Monday, December 26, 2005

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Here are some of the Web searches that brought readers to this odd little blog.

sin bunion
humanum fish coloring pages
Postmodern Adventists are a growing minority
why are people eyes shaped differently
pictures of frozen remains
mental thoughts and changes when becoming a werewolf
aristophanes use of oregano
Who were the Gracchi And were they worth the hassle
bacon strip blog
Leaded glass porno
caesar buffy fanfiction
space ghost invalid cheese
boom pow
Defensive strategies in Hippopotamus
famous hypocrites
hornets nest pinata
olive garden knockies
Believing people in mind
unusual uses twist ties
what play that shakespeare wrote was about parent child relationship and involved a king
types of rituals against bad stuff
poems about coupon clippers
This delicate sense of irony was best expressed by Wesley Sturges, who was dean of the Yale Law School. Sturges understood Yale very well, perhaps because he had taken most of his degrees elsewhere, and he would greet new law students on their first day at the school with the observation, "I do not know why you have come to law school. If you want to make lots of money, you are in the wrong place. There is a law school about a hundred miles from here on the Charles River that would prepare you for that. The function of the Yale Law School is to train presidents of the United States." The point was, at the time no Yale Law School graduate had ever been president of the United States.
--Robin W. Winks, Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961

Thursday, December 22, 2005

THE DARK SIDE OF CHRISTMAS: See also, "Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child...."
BREAK THE UNION!: Two good JaneGalt posts on the NYC transit strike: Et TWU?, and especially Tales from the TWU Comments Box.
WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME: Am adding a few more "regulars" (Noooooooooorm!!) to the blogroll.

Dreadnought: "Dread no one. Dread nothing. Conservative. Gay. Catholic." This dude is awesome. Found via Cacciaguida.

Manolo for the Men: Inimitable fashion advice. I can't get enough of this wonderful Duff. Also, I think, a Cacciaguida discovery.

First Things: The blog of the mag. You know, Fr Neuhaus, Jody Bottum, those guys.

(Ahh, Rebecca Howe... such a better role for Kirstie Alley than Saavik! [/geek])
"THE APPRENTICE" FINALE (Trump version): So I've been into "The Apprentice" for awhile, especially as portrayed through Television Without Pity recaps (which often pick up on business-related issues that the show's editors miss). There aren't very many high-culture products that focus on leadership--much more in pop-cult genre products--this is also, as I've said, a huge part of why I like X-Men stories in general and Scott Summers/Cyclops stories in particular.

But the finale for this season was... it was completely crazy. And the Tw/oP recapper, Jacob, absolutely 100% nailed it. I have no idea if this link will be interesting to any of my readers, but for me, this was a pretty powerful story of image, leadership decisions, power, and race.
Trump's mic is still live. It picks up his voice: "Did you like that?"

There's not an answer.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mirror in the blogwatch
I just can't stop it,
Every Saturday you see me
window shopping.
Find no interest in the
racks and shelves
Just a thousand reflections
of my own sweet self, self, self...

Cacciaguida: Replies to my Goblet of Fire review. Many good points. I'll note that SERD (we both know her, but she might not want blog publicity, hence the initials) reminded me that the Crouch family backstory sets up both the mother-love and the Ministry-duplicity storylines in a big way, and it might have been worth sacrificing some pageantry to get that in there... but then, the movie was already so long I wanted to throttle a swan, so maybe not. I stand by everything I said about the Snape scenes though. And I tried to focus on the music, the second time I saw the ending, and I still think it doesn't work dramatically.

Odious and Peculiar: A Turing test on the question: What is a wife? Hee.

And Bureaucrash: Sorry guys... it was just a theory.
In the narrative itself, Bronte warned against misreading Heathcliff. Isabella, his wife, stands in for the bad reader--a brilliant, ironic political point in itself. The bad reader is the sentimental reader of romance novels when life, love, and art demand a confrontation with the politics of power. The bad reader romanticizes the sadist and reads the rapist, the abuser, the violent man, as a romantic hero: tortured himself, despite proof that he is the torturer. Heathcliff describes this bad reader when he describes Isabella:
"She abandoned [her family and friends] under a delusion ... picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion. I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a fabulous notion of my character and acting on the false impression she cherished."

--Andrea Dworkin, "Wuthering Heights," in Letters from a War Zone: Writings 1976-1989. Dworkin overwrites, always, but this essay is absolutely worth your time if you care about WH, as I do. Dworkin gets so much of its essence--even the parts with which I take issue (e.g. the eroticism of sameness)--and although she for the most part ignores WH's formal or perspectival innovations, she is 100% what she always is: hardcore. And WH demands a hardcore reader. WH demands a reader who can be at least as unflinchingly oneself as Andrea Dworkin was.
JUS IN BELLO: Marty Lederman on what is in the McCain Amendment and what it means: the good, the (potentially) bad, the ugly, the law. (Or start here and scroll down.)

And Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky:
...As someone who has been on the receiving end of the "treatment" under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. Or how about the "Chekist's handshake" so widely practiced under Stalin -- a firm squeeze of the victim's palm with a simple pencil inserted between his fingers? Very convenient, very simple. And how would you define leaving 2,000 inmates of a labor camp without dental service for months on end? Is it CID not to treat an excruciatingly painful toothache, or is it torture?

Now it appears that sleep deprivation is "only" CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin's "show trials" of the 1930s. The henchmen called it "conveyer," when a prisoner was interrogated nonstop for a week or 10 days without a wink of sleep. At the end, the victim would sign any confession without even understanding what he had signed.

I know from my own experience that interrogation is an intensely personal confrontation, a duel of wills. It is not about revealing some secrets or making confessions, it is about self-respect and human dignity. If I break, I will not be able to look into a mirror. But if I don't, my interrogator will suffer equally. Just try to control your emotions in the heat of that battle. This is precisely why torture occurs even when it is explicitly forbidden. Now, who is going to guarantee that even the most exact definition of CID is observed under such circumstances?

But if we cannot guarantee this, then how can you force your officers and your young people in the CIA to commit acts that will scar them forever? For scarred they will be, take my word for it. ...

Finally, think what effect your attitude has on the rest of the world, particularly in the countries where torture is still common, such as Russia, and where its citizens are still trying to combat it. Mr. Putin will be the first to say: "You see, even your vaunted American democracy cannot defend itself without resorting to torture. . . . "

read the whole thing (link probably via Andrew Sullivan)
I DON'T REALLY KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE IT, but here is Terry Teachout's description of his recent collapse and diagnosis with congestive heart failure. He is recovering, he could use your prayers, and he manages to describe the events with characteristic grace.

Monday, December 19, 2005

"CAPOTE": Saw it on Saturday with a friend. Verdict: a strange movie, with flaws in unexpected places.

The basic thing is that it's about Truman Capote researching and writing (and promoting) In Cold Blood, his 1965 account of the murder of a small-town Kansas family; and either you think, Whoa, must see now! or, ...And? The movie doesn't work hard to shift people from category B to category A--characters talk about how revolutionary the book's style is, how it will change the way people write and how journalism gets done, but even though this actually turned out to be true you don't get a sense from the movie of why or how. If you aren't interested in this story already, I don't know that the movie would make you interested. That's okay by me, because I was already fascinated with the story. So anyway, let's say you are already interested, for whatever reason. Does the movie work?

Partly no: This might be the first movie I've ever seen with good writing, great acting, and intrusively bad direction. How does that combination occur? The music is aggressively awful, saccharine and cliched. (So are the end titles.) The cuts are jarring and purposeless, sometimes even misleading the audience to focus on the wrong thing in a scene. Grr.

There's also a major writing problem: Although we do get a strong, and fairly subtle, sense of all the elements that drew Capote to the Clutter family killings once he knew a lot about them, I didn't get a sense of what made the first impression, what made the story click with him. Eh, I'm not sure that's a problem that can be solved, now that I think about it: I don't want armchair psychoanalysis of the dead, so some level of opacity in Capote's motivations will necessarily remain. Must think more whether there was a better way to handle this question though.

But partly yes: Capote is brilliantly written--egotist, self-deceiver, genius, user. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is clearly having a great time with the role. He was terrific. Harper Lee, wonderfully played by Catherine Keener, gets the fun role of Capote-deflater. They have a lot of chemistry together. And it's an inherently fascinating story. In the end, I was really glad I saw this, even though the music and editing problems grated. You should go!
INSPIRING IRAQI VOTE. Seriously. At some point tomorrowish I will be looking through the Iraqi blogosphere, and will post here any especially interesting takes.
"WHY CAN'T HE BE YOU?": I have a short story in the Advent issue of Dappled Things, a new Catholic online lit-mag. I note that a Holy Whapper and a Godsbodkin are also represented therein. [ETA: No, I'm wrong about Godsbody. Sorry!] Why not mosey on over for a look?

(This is the story set at a conference for ex-abortion clinic workers. There are a lot of reasons someone might not want to read a story with that setting, so I figured I should let you all know.)
She's laughing out loud
And busy 'cause she's minding somebody else's blogwatch...

Jane Galt: Fish in foil!

And life after the farm dole, in New Zealand:
...Granted, twin-island New Zealand is only the size of Colorado with a population of 4 million, and represents a mere thimbleful of the world's agriculture. But the evidence is there, its farmers say: Since the government's momentous decision to abolish all 30 agricultural subsidies, their productivity has grown, farming's share of gross domestic product has risen as has the rural population, and family farms have survived and are thriving. ...

Nationally, going cold turkey was a group effort. The government used the state-owned Rural Bank to show commercial lenders the lead in debt restructuring, and encouraged them to go easy on mortgage defaulters. The banks, facing massive losses if farming collapsed, wrote off up to 40 percent of farmers' debts. The worst-hit families were given welfare payments.

And the farmers learned to work harder and do with less.

"We were young, so we put our heads down and just worked the farm," Ruth Rainey, now 46, recalled in an interview. "We didn't buy anything basically for years."

Pedersen, now 48, believes the government was acting "from a social conscience rather than from an economic plan," and indeed, there are indications the authorities themselves weren't sure cold turkey would save agriculture. Pedersen remembers Finance Minister Roger Douglas telling a farmers' meeting as late as 1989 that theirs was "a sunset industry. Agriculture will never again be the major contributor to this economy."

Instead, farming today is 16.6 percent of total gross domestic product, up from 14.2 percent in the late 1980s, and in the year to April 2005 it racked up exports worth $12.7 billion, more than half of all New Zealand exports.

The farmers have learned to diversify. During the subsidy era New Zealand had 72 million sheep -- 18 for every human. By last year the number was just 39 million, but more efficient methods mean the islands still produce the same amount of meat, and meanwhile freed-up land is being turned over to growing grapes for wine and other exotic crops. There are even niche markets of deer, goats, ostriches and llamas.

more (via the Club for Growth blog)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

YESTERDAY'S TOMORROWS: R.J. Lehmann got a hold of a 1979 issue of Omni, including readers' predictions:
Predictions Shared By More Than 50% of Omni Readers
...PREDICTION: By the late 1980s, cloned human beings will become a reality.
OUTCOME: They clearly didn't hit the mark, but how far off they were is tough to judge. If you count embryos as humans, then Advanced Cell Technologies claimed to have done it in 2001 and Hwang Woo-Suk definitely did it in 2004, making them off by a decade and a half. If the claim is for a truly viable, post-embryonic human, then I guess it depends on what you think of the claims made by Panagiotis Zavos and Severino Antinori, or those of the Raelians. ...

PREDICTION: Gas prices will top $1-a-gallon by 1982.
OUTCOME: The one prediction readers were likely hoping wouldn't come true, and it actually arrived two years early... at least, in California, which is the only market for which I have data. The average nominal price of gasoline jumped from $0.89 in 1979 ($1.98 in today’s dollars) to $1.23 in 1980 ($2.49) before going on to hit a peak price of $1.66 ($3.08) in 1981.

more--I'm addicted to this kind of thing
Otar, her lover, said that when you walked behind her, and she knew you were walking behind her, the swing and play of those slim haunches was something intensely artistic, something Arab girls were taught in special schools by special Parisian panders who were afterwards strangled.
--Pale Fire, hee.

(Quicquid comments here.)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl
I caught you in my teeth
Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl
The Void yawns underneath

and more family favorites....
But let me not pursue the tabulation of nonsense.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

(Eh, I'm on p. 101 of this now, and I have to say I'm not sure I know why we're here. So far it seems cute and clever, but nothing more. What am I missing? --Lolita is really great, and I need to re-read it, and Invitation to a Beheading is fascinating though I thought it petered out toward the end, but this one I just don't get.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hey there motorcycle boy, I hope you will blogwatch me...

Jane Galt: How to save money.

The Red Shoes: Everything I ever felt about William "Carlos" Williams and his lame-ass wheelbarrow. This post gives me a real "you are not alone!" glow.
edited, because sometimes it's better to see a movie before being catty about it. (yeah, I'm no fun anymore, I know....)
HE RAN STRAIGHT TO HIS OWN ARMAGEDDON: Here's a thing I think I know: The sacrifice you want to make for God may not be the sacrifice He wants from you.
WRONG SHUI: How have I managed to place my writing chair in the only place in the entire apartment that gets the draft from the window and the whiff from the garbage?

(In other news, expect a quick review of Achilles in Vietnam later todayish.)
IF I OWE YOU AN EMAIL, or anything else: I should be caught up on more or less everything by Monday. The past couple weeks have been a cavalcade of madness. Thanks very much for your patience....
NOW SEEMED LIKE A GOOD ENOUGH TIME TO RE-LINK my March 2003 series of posts on torture. Start here and scroll down for me, up for responses.
...A schoolmate of bin Laden's told me that during the eighth or ninth grade, around 1971 or 1972, bin Laden was invited to join the Islamic study group. In that period at Saudi high schools and universities, it was common to find Syrian and Egyptian teachers, many of whom had become involved with dissident Islamist political groups in their home countries. ...

Bin Laden's experience in the group was described for me during several interviews with a schoolmate who is now a successful professional in Saudi Arabia, and who asked not to be further identified, because, he said, he did not want to risk reprisals from bin Laden's sympathizers. The schoolmate had never given interviews about Al Thagher's after-school Islamic study group, but he decided to do so, he said, because he hoped his account might warn other Saudi parents about the potential dangers of such informal tutoring, particularly of the young and impressionable. His specific account of the group's meetings is in accord with the more general recollections of several other Saudis who knew bin Laden during his Al Thagher years.

The Syrian physical-education teacher who led the group at Al Thagher was "tall, young, in his late twenties, very fit," the schoolmate recalled. "He had a beard--not a long beard like a mullah, however. He didn't look like he was religious. ...He walked like an athlete, upright and confident. He was very popular. He was charismatic. He used humor, but it was planned humor, very reserved. He would plan some jokes to break the ice with us. ..."

As time passed, the group spent more and more time inside. After about a year, bin Laden's schoolmate said, he began to feel trapped and bored, but by then the group had developed a sense of camaraderie, with bin Laden emerging as one of its committed participants. Gradually, the teen-agers stopped memorizing the Koran and began to read and discuss hadiths, interpretive stories of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, of varied provenance, which are normally studied to help illuminate the ideas imparted by the Koran. The after-school study sessions took place in the Syrian gym teacher's room, on the second floor. The teacher would light a candle on a table in the middle of the room, and the boys, including bin Laden, would sit on the floor and listen. The stories that the Syrian told were ambiguous as to time and place, the schoolmate recalled, and they were not explicitly set in the time of the Prophet, as are traditional hadiths. "It was mesmerizing," he said, and increasingly the Syrian teacher told them "stories that were really violent. I can't remember all of them now, except for one."

It was a story "about a boy who found God--exactly like us, our age. He wanted to please God and he found that his father was standing in his way. The father was pulling the rug out from under him when he went to pray." The Syrian "told the story slowly, but he was referring to 'this brave boy' or 'this righteous boy' as he moved toward the story's climax. He explained that the father had a gun. He went through twenty minutes of the boy's preparation, step by step--the bullets, loading the gun, making a plan. Finally, the boy shot the father." As he recounted this climax, the Syrian declared, "Lord be praised--Islam was released in that home." As the schoolmate recounted it, "I watched the other boys, fourteen-year-old boys, their mouths open. By the grace of God, I said 'No' to myself. ...I had a feeling of anxiety. I began immediately to think of excuses and how I could avoid coming back."

more (via Get Religion)
THE PRIEST AS "OTHER": Fascinating and provocative little op-ed from a married Catholic priest (pastoral provision thing):
...The issue is not about the marriage or celibacy, or sexuality at all--not really. The issue is how does our culture make sense of Catholic priesthood when we have come to understand the diminishing role of clergy (Protestant as well as Catholic) solely in terms of functionality? ...

Now contrast this development with what was claimed of the Catholic priest in the same 16th century. Committed to the idea that what one is has priority over what one does, Roman Catholicism came to understand the priest as an icon of sorts: He was a sign of the "other." It wasn't that he was holier or wiser, or even necessarily a good person. But the priest bore a certain other-ness, often (usually?) in spite of himself. ...

First, American Catholics have succeeded in becoming mainstream. Furthermore, in so doing they have often bought into the notion of clerical functionality. ...

(I am convinced that when future social historians examine the causes of such deviant behavior, a major one will be that fragile individuals, who understood religion in terms of fetish, were allowed to assume a priestly role that simply could no longer sustain their weaknesses. It is significant that the Bible closely links the fetish of idolatry and sexual deviance.)

Where does all of this lead us? If Catholic priests are to fit in, they'd better get with the program: They'd better prove that they have a function--or at least appear to have a function. If they aren't going to marry and become middle-class, like the rest of us, they could at least mirror the sexual diversity of the larger culture.

Any fool can think up blogs that watch...

Not actually blogs, I guess, but whatever.

Christopher Hitchens takes time to gibe and twist, thank God!, the British journalist. Ah, my role models at the Daily Beast.... I forget where I found this.

And this is a big ol' piece on welfare reform, which I will read when I can print it out.
"I WAS CURED ALL RIGHT." An excellent piece on the last lines of novels. A few quotes, but look, just make with the clicking why doncha?
...The deepest rooted of last lines is the childhood one: "And they all lived happily ever after." Unlike the first line of such stories, "Once upon a time," it isn't just a formula. It's a reassurance that the result the story has achieved will remain in place even now the story-telling has finished. But more than that, it acknowledges what the story was about all along. Folk tales that end like that have, all along, been about happiness and challenges to it; the subject of the story is there in its last line.

The line, elegantly varied, is there at the end of most classic novels. Both Emma and Pride and Prejudice not only end with almost exactly that, but take great care to have the crucial word of the novel right at the end--"uniting them" in Pride and Prejudice, "union" in Emma. ...

But there are two questions at stake here, in what Frank Kermode called "the sense of an ending". One is how far a novelist believes in the end of a story, either through perfect happiness or complete catastrophe. The other is just the sense of a cadence; the sort of thing that sounds final, even if the novel's concerns are provisional, incomplete. A novel with an unimpeachably happy ending may finish on an incomplete cadence, like Bleak House's "even supposing --". Conversely, a novel where all the questions remain unanswered at the end can, more rarely, have a resoundingly firm cadence, just like Green's Loving.

What has become rarer is a coincidence of the two. Novelists have become increasingly unlikely to bring a story to a final close with a final-sounding cadence. ...Nor is a modern novel quite imaginable that ends, quite unironically, with the peals of happiness at the end of many Victorian novels, and it's striking that modern criticism has made strong efforts to find ambiguities in the closing assertions of Great Expectations and, much less convincingly, Wuthering Heights.

You can certainly find those resounding final sentences in modern novels--none more resounding, surely, than the end of Ulysses, with its thundering repetitions of the word "Yes", like the end of a Beethoven symphony. But, philosophically, we've grown more accustomed to doubt and uncertainty. We like ambiguous endings; more than that, we like cadences that sound uncertain.

whole thing
Link via A&L Daily. Send me any last-line thoughts you have!
Oooooh, you are the rebel! Look at the rebel who does not believe in the socks for the expensive shoes!

Such the rebel who eschews the commonsense traditions of the untutored masses! All hail the rebellious non-sock wearing men, who challange the very foundations of our hide-bound society.

Manolo says, Pah!

HOMICIDE: A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS. Just finished this book, by David Simon. It's the book the TV show is based on. (Haven't seen show, though.) Book came highly recommended by a bunch of people, including at least one with a law-enforcement background; and I'll recommend it too, for what that's worth. It's basically one year with Baltimore's homicide detectives, at the early edge of the late '80s - early '90s killing spree. Overwritten, but style isn't exactly the point; book rings true. It's excellent, empathetic reporting.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

ADVENT TIME IS HERE, BY GOLLY!: Okay, I have now officially shot my bolt as far as Vatican-gay-priest-stuff goes. So why not a post about fun Christmas stuff I love?

Favorite Christmas movies, in order: "It's a Wonderful Life." I expected it to be saccharine, and only watched it because of Jimmy Stewart. It's actually a hard-earned, powerful story about what it means to be good.

"The Lion in Winter." Ferocious, brilliant from start to finish, despite being bleaker than three-day-old D.C. snow.

"Gremlins." C'mon, you love it too! A genuinely poignant, creepy, low-rent fable. (The sequel, "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," was funny and flashy, but lacked the emotional commitment that made the original so awesome.)

Favorite carols, in rough order: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent." Incarnational and spooky.

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!": 1. "God and sinners reconciled." 2. "Hark!" Hee. How can you not love a song that starts with "Hark!"?

"O Holy Night."

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Poignant, longing, a reminder of our abiding neediness.

"In the Bleak Midwinter."

"We Three Kings." How can you not love this unforgettable, rousing account? "King and God and Sacrifice...."

"What Child Is This?" Such a beautiful tune. I love "Greensleeves," and it's even better as a carol.

Honorable mention, because you can't not: The Pogues, "Fairytale of New York." Such a hard-ass, beautiful song. Everything I love about my country, everything I love about this very strange and tempestuous life. I note that this song was narrowly beaten out for the Christmas 1987 UK #1 spot by the Pet Shop Boys' cover of "Always on My Mind." If anyone ever asks why I miss the '80s, I won't even bother talking about Reagan or Thatcher or JPII; I'll just point out that little fact and rest my case.

Come Home for Christmas. From my church in DC:
Thursday, December 15, 2005 -----
Come Home for Christmas Advent Penance Service
12:10 PM-1:40 PM

I'll bet there's a church in your area doing something similar. Come home.

And the boys in the NYPD choir are still singing "Galway Bay,"
As the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day...
A FEW STARS FROM A CONSTELLATION THAT HASN'T BEEN DRAWN YET: Scattered thoughts, in no coherent order, related to this whole Vatican-gay-priests-Andrew-Sullivan-mishegoss.

* Through philosophy I came to accept that if objects in and aspects of the physical world have meaning, they attain this meaning only through the agency of a Creator God--that if nature is a language, it can only be the language spoken by God. Philosophy didn't, though, convince me that the physical world did have this intrinsic meaning, this language. Eliot's "Preludes" helped to convince me. A strange stippling of peeling paint on a Yale bathroom wall helped to convince me. And also, a woman's face, as beautiful as the moon under water, helped to convince me. In my own life, I can't unhook the longing for beauty that drew me to the Church with the longing for the beauty I saw in other women. (And I don't especially want to unhook those things, I must admit. It seems to me that Catholic faith and chastity might be one way for me to honor those women. Look how important you were!)

* Yeah, that "Did you know priests can't be lesbians?" line, from my earlier post, was there because it's cute. But I meant it, too, in a way I wonder whether any male commenters on this whole gay-priests thing have really understood. If not being able to be a priest means the Pope thinks you're horrible, well, lesbians aren't the only women who should be upset. If you can't handle the fact that there are strong reservations (not even a thoroughgoing prohibition), based on a practical procedural document, against your receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders--well, hi there, we're half the world, we're called "women." You may have heard of us.

* What is your identity? A few of the responses to my prior post have argued that I'm not understanding that being gay is Who I Really Am, and that's what makes not boffing girls different from every other sacrifice anybody's been asked to make. Oh. See, 'cause I thought that this understanding of homosexuality is actually pretty recent, and deeply culturally conditioned and culturally dependent (doesn't mean it can be "changed"; just means that how people express and understand homosexuality changes based on their culture). And I thought there were lots and lots of cultural expressions of basic facts of human nature or individuals' natures, which might be experienced as "deep-seated," which were nonetheless prohibited by the Church: There are and have been countless cultures in which men felt that their identities as males required cruelty, to take an easy example. St. Augustine has especially acute comments on that dynamic, and on how deeply it can be embedded even in the nature of a believing Christian man.

* It might be relevant to note that restrictions on the religious practice of holy people is anything but unprecedented. Fr. Solanus Casey was not allowed to preach or hear confessions except in emergencies. St. Therese, famously, was turned down at least once by the Carmelites, and I think multiple times. Women--there we are again!--can't be priests. Doesn't mean we can't be holy.

* Struggle and suffering can coarsen a person's character. They can also gentle and strengthen it. I've learned so much about what the latter looks like from gay men and lesbians. (And I'm using those terms intentionally--I don't just mean "people with same-sex attractions," I mean people who radically disagree with me about the morality of homosexual acts.) When y'all want to talk about gay people, you might keep that in mind.

* I know I find it relatively easy to believe the Church about homosexuality, as vs. believing the culture in which I was raised, in large part because I never for a moment believed I was intrinsically good. I never believed that the fact that I really, deeply wanted something made that thing good. I found the Catholic understanding of the Fall--that we are neither good nor bad, but Fallen--astonishing and hopeful.

* I know that the alienation I experienced as a result of, among other things, my sexual orientation made it much easier for me to believe the Catholic account of human nature. If I were heterosexual, I don't know if I would be Catholic today.

* So okay, what should people actually do? What works? Friendship, immersion in the Church's beauty and its history of difficult converts, and--above all--devotion to the Eucharist. I guess you can see that as a cliche, or as the only important thing there is to say.

Oh, and music. Music is always good.
Well she has now gone from this unhappy planet,
With all the blogwatchers and the destructors on it...

Amy Welborn: New book on Christian converts from Islam.

Legal Affairs Debate Club: Sanford Levinson vs. Jack Balkin: Should liberals stop defending Roe?

Maggie Gallagher: "The Divorce Divide."
...Who are most likely to be in very happy first marriages? The college-educated are about twice as likely as high school dropouts; the "very" religious are also about twice as likely as those who are only slightly or not at all religious. People who marry directly without first cohabiting are also about twice as likely to succeed in marriage as those who live together.

What's the best age to get married? Earlier than most people think. Teen marriages are high-risk. But the most successful age for marriage was not the late 30s but the mid 20s. "When the quality of marriages is taken into account, however, first marriages of persons in their mid 20s emerge as distinctly more successful than those entered into either earlier or later in life," the report notes, calling this finding one that "has not been previously recognized." If you are 23 and find the right person, you are plenty old enough to make a happy marriage. ...

A separate study by University of Maryland sociologist Stephen P. Martin found that divorce rates among the college-educated have declined by half since their peak in the 1970s. He labels this growing evidence of a "divorce divide."

A RUSH AND A PUSH: So I've been a fan of Morrissey ever since my first girlfriend gave me a tape with Your Arsenal on one side and The Smiths on the other. So why did it take me until today to notice that the guy's got the same vocal hitch as Patsy Cline? You can really hear it in "That's Entertainment," which I was listening to on the excellent Suedehead compilation (which also features the beautiful, swoony Morrissey/Siouxsie duet "Interlude," my absolute favorite of solo Moz). I don't even like "That's Entertainment" too much--a bit too Savonarola for my taste--but that little vocal stutter still makes me catch my breath.

(Yes, yes, world-historical posting soon. After I watch some TV.)
THE mother of Anthony Walker drew deeply on her Christian faith yesterday to find forgiveness for the racist killers of her son, who face up to 30 years in jail.
Gee Walker, 49, had listened to every harrowing detail of the ambush by white racist thugs that left her son, a gifted black A-level student, with an ice axe embedded in his skull. ...

Within minutes Mrs Walker, a mother of six, emerged from the court arm in arm with two of her four daughters to offer words of compassion to Taylor and Barton: "Do I forgive them? At the point of death Jesus said, 'I forgive them because they do not know what they do'. I have got to forgive them. I still forgive them.

"It will be difficult but we have no choice but to live on for Anthony. Each of us will take a piece of him and will carry on his life."

The contrast between the 18-year-old victim, a devout Christian, committed student and talented basketball player who wanted to become a lawyer, and his white racist killers could not have been more stark.

Mrs Walker, matriarch to the only black family in Tarbock, Huyton, in Merseyside, spoke eloquently about how her evangelical Christian faith demanded that she forgive them. But she faltered and the tears fell as she recalled having to say goodbye to her son as he lay in intensive care with a 3ft ice axe protruding from his head.

more (via Mark Shea)--note, by the way, that this doesn't mean that the killers should go free.
THE END OF THE AFFAIR: Okay, so: There's this document, see? And it's about what you gotta be to be a priest. (For example, apparently you can't be a lesbian. Who knew?) And there are these articles that people write, because the only certainties in life are death, taxes, and journalism. And in one of these articles, somebody says that homosexuality has no "social value."

Which prompts Andrew Sullivan to post a deeply moving photograph of Fr. Mychal Judge, who (as far as I can recall) publicly said he was gay, holding a victim of the World Trade Center attacks. [*EDITED, SEE BELOW] And then this:
That's the new pope's verdict on the life and work of gay priest Mychal Judge, and the thousands of others who have served God so faithfully and so well since the beginning of the Church. Nothing this pope can do or say will ever take away from their service or their dignity as people and servants of God.

And I just... this isn't even about gay stuff, yet. (I will try to post something about gay stuff in a bit.) It's just about logic. Because Sullivan's logic would mean a lot of things I doubt he really wants to mean:

Lechery has social value.

The use of working-class prostitutes has social value. (He called it "feasting with panthers," and talked about how the boys' "dirtiness" was part of the attraction. Look, Wilde is something of a personal hero of mine, but he did some things and liked some things that are cruel and disgusting.)

Adultery and the use of prostitutes have social value.

In other words: People do amazing things and terrible things. There aren't good people and bad people. So listing off someone's heroic actions does nothing to indicate that everything he did or believed was right, and it's naive and destructive to pretend otherwise.

More crucially, one of the most beautiful and hopeful doctrines of the Catholic Church is the distinction between behavior and worth. You aren't valuable because you have never screwed up, or because everything you do and believe is right. You're valuable because you were created by a God Who loves you, Who cherishes you and longs for you. If you take every chastisement based on behavior as an attack on your personal worth, you are a) a Pelagian (believing people get saved because they're so cool and special) and/or b) rejecting the possibility that God sees past your behavior, sees down to the core of you, wants you, loves you, but doesn't ever agree that everything you do is right. God is not an idolater. God's constant lament to His beloved is, "Baby, don't be that way!"

A political and (more importantly) cultural movement has sprung up to convince those of us with strong (I guess the word this season is "deep-seated"; it's the new black!) homosexual attractions that God couldn't possibly want us not to act on those attractions. Because it hurts too much to give it up? Because it seems so necessary or central to our identities? If those are the reasons people resist, I guess I just want to remind them that people every single day embrace varying kinds of sacrifice--slow or fast, honored or humiliating--and if you want anything resembling a functioning culture (let alone a Catholic one) you need people who can say that "It hurts" isn't an argument. Every functioning culture relies on a core of people who can accept that life, or God, or whatever they believe in, will ask them to do things they would never have believed possible; and they do them. Every day. Policemen and policemen's wives; soldiers and soldiers' husbands; saints and martyrs; pregnant women in desperate circumstances; everyone who suffers and whose suffering would be eased by just a little wrong action, just a small palliative sin.

You can be as big as your culture by only making the sacrifices your culture honors. You can be as big as your own self by only making the sacrifices you honor and completely understand; if you're a cosmopolitan, that will mostly mean making the sacrifices your personality and chosen subculture honor. You can be as big as the Church by making all the sacrifices God requires. I'm pretty sure most of us are in between--but we can move from one pole to the other.

Be bigger.

*EDITED: Uh, actually, Fr. Judge is the victim being held in the photograph. Moreover, there's controversy over whether or not he ever publicly claimed to be gay. I read up on this a while ago but cannot now remember the details, so I guess, just keep in mind that I am talking about Andrew Sullivan's take on Fr. Judge's life and ministry. I apologize for the sloppiness on both counts....
She's a blogwatch
And she's got a terminal case of
"Ask too many questions and my Smith & Wesson will answer"...

Angevin2: An awesome, ongoing series evaluating Shakespeare-on-film. Notable for hilarious warnings ("Depressing. Very, very depressing. Even by King Lear standards"; "Do not look directly at Malcolm's sweater. Contains genuinely terrifying Porter"), interesting interpretive notes ("I don't know that Lear is an entirely hopeless play, and I don't believe it should be presented as such"; "[P]erhaps the fact that 2H4 is a play of decline and decay means that it's easier to do in the BBC's limited format than the more energetic 1H4"), and exceptionally useful comments ("BTW, if you weren't already aware, allows side-by-side comparison of editing choices of Henry V, BBC, Branagh and Olivier"--squee!!!!). Part one; part two.

Dappled Things: Saint Andrew the Unappreciated.

Hit & Run: Wal-Mart defenses, one and (ambivalently) two. Lots of links I haven't investigated... but I bet they offer Wal-Mart defenses at prices much cheaper than those of their competitors.

Christopher Hitchens notes that Dolores Haze would be 70 this year. Not sure how old that would make Humbert Humbert--possibly interesting question is, which is the earliest war that each would remember? ...The piece itself is brilliant, by the way, and entirely worth your time. (Via About Last Night.)

Michael Young interviews Peter Galbraith:
Reason: Some say there already is a victor in Iraq, and that's Iran. Do you agree, and how far can Iran go in Iraq without provoking an Iraqi backlash? ...

Reason: Is Iraq better off today than it was under Saddam Hussein?


Unqualified Offerings: This is a post about Middle Eastern politics and war; but also about Robert Frost, and I kind of feel like I know more about that, so that's the reason I'm linking.

And you can vote for the best libertarian or "classical liberal" (which I guess means "Enlightenment liberal," as opposed to my own position, which I will grandiosely describe as "John Paul II liberal" or "personalist liberal") blog here. Nobody cares what I think, which is why none of my guys are even on this list; but my nominations would be: Hit & Run, because I always learn from their site even when I disagree; Jane Galt, because she and her contributors think hard about stuff I don't understand (wow, ringing endorsement there!--I hope you know what I mean, though--we share underlying principles, but she knows how to apply them where I can't); the Club for Growth blog, because they're a great clearinghouse; Relapsed Catholic, because Kathy (who is also a phenomenal essayist and poet) cuts through a lot of sentimental Catholic B.S.; and The Corner, because whether you love or hate them, no libertarian-symp can afford to ignore them, and they provide a model of constructive Internet disagreement. If Unqualified Offerings posted more these days, he'd be on this list somewhere, too. (Voting link via Los Volokh.)
The contents of the [torture] room, its furnishings, are converted into weapons: the most common instance of this is the bathtub that figures prominently in the reports from numerous countries, but it is only one among many. Men and women being tortured... describe being handcuffed in a constricted position for hours, days, and in some cases months to a chair, to a cot, to a filing cabinet, to a bed; they describe being beaten with "family-sized soft drink bottles" or having a hand crushed with a chair, of having their heads "repeatedly banged on the edges of a refrigerator door." ...The room ... is converted into a weapon, ... made to demonstrate that everything is a weapon, the objects themselves, and with them the fact of civilization, are annihilated: there is no wall, no window, no door, no bathtub, no refrigerator, no chair, no bed.
--Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Unmaking and Making of the World, quoted in Achilles in Vietnam

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

LIKE A DEMON EEL THRASHING IN HIS LOINS: Yes, it's time for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award again. Link probably via Ratty.
..."We don't torture" means that we don't use worse tactics than [cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment] -- except when we do. Waterboarding (in which a prisoner is made to believe he is drowning) and withholding pain medication for bullet wounds cross the line into torture -- and both have allegedly been used. So does "Palestinian hanging," where a prisoner's arms are twisted behind his back and his wrists are chained five feet above the floor.

A Nov. 18 ABC News report quoted former and current intelligence officers and supervisors as saying that the CIA has a list of acceptable interrogation methods, including soaking naked prisoners with water in 50-degree rooms and making them stand for 40 hours handcuffed and shackled to an eyebolt in the floor. ABC reported that these methods had been used on at least a dozen captured al Qaeda members. All these techniques undoubtedly inflict the "severe suffering" that our law defines as torture.

Consider the cases of Abed Hamed Mowhoush and Manadel Jamadi. Mowhoush, an Iraqi general in Saddam Hussein's army, was smothered to death in a sleeping bag by U.S. interrogators in western Iraq. Jamadi, a suspected bombmaker, whose ice-packed body was photographed at Abu Ghraib, was seized and roughed up by Navy SEALS in Iraq, then turned over to the CIA for questioning. At some point during this process, according to an account in the New Yorker magazine, someone broke his ribs; then he was hooded and underwent "Palestinian hanging" until he died. The CIA operative implicated has still not been charged, two years after Jamadi's death. And the SEAL leader was acquitted, exulting afterward that "what makes this country great is that there is a system in place and it works."

He got that right. Shamefully, it is a system that permits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, smudges long-standing lines about what is and is not permitted in routine interrogations -- and then expresses hypocritical horror when soldiers and interrogators cross the blurry line into torture and murder.

McCain has said that ultimately the debate is over who we are. We will never figure that out until we stop talking about ticking bombs, and stop playing games with words.

more (via Balkinization)

Monday, November 28, 2005

I don't want another drink or fight, I want a blogwatch...

(...Yeah, no.)

Dappled Things: "Many of us bloggers and comment box denizens have already written more about sex in the last two months than Ratzinger has in his entire career.

"Because the human body matters in Catholicism, the Church does talk about the body and what we do with it. And because sexuality -- in all its glorious, irksome, life-giving, broken, purposeful, and unpredictable jumble -- is a fundamental part of our bodiliness, the Church teaches that that matters, too, and she talks about it. It's not the most important thing she has to say, nor is it anywhere near the thing she talks about the most, and it's not likely to make complete sense if taken out of the context of everything else that she teaches about the human person and each person's invitation to immortality." (mas)

Don't Bomb Us: Al-Jazeera has a blog. Via Dappled Things.

Hit & Run: But do they stock a Barbie Dream Detainee Center Playset?

Jane Galt: A column on John McCain's economics, and Jane's reaction. I'm interested in McCain, these days. I don't trust him further than I could spit him, but he's apparently pro-life, and he opposes torture, so hey, what more can you ask for? (...Don't answer that.)

Libertas: Fascinating review of the original King Kong.

MarriageDebate: Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands: Maggie Gallagher unwinds the spin.

Matt Welch: What really happened in New Orleans's Superdome?

Quoth the Maven: Interesting GOF review from a screenwriter and Potter fan.

And The Continuing Crisis:
IT WAS the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims.


And Nun of the Above:
Growing numbers of educated Italian women are throwing away their high heels and lipstick and opting for the austere life of nuns in closed convents.
(more--via Dappled Things)
A LITTLE BIT OF TORTURE. A little bit of rape.

A little bit of Hell.

(And yes, there are gestures at the usual valid points about what really constitutes torture, and can you hit them in the face, but it's all just apologies for horror in the end, as Krauthammer himself admits. Because nothing is more important than physical safety. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few legs.)

[edited slightly for clarity]
I DID NOT KNOW THAT: "If you are looking for a really eclectic gift for that Cash fan in your life, perhaps will you want to get Man In White, the recently re-issued novel about St. Paul written by Johnny Cash. Few people are aware that Cash loved biblical-era history and used to sit around with his father in law Ezra 'Eck' Carter and read the prolific Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, as well as texts by Roman historian Pliny the Elder." (here)
In World War II, one-third of all casualties were psychiatric. ...

In Vietnam the official psychiatric casualty rate was less than 5 percent. ...The official diagnostic manual of the time did not even have a category for what prior generations had called "shell shock" or "combat neurosis" and the next generation would call "post-traumatic stress disorder." Men broken by combat did not exist--they had been theoretically and administratively ruled out.

--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam--real commentary on this coming soon

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

THANK U VERY MUCH: Am a bit too private (, really) to do the blog thing of listing what one is grateful for on this Thanksgiving. Suffice it to say that I thank God for my family and friends; and much else. But Quoth the Maven's "thank-you notebook" idea is neat, and likely a good spiritual discipline in hard times.
FREE MARKET, FREE WILL, FREE BEER! Chad Wilcox of the Institute for Humane Studies writes:
In honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Felix Morley, the Institute for Humane Studies awards $5,000 in cash prizes to outstanding writers whose work reflects the principles of individual and economic freedoms including the First Amendment, voluntarism, the rule of law, and inalienable individual rights.

The competition is open to young writers (25 years of age or younger as of December 1, 2005) and all full-time students. Articles published July 1, 2004 through December 1, 2005 are eligible for consideration. For more information or to apply online, please visit the contest website at or apply directly at

Deadline: December 1, 2005

If you meet the eligibility requirements for this competition we strongly encourage you to apply. We also encourage you to pass this information along to students and young journalists in your network, and to your readership. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at
BEATS WORKIN'. So you guys know that I sold a short story to Doublethink, the magazine of the America's Future Foundation. (And if you asked me to mail you a copy, know that your copy is not in the mail yet, but will be next week, as I return from hibernation.) I already knew that AFF puts on great "roundtable" events for young libertarians and conservatives in the DC area. I've enjoyed scores of their events.

I did not know that their magazine pays really, really well. You should write for it! You should read it! You should check AFF out, seriously. And yes, because they were good to me; but also because they provide fun times for the wonkishly inclined.
On Sunday evening, I was invited to be part of the audience during the taping of a CNN talk show titled "Voices of a New Generation" that will first appear on CNN International Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm GMT. The show is part of the Eye on The Middle East series that the station is filming this week throughout the region.

The idea was that a panel of young people, two from Lebanon, an Iraqi, a Saudi, a Jordanian, and an Egyptian, would discuss various issues of the day, and interact with the audience. Interesting moments ensued, but perhaps the most remarkable thing was how the Iraqi was angrily taken to task by both the Egyptian and Jordanian panelists, and by some people in the audience. The Iraqi, Ahmad Shames, heads an organization to promote democracy called the Iraqi Prospect Organization. On his first attempt to make it to Baghdad Airport to fly to Beirut for the show, he couldn't take his flight and had to return to the city. His car was shot at and not long afterwards he found himself some 100 meters away from a car-bomb explosion. Despite this, Shames was upbeat about Iraq's future, but also underlined that Iraqis had very little patience for the surrounding Arab countries, which, they felt, were fueling the war in Iraq.

The optimism infuriated the young Egyptian woman on the panel, a member of the Kifaya movement opposed to Hosni Mubarak's rule, who joined after being beaten by police. She accused Shames of arguing the American line in Iraq, and affirmed that Iraqis were opposed to the occupation, and that "we all read the [anti-war] blogs." The Jordanian participant suggested that Iraqis could be descending into a form of paranoia when it comes to the behavior of surrounding Arab countries, and wondered what Shames suggested the Arab states do.

JUS IN BELLO: ABC reveals CIA interrogation techniques:
...The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water. [Pouring freezing-cold water on someone can kill him, by the way. You die of shock. It's not just like, "ooh, chilly, maybe I'll catch a cold." Check out the first chapter, or thereabouts, in Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation, if memory serves. --ELT]

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

(lots more)

Balkinization comments.

And Julian Sanchez:
The man with graying hair had "blunt force injuries complicated by compromised respiration," the result of a synthetic hood placed over his head during interrogation by Navy Seals and "Other Government Agency," which typically means the CIA. The obese 56-year-old died of "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression"; the circumstances surrounding his death are classified. The 47-year-old died gagged and shackled to a door frame; his autopsy revealed numerous rib fractures and lung contusions.

These are a few of the findings from 44 reports of autopsies on U.S. detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last month under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Eight of the 21 deaths classed as homicides, the ACLU concluded, appeared to have resulted from abusive interrogation tactics, with strangulation, asphyxiation, and blunt force injuries listed as causes of death. Because the documents sought by the ACLU are trickling out slowly, month by month, it is unclear how many more such reports remain to be uncovered. ...

The defenders of wide—and unreviewed—latitude for military interrogators appear to be united in an effort to do Nietzsche one better: Those who grapple with monsters, they argue, had best hurry up and become a bit monstrous themselves. "Coercive" interrogation tactics—not torture, mind you, which intelligence officials will scrupulously avoid even in a total oversight vacuum—will be used only sparingly against Very Bad People, presumably on those surprisingly frequent occasions when Jack Bauer must be called in to discover the location of a suitcase nuke due to explode in mere hours.

more--your must-read link for the day.
What the world needs now
Is another blogwatcher
Like I need a hole in my head...

Lots o' links, because I went to earth for a while there. But now I'm back (and badder than ever).

Amy Welborn: In honor of St. Cecilia: "Post your most memorable spiritual/musical moments here. Not just your favorite hymns, but, if you can, a real moment in time in which music has revealed something to you about God, life and truth."

From Nazi-occupied Austria to the monastery--really powerful.

Camassia: Sensible comments on faith and works (and God as "benevolent wallpaper").

Hit & Run: Link Wray, RIP. "Besides, how cool is it to get an instrumental banned by radio stations?"

Libertas: "The Passion was really something else altogether--a violent, R-rated film shot in Latin and Aramaic! When I first saw it, The Passion reminded me of nothing so much as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver -- a gritty, blood-soaked, intensely personal statement about self-sacrifice. The Passion would've fit in beautifully during the 1970's, perhaps Hollywood's last great decade for personal, director-driven film. And it also fit beautifully into the post-9/11 sensibility of national self-sacrifice." (more) (...I still haven't seen The Passion, so this is all secondhand for me.)

Mark Shea: "But the weird thing about our culture is that it is often far more upset by image than by reality. The WaPo prints a story about torture in secret CIA facilities and William Bennett is upset, not that the torture happened, but that it was reported. A bunch of protesters shock a crowd with images of what is occurring every day down the street in the Planned Parenthood clinic, and the Guardians of Our National Discourse in the press are far more upset by the image than by the reality." (more) Yes. Exactly.

McSweeney's: Actual phrases from a French-to-English conversational guidebook. "That's not expensive, honey, that's 'Dream Whip.'" Fascination indeed! (via E-Pression)

Media Doctor: Canadian site providing scathing commentary on health-care reporting. Via Colby Cosh.

Siris: The virtue of amiability. Via Dappled Things.

The Rat: The laws of night and honey.

Derek Lowe: Aspirin wouldn't be approved today. Via the Club for Growth.

Children as young as eight are being taught that the controversial European Constitution is up and running--even though it has been rejected by voters.

More than 100,000 copies of a textbook claiming the constitution will help the EU run "like clockwork" have been distributed to primary school children on the continent. ...

...The teaching material, entitled Europe, My Home, features two children, Lea and Thomas, who are guided through the complexities of the EU by a character called Good Father Houpette. ...

When they arrive at the chapter on the constitution, the children are pictured reading the rules and regulations of an indoor sports hall.

"Not long ago the European Union was given regulations such as these," Father Houpette says. "With this new constitution everything will go like clockwork, just like in your club."

more (via Hit & Run)
I FELL INTO A BURNING GOBLET OF FIRE (INSTEAD OF SEEING THE JOHNNY CASH MOVIE): Review here. Not only filled with spoilers, but likely incomprehensible to non-fen a.k.a. the Legions of Sanity. Short version: worst of the four.

Cacciaguida disagrees, here, although I actually agree with many of his substantive points. I'll add other interesting reviews to this post if and as I find them.

ps: So far, I don't think I'll see "Walk the Line." I realized that I feel too protective of the story: If the movie isn't exactly how I wanted it to be, I think I might hate it no matter how good it is on its own terms, and I hate the people who do that, so I don't want to be one of them. So I'll just listen to a couple Cash CDs and call it a night.
I submit that, in addition to other dramatic and mythic roles that she plays, Thetis is an "imaginary companion" such as has sustained many in extreme danger and deprivation.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam

Thursday, November 17, 2005

KITCHEN ADVENTURES: I EAT THE AIR, BACON-CRAMM'D. OK, lots of stuff here. I'll try to keep it brief. An appetizer/hors d'oeuvre, entrees, and a salad.

1. Bacon-Wrapped Enoki. Enoki are these odd little mushrooms, thin white stalks that stick together at the bases and have flimsy caps at the ends. You chop a few inches off the bottoms and use the rest. What I used: Bacon, enoki, scallions, aluminum foil, toothpicks. What I did: Heated oven to 425. Cut the bacon strips in half to make two shorter strips (not two long thin strips). Cut the scallions into thin sticks. Separated the enoki into bundles. Covered an oven tray in tinfoil and set the bacon strips out on the foil. Put a bunch of the scallion sticks and an enoki bundle on the middle of each bacon strip, then rolled up the strips and secured them with toothpicks. Stuck the tray in the oven for about ten minutes.

How it turned out: Eh. Both the scallions and the enoki turned out to be basically tasteless once they'd been cooked, so this was pretty much like eating bacon-wrapped air. Which... mmmmm, bacon-wrapped air, you know? But still, definitely not worth the time and expense. At least I have lots of leftover bacon to have fun with.

2. A lot of chicken randomness. Just a lot of different things to do with half a boneless, skinless chicken breast. All of these were really good. How come in a restaurant, chicken dishes (other than the genius that is fried chicken) always taste so bland and dry? These dishes were moist and yummy, and while they were definitely more bland than beef or lamb, they were also a lot cheaper.

What I used and what I did: Half a chicken breast, olive oil (or in one case canola, which didn't seem to affect the flavor at all and was much cheaper), black pepper, fresh thyme. Put this stuff in a pan and saute until the chicken was cooked through. Just, you know, cooked it and stirred it and turned the chicken now and again. To this basic picture I added various combinations of chopped red onion (snappy and sweet--better in this dish, I think, than either yellow onions or Vidalias), chopped canned artichoke hearts (Haddon House brand is an excellent value--very artichoke-y in flavor, not watery like Progresso or gritty and slightly chemical like the Whole Foods house brand), chopped button mushrooms, some leftover enoki and scallions (still super bland), and chopped garlic. For one dish, instead of sauteing vegetables with the thyme and chicken, I heated the oven to 375, cut two plum tomatoes in half, put 'em on a foil-covered oven tray with two big button mushrooms, seasoned the veg's with cayenne, dried basil, and dried oregano, and roasted in the oven for about twelve or fifteen minutes. Then that stuff went on top of the chicken.

How it turned out: All of this was good and very easy. The thyme (which you discard when the cooking is done) works beautifully and makes what could be a boring dish a bit more interesting.

3. A Crazy Salad. I did this in order to get rid of leftovers. What I used: Ex-vir olive oil, more fresh thyme, a button mushroom, the leftover enoki, two chopped scallions, chopped red onion, two artichoke hearts, and some schmancy grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. What I did: Mixed up everything except the oil, thyme, and cheese in a bowl. Heated the oil with the thyme for as long as I could before the oil started to smoke. Let the oil cool a little (but not entirely), discarded the thyme sprigs, and then poured it over the salad. So the veg's do cook a bit in the heated oil, but not much. Topped with cheese.

How it turned out: This is actually great! I was skeptical. And I think someone who doesn't like a real snappy, near-raw onion taste should leave out the red onion or cook it a little in the thyme-y olive oil first. But the tastes are interesting, the scallions and enoki finally have some kind of purpose in the world, and this slightly weird combination of foods added up to a bright, pleasant, and filling salad. The elegance of the oil and cheese sort of smoothed the oddness of the other ingredients. Not sure this is for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.
I've got a theory--it could be blogwatch...

Balkinization: Advice for Thurgood Marshall, on the eve of his confirmation hearings. Heh. And yeah.

Anti-smoking stupidity alert.... Via The Corner, I think.

And Michael Young offers a status report: "The U.S. has lost momentum in opening up Middle Eastern societies."

It must be blogwatch!
Modern American English makes soldiers' love for special comrades into a problem, because the word love evokes sexual and romantic associations. But friendship seems too bland for the passion of care that arises between soldiers in combat. Achilles laments to his mother that his philos, his "greatest friend is gone." (18:89f) Much ink has been spilled over whether this word (and the abstract noun philia) and all its linguistic relatives should be translated under the rubric of "friend, friendship," etc. or of "love, beloved," etc. However, the difficulty of finding the right word reflects differences between ancient Greek and modern American culture that need to be made clear. "Philia includes many relationships that would not be classified as friendships. The love of mother and child is a paradigmatic case of philia; all close family relations, including the relation of husband and wife, are so characterized. Furthermore, our [word] 'friendship' can suggest a relationship that is weak in affect..., as in the expression 'just friends'.... [Philia] includes the very strongest affective relationships that human beings form, ...[including, but not limited to] relationships that have a passionate sexual component. For both these reasons, English 'love' seems more appropriately wide-ranging.... [The] emphasis of philia is less on intensely passionate longing than on... benefit, sharing, and mutuality...." Many individuals who experience friendship as one of the central goods of their lives find that their employers will not recognize philia between people whose relationship is not familial. Veterans have lost their jobs because they left work to aid another veteran, in circumstances where the same absence would have been "understandable" and charged against sick or vacation time had the other been a spouse, parent, or child. Many people today view friendship purely as a leisure activity, or a sweetener that with luck arises among co-workers, neighbors, or members of a voluntary association such as a church or club but which will be put aside if it gives rise to any conflicting claims at work. Many veterans have also alienated their spouses because they would leave home to go to the aid of fellow veterans. The ancient Greeks, perhaps because their societies were so highly militarized (every male citizen was also a soldier), simply assumed the centrality of philia.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Let's take a ride,
and watch with the blogs tonight
in suburbia...

Only three links here, but they're all must-reads.

Sed Contra: A reader's memories of Dorothy Day. Lots of awesome stories.

Reason piece on A Clockwork Orange and the Paris riots.

And: a beautiful idea--maybe an idea you should take up in your own area:
...Koleszar, with five of his St. Ignatius High School classmates, carried her casket into the funeral service and later bore it across a cemetery lawn to her grave, where they bowed their heads in prayer.

Then he went back to school, a bit changed by the experience.

"It's a little strange at first," said Koleszar, a member of a student group called the Pallbearer Society. ...

...They attend funerals--one after the other. In the last two years, the volunteer student group--the only one of its kind in the region, according to local funeral directors--has helped to bury 42 men and women, most of whom died poor or alone or with few surviving relatives.

more (via Amy Welborn)
...Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn't just Adel who was innocent -- it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq -- all Guantanamo "terrorists" whom the military has found innocent.


...Fearful of future terrorist attacks and frustrated by the slow progress of intelligence-gathering from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Pentagon officials turned to the closest thing on their organizational charts to a school for torture. That was a classified program at Fort Bragg, N.C., known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.

The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE's teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods. At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the United States Southern Command, Gen. James T. Hill, said a team from Guantanamo went "up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques" for "high-profile, high-value" detainees. General Hill had sent this list -- which included prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault and the exploitation of detainees' phobias -- to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who approved most of the tactics in December 2002.

Some within the Pentagon warned that these tactics constituted torture, but a top adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld justified them by pointing to their use in SERE training, a senior Pentagon official told us last month. ...

SERE methods are classified, but the program's principles are known. It sought to recreate the brutal conditions American prisoners of war experienced in Korea and Vietnam, where Communist interrogators forced false confessions from some detainees, and broke the spirits of many more, through Pavlovian and other conditioning. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, painful body positions and punitive control over life's most intimate functions produced overwhelming stress in these prisoners. Stress led in turn to despair, uncontrollable anxiety and a collapse of self-esteem. Sometimes hallucinations and delusions ensued. Prisoners who had been through this treatment became pliable and craved companionship, easing the way for captors to obtain the "confessions" they sought. ...

Within the SERE program, abuse is carefully controlled, with the goal of teaching trainees to cope. But under combat conditions, brutal tactics can't be dispassionately "dosed." Fear, fury and loyalty to fellow soldiers facing mortal danger make limits almost impossible to sustain.


And Andrew Sullivan has a bunch of posts you should read (especially if you are on the Wall Street Journal editorial board...), starting here.
SOME LINKS... since I didn't post on Veterans' Day. The Imperial War Museum has a terrific website (and is an amazing museum). Here is the section on burial and remembrance; here is their complete listing of online documents and recordings on the theme of commemoration.
To grasp the significance of betrayal we must consider two independent dimensions: First, what is at stake, and second, what themis has been violated.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"MY FINEST DEATH WAS TWO CENTURIES AGO NOW." If you want a copy of the Doublethink issue with my first published short story in it, you can do one of three things:

1. You can go to the "Doubledrink Happy Hour" and pick up a copy: Tomorrow night (WEDNESDAY!!!) at the Black Rooster Pub at 1919 L Street NW from 6:30-8:00. Come say hi.

2. I heard a rumor that you can get the magazine at that newsstand right by the Farragut North K St. exit--the one at K and Connecticut. Let me know if the rumor is true!

3. ...Uh, you can email me, and I'll hook you up.

Don't be shy!
This monkey's gone to blogwatch...

Camassia: Isn't it nice when somebody else says what you were trying to say, only lots more eloquently? ...IOW, what you need Jesus for.

What Is a Christian Movie?--excerpt from new book from Act One, Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture, which I hope to read soon. Read the excerpt to know why you want to read the book! Via Church of the Masses.

Oh, and last but not least, Two Drunken Moose Invade Home for Elderly. Via E-Pression. I was nowhere near Sweden at the time!
When a leader destroys the legitimacy of the army's moral order by betraying "what's right," he inflicts manifold injuries on his men. The Iliad is a story of these immediate and devastating consequences. Vietnam has forced us to see that these consequences go beyond the war's "loss upon bitter loss... leaving so many dead men" (1:3ff) to taint the lives of those who survive it.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Unmaking of Character

Monday, November 07, 2005

A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND: Following, five reasons the phrase "a good person" is bad and wrong, and often put into the service of evil. (No, I'm serious. The fact that this is a hobbyhorse of mine doesn't make it false!)

1. It divides the world into good people and bad people. "While there is a criminal element, I am in it. While there is a lower class, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free" (Eugene Debs; from memory, thus perhaps slightly misremembered). The "good person" phrase feeds complacency in those who think themselves good and despair in those who think themselves bad. Both of these responses are variations on the sin of pride.

2. It locates goodness in the wrong place: in the putatively "good person." This very cool article from Catholic Online (on hypocrisy) administers a swift slap upside the head: "It is Jesus who makes us good, not our 'goodness' that makes us Christians." And Pelagianism? Is, like, the least hopeful heresy ever.

3. It's almost always used the way "devout Catholic" is used: "I'm a good person, so I should get to do whatever I want." I pay my taxes! I'm in the PTA! So... Catholic morality doesn't apply to me. Yeah, no.

4. It cuts us off from the particular insights into human nature that are available to those who know that they are not "good people." It tends, always, to valorize conformity over alienation, go-along-to-get-along over radical personal transformation, and good-enough over sublime.

5. It sets us up for disappointment and cynicism when the "good people" are caught with their hands in somebody's till or somebody's knicks.

I think I actually hate this phrase more than I hate the bloodless, trivializing, politician phrase "the abortion issue." Growl!!!!
I'm sad to say I must be on my way
So buy me beer and whiskey 'cause I'm going far away (far away)
I'd like to think of me returning when I can
To the greatest little blogwatch and to Sally MacLennane...

Amy Welborn: School stories from New Orleans.

Colby Cosh: Best thing I've read on Paris burning. Le Corbusier and other villains.

Dappled Things: "One of my own practices, and one that I recommend to others, is to consider what particular temptations and sins we commit in life. Whether our own particular recurring sin is judgmentalism, or wrath, or pride, or this or that sin of the flesh, there are souls in Purgatory even now undergoing their purification for precisely those sins. I like to pray for those particular souls, doing my part to help them through, in the hopes that they will return the favor for me once they bask in the light of God's perfect charity. We're all in this together, and Christ has knit us together in a way that not even death can break." (more)

Plus many All Souls links.

Family Scholars: Lots of great stuff up now--reviews of Elizabeth Marquardt's excellent book on the moral and spiritual lives of children of divorce; Brad Wilcox on marriage in men's lives; an updated report on marriage in the social science literature; and much much more. Go! read!

Sed Contra: Two moving posts, one on penance and fasting and one on the nature of love.

And from USA Today, the House vs. Kelo: "The bill would withhold for two years all federal economic development funds from states and localities that use economic development as a rationale for property seizures. It also would bar the federal government from using eminent domain powers for economic development." (more) Awesome.