Saturday, June 25, 2005

NUNC DIMITTIS: Must-read post from Waiter Rant:
Three priests walk into my bistro.

No, this isn't a setup for some awful joke--three padres sit in my section. They’re dressed in civilian clothes but I make them instantly. Former Catholic seminarians can spot priests a mile away.

more (via Amy Welborn)

Friday, June 24, 2005

This is the second in a series of Register articles in which author and syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher explains love and marriage to her grown son.

Dear Patrick,

Remember the last letter, wherein I asked you to consider deeply one simple fact: that sex makes babies? I showed it to a friend of mine, a brother who teaches at an excellent boys' Catholic high school.

"A good pragmatic argument," he wrote to me, approvingly.

My heart sank. Did you read it that way, too?

Of course, the fact that sexual desire powerfully draws men and women towards an act that can (and regularly does) create new life has practical consequences. Any sane person recognizes that this pragmatic side of life deserves certain consideration (Classically, that’s the virtue called "prudence.")

But I hate the way contemporary American culture confuses reasoned arguments with "pragmatic" arguments, especially about sex and babies, as if the only thing human beings care about are material deprivations and benefits to themselves. As if the way to respond to the intense mystery of sexual desire is to reduce it to calculus of health benefits. As if "if it feels good, do it" can be adequately replaced by "If it increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases by 4.5%, don't do it!" ...

Every time you make love to a woman's body, you could be making your first-born child. Of course, I want you to be cognizant of the practical and moral implications of this truth. But don't forget, first to pause a moment in wonder at it.

You have within you the God-given power to co-create new life, and not just any sort of new life either. Your sexual desire is not a mere appetite, a mechanical prod for consuming an internal set of sensations called "pleasure." It is calling you out of the confines of your own body into the (literal) act of generation.

YOU CAN NEVER GO HOME AGAIN, OATMAN... BUT I GUESS YOU CAN SHOP THERE: A couple links on the Kelo eminent domain decision. (I should note that as a matter of constitutional interpretation I don't know enough about the case, and haven't yet figured out what I think of my father's position in e.g. this Legal Affairs Debate Club thing, to take a side. But as a policy matter--the government seized people's homes! For Pfizer! That's bad and wrong.)

Another point made by Justice Thomas: if "economic development" is a "public use," then low-cost housing will always be a tempting target for city planners and state business promoters -- so, guess whose houses will usually be the first to face the combination of a check and a wrecking ball.

This decision ought to build cross-coalitions. Liberals who like urban planning, and conservatives who like whatever big business likes, should be pleased. Progressives who like the little guy, and conservatives who like (a) the original meaning of the Constitution and (b) property rights, should be together in mourning.


The Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition (as in, A man's home is his aforementioned). They litigate, but, as Eugene Volokh notes, "[T]he IJ people are masters at using their cases to marshal public opinion. That often helps them pressure the government to change its policy even without a final decision in litigation. And it also helps them use cases, whether they win them or lose them, to build pro-economic-liberty sentiment generally; they're especially good at showing how economic liberty helps the little guy." Why not help them?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Don't blog me 'cause I'm close to the edge--
I'm tryin' not to watch my head...

Hit & Run: Kelo decision:
...The straightforward implication is that any taking of a private residence to hand it over to a business, or just from a poor person to a wealthy person, will be a taking in service of a public purpose: As a general rule, the rich pay more taxes than the poor, and businesses pay more taxes than households.


The Corner: Ramesh Ponnuru:
Gov. Mitt Romney wants to require the purchase of health insurance by anyone who can afford it. I think that's a bad idea. ...

Finally, we should face the fact that health insurance is not an attractive deal for many young, healthy people. Getting rid of some mandates--for example, the state-level mandates that make it harder for people to buy a cheaper catastrophic policy--to make it a better deal for them would make more sense than forcing them to buy a product they don't want.

(whole post)

A Child's View of Music: Student bloopers. Some are old, some are probably fake, but almost all are hilarious. Via Mixolydian Mode.

And speaking of music, Songs that Make a Difference:
What liturgical song has really made a difference for you? It might be a song that has helped to form or strengthen your faith; has played a significant part in the life of your parish or community; is associated with a noteworthy event; or is simply your favorite liturgical song.

We are inviting NPM members and other American Catholics to tell us your selection for a liturgical song that makes a difference. We would like to know the texts and tunes that have done the most to help American Catholics to discover, explore, nourish, and deepen their faith.

You can only submit one; I put in for "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent," partly because I didn't think many others would. I could also have named "Amazing Grace," "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People," and "Pange Lingua" (...of course), as well as, probably, lots of others I'm forgetting at the moment.

On a somewhat different level of gravitas, I note that Amy Welborn's comment thread on the NPM project included a typo that absolutely made my day: "I cringe sometimes at Protestant hymns that go on and on about being washed in the blood of the Lame."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I GIVE UP: I just watched "An Echolls Family Christmas," and...okay... I'm into "Veronica Mars" now. Sigh. Oddly, it doesn't really hit up any of my obsessions (and still has several features that irritate me, though I'm less convinced about the pseudo-class-awareness thing now)--must be something about the taut pacing, sharp dialogue, and kicky acting. Also, I really like how these people bite at each other, meanly, and yet take the casual cruelty in stride rather than getting all sobby. It's refreshing. (ETA: And makes the frequent moments when the kids are kind to one another all the more affecting.)
...Don't get me wrong. I think the regimes in Tehran and Havana are ugly and deserve to pass into the night. But do our policies actually make that more likely? Washington has a simple solution to most governments it doesn't like: isolate them, slap sanctions on them and wait for their downfall. As Richard Haass argues intelligently in his new book, "The Opportunity," regime change has become a substitute for an actual policy toward countries like North Korea and Iran, with which we have serious security problems. Rather than tackling the issue of North Korean nukes, we're waiting for the country to collapse. We might be waiting awhile.

(more, via The Corner)
PRAY AND TELL: From the American Prospect:
...Last year, I increasingly wanted the insight of someone who had successfully interrogated terrorism suspects without resorting to violent or demeaning practices. Several people told me about a veteran FBI agent, recently retired from the New York ?eld of?ce, who was so opposed to the United States' burgeoning renditions-and-torture regime that his pointed questions on the subject to FBI Director Robert Mueller in a 2002 meeting had drawn Mueller's lasting ire. This, I thought, was the man to see.

more (via Unqualified Offerings)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"ENDLESS SUMMER": SENATE SIDE. Part two of the triptych. Washington, jerks, tempus fugit-ing like fugit is going out of style.... Yeah. Obsessive, overly obscure, and so on. Here. Write to me if you hate it, even a little bit.
LOVE SONGS OFTEN DO: Okay, since I linked to the Amy Welborn thread on sad songs, I thought maybe I should admit which songs actually make me cry. Forewarned is half an octopus. In solely alphabetical order.

Cat Power, "Good Woman," "Ice Water," "Rockets." Lots more, but these will do. Stark, and raw like a humid night filled with fireflies you can't capture.

Cyndi Lauper, "Time After Time."

Dolly Parton, "Bargain Store," "I Will Always Love You," "Used To." Don't even start with me, because I will mess you up. Dolly is the bomb.

Elvis Costello, "What Do I Do Now?"; "My Dark Life"; "Distorted Angel"; "Little Palaces"; "Our Little Angel"; too many others to count. And the doors swing back and forward from the past into the present....

Johnny Cash, "Hurt." Someday I will be wise enough to understand this song.

Moxy Fruvous, "Drinking Song." C'mon, I dare you to listen without choking up just a little.

Nina Simone, "My Man's Gone Now"; "Plain Gold Ring."

Patsy Cline, "Strange." Strange, how you stopped loving me/How you stopped needing me/Once she came along....

Pet Shop Boys
, "Always on My Mind." Maybe I didn't love you.... Also, "Being Boring."

Yeah, it distresses me how easy it is to fail the people who need us. More on this when I write "The Zombie Guide to Life."

And yeah--I know it's not even an especially good song, but it digs right down into the place where you can't help it--I cannot ever hear "Cat's in the Cradle" without starting to cry a little. I really can't. "We'll get together then..."--the thing about fatherhood, I sometimes think, is that it is so thoroughly a metaphor for our relationship to God the Father that no real human father can suffice. That's part of why ordinary human fatherhood deserves so much honor. Because ordinary human fathers bear so much of the brunt of their children's aloneness. Mothers (sometimes) get the desperate confessions of fear and sickness; fathers often don't even get that solace, that trust. Every mother is Mary, Mother of God (Mother of Sorrows, Queen of Heaven, Mary at Cana and Mary at Calvary), but every father is (symbolically) Yahweh, not Joseph. And it's terribly hard. So I guess... there's nothing really to say except, Thank you.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Memo to myself: Do the dumb things I gotta do.
Watch the puppet blog.

Family Scholars: Elizabeth Marquardt growls at that Washington Post Magazine story about the sperm donor meeting his kids. "This industry has gone way beyond helping the occasional infertile couple reproduce –- and issues of masculinity, femininity, and heterosexual desire run through it all." (more)

Hit and Run: "In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Ann Louise Bardach spells out just how these flagrantly illiberal (and I believe unconstitutional) regulations can be rained down on the head of one individual to score cheap and injurious political points. She writes of the case of Alberto Coll, 'a military expert of impeccable pedigree who is a dean at the U.S. Naval War College,' a 'former deputy assistant secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration,' and a lifelong Republican "anti-Castro hard-liner" who was persuaded after Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit to the island [= Cuba] that the embargo wasn't working. 'Hence,' Bardach writes, 'Coll had to be destroyed.'" (more)

Also H&R: "A new study by LeMoyne College economists Edward Shepard and Paul Blackley, based on New York state data, finds that drug law enforcement is associated with increases in predatory crime. Possible explanations include diversion of law enforcement resources, violence generated by disruption of drug operations, and increased attraction to property crimes among people deterred from dealing drugs." (more--I should note that I haven't read the posted draft of the study, b/c I don't have time, so... yeah.)

And due to the sad songs discussion at Amy Welborn's place, I have this stuck in my head. Cheery!
SO SUE ME: Have now watched the pilot and the final three episodes of the first season of "Veronica Mars." (Caved to peer pressure.) Some thoughts, worst first (and it's kind of hard to explain the show's premise quickly, so go here if you're interested):
1. VM herself is a Mary Sue: ubercompetent; "quirky" name (actually, all the names on this show are precious, which does irritate until you force yourself to ignore it); unpopular in the show's world in a way precisely calibrated to make her popular among self-pitying viewers; possessed of flaws and imperfections that somehow only make her cooler. The show also fetishizes her power over others, I think (see point #2), while absolving itself by showing her in jeopardy, and unpopular, etc etc. I spent the first ten minutes or so of the pilot with my face in this rictus of "must not show horror and disgust!" (I don't think the show's writers realize how disturbing her abilities to discover other people's hidden truths really is.)
2. The pilot, and the third-to-last episode of s1, both open with scenes of another character suffering public sexual humiliation from which Veronica Mars will Save them. I find it hard to express how much that disturbs me, and how much it makes me reflexively dislike VM and the show.
3. However... these are some great actors. Really liked the guys who play Logan and Weevil (see what I mean about the names?), and VM's father. (The Television Without Pity recapper seems to think the father is played too hammily, but I thought the point was to show a certain kind of father who intentionally hams it up, which I find endearing.) VM and her father interact really well. Logan is played as an immediately recognizable type of guy: attractive, in a mongoosey-snakey kind of way, and instinctively using his own vulnerability and aggression in order to manipulate girls' protective/patronizing emotions. I'm susceptible to that kind of guy, sadly, and it was neat to see the type so perfectly captured on TV. ...Even VM herself is likeable most of the time, and from points 1 and 2 you can see that this was a hard sell for me.
4. Whoever does the music is a stone genius. Adored it.
5. The mystery plots and subplots were really well-handled: attention to theme, interaction between "mystery of the week" and overarching season-long story arc. Fun and genuinely suspenseful.
6. I really liked the trick of having so much happen in backstory, before the pilot even begins. The show convinces you that VM was a totally different person last year. The first episode is corroded with voice-over, but after that the info-dumping settles down and you can just enjoy the past vs. present contrast the show sets up.
7. Oh, and I've seen people praising this show for dealing with class differences, and I just don't get it. The show refers to class differences, always superficially. I'm not seeing a lot of insight or even intelligence on that stuff.
8. The dialogue is actually smart and sharp, without (say) "Buffy"'s studied and overwritten coolth.

Upshot: I'll be watching this when it returns from summer hiatus, at least for a while, and I'll probably Netflix the first season when it's available. Hey, I'm easy.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

BILL POSTERS IS INNOCENT--blogwatch postscript:
Camassia: "Ex-gay camp," institutionalization and the rule of experts, parental helplessness. The only thing I've been able to read about this without breaking things, so don't expect any comments from me, thanks ever so.

Colby Cosh: Pictures of starving children sell records.

Hit and Run on Egypt.
Is that enough?
My blog is absurd; I'm watching it upside-down...

Cacciaguida: Reflections on his son's scheduled deployment to Iraq. Depression-era apartments, rights and duties, and those who have seen the end of war.

Oxblog: Couple interesting exchanges on foreign-policy realism; start here and scroll down.

National Review editorial on Terri Schiavo.
...U.S. agriculture policy undermines U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty because it drives down global agricultural prices, which in turn cost developing countries hundreds of millions of dollars in lost export earnings. The losses associated with cotton subsidies alone exceed the value of U.S. aid programs to the countries concerned. The British aid organization Oxfam charges that U.S. subsidies directly led to losses of more than $300 million in potential revenue in sub-Saharan Africa during the 2001/02 season. More than 12 million people in this region depend directly on the crop, with a typical small-scale producer making less than $400 on an annual cotton harvest. By damaging the livelihoods of people already on the edge of subsistence, U.S. agricultural policies take away with the right hand what the left hand gives in aid and development assistance.

Some want to correct that problem by increasing foreign aid, but transfer payments have failed to stimulate economic growth in Africa where the average income per person is 11 percent lower today than it was in 1960. State-to-state aid is inefficient because it is often based on geopolitical considerations, not on economic criteria. As a consequence, the least deserving regimes often obtain aid. International organizations such as the World Bank are also largely ineffective. In 2000, for example, the bipartisan Meltzer Commission found that the World Bank's aid projects failed 55 to 60 percent of the time.

The aid is ineffective because of the appalling way in which Africa is governed. In recent decades, of each dollar given to Africa in aid, 80 cents were stolen by corrupt leaders and transferred back into Western bank accounts. In total, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo estimated, "corrupt African leaders have stolen at least $140 billion from their people in the [four] decades since independence." All that is left when these regimes eventually collapse is a massive public debt. ...

Development economists have stressed this message for years. U.S. subsidies and protectionism are particularly galling for those countries that have tried to make market reforms work, only to see their producers undercut by subsidized goods in the "free" world market. Even though the United States is hardly the worst offender in the developed world when it comes to unfair trading practices, the United States should lead by example and eliminate its market-distorting agricultural policies. They are damaging to the interests of most Americans, and they render useless U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty in the poorest corners of the globe.

...Plato's dialogues, in which the very spirit of philosophical investigation emerges from the conversational counterpoint, are products of the contentious, disputatious ethos of the city. And in many classical and romantic concertos the solitary voice of the pianist or violinist, interacting with the crowded ranks of the orchestra, suggests a meditation on the experience of the individual who contends with the vastness of the city. It has often been observed that the collagist sensibility, whether in the visual or the literary arts, grows out of the cacophonous, ceaselessly composing and recomposing spectacle of the metropolis. But it can also be argued that the monumental form of many works of 19th-century fiction and philosophy and history -- with their densely interconnected passages and chapters and volumes -- mirrors the bulk and concentration of the 19th-century city, with its streets and neighborhoods and ever-expanding dimensions. ...

...The novelists Alter looks at were inclined to present the individual consciousness as having a fraught or elusive or dynamically expansive relationship with communal experience, and this provokes a reconsideration and even a shattering of realist conventions. He observes that in "A Sentimental Education," there is "a kind of complicity between the consciousness of the protagonist and the nature of the city itself." When Flaubert describes his diffident leading man, Frederic Moreau, moving along the Parisian streets, we do not see the streets so much as we see the hyperbolic images that gather in Frederic's mind. "Shadows slipped along the edge of the sidewalks, with umbrellas. The pavement was slick, the fog was falling, and it seemed to him that the moist shadows enveloping him were imperceptibly descending into his heart." Frederic's melancholy allows the city to overwhelm him, and yet his imagination, as Flaubert renders it, also suggests a sort of conquest of urban life: the city becomes his private realm.

possibly-related: me reviewing the City of Glass comic here

Thursday, June 16, 2005

YEAH, life's kind of crazy here--I have stuff to say (figured out the other two parts of "Endless Summer," which will suck much less than the first part... I hope), but no time to say it. So... links. I'll be back when I can.

GroceryLists. Other people's grocery lists. Eerily compelling.

Missing Dalek found.

In case you can't tell, I'm having one of those days--not in a truly horrible way, more in a "one thing after another" way--and am kind of bemused/tired/punchy.
DANIEL PINKWATER!!!! a.k.a. children's book-ook-ook! Ultra-yay.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

...Chemotherapy, which I had in 1992, wasn't all bad. I looked very cool bald; it gave a nice grey perm when my hair came back (why couldn't it bring more hair back? can't they cut it with menoxydil?); and it did stop my unpleasant visitor.

But the nausea was not cool, and only the illegal drug worked once the legal ones had failed.

John Walters says there is no medical evidence for marijuana's effects. He is a liar or an ignoramus, probably both.

more from Rick Brookhiser, here (sorry I didn't get this up before the Congressional vote--I didn't see it until afternoon.)

Monday, June 13, 2005


Oh, and I totally agree about the broodery. Hamlet is bloody-minded and funny and a little too fast and subtle for his own good; he's not lying in his bedroom listening to the Cure.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

PAPER AND INK: I reviewed Ronald and Allis Radosh's Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance with the Left for the June 20 issue of National Review. Look for it wherever fine vanguards of the proletariat are disintermediated.
Like a blogwatcher, working all night, sleeping all day...

Fafblog: "'Insolent pot!' says Giblets. 'Be more vendible!'" Raich/commerce-clause hilarity, complete with physics lesson, Schrodinger's cat reference, and much more. I can't explain it; you just have to click.

The Volokh Conspiracy: Rick Sander, of affirmative-action-study fame, will be blogging for a while here, replying to critics of his work. He comes out of the gate with a post that basically says, "Yeah, so I checked some more stuff, and I'm more right than I thought I was."

A guide to the references in "You're the Top," which is quite timely for me, since Jen and John Smith may do a brief parody of it in the revised version of "Kissable Pictures." ...I forget where I found it.

And I don't know if I'm excited or not about the "Howl's Moving Castle" movie... not sure if I want to see it... but if it sparks more interest in Diana Wynne Jones, awesome British fantasist, I will be very happy. Here's a fansite, including this terrific interview. Via Mixolydian Mode.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"ENDLESS SUMMER": POOL PARTY. New fiction from me. Some notes: 1. This is one-third of what I think is a triptych, but I have no idea what the other two-thirds are, so your comments are even more welcome than usual.

2. It's really short, so you have no excuse for not reading it!

3. It's... well, if I did it right, it's hard to read. It's about bad news and feeling cut off from all the well-meaning people around you. If I did it right, though, it's misanthropy and terror without melodrama. Let me know if I did it wrong.

4. I complained about David Lodge's Souls and Bodies (see below); so I should note that this snippet deals with some of the same stuff. Some of it is stuff I thought Lodge handled really well. Some of it is stuff I said bored me when he did it. Shows what I know, I guess....

ETA: Oh, and I know that the tense-transition at the beginning is painfully awkward. I'll almost certainly go back and rewrite it all in present tense, unless I can figure out how to make it work in past (past is almost always better...).

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

IS THERE A SUBTEXT IN THIS CLASS?: Terry Teachout's column on political art vs propaganda is, of course, very much worth your time. (Via Amy Welborn.) Here are a few points of concord, dispute, and counterpoint:

[ETA: In everything that follows, "about" is a huge, huge simplification. Good stories aren't "about" one thing or two.]

1. I write a lot of stories with some level of political content. But almost all of that political content is--not "surface," which implies shallowness--almost all of it is the metaphor, rather than the thing the metaphor is a metaphor for. (I should just knuckle under and look up "vehicle/tenor"--see previous post. Too lazy.) "Why Can't He Be You?" is (to be reductive) about conversion and the persistence of the old Adam. "What You Can Do for Your Country" is about moral epistemology--how we know right from wrong, and how we know which questions are questions of morality in the first place. Maybe my most political story is the one where the metaphor/thing-it's-about works the other way around: "Story Without a Name," where the language stuff is (to stretch a term) a metaphor for unacknowledged human individuality.

2. In his talk at AEI, Teachout drew a much brighter line between religious purposes and political purposes than I would, as I've already said. Thinking about it now, I'm even more convinced I'm right (*g*)--"Better At It" is about conceptions of personhood; "Retcon" is about family, marriage, and divorce; the (deeply flawed) story that I initially called "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent" and that is now, in my head, called "And Bid the Geldings Be Fruitful" is about torture and grace. All of those have contemporary political resonance. All of those are things I wrote about because I'm Catholic. (A bad Catholic, but yeah--I really believe this stuff.)

3. Are all of Shakespeare's villains' motives intelligible? I think maybe the point of Iago is that his motives aren't intelligible. The motives we know of (being passed over, or whatever) are totally out of proportion to his response. He's... some critic or other called him an example of "motiveless malignancy." Richard III, too. In some ways the unintelligible motive is the core motive--cf. my post on They Might Be Giants and St Anselm's theology of the Devil's fall! It's something beyond thanatos, I think--not only a drive toward death, although I think that is very real too, but specifically a drive toward destruction, or murder. ...Now that I think about it, is nihilism less intelligible than sexual jealousy as a motive, or more? You can balance sexual jealousy with other motivations and concerns--reputation, possible bad consequences for yourself, love of spouse despite infidelity--but you can't really balance nihilism with anything, by definition. ...This is not to dispute Teachout's point, but to mull it and meander around it.

4. You know, I wonder if a professed aversion to "political art" isn't in some cases due to a reluctance to examine the necessarily political context and content of one's art. But then I tried to read Capital when I was in middle school. (And took at least two legal-pad pages of notes. Probably the most diligent I've ever been about anything in my life, and look where it got me!)

5. This is maybe a quibble, but "invincible ignorance," as a theological term, means the person isn't damned, not that he is. (...I think.)

6. YAY, John Sayles. Teachout and I agree here.

7. I know a few people who really like "Avenue Q," and specifically the song Teachout cites in this article. It wouldn't kill you to click.
LIVIN' LODGE: (Sorry. Sorry. Sometimes these puns happen, without my deliberate consent....) Lots of responses to my post on How Far Can You Go?/Souls and Bodies. Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in! Let me clarify two quick points before we go to your emails.

1. I'm pretty sure, on reflection, that the thing that soured me on this book was the fact that only one of the children was characterized, in such a way that I twigged to the author's manipulation of the reader. As soon as I realized this I think the book was over for me. It's the kind of strenuously bad writing that I like least, where characters are gameboard counters rather than individuals. And so although it really is a major flaw, I'll readily admit that when I sussed it I stopped enjoying and engaging with the book; after that I got mulish and growly, and I'm sure I was unfair. The book has a lot of real merits, many of which are drawn out in your comments.

2. A couple people mentioned this, so I should note that I wasn't clear in my initial post: I get that "How far can you go?" is first used in a context of sexual propriety, but then expands to encompass liturgy, theology, and life in general. That might, actually, be one of my favorite things about the novel! Too often, writers use metaphors clumsily, with too much emphasis on the thing it's a metaphor for rather than on the thing itself. (I can never remember which is the vehicle and which is the tenor....) I loved that Lodge was concrete, and very funny!, describing the bored boys in religious education class asking the priest, "Father, how far can you go with a girl?", and then used that question to center his novel.

OK. On to you people!

Amy Welborn reviewed two Lodgebooks here. Worth your time, of course, as AW is the Catholic Blog Queen.

Doctor Weevil: I read Lodge's first seven novels back when there were only seven of them (20 years ago?). Here's what I recall:

I don't know whether he continued the pattern, but he started out alternating serious and comic novels. I much preferred the latter (2nd, 4th, and 6th).

Of the serious ones, I remember nothing except bits of How Far Can You Go?, notably the scene where the friend tells Nicole's father that she is most likely retarded. Something about feeling like a murderer and forever after associating the smell of sawdust with bad news, since he told him in the workshop?

I loved the comic ones. Changing Places and Small World, in that order, make a pair of academic novels with many of the same characters. Highly recommended, but read them in that order.

I'm even fonder of the The British Museum Is Falling Down, which is sort of a Catholic academic novel about an impecunious grad student trying to write his dissertation at the BM while worrying about whether his wife is pregnant with their fourth child -- intermittent discussion of the rhythm method throughout the book. One thing I somehow missed on the first read-through is that there are 10-12 parodies of other writers distributed through the book. The second time through, after learning that from the preface, they were obvious, even (somehow) the parodies of authors I had never read, such as C.P. Snow.

[later he added this postscript]: A minor point, but . . . . In my previous, I said that the three comic novels I recommended were Lodge's 2nd, 4th, and 6th, but they may well have been 3rd, 5th, and 7th. If you have one of the recent ones at hand, it probably lists them in order. (Most of my books are in a storeroom a few miles from here, so I can't easily check. Maybe I should go dig them out.)

Charles Murtaugh (where late the sweet blogs sang!): Congrats on discovering him -- "Souls and Bodies" is dated, but still worth it no matter which side of Humanae Vitae you are on. "Thinks" was marvelous, but I think the best of his Catholic-oriented novels was "Paradise News," and his funniest is "Small World." "Therapy" is also excellent, also pretty Catholic-y. But "Small World" is one of the funniest books I've ever read, and it really helped lift me out of the depressive phase I was in at the time I read it. "Nice Work" is also an excellent book, again more funny than Catholic although all his books have a good deal of humor.

[later in postscript]: I always read the first meaning of "How Far Can You Go?", title-wise, to be: how far can you "go," sexually, without committing a mortal sin? Isn't that a big issue for the main character and his fiance, prior to their marriage? (It was >10 years ago that I read it, so I could be mis-remembering.) The other meanings reverberate from that one.

[Eve adds: I should perhaps note that Prof. Murtaugh is one of the main reasons I read Lodge in the first place! Very neat to have him comment.]

Cole Kendall: I periodically discover an author and devour the majority of his or her opus in a few months. My David Lodge phase was sometime around 5 to 10 years ago. I read most of his fiction up to that point, and the one
you read was definitely one of the weaker books. He is on firmer ground in academic satire, and there are a number of novels where his nerdy English literature prof navigates the complex world of the modern academe. I have not read any of his writing on writing, which I gather is more carefully thought out, and about which those who are serious about such things seem to think worthwhile (sorry for the convoluted grammar but other difficulties in life leave me only modest energy for clear writing).

Bill Walsh: I haven't read Souls & Bodies, but I've read Thinks..., Therapy, Small World, Nice Work... and maybe one or two others. Lodge is a very good writer with a genuinely humane sensibility. I think like many artists he breaks down a little when dealing with intellectually (rather than emotionally) complex issues like, say, V2. I enjoy his work very much, though, and would encourage you to check him out further. (For a
contemporary British novelist who grapples very successfully with Big Philosophical Questions, check out Michael Frayn. You'd love The Trick of It. Also, he wrote the screenplay for the incredibly funny Clockwise, which you should rent immediately if you haven't seen it....)

[Eve says: Thanks again, to all (including those not quoted here).]
POETRY WEDNESDAY: X.J. KENNEDY. We haven't done this in a while.

Nothing in Heaven functions as it ought:
Peter's bifocals, blindly sat on, crack;
His gates lurch with the cackle of a cock,
Not turn with a hush of gold as Milton had thought;
Gangs of the slaughtered innocent keep huffing
The nimbus off the Venerable Bede
Like that of an old dandelion gone to seed;
And the beatific choir keep breaking up, coughing.

But Hell, sleek Hell hath no freewheeling part:
None takes his own sweet time, none quickens pace.
Ask anyone, How come you here, poor heart?--
And he will slot a quarter through his face,
you'll hear an instant click, a tear will start,
Imprinted with an abstract of his case.

(via Angevin2)
Can a child have three legal parents? Should parenthood be routinely determined by something other than biology? Should we extend the right to marriage to same-sex couples? To groups of people? Or should we abolish marriage as a legal institution all together?

These are some of the questions currently being discussed in the field of family law, where arguments about the future of the family have moved far beyond the question of same-sex marriage. The Future of Family Law: Law and the Marriage Crisis in North America, a new report released by the Council on Family Law, takes a close look at how two influential legal organizations, the American Law Institute and the Law Commission of Canada, are proposing to answer them. Written by Daniel Cere of McGill University, this report holds up for clear view the fundamentally different models of marriage that are contributing to deep public clashes over the law of marriage, cohabitation, and parenthood.

It's a reflex
Just a reflex
like blog or watch...

(I think I've played Nightlife at least ten times in the past two days. Thank you, Amazon Marketplace.)

Hit & Run: Eminent domain and the movies. (My plug for the Australian flick "The Castle" is here.) Comments-boxing worth your time also.

Perverse Access Memory: Medical-marijuana laws after Raich--what you can do (if you, unlike me, have a Congressbeast). More here. Via Unqualified Offerings and somewhere I forget.

The Lego Life of Polycarp (in reverse). Via Camassia.

Unknown Bach aria found in German library!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

You're a blogwatcher, I'm a blogwatcher too...

Camassia: Acute as always.
This seems to be an issue with some folks at my church also, since the pastor sometimes invokes "our mother in God" and song lyrics are edited to excise male pronouns for God (though oddly enough, they leave in masculine titles like Father and King). However, I've long wondered if this is an expression less of some deficiency in the traditional understanding of God than in a deficiency of modern fatherhood. Fox's theses seem to assume that father = someone distant and punitive. Fathers have always been disciplinarians, but in premodern cultures other attributes of fatherhood loomed larger: your father would probably have been your primary educator, your protector in a rough world, and (if you're male) a model for when you come into fatherhood and the family profession. All those functions appear prominently in the God of the Bible (and in the New Testament, the inheritance definitely includes women). Discipline, then, occurred within the context of the close relationship, not in "wait till your father gets home" sort of threats. Fatherhood can and does turn nasty and abusive of course, but so does motherhood, so I'm not sure how changing God into Mother helps that much.


The Godspy newsreel (along the left-hand side of the page) is an indispensable source--sort of an Arts & Letters Daily for Catholics. When I have an Internet connection that I don't have to kick in the shins every two minutes, I will add both to the blogroll.

The Volokh Conspiracy: If man is the political animal, are journalists subhuman?

And Raich v. Ashcroft (medical marijuana) case links: SCOTUSblog has a ton of people commenting, including my father and my cousin; Ninomania ("If there's anything I like less than Justice Scalia being wrong, it's Justice O'Connor being right"); and David Bernstein on the policy question:
There are essentially two strategies for those who are concerned with civil liberties for limiting the government's ability to abuse the rights of the public. One is the standard ACLU strategy of being a liberal supporter of broad government power, and then insisting that the government respect individual rights, especially constitutional rights, when using that power. The other strategy, followed by libertarians, is to try to limit the government's general power to begin with because the government cannot abuse power it does not have. The drug war provides a least one example of the superiority of the libertarian strategy. The drug war has run roughshod over the civil libertarian accomplishments of the Warren Court, leading to a weakening to various degrees of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments, not to mention a huge increase in the prison population, and the denial of the basic right to use relatively innocuous recreational drugs, even for medicinal or health purposes. Far better to have denied the federal government the power to regulate intrastate use of and sale of drugs to begin with, as, I recall, Justice Van Devanter advocated on Commerce Clause grounds way back in the "dark ages" of the 1920's.


Wow, my Internet connection is slower than a tortoise riding on the back of a somnolent ROCK. I have much more to say, but I am talking too fast for this computer's Little Pea Brain, so it will have to wait until tomorrow. Try to restrain your wailing.

Monday, June 06, 2005

MISREADING OF THE DAY: "self-infested" for "self-interested."

Friday, June 03, 2005

HEY! IT'S THAT GUY! My father is debating Erwin Chermerinsky, here, on the topic: "Should we get rid of judicial review?" Go thou and click likewise.
LOTS OF LINKS. Complete randomness abounds.

You can read CS Lewis's Abolition of Man online! Via Mere Comments.

From the ACLU: "A federal judge has ordered the Defense Department to turn over dozens of photographs and four movies depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union." Via Dave Tepper.

The Tick cartoon returns to network TV! Via Johnny Bacardi.

The Lego Life of Luther. Via Camassia.

And on a much more serious note, please say a prayer for Cacciaguida's son "Jonathan Lee Morris," who is headed to Iraq.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

TRIP MY TRIGGERS: A Lutheran pastor asks a question, or a set of questions. Let's see what I answer! (I should note--all intriguing or provocative points are the result of Pr. Frontz's excellent questions; all sidelong glances, misdirections, and crapulent theological claims are my own!)
Greetings. Your blog was one of the first I began to read, and appreciate your comments and the diversity of your interests.

You made an interesting comment--"I know many Catholics can't get enough of conversion stories, so I imagine you'll want to read this if you haven't read it already." As a convert to Catholicism, do you get tired of people asking you about your conversion story? Do you feel as if you have to conform to other people's expectations of your conversion experience, or be a "perfect" convert with no doubts in order to keep your listener satisfied?

I have no hidden agenda in asking this question; the comment merely piqued my interest.

BTW, as my sig. will no doubt imply, I am not Roman Catholic, so I am not personally invested in this, aside from the fact that as a Christian, I rejoice whenever one comes into a saving relationship with Christ through the Church. But I do get concerned that "converts" can be used and abused, especially regarding the sexual orientation issue. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Thanks for your consideration,
God bless you.

Chip Frontz
Veni creator Spiritus

Well. I don't know what people expect from me. I've never yet failed to disappoint, so... feel free to hang expectations on someone who can actually support them. (Look! A whole book of possibilities!) But let me see if I have anything interesting to say about conversion stories.

1. I don't believe you ever leave your hometown. I will never be a cradle Catholic, and I'm not sorry. I believe in loyalty. There is no way to have it all--to say yes and no with one voice, to be not-Catholic with some people and Catholic with others--but I would rather be divided than disloyal.

2. I think people want to hear conversion stories in order to know more about their own faith. That's perhaps especially true of a sensual faith like Catholicism, which works itself so deeply into the veins that it's hard to know what it would be like to live without it. What did it feel like to live without it? Ah, it was all... very confusing. I don't know that I can give a good description in non-fiction.

It was very lonely--especially so because I was (...actually) loved by family and reasonably popular at school. And so one is forced back onto the thought that They only accept you because they don't know. One of my recurring paranoias is that people near me can hear what I'm thinking; but the converse of that, of course, is that none of us can fully know another person, and so none of us can know if we would really be loved by someone who could hear what we were thinking. No matter how vulnerable I might seem, it's quite likely I'm holding something back. (And in my case, I can think of things I've spent over a decade trying not to say; and, to my great relief, succeeding.) At any rate, the point is that only faith convinces me that we--each of us, me too, not just you sweet and solvent citizens--are made in the image of God.

3. Queer; and useful. Of course, I know that these days it is exceptionally useful to the Church to gain converts who have roots in Queer Nation. I knew that when I signed up (and it did not make me especially thrilled with my decision). Here are a few scattered thoughts:
a. I was lucky in that I never expected to view myself as "virtually normal." No one on this earth is virtually normal. Phyllis Schlafly is as far from that ideal as... well. As I am.
b. If you have felt, as I have, a terrifying and soul-shaping sense of alienation from the majority culture, from very early in your life; and if this sense of alienation was at some point hooked on to your understanding of your sexuality; it might be worth considering the Catholic explanation as well as the queer-liberationist one. The latter says that our alienation is the product of cultural forces which we can somehow, by harnessing our internal (and uncultured?) drives, control. The former says that our alienation is the product of the Fall of Man, and only God's obsessive, relentless grace can bring us to the home we have always known we missed. The latter says queerness is a historical anomaly, a burp, to be gotten over; the former says queerness is a potential source of insight into the alienation that every human soul feels, from the Living God.
c. I hate being useful. If you're useful you'll get used. Therefore, I try not to be used. God will know if all my strenuous efforts at irony were worth it.

Your replies, remonstrances, and rebuttals more than welcome.
WITH A MIND LIKE THE GUTTER PRESS: At last, I have written a manifesto. Partly inspired by this; partly inspired by 26 years of resentment, gaucherie, obsession, and "strong misreading." Someday, with sufficient shaming and pummeling, this will be a poem.

A sample: Schrodinger's Cat is the gayest cat.

(Of course, feel free to add, dispute, snarl, or snap. That's what email is for.)
If you're 18-35 years old and grew up with divorced parents and stayed in touch with both of them, and would be interested in the possibility of being interviewed for a television show about your experience, please contact me.

My book on the inner lives of young adults from divorced families comes out in September (Crown Publishers) and the producers often ask if the author has people they can suggest for possible interviews. I'll be talking with the the producer of a national show next week.

You can reach me at

Please also pass this on to anyone who fits the category who you think might be interested.

Also, please understand that working with the media is a wildly uncertain process -– it's completely up to them whether they'll do anything on my book and whether they'll interview anyone in particular.


I blew up the plums
that were in the icebox
and which you were probably saving for breakfast
forgive me
I like fire

via Unqualified Offerings

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

LOTS OF STUFF at Family Scholars now... go read.... I will be back later with Lodge-mail, conversion story stuff, and maybe more.