Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AND PRETTY GIRLS MAKE...: Having just seen House of Gold, the JonBenet Ramsey play, I am not convinced that it adds anything to that one chapter from The Brothers Karamazov other than exploitation. Please do argue with me if you think differently, but for right now, I don't know why this needed to happen.

ETA: The preceding should not be taken as a slam on the actors (or the director except insofar as I question the decision to stage this at all), who were all serviceable to excellent. Kaaron Briscoe as JonBenet was exceptional.
This thread is like good theater: comedy, tragedy, pathos, an asshole getting thrown outdoors by someone in his underwear, and a cat who survived a fire.

I HAVE A THING about Gay Catholic Whatnot at the Washington Post's "On Faith" site. I think I'm trying to do too many things in too few words, and this piece is better on similar subjects, but if you want to see me get on my hind legs and go up against the Pope, there's your chance.
There was in 1959 a song of brief fashion but lasting receipts. "The fun is over," it said with exact precision and continued: "The Comandante arrived and commanded it to stop."
--Mea Cuba

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For instance, nineteen-year-old Christina says, “Oh, yeah, my dad had failed as a father, but he was my father. He loved me, and it’s been very hard for me to try to build a relationship with him. I want to have a relationship with him, because you only get one dad. Even if your mom remarries, to a certain extent you only get one dad.”


(I don't think even adults really experience marriage as a "pure," free choice--nor should they. But even so, the difference between their choices and the terrified, dependent, sorry choices of the children are pretty notable.)
Now even the Soviet Union has attained a Utopian destiny: she is, like every Utopia, to be found nowhere.
--Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Mea Cuba (1968)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I FORGOT TO POST THIS YESTERDAY, on her feast day, but here's the Jean Genet quote which is part of the reason I chose Elizabeth of Hungary as my patroness.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

But families, even if only the married couple, are not just close friends. In the family, we feel we are near to the deepest mysteries of life and death.
--Putting Liberalism in Its Place

Eh, you guys already know what I'll say about these lines: Given how elegiac the literature of friendship actually is, I don't think Kahn's attempt to exclude friendship from the life-or-death domain of familial love really works.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

TYPICAL GIRLS... ARE SO CONFUSING: Here are two X-Ray Spex songs I'd never heard until tonight! "Good Time Girl"; "Peace Meal." The latter is... bubble-gum vegetariana plus Heideggerian "factory farms are concentration camps" awfulness. All I can say is that the X-Ray Spex were usually a lot better than that. Still, I'm a completist with them.

I still remember that August week in Rehoboth--the week I turned thirteen, or maybe fourteen?--when I failed to learn to ride a bike, uselessly called out a t-shirt retailer on his homophobia, rode the Ferris wheel, entered the Haunted Mansion (it still smells the same ten years later), won a neon parrot at Skee-Ball, had a half-donut with a cigarette stuck in it for my birthday cake, purchased the black lipstick I would need for the coming year from the Halloween store, and bought my first X-Ray Spex cassette. Also wore a stuffed frog on my head, if photographic evidence can be trusted.
I PREFER SURREALITY...: I have an article on Gay Catholic Whatnot in the Irish magazine Reality. I think most of what I say will be familiar to longtime readers, but if you're newer, there might be good stuff you haven't seen yet. It's 1.70EU here.

Also, if you found me because of that article, check out the sidebar under "Sicut cervus: Resources on God and homosexuality," since those are all things I recommend.
Meaning exists in between mind and body, reason and desire. The structure of meaning is captured in the great Western metaphor of the "idea become flesh." The source of the idea become flesh is love: "God so loved the world" that the divine took on human form. Love is the source of meaning, and all meaning is miraculous. This is a world beyond the conceptual capacities of liberalism. Yet it is our world. The feverish turning from private to public, and public to private--the mixing and elision of the categories--characteristic of the self-reflection within the liberal state expresses just this disjunction between the experience of meaning and the categories of liberal thought. Because meaning is neither public nor private, neither mind nor body, liberalism ends in a hopeless confusion of categories as it tries to account for the experience of the political.
--Putting Liberalism in Its Place

I'm not sure how intelligible this paragraph is out of context, but I hope it will at least whet your appetite for Kahn's book, since it encapsulates some of his strengths (introducing love and meaning to a political discourse in which these terms are either taboo, or reduced to interest and reason respectively) and weaknesses (so far, he's contented to describe a sacralized politics without criticizing it, noting that it shares a side with fascism, or offering a possible hierarchy of authorities).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

KITCHEN ADVENTURES: EXCELLENT DECISION OF THE DAY. Set oven to 375 (though you will probably need it hotter). Dice turnips and toss with olive oil; place on foiled baking tray. Add cumin, cayenne, and salt. Roast until the skins are wrinkled and have begun to brown, and the inside is almost melt-in-your-mouth creamy. I needed maybe seven minutes. Say grace, plant face in dish.

...I mean, I don't think I've made any decisions today which were better than this one, I can tell you that.
FIGHTING BULLYING WITH BABIES. Fascinating and heartwarming.

Cross-posted at MarriageDebate, where you'll also find China celebrating Singles Day, a more-thorough-than-usual mainstream media look at black women who give birth out of wedlock, a painful report on trafficked women from North Korea, speculation about the housing bubble's effects on Chinese family culture, and reasons people have lavish weddings.
To begin, we must distinguish norms from meaning, staying within the rules from living a life experienced as one worth living. A person can live a morally proper life, in the sense of living within all of the moral rules that she acknowledges or that others use to evaluate her behavior, yet still live a life that appears to her to be desperately without meaning. ...

...Each of these oppositions marks a distinction between rules and identity. One wants not simply to be just, but to be someone.

--Putting Liberalism in Its Place

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I think it's either about King Richard and King John, or Nixon and Kennedy, or both. (Definitely not about Saul and David, however.)

here you go
ASK ME, I WON'T SAY NO--HOW COULD I? I'm working on a book about Gay Catholic Whatnot, in a Q&A format. So this is your opportunity: Ask me anything, anything at all, and while I can't guarantee it will end up in the book I can guarantee that I will respond. I'm at and I want your questions, no matter how specific or weird or rough or inchoate.
If anything, the twentieth century has been marked by the apotheosis of the state, including liberal states.
--Paul W. Kahn, Putting Liberalism in Its Place

Monday, November 08, 2010

I’m trying to focus on the emotional response, the feeling, of reading Poison River because, frankly, it’s so overwhelming. But intellectually, I think this is Gilbert’s meatiest work as well.

UNDESIGNATED MOURNERS: Willard Moore replies to my posting of this post from Amy Ziettlow:
That seems a little strong, to say that we have "no exterior way to show grief." The poor build little memorials of plastic flowers, stuffed animals and candles; the rich endow memorial scholarships and awards; memorial websites are established; and graves are much better kept (and much more protected legally) than they were in the 18th and 19th century. We just don't express grief in our clothing, for whatever reason.

My response (lightly edited):
These are good points [...] but I do think there's something genuinely lost when we no
longer carry signals of our status as mourners around with us. A friend of mine lost his father several years back, and, because he came from a family in which this was traditional, he wore the black mourning band; I had no idea what it was, and teased him about it (yes, I realize there's a lesson here about keeping one's mouth shut), and while of course I was mortified when he explained, he did stop wearing it because no one around him knew what it signified. So there was no way to signal that he was one of the company of mourners. It's as if we've located grief outside ourselves, in the grave or the memorial site, compartmentalized it, when in fact of course it continues to walk around beside us.

The contemporary equivalent seems to be confined to younger people and poor people, who do get t-shirts silkscreened with pictures of their dead, and get tattoos. Even then, I think the voluntary nature of the gesture undercuts its power as a cultural signal.
LAN SAMANTHA CHANG'S CHOICE FOR "FIVE BEST NOVELS ABOUT FRIENDSHIP." I have never read any of these! A smorgasbord of recommendations!

Via MLY.
ICONICITY: Yesterday I went to the Meridian International Center's "Glory of Ukraine" exhibit, which focuses on icons but includes altar crosses, Bibles, and Ukrainian arts and crafts dating back to many millennia before the birth of Christ. It's a terrific exhibit, completely free, and if you're in the District area I highly recommend it. I may be writing about it a bit more for my Inside Catholic column.

Be sure to check out the directions before you go! The center is basically across the street from Malcolm X Park, but it's on a weird horseshoe-shaped street which turns into another street, so you have to operate on trust for a little while. Your religious metaphor: right there!

The center is open 2-5 pm Wed-Sun, and the exhibit will run through January 16.
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: TEST YOUR SWEET TOOTH. I truly love these savory baked wontons, and for a while now I've been wanting to try a dessert variation. I finally got around to it!

The basic procedure for making the wontons is exactly the same as the ginger/mushroom/garlic/cream cheese ones. For the filling I used peeled chopped pear (you have to peel European pears because their skins toughen up when they cook, or so the Internet tells me), cream cheese, cinnamon, and various combinations of cayenne, ginger, and rosemary. I gave them a very light sprinkle of salt before folding and oiling, which was a good idea.

The verdict: This was... actually too sweet for me. The pears become molten and supersweet when they cook, so there's no textural contrast with the cream cheese (although there's obviously a nice crunch on the wrappers). Moreover, the sweetness of the pear overwhelmed the cinnamon and cayenne, and to a lesser extent the cream cheese. The ginger and rosemary were able to hold their own a bit better, and the wontons with those ingredients were the tastiest (especially the ginger ones).

Sadly, I'm still looking for the perfect dessert wonton.

Monday, November 01, 2010

I know I just got finished explaining that biology is destiny in the Palomar stories. But what struck me upon rereading the material collected in this volume, dominated by the titular story of a serial killer’s stay in the town, is the power of ideas. Not emotional or sexual drives, even, like the web of lust and unrequited love surround Luba’s mother Maria in the suite of stories that forms the second half of the collection, but actual honest-to-god ideas. Tonantzin is literally driven mad — broken — by the late Cold War political apocalypticism of her criminal boyfriend. (He himself is freed from nihilism’s grip by a jailbird religious conversion, for all the good it does anyone.) Humberto is thrown so far off-kilter by his discovery of the avant-garde artistic tradition from the Impressionists onward that the impact, combined with his fear of the killer, drives him to abandon notions of right and wrong entirely in favor of the truth art can express. In both cases, this ends in disaster.

But there’s a counterpoint to the damage these ideas do.

UNMARKED: Amy Ziettlow at Family Scholars; especially appropriate for tomorrow's feast:
...A room on the back of the Overseer’s House contains a coffin from that time as well as mourning costumes and customs exhibits. I was most intrigued by this quote:
“Mourning, during the 18th and 19th centuries, was governed by a strict set of cultural rules. Clothing, in particular women’s clothing, was strictly dictated by cultural customs of the day. [...] Even children and children’s toys were not free from the cultural norms expected of those in mourning. Just as adult women, little girls were dressed in black, carried black fans, and even dressed their dolls in black garments. Clothing prescriptions went on for up to two years and in some cases women wore mourning garb their entire lives as a sign of absolute devotion to the deceased. Absurd by today’s standards, people of the day embraced these mourning customs to show that they mourned well.

The last sentence, which I put in italics, stuck with me. I was first intrigued by the use of the word “absurd” especially when the people of that time would probably think our total lack of public acknowledgement of a death absurd. I wonder what they would think about how their mourning costumes are perceived in today’s culture. How people who wear all black are considered to be “weird,” Goths, or witches in our culture. If a man were seen wearing a black arm band today, we’d call Homeland Security presuming that he is a member of a radical sect who is planning on bombing something. I can hear them calling from history, saying, “Well, I guess they don’t have to wear mourning colors or costumes since they have adapted and created a new public way to acknowledge loss and suffering.” Oh wait, we haven’t done that. We have no exterior way to show grief let alone show that we have mourned well.