Thursday, July 29, 2004

THE SHORTEST, GLADDEST YEARS OF LIFE (A BLEG): Hi there. I'm working (slowly) on two short stories, and I need your help. Please email me if you were

a) at Georgetown University from around about 1988-1992
b) involved in conservative campus journalism during time period ditto
c) at Yale during time period ditto
d) (different story) at Yale approx. 1975-1982
e) involved in campus conservatism generally during time period ditto
f) at another big liberal arts college during time period ditto

THANKS. Also, please tell all your friends.

The next story I'll start posting is neither of these two, so you all have lots of time. Over the weekend I hope to start posting a story based on the Norse myths, which is such a fiesta of the weird that it will make "Getting Fired" look like Ernest Hemingway. I've been waiting to write this story for over a decade.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

AMERICA IS THE NAME OF OUR DREAM: Amazing, must-read post here. I expect I disagree radically with the author on what our country needs now. We likely disagree on questions of right and wrong that will remain crucial long after Americans are fairy tales in books written by rabbits. But this is exactly right:

"America compells people to leave everything, to give up everything, to be terrified and impoverished and exhausted and belittled, humiliated and bereaved, because it promises that one day, your daughter who is only two years old will be able to be a student in an American university and work on Capitol Hill during the summers. It makes you not care that your fingers are stuck in the closed door of the El train when you take her to the clinic for her annual dental checkup. It makes you walk to work in the snow after the car is stolen so that she can go to the babysitter with the dog named Barney, after you realize that the old ones kept her locked in a room upstairs. It makes you furious and crazy and wild, dangerous, desperate, and amazing. It makes you amazing. America makes you do things.

"In its conception, America was a furious dream, and when you are not a child of its luxuries from birth, you see that in all its wideness."

read the whole thing

I wrote a hugely scattershot and not nearly as moving thing here on similar themes.

You are the town and we are the clock.
We are the guardians of the gate in the rock
The Two
On your left and on your right
In the day and in the night,
We are watching you.

Wiser not to ask just what has occurred
To them who disobeyed our word;
To those
We were the whirlpool, we were the reef,
We were the formal nightmare, grief
And the unlucky rose.

Climb up the crane, learn the sailor's words
When the ships from the islands laden with birds
Come in
Tell your stories of fishing and other men's wives:
The expansive moments of constricted lives
In the lighted inn.

But do not imagine we do not know
Nor that what you hide with such care won't show
At a glance
Nothing is done, nothing is said,
But don't make the mistake of believing us dead:
I shouldn't dance.

We're afraid in that case you'll have a fall.
We've been watching you over the garden wall
For hours.
The sky is darkening like a stain
Something is going to fall like rain
And it won't be flowers.

When the green field comes off like a lid
Revealing what was much better hid:
And look, behind you without a sound
The woods have come and are standing round
In deadly crescent.

The bolt is sliding in its groove,
Outside the window is the black remov-
ers van.
And now with sudden swift emergence
Comes the women in dark glasses and the humpbacked surgeons
And the scissor man.

This might happen any day
So be careful what you say
Or do.
Be clean, be tidy, oil the lock,
Trim the garden, wind the clock,
Remember the Two.

POETRY WEDNESDAY: From W.H. Auden, "The Orators."

'O where are you going?' said reader to rider,
'That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,
Yonder's the midden whose odours will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return.'

'O do you imagine', said fearer to farer,
'That dusk will delay on your path to the pass,
That diligent looking discover the lacking
Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?'

'O what was that bird', said horror to hearer,
'Did you see that shape in the twisted trees?
Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly,
The spot on your skin is a shocking disease.'

'Out of this house' --said rider to reader,
'Yours never will' --said farer to fearer,
'They're looking for you'--said hearer to horror,
As he left them there, as he left them there.
There's a nut with a blogwatch, bang bang bang...

Do you need a Honda Accord? Because Krubner needs to get rid of one, fast. Via Amy Welborn, who describes it thusly: "This site was featured in either Time or Newsweek this week. It's a bypass, of sorts, of news sites that require registration. Supplies a username and password for many--just enter the URL of the newspaper that's demanding some info, and voila. Warning: some verge on the obscene, I'd say. But it works."

Good news from Afghanistan: A roundup. Women voting, people telling pollsters they feel safe, refugees returning, showdowns over girls' schooling, DVDs and ice cream shops, free radios, distance education, international trade, and more.

"A terror ruling's impact on refugees": From the Christian Science Monitor, via How Appealing: "A recent US Supreme Court decision dealing with the war on terror may herald good news for Haitian and Cuban refugees seeking freedom in America.

"The nation's highest court on June 28 extended the jurisdiction of US courts to detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. The landmark decision in Rasul v. Bush focuses on the plight of 594 Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects being held indefinitely in military custody there.

"But immigration-law experts say the ruling may also benefit a second, lesser-known group of individuals being housed at Guantanamo--Haitians and Cubans who fled persecution in their homelands."

read the whole thing

EnviroAds contest: "$6,000 in cold hard cash will be awarded to the creators of the best EnviroAds, as determined both by visitors to this site and by our distinguished panel of judges. Create and submit an ad that's funny, satirical, creative, inspiring, ironic, sexy or dramatic. You could win the top prize of $2,000, or other prizes ranging from $1,000 to $250 (not bad either).

"We're looking for original material that causes people to think about environmental issues in different ways. Your goal is not persuasion per se, but to start a conversation. Make us think. Make us cry. Make us laugh out loud."

Deadline for submission is September 30, 2004. Winners will be announced in October.

I'm messing with the blogroll again. New faces: Ditch the Raft (Buddhist) and Chrenkoff (the guy who does those "good news from Afghanistan and Iraq" roundups--adding him so I remember to read those).
"This rebuke during the sober hours of school paled much of the glory of the Wild West for me and the confused puffy face of Leo Dillon awakened one of my consciences."
--James Joyce, "An Encounter"

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"MY NAME IS JONES. I'M IN INSURANCE.": Free will, God and man, and time travel in "12 Monkeys" and/vs. "Donnie Darko."

"BETTER AT IT": HUMAN RESOURCES. The third and last segment of the story with the aliens. ...I already know "Pete" (who?--exactly...) is going to be excised when I revise. All non-Pete-related comments and (especially) criticisms are more than welcome. Read the whole story starting here or get the final chapter here. There's some fairly wrenching material here, about motherhood, so you know.
We're the poison in the human machine;
We're the blogwatch--your blogwatch!...

Matt Welch and Tim Blair at the DNC. You totally don't need to know more.

Willow Green: Questions, reflections, possibly changing one's mind on abortion. She's asking for comments from readers, especially those that spring from personal experience. Via Noli Irritare Leones.

"Everything You Were Afraid to Ask About Donnie Darko": The director's cut is being released. Haven't read yet, but looking forward to it. If people have links to discussions of the historical/political context of the movie, please send, as that's obviously doing something and I haven't yet read a convincing explanation of what. Truly fascinating movie though I darkly suspect there's less there than meets the (ruined) eye. But very, very much worth your time: The Book of Revelations According to "Heathers."

Vintage Paperbacks: Covers. Includes such categories as Science Fiction, Lesbiana (whoa, ranging from The Price of Salt to stuff whose very titles would go beyond this blog's electoral mandate...eep...), JD books (including Rumble at the Housing Project--"Old terror in new buildings") and Hillbilly books.
"For with thee is the well of life: and in thy light shall we see light."
--Psalms 36:9

And not without thy light, I find.

Friday, July 23, 2004

"BETTER AT IT": THE HUMAN CONDITION. Part two of the story with the aliens. Veers briefly into explicit territory, so you know. ...The major issue here is that I don't tell you who's speaking. Yell at me about that if you think it sucks. Also, there's no plot, but that almost certainly isn't going to change. Also-also, please feel free to yowl about anything else you like or (especially) dislike about the story so far. I post these rough drafts mostly to make myself write, but also because I've received consistently fantastic and helpful comments from readers. Be part of the commenting goodness! ...Part three (last part) will be up very soon--sometime in the next four days.

Click here to read the very short story so far; here to read the second segment.

"It seemed to me that, seeing in them [=the 'cursings' in the Psalms] hatred undisguised, I saw also the natural result of injuring a human being. The word natural is here important. This result can be obliterated by grace, suppressed by prudence or social convention, and (which is dangerous) wholly disguised by self-deception. But just as the natural result of throwing a lighted match into a pile of shavings is to produce a fire--though damp or the intervention of some more sensible person may prevent it--so the natural result of cheating a man, or 'keeping him down' or neglecting him, is to arouse resentment; that is, to impose upon him the temptation of becoming what the Psalmists were when they wrote the vindictive passages. He may succeed in resisting the temptation; or he may not. If he fails, if he dies spiritually because of his hatred for me, how do I, who provoked that hatred, stand? For in addition to the original injury I have done him a far worse one. I have introduced into his inner life, at best a new temptation, at worst a new besetting sin. If that sin utterly corrupts him, I have in a sense debauched or seduced him. I was the tempter."
--Reflections on the Psalms

Thursday, July 22, 2004

"BETTER AT IT": THE HUMAN STAIN. Part one of the story with the aliens. This is going to be very short: three sections, all as short as this first one. If you are expecting a plot, I strongly suggest you revise your expectations. There's a paragraph or two in this section where the prose gets soggy, and I'm not sure if that's a usable effect or just bad writing. Your comments and (esp.) criticisms are, as always, most welcome. There are many things about this story that I like, and it requires minimal time investment. Click here to begin....
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RIDICULOUS?: Nice reply from Andi at Ditch the Raft in re suffering, Buddhism, sublimation, and selfishness. Should possibly clarify our points of agreement and disagreement. Hard to tell though, since the same terms are often used so differently by Buddhists as vs. Catholics. (I, lamely, lack both the time and the wakefulness needed to carve out a real reply.) Also, Noli Irritare Leones has a post that may clarify what I was trying to get at with citing Frederica Mathewes-Green's book.
"The grasshopper also has a lesson to teach to man. All the summer through it sings, until its belly bursts, and death claims it. Though it knows the fate that awaits it, yet it sings on. So man should do his duty toward God, no matter what the consequences."
--Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, vol. 1: From the Creation to Jacob. I really like this twist on the "ant and the grasshopper" fable.

Monday, July 19, 2004

"YOU WILL BE PULLED BACK": OUT IN THE FIELDS WITH GOD. Well, the Not Really Much of a Ray Bradbury Pastiche At All in the End story is completed. There are many things I like about it, but it isn't at all original, and I think the main thing I wanted to do with the story got lost as it shaped itself too perfectly to the genre-cliche contours. Ah well. It's fine, really, it just doesn't add to the sum total of human knowledge. Next story will be the one with the aliens, which (I think) is significantly more original. I'll begin posting that by the end of the week and should be done before the end of next week. (It's short.)
So: Go here to read the story from the beginning, or here to get the final chapter.

She pictures the broken glass, pictures the steam.
She pictures a soul with no leak at the seam.
Let's take the boat out; wait until darkness.
Let's take the boat out; wait until darkness.
Let's take the boat out.
Wait until darkness comes.
Did you perhaps go further than you told us?
You spin me right round, baby, right round,
Like a blogwatch, baby, right round round round...

After Abortion: Annie reflects on her experiences as a sidewalk counselor. Both heartening and heartbreaking, as is typical of such accounts. She also links to Sursum Corda's excellent post on being an abortion escort, and how he ultimately came to change his mind about abortion.
Ditch the Raft: Fellow Yalien life form Andi offers an interesting Buddhist response to my post on sublimation. Not being a Buddhist, I don't share her view of suffering: All sublime experiences and acts require some suffering; avoidance of suffering is not a worthy human goal; we should move through suffering rather than away from it; great suffering and great joy can often coexist, and great joy often has embedded within it a necessary edge of pain. This is the romantic, desiring aspect of Christianity, where the soul longs for God as the deer longs for the running stream. Or, as Maggie Gallagher put it in The Abolition of Marriage, "[Marriage] is the Song of Songs, and the Crucifixion."
I also may disagree or wish to add something to Andi's discussion of love, virtue, and selfishness. I'm not sure, since I'm not sure whether Andi is using "selfishness" here in the ordinary everyday sense. Selfishness in love is wrong; but it isn't the only way love goes wrong. Women, especially, but men too, are often tempted by a kind of self-immolating romance that is much closer to idolatry than to real love. Then, too, there are the women Frederica Mathewes-Green interviewed for her excellent Real Choices: Listening to Women, Looking for Alternatives to Abortion. Many of these women aborted not to please themselves, but to preserve relationships: with their mothers, with their families in general, with their boyfriends. This isn't anything we'd ordinarily call selfishness--but neither is it, obviously, the fullness of love.
Anyway!--Andi's post brings up all kinds of fascinating stuff, and you should go read it. Also, anyone interested in these issues would probably find Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World an engrossing read. I certainly did.
"Downloading for Democracy": "While legislators in Washington work to outlaw peer-to-peer networks, one website is turning the peer-to-peer technology back on Washington to expose its inner, secretive workings." Must-read, via Hit and Run.
"Charity Should Begin in Congress": Ignore the lame title. This George F. Will column is divided between a description of an amazing San Diego ministry, and a wonkish look at a bill that would make it much more difficult to donate your car to charity. Both halves are very much worth your time.
"It seems to me appropriate, almost inevitable, that when that great Imagination which in the beginning, for Its own delight and for the delight of men and angels and (in their proper mode) of beasts, had invented and formed the whole world of Nature, submitted to express Itself in human speech, that speech should sometimes be poetry. For poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible."
--C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

Friday, July 16, 2004

I feel a blogwatch
On my shoulder
And the touch of a world that is older...

Hit & Run: "Yesterday the Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration sweeping authority to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco products. The bill incorporates the restrictions the FDA tried to impose unlilaterally under David Kessler, including a ban on color and pictures in print ads. It gives the FDA the authority to prevent the introduction or promotion of demonstrably safer tobacco products if it thinks they will ultimately be bad for "the population as a whole." And it protects Philip Morris' position as the market leader by restricting competition through regulatory burdens and limits on advertising (which is why the No. 1 cigarette maker supports the bill and its competitors oppose it)."
Hulk's Diary: Hee! "Here you can read diary about Hulk!" Lots of fun. Via every comics blogger and his momma.
Julian Sanchez announces the next DC Blogorama, Thursday the 29th at Rendezvous Lounge in Adams Morgan. Hope to see you there!

"As late as 1913, Max Beerbohm was still able to mock the vogue for Russian literature by creating an all-purpose Russian writer named Kolniyatsch, of whom Beerbohm wrote: 'his burning faith in a personal Devil, his frank delight in earthquakes and pestilences, and his belief that every one but himself will be brought back to life in time to be frozen in the next glacial epoch, seem rather to stamp him as an optimist.'"
--Joseph Epstein, The New Criterion, October 1992
via Ratty via Otto-da-Fe

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

MARVEL SOLICITATIONS ON CRACK: Yup. Click and bask in the blank unholy surprise of it all.

Oh, and there's foxy boxing in outer space. Yes, FOXY BOXING!
"YOU WILL BE PULLED BACK": INSIDE THE CLIMBING SPIDER. The second, and second-to-last, part of the Not Quite As Ray Bradbury-Like As I'd Expected story. Read whole thing from start here or get newest segment here. I'll likely complete this over the weekend.

Nowhere in the corridors of pale green and gray
Nowhere in the cities, in the cold light of day
There in the midst of it,
So alive, and alone...

...So the wind swept the whirlpool across the sky.
THIS IS THE LAST POST ABOUT THE MOTH. Probably a cecropia or maybe a polyphemus. Aren't they pretty?
BEAUTY, ART, PRIESTS, MORE!: Barbara Nicolosi of Church of the Masses addresses people who work in the formation of seminarians. Tons of great stuff. Here are some quotes that spoke especially strongly to me: "...I have no business talking to you about how to form priests--but I can speak about some of what we have come to in trying to form artists and in the same way that we are trying to realize the priesthood of the artist, perhaps you can begin to brood over the artisthood of the priest? ...

"Of course, the arts are also inadequate. People told me that the movie The Passion of the Christ was too much for them. Without getting into a discussion of the artistic merit of the film, it is still worth saying that, as bad as all the violence was in the film, it still doesn't even come near to representing with any accuracy, the horror of one venial sin. ...

"[Pope John Paul II] goes on to make the pretty radical statement--particularly in this moment of ecclesial and artistic 'disengagement'--that art is not just an object that proceeds from theological brooding, but is actually a source of theology.

"That is, if you don't reference the arts when you are studying the Annunciation, for example, in theology, you are missing other layers of meaning. You need to listen to the movements in Bach's Gesu, Word of God to more completely 'get' the Incarnation. I love this. It points to the fact that the sacred artists is as much a vehicle of divine inspiration as are theologians. ...

"'The Church that marries the spirit of the age is a widow in the next generation.' (Dean William Inge) ...

"Beauty makes us homesick for heaven. It is a 'holy sadness.' ...

"Beauty is expensive to produce: time, details, talent, money. The little things like getting the lighting just right, having the flowers arranged, rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. You are going to have to pay your artists to practice and produce. (My sister is a professional opera singer. She used to get $100 a week to cantor at the local Episcopalian church which has an endowed chair for a mezzo soprano. At our parish church, they want to pay her $40 a week, and as she has said to me wth a shrug, 'And they want me to sing crap.'

"It has to be said. Much of the art we are making as a Church is ugly and painful. It has the opposite effect that it should. There is a problem when the Church is singing music that would be better suited to an episode of Barney, and Nora Jones is singing music that stings people to the heart."

"I joined the A.C.L.U. and became a liberal. Then a drunk. Sober, I could not bear to look at Belle Isle and the great oaks; they seemed so sad and used up and self-canceling. Five good drinks and they seemed themselves."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

MOTHRA AND MORE: So the giant moth (and thanks very much for the suggestions as to its nature; I especially appreciated the reader who warned me that it was likely an alien scout) was not dead. After spending about a day at rest in the corner of the room, it eventually roused itself and staggered to the window, then shambled out into the night.

My conclusion is that I am running a drunk tank for moths. Is anyone really surprised?

In other updateliness, I did in fact watch "Dark Harbor" again. The plot still made exactly no sense. The ending was still thick with cheese. (Although the last line is excellent.) But I am probably going to buy it on DVD. (Right now I have it due to the miracle of Netflix.) It's basically a Bette Davis movie brought down to date--the same over-the-top, doom-soaked, showy explosiveness. The female lead (Polly Walker) is very good, and the male lead is Alan Rickman.
I want a monster to be my playmate;
We'd soon become good friends, because
Although they're hairy
And sometimes scary
They watch such soft and furry blogs...

Family Scholars: Not the point of this post, but I was amused by the phrase "people of divorce." Maybe just a slip of the tongue? But hey, everything's an identity if you want it to be, I guess.

Sed Contra: See (and hear) David "Beyond Gay" Morrison speak!

The Volokh Conspiracy: Why is there no shopping around U Chicago? Blame zoning laws and planning.... Yay for Jane Jacobs, btw, what a great book.

"My Daddy's Name Is Donor" kids' tees. Aaaargh. Via Dawn Eden via E-Pression.
"I forgot to tell you another thing that happened in the parlor, a small but perhaps significant thing. As I stepped into the parlor with its smell of lemon wax and damp horsehair, I stopped and shut my eyes a moment to get used to the darkness. Then as I crossed the room to the sliding doors, something moved in the corner of my eye. It was a man at the far end of the room. He was watching me. He did not look familiar. There was something wary and poised about the way he stood, shoulders angled, knees slightly bent as if he were prepared for anything. He was mostly silhouette but white on black like a reversed negative. His arms were long, one hanging lower and lemur-like from dropped shoulder. His head was cocked, turned enough so I could see the curve at the back. There was a sense about him of a vulnerability guarded against, an overcome gawkiness, a conquered frailty. Seeing such a man one thought first: Big-headed smart-boy type; then thought again: But he's big too. If he hadn't developed his body, he'd have a frail neck, two tendons, and a hollow between, balancing that that big head. He looked like a long-distance runner who has conquered polio. He looked like a smart sissy rich boy who has devoted his life to getting over it.

"Then I realized it was myself reflected in the dim pier mirror."


Monday, July 12, 2004

GRAPHIC VIOLENCE: This NYTMagazine piece on graphic novels is fine--nothing desperately new, silly ending, but certainly not a bad piece--but mostly worth reading for the bits where Alan Moore says stuff.

I also noticed a parenthetical, in re Adrian Tomine: "(He became an English major at the University of California, Berkeley, because the art department had no use for representation, let alone comics.)" That anti-representational shtik is something the awesome Carla Speed McNeil talked about at last year's Small Press Expo, as well (including a really funny story about a professor who claimed to produce "narrative art," but the narrative consisted of the professor standing in front of his blurry weird pictures telling people what happened in them!).

And surely there are more non-anomie-related graphic novels (again Moore has the better term: "big expensive comic books") than this article suggests? I hope so, anyway, because apathy's a drag. If slacker anomie is the alternative I am all the more willing to wave the pom-poms for genre fiction. Not that I was ever unwilling!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

LUNA MOTH: Last night, as I was on the phone with Ratty, a startlingly large moth flew into my apartment. I mean, this critter was significantly bigger than any moth I'd previously seen live and in person. It is possibly the size of my hand. (I haven't checked.) Point is, after flying around my place for a while--while I wondered if it might really be a very small bird, rather than a very large moth, that's how big it is--it settled in a corner and seems now to have either died or (less likely, as it hasn't stirred all day) gone to sleep.

I want to know what it is.

It's about a handspan as far as wings, it's orangey, and it has dark markings on its wings. I live in Washington, DC. I ordinarily do not see moths larger than a few inches.

What is this strange and wonderful creature that has chosen my home in which to (I think) die?
"YOU WILL BE PULLED BACK": IN A SEASON OF CALM WEATHER. The first section of the Ray Bradbury pastiche. There are only three segments of this particular insect, and they're all short.

Looking down on empty streets, all she can see
Are the dreams made solid,
Are the dreams made real.
All of the buildings, and all of the cars,
Were once just a dream in somebody's head.

And he had the idea to fly...
"A scene in the movie required a hurricane. The propeller roared like a B-29, wind and rain lashed Belle Isle, the live oaks turned inside out, Spanish moss tore loose, the sheet metal thundered. But on the other side of the pigeonnier the sun shone serenely."

Saturday, July 10, 2004

"I was moderately happy. At least at the moment I was happy. But not for the reasons given above. The reason I was happy was that I was reading for perhaps the fourth or fifth time a Raymond Chandler novel. It gave me pleasure, (no, I'll put it more strongly: it didn't just give me pleasure, it was the only way I could stand my life) to sit there in old goldgreen Louisiana under the levee and read, not about General Beauregard, but about Philip Marlowe taking a bottle out of his desk drawer in his crummy office in seedy Los Angeles in 1933 and drinking alone and all those from-nowhere people living in stucco bungalows perched in Laurel Canyon. The only way I could stand my life in Louisiana, where I had everything, was to read about crummy lonesome Los Angeles in the 1930's. Maybe that should have told me something. If I was happy, it was an odd sort of happiness."
"DARK HARBOR": So it's this amazingly exploitive adultery thriller. I'm pretty sure the plot makes no sense. The ending is a tribute to The Power Of Cheese.

I'm watching it again tonight.

Wait, you say. You are confused.

Ah! I've forgotten to mention something. "Dark Harbor" also just so happens to star this.

Now it makes sense, no?

Friday, July 09, 2004

"THROUGH THE YEARS WE ALL WILL BE TOGETHER": ITS BITTER PERFUME. At last, the end of the depressing Christmas story. The structure of this story is egregious. I do think there's good stuff here, but it will take some serious kneading and punching before the dough is ready. At any rate, you can read the whole thing from the beginning here, or get the final installment, in which the characters go home.

When we finally kiss goodnight
How I'll hate going out in the storm!
But if you'll really hold me tight
All the way home I'll be warm...

Coming up next: R is for Ray Bradbury Pastiche. I've already started working on it, so you should get the first bit pretty soon.
I've given you plant food,
I've given you dirt;
You've given me nothing
But blogwatch and hurt...

Jon Rowe: Rorschach (of Watchmen fame), Allan Bloom, Nietzsche. I disagree with Jon about Leo Strauss (even though I wrote a B-minus level paper making the case for Jon's position!) but this is definitely worth your time. And Jon's take on Bloom and "Nihilism, American-Style" is spot on. And I think the Old Oligarch would definitely appreciate this take on Nietzsche. ...My big sprawly Watchmen post is here.

Oxblog: "...Well, a really delightful new site run by Economic History.Net now lets you convert the purchasing power of sterling for any years in between 1264 and 2002 - your 1975 five-hundred quid, for instance, equate to a whopping £2,577.60 in 2002; or £41, 6s, 2d in 1900; or £65, 3s, 9d in 1800 (yes, the pound actually rose in value over the nineteenth century); £7, 0s, 11d at the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth; or even £3, 8s, 10d in 1264, the year of the Battle of Lewes and eight years after Simon de Montfort called the first Parliament at Oxford.

"Other sites on EH.Net let you do similar calculations for the U.S. dollar, compare the value of unskilled labour across centuries, and compare the UK consumer price index, and average nominal and real earnings, from 1264 to 2002."


Precocious Curmudgeon: More love for the wonderful first volume of Planetes. "...Juxtaposing small, human stories against the vast, empty backdrop of space, PLANETES is utterly its own creation. It isn't just a patchwork of genres like science fiction and drama and comedy. It somehow transcends those labels. There's clearly a very humanist vision behind this manga, and it finds wonder wherever it looks.

The art is amazing. Even in black and white, Yukimura manages to convey the scope and wonder and texture of space. At the same time, he doesn't prettify the conditions for the people who live there. ...

"And, while its characters aren't explorers, discovery is the defining theme of PLANETES. It's just a quieter kind of discovery that takes you from the mundane to the majestic and everywhere in between."

Via Sean Collins.

And Jesse Walker writes: "I realize this wasn't one of your proffered titles, but in college my friends Bryan and Laurel invented a drink called the Joseph Stalin.

"It was blood and vodka."

Here, earlier, I asked readers to help me transform a Stalin (port and vodka, mmm) into a Stalin Malone, but I don't recall whether I got any good recipes out of it....
"Then you know my story? I know it too of course, but I'm not sure how much I really remember. I think of it in terms of headlines: BELLE ISLE BURNS. BODIES OF FILM STARS CHARRED BEYOND RECOGNITION. SCION OF OLD FAMILY CRAZED BY GRIEF AND RAGE. SUFFERS BURNS TRYING TO SAVE WIFE. No doubt I read such headlines. I wonder why the headlines are easier to remember than the event itself."
--Walker Percy, Lancelot. Still re-reading.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I ALWAYS THOUGHT OF "DRINK CANADA DRY" AS A CHALLENGE: So I totally forgot to post the replies to my "come up with a recipe for this fabulous drink name!" contest. Here they are. Feel free, of course, to send belated entries!

John Hutchins: Some friends and I, in college, did the same thing. A drink mixing party, that is. It, also, was not quite a success. And the failure is kind of embarrassing as we were working on just one name and what should have been an easy one.

The name was prompted by a Life in Hell cartoon. The theme of the cartoon was something like "love according to the great philosophers". The caption to one panel was, I think, "love is a snowmobile racing across a frozen land that suddenly flips, pinning you underneath. At night the ice weasels come. -- Nietzsche."

I don't remember, now, which of us, after the laughter died down, said
it would be a perfect drink name. I think, maybe, it was all at once.
But we never did quite pin down the "ice weasel."

Gregg [these may be my favorites--Eve]: APOLLO AND DIONYSOS--Metaxa 7 star and a floater of Ouzo Serve as a martini garnished w/ a Kalamata olive (bonus points if olive stuffed with feta, garlic or both).

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE--Stoli Ohranj and Baerenjaeger w/ splash of coconut milk on the rocks

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME--Mozart Liqueur, Stoli Vanil, Opal Nera and soda water on the rocks

DEAD FOR A DUCAT--Campari, Bacardi 151 and limoncello on the rocks.

A FAILED SOUTHERN LADY--Southern Comfort, Apricot Brandy, Gentleman Jack and orange juice on the rocks. Garnish with a pineapple and a paper umbrella.

I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVETH (from "Cheers")--copious amounts of properly chilled Chopin Vodka (the finest liquor on the earth) with a splash of holy water. Serve as a very large martini.

INVITATION TO A BEHEADING--Absinthe, Everclear, a splash of Rose's lime and a splash of pineapple juice. Serve as a martini.

TOTALLY UNRELATED--Bailey’s Irish Cream, Harvey's Bristol Cream, heavy
cream and Cream Soda on the rocks.

VIEW TO A KILL--Bombay Sapphire, Aalborg, one dash Galliano, one dash tabasco. Serve as a martini garnished with an onion.

DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP--Cappuccino, Frangelico, absinthe, Bacardi 151. Serve like Irish coffee.


BRAVE NEW WORLD--Limoncello, Bacardi O and Malibu. Serve as a martini.

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND--Jan Sobieski, Coca-Cola and lime on the rocks.

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL--Jim Beam, Pineapple Juice and Malibu on the rocks.

PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHT--Smirnoff Vanilla Twist, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Rose's lime and Fresca on the rocks.

Prosit! Salud! L'Chaim!

Eric Keilholtz: A Clockwork Orange:

Two shots of Tanqueray gin
a generous splash of orange juice
two dashes of bitters

Shaken over cracked ice, strained into chilled martini glasses and served with a floater of Grand Marnier. Garnish with an Italian candied cherry.

The Apollo and Dionysos: A shotglass full of Sambuca is dropped into a pint of chilled Pilsner Urquell. Serve before fish dinners on hot days.

RM Bruce: Not sure if this fits into yr contest or not, but the best drink/drink name I ever came up with is "Scotch on the Lawn":

1 1/2 oz wheatgrass juice
1 1/2 oz Scotch
Serve in a tumbler garnished w/ a blade of grass

It's really tasty.
IT'S THE PICTURES THAT GOT SMALL: Sandra Miesel writes. I note that I have no opinion of most of these actors, but would desperately love to see Laurence Harvey's Lupin.

Since you linked that hilarious HARRY POTTER parody the other day, maybe you'd like to post this one that my son Peter and I made up.


What if the charcters in HP III were played by stars of the British realist films of the 70s, reduced by cgi in size and age to fit? And, of course, brought back from the dead,

HARRY: Dirk Borgarde
HERMIONE: Rita Tushingham
RON: Tom Courtenay
MALFOY: Terrence Stamp

THE DURSLEYS: Richard Burton and Claire Bloom with Albert Finney

DUMBLEDORE: Richard Harris
MCGONIGAL: Vivien Merchant
SNAPE: James Mason
HAGRID: Oliver Reed
TRELAWNEY: Simone Signoret
LUPIN: Laurence Harvey

NEXT UP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR! Over at MarriageDebate, I've been battling Jonathan Rauch. This is a totally disorganized series of posts, and not meant as a syllogistic, Agree Or Be Damned! exercise. Nonetheless, I think a lot of fascinating issues have been raised, and I'd love to know what my readers think. So go, go, Gadget dialectic! Email me if you've got something to say about any of these posts.

The series so far: Sunrise, Sunset: Marriage, children, mortality, and singing Jews.

Marriage Promotion: Cultural side-effects of SSM.

How It Won't Happen: Why federalism can't be the answer.

The future is a drag, man. The future is a flake. The arguments won't be much different after state-by-state "experiments" with SSM.

Teach Your Children: The mamas and the papas.

My Baby Just Cares for Me: Care, sex, and exceptions.

Coming up, probably (though not definitely, as I'm madly busy): What should you not do out of wedlock?

Do fidelity rates matter?

Polyamory--should we care?

The Discovery of the Homosexual a.k.a. chewing off one's own footnotes

The hideous future: Jonathan's best arguments. (I'll almost certainly do this one, since it seems wrong to avoid the points where he's most persuasive.)

"...So it makes no sense at all for Sen. Kerry (and Gov. Cuomo)to expect to be taken seriously when they tell us, on the on hand, that they sincerely and 'personally' believe that abortion is the wrongful taking of innocent human life, but that on the other hand, something called the separation of church and state requires them to become tireless champions in the public square of a completely unrestricted right to abortion, such that they receive campaign contributions and Good Guy Awards from all the leading pro-choice organizations.

"What if they told us that they 'personally' believed in clean air and in corporations doing more to reduce air pollution, but that since that is a 'religious' belief -- remember all those Bible verses about being good stewards? -- they in fact, as a matter of actual politics and policy, have absolutely nothing to say regarding corporate-generated air pollutants and toxic wastes. We would laugh at them if they said that."

I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar
Then it meant that you were a protest blogwatch.
Oh I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible...

Dappled Things: "...It is impossible to conceive of the old Israel apart from the fundaments of the Twelve Tribes; it's impossible to conceive of the new Israel apart from the fundaments of the Twelve Apostles. The following of Christ is more than buying into a philosophical proposition and moral code, as one might do when following Socrates. Christ establishes something that is larger than the individual: that something is the Church, which mediates His presence to the world, and which He places upon the pillars of twelve concrete human beings.

"If we bother to think about it, we run into the Twelve and their enduring role in the Church all over the place. ...To be Christian necessarily involves us with the Apostles.

"...Through their communion with Peter's Successor, the Bishop of Rome, unity is maintained among them, and the oneness of the Church is preserved. This is one of the reasons why bishops are so important. Add to that the fact that they possess the fullness of Holy Orders and are our guarantee of valid Sacraments, and that they are (and always have been) the principle governors of the Church's affairs on the local level, and we see that they are indispensable.

"...All around us we find plenty to criticize in the things that certains bishops do. Open any newspaper, and there it is. And everybody wants good, holy, and vigorous bishops who go out and work hard and do all the things they're supposed to do. And when particular bishops fail in that, we often end up (depending upon our personalities) either criticizing or complaining or getting depressed. Perhaps it's sometimes useful. I've never found it to do any good for me, though.

"There's another way to consider the bishops, though, and it has less to do with what they do than it does with what they are. ...But we need to remember that there is no such thing as the office unless a person fills it. Perhaps office isn't the best term, either. There is a sacramental, apostolic reality that is 'incarnate' in the flesh and blood of a particular human being, regardless of how well or how poorly he exercises his duties. In a way, it's analogous to a Sacrament's validity being ex opere operato, and not from the worthiness of the minister."


Eddix: 50 top law blogs. Via How Appealing. Includes Overlawyered!

Mark Shea, except it isn't actually him blogging: "...All of us have woken up with a lipstick stain on our collar and, throughout our whole lives, we want to know who this mysterious lover is, or was. The first step is to realize that we left the Lover of our souls, even as He embraced us."


Oxblog: Kabul correspondent argues against a strong central government in Afghanistan. Plus: "General bitterness against the foreign sponsors of the Taliban is intense, especially among Afghans who have traveled enough to know that Pakistanis and Arabs do not live by similarly restrictive creeds. One of my Afghan friends lived in the Emirates for a while, and recalled attending a festival where a group of young Arab men changed into Western clothes and began enthusiastically to dance to a Michael Jackson pop tune. His response was incredulity: 'They send us mullahs to teach us Qur'an, and they teach themselves break-dancing?'"

"That very same evening I was dragged down nice and gentle by brutal tolchocking chassos to viddy the Governor in his holy of holies holy office. The Governor looked very weary at me and said: 'I don't suppose you know who that was this morning, do you, 6655321?' And without waiting for me to say no he said: 'That was no less a personage than the Minister of the Interior, the new Minister of the Interior and what they call a very new broom. Well, these new ridiculous ideas have come at last and orders are orders, though I may say to you in confidence that I do not approve. I most emphatically do not approve. An eye for an eye, I say. If someone hits you you hit back, do you not? Why then should the State, very severely hit by you brutal hooligans, not hit back also? But the new view is to say no. The new view is that we turn the bad into the good. All of which seems to me grossly unjust. Hm?'"
--A Clockwork Orange

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I saw you leave on the security screen.
I knew it would be the last time.
I try to recall your blogwatch,
No longer its original form.
Memory fades...

Syria Comment: What it sounds like. (Here's my Weekly Standard piece on blogs in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries.) Via Hit and Run.

"The Bad Seed: Why did so many American churches embrace eugenics?" Excerpts: "...Hard though this may be to credit, the reactionaries were so blinkered as to suggest that eugenics itself might be a passing fad, which future generations would dismiss with a shudder. ...

"...By far the most systematic critique can be found in G. K. Chesterton's Eugenics and Other Evils (1922), almost every line of which clamors for quotation. Chesterton not only demolished the evidence offered to support the new pseudo-science but also brilliantly analyzed its policy consequences. ...

"In its day, Chesterton's title was meant to be provocative or shocking, but in retrospect it seems merely descriptive. Of course eugenics was, and is, a blatant evil. Whoever could have thought otherwise? In fact, as Rosen notes, a great many people bought the eugenic package, including--or especially--in the religious community....

"By no means all Christians were enchanted with the eugenic dream, which at so many points contradicted traditional views of humanity, no less than of charity. Eugenics clearly fostered determinism at the expense of human free will or moral responsibility. But particular churches had their own difficulties with the new movement. The fact that eugenics was so closely tied to evolutionary assumptions naturally alienated evangelicals and fundamentalists, just as predictably as it appealed to liberals and modernists.

"Most Catholics were appalled at the movement's easy acceptance of sterilization and contraception, and Catholic lobbying resulted in the defeat of many proposed eugenic laws. Rosen shows that this anti-eugenic fervor was not a foregone conclusion, and some modernizing Catholics were prepared to work with the AES. Generally, though, the Catholic Church provided a firm bulwark against eugenic 'reform.' When in 1927 the U.S. Supreme Court famously upheld the sterilization of Carrie Buck, the lone dissenter was the court's one Catholic Justice, Pierce Butler. For liberals, such obstructionism proved yet again that the Catholic tradition could never truly be reconciled with secular democracy .As late as 1949, Paul Blanshard's American Freedom and Catholic Power ranted against Catholic willingness to allow defectives and even 'monsters' to be born alive, and to be viewed as full human beings.

"In the case of eugenics, historical opinion would strongly suggest that the modernizers were dead wrong, and that the churches definitely should not have 'moved with the times' or accepted 'the insights of modern science.' To paraphrase Chesterton, it was only loyalty to traditional Christian beliefs that preserved the individual believer 'from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.'"


via Amy Welborn.
KIDS UNDER TWELVE DRINK FREE: "Lord, today please give me the strength to change the things I can change, the ability to accept the things I can't change, and the sensibility and insight to hide the bodies of all the people I had to kill because they pissed me off. Amen."

That's pretty much the mood I'm in. If you don't want my opinion, don't rattle my cage.

Coming tonight, though, stuff about 1984, and maybe also the end of "Through the Years We All Will Be Together" a.k.a. It's the Least Wonderful Time of the Year.
"But, brothers, this biting of their toe-nails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don't go into what is the cause of goodness, so why of the other shop? If lewdies are good that's because they like it, and I wouldn't ever interfere with their pleasures, and so of the other shop. And I was patronizing the other shop. More, badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self. And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines? I am serious with you, brothers, over this. But what I do I do because I like to do."
--A Clockwork Orange
THE FOURTH OF JULY. My favorite secular holiday. Hot and sweltering and lots of things going bang and flash. Basically the perfect holiday. It rained, and rained, and rained, and then cleared up right on schedule. Shamed and Roo held a great party, as always, though Tepper was much missed; then we walked over to the fireworks and I lost myself in the booming and the lights. I really adore fireworks: cascades of light, crackling bursts, glittering showers, I like all of 'em. (Except for gimmicky stuff like happy-face and peace-sign fireworks, both notably absent this year.) I did wish we'd been able to make it onto the actual Mall, rather than a nearby street, since hearing the speakers play "Moon River" before the show had been a highlight of last year's Fourth. Still, we had a great view, and, I mean, nothing beats liberty, justice, and loud bright explosions.

Monday, July 05, 2004

"There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry."
--Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange--my reading seems to have acquired a theme....

Sunday, July 04, 2004

THE LADDER OF LOVE: Responses to my post on sublimation.

Fabio Periera takes issue with my post and calls it "shameful." Unfortunately, I am not sure what I could say that he would not find shameful, short of heresy.... We disagree on several major points, including whether non-sexual love is "forever stunted and incomplete," whether personal holiness (which for Christians is necessarily defined through relationship to a loving God) is loneliness, whether Christians would counsel "gays, and only gays" to sublimate their desires (no), and whether sublimation is just another word for repression. On the first point,

Sed Contra speaks more eloquently than I could. On the last,

an anonyreader sends something she wrote a while ago and heard echoed in my post: "Desire sublimated is not desire wasted. To sublimate means not to waste but to make sublime. Everyone must crush and bottle up desire sometimes: the most obvious example is when the person you want doesn't want you. But some people crush and bottle grapes not because they deny the goodness of grapes, but because they believe in the goodness of wine. Desire bottled can become self-knowledge, extraordinary service to others, great art, religious mysticism. Drinking wine can be undeniably headier than eating grapes. Even vinegar has its uses."
"'Alone--free--the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures.'"
--interrogator, 1984

Friday, July 02, 2004

STORY WITHOUT A NAME: This just kind of crashed out of me in about five minutes flat. Based this article, found via Eutychus Fell.

deleted in the interests of possible publication--sorry!
"'In no part of Oceania do the inhabitants have the feeling that they are a colonial population ruled by a distant capital.'"
--"the book," 1984

Orwell's instinctive feel for Englishness and tribal loyalty may be the best thing about this book. His refusal to see religious loyalties may be the book's biggest failing (even for secular readers). More on that when I finish rereading.
"THROUGH THE YEARS WE ALL WILL BE TOGETHER": SIX FOR THE SIX THAT NEVER GOT FIXED. Second-to-last section of the depressing Christmas story. I'm apologizing in advance for the amazingly awful structure of this story. It should not even stand up without skyhooks. When I revise, I will fix the horrible maldistribution of character development, a.k.a. lumps of exposition in everyone's stockings! I do still think this story is worth the trouble it would take to save.

Anyway, in this section we do learn more about Diep, especially. Click here to read from the beginning, or here for the newest segment.

Again, you know, I apologize for this story. It will suck a lot less once this rough draft has been scraped and sanded. (Especially if you help me by sending me intelligent, ferocious criticism!)

Thursday, July 01, 2004

...AND I WILL SING OF THE SUN: After the Koch thing about "the future of marriage," I was asked what I would tell a gay couple to do. And I hear this a lot: You're very clear on what they can't do, but what should they do?

My response to that question is necessarily more personal than policy-oriented. It has two branches; the first I expect people have heard before, the second perhaps not so much. What follows is fairly close to a verbatim transcript of what I said over dinner to the Kochheads and Jonathan Rauch.

First: A lot of people find out that they are less homosexual than they thought. They find someone of the opposite sex and marry and have babies. This happens about a hundred times more than we are allowed to acknowledge these days. And it happens to people who only a few years before their marriages would have considered themselves thoroughly homosexual. It is worth keeping this fact in mind.

Second, too: These days we are inclined to think of sublimation as synonymous with repression, when in fact the two concepts are all but opposite. Sublimation is the transmutation of some strong desire (in this case, sexual desire) into something else and greater. Sublimation is intrinsically related to the concept of the sublime.

We hear virtually nothing about this today, but historically one of the basic ways of dealing with same-sex attraction has been sublimation--not repression, sublimation. The three most common forms of gold into which this base metal was transformed have been deep abiding friendship, great art, and personal sanctity. All three of these options are still open to everyone.

I wrote here about the ways in which marriage reconciles us to time and mortality. Great art and personal sanctity do the same.

So I guess that's what I would say, if I were the Gay Dear Abby, and if anyone would listen: Be something extraordinary. Love deeply. And make your love sublime.
FARM SUBSIDY RULES CALLED TOO VAGUE: From the Washington Post. Does not get at any of the underlying problems with the farm dole, but still, useful.

"The federal government is giving millions of dollars in farm subsidies to people who should not receive them, thanks to vague government regulations and insufficient oversight, according to congressional investigators."

Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement's.
You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St. Martin's.
When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch.

--O'Brien, 1984