Wednesday, August 31, 2005

TERRIBLE: New Orleans under martial law (scroll down).

"Hundreds of people are standing around, wanting to know where they should go to get water and food. They have not had either for days."

"Mothers were giving birth in the locker rooms. The auxiliary gym 'Dungeon' was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it."
KATRINA: Times-Picayune weblog. Via Amy Welborn. ...Children's hospital besieged by looters.

Devastating stories of families torn apart and children in desperate need.

"We carry home with us and some day we might be able to go back to the place." Via Amy W.

Corporal works of mercy.

Many links with information on how to help. Also, please consider giving to Modest Needs. (Via the Accidental Lawyer.)


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

KATRINA LINKS: Updated, enormous bloggers-in-the-storm list.

Where to donate.
SEE HER PICTURE IN A THOUSAND PLACES, 'CAUSE SHE'S THIS YEAR'S GIRL: My reactions to those Dove ads, in chronological order (and I recognize that this is a very personal reaction):

1. (Hey, I'll be honest with you) Whoa baby!!! That's a spicy meat-a-ball! Can I get some fries with that--

2. Rrrrrright. Let's back slowly away from the billboard. ...And Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse, pray for us....

3. *sound of motor revving*


5. [STILL IN UNISON] Oh yeah. Pretty women posing in public in their underwear. That's revolutionary.

6. What the heck is "firming cream" anyway? [Answer: snake oil.]

7. Ooh, isn't this clever. Dove gets props for being all "affirming" of different body types, subverting the dominant whatever; and yet also snares the pro-"full-figured" demographic (especially, but--as item #1 shows--not exclusively black and Hispanic). Empowerment for some, hoochie mamas for others!

I mean, UPN has been running constant ads for that Queen Latifah "Beauty Shop" movie, now out on DVD. In these ads, Queen L poses in front of a mirror, and asks a girl, "Does this make my butt look big?"

So how "subversive" is it, really, to put the Dove ads in the DC Metro, given that the models are still very very very very (...stop that, you!) pretty?

8. Look, if you're gonna put hot women on a billboard, just do it. Don't try to make it all "empowerment"-y, like women are honored by posing in their panties. Don't pretend twenty "extra" pounds can substitute for a personality. Don't pretend you're on my side.

9. The Dove ads actually get away with more titillation than comparable "normal" ads--I can't remember other campaigns that covered the Metro in underwear-clad women. (...And I think I would remember.) That's a kind of advertising passive-aggression, and it's really gross. Women's bodies are educational! They're infotainment! That's... really, really creepy.
"I AM NOT RECONCILED." Half-Blood Prince and Man Who Was Thursday. Assume spoilers for both.
Girls don't like boys, girls like cars and blogwatch...

About Last Night: Katrina-blogging roundup--your source for eye-of-the-storm eyewitnesses. "Finally, a personal word from Terry to all those bloggers posting from the Gulf Coast, and everyone else who was caught in the path of Katrina: we New Yorkers know about disasters, and our hearts are with you. May the world reach out to you as it did to us."

Blossom Culp!!! I don't care for the "eat your peas" approach this article takes, like Blossom Culp is healthy for oppressed teenage girls; the point of Blossom Culp is that she is amazingly fun, and you should read the wonderful, sharp-tongued books in which she stars. I think Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death is my favorite.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

WHO CONTROLS THE FAMILY?: From the Washington Post:
A crowd of disheveled villagers was waiting when Chen Guangcheng stepped out of the car. More women than men among them, a mix of desperation and hope on their faces, they ushered him along a dirt path and into a nearby house. Then, one after another, they told him about the city's campaign against "unplanned births."

Since March, the farmers said, local authorities had been raiding the homes of families with two children and demanding at least one parent be sterilized. Women pregnant with a third child were forced to have abortions. And if people tried to hide, the officials jailed their relatives and neighbors, beating them and holding them hostage until the fugitives turned themselves in.

Chen, 34, a slender man wearing dark sunglasses, held out a digital voice recorder and listened intently. Blind since birth, he couldn't see the tears of the women forced to terminate pregnancies seven or eight months along, or the blank stares of the men who said they submitted to vasectomies to save family members from torture. But he could hear the pain and anger in their voices and said he was determined to do something about it.

For weeks, Chen has been collecting testimony about the population-control abuses in this city of 10 million, located about 400 miles southeast of Beijing, beginning in his own village in the rural suburbs, then traveling from one community to the next. Now he is preparing an unlikely challenge to the crackdown: a class-action lawsuit.


via Cacciaguida and Dappled Things.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I'M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF: Two new blogs on the roll: Libertas (the blog of the Liberty Film Festival) and WaiterRant (the rant of a waiter). Check 'em out!
LOYAULTE ME LIE: So August 22 was... one of those days. But I still should have acknowledged the last king of England to die in battle. Wear a white rose....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

AG SUBSIDIES: IT'S TIME TO CAP PAYMENTS. Lincoln Journal-Star editorial.
When the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee visited the Lancaster County Fair earlier this month, he warned that the flow of subsidies is destined to slow in the next farm bill.

The prediction from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., was echoed by Rep. Tom Osborne: "I think commodity supports, as we now know them, are going to be difficult to sustain."

To make those spending cuts, Congress should look first at putting a tighter cap on farm payments.

more (still more)
RECIPE BLOGGING AT YURODIVI--more complicated than what I cook, but might be fun for y'all.
KITCHEN ADVENTURETTE: OPEN-FACED GOATWICH. For this you need a toaster oven, which you should have anyway, because it combines the best things about a microwave (speed-heating and transparent front) with the best things about an oven (even heating and crispiness rather than microwaved sogginess). Here's what you do; remember that everything can be substituted if you have a good sense of what you like:

Cut a sourdough roll in half lengthwise. Cover your toaster oven tray in aluminum foil. Put the sourdough halves on the tray with cut side up. Top with sliced tomato, mushrooms, and sweet onion. Top with thickish slices of goat gouda. Sprinkle with cayenne and finish with big fresh basil leaves. Toast until it's done (cheese is melted or bubbly, depending on how well-done you want it). Enjoy it with a glass of milk.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

We're blogwatch... we will do anything
to get our fifteen minutes of fame....

If you came here looking for me vs. Julian Sanchez re abortion and infanticide, the series is here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here. (Deep breath.) My more general, and much shorter, abortion-reading-list post is here.

Cacciaguida: "You are here to learn the subtle science and vague art of constitutional decision-making. As there is little foolish rule-following here, many of you will hardly believe this is law. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the rapidly growing cert-pool with its shimmering issues, the delicate liquid of power that creeps through judicial veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses...."

Monday, August 22, 2005

TWO LINKS. Beijing 2008 (via The Corner).

What does Fred Phelps actually believe? It is, somehow, even weirder than you expected:
...In fact, it appears that Westboro has created not just an incredibly vulgar and non-Christlike approach to homosexuality, but that it's working on a new religion altogether, complete with new scriptures.

Members of WBC generally avoid the name "Christian" when referring to themselves, preferring the mysterious term "Tachmonite." This apparently refers to a servant of King David's, but I'm not sure of the derivation or the intention.

The Tachmonites believe Phelps is "the last prophet," with the power to determine who will be damned and who will be saved. They themselves, as followers of Phelps, also have the power to condemn souls to hell. Most people are destined for hell, but "Good Samaritans" who help the Tachmonites (for example, police officers who prevent counter-protesters from assaulting them) may be offered an indeterminate "reward" for their good conduct. Apparently "sola fide" is not part of the Tachmonites' creed.

The new scriptures consist of the group's own writings, which are divided into two categories: "delectable epics" and "letters to heretics."

The "delectable epics" (the term is the group's) are based loosely on Acts in the New Testament. The epics detail the Tachmonites' various protests against gays, President Bush, Elton John concerts, and the military and portray the Tachmonites alternately as invincible "super heroes" and defenseless victims of brutal rage. Some of the epics are in prose, and some in poetry.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

WINTER KEPT US WARM: Via Mixolydian Mode, the Friday Feast!

Do you get excited when the season begins to change? Which season do you most look forward to?
Yes. I'm very seasonally-oriented (as readers of "Desire" might recall); I love all four seasons in DC, though summer is my (perverse) favorite. This year has finally been intense enough for me, with many sweltering days breaking the hundred-degree mark.

The signs of seasonal change: Winter to spring: a certain softness in the air. The first buds on the clawing trees. Light at six in the evening.

Spring to summer: Soft, hot breezes moving thickly across your skin like a caress. The first ninety-degree day. The first passionate thunderstorm--all day long the atmosphere lowering, tightening, every minute hotter and wetter until everything's cloying haze and tarry, melting heat; then the first low rumbles in the sky; then catastrophe, climax, downpour; and, fifteen minutes later, the bright, clear, breezy denouement.

Summer to fall: A thin little wind that twists along the sidewalks, burnt-smelling, chasing you until at last you can't hurry ahead of it and it crisps in your nostrils. That first cold little wind. Indian summer still lies ahead, nostalgic and already-lost, but summer is over.

Fall to winter: Darkness at five-thirty. Mellow days turn cold the moment the sun sinks beneath the low DC skyline. The wind that sends the fallen leaves skirling along the sidewalks; the storm that strips the last dead leaves from the trees.

Oh, I love this city.

What day of the week is usually your busiest?
Monday: work, pregnancy center, and often fiction after that.

Would you consider yourself to be strict when it comes to grammar and spelling? What's an example of the worst error you've seen?
Oh yes, spelling errors make me itch. Grammar errors... I'm not as good at spotting them, but when I do, they also bother me. (Still don't know the difference between "that" and "which"--sorry, Mom....) I don't know that I can recall hideous examples....

Main Course
Who has a birthday coming up, and what will you give them as a gift?
Me! And a better year, I hope.

More in the spirit of birthdays: SRD; not sure what I'll get him. Probably music. And my godfather. I'll FINALLY send him his Pope Innocent III action figure, and also get him a book, though not sure yet which book.

If you could have any new piece of clothing for free, what would you pick?
New shoes. A black pair and a red. High but chunky heels; ideally not too strappy; aggressive tock-tock heels.
When you watch without ease
On these blogs where you were raised...

Pasta shapes a-go-go! Via The Rat. I realize I've eaten at least five of these in the past week or so.... mmmmm.... pasta shapes.....

Colbert King:
...Mueller recently told Congress that one area of the war on terrorism that causes him great concern is the potential for extremist groups such as al Qaeda to recruit radicalized American Muslim converts. Mueller drew a bead on the American prison system, which he described in written testimony as "fertile ground for extremists who exploit both a prisoner's conversion to Islam while still in prison, as well as their socioeconomic status and placement in the community upon their release."

That concern is no longer theoretical.

This week brought news that three California men are currently being investigated as part of a possible plot to launch assaults against National Guard facilities this Sept. 11 and against Jewish targets on Yom Kippur. ...

Thousands of inmates have converted to Islam; thousands more convert each year. Questions worth asking: How will authorities go about monitoring prison proselytizing? Who gets to decide when an American Muslim inmate is "radicalized"? How will the FBI staunch "recruitment"?

via Unqualified Offerings, who also has a series of brief posts on Robert Pape's book on suicide terrorism. Radical Islamic recruitment is the last point touched on in my 2002 Crisis piece on prison reform, here.

And... the Pope:
This first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life, brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine become his Body and Blood. But it must not stop there, on the contrary, the process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own flesh and blood. We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way, adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God no longer simply stands before us, as the one who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world.

mas aqui

Friday, August 19, 2005

As a young, bisexual inmate weighing just 123 pounds, Kendell Spruce made a perfect target for sexual predators.

Nine months after landing in an Arkansas prison for violating parole for check forgery, he said he had been raped by 27 fellow prisoners, including a cellmate who infected him with HIV.

Spruce, now 42 and living in Flint, Mich., planned to tell his story Friday to a congressional commission studying prison rape and sexual abuse. Other witnesses will include juveniles attacked in adult prisons and transgender men and women.

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was created by Congress and was given about a year to prepare a report on the problem and propose national standards governing the prevention, investigation and punishment of abuse.

Never been closer to blogwatch (Never been further away)...

Amy Welborn: "In an incredible act of forgiveness, the Long Island woman whose face was shattered when a 20-pound turkey was thrown through her windshield came face-to-face yesterday with the prankster who did it--and hugged him tightly as they both broke down in sobs." (more)

Colby Cosh: "(Q: Why is Hollywood so fascinated with zombies and vampires? A: You know the old saying--'write what you know.')"

Hit & Run: DC Comics vs. "gay Batman" painter. On a related note, really interesting intellectual-property/problems-with-utilitarianism post from my sister: "Batman versus the Utility Monster."

Scrutinies: Fun blog of Catholic high-school teacher. "Oh, and I also established that the person who shared with the class that he is a 'proud member of the nihilist club' (presumably to shock me into unbearable sadness when confronted with this Dark Secret) does not actually know what nihilism is. So, that's a good sign."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

"DONOR DADS" ARE NEITHER--from Commonweal.
See the little blogwatch, see his little feet,
And his little nosey--isn't the blogwatch sweet? --Yes!!!

ShoeBlogs: The Manolo has the advice for the womens and the mens. It is addictive and hilarious. Be sure to explore the sections on the horrors and the clothing for the mens. Via Cacciaguida, more or less randomly.

"If I was looking for a wine made with larvae, I'd choose this": Army worm wine ("'Army worms eat leaves,' he told the Duluth News Tribune. 'So essentially they’re a combination of fruit and flowers.'") and many other noxious concoctions. Via the Old Oligarch, I think.

Stuff that isn't worth a separate post: 1. Does anyone have a recipe for a) baked/roasted/otherwise-cooked pears?
b) ditto, but involving chocolate?
(These recipes should be very easy.... Dessert is the one area where my cook-fu is still dormant. All I can do is chocolate-chip cookies using the wonderful recipe on the back of the Nestle Tollhouse chips package.)

2. Finished my book of GM Hopkins's selected poetry. Verdict: ...Eh. He's clearly brilliant. I think I learned a lot about rhythm: He's captured this irregular rhythm that's more like singing, or a frightened bird beating its wings against glass, or a hesitant child swinging on the monkey bars. It isn't metronomic regularity, and it isn't unrhythm.

Nonetheless, it often took so long to untangle his syntax that I was left at a far emotional distance from the subjects of his poems. All the hyphens fenced me off. I often felt like I was being forced to pay attention to form at the expense of content, when of course form should draw readers to content and vice versa; in fact, I think ideally there would be no form/content division at all. Form would comment on content and content would reflect the real human needs that had prompted the creation of certain poetic forms. Hopkins didn't do that for me. (Spenser often does--that extra foot so often serving as a subtle "memento mori," a gentle rebuke to the aspirations of the stanza, or else an extension and intriguing elaboration of the stanza's theme--and Shakespeare's sonnets pretty much always marry form and content perfectly.) So in the end... I don't have Hopkins poems to promote, and I kind of expected to. Oh well. Go read some Dickinson--best non-epic poet in Western literature, I tell you what.

Friday, August 12, 2005

...In Niger specifically, the controls of a command economy are still very visible. The second-poorest country in the world derives almost half its income from international aid, and another substantial chunk from uranium exporting companies controlled by Niger's former colonial overlord, France. This is hardly a solid base for a free market. Price controls and government intervention in the grain market stopped only in the last decade, meaning a free market has not yet developed in full. The obstacles to new business development and foreign business participation are manifold. Much of the agricultural sector is still government-run. Worst of all, tiny Niger, in which only 15% of the land is arable and non-desert, depends on its neighbors for cereal imports every year. But this year, those command-controlled neighbors, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mali, are restricting exports to Niger, despite the fact that they've signed trade treaties against such hoarding. In other words, Niger's children are starving because of a failure to trade freely, and not a failure of the free market.

Niger's situation is nothing new. Command-controlled, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes have regularly bred famine because they can't respond quickly to resulting conditions or to bad harvests, and because their comfortable ruling elites ignore the starvation their policies cause, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, who wrote Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Other academics have argued the point even more forcefully, alleging that socialist regimes' starvation of millions of people constitutes deliberate neglect, if not deliberate killing.

more; via The Corner

Thursday, August 11, 2005

UP, UP, AND OY VEY! Question from Relapsed Catholic:
My oldish article "Up, up, and oy vey" originated as a Toronto Star piece, and is my most reprinted article.

It also just got me a job, editing a NY rabbi's book about the Jewish influence on comic books, particularly Golden Age superhero comics. No, I'm not Jewish (although I get that a lot) and no, I don't own a single comic book. Just another day (or in this case, couple of months) in the life of a professional writer.

Because of "Up, up and oy vey", readers still send me links to articles about comic books and religion. You can too. Right now I'm working on the Captain America chapter, and have pretty much exhausted Google.

Don't go out of your way, but if you happen upon obscure stuff about Captain America, and his creator Jack Kirby's Jewish heritage, you're welcome to forward them to me.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

MORE ON PLUMPYNUT, OTHER PLACES TO DONATE: Since apparently Doctors Without Borders promotes birth control and abortion. ARRRRRGGGHHHH. (Yes, I should have checked first. I am naive.) Anyway, here is a link to many other relief organizations working in Niger; more here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

At this epicenter of Niger's latest hunger crisis, Plumpy'nut is saving lives…

Plumpy'nut, which comes in a silvery foil package the size of two grasping baby-size hands, is 500 calories of fortified peanut butter, a beige paste about as thick as mashed potatoes and stuffed with milk, vitamins and minerals.

...Since the packets came into the hands of relief organizations during the Darfur crisis in Sudan, they have been revolutionizing emergency care for severely malnourished children who are old enough to take solid food, by taking care out of crowded field hospitals and straight into mothers' homes.

The prescription given to mothers here is simple: give one baby two packets of Plumpy'nut each day…badly malnourished babies can gain one to two pounds a week eating Plumpy'nut.

(more, including a link to donate to Doctors Without Borders; lit'ry types might also consider signing up here, where if you donate to DWB you can read an exceptional "Hamlet from Claudius's perspective" novel)

ETA: Or, better yet, send your money to charities that don't promote contraception and abortion. Like Catholic Relief Services, about whom I've heard nothing but good things. Or many of the groups listed here. Here for more.
NANCY HASS has a really good, eye-opening, and admirably non-sensationalist article in the September Elle ("Whose Life Is It, Anyway?" p. 430), about couples who conceive via egg donation, and who don't tell their children the truth about their genetic roots. It's not online as of this writing, but if (like the Rat) you're interested in the myriad ways our fear of death leads us to punish women for getting older, get it at the newsstand.

KITCHEN ADVENTURE: SWEET CORN SOUP: In which I regain my cook-fu!

What I used: A can of extra sweet corn kernels. (Recipe called for actual corn on the cob, and you were even supposed to scrape the "milk" from the cobs into the soup, but I am lazy, and anyway this tasted great.) Butter. About half a sweet onion. Salt, pepper, cayenne, half a medium-large jalapeno (could've used more, definitely), heavy cream, chopped fresh chives and cilantro (would leave out the cilantro next time--it was good, but I thought the soup would need it, and in fact it really didn't--maybe made the soup a bit too sweet).

What I did: Heated butter over moderate-low heat. Added onions, s & p, cayenne. Covered and cooked, stirring occasionally, until onions were... well, the recipe says they should be soft, but I like somewhat spunkier onions, so I really only cooked them quite briefly. Uncovered and continued cooking a bit; added corn and cream, and brought to boil. Reduced heat and simmered about 20 mins. (Here the recipe says you should puree the soup, but I don't have a blender, so I didn't.) Topped with fresh chives (and cilantro, see above) and ate. Tonight I'm going to toast and butter a sourdough roll and use it to mop up the leftovers.

How it turned out: This is a delicious, very sweet, very easy soup. I expect it would be a real crowd-pleaser. It is much "fancier" in taste than my usual corn soup (a slapdash fake-Mexican thing involving creamed corn, "Mexican blend" shredded cheese, jalapenos, chopped tomato, onion, cayenne, and cream--absolutely delectable, but very homey).

Bonus kitchen adventure!: Goat gouda. This is so good! It was on sale (though still pretty expensive). Goat gouda!!! It's as fun to eat as it is to say!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

AT THE LATE-NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE PICTURE SHOW: (In the back row!)--movie reviews. In chronological order.

"CLOSET LAND": This is a movie about torture, starring Alan Rickman and Madeleine Stowe. What I've said just now is either enough to convince you that you need to find this movie now, or that you want to avoid this movie at all costs.

There are things about this movie that shudder toward greatness. The movie is highly stylized; the sets are anti-realistic, genre-movie sets. There are stark pillars and big movie screens. The victim character has several terrifying lines, toward the beginning, in which she insists on her rights: She wants to see her lawyer. She wants to know what the charges are. She has some sense that the system ought to protect her. She still thinks she lives in a country that makes sense.

And there are things about the portrayal of her tormentor, as well, that work. For example, the scene in which he empties his pockets into her lap. (The sexual nature of torture is at the forefront of this movie. It was made in 1991. In case you were wondering whether Francis Fukuyama was right about the end of history.)

I highly recommend this movie. Nonetheless, I think it's got some major flaws. It conflates personal or familial trauma and political torture, in a way that obscures rather than illuminates, I think. (There are a lot of ways in which all sexual abuse is the same. But I don't think you can show those similarities by actually making political torture simply a subspecies of personal abuse.) And, as with V for Vendetta, its hopeful notes are utterly vague and unconvincing in the face of the horror of its central situation.

There are autobiographies that prove that torture does not necessarily destroy the victim's personality: that there is hope. Wei Jingsheng's Courage to Stand Alone is the only such memoir I've read myself, but I know there are many more. (Wei's book is astonishing, by the way: fierce and funny and utterly human, in the face of ultimate inhumanity. You should read it.) But "Closet Land" doesn't convince. In the end, its depiction of hope is no match for its depiction of horror.

"YO, LA PEOR DE TODOS": This is a biopic of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Mexican nun and author. It's odd that I watched it right around the same time I watched "Therese" (see below)--I can't remember which one I watched first. Both dealt with religious sisters; and both (not sure why) included powerful lesbian subtext. YLPDT was the one that taught me the least. It's basically the story of a strong woman who wants knowledge, she owns an orrery, de blah de blah, the bad males of the Church won't let her express her inmost self, knowledge is the enemy of faith, the Church hates women, etc etc. It's saved from being an utterly predictable movie by the powerful performances of the lead actresses, Assumpta Serna and Dominique Sanda. They kept me enthralled when the central storyline told me nothing I couldn't get on the op-ed pages of the NY Times.

"THERESE": This, on the other hand... this is like a dispatch from another world. "Therese" is a ferocious, febrile movie, suffused with bridal mysticism and with an implacable otherness. Again, the lead actress carries this movie; but in every other respect "Therese" could not be more different from "Yo, La Peor de Todos." "Therese" gives no quarter to the world's standards, focusing on those aspects of Carmelite life which would be most frightening, shocking, even repellent to contemporary Americans.

In doing so, of course, "Therese" also underscores how much we contemporary Americans need the uncompromising challenge Christ and the Little Flower represent.

YLPDT didn't make me want to do anything in particular, except maybe see which other movies the lead actresses had starred in. "Therese" made me want to pray.

"THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE": This is an extended meditation on the sentence, "Radix malorum est cupiditas." What's so amazing is that it's beautifully paced, despite its length. Any Catholic film series would do well to consider this movie, as it's compelling and morally relentless. There are obvious "echoes" or influences on other stories, e.g. "The Shining."

"SUSPIRIA": Oh my stars and garters! This Italian horror flick is like, every horror movie you ever loved raised to the power of 100. Distilled freakiness. Sometimes that means it's really cheesy. Sometimes the spaghetti-horror made me cringe and flinch away from the grisly screen. But in general, this is horror distilled. The opening sequence is not to be missed: Brilliant direction, including a justly famous soundtrack. Even if you don't think you can take the gross-out moments later on, please do watch the opener, with the dance student in the rain. The interiors, the revelations: This is the ultimate, the B-horror raised to A-plus level. I watched with mouth hung open.

"DIABOLIQUE" (1955, Clouzot) : I just don't believe the plot of this would work. When it happened in Christie, I believed it, because of the setup; here, not even the tension between the women could salvage the plot for me. ...I hope that was vague enough not to spoil.
"LET'S GO FOR A WALK," SHANE PAUL O'DOHERTY SAYS. The Long Corridor at St. Patrick's College, Ireland's last remaining seminary, is a vision out of Harry Potter's school, Hogwarts, dark and slightly foreboding. The oak walls are lined with solemn portraits of clerics who have educated more than 11,000 Roman Catholic priests since 1795. Inside College Chapel, heels click on the marble mosaic floor, under the gaze of a procession of saints and angels painted on the ceiling. Outside, the three Gothic buildings that form St. Mary's Square overlook a lush garden and a pond with rocks positioned as steppingstones, designed to symbolize man's spiritual journey toward God.

In the sleepy college town of Maynooth, 15 miles outside Dublin, we walk through a stone archway into an idyllic Gothic quadrangle called St. Joseph's Square, gravel paths snaking through grassy swaths dappled with bright red flowers. The only sound is bird song. At 50, O'Doherty still boasts a boyish appearance, thin and fit, bone-china skin, his brown hair closely cropped.

Between 1993 and 2002, seven seminaries closed in Ireland, leaving only St. Patrick's. Though it reeks of history, it also seems a lonely place. In the 1960s, as many as 600 seminarians studied at St. Patrick's; today, 60 do, a drop that's been attributed both to a more materialistic Ireland and to the country's own ongoing clergy sex abuse scandals, which mirror those in Boston and other American dioceses.

The last time we had gone for a long walk together, a decade earlier, I was covering the conflict in Northern Ireland for the Globe, and he was a married man six years removed from prison. Before his arrest, he'd become the most wanted man in Britain, a hero for the Irish Republican Army whose letter-bomb campaign had maimed a dozen people and terrorized all of London. We had walked the streets of Derry, his hometown. At that time, we paused at the rooming house for British soldiers where he had planted his first bomb in 1970, when he was 15. We passed the spot in the Bogside where Barney McGuigan's brains spilled out onto the pavement on Bloody Sunday in 1972, when British paratroopers shot and killed 14 civil rights demonstrators. We walked by the apartment in Crawford Square that O'Doherty used as a bomb factory, the one that blew up, killing Ethel Lynch, his 22-year-old assistant.

He was given his middle name because he was born on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, who was a zealous killer of Christians before his own conversion on the road to Damascus. But O'Doherty's story is not about a miraculous religious conversion as much as a gradual spiritual evolution. He had a tug of war with God, and God won. His odyssey, from teenage revolutionary to middle-age seminarian, is a story of redemption.

"Hell," he says, shrugging. "If I can be saved, anyone can."


Via Amy Welborn.
POETRY SOMEDAY: G.M. HOPKINS: Haven't done Poetry Wednesday in a while. But I've been reading Hopkins's juvenilia, and this poem struck me. I think it's poignant and mysterious.

Spring and Death

I had a dream. A wondrous thing:
It seem'd an evening in the Spring:
--A little sickness in the air
From too much fragrance everywhere: --
As I walk'd a stilly wood,
Sudden, Death before me stood:
In a hollow lush and damp,
He seem'd a dismal murky stamp
On the flowers that were seen
His charnelhouse-grate ribs between,
And with coffin-black he barr'd the green.
"Death," said I, "what do you here
At this Spring season of the year?"
"I mark the flowers ere the prime
Which I may tell at Autumn-time."
Ere I had further question made
Death was vanished from the glade.
Then I saw that he had bound
Many trees and flowers round
With a subtle web of black,
And that such a sable track,
Lay along the grasses green
From the spot where he had been.
But the Spring-tide pass'd the same;
Summer was as full of flame;
Autumn-time no earlier came.
And the flowers that he had tied,
As I mark'd not always died
Sooner than their mates; and yet
Their fall was fuller of regret:
It seem'd so hard and dismal thing,
Death, to mark them in the Spring.
KITCHEN ADVENTURE: PORK LOIN OF DOOM! OK, so mostly my Kitchen Adventures have turned out well. I'm a confident and generally good cook: I know what I like, and I can tweak recipes to provoke tasty results. But this recipe thwarted and irked me. I expected to spend about an hour cooking it--most of that time taken up with simmering and similar "you can go about your business while the food cooks" stuff. Instead, I spent an hour and a half of mostly quite active cooking time--slicing and chopping and scraping and stirring, wrangling unhelpful ingredients and generally slaving over the proverbial hot stove--in order to produce a pork loin in wild mushroom sauce which, frankly, tasted like I'd thrown all the ingredients into a pan and sauteed for seven minutes. It wasn't bad. It tasted good. But every minute I spent cooking the dratted thing detracted one flavor-util from my enjoyment of the resulting dish. Bottom line: Don't try this at home.

What I used (or what used me!): Some pork loin, on sale. (The recipe called for double-cut lamb rib chops, so perhaps this was a big mistake, but the recipe also said that lots of different kinds of meat could be substituted for the expensive lambness; and in terms of taste, I honestly don't think the problem was pork vs. lamb. I think it was an uninteresting recipe.) Dried ancho chile from a package. (This added, as far as my tongue could tell, precisely nothing to the resulting dish. Despite costing four doggone dollars.) Half a package of wild mushrooms. (Yeah, from a package. But given the amount of chopping etc. that I had to do for this dish, I don't regret saving a bit of time by getting the wild mushrooms ready-to-go.) A plum tomato. A small onion, cut into quarters. Six cloves of garlic. Olive oil, salt, pepper, butter.

What I did: 1. Boiled water. Put dried ancho chili in bowl, and poured boiling water over said chile, to cover. Let sit 20 minutes. Then drained, stemmed, and seeded gross, slippery, nasty chili. Not fun. Stained fingers. Tore nasty chili into little pieces.

2. Put whole tomato, onion quarters, and garlic cloves in pan. Dry-roasted over moderately high heat, turning frequently. This was confusing and unpleasant, as vegetables seemed to char at random, with the tomato taking much, much longer than I expected. Also, I melted bits off my spatula on this step. Dry-roasting = the evil version of baking in the oven at 375. Lame. Anyway... when stuff was lightly charred, which took forever with constant watching and stirring, I took it out and set it aside. Tomato skins should "blister and char," which in this case seemed to mean that one small segment of the skin would turn hideously black while the rest of the tomato (no matter how often I turned it) remained basically normal. Anyway, control your irritation, and when the veg's are cool enough, chop them roughly. I also scrubbed the pan, because the charringness was starting to bother me.

3. Heat some olive oil. Season the (generic meat) with s & p. Brown well on both sides. Remove and set aside. (Here the recipe says to discard the fat from the pan. Honestly, I didn't do this, because later in the recipe you're supposed to use chicken broth, and I hate cooking with chicken broth (it's really annoying unless you use it regularly, because it doesn't keep), so I figured cooking everything in the pan juices would be a better idea. Despite the lameness of this recipe, I still think I'm right.

4. Melt the butter in the pan over moderately high heat. Saute the mushrooms, mmm, until "lightly browned," about three minutes in your average recipe and two seconds on my stovetop. Add the annoying ancho chili strips/scraps. Add the veg's. Add the stock if you're amenable to stock. Add a bit of salt. Reduce heat, cover, simmer 20 minutes. (See? There is a little, tiny bit of non-active cooking time! Savor it!)

5. Add the (gen-meat) to the sauce and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until meat is cooked to medium rare. (Recipe says 10-12 minutes. I assume that's the time frame for Schmancy Lamb, because for Cheap-O Pork it was more like six minutes, if that.) Serve and enjoy just as if you had only spent seven minutes cooking it.


Friday, August 05, 2005

Tattoo on the muscle that says "Beware, behave, be mine";
She'll eat them up for blogwatch, one at a time...

Sed Contra is back!

Southern Voice Online: "A Farsi linguist, a doctor and an intelligence analyst? Well, at least those aren't positions that are vital to our national security, right? OK, maybe they are vital, but at least we have scores of new recruits to replace each soldier we lose, right?" (more)

Via SRD:
University of Pittsburgh researchers have discovered what could be the ultimate prize in biomedicine -- cells that behave like embryonic stem cells but don't raise confounding ethical questions.

These cells -- called amniotic epithelial cells -- share many of the characteristics that make embryonic stem cells so highly coveted, such as the capacity to become cells for other body tissues and organs and to make copies of themselves, according to Stephen Strom, an associate professor of cellular and molecular pathology at Pitt.

Unlike embryonic stem cells, their harvest doesn't require the destruction of human embryos.


And via The Corner:
...The heat doesn't worry him one bit. He simply reaches for the seersucker. "It's like wearing your pajamas to work," he said. "You ever have a dream where you can wear your pajamas to work?"

We shook our head no.

He went on: "In a seersucker, you can live that dream!"


I love D.C.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

An 11-year-old girl who threw a rock at a boy during a water balloon fight escaped jail time Wednesday on a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge after lawyers worked out a deal in the emotionally charged case.


Sanity prevails.
HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR: It's that time of year again, when we remember that the United States dropped atomic bombs on two cities in Japan.

Shadows were burnt onto the walls.

Everything you know about your city--everything you love: Imagine that destroyed. I'm picturing the rose-colored triceratops on the Mall. I'm picturing the row houses on South Capitol Street. I'm picturing the Brotherhood Barber Shop, the three outlets of my favorite Salvadoran restaurant chain (El Tamarindo/Casa Fiesta), the little Brookland valley where it seems like every building is an outpost of the Catholic church, the quiet northwestern neighborhood where I grew up (Walter Reed, if that helps; or, Alaska and 16th Street--in wartime the helicopters wick-wick-wick overhead taking soldiers to the soldiers' hospital), the Black Cat, Ben's Chili Bowl, the purple gorse flowering where the concrete strips divided 16th Street, the deer and the raccoons and the rats and the blackbirds.

Imagine all that gone. You will never go home again.

Jus in bello.

I do believe that the use of atomic weapons was deeply unjust, terribly unjust. I don't believe that evil makes World War II evil. Perhaps similarly, I believe the US has moved away from the rules and controls that were meant to prevent our soldiers from committing acts of terrible cruelty; and because, in the absence of rules, people behave as if no God watches us, our soldiers have committed acts of great cruelty. I don't believe that makes the war in Afghanistan or in Iraq unjust. I don't believe, actually, that we had anything remotely resembling an "option" in the Iraq war--I think the language of "a war of choice" is stupid. I can elaborate on that if people want. But that isn't the important thing to me. [ETA: OK, so this entire post was written at a high tide of passion and a very low ebb of reason. I've considered deleting the whole thing and just linking to the atomic survivors' sites. Ultimately decided that would be weaselly. But these lines, on Iraq, are the parts I find most overstated. I'm not sure I should have brought up the subject at all, since my claim about Iraq is a prudential one in a post primarily about moral and even anti-prudential claims; even if I had brought it up, I should have said something more like, "The status quo was untenable, and all the US options excruciating." That's what I believe; the "'war of choice' is stupid" language is overstated and misleading. Sorry....]

I was raised in a world where you don't have to know soldiers unless you want to. It's shocking to me that I know a man in Afghanistan, a young man in Iraq, a man who has returned (thank God) from both countries, a man and a woman who are trying to get posts in both countries, and a man who is likely to end up in Iraq.

I am ashamed--truly, deeply--to say that I have consistently been astonished by the goodness and thoughtfulness of these members of the American military. I never understood that you were normal, and my environment was not.

I only ask two things from the US military: I want you to protect people like me, who huddle behind the spear-tipped walls.
But more importantly, I want you to fight in a way I can support.

That's why I support the congressional bills seeking greater oversight of the military: not because I want the Dilbert bureaucracy to extend itself into the war zone, but because words have meaning, words shape ideals, and if we say we won't torture that makes it at least a little more likely that we really won't--anymore.

The first time I ever sang "God Bless America," it was outside an abortion clinic. Please--I know my country is in no way the standard of morality--but please, help us reach the point where "God Bless America" is not the desperate plea of the attorney who knows his client is guilty. I have never yet lived in a good country. I think I'd like to.

Because I really believe that the United States is not "the last, best hope of mankind." I really believe it is the only current temporal hope of mankind. If we are not worth emulating, no one is.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!: I've taken this quiz twice now. The first time I came out as Lord Voldemort. This time, apparently (as Lydia Verlauryn would say), I'm Severus Snape. Kickin'.
Well you're a tricky one aren't you? Nobody quite has you figured out and you'd probably prefer it stayed that way. That said you are a formidable force by anyone's reckoning, but there is certainly more to you than a frosty exterior and a bitter temper.

Lord Voldemort 85%
Severus Snape 85%
Hermione Granger 75%
Draco Malfoy 75%
Remus Lupin 70%
Ginny Weasley 70%
Albus Dumbledore 70%
Harry Potter 65%
Ron Weasley 65%
Sirius Black 60%

Comments (spoiler-free): I think this is somewhat distressingly accurate, actually. Only if I were really going to kick my own ass, I would have listed Remus Lupin above Hermione; this post convinced me that I share all Lupin's worst traits. And I hope never to remind anyone of Ginny Weasley, in any way, shape, or form. Other than that, I think this quiz does better than most at representing a) my own personality and b) Rowling's talent for creating horrible characters with whom one nonetheless empathizes. In my case it's Snape, Draco, and (if I'm in a giving vein) Lupin, but for many others it's Sirius, Harry, and Dumbledore, and people who like those characters have real points--however much I might want to beat the characters about the head with bricks.

Oh, and I'm way more like Sirius Black than I am like Ron Weasley. Ron is much, much better than I am.
PUT YOUR RING ON A DIFFERENT FINGER: So I just read through a bunch of people talking about how television shows never show deep female friendships. And you know, I'm really sympathetic to that criticism. Because real female friendship is "shade and sweet water" to me, and I can't imagine my own life without it, and I know for sure that it's marginalized by mainstream representations.

But it did startle me that nowhere in these discussions of women's friendships on TV did I ever see two words: "Absolutely Fabulous."

Look--I know it isn't for everyone. It's for a certain subset of deeply messed-up, passionate, self-centered and yet simultaneously self-ignoring (they can never acknowledge how much they really need one another) women. But "AbFab" is an amazing representation of two women's friendship with one another as the fulcrum on which their universe turns. It isn't always pretty--the rivalry between Saffron and Patsy is brilliantly excruciating (and sickly hilarious!)--but it's unshakably there. No one could imagine "AbFab" without the central Eternal Couple, Patsy and Edina.

And I should add, by the way: "AbFab" is written by an actual human female, unlike (to take a TV series I watched around the same time as I started watching "AbFab") Joss I Am A Fake-Ass Feminist Whedon. Pussycat, I am more feminist than Joss Whedon, by a lot--just because I do actually know how women live when men aren't watching. And I don't spend all my daggone time trying to prove that women are Just As Good As Men OMG!, because men are really not my standard of value.

I prefer the line from the very first "AbFab" that made me fall in love (she is my Fantasy Girlfriend, despite being quite literally old enough to be my mother) with Patsy Stone: "I've known you longer than anybody, Eddie, and I think anything you do is all right! --Can I take the car?"
Josh White and Dana Priest have two remarkable stories in the Washington Post this morning. The first recounts how, in February or March of 2002, the President authorized the CIA to recruit and train an Iraqi paramilitary group, code-named the Scorpions, to foment rebellion, conduct sabotage, and help CIA paramilitaries who entered Baghdad and other cities "target buildings and individuals." Priest and White report an Army investigator's testimony that "at some point, and it's not really clear how this happened, [the Scorpions] started being used in interrogations . . . because they spoke the local dialect." Priest and White also quote an intelligence official as saying that the Scorpions were tasked "from time to time, to do 'the dirty work.'"

The second article, about a CIA/Army/Scorpions murder, must be read in its entirety.


Andrew Sullivan adds, "More reason to back the McCain and Graham amendments to rid the military of this metastasizing cancer of abuse-as-policy."
Elijah threw a water balloon at Maribel as she played in the frontyard. From the street, he teased her and called her names. Mad and wet, Maribel told Elijah to leave, then she threw a rock at him, drawing blood just above his left eye.

Most examples of this schoolyard staple--boy hits girl, girl hits back--end without arrests, felony charges or electronic monitoring anklets.

Then there is the case of 11-year-old Maribel Cuevas.

In April, police arrested the Fresno girl on suspicion of felony assault after Elijah Vang was hit with a rock. She spent five days in Juvenile Hall, then was placed under house arrest and forced to wear a monitoring anklet for 30 days. She is expected to stand trial in Juvenile Court today. If the allegation is found true, the fourth-grader could spend the next four years incarcerated.


Insane and horrible. Via Hit & Run.
WHO'S YOUR DADDY?: Tomorrow evening (Thursday), I'll be speaking at a Heritage Foundation panel on contemporary fatherhood. It'll be Pat Fagan on how fathers shape their children's future relationships, Brad Wilcox on his 2004 Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, and me on "how marriage makes men." The panel starts at six, in the Lehman Auditorium of the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, and it's free and open to the public. (Heritage is at Union Station metro, right on Capitol Hill. So convenient!) After the panel and audience q & a, THERE WILL BE FREE FOOD!, so you really have no reason not to go. RSVP to me if you can, just so we get a decent head count, but if you just want to show up that's cool too.

(Oh, and I have a "briefly noted" book review in the new First Things--reviewing Minna Proctor's Do You Hear What I Hear?: Religious Calling, the Priesthood, and My Father. Speaking of fathers.)
"THE GILDED AGE": STRANGE THINGS SEEM TO OCCUR, SOMEWHERE BEHIND THE NURSERY DOOR. Next section of the current short story. Say goodbye to childish things. Revenge, memory, treason, werewolves, and scandal. Here for story so far; here for this episode. As always, this is a rough draft, so your comments and criticisms are more than welcome.
"THE GILDED AGE": AND THE FUTURE LOOKED AS BRIGHT AND AS CLEAN AS THE BLACK TARMACADAM: Next section of the current short story, a.k.a. The Fall of the House of Being. Margaret's friend, Lachlan's grief, Alexander's trial. Here for story so far; here for this episode. As always, this is a rough draft, so your comments and criticisms are more than welcome.

Monday, August 01, 2005

TWO LINKS: The Acton Institute (basically, economic liberty + Christian theology) has a blog! Via... I forget, maybe Dappled Things?

The Budget Traveler's Guide to Sleeping in Airports. "Those stupid announcements almost killed me as they ran every 2 minutes nonstop." Via The Rat.
"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions."
--Matt. 19:21-2
FRIEND OF THIS BLOG Joshua Elder writes:
My very first graphic novel, Rising Stars of Manga vol 5 from Tokyopop Publishing, is now available to order through Barnes and Noble, Borders, Amazon, etc.

Pre-orders are appreciated as they will convince all the bookstores to order more copies for their shelves. Please share this info with anyone you think might be interested in buying a copy that doesn't appear on this list. And then have 'em e-mail me [at] so I can add them to my address book.