Wednesday, November 29, 2006

KITCHEN ADVENTURES: EVE BRULEE. In general, bacon makes it better. But you know what bacon does NOT make better?

My finger. When the bacon is very, very, very hot.

Am blistery now. Woe.

ANYWAY... two reports from the kitchenette.

Grilled cheese sammich: This is my most successful attempt thus far. Still didn't turn out perfect--I can't flip the sandwich very well, so about half a tomato slice slid out from its bread-and-cheese shelter--but man, this was yummy and satisfying.

Put a nonstick pan on the stovetop. Butter a slice of bread. Put it in the pan, butter side down. Top it with a slice of munster cheese, some tomato slices, some mushroom slices, another slice of munster, and another slice of bread--this one butter side up. Turn up the heat. Cookity cookity cookity. When the bottom slice of cheese is all melty, and the top slice is kinda droopy, flip the sandwich and cookity cookity some more, until everything is melty and delicious. Eat... and ponder the glory of butter.

Spicy honey-glazed bacon: Okay, this was a modified version of a recipe from the current Food and Wine. I'll give you their recipe first, then mine, then what happened.

they say: Heat the oven to 375. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper [OHHHHH! Was this the problem??? Bah, I don't want to buy parchment paper!]. Arrange 1 lb of thick-cut bacon on the sheet in a single layer. In a small skillet, combine 2 tbsp honey, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper [really? that little?], and cook over high heat until melted. [It gets all bubbly, so you know.] Brush the spiced honey on one side of the bacon and bake for 10 mins. Sprinkle lightly with 1 tbsp sesame seeds and bake for 5 to 10 mins longer, "depending on the thickness and fattiness of the bacon, until sizzling and browned." Drain on paper towels and enjoy.

instead, I: made the honey glaze with a dash of curry powder, some cumin, Chinese five-spice powder, and quite a bit of cayenne. I also sauteed two large cloves of garlic in the honey glaze, cut into big chunks. I didn't make a whole pound of bacon, so really, I think I used a lot more of everything in the glaze, proportional to the bacon I used. I don't have a kitchen brush, so instead I just kind of hand-dipped the bacon in the glaze (...which, yes, is how I burnt myself). I used tinfoil instead of parchment paper. And because my oven always cooks stuff faster than the recipes say it should, I only cooked the bacon for eight minutes. There wasn't any honey glaze left over, but I did top the cooked bacon with the honeyed garlic chunks. Oh, and I didn't use sesame seeds, because really, whatever.

and then: Well, this turned out ugly. It cooked way too fast, and unevenly, so the ends of the bacon strips were blackened while the middles were still lightly cooked. Man--seriously, this looked bad. It looked like something you'd find in the bottom of an Englishman's boot.

But it tasted so good. The sweetness and spiciness (I really think the F&W recipe skimps on the cayenne) and the soft, honey-soaked garlic worked perfectly with the savory bacon. If it weren't for the burnination of my poor finger, and the fear that my smoke alarm would go off, I would eat this every day. It is kind of a lot of work for a dish that is really just strips of bacon; but it is yummy.
I'm playing guitar, all my blogwatches and me...

Hit & Run:
Under a tough new Fairfax County policy, residents can no longer donate food prepared in their homes or a church kitchen -- be it a tuna casserole, sandwiches or even a batch of cookies -- unless the kitchen is approved by the county, health officials said yesterday.

They said the crackdown on home-cooked meals is aimed at preventing food poisoning among homeless people.


and: "Looks as if one of those tough-love anti-drug boot camps will finally be held responsible for the damage it's done to a kid, in this case, the 'damage' being death...." (much more, with links you should click.)

The Corner:
...Right now, naturalization applicants can pass the test by memorizing 100 specific questions and answers; in the future, assuming this pilot program flourishes the way it should, they will spend more time studying basic ideas about American principles. Two possible questions on the existing test, for example, are:

Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?

When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

These are indeed facts that all Americans should know, but on a certain level they are trivia. The revised test, however, will ask:

Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence.

See the difference? The updated test now promises to become a much-improved tool of immigrant assimilation.


What happens if you answer, "the right of revolution"?

The American Scene: Two really interesting posts from Reihan Salam (this one more relevant to me than this one, though there are analogical resonances with the second post).

The Rat: I am not up to the task of reading the article right now, so I will just quote the same excerpt Ratty does:
...The picture is a modified copy of one [Babbitt] was forced to paint in 1944 as part of Josef Mengele's murderous theorizing about racial differences. Mengele had plucked Babbitt, a Czech Jew, from a group headed to the gas chambers [at Auschwitz] and ordered the artist to produce portraits of doomed Gypsies that would capture skin tone better than his photographs did.

In 1973, Babbitt was stunned to learn that seven of those nine watercolors had survived and were in the museum at the former concentration camp in Poland. Since then, she has been trying to retrieve them—a quest that raises painful questions about ownership of the products of slave labor as well as the artworks' role in documenting Holocaust history.

In trying to understand the actions of the Japanese, the questions that call out loudest for answers are the most obvious ones. What broke down on the scene to allow the behavior of the Japanese soldiers to escape so totally the restraints that govern most human conduct? Why did the Japanese officers permit and even encourage such a breakdown? What was the complicity of the Japanese government? At the very least, what was its reaction to the reports it was getting through its own channels and to what it was hearing from foreign sources on the scene?
--Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

Monday, November 27, 2006

LIKE TOAST BY POST. ONLY WITH NUNCHUCKS. Vol. 2 of Mail-Order Ninja--based on the Tokyopop award-winning short, and written by friend of this blog Joshua Elder--is available here, 11/28. It is about a ninja ordered by mail. I think it (or its predecessor, vol. 1) would be a great gift for any ninja-oriented child on your shopping list. Also, and quite awesomely, it will be syndicated "in over 45 newspapers nationwide"... thus proving that the funny pages still serve some purpose, even in our sadly Marmaducal era.

(Toast by Post, alias The Funniest Book I Have Ever Read.)
VERY SCATTERED THOUGHTS ON ST AELRED'S SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP: Read due to the discussion toward the end of this thread over at Disputed Mutability. I seem to recall that Andrew Sullivan cites it also, in Love Undetectable, so apparently it... speaks to a wide range of people. For my own part, I think I need to let it percolate a little while; here are my first impressions. If any of my readers have read it and want to chip in, please do!

1. I don't know that this book spoke to me as deeply, or at least as immediately, as e.g. Alice von Hildebrand's exceptional essay on friendship. I feel like (and this could be a trick of memory) her essay spoke more about the devoted service of friendship, whereas Aelred tends to emphasize friends' harmony of wills. I'm rarely in full harmony with my friends' wills (...or with anyone else's, you may add), so that language is not very helpful to me in figuring out how to order my own life.

2. This definition of a "good person" was striking: "We call a man 'good' who, according to the limits of our mortality, 'living soberly and justly and godly in this world,' is resolved neither to ask others to do wrong nor to do wrong himself at another's request."

I've growled before about my loathing for the concept of the "good person." But I was intrigued by Aelred's definition, in which good people may do bad things, but they don't involve others in their mess--they don't compound the bad deeds of others by following in their footsteps, nor do they lead others astray.

3. The dialogue (really a four-person-o-logue) has many distinct personalities, and it's fun to watch them interact. (Walter struck me as kind of catty!) I sometimes have poked fun at the convention, in philosophical dialogues, of opening with professions of friendship and humble desire to hear the words of the master, I cannot teach you my son for you far surpass me in etc etc. But now I see it as an endearingly clumsy way of indicating a deep truth: Philosophy is best done by friends.

4. There is a very powerful, bravura passage about Jonathan and David, toward the end, which I should re-read before I return the book to the library.

5. It's interesting the emphasis Aelred places on keeping confidences and being able to bare one's heart, pour out all one's thoughts and feelings, as the mark of true friendship. There's also interesting stuff about how to correct a friend (and when not to), including a fascinating description of Aelred's own difficult friendship with a sharp-tempered man.
OCTAVIA BUTLER'S BLOODCHILD AND OTHER STORIES: Read this over my Thanksgiving blog-hiatus, on recommendation from my sister among many others. Unflinching science fiction about compromise, power and its lack, necessity.... The worlds in these stories are very hard--when Butler, in an afterword, says that one of her stories is partly about "paying the rent," she isn't fooling around--and hope is hard-won at best. The people feel very, very real. I think the story I found most powerful was "The Evening and the Morning and the Night," because of its portrayal of two people facing up to hard truths. Anyway, you absolutely should read these stories. I'll be reading, at least, her novel The Parable of the Sower and also her short story "Amnesty," which (sigh) isn't in this collection.
Young blogwatcher,
Why the pretense?

So reactions to the one-liner post from a week ago have ranged from, "Interesting thesis. You got anything to back it up?" to, "Woman--we have told you before what happens when you smoke the crack rock." I'm not sure if I can cash it out to everyone's satisfaction, but here are a couple thoughts: 1. The Divine Comedy is able to be a comedy because it's Dante's story; could it really be a comedy from the perspective of a soul who must stay in Hell?

2. Related--I'm working on three stories, linked to hell, purgatory, and heaven. I've finished rough drafts of all of them. The Heaven section is very noir p.i., and the Purgatory section is sort of black-and-white newspaper movie meets expressionist-influenced early horror. When I wrote that post, I'd been thinking about why the Hell section doesn't work, and one of the big reasons is that I haven't worked out what genre would be appropriate. It should definitely have some elements of Greek tragedy, I think, which are lacking now; but whereas I intuitively chose the genres for the other sections, and only understood the choices to some extent afterwards (for example, the private investigator is seeking truth, and also struggling to have faith and compassion within a hard-bitten, noir world--"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean"), I'm having to work much harder and more rationalistically to find a way of telling the Hell section. That suggests, to me, that I don't really know what I'm trying to say with it yet. I suspect once I understand the story itself better, its genre will become clear.

3. This First Things post on a Russian production of Twelfth Night points, I think, to the way in which a simple act of repentance or reconciliation--or a refusal to perform that act--can change the genre of a play. (I don't think most of Shakespeare's "comedies" are actually comedies. Love's Labour's Lost is an exception, and maybe also Much Ado About Nothing, though I don't remember that one very well.)

Okay... now to the blogwatch.

The Agitator:
...Do you see the double standard, here? If the warrant is legit, they are allowed to make mistakes. You aren't.

This discrepancy grows all the more absurd when you consider that they have extensive training, you don't. They have also spent hours preparing for the raid. You were startled from your sleep, and have just seconds to make a life-or-death decision. To top it all off, many times they've just deployed a flashbang grenade that is designed to confuse and disorient you.

What's the solution? It isn't to encourage people to start shooting raiding cops to kill. That kind of talk is foolish, and needs to stop. But it isn't to encourage people to refrain from defending their homes, either. Both of those suggestions will lead to more people dying -- both police and citizens.

The solution is actually pretty simple: Stop invading people's homes for nonviolent offenses.


and: "By conservative estimates, there are about 110 of these types of raids per day in America. The vast majority are for drug crimes. Think this was the only one conducted after shoddy police work? Think this was the only one conducted based solely on the word of an informant? Think it's pure coincidence that in the one raid that made national attention last week, we now learn that something went severely wrong in the investigation that led to it?"

and: "...SWAT teams are increasingly being used for white collar crimes too. Just a few months ago, a SWAT team deployed flash grenades and broke into the home of a man suspected of mortgage fraud. A couple of years ago, two middle-aged women were subjected to the SWAT treatment for suspicion of defrauding the Small Business Administration (the two were later exonerated -- the fraud turned out to be a clerical error). And of course, we shouldn't forget about Sal Culosi, the Fairfax optometrist shot and killed by a SWAT team sent to his home after an undercover detective caught him gambling on football games with a few friends."

and lots more

Jane Galt adds:
...For a libertarian, I'm pretty sympathetic to the police; I have no idea what I'd be like if my job routinely involved confronting people (often intoxicated) with a clear desire to hurt or kill me. But the idea that they would be held to a lower standard than the innocent folks they accidentally burst in on is lunatic. Hello, police state.

Incidentally, as far as I'm concerned, Radley Balko's work on Cory Maye is indisputably the best thing the blogosphere has ever done. That's citizen journalism. Emphasis on the "citizen".


Dappled Things: Many, many, many forms of Masses from before the Council of Trent. (Posted esp. for ePiscoSours, since for my own part I am not good with anything more complex than the Novus Ordo.)

Virginia Postrel: "...Most kidney patients--and the friends and relatives from whom they're likely to get organs--are of relatively modest means. Prohibiting organ sales doesn't "help the poor." It hurts poor kidney patients, by keeping them on dialysis and shortening their lives. It hurts poor relatives of kidney patients, by forcing them to choose between saving their loved ones and taking financial and health hits. It hurts poor, healthy would-be donors by depriving them of economic opportunity. If you don't want poor people to sell their kidneys, give donors with big income tax breaks or college-loan forgiveness, so that only the affluent will get the money. Let Ivy League grads sell their kidneys instead of their eggs. But don't just prohibit compensation."

and a fascinating post on "the lost meaning of Casino Royale."
The structure of the first part of my book--the massacre--is largely influenced by Rashomon....
--Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. Not the most immediately relevant quote; I just thought it was interesting. I'm still in the first section.

Monday, November 20, 2006

As soon as love is truly awakened, the moment of time is transformed for it into a form of eternity. Even erotic egoism cannot forbear swearing “eternal fidelity” and, for a fleeting moment, finding pleasure in actually believing in this eternity. How much more, then, does true love want to outlast time and, for this purpose, to rid itself of its most dangerous enemy, its own freedom of choice. Hence every true love has the inner form of a vow: It binds itself to the beloved and does so out of motives and in the spirit of love. Love for a time, love expecting a time of break-off, is never true love.
--Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Christian State of Life--haven't read; found quote here

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Have you tried not being a blogwatch?"

Apparently this is the cussin' blogwatch. Makes sense. I'm in no fit mood.

Burke to Kirk defends the agrarians (and manages not to cuss). If you take the agrarians as an aesthetic movement, that's certainly better than taking them as a political one... but it still seems a little too much of a muchness, like those pomo art pieces that win the Turner Prize. A rejection aesthetic that thinks it's a recovery aesthetic. Not that I would actually know, since I am deeply uninformed on this subject and have only my rough impressions to go by, so take this with even more salt than usual.

Relapsed Catholic finds proof that Christopher Hitchens can still, occasionally, score a point (last para.).

The Rat quotes an excellent bit of The Counterlife; fans of Grant Morrison's New X-Men may be reminded of one of my favorite scenes from his run, in the issue "Some Angels Falling"....

I'm only ten minutes into the Beckett on Film version of Endgame, and it is already terrific. I only really know three SB plays well enough to have an opinion on them; Godot is good, Krapp's Last Tape is really desperately not my thing--too much a stunt, but Endgame is my favorite. (What an odd word to use to describe a Beckett play.) You want to be enticed to it, read Harold Bloom's chapter on Beckett in The Western Canon.

UPDATE: Have watched whole thing now. It's really, really excellent. Stars Michael Gambon and David Thewlis, thus proving to me that the Harry Potter franchise really does know how to pick (adult) actors. They were both ferocious. Seriously, you should see this.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I thought you said,
"You scratch my back
And I'll scratch your blogwatch"
And I thought you said we had a deal...

Dappled Things: "In Whom do we put our faith? I think those are questions that all of us should seriously ask ourselves periodically. There are probably a number of ways that we could phrase our response, but one answer that is certainly 100% wrong is that we have faith in Father So-and-so, and that we believe in God because Father says so, and that we are in the Church because Father is so wonderful. Or Sister, or the bishop, or His Holiness, or our dear sainted German grandmother. God alone is perfect: everyone else is bound to fall short. And when the one we've placed on the pedestal falls, our faith (if it depends on another human person) is likely to fall, too. God knows, if I gave up my religion every time some stupid priest offended me, I'd have become a pagan a long time ago."

Family Scholars: New research, inc.: "This brief proposes a new, straight-forward solution to eliminate the marriage penalty for struggling families. Alex Roberts, co-author of the brief and a research associate at the Institute for American Values, notes, 'There are simply too many programs and too many unique living situations for the marriage penalty to be eradicated in a piecemeal fashion. That's why we propose a brand new idea: Give low-income couples a refundable tax credit for the exact amount of their marriage penalty.' A 'marriage calculator,' established earlier this year by the Urban Institute and the Administration for Children and Families, is an easy-to-use, web-based program that can determine any low-income couple's marriage penalty."

But the fervour of our admiration...

But the fervour of our admiration and the burden of saintliness which weighed on the chain that gripped his wrists--his hair had had time to grow and the curls had matted over his forehead with the cunning cruelty of the twists of the crown of thorns--caused the chain to be transformed before our unastonished eyes into a garland of white flowers. The transformation began at the left wrist, which it encircled with a bracelet of flowers, and continued along the chain, from link to link, to the right wrist.
--Jean Genet, The Miracle of the Rose

I'm no longer wildly impressed with Genet; but I figured I'd post this, since it's the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and this passage is one reason I chose her as my Confirmation saint.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

CRAZY LIKE A FOX?: A couple responses to the "LOL Americans" post below. Keep in mind that that post really was a... is it a blunderbuss I'm thinking of? The thing that fires a huge amount of shot all over the place, in hopes that some of it might hit the target. So:

T.H. writes:
Long time, no talk. I had one short point about your post, and a question.

First, the question: did Kirk really identify with the agrarians? I've read some Kirk, but not enough to know if this is true or not. It sounds fishy, though.

The point: I'm not so sure about your identifying Americans with utopians. I mean, there's certainly a strain of that in the American tradition. Tom Paine's a good example. There's some stuff in Jefferson that lends itself to utopianism, too, I suppose. And certainly there's a strong streak of utopianism in contamporary
American society. But, usually that utopianism is among the elites of culture and academia.

I think your claim that Americans are utopians is in some tension with your claim that Americans try to do crazy stuff like blend Enlightenment rationalism and evangelical Christianity. If Americans really were utopians, one would think they would choose one or the other, like the French (who really do seem to be utopians, or at least have seemed to be quite utopian since the French Revolutoin until
recently). Blending enlightenment rationalism and evangelical Christianity looks a lot more like pragmatism to me than utopianism. "Look, we've got these two elements in our cultural patrimony. Let's put them in a bag, shake them up, and live with the result." In other words, there's a level of abstraction that seems to be missing that would normally indicate utopianism. This is, in some degree, why we only have two viable political parties, instead of the multitudes of small, ideologically pure parties in Europe.

I hope I have succeeded in rattling off even less organized thoughts than you did in your original post. Hope you're doing well!

Eve says: OK, the two-parties thing is a good point. But I do think that the bats craziness of trying a mix of Enlightenment and evangelicalism in the first place is so out there that it proves my point, rather than being some kind of pragmatic Chinese-menu approach.

R.D. writes:
"...the political-philosophy work we need to do now, which is re-founding liberalism on a Christian basis."

I'm all for that. But when you say that, I'm wondering just what you mean by "a Christian basis." That could be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Would that Christian basis be focused on issues like abortion and stem-cell research? Or would it be focused feeding the hungry and caring for the ill in America and abroad? Would it be prone to work in non-military ways for world peace, even if that peace involved material sacrifice? Or would it be prone to launching "Just Wars" in order to promote the cause of freedom and justice at the barrel of a gun?

Christianity cannot incorporate politics, liberal or otherwise. The reverse, of course, is not true; nor should it be.

Unfortunately, however, when Christians become political, their religion is, usually, in fact, corrupted by their politics. This ultimately renders their politics ineffective, from a purely Christian perspective.

I would be very interested in seeing a bit of elaboration, therefore, on what "Christian basis" means to you in the context of a reformed liberalism.

Eve says: Superbriefly--
1. Yeah, that's probably the sloppiest line in a post that wasn't too hospital-corners to begin with. I definitely see the danger of instrumentalizing Christianity in the service of a political philosophy, and I hope you all realize that is very much not what I was promoting.

2. It may help to think "liberal" as in "liberal democracy," not as in "liberal Democrat." I've written before on the blog about how "liberal" (as vs. Left) and "conservative" can in some ways be shadows of the same edifice; sometimes that's bad (see post linked below, about how Burke gives me a Paine) and sometimes it's good, but basically, just keep in mind that in the way I was using "liberalism" in that sentence, Ronald Reagan was a liberal.

3. What I want is a different framework for political understanding. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk about that framework in terms of contemporary political disputes: I think one possible angle of approach is to say, "Defend freedom of conscience without laying the groundwork for the 'mystery doctrine' of Casey v. Planned Parenthood." But keep in mind that if the underlying political culture changes, some questions that are controversial now will be mostly-resolved, and new things will become controversial. I'm not actually trying to lay out, e.g., a solution to the US health-insurance mess. It would be closer to the truth to say I am trying to figure out how the contemporary political options (= not monarchy, and not agrarianism, both of which may have their virtues but are nostalgia at best for us now) can be based on the individual without falling into rationalism or utilitarianism.

...Yeah, I bet that didn't help. Um. If I can think of something else useful to say, I'll say it, but right now my mind is much more in cultural-critique mode than in useful-things-about-politics mode.
Blogwatch happens, and I'm head over heels...

(Wow, that was bad. Sorry.)

I'm enjoying Amuse-Biatch, a blog devoted to season 2 of "Top Chef." Click at own risk etc etc.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a new blog, Open Market. Jeremy Lott of hypocrisy fame will be contributing. Looks like a good place--I'm blogrolling. Free markets, free will, free beer, Free Press....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

LOL AMERICANS: OK, I know it's unladylike to eavesdrop. But the guys sitting next to me outside Starbucks today were so fascinating!!! I'm not made out of stone, people.

One of them was writing a book about conservatism, or something. He did most of the talking, as his younger interlocutor asked him to elaborate on various points. His basic thing seemed to be tracing the intellectual lineages of various possible conservatisms--e.g. is a Burkean conservatism possible or desirable in the United States? Can Lincoln be a father in a conservative lineage?

I don't know the answer to these questions. But the conversation made me think a few things, or suspect a few things, and I'd be interested in people's thoughts. These are scattered, tentative points, not fully-formed in any way, but this is what I've got:

1. I'm not sold on Burke really. I've learned from him, definitely. But see this post about the problems he shares with Thomas Paine.

2. The talkier guy made the absolutely accurate point that Christianity is not "conservative" within the lineage that goes Burke-(somebody I'm forgetting! Hayek???)-Oakeshott-(Sullivan? The talky guy thought Andrew Sullivan's new book was squarely within this lineage, i.e. the one Christianity isn't part of; but I haven't read it). And so--this is me talking now--the temptation is for the skeptical-tradition-slow-moderationy conservatism to seek to cordon off Christian belief from the political sphere. And you maybe can get away with that sometimes. But I don't think you can cordon off Christian belief from politics in societies where people disagree on fundamental definitions of justice. (See above re: Lincoln; also, obviously, all kinds of issues today, from abortion to torture to marriage.) Hmm... could you add Aristophanes to this Burke-Oakeshott lineage?

3. Americans are bats crazy. This is my basic argument for why what the talky guy was calling "British conservatism" won't ever fly here. Americans are utopians. We're visionaries. We're strange, son--and unlike the classic British "eccentric," we want everyone to be weird in our way too. I mean, look at Russell Kirk. He does all this fun stuff about custom, prudence, and assorted whatnot. And then who is his example? John Randolph, a bats crazy man! And what is his ultimate philosophical affiliation (I think--please correct me if this is wrong)? The agrarians--bats crazy nostalgia-utopians, one and all.

I don't say this pejoratively! I fully own my bats craziness. I'm as American as the rest of them. Americans don't do compromise. As genres go, we do mythos better than "realism." We try completely ridiculous stuff like merging Enlightenment rationalism with evangelical Christianity. (We try completely ridiculous stuff like basing our politics on either of those two things.)

There are insights to be gained from our particular breed of crazy. I think both the successes and the failures of the American attempt to merge the Enlightenment and the Gospel can inform the political-philosophy work we need to do now, which is re-founding liberalism on a Christian basis. But I do not think Burke-Kirk-Oakeshott (or even Hayek, who is a somewhat different case) will fly here. The closest you'd get in this country is something like Richard Rorty's anti-foundationalist metaphysics supporting Virginia Postrel's libertarian-dynamist politics. Which would certainly be better than Richard Rorty's metaphysics supporting Richard Rorty's politics!--but still, not really good enough.

Okay.... Having said all this fairly uninformed stuff, I will throw the floor open to you people. Am I right? Am I crazy? Is that a dichotomy?

(Two posts on America, for background--I still think these are pretty good--immigration as tragedy, and the blood at the root of American literature.)
I'm not going down on my knees,
Asking you to blogwatch me...

Hit & Run: "Most people are still under the quaint assumption that you can't be punished for a crime for which you've been acquitted." (But wait. There's more.)

The Rat: In which I am pwn'd by Shakespeare. And Yale still looks for leaders. (The link at the latter post is a must-read if you are interested in Yale stuff. For contrast, you could try this 2001 Yale Free Press article: "It's unclear if they were trying to be cute or Heideggerian, but it was definitely one of the two.")
So he prayed. But the sea remained cold, and the darkness maintained its stubborn silence. All that could be heard was the monotonous dull sound of the oars again and again.

Will I turn out a failure?, he asked himself.

--Shusaku Endo, Silence

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

WHEEL OF FORTUNE: I re-read Kathy Shaidle's post from the post-election in 2004, and it holds up really well with the names changed. "Don't pray for victory. Just pray."

Hit & Run has a quickie roundup of how the various anti-Kelo (eminent domain abuse) propositions fared.

And in non-political linkage, I really loved this column, in which a comics writer gives a script and squiggly sketch* to several different artists and compares the resulting panels. My favorite might be the first one--it doesn't convey panic as well as some of the others, but the noir atmosphere is fantastic, and (shallowly) I love that lady's pantsuit. Via Journalista.

*EDITED: No, just the script. Apologies!

(...And yeah, I realize it isn't fortune so much as a lot of willed actions; considered titling this "The whirligig of time brings in his revenges," but I preferred the Vanna-and-Pat imagery.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

TWO LINKS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ELECTIONS: Cinecon reviews the Virginia Film Festival, which took "finding God at the movies" as this year's theme; and Ratty has a really fun, snarky, insightful post about her trip to Paris.

Monday, November 06, 2006

PUSHERMAN: Love and Rockets--the first one's free! Special network-TV edition.

If you like Veronica Mars...

...and you want more of Veronica and Lilly: Wigwam Bam.

...and you want more Weevil: All of it!!!! but maybe start with The Death of Speedy.

...and you really like the California setting: Try X (volume 10). I wasn't into it--it's actually the only volume of L&R about which I don't feel wildly positive--but I do think people would love it if they're into what V-Mars presents itself as trying to do, with the Cali race-and-class mystery setting. Blood of Palomar might also hit your kink--the central story, "Human Diastrophism," is a horror mystery set in South America, just chilling.

All of these except the last are Jaime Hernandez rec's. I'll do Gilbert rec's later if I can think of a cool hook.

(In re current television generally, my roundup: V-Mars seems unlikely ever to return to the high standard set by s1 [although s2's "Plan B" might be the best episode of the show ever filmed]; Top Chef is fun; pacing, dialogue, and acting problems killed my love for the innovative superpowers show Heroes, but you might like it; the one episode I've seen of Studio 60 suggested that everything they say is true, which isn't a good thing.)
EGALITARIANISM (AND EMPOWERMENT): There's a real difference between wanting us all to be Dives and wanting us all to be Lazarus.

That is all.
TWO CENTS ON THE ELECTIONS from Disputations: one; two.
OH, DRAMATISE!: Be forewarned, what follows is half-baked at best. I'm posting it so you all can help in the baking.

One of the recurring themes in Flannery O'Connor's letters is that she writes so much about Protestants because spiritual conflicts and revelations that a Catholic would work out internally or quietly must be worked out through dramatic action. If you have the Mass you don't need to do like the Protestant preacher who crucified a straight-up woolly lamb on a fence at his revivals. If you get a special revelation and you're a Catholic, she says in one letter, you disappear into a monastery and nobody hears from you again; a Protestant goes out into the world making trouble, and bringing all kinds of trouble on his head.

As we know, I am bracketing all discussion of whether this is an accurate take on Cath-v-Prot differences. What I actually want to talk about is this: It seems to me that, maybe esp. on college campuses, these same spiritual conflicts, needs, and revelations are worked out through dramatic actions involving sexuality, sexual orientation, and in some cases sexual identity as a man or a woman.

I don't know what more to say than that, but I also don't think this sounds like a new insight. So presumably someone has written about it--either fiction or non-. Does anyone have something to recommend? (I'm guessing I Am Charlotte Simmons, so, besides that.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

MUSIC FOR MECHANICS: So every now and then I try to make people read Love and Rockets comics.

This is that time again. I've only got two entries here, but if others want to put their two cents in, I'll print 'em. I want to hook the world.

If you like Flannery O'Connor, you should try "Flies on the Ceiling: The True Story of Isabel in Mexico," in Love and Rockets vol. 9: Flies on the Ceiling. Every time her letters talk about the Devil, I picture the Devil in this amazing story--genuinely, one of the most frightening things I've ever read.

If you like the Missy Elliot song "Back in the Day," you should try the title story in vol. 7: The Death of Speedy. If even that doesn't do you for, you should still pick up vol. 11: Wigwam Bam. If you've spent years looking for the same day-glo noir you got from the best '80s music--it was hiding in these comics.

"He [she/they] brings it on himself, you know...."

Use each man after his desert, and who shall 'scape whipping?
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: WITH HONEY AND WITH VINEGAR. I'm not really sure why this fit came on me; but I had extra honey lying around, with many other leftoverish things and staples, and I figured I might try combining some of them. We have one success and one failure to report.

Spicy honey vinaigrette: I don't really know what a vinaigrette is, but my impression is that this would count. These quantities were for a side dish for one person. All quantities are even more approximate than they appear, and you should change them radically to accommodate your tastes.

Chop two cloves garlic; saute with a small amount of honey (I don't think it could have been more than a teaspoon?), a splash of balsamic vinegar, some cayenne, dashes of five-spice powder and curry powder, a small splash of olive oil, and the juice from half a lemon. Just saute it, stirring, until the garlic is well-cooked and fragrant, but not more than a tiny bit browned.

I ate this with 6 oz. well-cooked spinach. That was fine, but not the way to make the vinaigrette shine. The dark, vegetable taste of the spinach kind of got lost under the bright, sweet tanginess of the vinaigrette; and there was nothing to cut the heat from the cayenne. Homemade, buttered croutons would have been a perfect addition. But I think this would work very well as a salad dressing, especially for a salad with good, conventional tastes--not like my Crazy Salad. You get some cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, croutons, mixed lettuces and all that sort of thing, and I think this would be terrific. ...It might also look prettier if you substituted crushed red pepper for the cayenne. Those red flakes always look lovely in salad dressing. I think you'd need to use more then, to raise the heat level.

How did it taste? Well, I really liked that all of the flavors came out, and yet blended also. If I had to tweeze them apart, I think the flavors hit you like this: HOT balsamic vinegar and honey; garlic and spices, with lemon lilting in there at the end; spices and honey. So it finishes with a kind of exotic, spicy sweetness. People who like bottled hot sauces might like it. I'd expect you could use it as a marinade for chicken, since you can use anything as a marinade for chicken; and maybe also for pork, since people tend to pair pig and honey....

Honey-rosemary tomato sauce: Yeah, not so much. I saute'd chopped plum tomato, chopped sweet onion, chopped garlic, cayenne, five-spice powder, cumin, curry powder, dried rosemary (it was on sale--"don't question me!"), and honey, for maybe ten minutes or a bit more, stirring occasionally (basically, got it bubbling hot and then lowered the heat to simmer for the rest of the pasta's cooking time); and poured that over pasta, with one slice of ripped-up muenster cheese.

Too sweet. The later addition of grated Parmesan cheese helped a bit; but really, this was just too much sweetness, and looking at the ingredients list I don't know why I didn't realize that. The rosemary got completely hidden by the other flavors. This is edible, but it won't answer the Chickpea Eater's profound question, "Why do we say, 'It doesn't matter,' but not, 'It doesn't spirit'?"
His blogwatch she had tamed...

Family Scholars: How many advocates of gay marriage actually buy the Jonathan Rauch "conservative case"? Yeah, about how many you thought.

Also, a terrible story from New Orleans:
...Teenagers in the city are living alone or with older siblings or relatives, separated by hundreds of miles from their displaced parents. Dozens of McDonogh students fend largely for themselves, school officials say. …

The principal, Donald Jackson, estimated that up to a fifth of the 775 students live without parents.


Hit & Run: Cliff's Notes to series on SF homelessness. Interesting.

And: Wily drunks circumvent cheap-booze ban, use what they learned in Econ 101:
...Outside the Dutch Shisler Sobering Center, which provides social services as well as a place for people drunk on the streets to dry out, a man who'd give only his street name -- Caveman -- said he'd been sober a month and a half. But, he said, "People are going to realize it's cheaper to get whiskey at the state-run (liquor) store. People are going to be drinking harder, and they're going to be getting drunker. It's easier, too, because you can just put it in your soda can."


The Economist has launched two new blogs--one on economics, which I expect will become a must-read (although it isn't yet), and one on US politics of which I'm more skeptical. The few times I've dipped into Economist US-politics coverage it's tended toward a patronizing Toryish "LOL Americans" standpoint--whereas I want a hard-hitting "LOL Americans" standpoint that actually understands Americans!--to the extent that anyone does, I mean. Is that so much to ask? (Memo to the Economist: It helps to view God as something other than a bizarre political aberration akin to the electoral college.) ...Anyway, both links via Jane Galt, who will also be blogging at the econ one; see above re must-read.

And a neat article on the Latin Mass, from the perspective of a Jew describing the effect of Hebrew in Jewish liturgy. (If liturgy is the word I want. You know what I mean.) Via Dappled Things.
'Tis women make us love,
'Tis love that makes us sad.
'Tis sadness makes us drink--
And drinking makes us mad!


Oh, I really do love this "Art of the Bawdy Song" CD from the Baltimore Consort. It's also interesting (though it makes perfect sense) that the songs whose innuendo is subtler or storyline gentler are given to women to sing. I mean, it's obvious why a woman sings "My Thing Is My Own" (and I adore the joyful, independent version on this album--buy it for your freshman daughters! Between "Some courtiers do promise much more than they do" and "As young as I was, I understood trap" they will learn some lessons they will very much need...), but the poignant "Cold and Raw" actually has a male narrator, so it's strange to hear this beautiful version sung by a woman. Anyway, highly recommended, especially if you like transitions from subtle bawdy humor to fart jokes and "My man John had a thing that was long...."
EVERYTHING THAT RISES MUST CONVERGE: Everything that follows in this post is from Flannery O'Connor's letters (except where obviously indicated). In chronological order, and lightly edited to clarify something w/r/t Other People's Churches.

Furthermore, almost any spiritual writer ought to wear thin for you. It's like reading criticism of poetry all the time and not reading the poetry.

The Communion of Saints has something to do with the fact that the burdens we bear because of someone else, we can also bear for someone else.

What [Graham Greene] does, I think, is try to make religion respectable to the modern unbeliever by making it seedy. He succeeds so well in making it seedy that then he has to save it by miracle.

[Eve: Oh, I don't think this is really right--but I think it's one of those criticisms that, even when wrong because importantly incomplete, signal something real.]
Crisis means something different of course for the Catholic than for the Protestant. For them it is the dissolution of their churches; for us it is losing the world.

[Eve: I don't pretend to have views about Protestants (other than not being one), because I don't get it. I didn't grow up among Protestants, I don't know any intensely (although I admire many), I can't write Protestant characters. I'm not proud of this--and it isn't a moral claim, as there are many terrible things I understand and many good ones I don't--but the opacity is there and I haven't gotten past it thus far. So this is a quote I find deeply suggestive, but, you know, I don't really do the Cath-v-Prot questions very well, because I don't get why you'd want to be something else when the Church is right there. ...And actually I think this reaction might be what O'Connor is talking about. Eh, at least I'm an object lesson.]
[to a non-Catholic:] You speak of the Eucharist as if it were not important, as if it could wait until you are better able to practice the two great commandments. Christ gave us the sacraments in order than we might better keep the two great commandments. ...The center of this is the Eucharist.

What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. ...If you feel you can't believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.

Penance rightly considered is not acts performed in order to attract God's attention or get credit for oneself. It is something natural that follows sorrow. If I were you, I'd forget about penance until I felt called to perform it. Don't anticipate too much. I have the feeling that you irritate your soul with a lot of things that it isn't time to irritate it with.

The review is by a lady in the Concord P.L. She also says Tarwater is the latest edition to my "band of poor God-driven Southern whites." I am getting the connection between the God-driven and the underprivileged--God-drivenness being a form of Southern degeneracy....

If Greene created an old lady, she would be sour through and through and if you dropped her, she would break, but if you dropped my old lady, she'd bounce back at you, screaming "Jesus loves me!"

One of the good things about Protestantism is that it always contains the seeds of its own reversal. It is open at both ends--at one end to Catholicism, at the other to unbelief.

[Eve: See above re my slack-jawed bewilderment w/r/t all things Prot.]
You don't join the Catholic Church. You become a Catholic.

The writer whose point of view is Catholic in the widest sense of the term reads nature in the same way the medieval commentators read Scripture. They found three levels of meaning in the literal level of the sacred text--the allegorical, in which one thing stands for another; the moral, which has to do with what should be done; and the anagogical, which has to do with the Divine life and our participation in it, the level of grace.

I hate to deliver opinions. On most things I don't deserve an opinion and on a lot of things I simply don't have an opinion.

I very much like the idea that [Elizabeth Sewell] gets across that the poet deals exactly with the things that don't work out, that he's sort of a shock absorber, that he takes the first blows and mutes them through the imagination and makes things bearable.

I'm glad you've figured out free will or whatever. It's great to be able to figure it out but dangerous to put too much faith in your figuring.

Love and understanding are one and the same only in God. Who do you think you understand? If anybody, you delude yourself.

I make do very nicely with guest rooms. In fact, I collect them. The one at Hollins was a fully equipped apartment, even down to the electric dishwasher. The larder was stocked with Mt. Etna Ginger Ale and hushpuppy mix. Did they read my stuff and decide this is what I would eat?

I came back from my trip with enough money to order me another pair of swans. They are on their way from Miami and Mr. Hood, the incumbent swan, little suspects that he is going to have to share his feed dish. He eats out of a vase, as a matter of fact, and has a private dining room. Since his wife died, he has been in love with the bird bath. Typical Southern sense of reality.

I'm rather glad the single folks, or left-overs as you call us, haven't been discovered by the Church. Think of the awful oratory that would flow over us....

I wouldn't spend much time worrying about dryness. It's hard to steer a path between indifference and presumption and [there's] a kind of constant spiritual temperature-taking that don't do any good or tell you anything either.
DIVINE APHASIA: I've just watched Waiting for Godot and also Beckett's Not I. I don't have thoughts so much as reactions. So, a few reactions [edited b/c I wasn't sure I agreed with myself in all particulars]:

1. Godot is really, really funny. I laughed my way through--not contented laughter, but the kind that's startled out of you.

2. I almost think you could write a catechism based on Godot's absences. Rebuild Christian faith off of what Estragon and Vladimir expect. What is an outrage to them, rather than simply "the way things are"? From that, I think maybe you could trace a shadow of the Gospel. I would look at time vs. eternity, power/weakness/cruelty/poverty/class, and maybe guilt. Guilt is usually the distorted shadow of sin: You can't accurately trace sin from its distorted shadow, at all, but you can maybe intuit that there is a real thing casting this real shadow.

You can get these versions by Netflix'ing whatever comes up when you search for "Beckett on Film."
The two worst sins of bad taste in fiction are pornography and sentimentality.
--letters of Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It's close to blogwatch,
And something evil's lurking in the dark...

Amy Welborn: Reader asks: "I'm putting together my own card and 'care package,' and I am wondering if there are any suggestions for a Catholic book that might be good for a man in his situation, a lapsed Catholic who has maybe two or three months to live (barring a miracle--my friend did just go to Lourdes and prayed for him there!)."

First Things: Abortion and the difference between development and manufacture. Am linking because of the really interesting analogy between human development and the development of a photograph; I don't quite know what this does for people who aren't already pro-life, but either way, it should be worth your time.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN. So over the weekend I saw a really sweet, well-meaning advertisement for a Catholic church's "Holy Ween," where kids would dress as saints. And just... I... no. There is nothing wrong with dressing as a daggone witch, or a leopard or a ballerina. More importantly: I wondered what would happen if some kid became sick from an especially realistic St. Lucy with her eyes on a platter; a friend added, "Yeah. Just dress as St. Sebastian."

Hee, hee. You tell me how that works out for you!

Anyway, me on Magritte as a horror artist; my review of Carnival of Souls. And you guys should all see I Walked with a Zombie. Can we have more zombie movies about actual freakin' zombies, please?
SO, I'M UNDER THE WEATHER. I am, in fact, investigating the weather from the perspective of the snake. So I have stuff to say, but be forewarned, its coherence will be brought to you by a grant from the John D. and Catharine T. Sudafed Foundation. In the carousel of my head, right now all the horses are camels.

Because of the spitting.

EDITED to change "seeking" to "socking," because apparently Maclin Horton can read and I can't!

I don't want to be any angel but my relations with them have improved over a period of time. They weren't always even speakable. I went to the Sisters to school for the first 6 years or so... at their hands I developed something the Freudians have not named--anti-angel aggression, call it. From 8 to 12 years it was my habit to seclude myself in a locked room every so ooften and with a fierce (and evil) face, whirl around in a circle with my fists knotted, socking the angel. This was the guardian angel with which the Sisters assured us we were all equipped. He never left you. My dislike of him was poisonous. I'm sure I even kicked at him and landed on the floor. You couldn't hurt an angel but I would have been happy to know I had dirtied his feathers--I conceived of him in feathers. Anyway, the Lord removed this fixation from me by His Merciful Kindness and I have not been troubled by it since. In fact I forgot that angels existed until a couple of years ago the Catholic Worker sent me a card on which was printed a prayer to St. Raphael. It was some time before it dawned on me Raphael was an archangel, the guide of Tobias. ...The prayer asks St. Raphael to guide us to the province of joy so that we may not be ignorant of the concerns of our true country. All this led me to find out eventually what angels were, or anyway what they were not. And what they are not is a big comfort to me.
--letters of Flannery O'Connor