Monday, February 28, 2005

I NEVER: Lists of Ten Things You've Done That Your Readers Probably Haven't!
Camassia: sold popcorn to Peter Coyote

Terry Teachout: stunt reviewing (eighth item)

Keep 'em coming!
R.R. RENO: "Now I am a member of the Catholic Church. I changed--I made a change. I do not think I changed my mind about theology or ecclesiology or the fate of Christianity in the modern world. I suppose that, in the end, I changed my mind about myself." (here)
RISING EXPECTATIONS-WATCH: Jackson Diehl in Washington Post: "As thousands of Arabs demonstrated for freedom and democracy in Beirut and Cairo last week, and the desperate dictators of Syria and Egypt squirmed under domestic and international pressure, it was hard not to wonder whether the regional transformation that the Bush administration hoped would be touched off by its invasion of Iraq is, however tentatively, beginning to happen." (more) Via The Corner.
"PRIVATE HEALTH CARE IN JAILS CAN BE A DEATH SENTENCE": NYTimes article. Suggests that the best care has come from outside non-profit groups--neither govt nor business--but that really isn't the focus of the article. Anyway, excerpts:
...In these two harrowing deaths, state investigators concluded, the culprit was a for-profit corporation, Prison Health Services, that had moved aggressively into New York State in the last decade, winning jail contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with an enticing sales pitch: Take the messy and expensive job of providing medical care from overmatched government officials, and give it to an experienced nationwide outfit that could recruit doctors, battle lawsuits and keep costs down.

A yearlong examination of Prison Health by The New York Times reveals repeated instances of medical care that has been flawed and sometimes lethal. The company's performance around the nation has provoked criticism from judges and sheriffs, lawsuits from inmates' families and whistle-blowers, and condemnations by federal, state and local authorities. The company has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements.

In the two deaths, and eight others across upstate New York, state investigators say they kept discovering the same failings: medical staffs trimmed to the bone, doctors underqualified or out of reach, nurses doing tasks beyond their training, prescription drugs withheld, patient records unread and employee misconduct unpunished.

Not surprisingly, Prison Health, which is based outside Nashville, is no longer working in most of those upstate jails. But it is hardly out of work. Despite a tarnished record, Prison Health has sold its promise of lower costs and better care, and become the biggest for-profit company providing medical care in jails and prisons. It has amassed 86 contracts in 28 states, and now cares for 237,000 inmates, or about one in every 10 people behind bars.


Via The Corner.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

FOUR-COLOR HEART: Second installment of things I love about comics. 26 through 50. Again, in no order.

26- Edward Gorey. Just get an Amphigorey and dive right in.
27- "With the inevitable forward march of progress come new ways of hiding things, and new things to hide." A killer line, the best thing in Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.
28- TITLE BOUT. Oh, TITLE BOUT, I miss you! Title Bout on cloning: "If you want to create another human being, they have this thing called F---ING that I hear works too." Title Bout on leadership: "With Great Power comes nothing ever being good enough." Title Bout on Archie, rats, punks, and corpse-mishandling... well, just go here and search for "archie." Complete craziness, bizarre locutions, Ninth Circuit jokes.... Wow. (Warning: filthy words and thoughts.)
29- the movie section: stuff I loved about the "Daredevil" movie: Jon Favreau as Foggy Nelson. Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. The rich colors. The water-walled office (and its role in the plot). The amazingly over-the-top angsty music. The way the movie found the good, basic elements of the Daredevil story. Admittedly, the extended flashback was painful, the plot often made no sense, and the movie itself seemed to have been stupidized somewhere in the process... but still, hmm, Jennifer Garner is much prettier here than in those bus posters for "Alias."
30- stuff I loved about the "Hulk" movie: Okay, actually the only thing I loved about the "Hulk" movie was the underexploited technical weirdness. The whole "making movies look like comics" thing. That rocked! Too bad the movie was so awful! ...I saw it twice.
31- Silent Bob. I think Silent Bob counts in the movie section, given that I think those movies are... based on comics? Or did the comics come later? Anyway, I love the silent mugging. My favorite moment of "Animal House" is the bit where John Belushi breaks a bottle over his head and then does jazz hands.
32- Jim Henley's list reminded me that I never finished reading Spiders!!! YOU MUST READ THIS. "Distributed warfare" sci-fi, and it looks great.
33- The Pulse. Still petting this comic.
34- "In a way I'll miss that second head! It was almost like having...a twin sister!"
35- Minisinoo (X-Men fanfiction)
36- in a similar vein, "Nameless"--lovely little piece about the relationship between language and world.
37- Jim Henley on The Filth.
38- PowerPuff Girls comics. Not because I read them myself, but because they are the most popular thing for kids we have at the pregnancy center. We move as many of those as we do of the annoying teen-y "study Bibles."
39- This post on reading manga.
40- Alias: the necklace of speech balloons; the exploding brick wall of interrogation scenese; the muddied, punchy, beautiful-loser expressions on Jessica Jones's face.
41- "Some Angels Falling" and "The Prime of Miss Emma Frost" (New X-Men)
42- "Calvin & Hobbes"--Cubist Calvin; the amazing use of blank space and outside-the-frame space in strips like this one; and really just how fun and sweet and perfect this strip was, at its best.
43- from Doom Patrol: the weird, unpredictable, memorable art (I was not so much into the story); also, the very creepy Scissormen. "The door flew open, in he ran, The great, long, red-legged scissorman." Eeeeeesh.
44- Astro City: Confession. I mean, I'd prefer a comic about sublimation, but in its absence a comic about repression is a useful antidote to the usual "follow your bliss!" nonsense. ...I liked the art in The Tarnished Angel better though.
45- the sound effects in Gyo: gashunk! shaaaaaaaa! How can a comic use sound so effectively?
46- the spirals appearing in the schoolgirl's hair in Uzumaki
47- the ideas behind "Ghost World." The execution left me oddly cold--most people loved the comic and movie, but I was not enthralled--but the ideas behind it make me suspect I have to recommend this to everyone, because the fault is probably mine. Themes of best-friendship and what it means to have a hometown.
48- I mentioned ElfQuest before, but I think I should say why: This is a quest story where the loss of innocence is real, heartfelt, no cheating. (The death of Nightrunner is the best symbolic representation of this loss. The whole sequence inside Blue Mountain is an incredible representation of what loss of innocence feels like. And the Leetah vs. One-Eye subplot is a heartbreaking account of what loss of innocence looks like.) And yet Book IV ends in joy ("Shade and Sweet Water") and reconciliation. This is a truly compassionate comic, where every emotion is earned.
49- Everyone has mentioned Watchmen, but very few people have mentioned two of the things I liked best about the comic: the lovely women (especially, the lovely women's legs) and the dead-on advertisements. Alan Moore on advertising is always worth your time. He's not condescending; he knows that ads play on the same deep longings that true art plays on.
50- Ultimate Spider-Man. Dude, I can't stand Spider-Man. I don't know why. He just seems so... normal. And yet I must acknowledge that USM is funny and sweet and basically, unless you hate Spider-Man as much as I do, you should get this. (Why couldn't it be about... Scott Summers? Or, I don't care, Lois Lane? Or anybody?)
11. HUNG ON TO MY EGO. So there's this thing, making the rounds of the rounds that I make, in which you list ten things you've done that your readers probably haven't. I'm loving these lists. I want you people to do these lists! So here is mine. Email me if you've done any of these things.

In no order:
1- learned to sing "Frere Jacques" in Swahili (I have forgotten it now)
2- asked Newt Gingrich why he's a capitalist ("Because it works")
3- gotten in trouble for polling my middle-school grade to find out our religions (approx. 3/4 Jewish; I'm pretty sure I said "atheist")
4- written an essay that led my advisor to mistake Maggie Gallagher for Kierkegaard
5- failed every failable portion of the DC driver's exam (there are three)
6- played "Pin the Beard on Mordecai"
7- had the same surgery as the Pope! w00t!
8- submitted something for an essay prize only to have it win a poetry prize instead
9- howled at wolves, had them howl back (in a recording-of-your-voice-will-be-played-in-the-woods situation, not a throwing-a-baby-out-of-the-sleigh-on-the-steppes situation)
10- helped write a song about Heidegger (and yes, I know SRD has also done this because he was my co-author, so I am preemptively saying he cannot write in and challenge me on my uniqueness on this point)
SO MANY STEPS TO DEATH. "I'm in favour of continuing to feed Terri because the law seems to have used a simple, cold balance-of-probabilities analysis to determine her presumptive wishes. There's no written living will; the only evidence we have is oral, and it comes from one source. The chance that she would regard her feeding tube as an instrument of rape is being treated with more respect than it deserves, since the decision to withdraw her food and water is irreversible. I think the standard's got to be much higher than that before you starve somebody to death. And while I'm not qualified to comment on the possibility raised recently that her husband is engaged in destroying evidence of spousal abuse, that's a possibility in principle with all these cases--which is one good reason death shouldn't be treated as having claims equal to those of life." (Via Colby Cosh, who wrote the above.)

Contacts who can help Terri.

Prov 24:11-12:
"Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this,'
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not requite man according to his work?"

(contacts link and Biblical citation via the Old Oligarch.)
One, you lock the target;
Two, you bait the line;
Three, you slowly watch the blog,
And four, you catch the man...

GetReligion quotes Cardinal Arinze kicking ass: "The answer is clear. If a person says I am in favour of killing unborn babies whether they be four thousand or five thousand, I have been in favour of killing them. I will be in favour of killing them tomorrow and next week and next year. So, unborn babies, too bad for you. I am in favour that you should be killed, then the person turn around and [says] I want to receive Holy Communion. Do you need any Cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?"

Honestly. The cardinal's exasperation really comes through here. If the Church is accurately describing abortion, "personally opposed" is craven. This isn't rocket science; from the Didache to the dole age, there really isn't a lot of wiggle room, and trying to create wiggle room can't help but look disingenuous. [This post edited slightly, but point is the same.]

Hit & Run: Rising expectations.

Locks and Keys: Personal account of mental illness. Liked the list of Things I've Learned, though I disagree that anger is always, or even typically, rooted in fear. Anyway, this is a really interesting site. Via Camassia, who has moved--for good? I'm not sure.

Unqualified Offerings: Interrogation reality show. Like him, I'm intrigued; but I really don't know what this show could possibly tell us about actual existing interrogation practices. I mean, people volunteer for sex all the time, and that tells you less than nothing about rape. (This is what I have thought every time some shmo brings up how his frat initiation was "lots worse than Abu Ghraib" or what-freakin'-ever, and I'm surprised, really, that more people don't point out the problem: You volunteered, you knew you could get out of it because you lived under a legal regime in which "getting out of it" would be supported, and the people who messed with you didn't think you were terrorist scum... so I think it's not really a good analogy, sugarplum.) Anyway, I liked this line: "But then our torture apologists will say anything. There's an irony there somewhere, now that I think about it."

Relapsed Catholic: Toronto Right-Wing Movie Night report. "Attempts to bribe your way into the next one will be met with success if they are particularly clever or appealing."

The Outbreak: Sean Collins is (mostly-)music-blogging!!!! ...Via Johnny Bacardi.

I love the world, and if I have to sue for custody, I will sue for custody: As a follow-up to all the '80s music posts, I'd like to know if other people agree with me that They Might Be Giants follows an intriguingly '80s-top-40-like strategy of smuggling in lyrics of disappointment and alienation under cover of fun, hooky, geeky music. TMBG tends to move geeky types toward reconciliation with the disappointing world, I think, whereas most '80s music doesn't get as far as reconciliation. Your comments encouraged. More on TMBG in a moment.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

THIS QUOTE MAKES UP FOR THE STUPID FOOL LOUSINESS OF MY WEEK THUS FAR: "I was wasted as a human. I should have been born a stoat."
Flow morphia slow, let the blog and watch come streaming into my life...

Family Scholars: Two posts on children of sperm donors. Comments very much worth your time.

Johnny Bacardi reads Blankets. The art--all that snow, all those trees, Raina in her Eskimo coat--really is fantastic, and I'll get behind the Eisner-influence claim. It's the baggy curviness, or curvaceous bagginess, of the thick confident black lines. My less-positive and very personal review is here. Jim Henley's even less positive one is here. Also, I don't buy this whole "soulmate" idea; the end of the relationship with Raina made a lot of sense given that these people are in, you know, high school.

Will be adding Syria Comment and Across the Bay to the blogroll, per Hit & Run's recommendation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

TERRI SCHIAVO. BooksGalore on "persistent vegetative state." (And what a grim example of how language shapes our perceptions of other people.) Via Amy Welborn.

Much more here, here, and here.
Darkness must go down the blogwatch of night's dreaming...

Colby Cosh: "And, as a result of all this, the wounded-to-killed ratio for American forces in the Second Gulf War (and the Afghanistan conflict) hasn't been three or four to one. It's more like ten to one. To put it another way, the United States has arguably made more progress in saving the lives of wounded soldiers since 1991 than the human species did in all history before that date. ...

"On the other hand, American society is now being flooded with maimed veterans whose injuries would been unsurvivable in earlier ages. VA hospitals are already feeling the pinch. Economically, war will now become more costly, and there will be more disfigured vets to chastise the public conscience with their presence. One wonders which effect--fewer dead, or more crippled--will prove psychologically stronger in the end." (more)

Dave Tepper: "Personally, I think 80s music works because it's essentially two-faced and ironic."

"'Precious' Suffering." Via Dappled Things. "John Paul's personal Calvary."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

PUNGENT. So let's say you have an iPod. And let's say you want a cover for that iPod--an iPod cosy, if you like. And let's say you have a ... thing ... about squid.

Don't you want a CephaliPod?

(I forget where I found this.)

Friday, February 18, 2005

All I want is a blog somewhere,
Far away from the cold watch air...

Bastiat's Window: Yes, a whole blog devoted to the Broken Window Fallacy ("breaking windows is good for the economy because you have to buy more windows") and other Bastiatic economic stuff. Via Positive Liberty.

Blogodoxy: A bunch of Eastern Orthodox (what do you call a group of Eastern Orthodox?) and Catholics (a surplice of Catholics?). I know I have quite a few of both in my readership, and this looks to be an interesting site.

Colby Cosh: "Do we lament John Paul II's illness because it makes him uncomfortable, or because it makes us uncomfortable? I'm afraid I believe the answer to be embarrassingly self-evident."

GetReligion has moved. Via Independent Gay Forum, I think.

Otto-da-Fe: Ichabod!

Puppies Behind Bars. Via The Rat.

"A Chicago judge has ruled that a husband and wife will be allowed to proceed with a wrongful death suit against a fertility clinic that allegedly inadvertently discarded their fertilized egg." (Probably via How Appealing.)
100 ROOMS. My (belated) contribution to the "100 things I love about comics" thing. I'm tired, so I'm only doing 25, at least for now--more later I hope. And I'm only doing stuff Jim Henley and Johnny Bacardi didn't list, but my interpretation of "didn't" may become slightly creative w/r/t, say, Los Bros. Hernandez. In no order:
1- Lynda Barry's Come Over, Come Over and My Perfect Life: Sometimes (and a lot of the time, for the past few years) she slips, but when she's on, she has an incredible ear not necessarily for how kids actually sound but for this awkward, exaggerated, off-kilter speech that is even better than verisimilitude. These are early volumes where Maybonne, Marlys and crew are at their best.
2- Alex Maleev's pigeons (in Daredevil)
3- Stan Lee's total, complete, shameless wigginess, on display in '60s X-Men
4- Grant Morrison's dialogue for Beast
5- A Small Killing
6- ElfQuest, vols 1-4
7- those awesome squares and rectangles and stuff, in Sleeper
8- the guys who work at Beyond Comics in Georgetown, because they have always been awesome, and they made me get Alias the first time I went in.
9- the fact that there is a character called MATTER EATER LAD
10- journalists!!!! When I am not broke, I am absolutely getting one of them J. Jonah Jameson action figures--"with desk-pounding action"!
11- that guy on fire at beginning of Marvels
12- Planetes, but you knew that....
13- Asterix the Gaul!
14- "It's Ant-Man, all right? Ant-Man." Awww....
15- Oooh... pretty.
16- Foggy Nelson
17- Charlie Brown.
18- "The Coyote Gospel"
19- Gone and Forgotten
20- The Wisdom of The Tick
21- "People send me stuff. One girl sends me weird stuff--in a good way. Last time she sent me emu feathers. Somebody sent me an eggshell. ...I'm starting to think soon I'll be able to build an emu from parts." (Carla Speed McNeil.)
22- the Love and Rockets entry... featuring the inky inky blacks of Chester Square; "Flies on the Ceiling: The True Story of Isabel in Mexico" and "Human Diastrophism," two of the scariest comics I've ever read; all the weird stuff, like Chepan and Penny Century and prosolar mechanics; Letty in Wigwam Bam; Poison River; Carmen and Heraclio; the biography of Frida Kahlo; "Hey, Maggot! Where you at?"; the tattoo on the bicep of that Twitch City guy, the one that said, "YOU LIVE INSIDE A BOTTLE AND PRETEND YOU'RE IN A CAN." And, pretty much... everything else.
23- the fact that every time I say "Daredevil," Ratty thinks I'm about to say "Derrida." He's the Philosopher Without Fear.
24- comics are just really, really out there, willing to do crazy stuff, in a way that most contemporary fiction isn't (because it's self-conscious and worried that the popular kids will look at it funny) and most genre fiction isn't (because the genre tropes have mostly become tics). I just love how you never know what you're going to get in comics; even the most predictable superhero titles can have awesome, experimental layouts, and bizarre "greatness... or madness?" ideas. The kind of ideas you come up with when no one else is looking.
25- And the biggest reason I love comics right now, a totally selfish one: I'm pretty sure they sparked my return to writing fiction. Finding a whole new form to obsess over, in which to work out the ways that form and content interact; wondering about whether I could replicate some of those effects in fiction; regaining the willingness to wig out in public, to do those unpredictable collisions I just talked about: That got me writing again. You may not care about that, but I really, really do. (And I hope to start posting a new piece this weekend!)
PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ.: Yet more '80s music theorizing.

Scott Thompson notes that Men at Work were at least four-hit wonders--he lists Who Can It Be Now?, Down Under (I completely forgot this was by the same group!), It's a Mistake, Be Good Johnny, Overkill. I only remember the first two.

MLY: "[Eve wrote] 'The '90s top-40 is pathetic. There are brilliant bands (Huggy Bear, PJ Harvey, obviously my lady Cat Power) but there aren't one-hit wonders . . . .'

"I suspect there were quite a few one-hit wonders in Hip Hop and Rap (fewer in R&B). Whoop there it is? Who let the dogs out? The Humpty Dance? (Note, however, that the man who called himself 'Humpty Hump' is not a one-hitter insofar as he gets credit for also being 'Shock G,' the star producer who discovered Tupac. Humpty Hump was just another of the man’s alter egos. Unfortunately, I can't remember his given name.)"

Eve replies: Uhhhh, I'm not even going near any theory involving praise for "Who Let the Dogs Out?". I'll give you "one-hit," but "wonder"?

Lentis: "I think that there's something to your nouveau riche hypothesis. The 80s really did embody new money and the displays of conspicuous (but not always tasteful) consumption that went along with it. But I think that it was all very superficial. Under the surface of the upturned Izod collars, designers jeans, designer sun glasses, and designer water lay the oozing pustule that is the legacy of the 70s -- which I think was acknowledged more honestly in the 90s by the way. Add to this, I think that there also was a real underling angst. The Cold War seemed colder in the 80s than it did in the 70s -- and then there's AIDS.

"One thing, you talk about using bouncy music to de-emphasize alienation in lyrics but didn't even mention The Smiths! -- the undisputed masters of that style. Then again they didn't really produce the type of wonder hits that you're talking about--not even How Soon is Now."

Mansfield Fox wants his MTV.

Monday, February 14, 2005

BLEG: If any of you all have tips on 1) pre-marriage counseling in the DC area (Christian but not necessarily Catholic)--I mean counseling for couples who are considering marriage but aren't sure--or 2) DC groups that work with fathers to help them build strong relationships with their children, could you please drop me a line? THANKS.
MAN OF SILK: "The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister and reconstruction mastermind Hariri, by a car bomb on the very waterfront he rebuilt after the country's 16-year civil war, is the worst news out of the Middle East in the last two years. It's the worst news out of Lebanon in at least ten." (more)
SOMEBODY'S WATCHING ME: Replies to the '80s music post so far:

Both Mansfield Fox and the SoDakMonk point out that Culture Club was a several-hit wonder. This is true. (And given how much I love the Violent Femmes' cover of "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?", I should have remembered that.) So, in the previous post, replace the mention of "Karma Chameleon" with the song in the title of this post. ...The Monk also suggests an alternative, techie explanation.

Unfogged suggests: Coke Is It.

Father Shawn O'Neal (and how is it that a post about '80s music brought me mail from two priests?) writes:
Loads of '80s pop did not have the punk sound, but it had the punk mentality of "Don't waste time recording junk."

If the '80s band is British, the members were ticked because of the supposed Thatcherite junta and its supposed economic wasteland.

If the band was from Europe, the members were paranoid in the spirit of "99 Luftballoons" that Reagan, Thatcher, and whomever was in Kremlin was going to lob a heap of missiles that would accidentally stall out over the continent.

If the band was from the South (Let's Active comes to mind), it was because they caught the idea off a Joy Division record and they had the crazy idea that angst could carry over with Rickenbackers.

My angst theory really comes down to awe of Ian Curtis or the jealous desire to out-Ian Ian.

More theories? Keep 'em coming....

Sunday, February 13, 2005

THE DAY THE WORLD TURNED DAY-GLO: Why is '80s music just better?

I mean, look: I could listen to Nirvana all day long. Their "Unplugged" album is fantastic. But that's not the point. The '90s top-40 is pathetic. There are brilliant bands (Huggy Bear, PJ Harvey, obviously my lady Cat Power) but there aren't one-hit wonders. And one-hit wonders (a.k.a., the zeitgeist) practically define '80s music. "Mexican Radio"; "Land Down Under"; "Safety Dance"; "Karma Chameleon" (on the CD player just now); "Sunglasses at Night." So stupid--yet so good! Why did it all go so right?

My disorganized theories: '80s music is defiantly nouveau riche. And it doesn't want to look needy. Topics with potential for angst ("99 Luftballons," "Der Kommissar," and, in fact, "Mexican Radio") are instead drenched in synth-glamour. "The Metro." "Video Killed the Radio Star." There's no percentage in being angsty for its own sake. You're supposed to be glossy and neon and futuristic and fun. You're supposed to be, if not Morning in America, at least Happy Hour in America. It's a weirdly alienated style: In trying to use the music to de-emphasize the alienation in the lyrics ("Cruel Summer") ("Who Can It Be Now?") ("One Night in Bangkok") it ends up conveying alienation much more effectively.

Other theories are more than welcome. Spin me right round, baby, right round.
PAPER FIRES: Comics reviews. Two of 'em.

Y: The Last Man, v.1: Unmanned: So you probably know the premise already. A mysterious disease kills all the men and male beasties in the world, with the exception of this one dude and his pet monkey. Very nice concept: simple and effective. The first volume is fun, working down various rivulets of this idea (a nun alone in St. Peter's, Republican wives staging a coup on behalf of their late husbands, former models hauling male corpses). I don't know that it's more than fun, though. Maybe I'm not the target audience simply because I spend my daggone working life thinking about guys vs dolls, so this comic isn't wildly likely to tell me anything new. I don't know. It's competent and I enjoyed reading it, but did I take anything away from it, on a question with which I'm deeply personally concerned? No, I didn't.

I'll be looking to see if the DC library system (which definitely has at least one volume from this series) has the sequels. But I won't be buying more until I'm making more money. So hey. I liked the Israeli lady.

In the Shadow of No Towers: Again, you probably already know the point of this comic: Art Spiegelman's response to 9/11. And again, it's kind of what I expected. There are incredibly poignant moments--esp. the page where he's looking for his daughter at a school very near the World Trade Center. And there is dumb lefty ranting. And there are very, very brief moments of collusion between the two. This you know.

I was, in the end, convinced that the weird format of the book (thick gigantic pages--very hard to pack in one's carryon backpack, not that reading about 9/11 on a cross-continent flight is the world's greatest idea in the first place) was worth it: art's necessity, rather than the artist's self-indulgence. The big pages add a lot. I was less convinced of the need for the other conceit, the use of turn-of-the-century cartoon characters from the first moments of newspaper comics. I think that ended up being less powerful for readers (...or at least for me) than it was for Spiegelman as a creator.

To sum up: Try to score a free copy of Y: The Last Man. In the Shadow of No Towers is more important right now, but, perversely, less necessary to actually read; flip through it in your local comicopia. Read the page at the daughter's school, seriously; also the page about the crazy anti-Semitic lady.
"WHARTON FEARS A COUP": So, I have become addicted, not to "The Apprentice" itself (sigh of relief) but to its recaps at Television Without Pity. I don't actually want to watch the show, at all--it's hard to imagine something less fun than watching real people really fight and bitch and crack under pressure--but one of my many, many obsessions (and possibly the one least satisfied by contemporary literature and pop culture) is team leadership. That's why I like the X-Men. That's one reason I really love DVD commentaries, and by far the biggest reason I love "making-of" documentaries. And if you remove the crass materialism, team leadership is what "The Apprentice" is about.

Reading these recaps has made me laugh out loud in recognition (some of the contestants' fights replicate, almost word-for-word, fights I've seen) and notice personality types (like The Guy Who Leads Through Sports Metaphors--actually, these guys tend to be good leaders, because they usually bounce back really fast when they're knocked down). It's made me think hard about the moments where my own leadership has been signally lacking. I let myself cave to peer pressure way too often, and I still need to work on taking criticism as a judgment of my performance in a specific instance rather than a personal attack; I especially need to work on taking criticism rationally when it's unaccompanied by praise and reassurance. I'm fascinated by the different ways of handling postmortems; by the fact that some people just don't get that you have to have fun in order to sell/persuade; by the examples of appropriate vs. inappropriate ways of seeking comfort when you feel low. (Appropriate = go to your closest friends, or to someone who has specifically offered a shoulder to lean on. Inappropriate = demand that everyone, or most people, or the leaders, or anyone who hasn't specifically taken on this role with you, deal with your personal heartaches and problems.)

"You don't have to be asked. To do a job, you really don't have to be asked." --Donald Trump, and yeah, I can't believe I'm quoting this dude any more than you can.
STOP ME BEFORE I KISS AGAIN: Last night I was thrown a candy heart that read, "FAX ME." Now, that is pretty bad; but what I thought it actually said was the far, far better "FIX ME."

This is one candy heart my world truly needs.

In other partygoing news, this exchange: "Yeah, I heard that [The Talented Mr. X-ley] was interviewing at that one publisher... what's their name... Ragnarok?"
OMNES: "Regnery."

Happy Valentine's Day from the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Baby, I got your blogwatch, don't you worry...

Agenda Bender: "'Eventually the Cockettes will use up the past and the future and have to rely on the present for their material.'"

Amarji: "A Heretic's Blog." Only, not in the bad way. This is the blog of the awesome Syrian liberal profiled in this week's New York Times Magazine. Kickin'. Via Hit & Run.

Unqualified Offerings: "Self-defense is about as basic a right as one can conceive. The argument for abridging it via gun control was pragmatic--gun controllers promised that restricting effective self-defense by limiting civilian gun ownership would increase public safety. It doesn't. It's not enough that it doesn't measurably decrease public safety, because gun control is itself a harm in principle. If it provided a compelling practical benefit we could have an interesting debate over whether principle or praxis should tell. But it doesn't even have the excuse of working."

Watchmania! ...and an Annotated Watchmen site. Both via Motime Like the Present.

Theology of the Body in Laurel, Maryland. Thus adding "Catholic theology of sex" to my previous "really awesome thrift-store-of-doom" associations with Laurel. Via... uh, I forget.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

THE DAY JOB: "All of which has led me, through a painkiller-induced haze, to thinking about the differences between category fiction (what is often incorrectly called 'genre fiction'--primarily speculative fiction, mysteries, and political thrillers) and the so-called 'mainstream' (including both 'general' and 'literary' fiction). The day job is a significant difference. The subject matter and 'weight' of category fiction tends to revolve around the day jobs of the characters. Cops and private eyes solve mysteries for a living, and are so depicted in fiction. Starship captains captain starships; they are seldom engaged in long journeys of self-discovery after leaving the office for the day. Conversely, the subject matter and 'weight' of mainstream fiction tends to happen after office hours--the long-smoldering affairs with the babysitter, the agonized boredom of the housewife, and so on. Of course, there is significant crossover in the better books, and significant exceptions." (more)
READING MANGA VS READING WESTERN COMICS--fun with page layouts and panel borders and whatnot. Really neat.
RIGHT NOW, AT MARRIAGEDEBATE: Bisexuality at Yale, boars replacing babies in Italy, "the Bible too is a living word, just as the Constitution," what does it mean to say marriage "creates kin"?, and much much more. Everything from legal strategery to how to get a date at BYU. (Note, I only plug my day job here when I think there are some posts up that would be especially interesting to readers who don't check in on all the time.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

OFFERINGS!: Lots of good stuff at Jim Henley's site right now. (Not that this is weird or anything.) Some highlights: farm dole; an introduction to the twelve newcomers to his blogroll (mostly libertarians), who look really interesting--I will be clicking through at some point when I am less catastrophically behind on everything; and a much-needed new word: "depiphany."
MAILBAG: BOOKS AND BIRDS.Jendi Reiter writes:
If you're obsessed with "betrayal-for-the-good/man without a country/adherence to a moral code over and against all one's personal loyalties and all one's sense of self; attempting to maintain a sense of self after that choice"

you should read this:
"Ninety-Three" by Victor Hugo.

I read this book (in the original French, back when I was capable of that!) because Ayn Rand, another obsession you and I share, wrote an essay on it. It's been on my mind again lately as an example of a morality of works versus a morality of grace -- similar to contrast between Valjean and Javert in Les Miserables.

Don't know if you like mysteries, but Ruth Rendell would probably touch a nerve with you, especially "Make Death Love Me" and "The Brimstone Wedding" (written as Barbara Vine).

Clio writes:
Failure: almost anything by Ruth Rendell could be said to be about failure. But especially good on that subject are A Fatal Inversion; The House of Stairs; and A Dark-Adapted Eye, all of which concern the effects of long-ago crimes or sins and how they wreak havoc (and bring failure) on all concerned in them. [Eve adds: Ooh, this "out of the past" theme is also a huge obsession of mine. Will definitely check out Rendell.]

Inability to understand oneself: Rumer Godden: Kingfishers Catch Fire.
Richard Adams: Girl in a Swing (I've recommended this to you before, I think. Oh, well.)

Realistic parenting: Rumer Godden's books are very strong on parenting, both realistic and not-so-. See esp. The Battle of the Villa Fiorita, about a (self-deceiving) woman who is a good mother but made irresponsible by passion. Also Godden's Greengage Summer, in which the mother is an excellent mother, but too unworldly.

Evilescence: Try The Raj Quartet (also suggested before) and the character Ronald Merrick, who is also a Man Without a Country; and a man who puts his moral code over his personal loyalties in a way that makes this seem wicked. Oh, and he has NO sense of self, having replaced his personal loyalties with a moral code borrowed out of fiction.

Nemesis (I'm cheating, it's one of my obsessions--the growing awareness of the fate that you subconsciously always knew was coming to you): Gemma O'Connor's Sin of Omission; Mary Renault's The King Must Die and The Bull From the Sea--you need to read both to get the full effect.

I go through long phases in which I read the same books over and over, which is why my lists of good books tend to get repetitive. All the same, I think these are worth reading.

[Eve adds: No need to explain! I also love re-reading and am constantly recommending the same books over and over.]

Mark R. writes:
In regards to vultures, you are not too far away from buzzards, hawks, falcons and the occasional kestrel in northern Gaithersburg, MD. Now and then I see a beautiful sneaks into my brother's neighborhood at dusk to steal dogfood from outside bowls, I think. There are plenty of deer as well. Often one sees a family dining out late at night in semi-secluded areas.

Steve Sparrow (apt name!) has an owl story--I am reminded of the fun Farley Mowat book Owls in the Family:
About fifteen years ago I was on my way out of town to measure a job and was going pretty fast on our little northern motorway (Christchurch NZ) when out of the corner of my eye I spotted an injured bird on the roadside so I braked and reversed--yes I know it's illegal world wide--got out of the car and looked down at this pathetic creature glaring up at me. It was a small owl so I put it in a brown paper bag and continued on to do the measure up. Later back in town I took the owl into a pharmicist friend who I knew had an interest in such things. Marg said it looked pretty crook, it had a bung eye, a bung wing and a bung leg. She weighed it out at 130 grams and mixed an appropriate amount of penicillin for a daily dose and said to also give it a few drops of brandy or sherry each day AND IT MUST HAVE A MOUSE TWICE A WEEK. Back home we (me and boy children) put Anthea in a large old disused drawer with a hinged wire front and kept her upstairs in the boys room where most of her day was spent roosting (I think). She nearly died several times in the first ten days but then began to improve gradually. Every second day on the way home from work I would call at a pet shop, never the same one two days running--they might have smelled a rat (terrible pun I know). Me: Do you have any mice? Pet shop person: Yes, what would you like? A boy mouse or a girl mouse? What colour? What size? Me: (mumbling almost incoherently) I'm not too fussed. I hand over sixty cents and PSP puts mouse in paper bag and I hurry away, drive home and run upstairs and 'liberate' mouse inside Anthea's enclosure. Nothing happens for a few minutes until mouse begins with rustling sounds to explore the environment. Anthea on her perch comes to life looks down and immediately swells about twice her size and then drops down on prey and grabs with talons then spreading wings to hide what she's caught glares out at me. I learned eating prey is a very private matter and was never done under the gaze of anyone. After half an hour I could return to find Anthea back on perch looking full and with mouse tail extending down out of the corner of her mouth. This went on for seven weeks until Anthea was fully recovered and had nearly doubled her weight whereupon much to my wife's relief we released her (I mean Anthea) back into the wild. One day while I was buying a mouse the PSP ( a stern Dutch lady) asked if I already had a mouse at home and I in all innocence (and truth) said no. Well PSP immediately withdrew her hand from mouse cage and frostily informed me that she would not sell one mouse on its own since it would only die of lonelyness and cold. Who was I to argue so I had to buy two and look after one of the stinkers for another two days before feeding it to Anthea. Well there's my story and with certain embellishments to it I could make women at parties almost choke on their cocktails while the events were related, so now Eve it's your turn.

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

No one can move me the way that you do;
Nothing erases this blogwatch between me and you...

Nunblogging! (Via Dappled Things.)

Church of the Masses: Hee!

St. Peter of Damaskos' list of the virtues and the passions. Worth meditating on. Via Dappled Things, again.

And: "A baby born weighing less than a soda can and believed to be the smallest ever to survive went home Tuesday after nearly six months in the hospital." Via the Old Oligarch.
"The essence of the totalitarian mentality, whether it is religious or political, is the false promise of a system of all-explaining consistency: a worldview that accounts for everything and answers all questions. Some of us, by contrast, expect our views to be contradictory or at least to contain contradiction, and welcome the opportunity for further reflection and experiment this affords."
--Christopher Hitchens, foreword to Choice: The Best of Reason. See now, I think this gets things exactly backwards. If you think your worldview should be consistent, you have much more reason to try to figure out the places where it appears to be contradictory. You have much more thinking and exploring to do than the person who accepts contradiction and can therefore relax and say, "Hey, I'm large, dude, I contain multitudes. What's for lunch?"

I do think there are questions that aren't meant to be answered so much as lived through, accepted, or entered into: questions that are really mysteries. The sort of thing Thomas Aquinas meant when he said, "I have seen things that make all my writings as straw." But those mysteries are precisely the place where "experiment" ends and "reflection" begins to look very unlike ordinary point-by-point reasoning.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

ACLU CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO TORTURE CLAIMS: I don't endorse the other stuff in this press release, since I have not followed the whole Michael Chertoff thing at all. But this I can get behind: "The ACLU has called for a special counsel to investigate and prosecute any criminal acts by civilians in the torture or abuse of detainees by the U.S. government, saying that doing so is the only way to fairly, and independently, get to the bottom of the issue." Via How Appealing.
THE FARM DOLE: 1. "Bush Is Said to Seek Sharp Cuts in Subsidy Payments to Farmers." Hardcore.

2. He fights for it: here.

3. Resistance; emphasis added: Statement of Charles Kruse, President of Missouri Farm Bureau, on farm spending reductions in President Bush's Budget

"While we are still in the process of learning more about what reductions President Bush is proposing for agriculture in next year's budget, we are concerned about the impact of reduced federal funding on Missouri's farms and rural communities," said Charles Kruse, president of Missouri Farm Bureau.

"In the past, there have been years in which government support payments were absolutely critical to the health of our state's agricultural economy. For example, in 2002 government payments comprised 71 percent of Missouri's net farm income. This underscores the importance of the current Farm Bill to farmers and rural America," said Kruse. "We believe the current Farm Bill has worked well to hold the line on costs, with government outlays for agriculture being below budget for the last three years."

"On this day that we in Farm Bureau call Food Check Out Day, we are reminded of the affordable food supply the American farmer provides consumers, thanks in part to the economic stability provided by farm programs. It only takes the average American consumer 37 days to earn enough income to pay for their annual food supply, which translates into America spending the lowest percentage on food of any country in the world," said Kruse.

"Missouri Farm Bureau will be working with our Congressional delegation in the months ahead as they write a new budget for 2006. We will find ways to keep American agriculture strong and capable of competing in the world economy. We will also remind the American public that thanks to efficiency and productivity of America's farmers and ranchers, we have the most abundant, safe and affordable food supply in the world," Kruse concluded.

4. Resistance and rebuttal: Ramesh Ponnuru lays the smack down on a subsidy defender. (Defender states the case for subsidies well, too, so it's a twofer.) Ramesh doesn't add three things I would say:
a. One of the major reasons we've valued the cultural benefits of family farms is their independence. Subsidies kill that independence.
b. (He gestures at this but doesn't close the deal:) Raising food prices is regressive, hurting the poor first and most.
c. The government has no business picking winners and losers in economic interplays between e.g. farmers and food consumers. The government isn't good at it and shouldn't do it even if it did possess competence in this area.

Read more of my growling at the Farm Dole blog--although for some reason I can't update that anymore. Still, if you putter around in the archives you will find good links and some arguments and...stuff.
'TIS NO SIN FOR A MAN TO LABOR IN HIS OBSESSION: Erika Singer writes with recommendations based on my post below. I did really like The Power and the Glory, although for whatever reason it didn't compel me as much as The Comedians and the beginning and end (but not the slack middle) of Brighton Rock.... You know, I'm thinking I should have added the figure of the "comedian" as another obsession. I always wished someone would do that post on humor and joking in Watchmen that I never did....:
On the desire for greatness, self-understanding or lack thereof, and not being able to make your mind shut up, Kay Jamison's memoir An Unquiet Mind is good, and so is the movie Pi.

The Power and the Glory is still my favorite failure book; I'm sure you've read it, but...

On better late than never as applied to forgiveness, The Corrections

On college as the land of lost content, Scott Fitzgerald's non-college works, especially the short stories and Tender is the Night

And on realistic parenting, I haven't read it yet, but maybe Marilynne Robinson's new Gilead?
CAN YOU FEEL THE LOVE TONIGHT: The Rat writes: "On your list of 'Magnificent Obsessions,' you forgot to include, making lists!"

It's a fair cop.

Monday, February 07, 2005

MAGNIFICENT OBSESSIONS: Lately I'm more likely to read mediocre books that hit on one or more of my obsessions than great books that don't. This is anything but a hard-and-fast rule--especially since great works remake our obsessions--but it's a noticeable shift, and not one of which I approve. I find myself engaging in a lot more of the author's misprision, a lot less of the reader's openness. Maybe that's what happens when you write a lot yourself. If so, okay, I will vulture others' writing for my own purposes. Still, I have a very hard time now with books that don't in some way slot themselves into my pre-existing fixations.

So I thought it might be fun to list those fixations. I would greatly appreciate recommendations of books, movies, comics, etc. that touch on these subjects. In precisely no order:

failure, and coping with failure
people who can't make their minds shut up
irrevocable acts
self-image; preferring one's sense of oneself to any and all morality or (esp) comfort
betrayal-for-the-good/man without a country/adherence to a moral code over and against all one's personal loyalties and all one's sense of self; attempting to maintain a sense of self after that choice.
justice without mercy (desert); mercy
clash between different sets of expectations: one character is shocked at what another takes for granted
by any means necessary and its failures and discontents
the desire for greatness; "and he had the idea to fly"
I want, I want, I want
unrequited, unfulfilled, rejected and refused (no matter how much desired)
bright college years, with pleasure rife/the shortest, gladdest years of life
sex that's really about self-image
an effervescent homage to the subjunctive tense (e.g. self-fulfilling prophecies)
he's so tired now
Better extraordinarily late than extraordinarily never.
meta- as fiction
realistic parenting
faut de mieux
indomitability; but only if combined with repentance and ambition, not if there has been no fall from grace.
inability to understand oneself
I'VE GOT AN UNCONTROLLABLE URGE: Thought it might be fun--and perhaps useful for me as a writer--to list the things I keep doing, over and over, in stories.

1. overuse of words: I don't think I've written a story without using "pale" or (especially!) "blank" at least once. I blame Harold Bloom for the latter--go read his chapter on Emily Dickinson in The Western Canon, right now! I know one of the reasons I like "Grosse Pointe Blank" is that last word in the title.

I do think I've gotten a handle on my overuse of "attenuated" though.

2. I associate generosity, especially material generosity, with lying. The two characters who do this most obviously are Jamie Cantalamessa and Justin Harlowe, but I know in my mental templates of characters I make this connection frequently. I think it has something to do with attempting to meet others' needs and expectations. I note that Jamie and Justin are both youngest children (as am I); Ratty (also a youngest child) at one point speculated that youngest children are more likely to be instinctive liars, and I think that's right. She suggested it might be because we entered into a family world, a political structure if you like (cf. SRD's comment that you need to have at least three children, "so there can be factionalism"), which we had no part in creating and which it was easier to work around than to reshape. I'd welcome other thoughts on this stuff, as birth order is one of my (many...) obsessions.

3. None of my characters ever drink gin. That's because I can't help tasting any food or drink I describe, and I really hate the taste of gin. ("Gin! gin! a glass of gin!/And all the demons therewithin!")

4. For some reason, I've twice written the "Sorry I'm late"/"You're not late--I'm early" exchange. And the early person is always the villain of the piece. This is one of those things that make me suspect I really don't understand how my own mind works.

5. I write about the sea, or large bodies of water, all the time--weirdly often, given that D.C. is, like, landlocked. The sea is almost always bad: It's generally somehow linked to relativism, or to abdication of responsibility. "Kissable Pictures" is an exception, as is a story I haven't posted, "Nicorette," in which Rehoboth Beach plays a supporting role.
FORTY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LENT. Via Dappled Things. Will definitely be doing some of these--most likely #2, some variant on #s 6 and 8, #10, #14, #16 (will also be watching "The Mission"), #18, #25 (desperately needed--I have NO skill at making my mind shut up), and #34. Also hope to do those items on the list that you should be doing anyway!
WILD KINGDOM: So after Noli Irritare Leones posted on the continuing vulture crisis, I dreamt about those wonderful carrion birds. I dreamt that a full-grown vulturiffic beastie made its way to a small tree outside the Chevy Chase Library. It ate another, smaller bird (which I'm not sure if they do?), and was then joined by an incredibly cute vulture chick, the Nermal to its Garfield. Awwww. (Admit it: You could have predicted that I would have a thing for vultures. I think they're super cool.)

Other animals I like: wolves; squid, especially giant squid; crows (which convinced the priest who did my RCIA, a.k.a. "Special K," that I needed an exorcisin'); cats of all sizes, from lion to tabby; birds of prey generally, owls and hawks (saw a hawk at Yale that had captured a squirrel! so exciting!) and whatnot.

Not so much: dolphins (think they're better than us); dogs. My debating society has a theory that cats are the libertarian animal, dogs the traditionalist animal. I report, you decide....

mood: random, obviously.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Well come on, if you need loving,
Pirandello, don't be shy--
It just takes a little blogwatch
And we'll get there by and by...

(At least, I think that's what he's singing....)

Johnny Bacardi reads Planetes! Yay! Why don't you read Planetes too?

The Washington Post's "Ask Amy" columnist actually tackles a subject I really wanted to hear about: How do you respond when you see a parent publicly berating a child? Lots of good responses from readers.

That's all I've got. Lots of short posts coming up soon, though.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

PUT OUT THE LIGHT, AND THEN PUT OUT THE LIGHT: In case you're wondering why I beat up on the Enlightenment and its acolytes a lot here, I figured I'd give some links. I welcome criticism on any of these posts. Just figured it would be helpful, both for me and for people who radically disagree with me, to have all this stuff in one place.

Bad epistemology.
And again. (With added theory-of-journalism!)
Stupid theology. (Yes, I know, this is Mark Twain not Descartes, but if you want to argue that he's not a child of the Enlightenment you go right ahead and use the email link, because I for one think he's more or less obviously picking up on Enlightenment preconceptions and missed connections.)
Bad ethics, a.k.a. If God didn't want us to eat babies, why are they made out of meat?
Edmund Burke = Thomas Paine: All cats are gray in the dark. (Although I should note that what I've read of Burke's treatise on the beautiful and the sublime is brilliant, and there are a lot of truly powerful insights in Reflections on the Revolution in France, mostly to do with the fact that all loyalties are ultimately personal, and the ways in which institutions and countries attempt to become "persons" in order to command our loyalties.)
More on tradition as persona. (And scroll down.)

I do requests, so if you want me to explain something (especially one of those tossed-off lines I do all the time), please let me know. I'll also entertain arguments as to why modern philosophy (= roughly Ockham through, I don't know, Hegel) is anything other than an Express Train to Nietzsche.

Oh, and because I'm always getting on people's cases for presenting purely negative cases without offering any alternatives, I should say that one of my big obsessions is re-grounding roughly-liberal politics on a ground more solid than the shifting justifications offered by e.g. Thomas Jefferson. John Paul II has done more to advance that project than anyone else I can think of. Here are a couple of summary posts on JPII encyclicals. There's still a lot of work to be done; but this pope has shown the way, and we should all thank God for it. (Even though he can't write, wow, painfully German in his locutions. It's still worth it.)
WORDS, WORDS, WORDS: More taglines for the New Penguin Shakespeare. Here are two from me:
TWELFTH NIGHT: Clown: Why, 'some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrown upon them.' I was one, sir, in this interlude; one Sir Topas, sir; but that's all one. 'By the Lord, fool, I am not mad.' But do you remember? 'Madam, why laugh you at such a barren rascal? an you smile not, he's gagged:' and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: Bottom: The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.

And here are a few from Cacciaguida: ROMEO AND JULIET:
-- If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

-- Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

What man dare, I dare:
Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,
The arm'd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble: or be alive again,
And dare me to the desert with thy sword;
If trembling I inhabit then, protest me
The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery, hence!

Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch
Of the ranged empire fall! Here is my space.
Kingdoms are clay: our dungy earth alike
Feeds beast as man: the nobleness of life
Is to do thus; when such a mutual pair
And such a twain can do't....

OTHELLO: Nay, do it not with poison: strangle her in her bed....

You vile abominable tents,
Thus proudly pight upon our Phrygian plains,
Let Titan rise as early as he dare,
I'll through and through you! and, thou great-sized coward,
No space of earth shall sunder our two hates:
I'll haunt thee like a wicked conscience still,
That mouldeth goblins swift as frenzy's thoughts.

You kill'd her husband, and for that vile fault
Two of her brothers were condemn'd to death,
My hand cut off and made a merry jest;
Both her sweet hands, her tongue, and that more dear
Than hands or tongue, her spotless chastity,
Inhuman traitors, you constrain'd and forced.
What would you say, if I should let you speak?
Villains, for shame you could not beg for grace.
Hark, wretches! how I mean to martyr you....

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air....

-- I do not like her name.
-- There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened.

But all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy's images
And grows to something of great constancy;
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.

O that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they
come to take hands; and then, with public
accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,
--O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart
in the market-place.
Tattoo on the blogwatch
Which says, "Beware, behave, be mine!"...

Had a terrific conversation with Terry "About Last Night" Teachout, over Indian buffet. Some of those ideas will probably work themselves out in blog posts soon enough. Also, he's found a great moment in Eliot's "Family Reunion," here. Powerful.

Agenda Bender: "Parastone Studios is an outnetherlandish enterprise which renders figures and objects from assorted famous paintings in three dimensions, it knocks the flat out of 'em (they want only full animation and Turing implants now)." Dude, this is awesome. Check it out.

Jane Galt: What's the point of unionizing? Vigorous comments-boxing, as well.

Unqualified Offerings: Alberto Gonzales and "hey, what are you complaining for, you never experienced organ failure!"

Thursday, February 03, 2005

One night in Blogwatch makes a hard man humble...

The Pope Blog: For all your Pope News needs. Seriously, I'm surprised this niche wasn't already filled, but welcome to the Popeblogger.

Reason's "hopes and fears for the 2Bush2 term" piece. I'm most thoroughly in agreement with Tyler Cowen, Daniel Drezner, and to a lesser extent Bob Barr; but it's all worth reading.

This Policy Review piece on the demographic crash is fascinating and you should read it. I'm already wondering how some of this stuff would work into speculative fiction.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

FUN WITH HEADLINES: Includes some fabulous NY Daily News ones that were new to me. Via the New Criterion blog.
One night in Blogwatch and the world's your oyster...

Amy Welborn, spurred by this Jonah Goldberg piece on "Groundhog Day," is asking readers to suggest movies that are shallow on the outside, deep on the inside. Interesting suggestions, plus this moving comment: "I had no idea until I read Goldberg's various comments on Groundhog Day that [it] is considered to have spiritual meaning. I am no expert on philosophy or theology. At the time it came out, however, and I saw the film, I felt like it described my dull, run-of-the-mill empty, single, career-chasing life [and not actively Catholic]. I got up and did the same thing every day, went to bed and did it all over again. The movie hit me like a ton of bricks. I told people that was my life."

The Old Oligarch has a great, rambly post on conversion. I can't summarize it; you have to go look.

Relapsed Catholic has a new book!

And my "New Penguin Shakespeare" post below has already gotten two responses.

RA: On my front cover of Hamlet would be:

For in the fatness of these pursy times,
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg.

Clio: Antony and Cleopatra: I would I had thy inches: thou should'st know/there were a heart in Egypt.
(I did not understand the full meaning of this line until I walked into a gas station on the highway, many years after I first read it, and saw a biker magazine with a picture of a ruler on the cover, with the caption, "Harley bitches get more inches"....But Cleopatra's line is more than simply vulgar. And similar sentiments were uttered by Elizabeth I, who said, "Had I, my lords, been born crested not cloven, you had not treated me thus!")

Hamlet: They say that the owl was a baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at your table.
(Refers to one of the Golden Legends, I think, which told how Jesus turned a stingy baker's daughter, who cried, Oh Oh Oh when her mother gave bread to the disciples, into an owl. "As thou hast spoken, so be thou, child of the night," he said, and she flapped away into the woods. I know all this thanks to Walter de la Mare's Come Hither, one of the best anthologies of poetry ever written, I think.)

King Lear: The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices make instruments to plague us./The dark and vicious place where thee he got/cost him his eyes.
(Not nice, but thunderous and dramatic.)

Midsummer Night's Dream: When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,/Neighing in likeness of a filly foal...
Jack shall have Jill,/Naught shall go ill:/The man shall have his mare again,/And all shall go well.

Richard III: Richard loves Richard:/that is, I am I.

Cymbeline: Hang there like fruit, my soul, till the tree die!

I'm not sure how accurate all of these are, as if I stopped to look them all up, I'd be at it all day.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

PICTURE BOOKS: Amy Welborn and commenters have recommendations here. The ones I remember are: anything at all by Mercer Mayer (I frequently find myself referring to "Just for You"), Maurice Sendak of course, and the many books I list here.
FEASTING WITH PANTHERS: So I spent this past weekend in New Haven. I was spending time with my college debating society, for their annual banquet (hence the title of this post). I have a few things to say about the weekend, but, on the car ride back home, I realized that most of those things circle around a central theme.

I spent a weekend with people who, for the most part, think the world is a very hard place, and if you find something good you should fight like hell to protect it. These are people who know that the world is broken and that we are broken. Something has gone wrong. ("Something fell.") We are left with the aching love of the good that proves we knew wholeness once, but have never seen it in this life. It's startling how often this came up: in discussions of what we can learn from the success of faith-based organizations in helping people who have seriously wrecked their lives; in discussions of children's literature (in this vein, I can't recommend The Last Unicorn highly enough--a beautiful book); really all over the place. This world is a very hard place to be. Everyone you love will get hurt badly. No one here gets out alive. Evil is worse than suffering, and therefore, you will have to choose suffering sometimes. Make the best of it, because no one can do it for you. There's beauty and there's joy, astonishing friendship and the always shockingly strong passion for children; but all our happiness is as fragile as our skin.

I'm pretty sure this attitude or stance underlies most of my politics. I don't think it's necessarily dispositive as far as political philosophy. There are some claims it definitely rules out (hi, I'm here to cut off the Enlightenment for nonpayment of its electricity bills), but on many of the important political questions people who share this deep-rooted understanding will disagree. The two most obvious examples for me are same-sex marriage (I do think Jonathan Rauch believes in some variant of the liberalism of fear, which I deeply respect, even though I think ultimately he's a lot less conservative than he thinks he is--and yes, I just used "liberal" and "conservative" to refer to different shadows of the same edifice, welcome to America) and the war in Iraq (I think Jim Henley might actually have a darker view of human nature than I do, which is impressive).

A few more scattered notes from the weekend:
* I was reminded yet again that all friendships and institutions rely on a base of almost incessant patience and forgiveness. I only hope I will have the opportunity to repay all the patience and mercy that has been paid out to me.
* Nothing is as inspiring as seeing undergraduates go through that incredible personal transformation that our debating society makes possible. Every year I forget that it happens, and so every year I'm surprised again. It's not growing up--it's not just progress--it's a phoenixlike descent into ashes and rebirth in fire.
* I like the song "One Night in Bangkok" a lot more than I thought I did. And I promise this is related to the rest of this post!

Hearts full of youth! Hearts full of truth!
Six parts gin to one part vermouth!

--Tom Lehrer, "Bright College Days"
IF I RAN THE NEW PENGUIN SHAKESPEARE... The NPS is a nice little series of paperbacks with boring woodcuts on their front covers and brief, often startlingly acute quotations from the plays on their back covers. The one for King Lear is probably the best: just the one-liner, "What is the cause of thunder?" Many others are quite good (I remember liking the one for King John, though I can't recall what it was; and Love's Labour's Lost has the "while greasy Joan doth keel the pot" song, yay). But I thought it might be fun to let you all know which lines I would quote if I wanted to a) summarize the plays and b) attract readers. Please do email me if you have better suggestions, or suggestions for other plays. ...Some of these will be from memory, though when I get a chance I'll try to clean them up.

Antony and Cleopatra: Antony: Let's have one other gaudy night.

Hamlet: Horatio: So Rosencrantz and Guildenstern go to it?
Hamlet: Why, man, they did make love to this employment!

OR The Player King: But, orderly to end as I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.

Henry IV pt 1: Falstaff: No, my good lord; banish Peto,
banish Bardolph, banish Poins: but for sweet Jack
Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff,
valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant,
being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him
thy Harry's company, banish not him thy Harry's
company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

Henry: I do, I will.

Henry IV pt 2: Falstaff: We have heard the chimes at midnight.

Henry V: Henry: Every subject's duty is the King's; but every subject's soul is his own.

Macbeth: Messenger: As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look'd toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.

OR Porter: O! come in, equivocator.

Much Ado About Nothing: Beatrice: No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.

Othello: Othello: Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone!

OR Iago: Are your doors locked?

Richard II: Richard: O that I were a mockery king of snow,
Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke,
To melt myself away in water-drops!

Richard III: Richard: Was ever woman in this humour wooed?
Was ever woman in this humour won?

OR Richard: Shine out, fair sun, 'til I have bought a glass,
That I might see my shadow as I pass!

OR Richard: I am not in the giving vein today.

Romeo and Juliet: Montague: Black and portentous must this humour prove,
Unless good counsel may the cause remove.

The Tempest: Prospero: But this rough magic
I here abjure, and, when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book.

The Winter's Tale: Mamillius: A sad tale's best for winter.

OR Leontes: I have drunk, and seen the spider.
WHY DOES NOBODY TALK ABOUT ROMER V. EVANS? [edited to cut subpar discussion of Lawrence v Texas, which isn't the point of this post, since I know why people talk about Lawrence. What I want to know is:] So... why does nobody talk about Romer? If Supreme Court cases about sex-and-related-issues were characters from "The Lion in Winter," Romer would be Geoffrey. ("Nobody ever says 'king' and thinks 'Geoffrey'"--but you do not want to be on his bad side....) Roe or maybe Casey might be Richard (you never call, you never write), and obviously Bowers v. Hardwick is Philip. Further casting suggestions are welcome (Griswold as Eleanor--"I'd hang you from the nipples, but you'd frighten the children"??); even more welcome are substantive discussions of the title of this post, since I still don't know the answer.
GERMAN PROSTITUTION-FOR-WELFARE STORY PROBABLY (MOSTLY) FALSE. Good to know. Still, even as a "technical possibility" it's pretty daggone creepy. Anyway, sorry to have inflicted this particular game of blog-telephone on you all.
VOICES OF THE VOTERS: You've probably seen these links already, but in case you haven't, here are two sites compiling bloggers' reports from the Iraq elections. Inspiring. (Maybe via Oxblog and The Corner? I can't remember.) When I get a chance, probably Tuesday, I'll do some trawling of the Iraqi blogsophere as well.
"A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing 'sexual services' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year." (more)--via Amy Welborn
"THAT PHOTOGRAPH OF FLANNERY O'CONNOR": Kathy "Relapsed Catholic" Shaidle is blogging some of her poems. Good stuff.
[T]he final and permanent fruits of liberty are wisdom, moderation, and mercy. Its immediate effects are often atrocious crimes, conflicting errors, scepticism on points the most clear, dogmatism on points the most mysterious. It is just at this crisis that its enemies love to exhibit it. They pull down the scaffolding from the half-finished edifice. they point to the flying dust, the falling bricks, the comfortless rooms, the frightful irregularity of the whole appearance; and then ask in scorn where the promised splendour and comfort is to be found. If such miserable sophisms were to prevail, there would never be a good house or a good government in the world....

There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces--and that cure is freedom. When a prisoner leaves his cell, he cannot bear the light of day;--he is unable to discriminate colors, or recognize faces. But the remedy is not to remand him into his dungeon, but to accustom him to the rays of the sun. The blaze of truth and liberty may at first dazzle and bewilder nations which have become half blind in the house of bondage. But let them gaze on, and they will soon be able to bear it. In a few years men learn to reason. The extreme violence of opinion subsides. Hostile theories correct each other. The scattered elements of truth cease to conflict, and begin to coalesce. And at length a system of justice and order is educed out of the chaos. Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water till he had learnt to swim! If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.

-- Thomas B. Macaulay; via Kesher Talk