Thursday, August 31, 2006


and for pity's sake, save our cheap beer, too! If a man's house is his castle, surely a man's Duff is his royal mead....

(Both links via Hit & Run, which also offers this... and this.)
Joseph Kassab, head of the Chaldean Federation of America, met Aug. 25 for the sixth time this year with officials from the State Department to press the case to allow Chaldeans -- Iraqi Christians -- fleeing their homeland to emigrate to the United States. ...

He estimated that less than half of the 1.1 million-1.2 million Chaldeans who were in Iraq before the U.S. war began in 2003 remain in Iraq today. Kassab said most of them -- 92 percent -- have fled to Greece, Syria, Turkey and Jordan. ...

However, a federal regulation that was passed as part of the Patriot Act forbids the entry of immigrants determined to have provided material support to the enemy. Paying ransom to kidnappers has been interpreted as providing material aid, Kassab said. Even the Iraqi citizen who helped locate U.S. Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch and aided in her rescue has been denied entry because he had to pose as being sympathetic to the Iraqis, Kassab said.

Kassab told the story of a Chaldean woman he identified only as Miriam, whose house was occupied for a week by insurgents. They forced Miriam and her daughters, ages 16 and 15, to cook for them and give them directions. On the last day of their stay, the six insurgents raped Miriam and her daughters and told them they would be killed if they ever said anything. After the ordeal, Miriam and her daughters fled to another country -- the name of which Miriam did not want disclosed for fear of the insurgents' revenge.

The family was denied U.S. entry because the cooking and directions under duress were construed by U.S. officials as providing material support.

more (via Mark Shea)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

SHE THINKS I STILL CARE (Feast of Augustine Dance Remix): Follow-up to post below re: gay identity and stuff. Likely to be at least as scatterbrained and demi-coherent as its progenitor. ...This is the really really Christian mix, as opposed to the original really really gay version--but I swear they're saying the same thing!!! It's like those pictures that are an old lady, but also a duck.

The kindness of strangers: First of all, um. Thanks very much to everyone who commented on the previous post. I really didn't expect much of a response. ...Religious Left Online comments here; Now the Green Blade Riseth sets me on fire with envy by reminiscing about the Smiths; and an anonyreader writes:
...I think your comment on unmixed pleasures is right on target. I've long thought that those who oppose identifying oneself as gay or whatever in even a general sense (I'm thinking of the Courage people here) miss that. Certainly, it doesn't say everything there is to say about a person, but it does carry a heavy chunk of real meaning, and that *does* say a great deal about someone's identity as a *person*.

What I think gets left out a lot of the discussion, and which you seem to be bringing into it, is that homosexuality is more than just the moral disorder that a guy wants to bang another guy. It influences how we interact with friends, how we look at gender roles in general, and can sensitize us to shades of meaning that we would otherwise not see at all, or only with great difficulty. And having experienced what it is to be an outsider in a very particular way, we tend to be a bit more aware of the marginalized in general, as you mention. Failure to recognize that wider sphere of queerness leads to discussions that can see in homosexuality nothing but a cross to be suffered or a peril to society and one's soul. It also leads otherwise good Christians to say very wretched things about people suspected of being gay, even if those people may be as pure as the driven snow, because the identity has been reduced to the mere category of lust. To struggle against the principles of lust doesn't, I think, require anyone to flee from everything else that homosexuality brings with it.

One last thought, on identity and community, that may make sense from a Jewish p.o.v., too. Growing up a Catholic totally surrounded by Protestants and looking for the handful of people that were also Catholic, who saw the world through similar eyes and had similar problems and experiences, sort of felt analogous to looking for the handful of people who were gay. There was always the danger of projecting one's own experience onto them (or vice versa, assuming that if they had gone through certain things, then I had to, also), but the sense of identity, discovery, and automatic community was very real.

So. Yeah. I totally agree about the danger of projection, by the way, and suspect I may engage in it in some of these posts, so really, people should call me on it where they see it.

How to do things with wants: In comments over at Claw of the Conciliator, Anactoria offers some challenges:
Her position has always really disturbed me.

Does her choice of inaction mean that she believes god would condemn any action on her part towards her lesbian desires? Since her sexuality is part of her, like it or not, does that mean she abhors a part of herself? Or believes that god does?

Hey, man, if I were going to abhor a part of myself, it would be the part that paid good money for this!

...No, okay. Some thoughts: First, it's very clear to me that Catholic teaching is much more affirming of my worth as a person than I might be on my own. Unlike me, Catholic dogma is not moody. It just keeps saying, day after day, that all people are made in the image of God, and that all our failures and cruelties can't take that away.

Second, Christ can get very hardcore on the subject of what one should hate: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." Any love or longing, no matter how good it might ordinarily be, must be abhorred and put aside if it leads us away from Him.

And I think it works the other way around, too: What leads us to Him, we should cling to. (Hey, look, Thomas Aquinas has my back here!)

So the question, with any desire, is how to turn it into something like Diotima's ladder of love: how to move, through longing, upward to Christ. This is what I mean when I bubbitz on about sublimation. I won't say sublimation comes easily to me--kind of by definition, the sublime is never easy--but it's a move I find intuitive and one I think I understand pretty well. I wanted to have a bit in this post listing and describing the ways in which I'd "acted on my lesbian desires" by, e.g., writing fiction; going to Confession and Communion; seeking greater humility in my relationships with others, and, especially, trying to be more servant-like in my relationships with my friends; investigating new philosophical paths, giving people the benefit of the doubt, trying to view others the way I viewed the women I loved. Unfortunately, I think if I got specific enough to be practical and useful, I might also make it a little too obvious which women I'm talking about, so, uh, this is all you get. You want more, try the Symposium....

It is shaped, sir, like itself: In a separate comment, Anactoria replies to somebody else (= not me) by saying, "...I don't quite see the correlation between an inherited or acquired bad temper and a person's sexual orientation. To me, that's like comparing apples and oranges."

And I do see the objection, there. I've used the temper analogy before (here--also a journalism analogy!), and I've used other analogies as well, like cultures that associate masculinity with cruelty. None of these analogies captures everything important about same-sex desire, by any means! All of the analogies miss out on a lot of important stuff; which is why I've tried to write very plainly about the experience of same-sex attraction, to keep in all the elements the analogies miss.

But the analogies often do small, specific things pretty well. The temper analogy was powerful for me because I do have a hot temper, but I've come a fairly long way in mastering it, and so I can draw on that experience when I try to figure out how to increase my humility and lovingkindness in other parts of my life.

The journalism analogy is fun because it is so obviously culture-bound, and I wish people would stop pretending that contemporary gay identity is some kind of fixed constant in human affairs. It isn't. It's maybe 120 years old, and has only really gained currency in the past thirty years. So something can be a very significant part of a person's identity (I am really passionate about being a journalist, the professional ethos of it, even though I am a shank and do not do nearly enough reporting) without being some kind of eternal verity.

One analogy I used here is the medieval culture of "courtly love," and its glamorization of adultery. That's super interesting for me in the gay context (it's super interesting in itself, really, but especially w/r/t Gay Stuff) because parts of that culture actually did get transformed into something deeply Christian. CS Lewis's excellent study The Allegory of Love gives the details there. (Cliffs Notes version: Edmund Spenser began the project of transforming a tradition celebrating adultery into a celebration of married love.) So part of my project, I think, is exploring ways in which (parts of) the gay culture might similarly be transformed. We already had a sub-sub-subcultural version of this transformation in the 19th-c Aesthetic movement. Why not go for a larger-scale version? ("Celebrate Gay Humility"? *g*) Maybe it would sound like this....

Anyway. I do agree with the critiques of analogies, really. I just want to point out that there are good reasons for using them, even though there are also good reasons for clinging more closely to the specifics of gay identity.

Nice girls, not one with a defect: And finally, Anactoria muses:
I suppose it would help if I believed in the whole concept of humanity being an inherently sinful and "fallen" race but I don't. The Genesis account of man's supposed fall from grace doesn't mesh with my idea of a god of love.

I wanted to save that bit for last, because although I do suspect it helps explain our differences, I didn't want to use it as an "easy out"--I wanted to deal with the part of the iceberg that's above the surface, first.

But in case talking about what it means to be Fallen will help, here goes. First off, I will repeat what I said (and elaborated on) a couple years ago:
So I ran across this person who says she doesn't believe in original sin.


But what I want to know is, what does she call it? What does she call that yearning toward hate, that reverse heliotropism? What does she call the damage that all of us bear from the time of our earliest memories?

Chesterton, I think, said something about how the Fall is the only obvious Christian doctrine (?). And I agree with that so thoroughly that I'm not even sure how useful I can be in defending the idea--it's too central to my experience of the world. I mean, look: My mom works in prisoners'-rights litigation. If you want to be convinced that humans are not naturally good, I am hard pressed to think of a better school.

People want, and want very badly, a lot of really awful things. The fact that somebody really, really wants to do something, or believes it's embedded in and intrinsic to him, doesn't actually tell me very much about that thing's moral worth.

But I absolutely, 100% deny that humans are naturally bad or evil, either. If that were true, how could we ever long for or recognize beauty and truth? To be Fallen is to share both the legacy of Adam's sin, and the memory of his happiness. (See--right up there in the title, I promised you some Augustine, and there it finally is....) Something's gone wrong with us, yes, but somewhere deep down we do still remember what it was like to be able to love. And by following that submerged and occluded memory, we can learn to accept grace, and be healed, and love truly.

But the thing is... the effects of sin, in our hearts and in the world, are not trivial. They're deep and subtle and really hard. That's why people have had to give up things they truly loved, to follow Christ: occupations, relationships, life itself. What I've been asked to give up is not that much, compared to the sacrifices of others.

(And yeah, I know I totally haven't addressed why I'm Catholic and not some other thing that would be all "gay-affirming" or whatever. But that isn't what I wanted to do in these posts; I'm not wildly good at it [it ends up just being, "Nothing except Catholicism made any sense, and the Church said I had to stop gettin' girls, so, you know, that's the end of that party"]; and I am currently a lot more interested in how to be Catholic, anyway. ...So, with that unsatisfying parenthesis, I will end this enormous post.)

No one escapes my love.
--Quentin Crisp

And the tears of it are wet: One postscript. If you're reading this, and you pray, please do a thing for me, okay? Please pray for the repose of the soul of L.S.; and for his family. ...Thanks.

Monday, August 28, 2006

AUGUSTINE!!! Woohoo!!!

Read him online here.

Dappled Things on our man and gradual conversion.

(yes, I promise to post about replies to the gay-identity stuff, tonight, sometime before 3 a.m. EST....) ETA: except for the part where, not. Sorry. It is coming soon. And wouldn't you rather read Augustine anyway?
THEOLOGY REDSHIRTS: Oh, well, I've been thinking a lot about things I don't write about here, because I don't have anything coherent yet to say. And just-war theory vs pacifism is one of those things. (Yes, your reading recommendations very much welcomed.) Camassia hits close to one of my biggest problems with (certain strains of) Christian pacifism:
...I would put that more bluntly: why the hell would anyone in government go along with a narrative that says their main function is to serve a church that they don't believe in? It sounds a lot like the Muslim concept of "dhimmitude," only instead of just inconveniencing the infidels with taxes and other minor burdens, it expects the dhimmis to perform dangerous jobs like policing on behalf of the privileged group. ...

If you look at it that way, there really isn't a whole lot of daylight between Yoder's position and the Lutheran one. The princes of Luther's era also "used the tools" that they inherited to do what they thought was right--in their case, the tools being things like armies and judicial fiat. The only real difference seems to be that while Luther felt it was OK for Christians to wield the sword of the state in a just manner, Mennonites apparently feel it's OK to hire other people to bear the sword according to their direction.

Because make no mistake about it: any time you pass a law, you are backing it up with the sword. Notice that in my first Yoder quote above, he mentions "the state's judiciary and police machinery" in the same category as international wars. Near the end of the paper he oddly remarks that, "In a highly christianized culture it is an available alternative to have unarmed police and no capital punishment," and I am totally confused as to whether he means "christianized" in a Constantinian sense or not. But either way, that is clearly not the society we live in now; so every law is backed up with violence.


There's a reliance on people who must stand outside the peaceable community, in order to protect that community. There's a weird acknowledgment that so many of our little kindnesses, and all of our conspicuous lack of martyrdom, depend on the guns in the hands of men who haven't yet accepted the pacifist interpretation of the Gospel. And I maybe can see acknowledging that fact... but I'm not sure I can see accepting it. And I can't see admiring the pacifists behind the walls more than the soldiers at the sentry towers.
TIGER BEAT: Martin Tielli's We Never Suspected He Was the Poppy Salesman.

Oh, well, yeah.

This album opens with a fantastic song that reminds me of nothing so much as Angela Carter's Heroes and Villains. It keeps going in this same pretty, broken-open vein, and while the first half of the album is mostly stronger than the second, there's a song somewhere in the second half with imagery that managed to remind me of both the Iliad and Kathy Shaidle's "The Missionary Performs an Exorcism." In sound, it's interestingly Cat Power-ish: lyrics and vocals reminiscent of her earlier albums, mostly Dear Sir, but with a poppy-prettiness level closer to her more recent and more popular album Free.

There's something with this guy. I said before that his Operation Infinite Joy is flawed, and yet I can't stop playing it!, and both of those things are still true. WNSHWTPS is more consistent, less self-doubting or jaggedly veering, and definitely the best things on it are better than even the best things on OIJ. You should go find this thing.

And as my pusher noted, it's available here for "$15.00 Canadian! ZOMG cheap!"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I HAVE DRUNK, AND SEEN THE SNAKES ON A PLANE: A-plus, cats and kittens. The Platonic form of "Samuel L. Jackson stars in 'Snakes on a Plane,'" instantiated now at theaters everywhere! Rock.

Geoffrey Chaucer on "Serpentes on a Shippe" (spoylerez)! Super awesome for those who have seene ye movie. Via Angevin2 maybe?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Would you believe that yesterday
That girl was in my arms and swore to me
She'd blogwatch eternally...

Disputations: Saints behaving badly.

Jane Galt: Against the corporate income tax.

Sed Contra: David S.:
Things used to make so much sense, and I never used to doubt anything about my life or my faith. Now, approaching the age of forty and finally coming to terms with the facts that both ordained religious life and married life are out of the question for me, nothing makes sense anymore.

What do you do when that happens?


From the NY Sun: "With the cost of health care looming as an election issue in America this fall, doctors in Canada are speaking out about their own system and voicing some serious displeasure. The latest sign is the selection this week of the head of Canada's largest private hospital, Brian Day, to become the president of the Canadian Medical Association in August 2007. Dr. Day's election is being viewed as a sign that Canadian doctors are getting fed up with socialized medicine. After all, their president-elect has been a forceful advocate for a greater private role in medicine and is technically a criminal, since the law bars clinics like the one he heads." (via the Club for Growth; and not intended as an endorsement of the American health care "system," which is obviously insane, but as a caution against adopting the Canadian approach as a solution.)

From the Telegraph:
A blind activist who exposed a campaign by Chinese officials to force women to have abortions was jailed for more than four years yesterday in one of the country's most controversial human rights cases since the Tiananmen Square massacre.

more (via Amy Welborn)

From the New Statesman:
"Ma", in broad translation, means interval or pause, and Kawabata's best sentences in Japanese are distinguished by suspensions in the action and by pauses between clauses, the equivalent of the use of white space in Japanese ink painting, or the long pause in haiku.

more (via Mumpsimus)
The birds are the opposite of time.
--Oliver Messaien, program notes for Quartet for the End of Time (via About Last Night)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

WELCOME TO THE MALIGN FIESTA!: Search requests that brought you to my blog.

God's spoken documents to have black panthers powers in 1965 for old little roman pope citizens (I am the second result!)
peanuts subjunctive (fourth result...)
Home Euthanize rodent
never underestimate human poets
boola Catholic theology
shark porno
mcdonalds gospel feast
ecstasy shark (I finally know what I want to be if I grow up!)
malign fiesta definition
Eve Tushnet intellectual and moral conceit (I love you too)
Problems humans face
is the pentagon not telling us we are going to have a ice age
the bland old man and rorty
invalid cheese
Hiding Things from Parents
what does undercooked mean in French (it's like a bilingual Mobius strip!)
inspirational story vulture (isn't any story with a vulture an inspirational story?)
human nature lecherous fever
king lear link king kong literacy
telos platypus (And on the eighth day, God said, "Heh--now I'm just messin' with them.")
psychology of long hair male multiple chains around neck facial
expression babycakes
find an article about a loquacious person
SHE THINKS I STILL CARE (lightly edited): OK, so ever since I read it, I've been obsessing over Disputed Mutability's description of "moving past gay identity." So. Why that is not how I am.

First of all, this is NOT criticism of DM or of her stance. It is solely a discussion of why I am where I am. There are really good reasons to be where she is, and I think she articulates them well, and I'm not disputing (ha) any of them. (And I really wish I could quote her entire paragraph on the subject here, but for some reason my mouse is wigging on me, so please do go here and read her discussion FIRST, just so you can see the degree to which I'm just riffing rather than actually "replying" to her post.) If I overstate, at any point, or say something you think is haring off in the wrong direction, please do let me know.

Second, this is really scattershot, and... I'm not sure how coherent it will be. So if something's unintelligible, please do let me know about that, too.

So: Why do I "identify as" queer, or whatever?

Destroyed, my people are destroyed/For lack of knowledge: Dude, if I don't, who will? Eugene Debs believed a lot of very dumb things, but I have never been able to shake his old catechetical formula: "While there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free." I've paid out a lot of hours listening to guys in US Army issue glasses talking about watching their friends die from AIDS. I can't turn away from that. Because of where my experiences have led me, I can't walk away from the situations/identity/whatever that shaped some of the bravest people I've ever met. And as long as those people are still getting messed with, growing up hating themselves, or any other kind of suffering, because of a sexual identity we share, well. "I am not free."

And the only sound was the women in the chapel praying: I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until somebody doggone listens (!): might not be Catholic if I weren't queer. You got to dance with the one what brung you, yeah? As with the point above--I think I owe it to all the people I never got to thank in person. (And all the people who wouldn't accept my thanks if it were offered.)

Oh, I still see sunny days; oh, I go that far: Before my baptism, I was really shaken by the idea of making such a serious break in my identity. I felt like I'd worked really hard for any sense at all of continuity of identity--a sense of a self, rather than fractured and unaccountable selves. It was actually reassuring to me to think that while the guilt of sin would be expunged through baptism, the tendency toward sin--and thus the past, the person I'd been until Easter 1998--wouldn't be removed. Similarly--I know people say all these very intelligent things about how "coming out" is an individualist/Gnostic thing, and yeah, I see that. But I don't think I can completely reject that experience of hearing the key turn in the lock, feeling like the world made sense, without rejecting wholesale my ability to recognize truth when it presents itself--and therefore rejecting my conversion, as well, a much more profound "coming out" experience.

And when I get excited...: a. I can't shut up, anyway, about anything; and b. I kind of don't think I should. A lot of other people in similar situations have excellent reasons for not being super hardcore about gay/queer identity. I don't have any of those reasons. I'm out, self-employed, completely unable to keep from yapping about myself at every opportunity. (...And yes, you might say that last thing is one reason I should occasionally shut my cakehole. You wouldn't be wrong. But...) Somebody has to talk about the joys of life as ye olde same-sexe-attracted Catholicke, and the various ways of handling troubles, and, well, the fact that I completely suck at it shouldn't stop me! As Chesterton says, anything worth doing is worth doing badly.... (And as the Bagthorpes say, too much is never enough!)

Hay una discoteca por aqui?: I can't think of any culture--possibly not even Jews! maybe not even Catholics!--that has provided as much joy in my life as gay culture. It's been more than a decade since my first girlfriend gave me a tape with The Smiths up one side and Your Arsenal down the other, and I still remember why I'm here each time "Reel Around the Fountain" plays. Socrates, in the Philebus, is totally unhelpful: In this life, there are no unmixed pleasures. So we should honor joy and longing where we find it, even if it's attached to other things we can't hold on to.

Hang on to your ego: And finally, I suspect I am postmodern enough to take this whole category of "identity" both seriously and lightly. (Kafka: "A belief is like a guillotine: just as heavy, just as light.") Seriously enough that it really matters to me, you can say "gay solidarity" and I won't totally laugh (maybe just a little), it'll always be a huge part of my True Hollywood Story. Lightly enough that I know my sexual orientation can't and shouldn't be more central than my identity as a woman or especially as an image of God. Plus, I believe we're all double-tongued, subtle disloyalists, spies in our own hearts, our own enemies--we're our own Nathan Hales and our own Kim Philbys--and I think that makes it easier for me to claim this admittedly unheimlich identity.

Dreaming of Mercy Street--
I swear they moved that sign....
"TAKE IT AWAY... AND BRING ME ANOTHER LOVER!": A quick expansion on part of my comments below about Do the Right Thing: You know how I said that Withnail & I was fantastic, but more self-indulgent and less scathing than Absolutely Fabulous? The same thing is going on in DTRT (and with much less justification)--children are absent in W&I, which is exactly right, but which does draw the movie's fangs a bit; but in DTRT they are not even a subplot, just a plot device.

For W&I children are irrelevant. That's fine--I really love that movie--but it means the movie can't be as horrible as possible.

For DTRT children exist, but aren't real. That's... yeah, consistent with the view of male human nature I've formed over five years of working at a crisis pregnancy center. Sorry.

For AbFab, children may be vicious little rodents, but at least they're real. [eta: I love Saff, she's awesome if scary, but my point is that even if you take the perspective of the immature adults all around her, she still matters and affects their lives.]

Which one was written by a woman? You get three guesses, and the first two don't count.
If I could find a souvenir
just to prove the world was here--
and here is a red blogwatch;
I think of you and let it go...

Well, the world managed not to blow up on my birthday. Ace. Let's see if we can hold out until I get a chance to see Snakes on a Plane.

The Arabist: Linknesses. Iraqi SMS culture. Stuff like that. Via Oxblog, I think.

GetReligion: Cosmopolitan rats, they would kill you if they knew.... (Or, "You hate me! You really, really hate me!")

Mumpsimus: "...I would love to see a version of The Man in the High Castle directed by Wong Kar-Wai." OMG yes.

Virginia Postrel: "...People who worry about organ markets because they're concerned about the poor are on the wrong side of the issue. Poor patients, and there are many of them, would greatly benefit from payment, which would also save taxpayers money compared to keeping people on an infinite entitlement to dialysis."

Friday, August 18, 2006

THIS HEAT IS HOTTER THAN THE SUN...: Now I get it. The way to make heirloom tomatoes taste amazing, better than normal tomatoes, is to roast them. This is sooooooo good.

(...yes, I will say something interesting soon. Maybe.)
DOLPHINS ARE DUMBER THAN RATS. Vindicated!!!! Take that, hippies of the sea!

...In other news, "I Walked with a Zombie" is awesome; "Cat People" is excellent; "Curse of the Cat People" isn't my thing, but if you're into this kind of storybook/sensitive/childhood thing I can see why you'd like it; and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" kind of sucks. ...And as long as I'm telling you about my Netflix adventures, "The Testament of Dr Mabuse" is fantastic, though I don't think I would have picked up on the political subtext if I hadn't known it was there; "The Changeling" was lame (ooh, punny); "Do the Right Thing" has problems, and is a lot less ambiguous than I think it was intended to be, but nonetheless rocked my world, I loved it stupidly and it felt real; "Little Caesar" was perfectly serviceable; and "Forbidden Planet" was wild and creepy and shakily surreal. (I'm much more an expressionist than a surrealist, despite my love for the horror artist Magritte; but yeah, "Forbidden Planet" was lovely.)

...dolphin-unsafe link via The Corner.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

SAND IN THE PAGES: Kelly Jane Torrance has a follow-up to her summer-reading column! (I participated in the first one.) I didn't know Ralph Ellison wrote movie reviews.... And my belief that the Dartmouth Review is not nearly as cool as Yale's Finest Publication is shored up yet again: If we ever did an anthology, we'd have to go with a title more like, The Yale Free Press Pleads Guilty. ("Their case is fuzzy and circumstantial!")

Anyway, the column is here, and it is fun.
A master of music came with the intent
To give me a lesson on my instrument.
I thanked him for nothing, but bid him be gone,
For my little blogwatch should not be played on!

...Despite the cute intro (you all should get the Baltimore Consort's "Art of the Bawdy Song" CD!! I got it off Amazon Marketplace this past week, having last heard it freshman year of college, and it is fun fun fun in the sun sun sun), most of these links are pretty awful. Sorry....

Balkinization: Fun with war crimes! (...See what I mean about these links?) Actually I'm with the commenting professor who says focusing on humiliation and degradation is at least as important as focusing on cruelty. My only problem with the section on torture in Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain was that it completely ignored humiliation, when it seems to me that humiliation is the point of the pain, and a big part of what distinguishes the pain of torture from the pain of e.g. dentistry. Whether I'm right about that or not, though, wouldn't change the points made here.

A "hardcore urbanist" reads Jane Jacobs for the first time. Via Virginia Postrel.

Jonathan Rauch on Louisiana life a year after Katrina:
....Back in St. Bernard many people, presented with such arguments, will concede that every rule has its reasons. When a fire marshal told Voitier, the school superintendent, that she could not use an urgently needed mobile classroom because the doors were too close together, he was following a rule that may well make sense in normal times.

The trouble is that nothing--not anything--is normal in St. Bernard. The collective effect of all the rules and procedures has been to slow recovery in the early stages, when momentum was critical. Still more damaging, perhaps, is the psychological toll, a gooey mixture of anger and demoralization that drains energy and amplifies despair. It amounts to bureaucracy fatigue. Most welfare mothers know this feeling well, and many become used to it (or learn to game the system), but St. Bernard had always cherished its sense of independence. The parish was stunned by the hurricane, and then was stunned again to be pitched into a blizzard of pettifoggery, precisely when it felt too prostrate to cope.

more; via Hit & Run; seriously, please do read.
KITCHEN MISADVENTURES: CAUGHT IN A CELLULOID JAM. I always felt bad for Meg, in Little Women, when her jelly wouldn't jell. So is it appropriate, or ironic, that I have now become the Anti-Meg?

I attempted to make strawberry jam, based on a Food & Wine recipe. The idea was that this recipe, for "icebox strawberry jam," didn't require anything crazy like sterilized jars or ice baths or what have you, and it would keep in the fridge for about two weeks. The recipe in the cookbook is as follows:

ingredients: one pint thickly sliced strawberries; 1/4 cup honey; 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest; small pinch five-spice powder; salt & pepper

how-to: Put everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 40 mins. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

What happened: OK, so I estimated on the honey, because I don't have a measuring cup. I used between 1/2 and 1/3 of a small honeybear. (...Shut up, I think they're cute.) I also used the juice of a lemon, rather than the lemon zest, because I'm easily bored. Other than that, I basically followed the recipe.

And I got this... stuff. It's kind of awesome in its own special way. It doesn't spread so well, and I think the honey vs. strawberry flavors don't blend as well as they should. But it doesn't taste bad at all, and if I can come up with good recipes that won't require spreadability (scrambled eggs + strawberry jam?), I think it'll be yummy. Still... what I actually have in my fridge right now is not so much strawberry jam as strawberry sludge.

How come? People can definitely correct me if they think it didn't work out because of the amount of honey or the lemon juice vs. lemon zest issue. But I think it's because I overcooked. There was a definite point when the mixture turned from "some strawberries in some honey" to "jam impending, ten o'clock!", and I think I wasn't attentive enough to that shift. Basically, the mixture darkened and became the color I associate with strawberry jam, rather than the color I associate with fresh strawberries, and that's probably when I should have cut off the stove. Instead I kept cooking for the entire time stated in the recipe. I suspect five to ten fewer minutes on the stovetop would have produced jam that would spread like an inappropriate simile. Unfortunately, you really do have to chop up a lot of strawberries for not a lot of jam, so I'm not sure when I'll be trying this recipe again.

Bonus misadventure!: I forgot that "on sale" does not = "cheap." Hence my lunch today: bread topped with thickly-sliced heirloom tomato, thickly-sliced fresh mozzarella, and leaves of fresh Thai basil, all toasted in the toaster oven on a foiled tray. Gotta say, I had expected a heirloom tomato to taste super awesome, and this one, at least, pretty much tasted like any other tomato. (I munched a bit of it raw, and cooked half of it with pasta, too, so I've tried it several ways.) The open-faced sandwich was good! --but probably not good enough to justify the fact that I was basically eating money.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

And he had the idea to fly
So the wind swept the blogwatch across the sky...

About Last Night:
Aug. 5. Young partridgers, strong flyers. Soft showers. Swifts. Pease are hacking.
Aug. 6. Nuthatch chirps; is very loquacious at this time of the year. Large bat appears, vespertilio altivolans.
Aug. 7. Rye-harvest begins. Procured the above-mentioned specimen of the bat, a male.
Aug. 8. Rain in the night, with wind. Swifts. Sultry & moist: Cucumbers bear abundantly. Showers about. Procured a second large bat, a male.
Aug. 10. Flying ants, male & female.
Aug. 11. Heavy clouds round the horizon. Lambs play & frolick.
Aug. 16. Rain, driving rain, dry. Four swifts still.
Aug. 18. No dew, rain, rain, rain. Swans flounce & dive. Chilly & dark.
Aug. 19. Swifts abound. Swallows & martins bring out their second broods which are perchers. Thunder: wind.

more; oh, so cool.

Disputed Mutability: Why she would recommend ex-gay ministries; her problems with the theories about "healing" homosexuality. I... still really wouldn't, as to the first post, but you can certainly take that post as (for the most part) a list of things to look for in non-ex-gay ministries as well. Anyway, I'm linking these posts basically to provide a perspective in many ways different from mine, so if you are interested in that, go on over there.... I'm sorry, I think I'm sounding very standoffish, and I don't mean to. It's just that it would take more time and energy than I have right now to detail what I agreed with and didn't agree with here, with all the requisite "this is just One Squid's Experience" disclaimers, and it would take "tl;dr" to the next level anyway. So I'm just linkin', not so much with the thinkin'.

ETA: Why do I post while watching horror movies? Why do I fail completely to express myself? (And why am I in this handbasket?) What I meant was that the DM posts are well worth your time, I could sign on to a lot of what she said and was fruitfully challenged by the parts I couldn't, and all I wanted to do was a.) point you that way in case you're interested and b.) note that I do have points of disagreement. Sorry for sounding kind of bitchy above.

True Choices for Women: Profiles of pro-life pregnancy centers. What do they do? What do they need? etc. And if you want a more up-close and personal look, and you live in the DC area, the wonderful Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center will be holding its fall volunteer training soon. Call (202) 546-1018 and ask for Ann.... Blog link via Amy Welborn.

The Accra Daily Mail reports on a conference of Africa's center-right parties. Via Colby Cosh.

And a really good article on immigration in Delaware. Also via Amy W.

And last, but most emphatically not least, A Holy Tango of Literature:
Shall I compare thee to a sperm whale, sperm?
Thou art more tiny and more resolute...

and much more. Many are just cutesy, but the ones that work are awesomely awesome.