Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm in New Haven. Posting will be light until I return, on Halloween. I should have quite a bit of fun stuff then, though.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Come back, come back to Blogwatch...

Abhay Khosla: The sordid origin of Skippy peanut butter. No, really--a heartbreaking post.

Alias Clio: Something I would not have noticed: "Rather like War and Peace, or Gone With the Wind, it opens with a party. Indeed, as with most 'social novels', much of the book's action takes place at parties--at least, that portion of it which does not happen in staff quarters or on the battlefield."

Church of the Masses: Abp Niederauer on Flannery O'Connor: "...the Christian realist's hope that this time it might be better, but not easily, and not likely for long."

Daniel Mitsui: A glorious foot; and mummies.

For Keats' Sake: Some acute comments on "The Paschal Four" (my take here).

Hit & Run: "In a new report, the Government Accountability Office cites 'thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which involved death,' in 'residential treatment programs' for 'troubled youth.' The report was released yesterday at a House hearing where the parents of Aaron Bacon, a teenager who died at a Utah boot camp in 1994, testified." (more)

Sean Collins: More Bowie sketchbook. Includes glam-rock smoke rings.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Creamy Carrots and Onion: Chop a couple carrots into coins, and coarsely chop up some yellow onion. Saute the coins, a good heaping dollop of chopped garlic, and whatever dried herbs or spices you're using, all in olive oil. (I think I used dried basil--because I'm trying to get rid of it--and sage, cayenne, and black pepper.) Cook until the carrots are... you know... cooked.

Quickly throw in your onion and saute until barely cooked. (I like very sharp onion; other people might want to add the onion earlier.) Add some heavy cream, stir, and add your favorite chopped melty cheese. I used Parrano. Cook until you want to eat it, then plant your face in the dish.

the verdict: Look, this is ugly. It's basically creamy glop with carrots. But you're aiming straight for the pleasure jugular. I loved this. It was so rich I couldn't finish it, but it reheated perfectly the next day.

Basically, I wouldn't serve this at a dinner party; but I'd definitely cook it on some wintry night when I needed cheesy, creamy comfort.

Roasted carrots and... stuff. Like the recipe above, this is a (significantly) modified version of a Food and Wine dish. I don't know why it really didn't work; F&W has been good to me before.

Anyway, I chopped two big carrots in half crosswise, rolled them in olive oil, spiced them (in approximate order of how much: black pepper, cumin, cayenne, curry powder, cinnamon), and roasted them on a foiled baking tray for ten minutes at 375. Then I split the bigger carrot pieces in half lengthwise, added canned garbanzos, chopped garlic, big chunks of yellow onion (like... eighths?), and more olive oil and spices, stirred everything, and roasted for ten more minutes. Then stirred again, and the carrots still didn't seem quite done, nor did the other stuff seem especially roasted, so I roasted for another ten minutes. Then scooped everything into a dish.

the verdict: Messy (and yes, I could've chopped the carrots and onions smaller after roasting--I would have, if I were attempting to serve this to company, but the dish would still have looked sloppy, I think) and oddly metallic in taste.

These are the same carrots I used for the previous dish, but maybe there is something wrong with them, and I couldn't tell because of all the cream?? Did I manage to over-roast them? They did seem glazy and brown in places, but that's caramelization, right?, which should make them sweeter and roastier, not metallic. Or maybe the flavor combination doesn't work (despite all the spiciness, this dish was bland overall), or... something. The near-total failure of this dish is mysterious to me. I will say that the garbanzos were the only really yummy part of the dish, and since my main goal here was to learn whether F&W is right that canned garbanzos roast well, the magazine was definitely vindicated on that point.

I tried putting parmesan cheese on this after the first several bites. The cheese wasn't awful (it's a bland dish! you can't clash with the flavors in a dish that's already not super flavorful) but it made the dish messier without notably improving the taste.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Mysterium Fidei, Latin for "Mystery of Faith," is the new collection of art from Daniel Martin Diaz. In this collection of oil paintings, drawings, and prints, Diaz contemplates human suffering and one's undying faith in the afterlife. His mystical imagery reflects the influences of Byzantine iconography, Retabalos, Ex Votos, the Illuminati, ephemera, alchemy, and 16th-century anatomical engravings.
Check out the "Exorcism" series.

Via Holy Heroes!!
OUR WEIRD LORD: I'm only about 2/3 of the way through the new Dappled Things, but I thought I'd mention my two favorite pieces so far: Matthew Alderman's quick, fun essay + picture "Quid Tum?", and Timothy Barr's poem "The Paschal Four."

The latter is definitely flawed--it won a high school poetry contest, and has the kind of strenuous cleverness you might expect from a HS poetry contest winner. The imagery at points becomes relentlessly clotted, juxtapositions jostling for attention. But you know, I still really liked it, because it gets the weirdness of the Incarnation, the horror-movie elements of Catholicism, without sacrificing (I think) theological acuity. Basically, this guy needs to read the tabloid news for a few years, and then he'll be awesome.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

BOO, YOU WHORE!: A review of Mean Girls. Spoilers and possible TMI follow.

The short version is, this is diet no-carbs Cruel Intentions, and although I laughed a lot during the movie, I ended up hating it, I mean really disliking it a lot. Whereas despite my problems with the ending of CI, I basically did OM NOM NOM that movie and all its pomps and all its works.

The longer version: This movie is kind of based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman. And Wiseman is a DC native, who... hey, taught me self-defense (or attempted to--you'd think "eyes, knees, groin, throat" is easy, but you'd be really, really wrong) and ran a workshop at my high school which is the first (and, until now, only) place I'd talked about being felt up in the darkroom. (I should note that this was after I helped to found the gay/straight alliance at my school, so a) LOL WHUT?? and b) even someone who was kind of a harpy of political correctness really didn't feel okay talking about that incident, which was ultimately silly and minor and had, literally, no effect on my school participation, because I was addicted to photography. So you know, if you're like Katie Roiphe and think the rape statistics must be wrong because nobody you know had that happen to her... maybe you're not the person they tell.)

Anyway, my point is that Wiseman is awesome, and although I haven't read her book yet, this review of Mean Girls should in no way be read as a slam on Wiseman's book. I respect her a lot.

Whose story?: There are some really funny quips about race ("I only date girls of color"; "I'm from Michigan") and gay stuff. I love that they named the dykey girl "Janis Ian"... although, you get three guesses whether she's really gay or not. The first two don't count.

But you know whose story this isn't, ever?

The gay kid. (Check out the prom scene with Janis Ian and her dance if you don't believe me.) The "hostile black hotties" (or "standoffish black hotties"--I can't remember--the black girls who all sat together in the cafeteria). The "cool Asians."

The fat girls.

Yeah, I mean, the demi-demi-dykey, less-awesome Winona Ryder/Ally Sheedy girl reacts like she's been accused of eating babies every time someone even begins to suggest that she might be gay.

This is the story of a girl played by Lindsay Lohan, who has a crush on a guy played by ...a nice white guy I haven't heard of. And that's great, cute white rich straight girls are people too and all that, but... one does get tired of this story. I understand that this kind of Little-Red-turned-wolf story requires a fairly boring character at its center, since she has to be naive and malleable at the start in order to learn her life lesson by the end. But I don't think that excuses the movie from being so desperately predictable in its casting, nor from treating the less cute-white-rich-straight-girls mostly as set dressing. (I think Kevin G, not the gay friend--despite some of his awesome lines--is the exception, since I can't think of an occasion where Kevin gets shoved out of the way so the focus can remain on a more "mainstream" character.) Nor from letting the Lohan character act as self-esteem fairy at the end, princessing that even the fat girl and the wheelchair girl look beautiful tonight, while they beam in needy adoration.

I'm pretty sure this movie thinks it's progressive. Which brings us to our next point.

Whose fault?: So there's totally a scene where the (male) principal and Tina Fey's character hold a consciousness-raising session in the gym, girls only.

What do the boys get? Is high school girls' cruelty--so often centered around dating, "slut" labeling, sexual posturing and sexual fear--solely the girls' issue? I think you might want to talk to the boys in front of whom the girls are posing. And that would still be true even though the movie never touches on the real hard stuff, like date rape.

Now I get why Veronica Mars was supposed to be so groundbreaking....

Girl trouble: There are a lot of fun throwaway moments in this movie--Regina's little sister as an ass-shaking zombie; "That's why her hair is so big! It's full of secrets!" (the movie really is funny)--and you know, I love Amanda "Lilly Kane" Seyfried in anything. And there are right-on cultural criticism moments, like the Playboy Halloween outfits and the "cool mom" shtik. (The moviemakers might not realize that the first five minutes of the flick don't actually make it not an advertisement for homeschooling.)

But yeah: I felt like this was the saccharine version, which made excuses for the real racial, class, and sexual hierarchies it pretended to decry. I hated this a lot, and it made me appreciate the awesomeness of Cruel Intentions even more than I already did.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

SOMETHING I LEARNED FROM THIS MONTH'S FOOD AND WINE: There lives a man in this country named Peter Apathy, and he sells hot dogs made of reindeer.
O LITTLE TOWN OF DEATH-LEHEM: Movie reviews, with spoilers for Black Christmas. Or, really, a quickie review and a bit of a rant.

Terror Train: "Featuring Jamie Lee Curtis and David Copperfield." Fo' reals, yo. This is so much fun!!

Look, it's a bog-standard "frat/soror prank gone wrong-->bullied victim wreaks serial-killer havoc" plot. But it's briskly paced. JLC brings, as always, a sense of interiority to an otherwise blank character--you always feel, with Our Jamie, that she's thinking. There are some really nice moments hitting the theme of homosocial friendship gone wrong: We all know frat pranks are a horror movie staple, but it's really good to see a horror movie actually try to figure out why. And the bit parts are individualized, the way they tend to be in older movies (my constant example for this is The Manchurian Candidate)--the scene where the one train guy explains that he's a Free Will Baptist is by itself worth the price of (Netflix) admission.

Black Christmas: This one... I have more to say about.

First of all, it got there first, and respect is due. Its camerawork is intense, scary, the pans and cuts and shakycam coming at the exact right places. And it's more or less impossible to make a bad Christmas-themed horror movie--the pretty lights and spooky carols are right there in front of you!--especially if you have Margot Kidder playing a hard-drinking, kinda slutty sorority girl. She's hilarious and came near to stealing the movie. ...Moreover, there are plot elements where Black Christmas was an innovator, although to say more would be to give it all away.

But you guys know me--I don't always like the first-place finisher. I had two basic problems with this movie, one minor and one major.

The minor is that this '70s flick was trying too hard for an edgy tone. I didn't buy--and didn't want to watch--scenes where the sorority-boyfriend Santa cussed and insulted women in front of little children. I didn't buy that no child would even giggle (am I wrong? I wasn't paying the kind of attention to this movie that I would have given, you know, a Kurosawa flick), let alone tattle or hide. I didn't buy that no sorority girl would get sentimental about innocent ears and step in to protect them. I didn't like that actual child actors were used in a scene that was entirely about the "edginess" of the lame soror/frat people and the edginess-by-transitivity of the filmmakers.

But that really is minor. There were several "edgy" scenes I liked--the drunk house mother, the "It's a new exchange--FE" shtik.

The bigger thing is that I felt like the symbolic elements weren't used for more than set dressing.

Look: This is a horror movie that takes place at Christmas. This is a horror movie, taking place at Christmas, in which an abortion storyline is really important. Why are neither of these elements used symbolically?

Christmas is used aesthetically (spooky carols and colored lights, plus obviously the movie's brilliant title). But I don't otherwise know why the movie takes place then. I mean... no joke, I love spooky carols and colored lights! But what is Christmasy about this movie??

Take Gremlins for a counterexample: Not only do you have Billy's girlfriend's story about her father in the chimney, but you have the themes of consumerism (Japan fear) and greed (Mrs. Deagle)--fellow-feeling vs. Chri$tma$$, family vs. a toy store full of Gremlins. That isn't actually getting at particularly deep issues, but... I totally know why the movie is set at Christmastime. It isn't just for the (amazing) effect of Silent Night, Holy Night wafting over the fire-strewn, devastated town. The aesthetics play into the movie's symbolic language.

Black Christmas not only fails to make Christmas a symbolic element--it also adds abortion, basically the rejection of or contrast to Christmas symbolism (I mean, look, think about this as a writer and not as a political person and you see what I mean), and yet that doesn't become a symbolic element either. Jess's plan to abort her baby is a huge plot element (it's part of why the police suspect Peter), it's a huge characterization element (it shows her admirable determination [and her "good girl" status, I think] and Peter's controlling cruelty), it's an audience element (we get on Jess's side because we see her being humiliated when she has to explain her situation to the cops--and yes, of course this made me sympathetic to her as well, how could it not?)... but it's never a symbolic element.

I don't know why you'd make a movie where such obvious, interesting, supercharged symbols never get to go off. What do you gain by making Christmas a decoration, abortion a macguffin? I have no idea.

Am I wrong?? Did I miss the thing where Black Christmas actually let these two ferocious, opposed elements send up fireworks? I'd love to think so, since Margot Kidder is everybody's good-time girl, and totally makes up for Olivia "She's No Mercutio, I Tell You What" Hussey.
TOWARD AN EXPLANATION, NOT AN EXCUSE, FOR POSTMODERNISM: Humanism: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are [redacted] equal...."

Personalism: "No, no, no. You can't get there that way. Follow me."

As Mickey Kaus might say, if he were me: Too bitchy? Or not bitchy enough?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

AS I LIVE AND BREATHE, YOU HAVE KILLED ME: So I did go see David Morrison at Theology on Tap. These are some very scattered impressions, and not at all a round-up of everything he talked about or a responsible review of his talk--more an update of my post about his book (he's working on a new edition) and a set of notes on things that struck me. In chronological order of where these impressions occurred in the talk.

Are you gonna go/to the Sodom and Gomorrah show? First, one of the very few things I hated about Beyond Gay was the "scared straight" sections, in which statistics about AIDS, depression, etc were trotted out in a fatalistic, infuriating way reminiscent of DARE anti-drug propaganda. In his talk at the Four Fields, Morrison seemed to be going down that road as he began to talk about how many friends he had lost to AIDS and how that experience was part of the beginning of his journey to the Church. It seemed, as he spoke, as if he were going to say that he was glad he'd been scared off that path before it was too late--as if there's anything admirable about running away when things get tough.

He really didn't, though. Instead he gave a much more nuanced description of how the close-up with mortality made him begin to question whether his life had meaning. I felt pretty awful for not listening to him more charitably, especially since he'd quite humbly made it clear that he was actually doing a lot of caring for people with AIDS during that time (although I still maintain that the current edition of Beyond Gay comes off badly in this regard, and I hope the revisions change that).

Is that all there is to a fire?: I did find myself thinking a bit about my own first prayers, when Morrison described his. Not counting a childish (hey, I was like eight) demand that God show himself or I wouldn't believe in him, the first time I prayed I'm pretty sure I just said, "Lord, cure my unbelief" (possibly without the "Lord"), on my knees before bed.

Nothin' happened.

Is that all there is?

So, like, St. Paul gets knocked off his daggone horse. David Morrison gets reasonably quick service, with God making His presence known as soon as he began seriously to pray. Me? Not so much.

But I am nothing if not annoyingly persistent. So I did keep praying. Meanwhile, as nothing in particular seemed to be happening in response to these prayers, I kept on with the philosophical stuff that had gotten me on my knees in the first place--clearing away a huge heap of misunderstandings, building the scaffolding I'd need to understand any experience of God I did end up having, basically teaching me the language I'd need to know before I could even grasp that God was talking rather than just, you know, static on the line. And eventually (I seem to recall it took a week or two?? could be wrong--at the time it seemed long, and now seems ridiculously short and easy compared to others' years of seemingly fruitless searching, begging, and interrogating) I did come for the first time to the recognition of the Creator God, the maker or speaker of things in the world, and that was what I needed at the time. The rest of the getting-Catholic stuff followed more or less swiftly from there, and it was a while, I think, before I had intellectual doubts rather than just deep mistrust and the fear of hurting others and myself by entering the Church.

...Uh, this was supposed to be about David, right? SELF-ABSORBED CAT FINDS HERSELF FASCINATING.

Mission bell: After he began to pray and read the Bible, Morrison had to figure out where to park himself, churchwise. He'd had mixed/not-great experiences growing up Southern Baptist, and it sounds like his partner had had worse experiences with evangelical fundamentalism, so those were off the table.

And so he remembered the Episcopalian ministry to people with AIDS, with which he'd worked in the past. So that's where he went.

Unsurprisingly, I was reminded of the recent discussions at Amy Welborn's place, about mission, the ways Catholics can evangelize and the ways we probably shouldn't. Amy tossed off a tart one-liner to the effect that, you know, you could always try the corporal works of mercy.

And I was also reminded of a post somewhere or other, which I now can't find and am probably misremembering, about feeling really frustrated with the ways in which evangelization gets done, or something like that, and wondering if it wouldn't be best if Christians just lived Christian lives and didn't actively seek to witness to others. And because my inner monologue (monologue! monologue! mono--d'oh!) can get very bitchy at times, I'd thought to myself, "Oh yeah, because Christ totally told us to go out and make next-door neighbors of all nations."

(...This post isn't showing me in a very good light, is it??)

And then, I was reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan, from the week's Gospel readings.

So... yeah, actually. We are called to make neighbors of one another. And, as David's story shows, that call is not separable from our call to make disciples of one another.

You'll notice that I could have reached the same conclusion with a lot fewer steps if I'd remembered the old St. Francis line, "Preach the Gospel unceasingly; with words, if necessary." But I am slow.

I can get it for you wholesale: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's rejection of "cheap grace" was a huge turning point in Morrison's life, specifically w/r/t homosexuality. And while I think that language gets appropriated very quickly and easily, such that "he jests at scars who never felt a wound" and straight people get to tell gay people we're seeking "cheap grace" if we don't accept a fairly deep and humiliating sacrifice, I really did like how Morrison presented the idea in this talk: I felt like he was challenging all of us to look at all of the places in our lives where we were seeking cheap grace.

No kind of love/is better than others: I also really, really liked Morrison's point that there's no perfect analogy for the love and friendship he shared with his partner before he became Catholic. It was eros, but also philia, but also and very deeply storge, and the eros didn't crowd out the other stuff. To reject a couple specific metaphors, I don't think eros is like a deep red dye, indelibly staining the entire fabric of a same-sex love relationship. But I also don't think it's like a red thread in cloth, which you could, with time and effort, unpick from the rest of the fabric. It's just... there, and it has to be sublimated, into care and ardent sweetness and protection and admiration, or whatever complex blend and interplay of loves you speak in your perhaps untranslatable heart.

I have something else I'm thinking about, as well, but my thoughts on that are so desperately unformed that I'm not going to inflict them on you all just yet. Thank Heaven for small mercies, y'all.
PLAGUE MASS: Finally, a post about The Plague, probably the best book I've read this year. This is going to be pretty scattershot.

The first thing I noticed was how suspenseful and well-paced it is. I mean, the plot is right there in the title, so the only surprises can come from pacing and from how Camus works the changes on his novel's situation. In both areas The Plague excels. This might be an artifact of the translation (I was using Stuart Gilbert's--don't know if that's considered good or not), but the descriptive and lyrical passages seemed especially well-placed. This is just a really, really well-constructed novel.

The different aspects of the plague and the quarantine also included some surprises: the theme of lovers' exile, for example. This is so perfect and right. A book as Job-like as The Plague should invoke the deeply Christian metaphor of separated lovers. It's unexpected and poignant and humanist in the best way.

The characterizations are mostly affecting and "real." I had a thing that is partly a problem of characterization and partly a problem of theology/the book's existential stance, and I'm not sure which end is larger. On the basic characterization end, I know Christians say the darnedest things, but while I found it easy to accept that a priest would give the Job's-comforters speech as a sermon, I found it a lot harder to swallow that his sermon would explicitly link Job to Pharaoh. This seemed like pushing things in a way that made it unnecessarily obvious that Fr. Paneloux (like the faithful women in the novel) is being portrayed much more from the "outside" than the other major characters. It made the book seem like it was just avoiding Job, which I think it ultimately isn't, although my theological/existential angle is that I don't think the book fully grapples with a) God's trial and response and b) the fact that it's in the Bible.

I initially thought that the book also ignored or merely gestured at the related problem, of whether this kind of charitable-heroic atheism saws off the branch it sits on. The Plague is a novel set entirely within the clash between happiness and suffering; there's no alternative framework, no sense of (for example) good/evil as a possible different way of understanding the world's obvious self-opposition. Whenever happiness/suffering is the only ethical framework presented, I think of the statue of Comfort erected by the mercy-killers in A Canticle for Leibowitz. It seems obvious to me that if you take suffering as the sole evil and happiness as the sole good you begin to step down the path where the weak are killed because they suffer and they get in the way.

I don't think The Plague goes into that arena at all. But it does draw out other, more nuanced and emotional problems of the happiness/suffering framework--can you call a man to sacrifice his own happiness to do work that will rarely even "fix" things, but merely provide witness and compassion, suffering-with? And I do think The Plague begins to move into the question of whether it's possible to sustain a Christianized anthropology--a sense of what's valuable, heroic, worthy of love and pity rather than contempt, in human lives--without a Christian theology. All this through deeply affecting, memorable portrayals of character and situation, characters full of the unnecessary evasions and corners and histories of real people.

This is the rare novel of ideas where both the novel and the ideas are done right.
Can someone tell me what controversial procedures have been used at Guantanamo Bay? As far as I'm aware there is not a shred of hard evidence — and certainly no proof — that torture or even enhanced interrogation methods have been employed there.


Air Force Lieutenant General Randall M. Schmidt, appointed to investigate abuses at Guantanamo Bay, said, “For lack of a camera, you could have seen in Guantanamo what was seen at Abu Ghraib.”


Detainees at Guantanamo Bay have been left chained in their own urine and feces for a day or more.
more (I think the easiest way to find this is to search for "Guantanamo")

...that's the links I happened to have already on my hard drive, without searching. So, you know, not exhaustive. Probably searching here would also prove informative.

Monday, October 08, 2007

THAT'S WHEEEERE YOU'LL FIIIIIIIIIND ME: Things I'm planning to do this week include:

Tuesday: hearing David Morrison (author of Beyond Gay, or, as I prefer, Extra Double Super Gay) at Theology on Tap--Ireland's Four Fields, Cleveland Park metro, happy hour at 7 pm and speaker at 7.30 pm.

Friday: watching The Mission at St. Matthew's Cathedral, 7 pm in the North Conference Room. St M's is at Dupont Circle metro.

Saturday: hearing the Suspicious Cheese Lords ("a male a cappella ensemble"), also at St. Matthew's, 7.30 pm. Featuring sacred music from the Renaissance. "Admission is free, and voluntary donations at the doors are welcome."

Hope to see some of you all there.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"DISTORTIONS": I have a short story in the current issue of Dappled Things. Find it here! It's sf-ish; very longtime readers may remember it as "What You Can Do for Your Country." In my head, its title will always be "tl;dr"--not because it is, but because that's pretty much what it's about.

Monday, October 01, 2007

THE HARSH TRUTH OF THE CAMERA EYE: Movie reviews. Mostly very short....

Max Headroom: It can't possibly be as awesome as you want it to be, right?

It is awesomer.

Divorce, Italian-Style: I Netflix'd this on reader recommendation after that post I did about Ten Commandments-themed movies. (So yes, you're getting a rough sense of how long it takes a movie to wander to the top of my queue.) The reader noticed that I didn't have any comedies listed, and suggested that this might fit the bill.

At first I was wary--it seemed like the movie might be going for an "aren't wives just awful? so tacky..." shtik; but by the end I found the movie funny and satisfying. There's a great sense of time and place, too--the scenes in which La Dolce Vita comes to the tiny Sicilian town's cinema are fantastic and hilarious.

Chariots of Fire: Also suggested as a Ten Commandments-y movie, "Keep holy the Sabbath" being a major plot point and all. This... hm. It was really well-done (except for the annoying soundtrack-flashbacks in which characters re-articulated the Themes of the Movie, sigh), but really not my thing. I suspect athletic and religious types would get much more out of it.

The "...and then what happened?" final titles were pretty fascinating in that each of the main characters did get a life that the movie suggests they would have considered good.

Videodrome: Literal-minded Cronenberg flick about, like, the television age, and porn. Desperately not my thing despite the presence of Debbie Harry. I will say that I don't think this is as good as Dead Ringers (also not my thing, but legitimately troubling and memorable and unique), because of the literal-mindedness.

(And Dead Ringers had some pretty amazing color control, if I recall correctly.)

Opera: Dario "Suspiria" Argento takes on Verdi's Macbeth!! This was fantastic.

I mean, okay: It doesn't have what philosophers would call "a point." It's a horror flick about bad stuff happening at an opera, and it's Dario Argento, so, you know, a crow eats an eyeball and stuff like that. (Although the "menaced in her panties!" scenes were kept to a refreshing minimum.)

But the music, of course, is amazing; the colors are supersaturated; the camera is all swooning and swizzling and enthralling. It was worth watching some really crap Argento (see below) to get this doomy, glittery showstopper.

The Stendhal Syndrome: Speaking of crap Argento. The idea (hallucinations based on great art + police detective being stalked by the criminal she's hunting) seems perfect for Argento's style, and the opening scene in the Uffizi gallery is great. But the Stendhal-syndrome stuff is fairly minimal, and nothing interesting replaces it. Plus it's very, very, very, very rapey, and... I hated that, I hated having it on my tv set all fetish-like and going on and on. Bah.

Demons: Not actually Argento--he produced, but somebody else directed. Starts out hilarious and fun, and I think if I were more of a gorehound I would have thought it was great popcorn-horror. It's basically '80s music + gore. So, you know, if that sounds good to you... that's what it is.

Trauma: More Argento. Serial killer, electroshock, repressed memories, anorexia. I found it unmemorable (oh snap!) except for the lovely, Evanescence-avant-la-lettre closing credits song.
One fine day
You're gonna watch me for your blog...

Arabist: Saudi religious police attacked by girls....

Church of the Masses: Intriguing line from a post on creating heroic characters--one sign of debilitating sentimentalism in Christian artists: "SENTIMENTALISM IS THE PROBLEM FOR US CHRISTIANS. We want to show that God is basically in charge of the world so everything is really okay. We want to give God the benefit of the doubt."

ComixTalk: Doing unexpected things with word balloons.