Wednesday, June 25, 2008

COMMUNICATIONS BREAKDOWN: Hi there. If you tried to email me last Friday, and you haven't received a reply yet, I did not receive your email. Had a bit of an eddy in the space-time continuum of my inbox. I'd be really grateful if you re-sent. Sorry for the inconvenience....

Thursday, June 19, 2008

VISITATION SCHOOL: The Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center is doing volunteer training soon! I love CHPC--I wrote about it here--and it can always use more people to counsel women, answer phones and play with kids, fold clothes and do data entry. There's an endless round of tasks at the center. If you're looking for a Christian ministry; if you need reminding of your total dependence on God; if you want to meet the amazing, inspiring women we serve... consider CHPC. Tara's totally awesome, by the way.

Also, I'm trying to put together referrals we can give our clients, to premarital counseling (what U.S. Catholics often call "pre-Cana") and to mental health services, especially for depression. If you have any suggestions for people I should call in the DC area, please email me at Thanks!

Counselor Training

Six Tuesdays 6:00 - 9:00pm

July 1 - August 5th @ CHPC (713 Maryland Ave., NE)

$45.00 Fee
~ Contact Tara Woods,

St. Elizabeth, friend of the Virgin, pray for us. Dorothy Day, pray for us.
SAINT FELONY: This is a good post about the economics of hiring ex-cons; the universality of mismanaged lives, and why the poor pay more for their crimes; and ways to change the incentives.
TYPICAL GIRLS... ARE SO CONFUSING: I recently re-read pretty much the entire archive of Disputed Mutability. This is the blog of a terrifically smart, forthright, wry ex-gay lady. You guys know me, right?--so you know that I am not a fan of the "ex-gay movement" as a whole. But DM is fantastic and touches on all kinds of issues: If you're interested in Christian discipleship, being specific in describing the interactions of religion and personal life, accepting and interpreting humiliation, presenting an identity, or anything about gay/ex-gay Christian life... she's probably got a post you need to read.

I strongly recommend starting with her earliest archive and working up. Seriously, if you took even a brief moment to wonder, "Hm, should I bother?"--you should bother.
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: ABSOLUTELY CRABULOUS. So here's two things that worked!

Crab/Peach Ceviche: I purchased four snow crab "clusters" (legs in a bunch, with meat at the end) and a "Southern peach," both on sale. I chopped the peach and plunked it in a bowl.

Then I warily approached the crab. Let's just say... I don't own a clawcracker; I barely know a crab from a crayfish; and in general, the insects of the sea are not my bag. So I was armed with a dull knife and a lot of determination, against a crab with all kinds of prickly spiny bits and horrible hard armor. The result was an embarrassing display of unskill. I got crab in my hair! Eventually I did learn, more or less, how to extract the crab meat in big chunks rather than tiny shreds. Still, I am not a crab-wrangler--more of a crab-wrangloon. (...Sorry.)

So then I mixed up the crab and the peach, sliced a small amount of sweet onion and mixed it in, and squeezed two lemon halves over the lot. Stuck it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Took it out, tasted, and despaired: The food was bland and the crab/peach flavors hadn't melded at all. Miserably, thinking about the grocery bill I'd committed in the service of this idiocy, I spiced the mixture. I used quite a bit of (in order from most to least) cayenne and black pepper, and a little of (ditto) cumin, five-spice powder, and cinnamon. Stir stir stir. I tasted it again. Hope sprang eternal!

Back in the fridge. Another half-hour's chillin' like a villain. Tasted again.

Oh yeah, I'm a rock star. This was great! I tore a couple store-bought corn tortillas into quarters and toasted them in the toaster oven, so they curled up and got crispity, and mounded some crab/peach on top. This was absolutely delightful. The tortillas weren't even too flavorful (they were cheap is what they were), but the crunchity of them was terrific. Later I used the rest as the filling for quesadillas (I used Sargento's "Mexican blend" shredded cheese, because sometimes things are popular for a reason) and these too were delicious. Spicy, elusive, filling, and savory-sweet; the crab and peach flavors meshed perfectly once they had some common spices to hang on to.

I also made stock from all the crab armor plus the lemon halves and peach pit. (Yeah, I doubt the peach made a difference.) I barely covered all of that with water, brought it to a boil, and simmered for... I think about an hour and a half. I added a tad bit too much salt--shaky hand--but not so much that I can't fix it through judicious use of starch (pasta in soup, e.g.) and being careful not to add too much stock to any one dish. The result was richly-flavored with both seafood and citrus, and I really can't wait to use it in a soup.

Made-Rites Gone Mod: This was much simpler! I browned ground beef in a pan. My mom's recipe says, "Pour off excess grease," but I'm guessing ground beef is leaner now or something, since I really didn't have to do that at all. I added a little can of Campbell's condensed tomato soup, a guesswork amount of Quaker Oats, and some more sliced sweet onion, and set myself to stirring and spicing.

My mom's recipe says, "When it's thick enough, it's done." She also recommends ketchup, which I didn't have and didn't use; instead, I flavored with (in about this order) black pepper, dried basil, cayenne, cinnamon, and cumin. I halved, toasted, and buttered a mealhada roll. My mom says to serve this with a tomato slice on the roll. I couldn't bring myself to do it--no tomato I got from a D.C. Safeway is going to compete with a farmstand tomato from Iowa, you know?--although if I'd had some fresh sorrel leaves I might've put them on the roll with a few tomato or onion slices to keep the sloppy meatness from wilting the leaves. (I also do think some chopped hot peppers would be good here.) Anyway, instead, I just served up the meat on the buns.

And it was delicious. I'm sure the spices helped--all of the Made-Rites recipes I've found have used more flavoring components than my mom's recipe, and although obviously nothing is better than my mom's food (for reasons delineated in this important treatise) I do think the cinnamon etc. helped a lot. But the oatmeal was also a crucial ingredient: I was right to think that it affected not only the texture but also the flavor. I really liked this.

My basic thought here is that this recipe accommodates a lot of different tastes: It's a base, not a completed thought. If you know which flavors you like, you should be able to add those flavors to Made-Rites in a satisfying way. If you're not a cayenne-and-cinnamon freak like me, you can still make this recipe delicious by substituting the flavors you love into the very rich, satisfying beef/tomato/oatmeal/bread basic idea.

I would also like to note that butter on the roll is not optional.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ANY OLD, ANY OLD IRON: Iron Man. So this isn't really a review. It's a growl. I wanted something that maybe no Iron Man movie in the foreseeable future can provide.

This is the thing: Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, is a defense contractor who becomes a superhero. That's an inescapable part of his whole deal. If you make a movie about him, you make a movie about weapons contracting.

So this movie has lots of jaw-jaw about how hurting people is bad, but also fighting Hitler is good, and it's really just a lot of bafflegab with a level of political philosophy well below the average seventh-grade civics classroom. Iron Man talks out of both sides of its mouth and we're not even supposed to notice!

But, you know, I adored the filmishness of The Mask of Fu Manchu, a.k.a. "What If Special Effects Hated the Chinese?"

So while I really do think the Iron Man movie is pretty much decapitated by its need to simultaneously respond to and ignore contemporary American realities... I do also think that Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic, really well beyond anything I'd expect; the dialogue is great unless it involves either political philosophy or people dressed in metal suits; Gwyneth Paltrow breaks her streak of annoying the pants off me, by being really lovely in a major role!; Terence Howard is good; it could've been more stupid, I reckon maybe; and if you bracket every philosophical thought you've ever had, this is a fun movie.

I couldn't do it, dude. I love the dancer's grace with which Downey made even throwaway scenes memorable; but as a whole product, this didn't work for me. I love Tony Stark--and this film made him even more Patsy Stone-ish than usual!--but that wasn't quite enough.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

AND A STAR TO STEER HER BY: I think I used the same blog post headline for last year's Fathers' Day... and it's still true, because it will always be true. I know I've steered this bark into strange waters... but my mom and dad were always the constellations by which I oriented myself, even when they couldn't be my compasses.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

MADE-RITE MADNESS!!! Yes, I will post more about that "I am a conservative because" post. I've gotten some good questions in email, and welcome more comments from anyone who wants to send 'em. (And yes, I find it hilarious that Ross Douthat's understanding of conservatism is so completely different from mine! I like Ross a lot, but... "I'm conservative because I feel fluffy about contemporary America" is just not my bag, man. See Helen's headline for more.)

But that's not for today. For today, you get Made-Rite recipes--so many! so conflicting! so Iowan!--which are giving me a major Made-Rite jones. My mom's delicious recipe is super simple and includes condensed tomato soup and oatmeal. I'm guessing the oatmeal is to stretch the family's meat budget... but it also helped give her Made-Rites a unique taste and texture I never got from other people's boring old sloppy joes. This weekend I will engage in a bit of Made-Rite madness of my own (cinnamon seems like an obvious addition, plus maybe jalapenos or some other pepper), and post the results. OM NOM NOM NOM.

(Oh, and yes I did try the spicy honeyed bacon on parchment paper, and yes it was much prettier and just as tasty! I had to stir it more and cook it longer, but the overall dish was fantastic.)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

THE SUBTEXT IS RAPIDLY BECOMING TEXT: Here I am taking those Implicit Associations tests. This post ends on a rough note....

[and eta: I'm not sure how much all this "tells you," but it struck me as interesting and worth posting about, especially given that I'm--say it with me!--self-obsessed.]

The first one told me I somewhat preferred, in this order, Clinton-Obama-McCain. My answer to the initial "about whom do you feel most fluffy?" question was (I think) McCain (come on, he's a war hero)-Clinton (I felt sorry for her)-Obama (messiah), although in terms of politics... nothing neither way, you know? I guess McCain if you don't think his waterboarding vote is indicative of future results; then Obama because he's Obama; then Clinton ditto. In reality, I can't justify a vote for any of them, and answered "Ron Paul" to all the "how would you vote?" questions out of sheer perversity. ANYWAY, what I'm trying to say is that I think this implicit association test accurately reported my subconscious fluffy feelings as vs. my conscious fluffy feelings, but didn't accurately guess how I might vote, which gets at both the strengths and weaknesses of the method. Your raw self isn't necessarily your real self--the self who acts in the world is conditioned by, but not limited to, your instinctive emotional reactions. But see below.

Anyway, then I took a gay/straight association test, and hilariously became one of the 3% of people who "strongly" prefers gay to straight. LOL OBVS.

In all seriousness--on the one hand, this totally shores up my self-image! On the other: In the previous test, I screwed up a lot at the beginning, because I didn't really understand how the site worked, but eventually I settled down. In this test, I knew how it worked, and still noticed a genuine stuttering in my typing fingers when I was asked to associate heterosexuality with positive words and homosexuality with negative--like, I could kind of tell that the test was going the way it was, even though I'm surprised it was pronounced enough to be dubbed "strong" rather than "slight" or "moderate," which are the other two possibilities.

Also, it's hilarious to me that many of the "negative" words in this test (and not the previous one, which tended toward words like "friend" and "enemy") are words with which I have an ambiguous association at worst--"humiliation," "painful," and "tragic" are not words I use exclusively in negative contexts! I don't know how much that would have affected the results.

In a shocking twist--seriously, I expected this to come out differently and a lot more humiliatingly (there's that word again)--I apparently show no preference between black and white, like 17% of test-takers. ...But see below.

Again seriously, I suggest this is anecdotal evidence in favor of Afrocentric elementary education for white children. The negative words in this test seemed to overlap a bit with the gay one, but with more emphasis on disgust and maybe self-conscious cruelty rather than self-righteous pity, i.e. "horrible" and "agony" rather than "humiliation" and "tragedy."

And for the fourth test, I chose Jews vs. the World... and ended up "strongly" preferring Jews, like 14% of test-takers. That's another one I wasn't expecting at the beginning of the test... but by the end, I realized I was operating almost on autopilot in associating pleasant words ("celebration," lol this is a test about Purim isn't it?) with Judaism and negative words ("brutal," which... yeah, I can see where you're getting that) with "other religions." This turned out to feel very similar to taking the gay-straight test, in that I could kind of tell while it was happening that I was moving quickly to associate one side with good stuff and the other with bad. I don't know what that means. I do remember a wry grin when I'd "mistakenly" (the site notifies you when you screw up in this way) assigned the New Testament to the Jewish side.... By the way, this is a test where "no preference" gets the highest percentage (24%), and "so nice and Jewy!" seems more predominant than "Springtime for Hitler." I expect that's in large part an artifact of who takes these tests.

In a genuinely bizarre result, my subconscious "slightly" prefers Arab Muslims to others, apparently. I mean--I've known enough Ay-rabs to, I hope, not be a little bitch, but on the other hand, I just don't think this result accurately reflects my real degree of free-floating negativity toward Arab Muslim culture. (And yeah, I know that both prejudice and reason play a role in that, and whether you think it's mostly the former or mostly the latter I'm kind of ok with either, as long as you think we can talk.) As far as the experience of taking the test goes, I was not nearly on autopilot the way I was with the gay/straight and Jew/Gentile ones--I had to focus on this one. And I wonder if this result is actually an artifact of my having taken several of these tests already now. Do you get used to producing neutral responses? I suspect you do, which is why I've preserved the order in which I took the tests, so you can take the later ones with even more grains of salt than you would otherwise. I'm guessing the makers have discussed this somewhere on the site, but... I am as lazy as a white man. ;)

Or, whoa! Is this actually about black people?? The "Arab" associations are all just names, like the white ones--and lots of the "Arab" names are names I've really only personally encountered with your basic average black guys. (Why no women? Why Yousef, but not Fatima? Am I misremembering that?) I mean, I've personally known zero Arabs named Yousef, but at least one black kid; "Karim" is the hero of Hanif Kureishi's Buddha of Suburbia, but also Kareem Abdul-Jabbar... you know? I have no idea what role this plays in my results.

I had "little or no" association between Native Americans and American-ness vs. foreignness... but on a more subjective level, I could feel myself struggling with this one, taking longer with each click, not going on autopilot. I think there's a level of confusion here which the test doesn't quite capture, and which, again, is very much not in keeping with my actual beliefs, but which did make itself felt subjectively while I was taking the test. (So it's useful even when the results aren't super illuminating.)

On the other hand, of course, one could argue that pictures of landmarks I've never seen are a fairly awful way of indicating us vs. them; and there was one white lady I kept coding as Indian, which, you know, I bet she was a Cherokee princess in a former life, like every other white lady. So although I'm willing to accept that I'm prejudiced here (how could I not be?), I also don't think this test is set up quite as well as the previous ones. If you show me a big rock, I'm not sure how I should know that it's Wyoming rather than Nepal unless I read the caption--and by the time I read the caption, I've already gotten past the initial gut response which is supposed to be the thing these tests capture.

...Oh. Well, okay, here's one that hurts. "Your data suggest a strong association of Black Americans with Weapons compared to White Americans." That makes me more trigger-happy than the most common response, by the way... which is, uncomfortingly, only a "moderate" association between black folk and gunplay.

And again--I could feel this one as it was happening. Incredibly creepy... in large part because, out of all the "implicit associations" tests I took, this is by far the one most likely to produce hair-trigger responses in real life. I understand why people counsel women to "trust your gut"--it's all too easy to convince yourself that the guy walking just too close behind you late at night isn't really trying to scare you. But I see my "results" screen here and I think of all the black guys who were shot dead while reaching for their i.d. The other implicit-assocs tests can be to some extent corraled and corrected for by the conscious mind. Physical fear, on the other hand... I don't know what to do with this. Except to post it, and say, look at this.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

RIP HARRIET MCBRYDE JOHNSON. A truly eloquent disability-rights activist--here she is in full force.

Via Megan McArdle.
BLOG/RELIEF: RIGHT TURN ON RED. JWB donated to disaster relief, and asked for five ways of completing the sentence, "I am a conservative because…". [lightly edited for clarity]

First, some caveats: 1) Yes, I could also do five ways of completing the sentence, "I am a liberal because…" and maybe at least three ways for, "I am on the Left because…". (Maybe.) Those would probably be more boring than the conservatism answers, for a number of reasons: I'm liberal in the way that Americans are inescapably liberal, and that's not exciting; I was raised on the Left, so my conservatism requires more introspection and gnawing-on than the other options; liberalism is a more clearly-delineated tradition, by which I mean that it makes more sense to call Aristophanes a conservative than to call Socrates a liberal (although you could make a case against the former and in favor of the latter, if you for some reason wanted to), and Leftism is even more clearly-delineated; and for reasons having much more to do with my personality than with the merits of any political philosophy, I'm more interested in working out the ways in which I'm conservative than the ways in which I'm liberal or leftist.

2) The ideas below are not going to get you to a welfare policy, or many other specific policy positions. They're part of the general philosophy I consult when I need to work out what I think of an issue, but I do understand that you can get to different places from these premises. So, like, don't yell at me because you agree with the premise but think it leads to different conclusions--I'm laying out the platform from which we can begin a discussion of political philosophy, not the end-state.

3) These are ideas I'm chewing on at the moment. (And perhaps for that reason, this list is neither as interesting nor as coherent as I'd like!) It is entirely possible that what I hope is "the next conservatism" is actually "the conservatism I made up in my mind"… or maybe even "the next liberalism," although I doubt that sincerely, which is one major reason I call myself a conservative even while disagreeing radically with most Americans who use the term.

Uh, okay, enough disclaimers. Let's get out the candles, the whiskey, and the Crab Rangoon, and start talking!

…because power corrupts. First of all, get it out of your system: Insert snark about current administration here. I'll likely agree. But this is one basis of my remaining feathers of libertarianism. I see people on the Left correctly identifying various loci of power in the private sector, like corporations, and attempting to use the government to limit that power. First off, I hope we can all keep in mind that corporations give us butter and disco, and for this we should be grateful. But also, isn’t this strategy a bit like the old woman who swallowed the fly? It’s not great to have a fly inside you, but that doesn't mean swallowing a spider is the right response…. See my second post about Wendell Berry for more.

Look, I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. I see the grinding edge of capitalism (as well as, of course, the hard consequences of replacing daddy with the dole). That doesn't mean shifting yet more power to the people who brought you the DEA is the best response.

…because man is made in the image of God. This is something whose immediate application to politics I'm still struggling with. It obviously comes out in torture. I want to think hard about how it relates to the next item:

…because we are dependent rational creatures. Liberalism, and other processes of applying the acid of Reason to social forms, tends to work very well for competent, rational people with the wherewithal to display their competence and reasoning power. It has a much harder time understanding unchosen responsibility, unchosen debility, and other forms of dependence. Abortion and euthanasia are logical consequences of liberalism.

This is the primary, and best, critique of liberalism by the Left--and one of the Left's great failures in the contemporary era is that it has failed to apply its defense of the defenseless to the old, the sick, and especially the unborn. Understanding why the Left failed here, what it got importantly right and why it came to ignore its own best impulses, seems like a basic project for any "next conservatism" I'd approve.

(I wonder if this Orwell essay isn't a good place to start? Understanding dependence requires understanding our universal dependence on God....)

…because religion is the heart of culture. And by "religion," I mean an understanding of the nature of love.

And also, a related but separate thought: Culture includes, but surpasses, government, and can't be untangled from government. That was part of what knocked me out of my "conservative libertarian" phase--while obviously you need to give specific attention to specific issues, in a way that this post just isn't going to attempt, I basically no longer believe that you can sustain a good-enough society with a rights-shaped governing philosophy. (This is related to my suggestion here that it becomes hardest to separate Christianity from politics when citizens disagree on the nature of justice.)

…because traditions give meaning and beauty to necessary suffering. That's one of the very few interesting things I said in that AFF marriage roundtable. The pithier way to say it--which is probably closer to what I mean, anyway--is, "because I prefer the suffering of constraint to the suffering of alienation"… but I wanted to give you guys something original-ish, not just the Cigarette Smoking Blog's commonplace book! (And I can't find the link where that phrase is roughly from, so if she wants to send it, I'd be grateful.)

(I speculated half-jokingly at one point to the Rattus that left-wing novels were about how suffering is bad, and right-wing novels were about how suffering is good…. Dunno if that's true, and would love to hear examples, counterexamples, and theories….)

Tradition, like constraint, is based in relationship. So it should come as no surprise that ideologies of choice and reflexive suspicion of tradition dissolve the social forms that sustain relationships, and leave freedom, relief from the previous form of suffering, banality, and alienation in their place. This is pretty much the entire point of my senior essay, a.k.a. Nietzsche vs. Eros: This Time It's Personal.

It's also one of the really insightful points in The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, which is my current reading--I'm on chapter three. The guy's critique of modern alienation is about four hundred times better than his proposed fluffy, "Believe in whatever!" solution, but I still really appreciate that he understands that meaninglessness is worse than pain.
MEMORIES OF THOSE SWEET YESTERDAYS, SPENT WITH SQUID: Oh hey! My short story, "Retroactive Continuity," is online!
BLOG/RELIEF: "And if you don't know what a friend of Dorothy is, ask a policeman--or one in five Tory MPs." Noli Irritare Leones gave to disaster relief, and asked for five gay-lit books you haven't read, but you should.

My criteria here were kind of sketchy, so I ended up making a list of thirteen-ish books in all. The first five are books I've never discussed in depth on the blog. The next batch are ones I've written about before, some of which are only marginally gay-lit, and I'm just linking you to old reviews. Then there's a bonus!

These first five are in rough order of when I read them, most recent last.

Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues. I wrote about this a bit here. It's an autobiographical novel and it's really hard to read, which is why you should read it. I read this almost 15 years ago and I still think about scenes from it when I try to interweave public policy and empathy.

Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: This is a basic, fairly early study of "romantic friendship" between women. It's big and fat and full of terrific stories of accomplished women and the women they loved. It chronicles the growing anxiety over women's love (see below for more)--women had a longer grace period than men in this respect, but Faderman points out how quickly people focused on women's colleges, etc, as possible intro courses for lesbianism.

Faderman has been criticized (though not so much with this book as with e.g. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers) for imposing a narrative which doesn't really match or adequately empathize with and understand the experiences she's describing. I don't know to what extent that criticism is warranted. I found Surpassing the Love of Men really helpful, at the time I read it, for the way it showed eros and philia and agape as different but often coincidental and frequently shifting. It gave me a framework for understanding my own experiences of love and friendship; it pushed me to acknowledge that different cultural moments had understood sexuality in different ways, and therefore gave me a certain amount of skepticism about my own culture's way of understanding the tangle of experiences we've decided to call "being gay"; and it gave me a degree of freedom, a kind of permission to say that sometimes what I felt was eros and sometimes it was philia and sometimes I wasn't sure, or it changed from day to day, or it was complicated.

(I wonder--and this isn't my bailiwick, but here goes--whether Faderman's perspective might be helpful to a lot of teens, guy and girl, who are made by their peers and their culture to worry too much about what their love of same-sex friends might mean. I don't know if she'd give them breathing room, or spook them utterly. But I guess I'd recommend her to parents, at least, on the grounds that your kid might be going through something complicated, and it's okay to spend some time with the complications, whatever the end result is. Like, don't assume that your kids' same-sex attractions are "just" [just??] intense friendship, but also don't assume that they're sexual--just be ready to accept that either one might be the case, and you'll have to work with that....)

Stephen Fry, The Liar. I don't really know what to say about this except that it's the funniest book I've ever read, full stop. It's on this list because Ratty is the only straight person I've ever known who has found this book as heartbreakingly hilarious--or vice versa--as I do. I honestly can't explain it. Read the first few paragraphs of the novel (chapter 1, not the prologue--the bit in the changing room, with Anthony, the peg) and if you want more, I can guarantee you are in for an exceptional treat.

Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable: Essays on Sex, Friendship, and Survival. This is by far the best thing Sullivan's written; it galls me that it's also one of his relatively lesser-known books. I don't fully remember his stuff about confronting and refuting Christian and/or psychoanalytic rejections of homosexual acts--I vaguely remember that it was strident and unsatisfying. I don't care. The essay on friendship in the face of AIDS is alone worth the price of admission. The depictions of the epidemic, and of gay self-image before and during and after, are amazing.

This book poses philosophical problems that will still be with us "when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits"--and yet those problems, of understanding and negotiating friendship and loss, are as immediate as the Weakerthans' last album. Parts of this book can be read with Augustine. 'Nuff said, you know?

Frederick Roden, Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture. Read on recommendation from Helen Rittelmeyer; and yeah, she's right. This book traces the development of experiences and artistic expressions of same-sex love from relative innocence to painful anxiety. It illuminates a world where to be Catholic was to be sexually suspect--I can only imagine the glee with which Roden discovered the term "Romophobia" used in his subjects' letters!--and where the sensuality and attention to la difference of Catholicism made my Church a natural home for the queer of both sexes.

OK, Roden has some tics of his time and place. He thinks he's paying unusual attention to the reality of religious experience--he thinks that other academics read religious ecstasy as a less-interesting version of sexual ecstasy, but he knows better--but, you know, "better" is relative. Compared to many contemporary academics, he's extraordinarily Cath-symp! But he still falls into the trap where you want to smack him and say, "Something is not always a phallus just because it's longer than it is wide!" The wounds of Christ... sometimes more interesting when they're wounds of Christ, not vaginal symbolism.

So yeah, you have to put up with some of that. But in return you get quotations of terrific poetry and sermons (I discovered Eliza Kearny through this book, and also realized that G.M. Hopkins's sermons are more to my taste than most of his poetry), and an entire way of life in which to be queer and Catholic was in some strange, important, fleeting ways intuitive.

I think that's still true; so I loved this book to little sparkly bits.

(Apparently it's "available on GoogleBooks," whatever that means. I'm writing this with an archaeopteryx quill.)

Now here are the books I've written about before, in order from most to least gay-lit, as a genre.

Kiriko Nananan, Blue. If you love the sub-genre of "aching adolescence" as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to check out this absolutely beautiful, subtle manga.

Derek Jarman, various. Demi-recommended.

Edmund White, Nocturnes for the King of Naples. Incredibly highly recommended.

Christopher Bram, Exiles in America. Demi-recommended.

Rebecca Brown, The Terrible Girls. Highly recommended.

The opera of "Death in Venice." Heh-heh-heh.

Pat Barker's WWI books. Low on the list because she doesn't quite fit the genre, even though there's gaiety for those who'd want it. Demi-recommended.

And, last but also last, the heterotextuality of Anna Karenina!
A LOT OF QUESTIONS NOBODY EVER ASKED: (a.k.a. the Queer No One Reads!)

So I'm completely addicted to two features of the Washington Blade: Bitch Session (guilty pleasure #214c, and no you don't get a link), and Queery. This latter is a newish thing where they ask the same relatively well-chosen questions to different people every week. And I find myself desperately fascinated. So... I can't stand this any longer... I will answer, in the hopes of exorcising the obsession. (Or prolonging it. Tomayto, tomahto.) (Don't you feel for my confessors, right now?)

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I don't have a great answer to the first question. The intense, abiding sense of difference came very early. Learning the words for "gay" and "lesbian" was such a relief. I felt like I'd named, and captured, whatever it was I'd felt from such an early age. That turned out not to be true, really... but it was a little bit true, at least adjacent to the truth. Coming out to myself did actually help, a lot, even if it turned out not to be the end of the story.

For the second... I was sorry to disappoint my parents (who reacted pretty amazingly, for which I'm deeply grateful). In a lot of ways it's been harder to "come out" as Catholic than as gay, which is nobody's fault, just kind of a fact of life.

Who's your gay hero?
Oscar Wilde. LOL OBVS.

What is Washington's best nightspot, past or present?
The Lincoln Memorial, with a spiked ice cream soda and a friend.

If gay marriage were legal, would you tie the knot?
No need to answer this one, I think.

What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
Hard to choose, these days, between abortion and torture. I'm agin' 'em.

What historical outcome would you change?
This is one of the sillier questions really. Oh, whatevs, the second election of Marion Barry. Or the closing of the Doodle. Whichever.

What has been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Watching Morrissey end a concert by making the sign of the Cross.

On what reality TV show would you fare best?
Is there one for incompetent people?

What item of clothing has been in your closet since high school?
Oh, man. I still have a barely-there black tourist t-shirt from Bourbon Street, acquired at Village Thrift in Laurel, MD. That's probably the only thing.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Sin: A User's Guide

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I've thought about this a bit--although more in terms of whether I should pray for change of orientation, and whether my complete emotional revolt against that concept is actually justified--and I still don't understand it. So much of my personality would be affected. I would still have the exceptionally useful past experience of same-sex attraction, so that's good; but I just don't know who I would be.

Would I have a harder time writing? Would I have a harder time being faithful to Christ? Both of those are really obvious possibilities given the way my dykery has shaped my life.

So I settle for praying for "what God wants for me," and asking for Oscar Wilde's intercession (see above!), and generally trying not to claw at myself.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe that objects in the world are words spoken by God.

What would you order for your last meal?
Cheeseburger with butter. French fries. Bourbon on the rocks, and keep it coming!

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Another fairly silly question. I would walk across hot coals for anything really worthwhile which could somehow be attained by my traversing hot coals. The number of possible goals to be attained in this way seems limited.

What gay stereotype annoys you most?
Well, given that it annoyed me earlier tonight, I suppose I have to say the idea that all gay Catholics' conflict with God is the same conflict.

But actually, it's the idea that it really, super matters why you're gay. I don't believe that and neither should you. If you have problems which play some role in your sexuality, address those problems--not because they "make you gay," but because they're problems! If you don't, then there is no need to obsess about your memories. Everyone has awful things happen to them. Everyone makes bad choices. Address those things because they're awful and bad, but don't assume that your sexual orientation is a result of those things.

What is the best gay film ever made?
The Bride of Frankenstein.

Oh, fine: Withnail and I.

Oh, come on, you want a genre movie? Farewell, My Concubine. I bet you'd be satisfied now, if you weren't crying your eyes out.

What is the most overrated social custom?
Shaking hands at the Kiss of Peace. Like, either kiss, or leave me alone! LOL BOURGEOIS CHRISTIANITY.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?
The Lambda Literary Award. You think I'm joking.

What’s your advice for gay teens?
Mistrust yourself. Have eros for truth. Love your friends unstintingly. Get out of your own way.

Why Washington?
On the one hand, home is anywhere you hang your head. On the other--this is my beloved city, my district of chaos, my heartbreak city, my hell's half-acre of home. I love this town.
Part of it felt good, like a normal conversation you'd have with someone you met at a party or with a new neighbor. But also it was like there were four different people there. The two people having the normal conversation and the person touching the body with the salve and the person with the body with the sores.
--Rebecca Brown, The Gifts of the Body