Thursday, September 29, 2005

The candles blew and then disappeared;
The blogwatch blew and then he appeared...

Unqualified Offerings: "So the Department of Defense wants to get rid of homosexuals who want to serve and keep the ones who don't. They are our shock troops in the War Against the Mirror People, perhaps." Also, best title so far for post on "don't ask, don't tell."

Mike Walsh replies to my post on philosophy and poetry. I can't tell if this cuts in favor of my suspicions or against them:
Interesting post on the Romantics. A writer whose name I should remember but escapes me now once referred to Romanticism as "spilt religion." I've always thought that what the Romantics with all their lushness were trying to do was effect a kind of pagan eucharist, a transcendent made immanent by means of symbols (which Voegelin describes as the definition of magic). To do, perhaps, what Wallace Stevens was trying to get at in "The Emperor of Ice Cream": "let be be finale of seem."

Ah! It was T.E. Hulme in "Romanticism and Classicism."

And you can still enter my contest! I'll post the entries early next week, I think.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

SIM SOLIDARNOSC: Kinda cool. Ultimately via Dappled Things.
THEY'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!: "First Giant Squid Captured in Wild (on Film, That Is)." A picture here. Via CM and IKM.
WHAT HAS ATHENS TO DO WITH PARNASSUS?: So Ratty and I were yapping last night (when I should have been asleep, but instead was up bothering her) and she told me about a course she's taking on the Romantic poets. Now, I actually find Romanticism interesting in theory, but the Romantic poets generally boring; nonetheless our conversation sparked a very small thought, which is that poets typically do poorly when their poetry is unsupported by some kind of underlying philosophical spine. It doesn't have to be a rigorously worked-out philosophy, or even an especially strongly-held one, but there has to be something there, some set of ideas and beliefs, to prevent the poet from wavering off into gassiness. I think you can see a set of beliefs in Shakespeare's sonnets, for example, and obviously in Emily Dickinson. Keats, on the other hand, strikes me as a talented poet severely weakened by a tendency to lushness in absence of philosophy. (And this weakness of Keats in turn weakened Anne Carson's interesting mess, The Beauty of the Husband.)

Here are some other poets I do like, but whose work lacked (in my opinion) a philosophical spine--in rough order of how much they overcame this weakness:
Christina Rossetti
Robert Browning
Philip Larkin

Other examples, counterexamples, related thoughts, disputes?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Tell me that you blogwatch,
Sort out this confusion... thing you can use to follow the liturgical calendar, Catholic news, blogs, and much more.

The Bible Literacy Project, for which I worked briefly, has released their textbook for a Bible course suitable for public schools. Some comments:
"The volume is well done. ...I was quite taken with the abundance of supplementary materials included in the text--the artwork (highly variegated and well-chosen), the insets about the Bible in subsequent literature, the Bible in political life, etc. All this, I think is likely to help students see concretely how the Bible is not just a set of ancient documents or something confined to pulpit and Sunday school, but a series of powerful writings that have had, and continue to have, profound effects on a whole range of our cultural institutions and on the way we think about the world."
--Robert Alter, Ph.D., professor of Hebrew and comparative literature, University of California at Berkeley

"This text is a feast for the mind, the eye, and the heart. Instructive, beautiful, and engaging, it promises to keep THE seminal works of the Western tradition alive for generations of young people."
--Amy A. Kass, Ph.D., senior lecturer in the humanities at the University of Chicago and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute

"Let me say how impressed I am by this ... It is clear that much hard work and good scholarship have gone into the text. The instructional design is excellent. This promises to be an outstanding resource for public schools."
--Charles C. Haynes, Ph.D., senior scholar, First Amendment Center, Arlington, Virginia

"The influence of the Bible on Western culture in every respect--arts and literature, politics and justice--is immeasurable. Thanks to this volume, students can begin to get some sense of the range of that influence. Despite the sensitivity of the subject matter, this volume succeeds in being admirably balanced and fair, and yet accords full respect to sincere religious faith. Too long the Bible has been selectively ignored by educators afraid of giving offense. This volume makes it possible to once again bring into the classroom the book which has had the single greatest impact on Western civilization."
--Frederica Mathewes-Green, M.A., author and commentator

"It is, on the whole, an excellent job. It will serve as an excellent and even-handed introduction to the Bible. Without question, it can serve as the basis for a constitutional course about the Bible in the Nation's public schools. It is therefore a signal achievement."
--Marc D. Stern, general counsel, American Jewish Congress

"This text provides an extraordinarily helpful background--the Bible's impact on literature, the arts, and life. If anyone is looking for a comprehensive academic understanding of the roots of modern civilization, this book is an indispensable resource."
--Chuck Colson, author and Founder, Prison Fellowship

"To be considered fully literate in the arts and letters of Western culture, one needs to know the Hebrew Bible, one of the cornerstones of this culture. This volume provides students with the necessary tools to attain such literacy."
--Ellen Frankel, Ph.D., CEO and editor-in-chief of The Jewish Publication Society

lots more here!

And Michael Baldwin, a fellow Yalien life form and former contributor to Yale's Finest Publication, tells me about his new project, CommonCensus, which sounds interesting:
It recognizes the fact that the political borders of the US today often have very little to do with the actual distribution of people in the country, and how "undemocratic" this can be viewed as. However, until now, no one has been able to put together a map of the US made "by the people, for the people."

This new website relies on tallying the voting results from hundreds of thousands of participants to "redraw" the map of the United States. Once it has this participation level, it will show exactly how people within the US segment themselves.

The maps will answer questions like, where exactly is the line between people who see themselves as part of NYC, and those who see themselves as part of Upstate NY? If it were up to the people and the places they identify with, how many states would the US have and what would they look like? Do the people within the same county feel like their local government represents them, or do they feel like they should belong to another area?

site is here
IF YOU HAVE A SENATOR, now might be a good time to get in touch:
Sen. John McCain, decrying new allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq by U.S. soldiers, on Sunday backed an amendment to force the American military to live up to its international obligations under the Geneva Convention and "not engage in torture" of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McCain (R-Ariz.) was responding to complaints by Army Capt. Ian Fishback and two sergeants, who all served with the 82nd Airborne Division. Their description of routine harsh treatment of captives in Iraq parallels the abuse caught in photographs at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad and was contained in a Human Rights Watch report issued Friday by the advocacy group. ...

"I don't know if these allegations are true," McCain said. "But they have to be investigated. We've got to make it clear to the world that America doesn't do it. It's not about prisoners. It's about us."

Fishback and the sergeants said prisoners taken during the siege of Fallouja were kicked and beaten, their bones broken and skin and eyes doused with chemical irritants. In addition, some prisoners were forced to form human pyramids, and others were made to hold heavy water jugs with their arms outstretched. ...

McCain, himself a victim of torture while a prisoner during the Vietnam War, made it clear Sunday that he did not believe that the military, including Pentagon leaders, had gotten the message that the United States must obey the Geneva Convention and abstain from torture.

He said he and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another committee member, were proposing an amendment to a defense bill requiring the military to abide by the Geneva dictates. ...

Told that the White House was opposed to such an amendment and that the president might veto the bill if the amendment were included, McCain said he was unsure whether there were enough votes in the Senate to override it.

KATRINA: Times-Picayune says reports of murder and mayhem at Superdome and Convention Center were greatly exaggerated. Excellent news, if true. Via SRD.

Prisoners left for days in chest-high water, without food.

ETA: Especially in light of the first link, there, I should note that the report about prisoner treatment has been questioned as well. I tend to believe that people will abandon prisoners just about whenever the opportunity presents itself, because it so often happens; but still, I wasn't there and certainly hope this report was exaggerated.
MORE SEMINARY STUFF: Dappled Things: "The second problem with this line of thinking is, as Fr Fox again points out, that even though you spend five years in an all-male environment, you end up spending the rest of your life in an environment that surrounds you with vast numbers of females."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

"THE SINS OF THE SEMINARIES": Amy Welborn talks sense in the NY Times.
...A seminary has a dual responsibility. It owes the future priest preparation for a life of sacrifice, unique witness and engagement with other human beings at moments of joy and pain in a society that has no respect for his vocation.

But a seminary also owes us, the people in the pews, psychologically mature priests who aren't engaged in an eternal and ego-driven struggle with their own problems, who are prepared to serve, to teach and preach--with integrity and honesty.


...For my part, I wish I had something constructive to say about the Gay Stuff which has gotten all the press, but really, I don't. You can read David Morrison's comments here and here. (ETA: Cacciaguida presents a good case-for-rumored-regs here, but the first two comments make the points that I would've made.) All I got is this:

1. I didn't become Catholic because I thought the Vatican always got everything right. I mostly agree with Morrison's take on the whole "blanket ban on same-sex attracted seminarians" possibility/probability/rumor. So if they go with that idea, I think that's lame. If you think it's lame and it really bothers you (I can't tell if it really bothers me or not, because I'm stressing out about a lot of other things, several related to this issue, already), there are things you can do:

2. You can pray. I'm thinking a novena to St. Joseph. I've never prayed a novena before, so hey, opportunity. Lame, changeable Vatican regulatory decisions shouldn't mess with your spiritual life.

3. You can remind yourself of the possibility of heroism and sanctity. For me, this probably means Netflix'ing "Therese" and watching it again. Other people will have other means. But the point is, embrace the Cross. You'll have to do it anyway, so might as well do it now and with as much good grace as you can muster.

4. Relatedly, you can attain perspective. I find three hours at the pregnancy center helps a lot with this one. God asks all of us to do terribly difficult things. Many lives are slow martyrdoms or intermittent ones, with intense sweetness but equally intense pain and bitterness. Find the sources of sweetness--for me, with Gay Stuff, it's generally friendship, insight, and creative energy--and offer up the rest to God.

5. You can go to Confession and receive the Eucharist.
BALKINIZATION has a guest blogger focusing on torture and detainee treatment. You should read this.
If you blog
I won't watch
I won't waste one single day...

Angevin2: 10 reasons why a leek is better than a member of the English Nobility, with extra bonus reasons. "12) Nobody insists that Shakespeare's plays must have been written by leeks."

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has a blog! ...Via someone I forget.

Unqualified Offerings: Exciting news about Finder--an awesome, awesome "anthropological SF" comics series. You should be reading this. More when I finally get a chance to hit the comics shop, probably later this week.


National Review editors: "But President Bush must endorse a serious, realistic set of budget offsets, and the most promising area is corporate welfare."

Reporters Sans Frontieres:
Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.

more (via Hit & Run, I think)

Nancy Pelosi offers to give back already-approved San Francisco highway and transportation monies to support hurricane relief. Via the Club for Growth blog, which I'm blogrolling.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT: It's time for another fabulous installment of Internet Searches I Have Known. These searches brought weary travelers to this blog's rocky shores. Shouldn't we try to make the landscape more inviting for these pilgrims? So--a contest! Write me something bizarre and amusing based on any of these search requests.

Tell me about the significance of a dead cricket. Summarize an episode of Looney Tunes de Cholos. Write a Smiths song about Hilaire Belloc (or write a Belloc cautionary poem for children about the Smiths!). The best entries will be posted on this blog, winning you fame more evanescent than broody Goth rock bands. It will be awesome! Here are your possible topics, in chronological order:

possum sexual habits
non-sexual weird pictures
Human sympathy has its limited and we were content to let all their tragic arguments fade with the city limits
looney tunes de cholos
morrissey belloc smiths
zero mostel cheetos
what to look for in a man
living in sewers
really dead pro-life
jealous inadequate undersexed [...I resemble that remark.]
worm in jalapenos
weird stuff
Excellent. The Arkham Asylum shower cam is operational.
What is the significance of a dead cricket
celibacy contest fun
is The Annunciation still relevant
songs about constitutional rights
british dream research cheese gouda
asterix karma chameleon [Lovin' would be easy if the Gaulois were like my dreams???]
ghede passport [Ghede don't need no stinkin' passport!]
gayer lineage hacker

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Are children raised outside of intact marriages at increased risk for crime and delinquency? iMAPP's latest policy brief, "Can Married Parents Prevent Crime? Recent Research on Family Structure and Delinquency 2000-2005," looks at empirical research from the United States published in peer-reviewed journals since 2000.

All but three of 23 recent studies found some family structure effect on crime or delinquency. Seven of the eight studies that used nationally representative data, for example, found that children in single-parent or other non-intact family structures were at greater risk of committing criminal or delinquent acts.

download the brief here (PDF)
"THE LONG CONVERSION OF OSCAR WILDE." Powerful. Totally worth reading even if you already know the outlines of the story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I AM CALIGULA. Triple-hee! Which Julio-Claudian Emperor Are You? Via Angevin2, who reminds us of the immortal lines from Pinky and the Brain:
"Caligula was no Boy Scout;
He did things we can't even talk about.
The Romans knew he was off his head
When he filled a vacant Senate seat with Mister Ed!"

Friday, September 16, 2005

"THE GILDED AGE": STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME. Next section of current short fiction. Um... some notes. 1. I didn't know the plot of this story when I started. So it's much too cryptic, and many things will be made clearer in the final draft.
2. This episode, apparently, is my big tribute to envy and resentment. Woohoo!
3. (related) No characters are me. No characters are entirely not-me.
4. I'm still not sure what to think about this story. It may be useless, and I'll end up junking it as an interesting experiment but nothing more. But I really like a lot of what I've written for it, even while mistrusting the basic idea of the story (alternate-history Victoriana, the trial Oscar Wilde never had).

Click here for story so far; here for most recent episode. I think there are one or maybe two more segments in the rough draft, though I'm sure I'll change that around in the final version. Your comments, questions, howls of execration always welcome.

I grabbed you by the gilded beams--
Oh, that's what tradition means!
WHAT'S A GIRL LIKE YOU DOING IN A NICE PLACE LIKE THIS?: So I wrote a thing for the Yale Free Press's 2005 commencement issue, about how my Yale education had shaped my career or later life. The YFP hasn't put that issue online yet, so I'm posting what I wrote, with a few sentences excised because I don't think they work as well for the general blog audience. (That's one reason it ends so abruptly.) Enjoy, or not, but keep in mind I was trying to summarize what I think about Life, the Universe, and Everything in as few words as possible, so this piece is suggestive but not exactly a treatise.

When I first came to Yale--not that I realized this at the time--I was trying to understand three questions: Why is poetry meaningful? Why is sex meaningful? Why is estrangement meaningful? Other people can talk about market economics or national security; I can only sketch how investigating these three questions led me away from left-wing subjectivism and into what you could call conservatism.

Poetry--I apologize for belaboring the obvious--uses images to convey meaning. The swan in Yeats's "Leda and the Swan," the sparrow in Hamlet, the vulture in As I Lay Dying, all evoke different reactions and longings; one can't be changed for another. ("There's a special providence in the fall of a vulture" is awesome, but not really what Shakespeare was getting at....) And most writers can tell when they find the right image, the one that means what they want to say. But where do these images get their meaning?

Human culture is the most obvious answer. We have various associations with sparrows and vultures because the people around us do. But if this is the whole story, we can only say what our culture allows us to say, and we can use images to speak only about our culture, not about human nature as such. Investigating the possibility that poetic meaning extended beyond the limits of particular cultures led me to a belief in a universal, abiding human nature, and a belief that objects in the world have intrinsic meaning. These beliefs can ultimately only be true if humans, and objects in our world, are "words spoken by God"--but that’s a discussion for another time.

Of sex I'll say only this: Fun is fun, sometimes. (And sometimes it isn't.) But the more I thought about why sex would be meaningful--rather than just, you know, nice--the more I suspected that sex attains its greatest philosophical and symbolic (poetic) richness when the union of lovers creates a new life. And yet our current culture seems to view things exactly the other way around, as if sex becomes less interesting, less sexy, when it makes babies. As if the kind (or less-kind) feelings of adults toward one another were more interesting than the beginning of a new human. Bizarre!

As for estrangement... I've always had, and I think most reflective people eventually encounter, a sense that something has gone wrong: a sense of exile. Humans are strange creatures, trapped between our aspirations and our acts, between what we are and what we know (or at least believe) we could be. We're creatures of the subjunctive tense, the might-have, could-have, should-have. A liberal education deepens the longing for beauty and wholeness, while sharpening the pain felt at their absence.

In high school I tried to shrug off this sense of exile: I tried embracing relativism (relativism means never having to say you're sorry). I tried locating the source of my alienation in my sexual orientation, and identifying "heteronormativity" as the problem (ah, the cultural Left, constantly seeking to create the People's Republic of Misfit Toys!). But neither solution satisfied; I was avoiding the problem, not addressing it.

All three of these questions shape my work after Yale.
NINOMANIA has a host o' posts examining John Roberts's Senate testimony, from a Scalialicious perspective.
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST STAGED IN KABUL. Played to packed audiences. I forget where I found this.
I have said that jobs can force men to wear proper shoes. One of the most demanding jobs for women is sexuality, for which the proper footwear is high heels. The informal summertime substitutes for these are flip-flops. Some women may believe that high heels and flip-flops are functionally equivalent, since they both show skin. Flip-flops may even seem more effective, because they alone show toenail polish. This belief is deeply mistaken. High heels give you lets like Angelina Jolie in the Mr. & Mrs. Smith poster. Flip-flops give you legs like a Steinway. High heels make the compelling, aggressive tattoo of castanets. Flip-flops sound like water belching from a fire hydrant. Following a woman in high heels up out of the subway is like discovering America. Following a woman in flip-flops up out of the subway is like riding the subway.

--Richard Brookhiser in the 7-18-05 National Review; via The Rat
...STUDENTS AND STAFF at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., seemed more shocked by their school's place on the anti-gay list. Staff and alumni at Holy Cross said they were at the forefront of supporting gay students' rights at Catholic colleges. Holy Cross administration recognizes its two gay student organizations and one support group.

"I think Holy Cross was the first Catholic school to officially recognize and support a Gay-Straight Student Alliance," said Jeannie Seidler, an alumna who founded the campus group in 1995.

Now Seidler runs a support group for Holy Cross gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students. Several have difficulty reconciling being Catholic and gay, she said. ...

Even though support and advocacy groups do exist at Holy Cross, and the religious department incorporates gay liberation into a liberation theology course, gay students may still feel isolated, she said. ...

Daniel Corrou, a gay chaplain at Holy Cross who advises the gay student clubs, said that the ranking doesn't reflect how supportive the administration is.

"I don't think it's anywhere close to reality," he said. "For us, it's a question of perception. There's a misunderstanding of Catholic teaching on sexual orientation that tends to pervade popular culture."


Thursday, September 15, 2005

2 LINKS: That Heritage list of where to stick the knife in the federal budget. Via lots of people.

Amy Welborn, characteristically, talks sense in re Vatican coming to turn US seminaries upside-down and see what falls out of their pockets. Be sure to read the comments as well--many powerful personal stories and worthwhile thoughts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When you were mine
Used to let you watch all of my blogs...

Persecuted Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji has been perversely and cynically returned to prison by the Iranian government after he broke a four-month hunger strike in hospital after being told he would be given his freedom. The journalist, whose reportage in 1998 connected former President Akbar Rafsanjani and other leading conservatives with the murders of five writers and intellectuals and was thought a decisive factor in the conservatives' defeat in the February 2000 parliamentary elections, is presently being held in solitary confinement; he has been in prison since April 2000, except for a brief 12-day period of leave in advance of the 17 June 2005 presidential elections. ...

I call the attention of readers to sample letters of protest to the Iranian government drafted by RSF and PEN. The first is suitable for nations without diplomatic relations with the Iranian government; the second for nations such as Britain, Canada, Ireland and Australia which accredit Iranian ambassadors.


The Corner: "Tom DeLay, as Andrew noted, said that government has been 'pared. . . down pretty good' and that nobody has been able to identify any spending cuts to make in exchange for Katrina-related spending. Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation emailed me a long list of evidence that DeLay is wrong." (list) More here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

RELIEF CONNECTIONS: "The mission of Relief Connections is to provide a forum where community, religious, and civic groups affected by Hurricane Katrina can connect with similar groups across the nation and world who can aid in their recovery."

And BeliefNet has a weblog compiling "inspirational stories of hope in the wake of Katrina." Lots of really moving posts.

Both links via Amy Welborn, I think.

Monday, September 12, 2005

BLOG/RELIEF: ARE YOUR DOORS LOCKED? David Wagner, alias the Ninomaniac, gave to the Red Cross and requested a post about Iago. This was timely, as I recently saw the taut, utterly fun Shakespeare Theatre production of "Othello." It's showing now and you should go see it!!!! The actors are at the top of their game; the director is the amazing Michael Kahn; the show evokes a wartime, cultural-mixing atmosphere swiftly and believably, using the cultural specificity of Venice and its wars to add to the production's power rather than distracting the audience; the show maintains its suspense even though we know exactly what will happen. When I saw it, those in the audience were visibly on the edge of our seats.

So perhaps talking about this production's Iago--Patrick Page--will allow me to wind slowly into my subject like a snake. I was worried at first: None of the moments that define Iago, for me, were underlined. (This post's title, for example.) There seemed an over-credulous emphasis on Iago's various undermotivations--his thwarted ambition, his fear that Othello had cuckolded him. There were some fun bits--Othello comes across as much more of a salesman or politician than usual, his playing on Desdemona's emotions (girls love hurt/comfort narratives!) nicely paralleled with Iago's machinations--but I worried that we would get an Iago reduced to comprehensibility. Fortunately, as the play rolled on, the sociopathy began to show: a barely-human, racking laugh; an affectlessness that only snapped into appropriate emotion when someone was watching. Any Iago has to keep the character's ending in mind: that ferocious denial of intelligibility, "Demand me nothing: what you know, you know:/From this time forth I never will speak word." Patrick Page earned that line, and slammed it home.

Because Iago is the unintelligibility of motive; specifically, the unintelligibility of evil. He is the disconnection between our professed motives and the evil actions we take. He's the place where your eyes don't go. For him to make sense as a character, we need a visceral sense of the distance between our motives and our actions; we need a visceral sense of, "But that's not good enough!"

Every day we do terrible things for reasons that aren't good enough. This is especially evident from a theological perspective: You gossiped, or slept around, or stole, or lied, even though it's against God? I don't care what your reasons are, they're not good enough! Even from a temporal perspective, it's so easy to see how often we give up some immensely important and good thing for a small, cruel pleasure.

We have reasons--but the reasons aren't enough, and at the end of the day, I suspect the reasons don't really matter. What matters is, Do you love God, or not? If you do, if you try to, no reasons for wrong actions will even appear to be worth it. If you don't, as I think most of us don't most of the time, even the pettiest reason for wrong actions will be enough. You'll find an excuse for your favorite, cherished wrong. (I guess it should be obvious that the same person can choose for or against God several times a day, in the doubletongued and guilty way we do.)

Iago isn't about his reasons. But then again... really, neither are we.

Are your doors locked?
REASONS TO LOVE MONDAYS: Reading Fr. Tucker's homily-blogs.
...But notice that when we say the Creed, we don't say "I believe in hell, in the fires of everlasting torment, and the punishment of sins." None of that makes it into the Creed, even though we do believe in that. Rather, we say, "I believe in... the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting." God's justice is real, in other words, but it is His mercy that is more impressive.

...Our motivation is meant to be one of love, keeping the commandments not because we're terrified of God squashing us, but rather because we want to do what is right and obey our loving Father. That's why we say in the act of contrition that, yes, "we dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell," but that our sorrow for sin springs "most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love."

FAMILY SCHOLARS has the usual smorgasbord of blogging goodness, centered on the technologies and legal battles that are reshaping our understanding of family (PDF). For example: what makes men feel like dads?; "I feel that I came into this world for the sake of my mother"; sometimes I feel like a fatherless embryo; and much more.

There's a lot of not-funny stuff up there now that's also very much worth reading.
TWO LINKS: Dear Tom DeLay, If you don't have anything not completely insane and horrible to say, don't say anything at all.

ETA: OK, I thought about this more. 1. Anybody who's been quoted by the press twice has probably been misquoted once. 2. More importantly, almost anyone who's tried to comfort people in terrible circumstances has probably said at least one terrible, inappropriate, awful thing in a misguided attempt to help. (I know I've done that.) That fact doesn't make DeLay's comment any less awful. But I think I should exercise the level of charity toward others (...even politicians, sigh) that I would want others to exercise to me if I were caught "on camera" saying one of the horrible things I've said to friends, family, or acquaintances who were in pain.

3. The reason I think DeLay's comments struck me so forcefully, I think, was how they fit in with the passage quoted below. It's very tempting to dehumanize those who suffer. It's tempting to pretend their suffering is lesser because they are lesser ("they don't feel pain like we do"). It's shaming to think that others suffer while we don't, and frightening to think that we could suffer like they are. It's painful to be in a situation where you see an incredible amount of suffering and can't relieve all or even much of it; easier to become numb, to become inhuman. (The corresponding, opposite temptation is to view people as pointillist composites of their tragedies--no longer individuals, but abstract representations of suffering and loss.) That's why I was so struck by DeLay's quotes and by this line from the post linked below: "In my view, survivors seem to have immediately become nonentities in the eyes of many of their supposed protectors."

Adam Brookes is a BBC reporter who also happens to be both a neighbor and a friend of mine. He was in New Orleans from just after Katrina hit until Labor Day last week. ...

One image he related sticks with me: there was some kind of high-strength chickenwire fence separating people from pallets of food in a Superdome storage area (I believe, it may have been the Convention Center). So people there could see the desperately needed supplies were there, but they couldn't get to it. And unfortunately, they were never able to. The fence was too strong -- and after a few days, the wire was covered with the blood of people's torn up hands.

Another story is even more disturbing. ...

The disturbing part is that six state troopers were standing only a couple of yards from the man -- doing nothing, just chatting with each other. When he approached them and suggested they do something for the man, they basically just shrugged and walked away. He was able to flag down another policeman a while later to attend to the sick man.

In my view, survivors seem to have immediately become nonentities in the eyes of many of their supposed protectors.


Second link via Unqualified Offerings; I forget where I got the first one.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

IN CASE YOU NEED A LAUGH. Britain, the press, and bad jokes (with bonus inflatable teeth!); includes actual Tube announcements.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

BLOG/RELIEF: SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY FOR THE HOLY FOOL. Because he gave to Catholic Charities, and requested recommendations for five sci-fi/fantasy books he hadn't read yet. I apologize in advance (which should be my motto!) that most of these will be repeat-recs, from my old Booklog blog.

1. Pat Cadigan, Mindplayers. A hard-boiled, episodic sci-fi novel about the future of identity. In a world where people buy and sell memories, personalities, even neuroses, how can we tell who we really are? Cadigan roams into Walker Percy territory: Why do we want to be other people? Why do we desperately seek out an identity? And Mindplayers' presentation of marriage and divorce had startling echoes of Maggie Gallagher's excellent The Abolition of Marriage. The plot demonstrates, I suspect unwittingly, that marriage reinforces our sense of self while divorce disrupts it. The many references to the narrator's divorce build up to a very "pro-marriage" plot twist. This is a tough, compassionate book, with a lot of insight into human nature, identity, and relationships.

2. David Gerrold, The Man Who Folded Himself. I read this because it was described (by National Review's John Derbyshire, I think) as "getting time travel right." I didn't expend the effort needed to verify that statement--the logical puzzles involved in time travel make my brain hurt--but certainly from a casual, vacation-type reading Derbyshire's praise seemed warranted. The book was lots of fun most of the time, a bizarre workout for the brain, a suggestive look at what one man does when he becomes the only person he knows who can travel in four dimensions.

But the narrator, the time traveler, was a truly disturbing character. It was difficult to tell whether Gerrold was aware of just how disturbing this guy really was (not that the author's obliviousness would make the book worse, necessarily). The narrator is lonely, alienated from others, and he becomes progressively more self-centered as he travels through time. Instead of folding himself, he seems more to collapse in on himself. There are some parts of the book where the damage caused by this self-centeredness is made explicit, but there is simply no alternative presented--there are virtually no characters except for different time-slices and "versions" of the narrator, and selfishness or the pursuit of personal happiness/pleasure is the only value system ever discussed or acted on in the novel. So you get the impression that although an excess of self-involvement is ultimately harmful, taking one's own pleasure as the standard of value is A-OK as long as you're careful--yes, you'll have regrets (the sections of the book dealing with the nature of irrevocable acts are really good), but basically selfishness is the way to go. The novel begins to feel claustrophobic, and ultimately pretty hopeless, which I don't think was the author's intention. (Could definitely be wrong here.) It's a quick and exciting read, and I recommend it to any sci-fi or time-travel fans, but in the end TMWFH feels like a parable about anti-eroticism, fear of difference, and personal collapse.

3. Tim Powers, Declare. There's been quite a bit of chatter in the Catholic blogosphere lately about Powers, due to this interview. I wouldn't say the things he says (I think experiences in the world do tend to reinforce our worldviews, and so if we draw upon or describe those experiences in order to illuminate those worldviews that isn't necessarily special pleading or "message" fiction), but that doesn't matter, because Declare is one of the most striking novels I've ever read. Admittedly, I was the target audience for this novel: I believe that seemingly random patterns and events often do in fact have existential and religious meaning; I'm Catholic, a recurring (though in no way preachy) theme of the book; and I was already obsessed with the Cambridge spies. (Oh come on--you could have guessed that!) Declare retells Kim Philby's story in a world where mystical and demonic forces explicitly and directly affect the outcome of the Cold War. It's fascinating from the first page.

4. Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn. Okay, so this is hardly an obscure work. But I get the impression that people avoid it because, ick, unicorn. I think people expect this book to be fluffy and happily-happily-happily-ever-after.

It isn't. It uses all kinds of elements that in lesser hands would become cliches; but the book itself is full of rich characterization and poignant reflections on the interlocking nature of love and regret. (Yes, a theme of my senior essay in college.) There are elements of picaresque, and an extraordinary balance between sublime and ridiculous elements. (The scene where a sort of wild magic conjures up images of Robin Hood and his fellows, deluding a group of epigone bandits, might be the best example of that balance.) This is a bittersweet book with a lot of wisdom and many unforgettable images. ...I should note that it's also maybe the only novel that made the translation to the silver screen with all its virtues intact. The movie of "The Last Unicorn" is also quite beautiful and moving, with an obvious Japanese influence in the flowing lines, and a sly, homespun, Jewish-influenced sense of humor. You should read the book and watch the movie--really, you won't be disappointed.

5. Rebecca Brown, The Terrible Girls. A lush, resentful little book full of linked parables about love and betrayal between women. Brown sometimes uses class as a metaphor for the power differences brought on by love--the one who loves more is a pawn of the one who loves less. It's not clear whether, in her stories of furious self-sacrifice, she acknowledges that even a self-sacrificing lover can be selfish, enthralled by the image of herself as martyr rather than concerned for her beloved's well-being. Nonetheless, this book is well worth your time.
BLOG/RELIEF: ALMOST ALL WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL. ALMOST ALL MEN ARE AVERAGE. And five more things I know but cannot prove, for Yurodivi and wife, who gave to a local food bank.

1. If you wear it long enough, any mask will sink into the skin.

2. Despair is pride: Look at me! I'm so extra-special, my situation is so sparklingly unique, that nothing can save me! ...No, probably not. You are unlikely to be unprecedented.

3. When you don't know what else to do, throw a party.

4. (this will get me flamed) Hour of the Wolf should have been a werewolf movie. Yeah, yeah, I know: It's got brilliant, swoopy, intense camerawork; a phenomenal female lead (wasn't so much sold on the male lead); and a powerful evocation of a troubled conscience. (There's one speech in particular, about a child's conscience, that really moved me.) But I can't help thinking it would've been a much better movie if it had had brilliant, swoopy, intense camerawork; a phenomenal female lead; a powerful evocation of a troubled conscience; and werewolves. C'mon--the whole werewolf myth is about how much guilt can be assigned to one's most passionate and destructive actions, and what (if anything) separates humans from beasts. Less brooding! More fangs!

5. Everything tastes better with cheese.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

MORE LINKS. Marginal Revolution: "Ed Olsen at the University of Virginia, one of the country's leading researchers on housing, sent me the following proposal to immediately expand HUD's Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. It's a brilliant proposal that needs attention at the highest levels of government. Pass it on." (more) Via Jane Galt.

Unqualified Offerings: Lots of thoughts on government, voluntarism, and blame. I agree with almost all of this. (My note yesterday, about not feeling competent to address who-did-what-to-whom issues, did not mean that I think other people shouldn't try to figure out how things went wrong, who is to blame, what should be done to them, and how we can do better in the future. I just don't have anything competent and unique or worthwhile to add to that search. I've been reading mostly Andrew Sullivan, Hit & Run, The Corner, and Unq. Off., but I don't pretend that makes me well-informed.)

UO also links to this piece by Jesse Walker, on which factors make the difference between lawlessness and order after natural disasters and blackouts.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

SOME LINKS. Must run. Will continue fulfilling post requests from people who donated to disaster relief (see here) tomorrow--fantasy/sci-fi, Iago, Five Things I Know But Cannot Prove, and anything else you all want. For now:

Mark Shea is back!

Assessing blame for the horror in the South, especially New Orleans, is not something I feel competent to do (which is why I haven't posted on it). But Noli Irritare Leones has what looks like a really good round-up of links, including this set of post-storm assessments from previous hurricanes. I haven't read most of the links yet.

And many thanks to Walter Olson at the indispensable Overlawyered blog, for linking to the blog/relief post. ETA: Am lame--of course Mixolydian Mode, Relapsed Catholic, and likely several people I'm forgetting also linked....
BLOG/RELIEF: CHILDREN'S BOOKS FOR GENE BRANAMAN. Gene's second request (see below for the first one) was for "five children's books you haven't read (but you should!)." I did picture books for David Ross, below, so these are chapter books; and I found that I could not limit myself to five. So... there are more.

This list doesn't include all the really well-known great stuff--The Phantom Tollbooth (wow, I remember so much of this book--Faintly Macabre and "Silence is golden"! Dischord and Dynne--"No noise is good noise!" Conducting the sunrise... In the Doldrums... rescuing Rhyme and Reason... walking to Infinity... eating Subtraction Stew...), the Little House books (I only read one, but I have it on good authority that everybody--especially freedom-loving Amurricans--should read more), the Ramona books, The Secret Garden (for all the little girls who didn't quite feel up to the challenge of being Sara Crewe--though A Little Princess is also a wonderful book). Everyone should read Diana Wynne Jones--sure, Howl's Moving Castle is a fine place to start, but better far are Power of Three, Time of the Ghost, Dogsbody, Witch Week, Witch's Business (published in the UK under the far better title Own Back Ltd.), and the incredibly powerful The Homeward Bounders. I read The Count of Monte Cristo fairly early, and loved it. Edgar Allan Poe can be read from a very early age. (...Am I revealing something about myself, with that little tidbit?!) I have no idea if other kids would react to The Man Without a Country as strongly as I did, but it's worth a shot--I re-read it a couple years ago and still choked up. And I think every kid should read at least one old-fashioned "school story." I've heard great things about the Chalet School series; the one I read, though, was a (perhaps deservedly) obscure book called Maxie at Brinksome Hall. In this Jewish World Review column, which is really about homeschooling and partial homeschooling, I talked a little about why boarding-school stories are so appealing to kids.

There are other wonderful books that won't be on this list because I'm not sure how well-known they are. The Blossom Culp books; Bunnicula and at least the first couple sequels (yes, it is about a vampire rabbit--and the family that takes him in, and their two other pets, the world-weary dog Harold and the paranoid cat Chester); The Westing Game (Ellen Rankin writes wonderful, poignant puzzle-stories--if you like TWG, definitely check out The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues, and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel). I don't remember if All Figgs Go to Capri is also a mystery--I think it is--I should re-read that... I suspect it has only gained in poignancy with time); Daniel Pinkwater's utter weirdness (favorites are probably the Snarkout Boys books); John Bellairs's Catholic Gothic mysteries; and William Sleator's creepy, creepy kids' science fiction (of which House of Stairs is both the best and the creepiest--Singularity and Interstellar Pig are also really good).

And Susan Price's Ghost series, set in Lapland, won't be on this list because although these are powerfully-written books, they're also relentlessly nihilistic. I'm totally serious. So although you should read them if you read children's fantasy... well, I wouldn't give 'em as Christmas presents, you know?

I wrote about Price's books, and several others from the list below, here.

OK. Let's see how short I can make this list. In no especial order:

1. Jean Merrill, The Toothpaste Millionaire and The Pushcart War. Totally fun little-guy stories: the kid who figures out how to make a mint selling toothpaste, and the pushcart peddlers who finally get fed up with being pushed around by the big trucking companies. I wrote about TTM and the "entrepreneurial imagination" here.

2. Ottfried Preussler, The Satanic Mill. Dark, rigorous fantasy about a boy who becomes an apprentice at a mill run by a man who has sold his soul to the Devil. A frightening book, but also a beautiful portrayal of friendship and love; many striking images and memorable characters. Deeply Catholic.

3. Margot Benary-Isbert, The Wicked Enchantment. A lovely confection; also quite Catholic in both message and setting, but sweet and buoyant rather than wrenching. Features spunky girl protagonist who (like Blossom Culp) is everything that most S.G.P.'s wish they were.

4. Deborah Brodie, Stories My Grandfather Should Have Told Me. Maybe just a sentimental favorite; but I think Cacciaguida, at least, would love this book. Vignettes of Jewish life, mostly (entirely? must check) in and around New York.

5. The Bruno and Boots series, by Gordon Korman. More boarding-school hijinks, with the usual stock characters (Elmer Drimsdale = The Socially Awkward Genius; Sidney Rampulsky = The Clumsy One), but made incredibly compelling due to the believable and lovable portrayal of the friendship between Bruno Walton and Melvin "Boots" O'Neal. Tons of inventive stunts and pranks. Just fun, fun books--and with an inherent, un-pushy sense of decency and honor. Series starts with This Can't be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, but my favorites are Go Jump in the Pool! and Beware the Fish!. Korman also writes for teens; of those books, my favorite is the bizarre, oddly resigned Son of Interflux, about a corporate scion at art school.

6. Louis Sachar, Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Stories from a school where everything is weird. Not sure how to describe this. Best effort: This book has no redeeming social value. Go read it!

7. The Great Brain books by John Fitzgerald--with illustrations by Mercer Mayer! Growing up in Utah in the early part of the 20th century, with a genius older brother and an adopted younger one; horse thieves, Jewish peddlers, water closets, Jesuit academies, Mormon vs. Gentile tug-of-war, terrible accidents, how to catch a fish.... These books show the dangers of that life, but also the joys. Someday I'd like to read Fitzgerald's autobiography for adults, Papa Married a Mormon. I think fans of the Little House books would definitely love these books.

Okay, I have more (Jan Mark! The Borribles! Arabel and Mortimer!) but I am stopping now.... That should keep you reading for a while!
BLOG/RELIEF: MEXICAN RADIO SALMON FOR GENE BRANAMAN. Gene gave to Catholic Charities, and asked for either of two things; but I'm happy to do both! This is the first request: a new recipe, ideally to feature halibut or salmon fillets. I should warn you all that I don't cook fish often, so this recipe is more "what to do if you don't cook fish often and have some salmon lying around for some reason" than "the best, most delectable gourmet salmon recipe you'll ever see!". But I ate it today and it's good. I am calling it Mexican Radio Salmon a) because it is about as "Mexican" as that song; and b) because I love the idea that there are many types of Radio Salmon out there in the world, and this is the Mexican one. (Shades of Beware the Fish!--of which more soon.)

As always, all quantities and even ingredients can be shifted to accomodate your tastes. This recipe is a guideline or a source of ideas--I'll do it differently next time, and the time after that, etc. These quantities made a good solid meal for one petite person.

What I used: about 1/4-lb. salmon fillet, skin on; half a shallot, chopped; some tomato I was trying to get rid of, chopped; one biggish jalapeno, cut into thick rings, with the whitish-green, pithy inside stuff removed; canola oil; canned corn (I think Green Giant's Niblets are pretty much the best thing on earth); fresh cilantro; canned pinto beans; one slice of bacon, torn into pieces.

What I did: Put the fillet, shallot, tomato, and jalapeno in a nonstick saute pan, with some canola oil to cook in. Fried 'em up, stirring frequently and turning the fish now and again, until the fish was cooked--pink all the way through, flaky flesh. At the very last moment, added some corn, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the can. Stir stir, fish was done; used spatula to get it onto a plate, and topped with most of the stuff that had cooked with it. (Didn't bother trying to get everything, and left almost all of the jalapeno rings in the pan.) Added the pinto beans (about 1/2 can) and bacon to the pan and cooked on high heat while I cleaned up the kitchen. You don't have to stir this too often, though you should do it occasionally. When the liquid/fat had cooked down, I poured the beans/bacon/jalapeno mixture along the side of the salmon fillet and again topped with cilantro. Total cooking time was about 15 minutes. When you eat it, you can control the heat by eating more or less of the jalapeno rings--you need 'em to add heat to the dish, but I discarded about half of them when I was done eating. Sort of like how you don't eat the bay leaf.

The results: Yummy! A bit generic--this doesn't showcase the flavor of the salmon. I imagine a higher salmon-to-stuff ratio would help that; or leaving out the bacon-and-beans side dish, though I really loved that. You could also use a slightly larger amount of skinless salmon, chop it up, and make a Mexican Radio Salmon Taco, if you wanted. This is a homey, filling, quick meal for when, like I said, you have some salmon and you're not sure why. ...Variations might include a Mexican Radio Toasted Sandwich (club roll filled with thick tomato slice, beans, bacon, a smaller amount of chopped jalapeno or a couple rings, sliced onion or shallot, a cheese slice [maybe munster, maybe something more pseudo-Mexican], cilantro; wrap firmly in aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 15 minutes) or Mexican Radio This Chicken Was On Sale.
BLOG/RELIEF: CHILDREN'S BOOKS FOR DAVID ROSS. David Ross, of the conservative filmblog Libertas, gave to the Red Cross, and has requested "five children's books you haven't read (but you should!)". (The original blog/relief post, with the list of posts you can request, is here.) This list will be picture books; later I'll do chapter books. ...Oh, and these are all from memory (I'm at work, so can't check the actual books), so some of the plot points may be a bit off. Feel free to write in with errata.

1. William Pene du Bois, Lion. The angels are sitting up in Heaven creating the animals. One angel gets carried away, and starts adding all kinds of crazy stuff to his animal--I seem to recall scales, fabulous colors, etc. But the resulting mishmosh animal is ridiculous. Frustrated, the angel starts trying to erase his animal, smearing the colors--and produces, by accident, the shaggy, tawny lion. It's a beautiful book, with a real sense of the wonder of the natural world, and a lovely sense that mistakes and setbacks aren't the end of the world. And possibly the source for a fun activity--xerox some pictures of real and fantastic animals (chimera, donkey, amphisbaena, unicorn, elephant, porcupine), get some scissors, construction paper, and paste, and make your own mix-and-match menagerie with your kid. I did this once and loved it--kept the menagerie pages for years.

2. Tomie de Paola, Prince of the Dolomites. This might be a bit of a cop-out, since everybody knows Tomie de Paola (don't you?) for his fun Strega Nona books. (Possibly means "Grandma Witch"?) But I haven't run across a lot of praise for Prince of the Dolomites, which I liked even more than the Strega Nona books. It's a spooky, otherworldly story about a prince who loses his sight and starts going mad because he loves the princess of the moon. His family brings a bevy of lovely women to the mountain palace, in the hopes that he will fall in love with one of them and give up his impossible obsession; of course, he does not. There's a happy ending, but my overall impression of the book is of a yearning, twilight world, eerie in the reflected light of the moon.

3. Elizabeth Levy, the Something Queer... books. A total change from the previous recommendation! These books are mysteries featuring two best friends, Jill and Gwen, and their basset hound Fletcher. So the titles are Something Queer at the Library, Something Queer at the Haunted School, etc. The pages are busy with little notes and arrows, the mysteries are fun, and the books are witty and charming.

4. Holling C. Holling, Paddle-to-the-Sea. This won a Caldecott, so I can't pretend it's obscure; but it's a fantastic story. A boy carves a little wooden Indian in a canoe, and sends the Indian out to explore the waters--through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. There are lumberyards and storms at sea, each page a lush, painted tribute to the beauty of North America.

5. I was going to name Patricia Tracy Lowe's Tale of Czar Saltan--fierce, frightening, sublime story based on an Alexander Pushkin story and featuring color-drenched, stylized pictures--but it seems to be very hard to find, so I will fall back on Mercer Mayer's Just for You. Mayer is also very well-known (we'll see more of him in the chapter-books post)--he did the Frances books, about a little girl badger, and he also did There's a Nightmare in My Closet, and everything he does is great--but my favorite is Just for You. A... what the heck is it, a porcupine? tries to bring his parents a gift... but things keep going wrong. And by "things" I mean "the little porcupine kid." E.g.: "I picked an apple just for you... but I ate it on the way home." Touching and completely true to childhood.

Runners-up for this list included Corduroy (little girl seeks teddy bear; little teddy bear seeks button); Eloise Greenfield's Honey, I Love (sentimental favorite, classic black children's book); and my quasi-obscure favorite Dr. Seuss book, Bartholomew Cubbins and the Oobleck. (Is that not the greatest band name ever?) I also remember loving Peanuts collections as a kid (and now!).

The NY Public Library system has a list here--lots of great titles.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

WITH AN EARTH-SHATTERING KABOOM... my home computer crashed last night. So although I have gotten your requests for relief-blogging (yay! you all are awesome!), I gotta run and will be incommunicada until tomorrow. Expect the first set of relief-posts then.

Monday, September 05, 2005

BLOG/RELIEF: Hey there. So... there are a lot of things that other people are doing to help, that I just can't do. Apparently I can't donate blood for health reasons (grr). Although I have hosted a homeless woman and child once in the past (pregnancy center client), I really can't do that right now--I was freelancing then, and could set my own schedule, and even so it was only something that made sense to do because there was nowhere else this woman could go. I don't have baby clothes (or used clothes of any kind, since I tend to wear until it falls apart) or other helpful in-kind donations. I've given money, but I'm trying to figure out other things I can do, and I see that other people are using their blogs to try to reward generosity and create the feeling of community that I think often does push people to give a little more. So I have no clue if anyone is interested, but if you are, here's the deal: If you email me and tell me that you have made even a small contribution (monetary, in-kind, blood, volunteer, whatever) to disaster relief since seeing this post, I will write any of the following (you pick) and post it here:

1. review post of five children's books you probably haven't read (but you should!)

2. ditto for sci-fi or fantasy

3. ditto for "gay literature" (dumb marketing term, but there are some great books out there) or women's studies/feminist writing--for the latter, I promise to say more than I said in my slaps-and-kisses post here.

4. in-depth analysis of director/camerawork choices in one or more scenes in a movie or television show (you can pick genre, but I will pick movie unless you know for sure I've seen something, and I will pick scene)

5. ditto for a page or series of pages in comics (again, you can pick genre, or if you know I've read the comics in question you can tell me which book and issue)

6. ditto for a photograph by Lee Miller or Weegee

7. a post answering any questions you have about anything on my rough drafts of fiction blog--anything from "Can you write another song for the Smith Singers?" to "What would happen if the director from 'The Zombie Guide to Life' made the movie version of 'Odysseus's Scar'?" to "...Um, what was the deal with that psychic lady on the beach?" Really anything. Answers will not contain spoilers, and I will avoid overexplaining--Walker Percy's writing about his own writing made me not want to read anything other than the intense, brilliant Lancelot, so I will do my best to answer your questions (if you have any!) in a way that is fun for both of us and enticing for anyone who hasn't yet read the story in question.

8. a recipe created just for you. (If your request is so specific that I'm not sure I can do anything original, I'll find a cookbook recipe that fits.)

9. riffing on a Shakespeare play (assuming I've read it) or character. I've read most of them, and have Very Definite Views.

10. a review of an overrated movie

11. a list of the Best Headlines I've Ever Written

12. a list of my favorite pop/punk/etc. songs in any category (e.g. angry songs, Catholic songs, story-of-my-life songs, sensual songs, stupidly fun songs) with brief riffing on each

13. a good memory

14. Five Things I Know But Cannot Prove

15. links to ten posts from at least two years ago that I think you'll still be interested in today

16. ten funny links

People who give more (as arbitrarily determined by me--blood and volunteering will always count for this; also, probably, money above $20) can ask for:

1. brief elaboration of any section of this "chapters in the book on How I Became a Catholic" post

2. a Spenserian stanza, possibly on a topic of your choosing (though I reserve the right to reject and write a stanza about something else)

I know you guys are already doing amazing things. This is just to reward the people who have given, and to do the things I can rather than focusing on the things I can't do.
DISASTER RELIEF LINKS, both via Amy Welborn, who is an incredible source (with a strong Catholic focus) on what's being done to help out. Where to send in-kind donations. D.C. Archdiocese seeks housing for evacuees. I know many of my readers are from the D.C. area.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

...In other words, what did those horrible people do to deserve the hurricane that God dropped on them? I've known too many good people who have suffered terrible things (look at the martyrs!), and too many rotten people who've sailed through life fairly unscathed, to believe that God metes out sure rewards and punishments in this life. That's what heaven, hell, and purgatory are for. Rather, I agree with Jesus Christ that God sends rain upon the just and the unjust alike. People who sit around talking about divine punishment during natural disasters are like the ones who saw the blind man sitting in the street and asked Christ whether he was blind because of his own sins, or because of the sins of his parents. Neither, according to Christ.


Of which a shorter version here. (That link doesn't go where you might expect.)