Monday, January 28, 2008

I LIVE IN A CONDO: And other children's educational classics, from a world where white people are portrayed like American Indians....
YOU CAN HAVE TWO WIVES IN THE ARMY, BUT ONE'S TOO MANY FOR ME: I'll be on a panel on "Is Marriage Outdated?", this February 12. Details:

AFF DC February Roundtable: Is Marriage Outdated?
The America's Future Foundation will hold its monthly roundtable on Tuesday, February 12th. In the spirit of Valentines Day, we will consider the question of marriage. Is it outdated? Or, should we care about preserving the institution now more than ever?

Joining us will be James Polous, Eve Tushnet, and Jonathan Rauch, author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. Also joining us will be Jamie Alan Aycock, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. and recent author of "Contracting out of the Culture Wars: How the Law Should Enforce and Communities of Faith Should Encourage More Enduring Marital Commitments" (PDF) in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

The event will take place at the Fund for American Studies, 1706 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, near Dupont Circle. Drinks at 6:30; Roundtable begins at 7:00. Roundtables are free for members, $5 for non-members. So join today! Please RSVP to Cindy Cerquitella at
Eve adds: I'm not sure yet what I want to talk about (and whether I can be sufficiently non-pomo), so if you have ideas or want to yell at me or whatever, feel free to email. More details as I know them....
BOOK MEME: I think I've done this before? But I was tagged, so here goes:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people. [I'm skipping this part. Y'all consider yourselves tagged, or not, as you prefer....]

Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World:
That the war deaths occurred on behalf of a terrain in which pianos could be played and bicycles could be pedalled, where schools would each day be entered by restrained and extravagantly gesturing children alike, must be indicated by appending the direction of motive, "for my country," since the deaths themselves are the unmaking of the embodied terrain of pianos and bicycles, classmates, comrades, and schools.

For My Country. Thus "to kill and to die"--or in the idiom that embraces both simultaneously, "to hurt" (to hurt within one's own body; to hurt an opponent's body) or "to alter body tissue"--are alike in having no interior referent and, if they are to have one, requiring a separate specification. But precisely because there is nothing "interior" that itself stipulates and in doing so limits its referent, the act of "dying" or "killing" can be lifted away and coupled with a different referent.

Cheery! Aren't you glad you asked??
[Decadence] operaticizes by overliteralizing.
--Sexual Personae

Saturday, January 26, 2008

MY SISTER on a FindLaw piece about fanfiction, in which she was quoted. Her reaction to the piece is pretty similar to my own, though much more knowledgeable!
...[T]he fact that Hilden can’t tell we’re already in the nightmare world suggests something about how scary we ought to find it.

(not legally relevant, but possibly interesting: me on fanfiction)
It cost too much, staying human.

and other six-word stories, here! (Some of them--esp. the political ones, sigh--are trite, but the good ones are really fun.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

LIE BECOMES THE TRUTH: I recently amused myself by listing things that are true of me when I'm writing fiction, and at no other time. (Or, let's say, at few other times!) Here are a few, posted in hopes that they will amuse you all as well.

I'm a reactionary. You know, I'm really much more of a liberal than my fiction expresses. "How They Made the Manticore" is both a parable that really resonates with me, and a temptation I need to recognize and sometimes work against in my fiction. I don't want to write "All change is bad! Progress is perverse!", not only because I don't believe that but also because Jesus wouldn't agree.

I'm 50/50 bisexual. In "real life" (que significa eso?) I'm... you can either say, "I'm 85/15 lesbian," or, "I'm maybe 60/40 attracted to women vs. men on a physical level, but in terms of emotional orientation and romance, I'm much more likely to be romantically and even iconically drawn to a woman than to a man."

[eta: This isn't quite right, you know. I'm dykier than this suggests. Not sure what would adequately convey the issue, other than a) iconicity is far more important to me than the Kinsey scale could ever recognize, and b) less excitingly (and by "exciting" I always mean "metaphysical"), I'm always gayer than you think I am, though usually less gay than you expect. Think of it that way--isn't that illuminating? ;) ]

But I can always tell when I find a character's image in my head physically attractive; and, intriguingly, I split really close to 50/50 lady/guy there.

I obsess more about death than about suffering. In my extrafictional life, the reverse of this is usually true. (Have I mentioned that I'm more liberal than you think I am?)

And the next novel will really focus on suffering--as the recent novel did, in many ways--whereas death, in both novels, is merely one cause or form of suffering among others. But in my short fiction, "the candles blew and then he appeared"... partly, I'm sure, because it's death that makes repentance necessary. "When there's no future, how can there be sin?"--because sin as a concept is always embedded in a narrative of possible repentance and also missed opportunities for that repentance. Sin is an irrevocable act, and that act can only exist, be reckoned with, and be reconciled in a world where sinners die.

That isn't the entire reason--it only explains let's say three or four of the skeleton-haunted stories I've written--but it's interesting in its own right, so I'll say it, and let time and change sort out the rest.
THE RATTLE OF THE CASTANETS: Horror movie notes. In the order I saw them.

Soylent Green: Should be remembered as the great Edward G. Robinson's last movie, since not only is he the only standout in the cast but his death scene is the only genuinely poignant and frightening moment in the film.

Admittedly, this is one where pop culture may have ruined it for me. And there are some powerful images of overcrowding--casually jumping down the staircase packed with bodies, for example, or the fight scene in the dormitory. [eta: Also liked the creepily dissociated priest.] But I loved Charlton Heston in Branagh's Hamlet (as the Player King--he was the star of that movie as far as I'm concerned), and hated him here, overblown and ripe with cliche. Robinson is terrific as always--especially impressive considering that he was almost completely deaf by this time, and had to time his lines from memory rather than by ear.

White Zombie: Well, I may be learning that I prefer really old-school horror, and especially old-school zombies, to the new brain-eating kind. I did like this, and found it frightening (the shot of the zombies marching across the top of a hill is terrifying), despite its melodrama. It's a less-good version of the phenomenal and far more iconic I Walked with a Zombie, I think; or you could say, what I think is the same thing, that it's a magic-and-science version of the religion-drenched IWWAZ. It has fairy-tale elements (why do white women on filmic Haitian plantations always dress as medieval houris?) and creepy postcolonial horror-of-dehumanization.

The Leopard Man. This Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur flick may have been my favorite of the lot, largely due to the charismatic women at its center: a local New Mexican cheapie flamenco dancer named Clo-Clo, an exotic Chicago import named Kiki, and a sweet, nicely underplayed fortuneteller. All three actresses elevate the movie--Clo-Clo's introductory scene is kind of static (I may be totally weird, but I found her flamenco... strained, insufficiently sinuous), but after that, she becomes incredibly fun to watch and listen to; Kiki is a brassy Rosalind Russell knockoff; and the fortuneteller is played for empathy rather than exoticism. The movie really revolves around women, and not only women as victims of the Leopard Man.

It's a well-paced mix of horror and suspense: The plot is more suspense, while the imagery (including the soundtrack) is more horror.

The Ghost Ship: More Lewton-as-producer. More misleading Lewton titles! I know it's the studio's fault really, but I love ghost-ship movies, and this... isn't one. It's an overdone petty-dictator thrillerish thing, long on melodramatic invocations of "authority!... authority!" and short on thrills. I'm guessing they didn't have the budget to do any frightening shots of the restless, formless, anti-rational sea, but those shots might be what I like best in ghost-ship movies, and to be trapped on a thoroughly static shipboard set felt forced and gimcrack rather than effectively claustrophobic. The only Lewtonish thing I've actively disliked so far.

If you want shipboard authority drama combined with the uncanny, read The Secret Sharer; if you want a ghost-ship movie, you might check out two movies from 2002: the psychologically interesting but not quite addictive-enough Below and (my cliched but addictive preference) Ghost Ship. (If you know of genuinely good, rather than merely satisfying, ghost-ship movies, please email me, since I crave them and have found none!!)
CATHOLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL is reading through Matthew Lickona's Swimming with Scapulars. I... uh... still haven't read his book (although he acknowledged that he still hasn't read mine either!), but I've heard great things about it....
IN WHICH ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT DISCUSSES VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE FOR MORE THAN ONE PARAGRAPH. He's an odd mix of cautionary and crypto-fannish, all "this isn't just a game, it's a complex form of storytelling to create an alternate reality!" (V:TM might be the only roleplaying game I've played; can't remember if I also dipped a toe into Shadowrun.)
About a week ago I got an email informing me that I’d been turned into a vampire. I like to keep up on current events, so I went to the web address where this was posted. (more)

Link via JRB.
Rosalind fulfills Christopher Isherwood's definition of camp: she mocks something, her love for Orlando, which she takes seriously. Her supreme moment of high camp is the wooing scene, where she pretends to be what she really is--Rosalind.
--Sexual Personae

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'M IN A BOOK!: I contributed a chapter on various gay-Catholic stuff to Faith at the Edge: A New Generation of Catholic Writers Reflects on Life, Love, Sex, and Other Mysteries, forthcoming in March from Ave Maria Press. I know I rant and warble about this stuff all the time, but I think there are some new things in this piece, and specifically I think it's different in both style and content from my big Commonweal piece. I don't know who all contributed, since Amazon doesn't have a table of contents up yet, but I'll let you know as soon as possible--the book info at Amazon lists "celebrated contributors like Paula Huston, Matthew Lickona, and John Zmirak." I'm guessing it will be a mackerel-snapping delight.
In self-love there is no energy of duality and therefore no spiritual progression.
--Sexual Personae on Spenser's Faerie Queene. Not entirely out of context! It made me think of my post on The Faerie Queene and the multiplicity of vocation, although I expect La Paglia would turn up her nose at such a chaste little post. I do wish she'd accept that there are ways of playing out existential dramas other than through sex (or at least, in addition to sex!), you know, and sometimes people even make art about those ways....

Monday, January 21, 2008


Saturday, January 19, 2008

SPAIN VS. GOD: THE ENDARKENING: The entirety of Dali's paintings for The Divine Comedy, here; and for Alice in Wonderland (!), here. These are amazing, by the way--Rattus and I saw some of them in New York, and these web clips really don't do them justice. The Divine Comedy ones, especially, showed Dali's ability to work in such a wide range of styles, from Toulouse-Lautrec curvilinearity to watercolor wash to fleshy realism, and deploy each style in service of an entirely Christian surrealism.
Blogwatch from the stars,
Blogwatch from the stars...

Monster Brains: Images of the Harrowing of Hell. (And isn't this, also, one?--via Amy Welborn.) I'm blogrolling this guy--Sean Collins turned me on to him, and I know that Sean's linked him in the past, but apparently I've become more monstrous in the past few months. (I certainly haven't become brainier.)

What do real thugs (TM) think of The Wire? Via Noli Irritare Leones. I haven't watched The Wire (dude, it's in my queue, yes I know I'm the only blogger in DC not to have watched it already) and also haven't read this piece yet, so there may be spoilers--I'm linking to it because I think you guys might want it, and so that I can find it easily once I've finally gotten my fangs stuck in to the series.

"Twilight of the Books": Ratty is right--this is a lot more interesting than the usual oh-tempura-oh-morays death of the books journalism:
It’s difficult to prove that oral and literate people think differently; orality, Havelock observed, doesn’t “fossilize” except through its nemesis, writing. But some supporting evidence came to hand in 1974, when Aleksandr R. Luria, a Soviet psychologist, published a study based on interviews conducted in
the nineteen-thirties with illiterate and newly literate peasants in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Luria found that illiterates had a “graphic-functional” way of thinking that seemed to vanish as they were schooled. In naming colors, for example, literate people said “dark blue” or “light yellow,” but illiterates used metaphorical names like “liver,” “peach,” “decayed teeth,” and “cotton in bloom.” Literates saw optical illusions; illiterates sometimes didn’t.

Experimenters showed peasants drawings of a hammer, a saw, an axe, and a log and then asked them to choose the three items that were similar. Illiterates resisted, saying that all the items were useful. If pressed, they considered throwing out the hammer; the situation of chopping wood seemed more cogent to
them than any conceptual category. ...

...As the scholars Jack Goody and Ian Watt observed, it is only in a literate culture that the past’s inconsistencies have to be accounted for, a process that encourages skepticism and forces history to diverge from myth.


And last: Fin de Siecle Russian Cat. (Via Ratty... of course.)
Drama, a Dionysian mode, turned against Dionysus in making the passage from ritual to mimesis, that is, from action to representation.
--Camille Paglia's Farmer's Miscellany of Wig-Job Pronunciamentos, by which I mean, Sexual Personae. Not that "wig-job" is always a term of disapproval, around these parts. Possibly it's a job description.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

EVERYBODY DID IT!: Plot devices of Agatha Christie novels. Via the Rat, who introduced me to this particular gun moll. Spoilerous like whoa.
WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE: An absolutely lovely t-shirt rendering of the first snow in space.
THE RETROFUTURE IS OURS, COMRADE!: German and Russian paleofutures.
Yes, let us proceed with our education, one and all.
--The Breast

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

As a student, then a professor, my experience of literature was necessarily contaminated by self-consciousness and the burden of verbalization; either I was learning or I was teaching. But that is behind me, like much else; now I am just listening.
--The Breast

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

And I hadn't even made my suggestion yet about becoming a reader for the department; he was laughing not because of anything ludicrous I had proposed, but because he saw that it was true, I actually had turned into a breast.
--The Breast