Wednesday, December 30, 2009

THE SEASONS COME, THE SEASONS GO: 2009 best-of. I'm posting it now because I've accepted that I probably won't finish Under Western Eyes in 2009. Previous years' compilations can be found on the sidebar....

I did a lot of re-reading this year, and read a lot of fiction I don't need to revisit. I also separated out plays for the first time. Those facts combine to make the book lists a bit thinner than usual. So I've starred the books and plays-I-read which I would recommend without qualification to anyone who reads this blog. The unstarred things are often amazing, but not as universally-recommended.

Best books read for the first time (nonfiction): * Alan Bray, The Friend. Hands-down winner. One of the most beautiful and mind-expanding books I've ever read.
Speaking of the Eucharist, I love how thoroughly Bray has placed this sacrament at the heart of his book. Anyone interested in Eucharist as love-feast and as quintessential Christian prayer cannot afford to miss this book, for real.

* Caroline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion.
* Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.
* Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, Perfumes: The Guide.
Andrew Cherlin, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today.

I... don't want to be a bitch, but if this is service journalism then I should probably note that the Cherlin wouldn't've made it onto a best-of list in any previous year. I did a lot of re-reading and a lot of reading of subpar fiction this year. The Cherlin has a lot to recommend it, as I hope my review makes plain, but it's just not in the same league as the other four. And The Friend is just interstellar distances beyond the others.

Best books read (fiction/whatnot): Huh, this was not a fiction year for me. I did a lot of re-reading, as well.
Christopher Logue, All Day Permanent Red: The First Battle Scenes of Homer's Iliad Rewritten.
Djuna Barnes, Nightwood.
Paul Celan, Last Poems.
James Agee, A Death in the Family.
Randall Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution.

Best movies watched for the first time: "The Trial."
"Barton Fink."
"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring."
"Ran." (Yes, by this ranking you can tell how difficult it is for me to separate personal-favorites from best-of.)

almost made it!: "(Untitled)," "The Squid and the Whale," "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror," "The Descent."

plus honorable mentions for various shorts in the two discs of "Avant-Garde: Experimental Film of the 1920s and 1930s." One; two.

Best blog posts (six, not five, as is traditional):
"Song for a Future Generation": I wrote a lot about friendship and kinship and same-sex love this year. This post might be the best place to start. (more)
"The Most Important Word in the Declaration of Independence Is 'Created'": Or, why there's no point in requiring "secular reasons" for political stances. With bonus aesthetic theory and America-as-argument.
"Falling in Love (Is So Hard on the Knees)": A response to the best criticism I received for my Commonweal piece about Gay Catholic Whatnot.
What I actually meant can perhaps be discerned by noting that I don't only begin the Commonweal piece with my coming-out story. I begin it with two parallel love stories: my crush on a high-school girl, and my Catholic conversion. The implicit narrative of the essay is the story of how love of Christ and His Bride the Church became more central to my life than lesbian love (real love, not just crushes!), and how, therefore, I began to interpret the latter kind of love in light of the former.

Both of these loves are things I really experienced my own self. So my argument probably should not have been cast in terms of experience vs. tradition, but in terms of which experiences lead us to reinterpret prior experiences and transform our response to subsequent experiences.

"Wear Your Insides Out": Beauty is a killer mutant cat that hides inside another cat.
"Politics and the English Language," a two-part thing about gay marriage and the rhetoric of its opponents. The second post is by far the more important one, I think, but the first post provides context and concessions.
It is now my duty to completely drain you: Against sincerism.

Best things I wrote (nonfiction, non-blog): "Romoeroticism." Possibly the most interesting thing I've ever written for money?
This year, just like last year, Gay Pride weekend coincided with the feast of Corpus Christi.

"Defining the Relationship." Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?
We need to keep in mind that it's okay to challenge God -- Abraham did it. It's okay to howl at God in desperation -- Job did it. It's even okay to laugh at God -- Sarah did it. All of them still understood themselves to be bound to God, to hold Him as their Lord, even as they expressed themselves in ways that wouldn't make the parish council happy.

"Church Ladies," First Things review of Catholic and Feminist.
"Shelf Life," my American Conservative column on MLK library. I also liked my piece on Malcolm X Park. Both are subscribers-only.
"Sublimity Now!"
But it would be a mistake to map the Burkean sublime too quickly onto a Christian sublime. In the Christian worldview, sublimity is like cheap lipstick -- or the ashes of Ash Wednesday: It gets all over everything.


Best plays (read or watched): Studio Theatre, Rock'n'Roll. (And a * for the script, which I also read for the first time.)
* Edward Albee, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?: Notes Toward a Definition of Tragedy. I'd seen this before but never read it. It's a harsh, brilliant, scathingly funny play.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream," adapted and performed by the Synetic Theater.
* Elie Wiesel, The Trial of God.
"Dracula," adapted and performed by the Synetic Theater.

My published short fiction: "Better." What if the aliens are just better than us?
"A Story Like Mine": For every scar there's at least one story.

God bless, and see you in the new decade. Remember that New Year's Day is also the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation. Drag yourself to church!
And had I known, Blog Watch, she said,
What this night I did see,
I'd ha' ta'en out your twa een
And put in twa of tree...


Camassia writes the only interesting post I've read on the theology of Twilight!

Jesse Walker lists the ten best movies of 1989.

And Jesus, a wealthy young man: "'That's so pathetic, to say that Jesus was struggling alone in the dust and dirt,' Anderson says. 'That just makes no sense whatsoever. He was constantly in a state of wealth.'" Thanks--I think--to the Rattus.
ON THE JUKEBOX AT THE WHOLE FOODS: Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop," followed by Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus"....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

THE WRONG END OF THE TELESCOPE: I've added what I hope is a clarifying paragraph to my bitchy post about reviews of Andrew Sullivan's books. I think the para. is really about whose eye we're supposed to take as our lens.
Oh, Allison Gross, that lives in yon tower
The ugliest witch in the north country
Has trysted me one day up in her bower
And many fair speech she made to me

She stroked my head and she combed my hair
And she set me down softly on her knee
Says, "Gin ye will be my leman so true
Sae many braw things as I would ye gi'"

--"Allison Gross"; Steeleye Span here, and something in another language here. I always sang it as "leman," not "lover," and to the same tune as Boiled in Lead's "As I Was Roving Out."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

EVERY DAY IS LIKE SUNDAY: So a chain of events led me to read a lot of reviews of Andrew Sullivan's various books. Here are some comments on the reviews. For reference, I think Virtually Normal is his weakest and Love Undetectable is brilliant; LU's third section, about friendship, I think is genuinely life-changing and beautiful, whereas its middle section, about psych theories of homosexuality, is really weak. Apparently this places me at odds with pretty much everyone who got paid to review these books.

So... Margaret O'Brien Steinfels reviews Virtually Normal in Commonweal. On the one hand, it's adorable to see a time when Commonweal could challenge gay-lib without three thousand disclaimers. On the other hand, "homosexual or lesbian" is slightly hilarious.

On the more serious tentacle, I really like how Steinfels draws out the contradiction here: It's really hard to argue for gay marriage if you have the good taste to find homosexuality interesting. One of the more depressing features of the pro-gay-marriage arguments is their tendency to act as if any differences between men and women, or between straight and gay relationships, are banal and beneath notice. This seems like an excellent way to make yourself stupider.

And on a fourth tentacle, I'm fascinated by how little work Steinfels had to do to feel as though she'd successfully refuted Sullivan's arguments. I think her argument is anorexic; and yet at the time, of course, this sort of dismissal was thought "progressive." Sullivan can measure his success by the degree to which Steinfels's arguments on marriage now seem wafer-thin.

[EDITED--that was unclear to the point of appearing self-contradictory. What I mean is that Steinfels's earlier "arguments against" gay marriage are naively dismissive, and really privileged--she isn't even trying to look at the world through Sullivan's eyes, and she isn't even considering that that's something she should do. She is normative and thus gets to judge him, and that's obvious to her. But the later paragraph in which she uses his own words against him, and asks why what he wants should be called marriage at all, strikes me as persuasive and even a possible way to open up new options for gay couples. Without the insistence on banal sameness, maybe we can come up with new models for love--some of which will be Catholic, some of which will be really-not-Catholic, but all of which will be more sublime and honest than the usual love-is-love-is-love oatmeal.]

And, especially: Steinfels's review makes me wonder what aspect of Sullivan's famous "We Are All Sodomites Now" essay isn't "liberationist." He more or less made his name as an anti-liberationist gay man; yet his essay shows all the most striking characteristics of what he described as liberationism, e.g.: a focus on acts vs. identities; a dissolution of boundaries between heteros and homos; the deployment of homosexuality to undermine heterosexual self-understandings; the absolute moral equivalence of intercourse and sodomy.

I mean, Sullivan's essay is wrong on its face, and it only takes one night at a crisis pregnancy center to figure that out; but I'm not super interested in that right now, more interested in whether the "gay conservative" position always collapses into liberationism if you push.

(To which the obvious response is, "Yeah, Sullivan's probably a closet liberationist. But Jonathan Rauch is actually a gay conservative, so you should take up your fight with him." That's fair, but no fun; Sullivan is the Kate Bornstein to Rauch's Julia Serano. The fact that I learn more from Rauch and Serano is probably related to the fact that Sullivan and Bornstein are much more open to the aesthetic and religious dimension of life.)

Norah Vincent reviews Love Undetectable for the National Review. First, I like Vincent, and I'm glad to see this extremist getting her praise from NR! But more substantively, this is not a good review, largely because it isn't even attempting empathy. I mean... AIDS memoirs are not inherently worthless, so I don't get why Vincent thinks she can dismiss Sullivan's book by making the obvious point that it's basically an AIDS memoir.

I also think she's deploying faceless AIDS-stricken Africans against Sullivan--she's weaponizing racism in a way I find really distasteful. Her review has nothing to do with AIDS in Africa except insofar as it's a stick with which to beat Sullivan. I can't respect that.

Gilbert Meilander reviews Love Undetectable for Commonweal. Once again, someone thinks the section about dumb psych theories is the best part! I don't even know what to make of that.

On the other hand, Meilander's critiques of Sullivan's essay on friendship are very well taken.
Moreover, the classical notion of the friend as "another self" may, in fact, cut against Sullivan's claim that one must first love one-self in order to be capable of friendship. We need the friend as "another self" so that we may come to know who we really are. Hence, an attempt first to know or love oneself, to suppose that I must first be a person capable of friendship, may be self-defeating. Something must first be risked in friendship if we are ever really to become "selves" capable of sustaining deep personal bonds.

That's just lovely, and hardcore and challenging. I think Sullivan's essay is an amazing beginning for an investigation of friendship. Meilander's review--like all the works Sullivan actually cites, and recommends--takes it further.
"BLACK AND WHITE": I have a review in the current Weekly Standard, of the Phillips Collection's exceptional show, "Man Ray, African Art, And the Modernist Lens," through 01/10/10. The show is really terrific; and I think actually this review is pretty good, too. Subscribers-only for now.
"I tell you what," said Miss Haldin, after a moment of reflection. "I believe that you hate revolution; you fancy it's not quite honest. You belong to a people which has made a bargain with fate and wouldn't like to be rude to it. But we have made no bargain. It was never offered to us--so much liberty for so much hard cash. You shrink from the idea of revolutionary action for those you think well of as if it were something--how shall I say it--not quite decent."

I bowed my head.

"You are right," I said. "I think quite highly of you."

"Don't suppose I do not know it," she began hurriedly. "Your friendship has been very valuable."

"I have done little else but look on."

She was a little flushed under the eyes.

"There is a way of looking on which is valuable. I have felt less lonely because of it. It's difficult to explain."

"Really? Well, I too have felt less lonely. That's easy to explain, though. But it won't go on much longer. The last thing I want to tell you is this: in a real revolution--not a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions--in a real revolution the best characters do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement--but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of disenchantment--often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured--that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes. But enough of that. My meaning is that I don't want you to be a victim."

"If I could believe all you have said I still wouldn't think of myself," protested Miss Haldin.

--Under Western Eyes

Friday, December 18, 2009

CROSS BONE STYLE: Review of Akira Hiramoto, Me and the Devil Blues (poss. volume 1): In this manga Robert Johnson sells his soul to the Devil at the crossroads. The first half of this book explores the terrible consequences for himself and those around him. The second half hooks him up somehow with Clyde of Bonnie-and, and takes Clyde's POV for the most part as we simmer in miserable anticipation of what will happen to Johnson.

The first thing to say is that this book has what Stephen King calls the "gotta": I gotta keep reading. The art is beautiful and makes everyone look real; both Johnson and Clyde remind me of the misheard lyric, "Everybody's crazy 'bout a shot-dead man." I loved the character designs for all of the black characters in the almost-all-black opening half. The more openly horrific scenes are generally done as splash pages, with a furry charcoal style I'm not entirely sure I like but which does definitely convey a sense of broken boundaries, blurred identities, and unknown horrors out in the dark.

The pacing is amazing. There's a long sequence in the second half, which if you described it to me I would consider a boring distraction, in which Johnson is captured for lynching and so the POV switches almost entirely to Clyde as he experiences a tiny Southern town which is like... let's say if Preacher were actually good. (Seriously, I've never understood the appeal of Preacher as much as I did when reading this section. Even the Cormac McCarthy white-whale antagonist is scary! I didn't think I could still find a horror comic where Southern gothic actually worked.)

So anyway, watch the pacing throughout this long, drawn-out horrorshow. Watch how Hiramoto alternates between closeups of a sweating Clyde and background shots of the bar. Watch how a simple "Ah," on page 462, becomes a sign that the blind white man wants to get inside Clyde's head and destroy his will. Watch the unbearable tension as page 465 builds toward page 469. Every "camera angle" and every heart-stopping panel border is meant to build the menace... and it works. This is genuinely one of the most frightening comics I've ever read, even though the "small town evil" trope usually doesn't work for me. This one made it work.

I won't tell you what happens next. I will say that this is the first volume of a series, and I need that series! I will say that there's a supernatural-horror development which I initially thought was a bit silly, but by the end of the second half I thought was frightening and poignant. This is the real thing. This is the deepest blues.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

THANK YOU. Oh my gosh, you guys, you are amazing. It looks like I'll be able to cover all the families on my Christmas-basket list solely because of the generosity of my readers. I will be praying for all of you and I am just so amazed and grateful to see how much you care for these terrific moms and kids you haven't even met!!! Thank you so much... and if you were thinking about emailing me about this, but haven't yet, my families are taken care of now... but consider whether you can buy toys or clothes or diapers for your local pregnancy center or other charity!

What our center usually needs: WIPES. Diapers in sizes 4, 5, 6. We cannot receive stuffed animals or other toys for liability issues except in certain circumstances I don't fully understand, so call first about these things (and work for repeal of CPSIA...). Car seats, strollers. Any clothes which are in good condition--if you wouldn't give it to your sister, why are you giving it to us? The kids here need the respect of unstained, "nice" clothes as much as--honestly, probably more than--they need simple coverings. If you have money and feel awkward about calling and asking what your local center needs, I think wipes and larger diapers will never, ever be turned down. Also, we often offer hand-knit sweaters and blankets for newborns, and I can tell you that the moms reliably think this is the sweetest thing ever, so if you knit consider knitting for a pregnancy center!

We can also always use listings for services: Premarital counseling (esp the kind which is directed to couples considering marriage rather than definitely set on marriage), mental health care, legal services, employment services, rental/utilities assistance, and day care assistance are probably the most common needs my clients have expressed, not exactly in that order. Oh and HOUSING. So if you have recommendations in any of those areas, or even if you just want to make an updated list of resources you found via The Google, I'm betting your local pregnancy center would love you.

No matter what your talents or circumstances there is probably something you can do... and the need is really obviously greater than it was when I started counseling.

Anyway, I'm just so amazed by you guys. I know so many of you are doing other kinds of corporal works of mercy, so I wasn't really expecting a big outpouring... and yet it looks like these families will be having a wonderful Christmas thanks to you. I wish all of you could see these beautiful children grinning and exclaiming when they see their presents.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WILL THE FETUS BE ABORTED? BY AND BY LORD, BY AND BY: I just got the second installment of Alphonse: "Murder Sleep."

Alphonse is a horror comic about a fetus who survives abortion; he knows, and thinks, and hates. My review of the first issue is here.

The cover of this second installment tells the story. A broken doll sits in horrifying suspense in front of the inevitable revenge: a carving-knife. All my Pet Sematary terror-feelers started tinglin'.

Alphonse continues to complicate the categories of abortion-horror I talked about here. It's baby-horror and grief-horror at once--almost as if both sides had a point!

The art is lumpensympathetic. The grays are used to suggest a world of complicity and fog and nightmare. There are some well-chosen, sharp echo images: The light gleams and breaks against the ice in a glass of scotch the way it breaks against the display window of a cell phone. The overall aesthetic is a wash of gray with sharp black character-defining lines coming out of the quicksand.

The actual storyline is hard for me. This is the second installment, thus we're getting more pieces on the chessboard; and I guess I don't care yet about the new pieces. There are suddenly mafiosi (yes, with heavy irony and a pet white cat, but still) and some kind of conspiracy plot. This seems more... comic-booky, and you know what I mean even if you want to be defensive... than the basic wrongful-birth plot. So far I'm okay with the comedy-horror of the conspiracists, but I wish we had more sympathy for them. The first issue of Alphonse was striking in large part because of its relentless focus on suffering and complicity: No one was exempt from its punishing storyline. This issue, again solely because the conspiracy tropes are hit so hard, seems to exempt its audience from some of its horror. Not all the horror, by any means--the pro-life girl and guy are still really messed-up, and their dialogue is well-balanced and gives a real sense of how people suddenly dropped into an impossible, perhaps miraculous but also horrifying, situation might respond. But this issue seemed to have "villains" in a way which the first one didn't.

It's impossible to talk about this comic without talking about abortion. I think the first installment was less-polarized than this one. Nonetheless I think this comic understands the terror of pregnancy and childbearing. So far, I'm not sure this comic will work--especially if it goes too far in the conspiracy direction, which is what soured me on Human Target, since I honestly think conspiracy stories are the opposite of complicity--you don't do conspiracy stories unless you think no one would ever do bad if they knew they were wrong.

But so far, I'd strongly recommend Alphonse to every horror-comics fan who doesn't immediately reject it based on the subject matter. That isn't a criticism. The politics of abortion are intrinsic to the story. There are at least a hundred reasons you wouldn't want to read a comic in which that was a plot element. So far, though, I--as a pro-life Cat'lick dyke, who has never been in danger of pregnancy in all her ramblin' life--think this comic is presented without sentiment, with sympathy for those who support abortion rights, and with... it's hard to tell because of the particular storyline... but with at least some sympathy for women who abort. I think if you can read Alphonse as a story about abortion it makes sense; I don't know if it makes as much sense if you read it as a story of one woman's abortion. But the narrative hints that we will learn much more about Alphonse's unwilling mother, and if that happens, I think it will go a long way to addressing my uncertainty about this approach.

Highly recommended; despite my qualms, I have to admit that nobody else is doing this, and someone should be. If you read this blog, you may be the sort of person who wants to support Catholic arts! This is a great way to do so!
HE THOUGHT HE WAS THE DUKE OF AMERICA: I hope you all know how much I love the Shakespeare Theater. I've reviewed its productions here and here for money, and here for free. I love it! I have a season pass!

Their current As You Like It is wrong from jump.

The essential problem is the premise: The Forest of Arden = America. This is a one-liner, not a basis for an extended interpretation. There are no real parallels or insights--at least not in this production--except insofar as the Forest represents the American hope/cliche of a new life and identity in the New World. The stagnant nature of the simile also means that AYLI becomes a play to be "solved" rather than experienced.

The basic problem in approach leads to many, many sub-problems, of which I list only a few: a) glitz overtakes intriguing interpretation. There are something like three million costume changes as we move from 1670 (? can't remember exact date, but about a century before independence) to 1933. The production is ridiculously expensive while presenting virtually no intellectual challenges whatsoever. Characters get lost in their costumes and their shifting, bad/intentionally-bad (see below) period accents.

b) creepy racial issues encroach, since the play is supposedly a Depression-era Hollywood confection presenting an idealized, immigrant-with-convert's-fervor vision of American history but there is no framing story. So we get the happy slave, emancipated by the nice white lady, but without any framing story he lacks any semblance of a specific personality or inner life. Nothing complicates or challenges the idyllic Americana, which alludes smugly to past evils without confronting them.

c) I don't think I had any new experience of either America or As You Like It. I already know what the cliches are. I don't need another iteration of them.

The costumes are beautiful. I stopped caring sometime after intermission, but still, they are wonderful.

There are genuinely lovely moments. I'd never noticed quite how Jonathan-and-David the Celia/Rosalind relationship is--how much Celia sacrifices, and how explicitly, for her friend. That was beautiful and poignant... and totally swamped by the weird costume- and period-changes Celia has to undergo later. Rosalind's actress is wonderful, and Floyd King, of course as Touchstone, is of course brilliant. All of the actors were either good or obviously directed-badly. (In fact, the problems with the show can probably be calibrated by the fact that amid the tepid applause at the end, Rosalind's actress barely brought the audience to warmth, and King managed to take the only bow I've ever seen in which he was not showered with applause and even hooting. None of this debacle was their fault!)

I have frequently questioned this theater's interpretive choices (Edward II, The Misanthrope). I have never before thought they were just being intellectually lazy. These actors deserve better. Shoot, I deserved better, and I'm just the audience!
"Only in individualist societies is it so important to control what individuals are and how they behave and think. There it is understood that the society's success or failure, its integration or breakdown, is ultimately determined by the competence and conformity of the individual. As a result much of the effort of modern society goes into constructing appropriate individuals..."
--John W. Meyer, quoted by Bruce Henricksen in "The Construction of the Narrator in The Nigger of the 'Narcissus'"

Yes, this is via the Rattus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MOEBIUS BAGEL. Or really just a twist-ending bagel; but if you wish to explore the possibilities of the Moebius bagel you should click the link. Via Postmodern Conservative of course.
ANTIDISSOLUTIONARIANISM: A really fascinating Wired article about a man who attempted to disappear--and/or pull a Brighton Rock--and what happened next.

Via Rattus, who must never disappear.
And the fearful thrashing he had given the inanimate Ziemianitch seemed to him a sign of intimate union, a pathetically severe necessity of brotherly love.
--Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes

Thursday, December 10, 2009

CHRISTMAS BASKETS. Hey... I know most of you all are doing Christmas baskets through your church or some other group. But if you're not, I have three families who could really use your help. They're fairly small--one to three kids--but they don't have any way to get Christmas presents right now. If you can help, please email me!!! I will let you know the kids' names, sexes, and ages, and I will also pick up the baskets, so literally all you have to do is come up with presents. I've done this in the past and the moms are so incredibly grateful. Because of the economy we're having a much harder time this year, so really, even if you can only do part of a basket (like, one kid but not the mom or other children) I will find a way to make up a whole basket. I wish you could see the smiles on people's faces when we can give them stuffed animals, gorgeous Christmas dresses or Santa suits, etc.--their faces just glow when they know that their children are loved and valued even by the outside world.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Who sails the ships out of Blogwatch,
Laden with Bibles and rum?

Megan McArdle: You should be reading Megan anyway, because she gets both the problems with the current US health-care system and the problems with the proposed fixes; but I found this post especially interesting for its discussion of what the euro can and can't do.

Sean Collins:
Digression: In writing about film for this blog I've noticed that I don't talk about form the way I do with comics. Like I said, I've lost a lot of that vocabulary, which in turn limits my ability to think that way, and that's really sad. When I first started regularly reviewing comics--probably for The Comics Journal--it took a shot by Milo George at the state of comics criticism to make me realize that I was doing the usual formula: Three or four paragraphs about the writing, one paragraph about the art, a "to be sure" paragraph, and a conclusion. Figuring out that comics are a visual medium ain't rocket science, so to confer upon myself a rocket-science degree if you will, I tried to fix this the easiest way I could: I began forcing myself to start reviews by talking about the visual aspects of the comics.

more--I'll be pushing myself this way as well

The 40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings. I wouldn't care really, but now that I really like Deadpool... I mean really, the pouches and the buttocks and the... the hands that don't do what they should and the FEET the FEET the BARBIE FEET I just can't... well yeah, basically Liefeld is genuinely as bad as you've heard. And this takedown is mostly funny!

The Richard Hofstedter Drinking Game.

"The next conservative thinkers." Surprisingly not-awful.
Now you must make the prayer of the poor: "Thank you."
--Black Orpheus, probably misremembered, so if you know the actual line please tell me

Saturday, December 05, 2009

It's time for blogwatch,
It's been a great day, thanks a heap!

Krampus tweets! Via Sean Collins. This is a gift from me to you, because you have been bad.

"The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009." You probably missed fewer of these if you read the foreign press, but if you don't, Foreign Policy catches you up.

"Seven Insane True Stories Behind the World's Most WTF Houses."

Friday, December 04, 2009

"KEEPING THE KRAMPUS IN CHRISTMAS": Longtime readers know that I am no fan of Santa-Claus treacle. But if we must have superstition in our Christmas, let's at least have justice to go with our mercy!

(Jesse Walker has more links: "A few years ago an Austrian psychiatrist reportedly called for banning Krampus, on the grounds that ;in a world that is anyway full of aggression, we shouldn't add figures standing for violence...and hell.'" And some readers may appreciate a Christmas version of Lovecraft's "Shadow Over Innsmouth": "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen.")

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jacob Wilson, a student at Iowa State, described his experience at Love In Action. When he was 19, his pastor found out he was dating another boy from church, and threatened him that he would no longer be welcome in his church or his hometown unless he went to LIA. The program promised him freedom from the pain of his "deviant choice", but later they told him that the best he could hope for was a life of celibacy and self-control. (As we heard often throughout the weekend, this kind of bait-and-switch is common in ex-gay ministries.) Jacob wasn't allowed to talk to his family and friends till he made a list of every sin he'd ever committed and shared it with them. At the "Friends and Family" weekend, LIA counselors blamed their clients' parents for making them gay. Then, all the clients had to march in silence into the auditorium and one by one share the thing they were most ashamed of, to an audience of 100+ people. Jacob quit Bible college after one semester and has started surrounding himself with more affirming friends who support him in being both gay and Christian.

--Jendi Reiter