

"IRAQI POLLS BRING SECULAR SUCCESS": From Monday, but I just found it today at Hit & Run. Because you're unlikely to get any other good Iraq news today. Excerpts:

Herded into lines by inexperienced police officers, hundreds of would-be Iraqi voters pushed into a sparsely equipped school at the weekend to cast their ballots for the local council of Tar.

Deep in the marshlands of the Euphrates, the town of 15,000 people was the first to rise against Saddam Hussein in the abortive intifada of 1991. Now it was holding the first genuine election in its history.

The poll was the latest in a series which this overwhelmingly Shia province has held in the past six weeks, and the results have been surprising. Seventeen towns have voted, and in almost every case secular independents and representatives of non-religious parties did better than the Islamists. ...

...Neither of the two Islamist candidates was among the 10 elected. A woman teacher got in, the first female councillor in the province. Other winners included an agricultural engineer and three businessmen.

In Shatra, a town of 250,000, the Communist party won four seats and independents seven. Partly because of their popularity for stopping the looting which followed the overthrow of the old regime, the Islamists had a majority in the former council which was appointed last summer. After the election they were cut back to four seats out of 15. ...

No other province has held as many elections as Dhi Qar.

They have been organised largely by Tobin Bradley, an Arabic-speaking US state department official attached to the occupation authority in Nassiriya. Although the American government insisted that national elections could not be held in Iraq before the transfer of sovereignty on June 30, in Dhi Qar they went ahead using the ration card system--a method which could have been used nationally, according to many Iraqis. ...

Direct elections are not being held for the provincial council, but Mr Bradley has organised partial contests. A certain number of seats is set aside for various groups, which then elect people to fill them.

The province has 22 Islamic parties, which will get six seats. The 15 secular parties get four. Seats are reserved for women, professional associations and trade unions. Seven seats are for 54 tribal leaders. The "refreshed council", as it is called, is claimed to be more democratic than the one appointed by the occupation authorities.

JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY: Wow, I will try to pick this issue up:

The Journal of Democracy is pleased to announce the publication of its April 2004 issue. The following is a list of articles appearing in the issue, plus brief abstracts. The article featured on our website is The Anti-American Century? (PDF) by Ivan Krastev.

The Anti-American Century?
Ivan Krastev
The twentieth century has been called "the American century," but it appears that the twenty-first may be dominated by anti-Americanism, an all-purpose ideology that poses a serious obstacle to the progress of democracy.

The Imperative of State-Building
Francis Fukuyama
Weak or failed states are at the root of many serious global problems, from poverty and AIDS to drug trafficking and terrorism, to the failure of democratic government itself. State-building must become a priority for the world community.

Christianity and Democracy
The Catholic Wave

Daniel Philpott
Long wary of the modern state as such, the Roman Catholic Church became a champion of democratic government around the time of Vatican II, and helped to set off the Third Wave of democratization.

The Pioneering Protestants
Robert D. Woodberry and Timothy S. Shah
Historical and other evidence from around the world suggests that Protestantism has helped to create a web of mediating factors-from higher literacy to lower corruption to active civic groups-that encourage self-government.

The Ambivalent Orthodox
Elizabeth Prodromou
Orthodoxy's difficult historical experiences have made it ambivalent toward democratic pluralism, but that may be changing, with believers in established democracies leading the way.

The Global Picture
Peter L. Berger
That modern democracy first arose within the ambit of Western Christianity is far from an accident. Today, the major Christian communions largely support democracy, even while necessarily retaining the right to criticize democratic decisions in the name of religious truth claims.

Constitution-Making After Conflict: Lessons for Iraq
Jamal Benomar
A thorough, deliberate, and consultative constitution-making process, which takes account of key lessons learned in other countries, will be essential to the legitimacy of a new Iraqi constitution and to the future of democracy.

Constitutional Design for Divided Societies
Arend Lijphart
Constitution writers in ethnically or otherwise divided countries should focus on designing a system of power-sharing rules and institutions. Studies by political scientists point to a set of basic recommendations that should form a starting point for constitutional negotiations.

Georgia's Rose Revolution
Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr.
Events last November confounded expectations set by the failure of democratization in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics, and should prompt new reflections on how fragile openings to democracy may be sustained and widened.

Change In Uganda
A New Opening?

Edward Kannyo
The decision by Uganda's leaders to abandon the country's "movement" system and adopt multiparty pluralism creates a significant opportunity for democratic progress.

Museveni's Machinations
Anne Mugisha
Uganda's move to a multiparty system is really a maneuver by President Yoweri Museveni to prolong his stay in power beyond the two-term limit mandated by the constitution.

East Timor: Elections in the World's Newest Nation
Anthony L. Smith
East Timor, which emerged from a tragic and bloody past to gain full independence in 2002, offers a fascinating case of democratization in a small developing country with a shallow history of democracy.

The Czech Past and the Cuban Future

Oswaldo Payá /Václav Havel
In an exchange of letters, leading Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá discusses with Václav Havel the lessons that the Czechoslovak experience offers to Cubans seeking a democratic transition in their own country.

Books in Review
Ousting the "Final 45"
Thomas O. Melia
A review of Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025 by Mark Palmer.

Election Watch
Reports on recent elections in Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Iran, Russia, and Serbia.

Documents on Democracy
Excerpts from a United Nations report on the feasibility of early elections and possible alternatives in Iraq.

Excerpts from an inaugural address by Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili delivered in Tbilisi on January 25.

Excerpts from a letter signed by more than 100 reformist Iranian parliamentarians criticizing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for approving the Guardian Council's disqualification of more than 2,000 candidates from the February 20 parliamentary elections.

Excerpts from a speech by Sierra Leonean activist Zainab Hawa Bangura of the Campaign for Good Governance, delivered at the opening of the World Movement for Democracy Assembly in Durban, South Africa, on February 1.

A petition published in Lebanon's al-Nahar newspaper and signed by more than 700 Syrian intellectuals, writers, and lawyers calling for an end to the country's state of emergency.

The Journal of Democracy is published quarterly in January, April, July, and October.

Annual Subscriptions for 2004:

Print for Individuals: $32.00
Print for Institutions: $105.00
Online to Institutions: $90.00
Both Online and Print for Institutions: $130.00

Foreign Subscriptions: Add $7.00 postage for Canada & Mexico to above. Add $11.00 outside North America to above.

Special rates available for full database institutional subscriptions to Project Muse.

Single Print Issues:

Individuals: $9.50
Institutions: $32.00

Click here to subscribe.
MORE COMICS REC'S: The guy who wrote to me initially adds:

And while we're on the topic of comic book recommendations, I've got a few titles you might find interesting as well, given what I've read on your weblog.

"Promethea" by Alan Moore. A metaphysical superhero story that gets even trippier than "Animal Man". Lots of Moore's trademark occultism, but all bound up with amazing meditations on the nature of art and ideas and told with some of the most inventive sequential storytelling techniques I've ever encountered.
Honestly not as deep or compelling as "Watchmen", but an amazing book nonetheless.

"Age of Bronze" by Eric Shanower. A meticulous retelling of the Trojan War with some incredibly detailed and well-researched art. The first trade is out now and the second is due within the month, I think. There's going to be something like 8 of them when the story is completed -- 10 years from now! This guy is devoting a huge chunk of his life to telling this story and his love and devotion for the project shine through on every page. Very compelling stuff, especially with how fundamentally ancient Greek everyone acts. It's such an alien culture to our own in so many ways that I find it incredibly fascinating.

"Blue Monday" by Chyna Clugston-Major. Three trades that collect the various Oni mini-series. Basically a punk-flavored John Hughes movie on paper. Very fun, cotton candy comics with some wonderfully airy and emotive artwork by Miss Clugston-Major.
COMICS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MIDDLE- AND HIGH-SCHOOLERS: "Bat-Mite" has suggestions. I note that when you get to the Sandman comment you'll know why it's such a good thing that I'm not a public-school children's librarian. Everything in this post that follows is from Bat-Mite:

...Well, anyway, to help you with the recommendations. By the way, I can't vouch for any literary merits these books may or may not have.

Grant Morrison's 'Marvel Boy': This one is more for boys than girls I suppose. Alien teenager crashes on Earth, gets captured, escapes and then declares war on the entire planet because he thinks everyone is an idiot. After that, boy meets girl; boy falls in love; girl's father is a supervillain. Nice book for any kid going through their alienation "Everyone is a moron" phase.

Jeff Smith's 'Bone': I have only read the first book, but so far it's a lovely non-threatening fantasy story genetically engineered to be likeable.

Sidekicks: It's about a school where all the students and teachers are superheroes. The main character is a girl who has powers because her dad
was a sidekick when he was a kid. It deals a lot more with life in highschool (well, a highschool where the bully is a quasi omnipotent demonic magician, and your roomate can walk through walls) than with superheroing.

Zodiac P.I.: This one is is probably more for the Middle-School girls. If I were a 13 year old Japanese with braces, I would just love this series. I'm not, so what I just said was probably meaningless. Anyhoo, It's about this school girl who is a detective, and she solves crimes with her love interest/competition classmate who is allergic to girls. The crimes go from theft to even murder, and they are more complicated than the usual Scooby Doo mystery. This series is kinda like Scooby Doo's smarter sister. It presents the crime, and all the clues the main characters see, so you can try to solve the whole crime before the story is over. <--- Sometimes the writer cheats, though.

Oh, and about your recommendations...

"Sandman. (Unless you think the local community would get super-sketched over its depiction of demons.)"

Dunno about the demons, but the parents might complain about all the nudity.

"I've heard good things about the Courtney Crumrin books"

It's not a bad book by itself, it's just all the 'So goth it hurts!' vibe it has. It's very pessimistic, the world sucks, you are ugly, and your parents don't like you kind of book. Also, sorry if I spoil you the end, but near the end of the first book, [cut--Eve]. Call me a wuss, but I don't think that's a nice message. But any girl going through a goth phase will probably like it.

Ok, hope that helped ya.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

"GETTING FIRED": BLOOD AND CHAMPAGNE. Oh man, did this story get completely out of my hands. The rough draft is finally done, but please don't expect coherence. I love the ideas behind this piece, but I have to admit that the execution leaves much to be desired. Basically, when I revise I will have to add a lot of material. There are all kinds of dropped narrative stitches--Peter's family is only the most obvious forgotten thread. Everything moves too fast and with even less coherence than the style (um... expressionist-parodic?) and POV (first-person present) would lead you to expect.

But! The rough draft is done. In this, the final episode, Amy appears in the flesh (too briefly, I know); the Bride of Frankenstein returns in a starring role; and the tone swings wildly from horror to romantic comedy, probably without success. Oh, I really hope I can fix the huge problems with this story, because there's so much about it that I like. Your comments, as always, are welcome, though I'm just not sure this is done enough to be intelligible to anyone but me.

You can read the whole thing starting here, or just get the last scene here. In case you're wondering, I do know what the music is in the final scene, even though Peter doesn't. The JFK mention is a hat tip. I'm thinking this--more specifically, this. Yes, "Getting Fired" is ultimately all about my sentimental side. But it's not as bad as that makes it sound.

Man, this whole post is like one big Caveat Lector sign.

Next week: "Kissable Pictures." This one will make sense. (I hope.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

COMICS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MIDDLE- AND HIGH-SCHOOLERS? A reader has written to ask for recommendations of comic books for a middle school and high school library: "I, comic fan that I am, want to recommend some trade paperbacks but all I come up off the top of my head that would be appropriate for that community and that the kids would actually like are Ultimate Spider-Man and Dark Knight Returns. Would you have any other suggestions? Especially of the more literary variety and the kind that the female readership might find interesting as well?"

I know I've seen lists that would be helpful here, but I can't think where I found them. Off the top of my head, Carla Speed McNeil's Finder series comes to mind. There's probably some vaguely sketch stuff in the first five books (as well as disturbing family-drama stuff), but definitely not more so than in many, many books I found in the children's section of my local public library. Finder: Talisman would be especially appealing to literary-minded girls. If "burn Harry Potter!" types are going to be actually reading these comics looking for trouble, Finder is a bad choice, but otherwise, it's great stuff and I would have loved it at that age.

Astro City.

Sandman. (Unless you think the local community would get super-sketched over its depiction of demons.)

Grant Morrison's Animal Man, absolutely.

Depending on how freaked-out people would be by crime stories, Brian Bendis's Goldfish might work, or his spy story Fire. You should definitely read through before recommending these though. I'm much laxer about kids' reading than most people, I think.

Doug TenNapel's Creature Tech was not a big hit with me, but it's pretty good, and a lot of people like it a lot more than I do. The idea behind it--a mixture of sci-fi and man-wrestling-God story--is great, and there are many fun moments throughout.

I've heard good things about the Courtney Crumrin books and Leave It to Chance, but have never read them. I'd bet a lot of Will Eisner's work would be good for the older kids--the only one I've read is A Life Force (and part of A Contract With God).

Maus, obviously, for the high-schoolers at least. I'd give 'em Watchmen too, but again, maybe that's just me.

Wow, I'm really not good at this. Help me!
WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP: Clio writes: You suggest that women have a difficult time with leadership because they are too focussed on "relationships" to keep track of institutional goals, and cannot accept the idea of the "mask of command".

I suspect that these problems are more visible among younger women aspiring to lead than among older ones. I haven't noticed that either is as much a hindrance to women who've lived long enough to outgrow the hypersensitivity of youth, which makes many of us flinch from both crticizing and criticism.

Work experience helps; so does having married, managed a household, and had children. The latter point may sound counter-intuitive, but one advantage of raising children is that you learn to take knocks. (I speak from observation here, NOT experience.)

So though I think it's true that more women have a hard time with leadership than men, it's not for the reasons you suggest. I think, rather, that women are less hierarchical than men and for that reason are INTENSELY distrustful of women who rise to positions of power. "Who does she think she is?" is often their reaction to a woman who gives them orders. It's not necessarily envy (though it can be that too). It's sheer animal knowledge of each other. And this attitude hardens with age, I believe.

Women who acquire positions of leadership seldom find it easy to keep the respect of their female peers, although they may manage to command that of much younger women. And when one half of the human race distrusts you, it's difficult to lead effectively.

Women accept the leadership of men, on the other hand, because (I suspect), it's far less challenging to their self-image and sense of their own power and autonomy to do so. Besides, men have the excuse, in women's eyes, of being "mere males"; their pomposity is lovable rather than annoying or presumptuous. And their right to give orders can be assumed to rest upon their larger size and ability to defend us.

Besides this, ALL female authority carries with it the whiff of mother-power, and makes both sexes uneasy in memory of their childish dependency and need to break free of it. If you haven't experienced this reaction already you may yet do so. Or you might be lucky.

But from what I've seen it's middle-aged mothers of grown children who do best at commanding the respect of both sexes--especially if they come from extended families in which managing people is essential to harmony.

Even female perceptiveness about people is a double-edged sword. It means that you know too much about what your subordinates, and enemies, are thinking. No doubt it explains why women get lost in the "minutiae" of relationships--your phrase? But much of this information is quite unnecessary to any leadership role.
YOU'VE ALMOST CERTAINLY SEEN THIS ALREADY, BUT IF NOT: Healing Iraq: "A coup d'etat is taking place in Iraq a the moment. Al-Shu'la, Al-Hurria, Thawra (Sadr city), and Kadhimiya (all Shi'ite neighbourhoods in Baghdad) have been declared liberated from occupation. Looting has already started at some places downtown, a friend of mine just returned from Sadun street and he says Al-Mahdi militiamen are breaking stores and clinics open and also at Tahrir square just across the river from the Green Zone. News from other cities in the south indicate that Sadr followers (tens of thousands of them) have taken over IP stations and governorate buildings in Kufa, Nassiriya, Ammara, Kut, and Basrah. Al-Jazeera says that policemen in these cities have sided with the Shia insurgents, which doesn't come as a surprise to me since a large portion of the police forces in these areas were recruited from Shi'ite militias and we have talked about that ages ago. And it looks like this move has been planned a long time ago.

"No one knows what is happening in the capital right now. Power has been cut off in my neighbourhood since the afternoon, and I can only hear helicopters, massive explosions, and continuous shooting nearby. The streets are empty, someone told us half an hour ago that Al-Mahdi are trying to take over our neighbourhood and are being met by resistance from Sunni hardliners. Doors are locked, and AK-47's are being loaded and put close by in case they are needed. The phone keeps ringing frantically. Baghdadis are horrified and everyone seems to have made up their mind to stay home tomorrow until the situation is clear.

"Where is Shitstani? And why is he keeping silent about this?

"I have to admit that until now I have never longed for the days of Saddam, but now I'm not so sure. If we need a person like Saddam to keep those rabid dogs at bay then be it. Put Saddam back in power and after he fills a couple hundred more mass graves with those criminals they can start wailing and crying again for liberation. What a laugh we will have then. Then they can shove their filthy Hawza and marji'iya up somewhere else. I am so dissapointed in Iraqis and I hate myself for thinking this way. We are not worth your trouble, take back your billions of dollars and give us Saddam again. We truly 'deserve' leaders like Saddam.

"UPDATE: Sorry for the depressing note. It seems like everything is back under control, at least from what I can see in my neighbourhood. There is an eerie silence outside, only dogs barking. Until about an hour ago, it sounded like a battlefield, and we had flashbacks of last April. I don't know what happened, but there were large plumes of smoke from the direction of Adhamiya and Kadhimiya. I wanted to take some pictures but my father and uncle both said they would shoot me on the spot if I tried, they were afraid the Apaches would mistake us for troublemakers and fire at us. I'm dreading tomorrow."

Raed Jarrar ("People wonder all the time, why do Iraqis have this image about the magical solutions of Americans? Why don't they move and change things by themselves? Because this is what the American media promised them! I mean… I fought against that for months and tried to tell everyone that 'it is YOUR responsibility to rebuild your country', most of those people are wrong… I know… but I can see why they are acting in this way. ...If that was the case, why didn't you leave Iraqis solve their problems alone from the beginning? Who asked you to start the fire and go?") and Sun of Iraq ("I'm writing these words while I heard explosions sound which shaking the place") are also blogging.
I don't know what you blog but I can't watch it anymore...

Ahlanwasahlan: More anecdotes from his trip to Baghdad: One stall owner stops us to entice us with a child toy (spinning top).. My friend M has the following conversation with him:

Seller: Go on buy one of these and make your child happy..

M: what if I don’t have a child

Seller: God will give you one if you buy the toy.

M: Would God give a child to a single man?

Seller: of course, haven't you heard about cloning and test tube babies.. He actually said the last sentence in English with a very wry smile..

Like everything else about this trip I would have loved to stop by to chat some more with this educated toy seller to see how on earth he ended up doing this for a living.. Alas...


Church of the Masses: See Barb in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and DC and also DC! I saw her speak here and it was awesome.

Crooked Timber: More fiction in collision: Goodnight Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: Goodnight penal colony on the moon. Goodnight earth controlling the penal colony on the moon. Goodnight supercomputer named Mike.

Are You There, Godot? It's Me, Margaret: Young girl gets tired of waiting, waits anyway.

The Name and Necessity of the Rose: Monks search for a copy of Kripke's fabled "Third Lecture."

The DaVinci Code of the Woosters: in which Aunt Agatha is discovered to be a member of Opus Dei and Jeeves demonstrates the correct way to serve afternoon tea from a holy grail.

What Do People Do All Burmese Days?: Richard Scarry reflects on his unhappy career as a British colonial police officer in Burma. "Having to beat the prisoners made me feel like a lowly worm."

The Way The Things They Carried Work: Children's pictorial guide to the functioning of Vietnam-era military hardware.

'Tis Pity She's a Dunwich Horror

Moby Dick Tracy: Call me Ishmael…on your wrist radio!

Tropic of Cancer Ward: More sex than you'd expect.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet of the Apes

Gaudy Night of the Living Dead: Harriet Vane returns to Oxford only to find it overrun with zombies.

and so many more!

Via Kesher Talk.

Julian's Lounge: Another DC blogorama approacheth. I won't be there--a) I'm counseling and b) it's Holy Thursday. But don't let that stop you! (Um, unless you're Catholic. Then yeah, let that stop you.)

Mercury Studios: Good basic post on how comics pages create rhythm and control speed.

Drinking habits around the world: Are the English just whacked in the head? A BBC investigative report. Via Oxblog.
DAPPLED THINGS ON SCRIPTURE AND A SHARING IN THE CRUCIFIXION: "One of the often-remarked-upon features of Latin Christianity is our focus upon the Cross, the sufferings of Christ, and our own sharing in those sufferings. One can also see this in Luther's theology of the cross. There is a counter-current, though, that dismisses this 'crucicentrism' as Mediaeval mumbo-jumbo, poor self-image, sublimated masochism, and a faulty understanding of the importance of the Resurrection ('We're Easter people,' and all that). These criticisms have been lobbed unfairly at the Mel Gibson film, as well (which is no surprise, inasmuch as his movie is completely in line with traditional Catholic meditation upon the Passion and Cross of Christ). So, seeing as how we're at the beginning of Holy Week, I thought I'd offer some scriptural touchstones that will show the centrality of the Cross in the life of the Christian and of the Christian's participation in the dying of Christ. For the time being, I have no intention of developing these texts, simply of citing them."


Sunday, April 04, 2004

MY REACTION TO THIS CHICAGO TRIBUNE PIECE (because the whole "marriage isn't a norm in the gay community" angle now feels totally played to me, due to my job): Who names lesbian bars??? Seriously. I thought DC had a lock on awful lesbian bar names (Phase One and--ahem!--The Hung Jury) but apparently Chicago has a gay-girl bar called "The Closet."

What'n Ah say What'n?

Jaded, I know, but really... whose brilliant idea was this?
PARISHES TO AVOID: "Dahlgren Chapel"--that isn't a Samuel Delany reference, is it??? (kidding.)

I forget where I found this.
RANDOMNESS: Everyone wants to ring their own changes on the Gospel, turn it to their own preferred purposes. I guess I'll just say for now that the statement, "God is love," ought to change your view of love at least as much as it changes your view of God. If it doesn't... look again.
THIS IS A SERIOUS QUESTION: Why are most traffic lights fire-engine red, but some are more of a fruit-punch color? If you actually know the answer to this question, PLEASE email me.
I really don't like being without my blogwatch for too long.
It makes me feel like less of a man.

Catholic Ragemonkey: How a ragemonkey became a Catholic. Moving post. Well worth your time. "It was the reality of suffering that brought me to the Church. Everything tells you suffering has no meaning. But through the fullness of Faith as transmitted by the Church, love shows itself in suffering. And love is the only solution to suffering. And only the Catholic Church knows what to make of suffering because she has held fast to her master."

Diotima writes about marriage: "And this made me laugh outloud:

"'Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It is supposed to make you married,' says Pittman. 'When you are all the way in your marriage, you are free to do useful things, become a better person.' A committed relationship allows you to drop pretenses and seductions, expose your weaknesses, be yourself--and know that you will be loved, warts and all. 'A real relationship is the collision of my humanity and yours, in all its joy and limitations,' says Real. 'How partners handle that collision is what determines the quality of their relationship.'

"Okay, as refreshing as that is, I'm not sure it's entirely right. Sure, there are a lot of things about marriage that can be good for you, being allowed to 'drop pretense and seductions, expose your weaknesses, be yourself,' whatever. But fundamentally, I think marriage is about submitting yourself to something larger than yourself, something to which you will remain committed even when it doesn't seem to do anything for you, just because it's the right thing to do. Oh well, I suppose it's a better strategy to tell people that they should stay with their husband or wife because they'll benefit from it than they should stay with their husband or wife because they promised to on their wedding day (of course, with the proliferation of "for as long as love lasts" vows, they may not even have done that)."

Interestingly, a friend wrote much the same kind of thing about marriage and "transparency" in response to my "mask of command" post.

When Will the Hurting Stop?: A justified response to my defense of superheroism: "I've seen too much that cannot be unseen."
THE COMEDIANS: A Spenserian stanza. My reading has been boring, so I have to resort to original poetry to keep myself interested.

I was an agent once, a double man,
A separated soul. I'd turned against
The last ones left who'd still extend their hands.
I had such skills for spying: how I sensed
Each change in breath and diction! How I fenced
With your assassins (sent in groups of ten).
I never said I loved you, for you tensed
Each time I tried. Too drunk, I can't say when.
I can't trust that you'll trust me, if I turn again.

Friday, April 02, 2004

MORE IRAQI BLOGS: Ahlanwasahlan (includes this story: "Yesterday I was invited to the Hunting Club.. Until the war this cute number was only open to the elite of the previous regime.. with some legendary stories about the escapades of Uday who was a regular? I saw a chap jump in the swimming pool who I could swear was Salam Pax...

("I think calling what took place next as a massage is a linguistic travesty.. Abu Raed was a man who took his job seriously... Anyway as Abu Raed was systematically destroying my body we had an interesting chat about his previous clients.. He swears he had every minister in the previous regime on his table including the infamous sons... My treatment continued until we reached a point when he used an object to crush my shoulder blades with.. the pain was so bad I had to ask Abu Raed if he was sure he wasn?t the product of the torture chambers.. He laughed at the joke?. But he blushed first!! Hmm that worried me!")

The Iraqi Agora

Raed in the Middle

Sun of Iraq

Also... Healing Iraq on ransom abductions, Sunni/Shia propaganda wars, a new women's shelter, and a Libyan blogger.

Road of a Nation has moved here.
MISS MANNERS AND THE MASK OF COMMAND: I've been thinking a lot about leadership. Here are some thoughts. They're organized around questions of gender, but that's just because that's one of the things that initially prompted me to think about this stuff. The gender aspect is really not as important as it appears in what follows. I would fix that, and de-emphasize it, but I don't have the time....

Much of how leadership is practiced is about what you notice. When I had to take on a leadership position unexpectedly, I found that my perspective shifted radically. I had to see the big picture. I had to watch an entire scene, an entire organization, not simply the parts that happened to interest me. In this respect, leadership is a realm in which the unchosen starts to crowd out the chosen. You have far more ability to shape an institution you lead, but if you're leading responsibly, you have far less ability to choose what or whom you focus on. You have to notice more things, and different things.

One of the things you have to notice is personal relationships. Leadership requires a high degree of intuitive grasp of how different people think, how they react, how they want, and how they try to get what they want. So at first you might think that leadership would be especially suited to women's talents, since women tend to be more attuned to these aspects of psychology and relationship. (Insert your own pet theory about whether this is the result of biology or patriarchy or I don't care what-all. That's not the point right now.)

But in fact, I've found that women are less drawn to leadership and often (whether they're actually leading an organization or not) have a harder time thinking in the terms that leadership requires. In what I've seen, there are two reasons this happens: a) Women get too tangled up in the relationships, and lose the outward, goal-directed focus that's the whole point of leading in the first place--what you're leading people toward.

b) Women are less likely to understand "the mask of command"--the way in which leadership requires you to play a role. You're not faking anything, or lying. But you're guarding yourself and attempting to react in ways that serve the purpose of your institution, rather than (as comes naturally to us) reacting in ways that serve your own needs first. Because you're trying to inspire people on a personal level, you have to be up-front and personally available to them, but you also have to keep a tight lid on the parts of your personality that hinder your leadership (temper, say, or difficulty working with a particular person). I've had women get very upset with me because they thought I wasn't being authentic with them--they were mad, basically, because they thought (and said) that I was responding to them out of my role as leader rather than "as a person."

But to me there was no such separation. My role as leader wasn't a costume I was wearing. It was a responsibility that I needed to infuse fully with my own personality while infusing my personality with it. It didn't even feel much like a mask--more like a stance. (A fighting stance, I guess.) If a mask, then a mask that melts partway into the skin. Responding to these women "as a person" meant responding as myself, and one of the important things about me, at that time, was precisely my role.

I don't want to make the gender point especially strongly, although I see it's been the focus of the preceding paragraphs. The gender question is really just the spur that prompted me to notice these things about leadership and two differing views of authenticity (role as falsehood vs. role as stance). I've seen women both wear and react to the mask of command with perfect understanding, and I've seen men be just as unreasonable in their demands for this pseudo-authenticity (authenticity as displaying the parts of yourself that you have excellent reasons for concealing at that moment!) and have just as hard a time negotiating the difference between who you think you are and who you have to convince others that you are in order to lead. I do think more women have trouble with this stuff than men, but really, it's just a shifted-bell-curve thing.

Anyway, I wish I could hand these demanders of authenticity a copy of any book by Miss Manners. Miss M knows full well that not every inclination of the "authentic" self is fit for public consumption. Leadership, like manners, pushes us to consider other people and their needs rather than simply expressing our own.