Thursday, January 26, 2006

THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT: A couple thoughts on Deus Caritas Est.

EDITED TO ADD Amy Welborn--tried to add her yesterday, but Blogger wigged on me...:
Benedict's appealing to 3000 year old texts to weave his case: that eros is a dimension of divine love, evidenced by the paradigmatic Original Couple, created for each other for companionship and procreation, as well as in the revelation, through various insights of the prophets and Wisdom literature, that something about God's love can be learned from the passionate seeking of the beloved, as well as the forgiveness of the same when betrayed. This is not new. This is ancient.

(I would give you a link, but again, computer issues; so just go here and scroll....)

Dreadnought: The good life is out there somewhere, so stay on my arm you little charmer.... (Can't summarize, you should just click through. No clue if it will be as powerful to people who didn't grow up in a fairly specific '80s/'90s culture, but for those of us who cut our nails on The Liar and The Queen Is Dead and wondering if Edward II was too artsy or just artsy enough--this is for you. Oh, such a little thing; but the difference it made was great, yeah?)

Fr Neuhaus:
"Are all forms of love basically one?" Benedict's answer is in the affirmative. Although Anders Nygren is not mentioned, the argument is clearly counter to his pitting of eros against agape, which had an enormous influence in the twentieth century. Nor is C.S. Lewis mentioned, but Benedict's argument is at important points at odds with Lewis' famous description of the "four loves." All love is one because the Trinitarian God is one, and God is love.

...He is especially eager to rebut Nietzsche's insistence that the Christian view of eros drained the blood out of human passion and the quest for transcendence.

The last half of the relatively short encyclical is devoted to making the connections between love as expressed in kerygma (witness), leitourgia (worship), and diakonia (service)--the three dimensions of the Church’s life and mission. Here Benedict is at pains to challenge the separation, common also among many Christians, of charity and justice. The idea proposed by Marxists and others that justice must replace charity is fundamentally false, Benedict insists, and leads to the defeat of both charity and justice. The contention here is familiar from Ratzinger's longstanding critique of Marxist-oriented liberation theology.


Take me out tonight....
TWO CAN BE AS BAD AS ONE; IT'S THE LONELIEST NUMBER SINCE THE NUMBER ONE...: So a friend is working on a paper about Faulkner.

Yeah, I'm sorry too.

But she asked me some questions about doppelgangers, and why they're such a fixture of literature, and I thought maybe you guys could help out. So: Why are doubles so freaky?!

My tentative answers:

1. doubles can feel like they're a way of revoking irrevocable acts--they're the path not taken, what we could be. ...

2. representation of an already-divided consciousness, driving home how divided our souls are anyway--Jekyll and Hyde is obvious example. Lois Duncan (kids' horror writer) has a novel called STRANGER WITH MY FACE, and I think that's the horror--to realize that I myself am the "stranger with my face." (Cf Lancelot etc etc etc.)

3. you are just another human. ...You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake. You are, in fact, kind of detritus, and not noteworthy. I think this is some of what Poe is tapping into in "W.W.", though I don't remember that story very well.

4. specific to doubling/incest stories: someone else knows you, inside and out, fully knows you, overcomes the barriers to knowing another person, and loves you (or at least wants to boff you!) anyway. The Symposium thing about the round people obviously plays into this too.

5. maybe the number two feels kind of unfinished?? Three is a very finished number: all things come in threes; father, mother and child; Trinity; etc. One is alone (either self-sufficient, or seeking/questing); three is the end of the quest, the building of a home; but two is in-between. You shouldn't stop at two. It's perverse to be satisfied with eros-without-children--??

Bright college years, with pleasure rife,
The shortest, gladdest years of life!

--alma mater

What seems like an interlude now
Could be the beginning of love....


Off to Sunny New Haven in a few hours. When I return, expect a review of Achilles in Vietnam (finally); reax to Popishness, if I have anything useful to say; and maybe the beginning of a new story. Working title, "Saint Blonde." If you have lived in any of the Hollywood-area canyons at any time, and would be willing to vet the basic geographic legitimacy of the story, I'd greatly appreciate it--my email is along the side there.
Arriving at the blogwatch, I am going it alone...

Amy Welborn: Looking for a good RCIA program in Columbia, SC? Need suggestions of short stories for a high-school Christian Literature class? Post your question, or reply, on Amy's "Catholic Craig's List" thread! A great idea and a fascinating thread.

"You've Got Confessions: An impromptu art project invited the public to share its secrets on postcards. The anonymous mailings may surprise you." Newsweek article on PostSecret. Via Thunderstruck.

"Navahoax: Did a struggling white writer of gay erotica become one of multicultural literature's most celebrated memoirists--by passing himself off as Native American?" Disturbing on a lot of levels. Via Agenda Bender.

And: Jesuits to open work-study school in DC.
...The Cristo Rey model has been hailed by many Catholic educators as a way to reverse the decline of parochial schools in inner cities and also give low-income students a way to earn private school tuition that their families cannot afford. ...

Eight more Cristo Rey schools, including the one in Takoma Park and one in Baltimore, are planned over the next two years.

John P. Foley, a Jesuit educational missionary, created Cristo Rey's first school in the Pilsen/Little Village section of southwest Chicago at the suggestion of management consultant Richard Murray. Foley, now president of the Cristo Rey network, has said that at the beginning, it was not clear how powerful an educational tool the work-study program would be. But Cristo Rey students in Chicago, almost all Hispanic and 93 percent low-income, saw the relevance of much of what they were learning in school when they started working for bankers and lawyers in Chicago, he said, and acquired skills that helped them find jobs to pay their ways through college.

(Maybe if my private HS had done this, I'd be able to hold down a job....) Via the Club for Growth.
True, eros tends to rise "in ecstasy" towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.
--Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

I'm about 1/4 of the way through. Here are someone else's excerpts/notes; here's an address where the Pope talks about what the encyclical's about.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Don't turn around, oh-oh,
Oh, Der Blogwatcher's in town, oh-oh...

Two things I learned this weekend:
1. "Dave Chappelle's Show" is awesome. And he's a hometown honey!

2. How to make delicious scrambled eggs. I'd been making these very dry, unfortunate eggs. With ample additions of whole milk and salted butter (stirred into the eggs prior to cooking), plus turning the heat way down once the eggs started to bubble and clump, I managed to make a delectable fluffy buttery treat. With red beans and bacon on the side--just dump some canned red beans and a couple strips of bacon in a pan, add pepper and maybe cayenne, heat to bubbling, simmer and stir until you don't want to stir them anymore. Apparently everyone but me already knew the butter-and-milk trick, but just in case there are others out there who had always wondered why their scrambled eggs never tasted like the delicious ones at e.g. The Yankee Doodle, Home of Happiness, I thought I'd mention my weekend lesson.

Family Scholars: Elizabeth Marquardt on a NYTimes cover story on sperm donation:
...Today's story does a good job revealing the problems of donor anonymity, especially for the children, and the incentives the U.S. fertility industry has to keep the whole thing secretive. She makes some good, brief points, such as the role of the state in assigning legal parents and protecting children's interests in adoption contrasted with the role of private fertility clinics as sole arbiters of parenthood and children's rights (or lack thereof) in donor conception. She notes that cloning is around the corner.

But the reporter is still dealing with this as solely a reproductive technology story. The connections to larger, changing ideas of parenthood (seen in our attitudes towards divorce and single-parent childbearing) and the same-sex marriage debate, for instance, are entirely absent.


Global Voices Online: Blogs from just about everywhere--including places that were completely off the blogosphere map just a few years ago. Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and many more. Regular features on different areas and topics,from politics in the Horn of Africa to global foodblogging. A much-needed resource. Via Noli Irritare Leones.

Gode Cookery. "Gode Cookery is an award-winning medieval history website dedicated to the food & feasts of the Middle Ages & Renaissance. Here you will find information on medieval cooking, instructions for preparing authentic feasts, hundreds of recipes, image collections, a medieval cooking discussion group, graphics, photographs, and history resources."

Oxblog: Hebron... he's in Hebron.... Patrick Belton reports. Lots of fascinating stuff.

Scrutinies: Warp a young mind! Help the Anonymous Teacher Person create a book request list for her school's library.

Snake Robots. Snake Robots.

WaiterRant: Cuban cigars--the true preferential option for the poor. Really lovely post. The next one is well worth your time, also, though heartbreaking.

For those in the DC area--the St. Matthew's Cathedral Young Adult Ministry (which covers twenty- and thirty-somethings) is running a bimonthly course on JPII's theology of the body, starting February 25. The course will meet on the second and fourth Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. (does that hour even exist???) in the East Conference Room of the cathedral. Questions addressed will include:

Is there a real purpose to life and if so, what is it?
Why were we created male and female?
Why were man and woman called to communion from the beginning? What does the marital union of a man and woman say to us about God and his plan for our lives?
What is the purpose of the married and celibate vocations?
What exactly is "Love"? [Give three examples. --ed.]
Is it truly possible to be pure of heart?

Email Tricia at or Kimberly at for more information or if you want to join the fun.

I'm planning to go to at least the first one or two of these, even though 10 a.m. for me is still last night. If any readers want to come too, that would be rad.

(and now I have that song in my head, so I've reaped what I sowed. Although I actually do like Gloria Estefan's "Volvera's" (sorry, can't make proper accent mark) a lot--Tu vas a arrepentir,/Y tendra's que regresar....)
Everything abortion touches, it corrupts. It has corrupted family life. In the war between the sexes, abortion tilts the playing field toward predatory males, giving them another excuse for abandoning their offspring: She chose to carry the child; let her pay for her choice. Our law now says, in effect, that fatherhood has no meaning, and we are shocked that some men have learned that lesson too well. It has corrupted the Supreme Court, which has protected the abortion license even while tacitly admitting its lack of constitutional grounding. If the courts can invent such a right, unmoored in the text, tradition, or logic of the Constitution, then they can do almost anything; and so they have done. The law on everything from free speech to biotechnology has been distorted to accommodate abortionism. And abortion has deeply corrupted the practice of medicine, transforming healers into killers.

Most of all, perhaps, it has corrupted liberalism.

--the editors of National Review; more here

A listing of pro-life pregnancy centers. Why not find one in your area, and see what you can do to help?

After Abortion has a lot of material on the various Marches for Life and more.

Monday, January 16, 2006

You blogwatched me too--
But not as much as I blogwatched you...

Amy Welborn: "And Jordan baptized Jesus in the john." Hee!! I know some people find this kind of thing cheesy, but I love it like whoa. (And yes, I used to own at least two volumes of Anguished English, and one of English As She Is Spoke.)

Church of the Masses: Toward a theology of the movies.

Dappled Things: What is a vocation? (Marriage compared to the religious life, and more.)

Outer Life: In which our hero dreams of reading his own biography. Rather powerful--you could smuggle in some good aesthetic theory here, and some equally-intriguing theology, if you were into that sort of thing. Via About Last Night.

The Rat: I realized today that I trust Ratty to post all the links that I think are just a shade too catty for this little blog. (Huh--do cats eat rats? Do rats eat cats? Do vases have eyes? If you get all the references in this parenthetical, are you currently high?) Anyway, pop on over to La Rodentissima for exceptionally moving quotes from great literature... and stuff I'm too ashamed to post here.

Guess Who's Coming to Iftar?: Michael Totten, that's who. Hezbollah loves Giuliani, the hot war pretends it's not-war, and more.... I forget where I found this.

And: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--" (or, famous last words. And really powerful, actually. No matter how many of these are apocryphal, they act as a sort of kaleidoscope of beliefs about the next life and its relationship to this one. I love the ones that play on theater conventions.) Via Dappled Things.

Current mood: bi-furious
Current music: I believe in ecstasy
Like me, Scott [Bryan] is conflicted on the issue of the French. We like to minimize their importance, make fun of their idiosyncrasies. "It's a different system over there," he said, talking about the work habits of the surrender-monkey. "You start young. For the first ten years of your career, you get your ass kicked. They work you like a dog. So, when you finally get to be a sous-chef, or a chef, your working life is pretty much over. You walk around and point." Turning a last twist on his foie gras torpedo, he shrugged. "Socialism, man. It's not good for cooks."

But when he sees bad technique, technique that's not French, it's torture. As Scott well knows--and would be the first to admit--as soon as you pick up a chef's knife and approach food, you're already in debt to the French. Talking about one of the lowest points in his career, a kitchen in California, he described going home every night "ashamed, and a little bit angry," because "the technique was bad... it wasn't French!"

--Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential. This book comes with the Eve stamp of approval. You'll have fun, fun, fun 'til her daddy takes the T-bone away.

Friday, January 13, 2006

ALLEGATIONS: Thanks very much to everyone who wrote in about allegories! Your comments were really helpful. A few very scattered thoughts:

1. It's very hard for me to think of allegories I've actually loved. But The Faerie Queene is phenomenal--I'm addicted to those stanzas, and I'm really glad I read (chunks of) TFQ before becoming Christian. I do think it played a small part in my conversion, insofar as it helped shatter my stereotypes of Christianity and Christian art. TFQ is part of the reason I've never really worried if Christianity is conformist (yes, I know this is kind of a crazy perspective, but we live in a kind of crazy age). Its philosophically sophisticated and narratively acute take on what it means to be "imago Dei" has shaped both my philosophy and my fiction, I think. So I can't accept the proposition that it's impossible to do allegory in a way that speaks to people today, that has its own beauty, narrative drive, and insight. My post on TFQ is here.

2. One of the things that makes TFQ work might be that its protagonist is not strictly allegorical--the Redcrosse Knight doesn't "stand for" anything, he's as much himself as most protagonists are. (I.e. there's an element in which he stands for every pilgrim soul, but most protagonists are stand-ins in that sense.) Many of the other major characters are either non-allegorical (Arthur) or only partly allegorical (Una, Satyrane). There are many one-to-one correspondences, but also many more shadowed and subtle ways in which characters mirror and refract concepts. Some of the one-to-ones are brilliant--I'm not trying to say that TFQ is a great allegory insofar as it's not allegorical!--but I do think the narrative thrust and emotional appeal to the reader are best served by not-100%-allegorical characters.

3. David Gurliacci wrote in with some really good quotes from CS Lewis's "Vision of John Bunyan":
"There are books which, while didactic in intention, are read with delight by people who do not want their teaching and may not believe that they have anything to teach -- works like Lucretius' "De Rerum Natura" or Burton's "Anatomy" [I'm using quotes where Lewis italicized] This is the class to which "The Pilgrim's Progress" belongs. Most of it has been read and re-read by those who were indifferent or hostile to its theology, and even by children who perhaps were hardly aware of it. I say, most of it, for there are some long dialogues where we get bogged down in sheer doctrine, and doctrine, too, of a sort that I find somewhat repellent.
... [S]uch passages are faulty ... In them, the speakers step out of the allegorical story altogether. They talk literally and directly about the spiritual life. The great image of the Road disappears. They are in the pulpit. If this is going to happen, why have a story at all? Allegory frustrates itself the moment the author starts doing what could equally well be done in a straigh sermon or treatise. it is a valid form only so long as it is doing what could not be done at all, or done so well, in any other way.

"But this fault is rare in Bunyan ... The greater part of it [Pilgrim's Progress] is enthralling narrative or genuinely dramatic dialogue. Bunyan stands with Malory and Trollope as a master of perfect naturalness in the mimesis of ordinary conversation."


"... the pernicious habit of reading allegory as if it were a cryptogram to be translated; as if, having grasped what an image (as we say) 'means,' we threw the image away and thought of the ingredient in real life which it represents. But that method leads you continually out of the book back into the conception you started from and would have had without reading it. The right process is the exact reverse. We ought not to be thinking 'This green valley, where the shepherd boy is singing, represents humility'; we ought to be discovering, as we read, that humility is like that green valley. That way, moving always into the book, not out of it, from the concept to the image, enriches the concept. And that is what allegory is for."

Thanks again... feel free to write in with more thoughts.
Have some faith
In the love we share
Is it fate?
Does blogwatch end in light?

Guess the theme!

Dreadnought: Dread, on the occasion of his two-thousandth hit, reminds me of one of my favorite Maggie Gallagher lines: "Freud was right in one sense. Civilization is sublimated eros. But then so is sex." (from Enemies of Eros)

ePiscoSours: A sweet, intelligent Jewish guy in the process of entering the Anglican Communion. Fun, moving, and honest. Go take a look.

Sed Contra: An example of Mother Theresa's maxim, "You can't have humility without humiliation."

And demi-related: Which of these are real song titles from Morrissey's new album? Hee hee.
I have been here before
But when or how I cannot tell;
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

--Dante Rossetti, "Sudden Light"

Friday, January 06, 2006

ALLEGORIES: THREAT OR MENACE? The Narnia movie (which I haven't seen--never really got into the books) has prompted a bunch of people to comment on the difficulties of writing allegory. Now, I think Lewis said at some point (maybe?) that Narnia was never meant to be an allegory per se, but rather a story set within a Christian universe; but it's pretty obvious that the Christian themes he wanted to draw out shaped his plots and characterizations in a way that is at least allegory-like. And since I'm in the process of revising a basically allegorical story ("Getting Fired"), I'm really interested in figuring out whether and how allegory works, as a genre or form. So I would greatly appreciate any thoughts you all have on the following questions:

The most common criticism of allegories seems to be that once you figure out the philosophical framework, if it differs from your own then you begin to find previously overlooked or even loved aspects of the story repellent, because now you see that they "stand for" beliefs you would find repellent if they were naked rather than cloaked in allegory. And that's not really something any writer can do much about, I think. But the second-most-common criticism of allegories seems to be that you can't understand them or submerge yourself in the story unless you already know the "trick," the key, the framework. Therefore allegories don't change anyone or do any exciting literary work: You get from the allegory pretty much what you brought to it, and not much more.

Have you guys found this to be true?

Have you been changed, or felt yourself in the presence of a new truth or an unexpected beauty, through reading an allegory? If so, what was it, and how did it happen--what worked for you? Was the allegory written from within a worldview you already shared, or not?

What has frustrated you about the allegories you've read? (Or allegories you've experienced in other narrative art forms like movies or operas--I think non-narrative art forms like paintings are really different, though if you want to talk about ways in which e.g. explicitly symbolic or one-to-one-correspondence-y paintings, architecture, or music work like allegory/better than allegory/worse than allegory, please do.)

Seriously, any thoughts you have, even the most random, would be welcome, as I'm fascinated by this stuff. Thanks!
HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE: So the first movie I saw in 2006 was awesome! It's basically... what it says on the box: These two stoner guys, i-banker Harold and unwilling about-to-be-med-student Kumar, get baked and decide they need to go to White Castle. Hijinks, as hijinks are wont to do, ensue. I laughed so hard and so consistently that my face hurt by the end of the movie. It was totally, completely stellar.

Now, okay: It earns its rating and then some. I would bet at least 60% of my readership is pretty much the opposite of the target audience. But if you're in the 40%--see this movie now!!!! Kal Penn (Kumar) is phenomenal and really... I'm still cringing and giggling, almost a week later, at some of the twists.

The thing it really reminded me of, though, was Absolutely Fabulous. H&KGTWC is sort of AbFab for twentysomething American stoner guys. Which means I don't adore it the way I adore AbFab--despite what you might think, I'm actually not a stoner guy--but there's the same combination of hilarity, ferocity, best-friendship, (VERY) broad humor, and total insanity.

I really, really loved this movie.
SUITCASE OF MEMORIES: So I'm not at all sorry to see the back of 2005. But here are some best-of lists from my year:

Best books read (fiction, poetry, drama): Kathy Shaidle, Lobotomy Magnificat
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy (re-read)
Caryl Churchill, The Skriker (re-read).
The Song of Roland
uh... JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This wasn't a great year for me and fiction.

(non-fiction): Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (...I really am still planning to post on this)
Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce
John Keegan, The Mask of Command
David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
Jeffrey Steingarten, The Man Who Ate Everything (pushed on me by Ratty)

Best movies seen: Therese
The Mission
Sweet Smell of Success (re-watch--I love this movie)
Closet Land/Suspiria (tie--they're really too different to compare)

Best posts by me: 1. A few stars from a constellation that hasn't been drawn yet. Or, gay mackerel-snappers a-go-go.

2. Series on same-sex marriage, for MarriageDebate. God vs. heterosexuals, doing the hard stuff, atheist cathedrals, and more. If you want to read this, I suggest you read all of my posts in the series, and only then go back and read the comments (if you want) and then maybe scroll up for some relatedish material. But the series itself was written to be read all at once rather than broken up--it flows a lot better that way, and makes more sense.

3. What's a Girl Like You Doing in a Nice Place Like This?
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.


4. Five sci-fi/fantasy books you should read

5. What He really thinks of you

Runner-up, because I did six last year and I'm too fond of my own voice: The Pope makes me feel minty.

Cheers, and a blessed year to all of you. If you pray please keep me in your prayers, as I will do for you all.
...Twenty-five years ago the population profiles of Canada and the United States were similar. Both were younger than their European allies, and their societies were more heterogeneous. In 1980 their populations had almost the same median age, fertility rates, and immigration rates. In the years since then, small changes in demographic variables have accumulated, ultimately creating two very different countries in North America by the end of the twentieth century.

Canadians now have half a child fewer than Americans during their lifetimes--their fertility level is roughly 25 percent lower than that of their neighbors south of the border--and they are living two years longer. Both populations are growing at about the same rate, but the components of growth have diverged. Immigration is relatively more important in Canada's growth rate, and fertility is more important in the United States.

Canadians marry later and less often than Americans. They enter common-law unions more often and their children are increasingly likely to be born out of wedlock. Canadians and Americans have similar labor force participation rates, but Americans work more hours per year. They have higher incomes but less leisure. And even though Canada's birth rate is now substantially lower than America's, the Canadian government provides more child services and benefits than the U.S. government.

more (via MarriageDebate, where Maggie Gallagher comments here)
ONE YEAR AFTER THE TSUNAMI: From Caritas Australia. Via Amy Welborn.
BE NOT AFRAID: " is an online outreach to parents who have received a poor or difficult prenatal diagnosis. The family stories, articles, and links within this site are presented as a resource for those who may have been asked to choose between terminating a pregnancy or continuing on despite the diagnosis. The families faced the same decision and chose not to terminate. By sharing our experiences, we hope to offer encouragement to those who may be afraid to continue on." (via Amy Welborn)
You say "Keep it blogwatch,"
But when the beef come you're the first to run...

So, yeah, apparently I needed a two-week hiatus. Sorry about that. Back now....

Colby Cosh: "Where in the endless annals of nation-states has the 'the workers-own-the-means-of-production school' not led smack into the 'state-owns-everything approach'? (Please try to cite examples covering more than 100 acres of territory and lasting longer than eight months.) [Hugo] Chavez's use of state power to hassle commercial food producers out of the market is already a clear enough example of the latter, rather than the former."

And more on Chavez, via Mark Shea: "In a televised Christmas Eve speech, Chavez, a left-winger and a former soldier, said that 'minorities, descendants of those who crucified Christ ... have grabbed all the wealth of the world for themselves.'"

Sed Contra: David Morrison vs. the Nat'l Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian & Gay Ministries: "At its foundation NADGLM appears to have cast itself in the role of the Rich Young Man who, having heard Christ tell him that salvation would mean selling all he owned and following Christ has decided to keep what he owned instead. Maybe, like NADGLM, the Young Man hung out around Christ for a while, part of the crowd. Maybe he kept Christ in view, but all the while hanging back, unwilling to give up what he clung to instead of Him. But in the end it comes down to what and who rules our hearts, minds and souls and I can only pray that eventually the folks who run NADGLM make the right choice."

Mark Stricherz has a new blog, here, subtitled "A Catholic and Populist Review of Politics and Culture." You all might know Stricherz as the author of this piece on ultrasounds at pregnancy centers and this piece on how the Democrats became the party of abortion.

Dept. of There Goes Another One:
...The story was "Boston," [Upton] Sinclair's 1920s novelized condemnation of the trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian immigrants accused of killing two men in the robbery of a Massachusetts shoe factory.

Prosecutors characterized the anarchists as ruthless killers who had used the money to bankroll antigovernment bombings and deserved to die. Sinclair thought the pair were innocent and being railroaded because of their political views.

Soon Sinclair would learn something that filled him with doubt. During his research for "Boston," Sinclair met with Fred Moore, the men's attorney, in a Denver motel room. Moore "sent me into a panic," Sinclair wrote in the typed letter that Hegness found at the auction a decade ago.

"Alone in a hotel room with Fred, I begged him to tell me the full truth," Sinclair wrote. "...He then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had framed a set of alibis for them."

more (via Cosh)

Dept. of Grace:
...The lyrics of the "Rap of Redemption" were created by a maximum-security inmate, Essex Sims, at Lansing Correctional Facility, with the arrangements done by the East Hill Singer's conductor, Elvera Voth. The idea of mixing the chants of the third century with modern rap was Voth's.

"I wish I'd never hurt you, hurt you," Sim's lyrical refrain proclaims.

The Gregorian chants are the "Kyrie" and the "Agnus Dei." The text of the "Kyrie" means "Lord have mercy," and the text of the "Agnus Dei" says "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us."

more (via Amy Welborn)
There came a night when all saw that the various cover stories made little sense in the context of so long, difficult, and expensive a voyage. This was the night when the ship's captain, disturbed that no liquor had been put on board, asked for a delivery to await him at Colon.
--Robin W. Winks, Cloak and Gown

Hee. There are a lot of these fun, wry little moments throughout the book so far. I'm really enjoying it.