Wednesday, December 29, 2010

METAMORPHOSES. Or, Build a little birdhouse in your... lungs?

Ignore the simplistic commentary and just look at the weird, creepy-lovely sculptures. Via AC.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

KISS AND CRY: MY YEAR IN REVIEW. I'm spending the tail-tip of 2010 researching, re-reading, and watching figure skating instead of movies, so it should be safe to do the best-of now. I can always edit if something happens in the next five days.

Best books read (nonfiction): Jay Prosser, Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality
Paul W. Kahn, Putting Liberalism in Its Place
Ellis Hanson, Decadence and Catholicism
Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage
Joy Goodwin, The Second Mark: Courage, Corruption, And the Battle for Olympic Gold

Best books read (fiction/whatnot): Good grief, I read so little of this. 2011 will be so much better!
Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
Janos Nyiri, Battlefields and Playgrounds
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring
Edmund White, A Boy's Own Story

Best movies watched (for the first time): "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"Police, Adjective"
"Spider Baby" (and more!)
"Salome" (1923) with the Silent Orchestra

also deserve mention, and I can't pick among them: "The Business of Fancydancing," "The Comedians," "Hidden Fortress." And I should say that my mind has returned to the rancid, cruel, sad "Deadgirl" many times since I watched it; I wrote about it briefly here and here.

Best theater: "Richard III" (Hole in the Wall Theater, New Britain, CT)--yes, I'm going to bat for this as the most committed, insightful, and just plain awesome show I saw this year.
"The New Jerusalem" (Theater J)
"Passing Strange" (Studio Theater)
"In the Red and Brown Water" (Studio Theater)
"Antony and Cleopatra" (Synetic Theater)

Best blog posts/series (six, not five, as is traditional)--super double extra gay this year, apparently: My series on Jay Prosser's book, which begins here.

My exchange with John Corvino on gay marriage: Ross Douthat, Andrew Sullivan, John Corvino, me, Corvino again, me again here and here.

Famous Authors' Texts from Last Night.

"Poker Face" (on the closet as a near occasion of sin). Prompted this exchange w/Jendi Reiter.

"Home and Dry" (what I think is the most beautiful argument for gay marriage).

"Order from Confusion Sprung" (my problems with the language of homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered). Much more here.

Best things I wrote (nonfiction, non-blog): "Live Through This":
To be a Catholic is to accept certain questions as things to be lived through rather than to be answered.


"The Great Unweaving":
I'm sitting outside a downtown Starbucks with two George Washington University undergraduates, talking about sex, politics, and religion. Michele Walk and Conor Joseph Rogers fit my stereotype of contemporary American college students. They're sincere, confident, and hyperaware of the ways in which they're different from their parents.

Michele and Conor also represent a growing demographic: They consider themselves both pro-life and supporters of gay marriage.


My Gay Catholic Whatnot piece for Reality magazine, available for 1.70EU here.

"Six Imperfect Metaphors for Conversion."

My review of the National Gallery of Art's Spanish sacred painting and sculpture exhibit (subscribers-only).

Also, I finished the novel. I'm looking for an agent, so if you have suggestions (or if you can help hook me up!) I would be deeply grateful. It's a queer coming-of-age story I guess, with stigmata geekery, feminism and its limits, and morning sickness. Lit-mainstream, if you can believe it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

IF YOU HAVE CHRISTMAS DINNER ON CHRISTMAS EVE, as my family did this year, you may have leftovers already! Here's what I had for lunch.

ingredients: sixteen wonton wrappers (that's how many fit on my baking tray), cooked turkey (I used white meat because I like it less in sandwiches than dark), cranberry sauce, peeled and minced ginger, cream cheese, half a button mushroom chopped into fairly small pieces, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, olive oil, and salt. You'll also want parchment paper, a baking tray, and a little bowl or cup of water.

how-to: Cover the tray with the paper. Set oven to desired temperature--I baked these at 375 for nine minutes, but as I always warn you, my oven runs very hot, so you should play around a little since you might need higher temperatures (425?) and/or a longer baking time.

Lay the wonton wrappers on the paper. Fill with all the other ingredients except for the oil and salt. You'll want to use the strongest ingredients sparingly (ginger and rosemary) and put in more of the mildest ingredients (turkey and cream cheese).

Dip your fingers in the water and start folding up the wontons. If you're awesome you can probably crimp the edges in some pretty pattern or something. I just kind of folded the edges in over the middle and then lightly compressed the bundles between my palms. Keep dipping as you go. If the wrappers tear and you can't smooth them over with a couple drops of water, you can tear off a bit of a spare wrapper and essentially make a bandage, but try not to use too much or you'll throw off the wrapper-to-filling balance.

Rub olive oil over the wontons and stick them in the oven. Bake them until they're cooked through and the bottoms are browned in spots and crispy. Salt to taste.

You're done! Let these cool a little--like Christmas in general, this dish requires a bit of patience. And I know this sounds a bit fiddly. But it is so delicious. Seriously, I can't even tell you how balanced and fantastic this is, herby and creamy, with several kinds of sweetness cut by the ginger and the tart cranberries. Just so, so tasty.
"REJOICE, O UNWEDDED BRIDE" in Greek, Ukrainian, and English. (Unfortunately the last link is probably the hardest to hear. If you hear the English in person it's amazing.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

AN EDGE IS A PROMISE GOD WON'T MAKE: So you might as well work it like it's going out of business. I try not to inflict figure skating on you people but this is really... look, just try it. It's weird. You'll like it.
YOU BETTER WATCH OUT: Kindertrauma has a list of their favorite Christmas horror movies (and some lumps of coal to avoid)! Definitely check out the comments, too. I've already voiced my problem with Black Christmas--it doesn't actually say anything despite an exceptionally meaning-freighted symbolic alphabet--but I love that KT, like Sean Collins, groks that Eyes Wide Shut is best watched as a horror movie. I got that perspective from Collins and it really elevated my experience of the film.

In fact, arguing about EWS with Collins (a more patient person would link to all of our discussion, but I am lazy so here is my last post) made me acknowledge a major problem in how I sometimes write about artworks for this blog. I don't think I've been nearly attentive enough about restraining this tendency in myself: the tendency to summarize, to grade. To say, "This movie was fantastic in ways x, y, and z, but ultimately failed/succeeded because q."

It's that "ultimately" which I need to work harder to avoid. Art is not an exam! You don't pass or fail. Some of the reasons behind the "ultimately, yes" or "ultimately, no" impulse are good: Man is mortal and I already have several hundred dvds in my Netflix queue. And the pass/fail language can reflect an immediate emotional response to the movie: I know it did a lot of amazing stuff, but at the end I was left with a nagging sense of incompleteness, and it's that incompleteness which I want to explore or highlight in this post. (I think that's the main reason I used the pass/fail language w/r/t EWS.) But there's also a gross, ingrown-toenail motive to this language, where you (I) try to render magisterial judgment on the artwork instead of being mastered by it.

One of my New Year's resolutions for this blog is to do specific and evocative reviews which nonetheless avoid the temptation to render pass/fail judgment. It's ultimately (!) a reductive approach to art. Eyes Wide Shut is a movie I'd love to watch again right now; it's a movie I think would reward repeated viewings. Sure, it has a diffuse and desultory midsection in which Tom Cruise searches for clues, and I stand behind my criticisms of the ending. But "I want to see this again, so I can discover more of what it's got" seems like the most important thing to say about it.
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and, as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'
--Sayings of the Desert Fathers; via For Keats' Sake, who notes an alternate and even more awesome translation/gloss

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

...In the same way, the greatest Christmas film of all time -- It's a Wonderful Life, directed by the Catholic Frank Capra -- takes our hero George Bailey through an odyssey of terror, too. It's interesting that fear seems to attend the story not because George is deeply wicked like Scrooge, but because it is a Christmas story; and Christmas stories, like the Easter story, properly take us from the joyful mysteries, through the sorrowful mysteries, to the glorious mysteries. George is not at all the tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, nor the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner that Scrooge is. He is generous, kind, filled with a spirit of adventure, and willing to bear the responsibility for the Building and Loan and his family. He resists temptation to become the protégé of the Scrooge of Bedford Falls, Mr. Potter. So why does he have to undergo a baptism of fear and suffering?

the wood of the cradle is the wood of the Cross
THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE BEAUTY: Dappled Things, the Catholic literary magazine which accepted many of my earliest published short stories, really needs your financial help to continue. If you like what I write, just think how many other Catholic writers and artists are out there for you to discover! Daniel Mitsui, whose intricate black-and-white illustrations are like Graeme Chapman* + MC Escher = icons, is also offering an artwork exclusively for DT donors. (Uh, or at least he was last time I checked. You should ask them!)

[* ETA: Oh LOL! Graeme Base. Clearly my memory is pining for the fjords.]

I know with the economy so bad, it's tempting to neglect the arts in your giving. But you could, for example, get the Mitsui print or a DT subscription as a Christmas gift, thus feathering two birds with one dollar! And all of us need beauty, too, in order to live.

Survival is the least of my desires.
--Dorothy Allison
SEVERED ALLIANCE. If you get the joke in this post title, congratulations! You wasted your adolescence in the very best way possible.

Via JWB and Dreadnought.

Monday, December 13, 2010

CAT VS. ALLIGATOR(S). Is it just me or does somebody in the background say, "You know you're in the South"?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

KITCHEN ADVENTURES: I CARROT ABOUT YOU. (...Sorry.) Had a really good carrot soup for lunch. Washing dishes is my actual least-favorite household chore, so I did this as a one-pot even though I knew I could probably get better results if I, say, sauteed some carrots and onions in a pan first.

Instead, I just peeled some carrots and cut them into small pieces/slices. Those cooked in the pot w/some olive oil, and I peeled and minced some ginger and added that too. When I got bored with listening to the carrots cook, I squeezed a clementine over them and added chicken stock and (too much, I think) water. Then I brought it all to a boil, then a simmer, and kept it bubbling along until the carrots were tender, about 13 minutes. Then I blended it.

Then it got more cooking, now with spices!--garam masala, cumin (I know that's in g.m. but I wanted extra), cayenne, curry powder, salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, in about that order. Once I had it seasoned and cooked the way I wanted it, I feasted! I ate about half of it as-is and added a bit of sour cream to take down the heat and add creaminess for the final half.

As I said, I think this was too thin, especially before I added the sour cream. But the flavors were great, and I'll be making something like this again.
LOVE AND ROCKTOBER: THE ROUND-UP. Sean Collins's complete month-plus of posts about some of the greatest comics ever made... plus a "where should I start?" section. If you keep hearing about Love and Rockets and want to know whether the hype is justified, this is where you should go.
The Castroist emissary at the moment was called Sánchez Parodi, today Castro's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. He might have been Parodi but he was not the target of my parodies. Parody is an act of love and those men are hideous.
--Mea Cuba

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

PLEASE ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF...: Early on, I was convinced that Synetic Theater's adaptation of The Master and Margarita (showing at the Shakespeare Theater's Lansburgh through December 12, so go now!) would never work. Synetic, which typically does wordless dance/movement adaptations of classic texts, had two big things working against them: Their production has words, and takes place in front of an audience.

Both of these factors served to make the early parts of The Master feel really intensely unsubtle. Without the full context of Bulgakov's prose (which okay, I've only read in translation, but work with me here, people) and the privacy of one's own skull, the discussion of belief in God and the "seventh proof of God" (the Devil exists, therefore God must) felt heavy-handed.

However, by the end of the night I was once again completely on board with Synetic. Their total commitment to the portrayal of Soviet Moscow as a nightmare carnival probably had some personal resonance (much of the troop is made up of Georgian immigrants) and certainly had immense, sinister visual flair. They capture the novel's musical quality, in which motifs return and change key. They play up the Song of Songs aspect of Margarita's search for her Master, which I don't think I even noticed when I read the novel. And they hit hard on the Orwellian aspects of the novel, like the shifts in meaning of the final uses of the word "peace."

A really good, strongly horror-influenced, deeply Christian (or, more accurately, shaped around the space where Christianity would be) production. Recommended.
WINE INTO WATER. I have a review of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church in the current Weekly Standard.
They are the same who appear in so many poems by Cavafy, where they turn up like lucky, unlucky days.
--Mea Cuba, on Mediterranean gigolos