Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I'M IN NEW JERSEY and will be here until the fourth. Posting is unlikely until the sixth or so. See you in the New Year!
THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS: Best-ofs. (Last year's list.)

Best movies I saw in '06: Apocalypse Now
The Apostle
Withnail & I
I Walked with a Zombie

Best books read--non-fiction: The Imitation of Christ
On the Passion of Christ (more Thomas a Kempis)
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde
Spiritual Friendship

everything else a.k.a. Real Books: Anna Karenina
The End of the Affair
The Man in the High Castle (more)
Bloodchild and Other Stories

things I said: In which I attend an ex-gay conference (scroll down for lots and lots of posts, then up for reactions...)
notes from a theology of the body seminar (more)
reluctant defense of St Anselm's "proof of God"
She thinks I still care (gay identity stuff) and the dance remix
"real torture"
And that is all that is known for certain about the appearance of Mankind on this Earth. He was an anomaly from the beginning. He was a Perfect Creation in a world specially made for him: and yet he fits it badly.
--RA Lafferty, Serpent's Egg

Thursday, December 21, 2006

THE ESSENTIAL TALLIS SCHOLARS: I'm listening to this cd now, and it is fantastic. If it weren't nine minutes long I'd put the first track, Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere," on every mix I ever make for anyone. That shivering soprano gives it a science-fictiony, interstellar sound--a theremin-y thing maybe?--how repentance would sound in outer space. (...That's a compliment, yeah.) Just really great stuff.
(Somewhere in those days there was also an Italian snackery. The professor was walking me one evening--an unfortunate coincidence--and Irma crept by, just covered--no, overgrown--with spaghetti. I pretended not to know the dear, which bothers my conscience now. The prof, with many disdainful noises, tugged me away from this walking, dripping Italian meal. It was their first encounter, and led to many complications. At any rate her employment at Manrico's Blue Grotto was short, and somewhat disgusting too.)
--Irma and Jerry

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sometimes I feel I've got to
watch a blog...

Daniel Mitsui: "The feast of 18 December was commonly called, even in the liturgical books, S. Maria de la O, because on that day the clerics in the choir after Vespers used to utter a loud and protracted O, to express the longing of the universe for the coming of the Redeemer."

Family Scholars: The Washington Post has three articles on sperm donation and new family forms. This is the line that jumped out at me: "It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the 'products' of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place."

And the Dappled Things Advent issue is up! This one looks really, really exciting, though I haven't had time to read it yet. Amy Welborn is in it!
In my own opinion, a lot of humans, and animals, spend too much time in "finding themselves." They often don't like what they find.
--Irma and Jerry

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"I'M A RADICAL FEMINIST. NOT THE FUN KIND.": I propose a new rule for the internet: If you have not read at least four books by Andrea Dworkin--read them stem to stern--you are not allowed to type her name. If you have read zero books by ditto, typing her name will cause you to spontaneously combust.

This rule would make the world a better place.

I mean... in a shocking coincidence, four is exactly the number of Dworkin books I've read! And my point is not to defend her conclusions. Right-Wing Women and Woman Hating are both kind of awful and not worth your time.

But the thing to remember is that Andrea Dworkin was basically, at heart, a student of literature. She's Camille Paglia, if Paglia wrote more from the perspective of the lambs rather than that of the lions. Intercourse and several essays in Letters from a War Zone are worth reading for anyone who cares about literature--let alone the marginalia we call women. Read some of her work on pornography in conjunction with Elaine Scarry's work on torture in The Body in Pain--both talk about the way even the most seemingly innocuous household items could be turned into instruments of pain and humiliation.

Dworkin's unconvinced and unconvincing attempts to describe the coming feminist utopia are heartbreaking--she couldn't express hope, at all. She was a critic and a poet of despair.

But if you haven't read Intercourse, I'm pretty sure you'll be surprised. Fans of Dorothy Allison's collection Skin might really like it, for example.
APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX: Saw it on the big screen yesternight. The most important thing to say is that you should see any version at all of Apocalypse Now on the big screen, any chance you get. It's a breathtaking movie.

The other thing to say, though, is that the "redux" version pretty much sucks compared to the original release. It is more political, which is fine; but also more sentimental, lax, and bloated. The new scenes add crapulence without adding ferocity.
THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BELLONA CLUB: Heh, I turned to this for comfort reading. It's a very strange book--one of the earliest Lord Peter mysteries. (I can't remember if it came before Whose Body? or not.) Confirmed my basic suspicions about Dorothy Sayers.

The book starts out strong and raw. It starts like a book about shell-shock, about the aftermath of World War I on England--soldiers returning to a home that hadn't seen the war and couldn't comprehend it. The stakes feel very high and the emotions are real and (...obviously) relevant. There are these weird chapter titles taken from chess and card games, but they feel completely out of place, imported from more standard whodunnits.

By the end, though, the chapter titles have taken over. The plot mechanics don't quite work, and certainly don't add anything to the themes of shell-shock and postwar life. The novel ends all tidy, threads tucked in. This is pretty much the opposite of how a murder mystery should end, I think: The plot algebra should work better, and yet the reader should be left more unsettled, more convinced that tragedy and evil still roamed in the streets outside.

In both respects, Christie was a superior writer of mysteries. Unpleasantness is one of Sayers's best, and it can't hold a candle to Christie tales like Murder in Retrospect or The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, let alone her more famous novels.
And the blogwatch beating up the wrong guy--

Balkinization: "[Justice Posner] insists that it is 'common sense' that we should surrender rights given the situation we now face. But he neglects the crucial question of incentives, a strange omission for a scholar who has spent much of his distinguished career reminding us of their importance."

Hit & Run: Is Life in Prison Excessive for Smoking Pot?

End the War on Drugs.

Mexploitation: Technology and horror. I tried to comment on his site, but couldn't make it work, so here's what I would have said:
The Blair Witch Project--? That seems like a movie that did precisely what you're looking for. Or am I totally missing your point?

(I agree, by the way. I'd be interested in a look at the theme of trust in horror films--The Exorcist seems to turn on questions of trust/faith/verification, for example. The Changeling also struck me as a long, drawn-out, [irksome!] verification quest.)

He also has this good round-up post on female ghosts. I've written stuff working the La Llorona/Bloody Mary connection, so I was especially interested. The one name most obviously left off his list: Lilith.

Both links via Sean Collins.

Michael Dubruiel: "Luke tells us quite blatantly, for the really dense reader, that they recognized Him in the 'breaking of the bread.'" A lovely, brief meditation on weakness and Eucharist.
When I'd said that she could use my basement as temporary lodgings, I'd expected that she would rest, exercise, eat a bit from what I could snitch from Mrs. Thompson's kitchen. But not Irma. She was up at the first light of dawn, which came through a crack in the dirty window, and out to "find herself." Well, she looked in some very strange places, is all this cocker spaniel can say.
--George Selden, Irma and Jerry

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

CHORUS: Blessed, they are the truly blessed, who all their lives have never tasted devastation.
--Antigone (here, a different translation)
You're just a blogwatch to me, and you can't deliver...

Dappled Things: "There is a school of thought among some laypeople that Sacraments are valuable in themselves quite apart from any life of faith in Christ. One gets calls from non-practicing parents who want a 2-year-old baby baptized because he cries too much, and maybe it's because he never got baptized. I've heard well-intentioned laypeople suggest that other, totally non-practicing Catholics should receive Holy Communion because that will give them extra grace to change their lives. I've had people who never go to Mass want to go to Confession, because they have bad dreams and their nerves bother them. It's good that they believe in the power of the Sacraments, but the Sacraments are events of grace that depend not just upon the objective power of Christ, but also upon the subjective receptivity of the Catholic who receives them. Apart from the regular life of faith in Jesus Christ within His Church, the Sacraments make no sense at all and can come to be seen rather as magic rituals or lucky charms. Obviously, this applies to the Sacrament of Matrimony, too."

Disputations: "Each sacrament unites those three points in time: Christ's death on the Cross; the current moment; and the Last Day."

On a very different note: WANT.

Hit & Run: "Without making a big honking deal out of it, the choice of design and approach has a lot to say about how the artifacts of junk culture--from R. Crumb's encounters with L.B. Cole's bizarre 1940s comics noir to Art Spiegelman's fascination with Chester Gould's Dick Tracy to Jaime Hernandez having his imagination sparked by cheap wrestling mags and old Little Archie comics--feed and inspire works of art of greater ambition and deeper complexity."

Mumpsimus: EURYDICE: "Words can mean anything."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Life is like this. Blogwatch is that.

Amy Welborn on Ambrose and how bad it is now.

Authors talk about conspiracy theories and God. Includes James Morrow and Tim Powers. I haven't read yet. Via Hit & Run.

Ellen Willis RIP.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Supporters of pornography, on the other hand, do advocate such a dichotomy of body and soul. When one views the body as something of no consequence to the person, one has little regard for how the body is portrayed. The presumption is that the body is something apart from the person and so of no lasting consequence.
--the very, very good letter from Arlington Bp Paul Loverde on pornography, here (via Dappled Things, I think)

Also, canon law explained with help from "Plan 9 from Outer Space." I am not making that up. Via Relapsed Catholic.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

WHY DO WE ALWAYS COME HERE? I GUESS WE'LL NEVER KNOW...: Search requests bringing people to this homely blog.

sublime rock music Edmund Burke
nietzsche rand kafka dostoevsky insane
i am the specific ordinary item
half-naked afrocentric fairies [...I am the first result.]
why do girls think I'm a jerk
tomato et angry firma
shakespeare porsche's plea for mercy [The quality of Mercedes is not strained...]
Girl gets naked during a Strip game of UNO [No link for obvious reasons, but--strip UNO... so tawdry and sadly-hilarious.]
lindsey is like
is dancing with your spouse a sin
lsd and dupont circle freak
Short Violent Poems
catholic question okay to say oh my
anti-Jew smurf conspiracy
there is nothing less sexy [from Saudi Arabia!!!!--and, humiliatingly, I am the first result here as well.]
whatever happened to lucynell crater [ new favorite movie Bette Davis never made.]
what are the names of two rockstar with similar names sound like well-fed board games
largesse artichoke remember
does pope think that nietzsche was a bully
things to look at when blazed
judaism staggered
J. Jonah Jameson Hitler
a popped Inflatable shark
nice descriptions
last unicorn feminist critique [IS NOTHING SACRED????]
dumb men and masculinity
good explanations for getting married
economic Haikus
absolutely fabulous theodore dalrymple [Best. Search. Ever!]

And see below for a story from the war on drugs, she said, pointedly.
I said I don't live in Chicago
I don't know no Al Capone
There's a Windy City
In my blogwatch, alone...

(With thanks to Relapsed Catholic for reminding me to spin that one again.)

Angevin2: Songs about syphilis. And: "Am I totally a hopeless dork for thinking of Rene Girard whenever those Burger King ads come on that say 'The King's pain is your gain'?" Wow.

Family Scholars: Two links today on sperm and egg donation, new "family constellations," and the best interests of children. This blog is the best resource I've found for stories on that subject. "'When I saw the first picture, I just started to bawl,' she said, noting the family resemblance. 'I knew that he was my father.'"

Hit & Run: "The article details how the U.S. government was complicit in several murders carried out by Juarez drug cartel, including the kidnapping and murder of El Paso resident Luis Padilla -- who appears to have been a victim of mistaken identity. U.S. drug cops apparently took no action as their trusted informant helped in several homicides, including helping to purchase lime to dissolve the bodies of the victims. And when one highly-decorated DEA agent wrote an outraged letter of protest, high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice -- including DEA Administrator Karen Tandy -- chastised him, demoted him, and basically forced him to resign." (more)

1. I know nothing more about this stuff than what you can find at that link. But 2. if you see this as basically a story about informants, and informants are shady people, you're getting your hands dirty etc etc--keep in mind that we don't have to have all these informants. It's the war on drugs that keeps these "shady," murderous guys in business.

Virginia Postrel's comments on the idea of "liberaltarianism" are the most interesting I've seen so far. I, uh, haven't read the relevant article yet.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"FEAR OF COMMITMENT": I review Christopher Bram's novel Exiles in America for the Washington Blade. I have discovered the Bizarro Graham Greene!--ah, that isn't entirely fair, as Bram is a very good writer with prose and character strengths somewhat different from Greene's. I enjoyed the novel a lot. You'll have to read the review to get the "but," and an explanation of the Greene comparison.

EDITED: Oh bother. The link is broken. The Blade's web-fu team have been notified, and I'll let you know when the problem is fixed. In the meanwhile, if you're in the DC area you can pick up a paper printed on--exotically--paper.

EDITED AGAIN: It's back! Click here to read.