Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ALL THE BEES ARE DED and so is my computer. Posting will be very, very limited until next Wednesday. Meanwhile here is a link:

From The Agitator:
Torture and the Drug War

In February of last year, I told you about Lester Eugene Siler, a Tennessee man who was literally tortured by five sheriff's deputies in Campbell County, Tennessee who suspected him of selling drugs. The only reason we know Siler was tortured is because his wife had the good sense to start a recording device about halfway through the ordeal.

The audio is now available online (read the transcript here). Drug war outrages lend themselves to overuse of superlatives. But I gotta say, this may be the most horrifying 40 minutes of audio I've ever heard.

The police are attempting to get the illiterate man to sign an admission of guilt without telling him what it says. They beat him, over and over, hook electrodes up to testicles and shock him, threaten to kill him, and threaten to go after his family. Early news accounts reported that the torture continued well beyond the end of the recording. After the tape ran out, the same deputies apparently repeatedly submerged the guy's head in a fish tank and a bath tub, threatening to drown him unless he confessed.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

LAST CALL FOR HAPPINESS: Music reviews, in both alphabetical and reverse-preferential order.

Cat Power, The Greatest. OK... people are probably getting sick of my saying that Myra Lee and Dear Sir are the best things Cat Power's ever done, and nothing else holds up. So, given that I am even cooler toward this CD than I was toward its predecessor, what can I say that will catch your interest?

There are some things Cat Power does in her awesome high-lonesome manner. Cat Power makes the following things real:

alienation, and how existential alienation can distance us from other women

the beauty of the United States below the Mason-Dixon line


the Southern sinner's longing for redemption; the Southern sinner's complete incomprehension of how that redemption might be accomplished

how, even though we don't want to admit it, lilacs and honeysuckle look better when you're a little bit drunk

that tipsy feeling where you're not sure whether the world is shaping itself to your imaginings or you are seeing something beautiful and new and easy.

Cat Power is, pretty much, a mint julep in music. Or three mint juleps. (...Or six.) She can turn a geeky memory into a moan of longing ("Bathysphere"). She can make the most pretentiously-titled songs as real as the girls on 15th Street at four a.m. ("Fate of the Human Carbine").

She's as real as your bare feet against the warm wooden slats of a creek bridge in summer, and so all of her albums are worth your time.

But I still think her newest album moved further into the abstractosphere, away from the small desperations and sharp characterizations of her first two albums. I don't really know how to describe it, except to say that when I first heard her--singing "Rockets," from Dear Sir--I immediately asked, "Wow, who is this?" She was an ice-axe for the frozen sea within, for serious, exactly what Kafka meant. She broke through everything. Myra Lee and Dear Sir are like Walker Percy's Lancelot.

This new album doesn't do any of that. I accept that I'll probably warm to it. I now kinda like the first half of her last album. It wouldn't make me start listening, but now that I'm here, it's... okay. But even there, I had a couple songs (like "Good Woman") to which I could cling. This album doesn't really give me anything to love.

But she can be so much more.

Delta 5, Singles and Sessions 1979-1981. The Delta 5 are kind of... I dunno... hippie new wave? They are artificial, but their melodies feel more natural than the new-wavery I love. I heard about them from a flyer from Riot Grrrl. They're awesome and spooky and different, relying on chimes and coordinated vocals to get their feminist effects, rather than the usual drums and raggedness. Everything they do is beautiful.

So, these songs? ...Well, they're good. "Mind Your Own Business" is anthemic, in a good way and in a bad way (it's the sort of song you put on mix CDs for other people whose confidence you want to spur, but you don't necessarily listen to it that much yourself). "Shadow" is frightening and rushed and sharp; but this live version is no better than the studio version on See the Whirl'. That's true in general.

So my recommendation would be: Absolutely, check out See the Whirl'. There are lovely songs there.

The Weakerthans, Reconstruction Site. You need this!!!!

(breathes slowly, tries to pretend to be usefully critical) Um, the sound is sort of rock-y, not in an especially exciting way. It's got guitars and drums and stuff.

(no! tell them why it is so great!) It's... crazy geeks, with their Michel Foucault and their Ernest Shackleton (one of the best songs on the album) and their longing and their ability to recognize sublimity even when they can't quite enter into it (the heartbreaking "Hospital Vespers"). It's wandering through the snow trying to find the house you think you remember, it was right around here.... It's an album about need and inadequacy and what St Augustine would call the memory of Adam's happiness (and how we get that memory wrong, misinterpret it, corrupt it in a thousand ways). It's also hooky, full of tunes that will bother you for weeks. It isn't just about one or two great songs; it's about a whole album. Oh, you really need this.
FRANK STRAUS MEYER'S REVIEW OF LOLITA. As usual, the founder of fusionism saw more clearly than most. I don't actually think fusionism does too much for us right now--it seems to rely on too many shared premises for a crazed and fractured culture--but I really respect it. Anyway:
...Vladimir Nabokov writes a novel, Lolita. With scarifying wit and masterly descriptive power, he excoriates the materialist monstrosities of our civilization — from progressive education to motel architecture, and back again through the middle-brow culture racket to the incredible vulgarity and moral nihilism in which our children of all classes are raised, and on to psychoanalysis and the literary scene. He stamps indelibly on every page of his book the revulsion and disgust with which he is inspired, by loathsomely dwelling upon a loathsome plot: a detailed unfolding of the long-continued captivity and sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl. ...

What happens? The critics hail his "grace and delicacy" and his ability to understand and present "love" in the most unlikely circumstances. The modern devaluation of values seems to have deprived them of the ability to distinguish love from lust and rape. And first among them that dean of critics, Lionel Trilling, who compares Lolita to the legend of Tristan and Isolde! ...

Without exception, in all the reviews I have read--and they are many--nowhere has even the suspicion crept in that Lolita might be something totally different from the temptingly perverted surface it presents to the degenerate taste of the age. Not a whiff of a hint that it could be what it must be, if it is judged by the standards of good and beauty which once were undisputed in the West--and if it is, as the power of its writing shows it to be, more than a mere exercise in salaciousness.

The Taiwanese ambassador to the Vatican was so impressed with seeing "an inner peace and happiness" in the Catholics he met while living and working in Rome that he decided to convert to Catholicism.
more (via Amy Welborn)
AMY WELBORN IS SMARTER THAN ME. So I haven't been following this whole Da Vinci Code craziness at all. But Amy makes key points in a post which is important for everyone, whether you've ever heard the phrase "Gospel of Judas" or not.
...I had a long conversation with a magazine reporter this morning about the appeal and impact of this, in which I reiterated the points I made in my piece at the Jesus Decoded website--that there are levels to readers' "belief" in DVC. Of those who buy the history presented within, there are those who indeed believe the Jesus/MM - bloodline business. There are more, however who fit it into what they've picked up from pop culture and even from their church's "religious education"--that the "real Jesus" is essentially unknowable, a construct of various communities, who all had different views and experiences, so this story is as good as any other. ...

The sniffing at the "offense" at a Jesus/MM marriage does not indicate an enlightened view of sexuality. It indicates an ignorance of Scripture and a startlingly low Christology, if you even want to call it "Christology." Jesus is married. His bride has a name: Church. In the mystery of this union, we are all wedded to Christ, we all have the holy bloodline coursing through our veins.

When we were at St. Peter's, Katie commented that the baldacchino over the altar looked like a 4-poster bed.

Our guide, seminarian Jeff Kirby from Charleston, said, "Exactly." That is not the whole point--but it certainly part of the imagery. Here, God and His people enter into intimate Communion, becoming, in a sense, one.

A wedding of Jesus and MM isn't "offensive." It's diminished.

IF YOU ARE HET UP (AND YOU SHOULD BE) ABOUT CHINA'S INTERFERENCE WITH GOOGLE, and Google's collaboration with ditto, read about Tunisia.
Watch all you rambling blogs of pleasure
And ladies of easy leisure;
We must say "Adios!" until we see Almeria once again...

(Oh, what a fantastic song. In my mind, this song plays at all the dances in Heaven.)

Hi people. My monitor has decided that now would be an excellent time to wig out, and only works properly for brief intervals prompted by lifting it, pressing on its face, propping it up unevenly on comic books, and other irksome home remedies. So I'm not sure how much I'll be able to post in the coming days. We'll see. For now, here is a blogwatch....

erudito: Why did Rome fall? ...Comments-thread fun, via Oxblog, I haven't read yet due to aforementioned monitor madness.

And from the Washington Post:
...Heit is a doctor. Today he's a pain and addiction specialist in Fairfax, but once he was an up-and-coming gastroenterologist, a football player, a jock. That was before his auto accident, the one that changed his life and taught him about pain problems the very hard way -- as a patient who often didn't get the help he so badly needed.

The doctor still spends a lot of time in his wheelchair, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a prominent practitioner and lecturer over the past decade. More recently, his profession and personal history have propelled him to the center of a contentious national dispute that he virtually personifies.

On one side, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Justice Department -- alarmed by the seemingly widespread diversion of opium-based prescription drugs such as OxyContin and Dilaudid to addicts and abusers -- have investigated, arrested and prosecuted as "drug dealers" scores of pain doctors who allegedly misused their authority to write prescriptions for narcotic painkillers. On the other side, many pain doctors and patients have protested the DEA's approach as overly aggressive and punitive, saying that it's unfairly penalizing pain patients.

Heit, 61, doesn't use prescription opioids for his own pain now, but he does prescribe them in high doses to many of his patients, and he's seen the drugs (in conjunction with proper monitoring) provide remarkable relief -- the kind he still wishes he had had available back when he really needed it. As the showdown between pain doctors and prosecutors stiffened several years ago, he felt obliged to get more actively involved in defense of opioid treatment despite the potential risk to his practice.

So he joined a team of 18 pain and addiction specialists, hospice and cancer-care workers and DEA officials to write and review guidelines for the proper prescribing of narcotics. He was delighted when, after more than two years of work, their Frequently Asked Questions presentation was posted on the DEA Web site in the summer of 2004. But several weeks later the FAQs disappeared from the site and was soon essentially repudiated by the agency, leading 30 state attorneys general to write to the agency in protest. The chill in the world of pain management has grown worse ever since.

"It now is apparent to me that the spirit of cooperation that existed between the DEA and the pain community to achieve the goal of balance has broken down," Heit wrote in a much-discussed commentary in the journal Pain Medicine last month. "The DEA seems to have ignored the input and needs of the healthcare professionals and pain patients who actually prescribe, dispense, and use [prescription opioids]."

Tough words from a man who shares some of the DEA's concern over drug diversion, but who clearly cares most passionately about making sure that pain sufferers get the relief they need.

"Our government is letting the misbehavior of a relatively small number of people too often trump the needs of many, many good people with complex medical problems and lots of pain," he said recently, seating behind his office desk where a chart of pain levels is prominently displayed. (1-2 is mild pain, 5-6 is distressing pain, 9-10 is excruciating pain.) "Many doctors won't prescribe for pain now. And believe me, that's not where we as a society want to be."


I really hope pro-lifers can get together with libertarians on this one. The demand for euthanasia is driven not only by an ideology that despises neediness, but also by the much more practical and easily-attacked problem of underprescription of pain medication.
In a mighty prose
For Almighty ends,
He thrust at his foes,
Quarreled with his friends,
And served his Master,
Though with complaint.
He wasn't a plaster sort of a saint.
But he swelled men's minds
With a Christian leaven.
It takes all kinds
to make a heaven.

--from "The Thunderer," a poem on St Jerome. Via Mark Shea.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Theeeeeere's a blogwatch on the rise...

The Agitator:
If you're in the D.C. area, you might consider coming to the Cato book forum I'm hosting this Thursday for Maia Szalavitz's new book, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids.

Opening remarks are by Evan Wright, a Rolling Stone contributing editor, award-winning war journalist, and a guy who as a teen went through The Seed, an abusive drug rehab program that was a precursor to Straight, Inc. (link)

I missed the forum, but you can listen to it here.

Two charity links:
Two Texan servicemen are raising money for disabled veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Rush Vann, an Infantry Officer in the Army National Guard, and David Broyles, a Pararescueman in the Air Force, will be attempting to swim the 13 miles of the Gibraltar Strait from Spain to Morrocco.

Their website is here. Their Charity is the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, which is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that offers several programs to assist disabled veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, including services like urgent financial assistance, housing, job placement, family support, and educational and service events.


and, from Donors Choose:
For the Blogger Challenge, bloggers can visit our website, look through a list of projects that teachers are requesting for their classrooms, and select one or more to ask their readers' help to fund. ...

We put together a site with everything you need to know to get involved here:

No amount is too small (or too large): projects awaiting funding right now range from $147 for a set of dictionaries in San Francisco to $8,578 for a new playground field in South Carolina.

And R.I.P. Muriel Spark--Joseph Bottum on her take on individuality, Kelly Jane Torrance on making art.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

KITCHENETTE ADVENTURETTES: WE ARE FANCY CHEESE, IF YOU PLEASE. Some very simple, delicious things to do if you have some cheese.

1. Fake Caprese. So I had this really good Bufala mozzarella, and this tomato that was fairly good but not excellent, and no fresh basil. What to do??

I ended up slicing about half the tomato (see below for what happened to the other half) and sauteing it in ex-virgin olive oil for just a little while--until the slices were hot but not so softened that the skin began to slip off--with dried tarragon, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, and ground oregano. And maybe dried basil, I don't remember. I was not sure whether this spice combination would work, but actually it was great. I sliced the mozzarella, made my fake-Caprese thing by alternating slices of mozzarella and slices of tomato, and poured the rest of the spiced olive oil over the slices. Yum yum.

2. Yet Another Sandwich. I really love toasted sandwiches. This is a simple open-faced one: Slice a rosemary roll in half. (Or some other herbed roll would work.) Cover each half with sliced tomato and mozzarella. Put on foiled tray in toaster oven and toast as desired.

3. Macaroni and Cheese, Only Easier. You need a tomato, some fusilli, and some good cheddar cheese--I used Cabot extra sharp cheddar. It should be at least room-temperature and slightly soft. Thickly slice a tomato--like, really thick slices or wedges. Heat oven to 375. Cover a baking tray with foil, put the tomato wodges on it, put it in the oven. Cook fusilli. Dice cheese. When fusilli is cooked, drain it, mix in the cheese cubes, and top with the roasted tomato. Oh, this is so yummy. Admittedly, it's lazier than for-real macaroni and cheese, but... mmmmmmm.
POETRY WEDNESDAY: Better Extraordinarily Late Than Extraordinarily Never edition.
A Road in Kentucky
Robert Hayden

And when that ballad lady went
to ease the lover whose life she broke,
oh surely this is the road she took,
road all hackled through barberry fire,
through cedar and alder and sumac and thorn.

Red clay stained her flounces
and stones cut her shoes
and the road twisted on to his loveless house
and his cornfield dying
in the scarecrow's arms.

And when she had left her lover lying
so stark and so stark, with the Star-of-Hope
drawn over his eyes, oh this is the road
that lady walked in the cawing light,
so dark and so dark in the briary light.

via Angevin2

Monday, April 17, 2006

I wish I was him, he gets the girls at his feet
(with all his cool friends)
he gets his blogwatch for free
I wish I was him
He has no enemies
I wish I was him...

Um... if I can think of interesting Lenten/Easter reflections, I'll post them. For the moment I want to get these links up. This thing I wrote a couple years ago is doubtless better than whatever I'd come up with right now.

Cacciaguida: A Cacciason is coming home from Iraq. Wonderful news. We are so grateful for his service.

Claw of the Conciliator: What is Toad, that his friends should be mindful of him? Lovely post on Christianity and individuality.

Colby Cosh: "So that's what the logo at upper left is for: it gives me an excuse to do a roundup of the world English-language press four or five times a week and drop it here on the site. (A no-prize** goes to the first overeducated person who can identify the semiotic significance of the logo.) Don't be afraid to send clippings, ideas for sources, or other suggestions." Lots of interesting links so far, including this on indentured servants in Israel (the US has them too)--"According to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union in Berkeley, California, trafficking for purposes of slavery in households is in second place in terms of the number of people involved, after trafficking for prostitution"--and this on a ban on fish sales in Kenya--"In Kenya omena is more important that human beings."

Sean Collins: Distinguishing two Woody Allen movies, on questions of guilt and absolution. I can't make myself interested in Allen, but if you can, this post is likely very much worth your time (spoilers for Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point).

Sed Contra could certainly use your prayers.

And a post-Kelo roundup of states' actions to protect private property. Very important. Via Hit & Run.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Best notify my blog of watch,
This wheel shall explode!

The Rat: David Hockney and California dreaming. And the authority of the British Rabbit Council!!!!

Unqualified Offerings: Blog!

I should have told you all already, but Dappled Things--a new, online Catholic literary/cultural journal--has its Lent/Easter issue out now. I was published in their last one. More importantly, the journal is focused on cultural renewal, and seems to pay a lot of attention to the Catholic blogosphere, so if you find yourself reading a lot of Catholic blogs you should definitely head over there.
PASSION: Amy Welborn's intermittent "What did you hear at Mass?" thread. Some excerpts:
1. You know, the constant use of palms as swords [by children] surely indicates that the sensus fidelium finds a deep connection between the palm branches of the children of Israel and the weapons they wished to bear against Rome. Perhaps we are being told that, just as Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, so Jesus' swords are not made of metal but of living branches of the Vine. Perhaps it is meant to say that the palm of victory over death is our surest weapon against the world. Or maybe the palm branches represent the sword of Peter, and thus mothers and fathers everywhere must recreate Jesus' loving admonition to put the dang thing down.

2. Celebrant commenced short homily by noting that it is customary not to preach on Palm Sunday because what else can you say about the Passion? But he gave a very insightful short talk noting that while as Christians we frequently focus on how much we give up for God, Mark's story of the young man in the garden who loses his garment when he flees to escape the soldiers is an interesting take on something we do lots of in the modern world: giving up everything to avoid God, to avoid the Passion, to avoid the suffering that comes with being faithful. We would rather be naked and running than doing the work of being faithful. Good short homily.

3. We are in Guangzhou, PRC with our newly adopted daughter. we attended Our Lady of Lourdes on Shamien Island. The service was in Mandarin I think so we followed along.

I also comment.
In the land of Oz
Where the ladies smoke cigars
Every puff they take
Is enough to kill a snake
When the snake is dead
They put flowers on their head
When the flowers die
They put diamonds in their eye
When the diamonds break

why did my playground not feature this magnificence????
STOP SWEARING, DOGGONEIT!: Quoth the Maven takes on one of my recurring growl-targets: We get all hinkity about obscenities, but think profanities are no big deal. That seems ass-backwards to me. ...At this point, after some serious effort, I rarely say "d--n" or "g-d---n," although I'm not proud to admit that I still cuss like a sailor at times. (Dappled Things might be amused to note that I seem to have replaced the exclamation of "crap" with "Cromwell!" I promise I was not seriously trying to do that--it just happened....)
NOTES FROM A WEEK AT PRINCETON AND ELSEWHERE: 1. The "Russia's Age of Elegance" show here is really excellent. The portrait room was the most poignant for me--all these people with their birthdates in Russia and their deathdates in exile.

2. Puck needs to be played with some menace, especially because you'll eventually get to that final speech, where you'll really want to have built up some degree of unseelie credit with the audience.

(2a. Gay bondage fairies, while a common temptation for contemporary directors of Shakespeare, are never necessary. The audience just thinks, "Ooh, I'm glad I don't have to squat in my underwear for an entire scene.")

3. I also saw "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?"

There, I said it.

It's reactionary to a degree that's kind of awesome. The student director clearly thought it was liberationist, but it's just not. There would be ways to make it liberationist (for example, playing up the "why does love become bad when you add sex?" angle), but those aren't the angles Albee plays. He makes the main character completely, consistently self-indulgent. (At one point I was genuinely worried that I might snap and yell at the stage, "Shut up! Just stop talking!")

The last act fails. I don't want to explain why, because in fact, the play is worth seeing (oh how skeptical I was of this beforehand), but I don't know how you end this story without going full-on either Secretary or "I was cured, all right."

...And I still don't know that the basic idea works. It's bravura, but that doesn't make it on-target.

4. The End of the Affair is excellent. I need to let it sit for a while, but I think it might be my favorite Greene thus far (after Brighton Rock, which has amazing opening and closing segments separated by a slack and boring middle; The Comedians; and The Power and the Glory, maybe in that order). For most of its length I thought it might be too blatant, too much an attempt to hit the audience on the head with a clue-by-four. But actually I think it's subtle and really moving. Be interested in others' views.

Friday, April 07, 2006

In dreams I'll blog with you
In dreams I'll watch with you
In dreams you're mine all the time....

Claw of the Conciliator: Continuing series on science fiction, fantasy, and religious faith. Includes really useful suggestions on where to start reading authors who are new to you--I've already added a couple things to the Reading List That Ate Cincinnati.

Family Scholars: A lot of links on the legal issues surrounding gay parents; and an egg donor reflects, 10 years later.

Relapsed Catholic: The Catholic Educators' Resource really needs financial help. They host excellent articles like this one, and serve as a general clearinghouse on all things Catholic. Consider whether you can help....

Interview with Iraqi writer Kanan Makiya, on, basically, What Is Going On.

God of Desire--a site dedicated to teaching the theology of the body, with an emphasis on ministry to single people. Have only poked around here a tiny bit, so cannot speak to its merits, but it looks good so far. Via E-Pression.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I'M GOING TO VISIT THE RAT for a week, so blogging will be light. A couple links before I pack: a blog all about the Church fathers (via Amy Welborn); and Emily from After Abortion on her relief work in hurricane-devastated areas:
...The church itself is gone except for the white steeple, which lies on its side in front of the site. Behind the steeple is a jury-rigged assortment of tents, trailers, quonset huts, pathways over the red mud built out of scrap wood. If you've ever seen the movie "Swiss Family Robinson", that captures the flavor.

We were sent a mile down the road to work in the distribution center. This was in the abandoned gym of an elementary school that was destroyed by the storm. Nothing has been done to the school. The outer walls are intact. Walking through the interior of the school, one sees all of the debris from the school--desks, chairs, papers, books, bulletin boards, building materials--laying in odd contortions, covered with two inches of storm mud, now dry and cracking, all now covered with a dangerous looking mold. Two boats are in the courtyard where they were thrown by the storm. A vigorous spring bush has grown up through the hull of one of the boats.

Our operation was run by a guy in his late 30s named Al. Al was homeless in Wisconsin last year and rode his bicycle down to Bay St. Louis--which took 2 1/2 months--when he heard about the hurricane. He came with his dog Otis, and after several weeks of supervised volunteer work was put in charge of this entire operation--which includes sorting through all the food donations that go into feeding about 200 people 3 meals a day. He's been doing it for months.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

WHEN YOU'VE BEGUN TO THINK LIKE A GUN: Review of Jonathan Shay's Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. Yeah, I promised this a million years ago. You get it now.

This book is an unexpected combination: more than half literary study of the Iliad, more than half attentive, personal description of traumatized Vietnam veterans, from the perspective of a psychiatrist who worked with many of them. It is 100% compelling on both grounds. I will talk first, and quickly, about why you need to read this. I will try to be very brief about its major and minor flaws, but really, the key thing is that this is one of the few necessary books.

AIV does a close reading of the Iliad to reveal what we know about Achilles' character prior to the Trojan War, and the specific betrayals that transformed him from an honorable warrior into a berserker. It then maps Homer onto the testimony of Vietnam veterans. The book honors specificity: We get a lot of the veterans' own words, a lot of careful description of which features of their combat experience would be similar to or different from combat experience in other wars (both Homeric and modern). It describes the contemporary soldier's dependence on others, his immersion in an undefined battlefield where seemingly harmless objects can be traps and weapons, his experience of fate or luck and of dehumanization of the enemy.

So, you need to read it. Its flaws are two, and neither are in any way central to its argument: First, it takes the story of combat trauma and berserker rage as the only story of war. This only comes out briefly, though. Second, there's a chapter dedicated to tracing the roots of dehumanization of the enemy to the Bible (and the roots of American involvement in Vietnam to the Catholic Church--this is a fairly hideous irony, the way some people's pain matters in this chapter and others' does not--you could easily read this chapter and come away thinking no one ever fled Communist Vietnam due to religious persecution, there were no refugee camps, etc). This chapter just does not work on any level. Shay is able to write about religious belief and doubt with empathy--there's a compelling passage about the image of the Pieta, before the lousy chapter focusing on religion. So it's even more irksome that his main chapter on religion is so awful. A few very brief thoughts (condensed from a long rant, which I'm sparing you): 1. There are far fewer direct quotes from his patients, actual veterans, in this chapter. It's a lot more him and a lot less them.
2. If you've read about religious rhetoric in the Civil War, or (say) read The Song of Roland, you will easily suss what's wrong with this chapter.
3. Blaming dehumanization on Christianity absolves actual racism, yo! The Vietnamese just become generic furriners, Philistines, with no attention whatsoever to the specific history of racism in the West.
4. Guy didn't even pick the most hardcore Biblical passages to fight. David and Goliath? Whatever, dude, read the Book of Joshua....
5. Christianity is not Judaism. It isn't not-Judaism, either; but you can't write about Christianity and its relationship to enemies! and pretend the New Testament never happened.
(pant, pant)

OK, so my only substantive problem with his discussion of dehumanization (as vs. the annoying anti-Christian digression) is that I'd like more evidence that it isn't optimistic. Shay provides, I think, excellent evidence that dehumanizing enemy soldiers is ultimately demoralizing and traumatizing for soldiers. He does less well demonstrating that dehumanizing "enemy" women is similarly harmful for soldiers. I would really like to be able to say, "If you rape Iraqi women you will be much more likely to come home broken on the inside." But I don't think Shay closes that case.

Overall: This is an immensely important book. It's also very easy to read. Very plain-spoken and clear. It's compassionate, its literary judgment is acute--really what more do you need to know? You should read it. (ps: I learned about this book--and John Keegan's Mask of Command--from Minisinoo.)
I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS: So a couple people have asked when I will post my notes from last week's Theology of the Body seminar. The answer is that for whatever reason (I blame, in this order, the lack of free coffee and my own crapulence), my notes are sparse and boring, so you don't get to see them.

However, I was thinking today about the differences in approach between TOTB and Deus Caritas Est. These differences, as I hope will be obvious, are not invitations to read one "against" the other. But they're intriguing to me, and possibly to y'all, so here's my take in a nutshell: TOTB starts in the Bible as a whole--most notably, Genesis read through the lens of the New Testament--and moves from there outward to contemporary concerns. DCE starts with contemporary self-understandings and -misunderstandings, and works to draw seekers back to the Cross and the Eucharist. You can see the DCE focus not just in the namechecking of Nietzsche, but in small moments like the sympathetic treatment of the motives of Julian the Apostate. Benedict is starting from the perspective of a non-Christian, I think, and ending at the foot of the Cross. JPII starts deep within the Biblical tradition, and then redescribes the perspective of this tradition in terms that appeal to the contemporary desire for roles and a "story," a narrative of one's own self and life and purpose--sort of, starting at Cana and ending at your local church.

These approaches complement each other, and, really, rely on each other. TOTB feels more "literary" to me, more focused on symbolism, on the human person as a word spoken by God. DCE feels more like a homily, clinging a bit closer to both experience and to abstract categories, rather than the roles and icons and characters found in TOTB. But these are exaggerations to show a contrast; it would be a huge error to miss the role of experience in TOTB--in the intro to Love and Responsibility, I think it is, the future JPII notes how much of his theology is rooted in his experience as a confessor--and similarly to miss the role of narrative in DCE's description of human history as the "love story" of God and man.
She [the Church] has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper.
--Deus Caritas Est

Saturday, April 01, 2006

...Todaye ys the firste daye of Aprille. Bifor it was the cruellest moneth (quatever that meneth!), it was a moneth of coloures and cries, and pilgrymages. Yt was, I sholde saye, myn favourite moneth.

Ich am nat oon to tooten myne owen horne, but todaye ich wolde asken yow to declaymen my tales. To yowrselves, to yowr frendes, or simplye in the marketplace or churchyarde. For charitees sake, yow coulde declaymen them to beggares, leperes, or humorlesse rogues who studien engineerynge.

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