Tuesday, July 31, 2007

DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. I've got a review in the Weekly Standard of a photography show at the National Gallery of Art, "Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945." The article is subscribers-only right now--I'll let you know if that changes--but the basic point is that the show is excellent, and you should see it immediately if not sooner.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

We watch the blogs at night, we go where eagles dare...

Comics Worth Reading: Review of Carla Speed McNeil's Finder: The Rescuers, which I should reread--the review makes me think I was too hard on it the first time around. ...Via Journalista.

First Things: Amnesty International's moral incoherence.

Scrutinies: Your Walker Percy must-read. Guns and Gardens, Doug Marlette, and more.
THE TERRIBLE LAUGHTER OF THE WORLD: So I Netflix'd a BBC series of productions of various Oscar Wilde whatnot--three plays, plus an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, plus a (shudder) biopic which I eschewed. Here are some quick reactions, starting with the play I liked least and finishing with the best one:

"Lady Windermere's Fan": It's so weird to watch a lot of Wilde all at once and realize that you're seeing very different genres of play written all in the same style. It's kind of fascinating, actually: the coruscating surface of such different underlying forms.

That said, I hated this. I'm not sure if it was the play or the performance--girls, girls! you're both ugly--but it was melodramatic and forgettable.

So forgettable that I now realize I don't have anything else to say about it. Sorry! Moving on.

(Oh--remembered that there are a few good moments, as in the first half of the overlong speech from which I took the title of this post.)

"The Picture of Dorian Gray": I admit I was skeptical from the start. It's such a lush, novelish novel that I had no idea how it could be transferred to the screen.

Clumsily, is the answer. This has John Gielgud in it, and Jeremy Brett, and the guy who plays Dorian is unexpectedly excellent; and yet this was just a mistake, I think. It's too stagy (the stabbing scene is more painful for the audience than it could possibly have been for the character) and just... all mustaches and declaiming and unfortunate. Sibyl is saccharine. (She probably is in the novel, too, but I don't remember because we don't have to see or hear an actual actress!) Without the length and artificiality of the novel, the moral tale played more like melodrama than like fairy tale or horror. This was so unlike my mental Dorian Gray that I can at least say it didn't retroactively ruin the book for me. Oh well.

"An Ideal Husband": This is where it gets good. The moral-taleyness of it all was still slightly overwhelming--Wilde can be kind of relentless when he wants you to get the point!--but the famous brilliant lines could stand up against the very tight structure of the characters' dilemma. This is still basically a cautionary tale, but it's a good one; my sympathy was engaged and so I felt suspense even though I knew how it would come out in the end. Still, I did feel like you could come to the bottom of this play on one or two viewings--which I definitely didn't feel about...

"The Importance of Being Earnest": OK, this was fantastic. I have nothing bad to say about this. It's a very weird play--felt like it had three layers: the brilliant dialogue; the farcical storyline; and the underlying real-world dilemmas and decisions for which the farce was a metaphor or a sort of slant-rhyme. And all three layers really work: the dialogue for intellectual stimulation, the farce for laughter, and the underlying, barely-grasped everyday equivalences for emotional engagement.

The BBC production is great, too. Rupert Frazer, Amanda Redman, and Joan Plowright are especially terrific as Archy, a cartoony and witchy Gwendolyn, and Lady Bracknell. Natalie Ogle is very fun as Cecily--although the combination of her looks and her role made me keep wishing they'd gotten Julie Sawalha instead.

Anyway, I'm very glad I saw these, but can only recommend the last two.
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: Accompaniments. Very simple stuff--the sandwich I ate while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the drink with which I just enjoyed "The Importance of Being Earnest."

Harry Potter and the Earl of Sandwich: Oatmeal bread, cream cheese, smoked trout (store-bought), and strips of roasted red pepper (did myself--rub pepper with olive oil, cut into strips, roast on foiled sheet for maybe 20 minutes at 375, occasionally stirring). Fell apart quickly, but tasted great.

Rum and Recriminations: Dark rum, Goldschlager, milk, a dash of sugar and a smaller dash of cayenne, stirred up and microwaved on high (you hush, it worked fine) for about two minutes, then stirred again. Delicious and kicky. Since naming a drink is at least half the fun of making one up, I of course must note that this is the Lady Bracknell. It is much less ferocious than its namesake; but so are panthers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

LADY CHILTERN: I will love you always, because you will always be worthy of love. We needs must love the highest when we see it!
--Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

Hee, Wilde gets to beat up on (what later became) Ayn Rand's philosophy of love! (More Wilde later tonight.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blogwatch, where the guys are drips;
Blogwatch, where they rip your slips...

The Agitator: Questions for the Democrats. I know they're kind of tendentious, esp. toward the beginning, but I guess I don't mind b/c I agree with many (though not all) of his premises. He also has a round-up of five songs stemming from the US civil rights movement. And while I think the civil rights movement too often becomes a self-comforting narrative of borrowed righteousness (They Might Be Giants' "Purple Toupee" and "This Is the Spawning of the Cage and Aquarium" are awesome, acidulous takedowns of that attitude, and of course old-school fans will prefer Phil Ochs's "Love Me, I'm a Liberal"), it's also amazing and inspiring, and these songs capture that aspect.

...Someday I should do a post on what I gained from a fairly Afrocentric elementary school. The seven Kwanzaa virtues are desperately socialist and lame, but much of the rest of it was great.

Daniel Mitsui: I think this might be my favorite of the many excellent Dances of Death he's posted so far.

David Morrison: ZOMG, thank you. "Now, for the record, here is a man who lives with a degree of same sex attraction, has been a Courage member and is not in the closet about either one. In addition, as I am writing this after I have returned from a very satisfying day spent in the beautiful weather with Dan and other terrific friends, tasting wine, buying wine and admiring beautiful flowers, my life is hardly miserable, dishonest or loveless."

I'm not a Courage member, mostly b/c I'm not a "joiner." But this whole idea that chaste Catholic life is devoid of love or joy--okay, I mean, I totally suck as a friend, I'm guessing it's like being friends with the Captain Nemo of the Navel-Gazing Expedition, but when I do manage to love people and be loved in return, I know I'm strengthened by my faith. I love and I'm loved, and those things are as central to my life as pride allows. My life is as sweet as honeysuckle; and sweeter because I'm Catholic. It's so strange to me when people assume otherwise.

Some people seem to have the impression--maybe because of the attitude of people they've known?--that chaste Catholic life, for someone who's mostly or entirely same-sex attracted, is this huge awfulness. And... look, you do have to take up your Cross. I would never deny that. There are times when fidelity feels like a cross. But it's just weird to me that other people think my life is so much worse than I think it is. I have one definite vocation (writing) even if other possible vocations are totally up in the air. I have specific people I've pledged to love and serve (my friends, my family, my readers, and the women I counsel in my volunteer work).

I'm grateful for my life; and I don't mean to be bitchy, but I kind of think you should be grateful for a life like mine. I get to use my talents, serve my friends and family, and worship God without fear of martyrdom. How on earth is this something to pity? I don't get to have sex with a woman I love. Well, you know... I've done that. It's really wonderful--seriously, it's amazing. It's completely not worth giving up the Catholic faith.

...Oh, and I agree with his other comments in this post, as well.

And, because I'm not done with his blog yet!, he writes about the mystery of Hell. I... I guess I don't find it so mysterious. If you've known an addict, you've known what it means to choose the destruction of self and beloved rather than give up sin. And I think most of us (can I generalize from my own experience here?) have known what it feels like to push everyone, even Christ, even ordinary humans we love, aside in order to gratify immediate urges or ignore immediate pleas. Addiction is the most obvious metaphor for Hell: Which way I fly is Hell, myself am Hell.

(My old post on despair as the Mary Sue of sins.)

First Things: Why dictators fear artists. Haven't read all of it, b/c there's discussion of The Lives of Others, and when I know for sure I'll see a movie in the future (if the Messiah tarries) I want to go in with as little knowledge as possible. But the post looks really interesting--starts with Glenn Gould in the role usually played by the Velvet Underground.

Mark Shea: Cradle and convert Catholics. Mark gets it right. And a question about suicide which could use your comments-boxing. I find it incredibly hard to offer advice in the abstract--even the degree of personal encounter we get at the pregnancy center feels shockingly inadequate to me, though I try to be as personal and one-to-one as I can given the constraints of the situation--but I know my counseling is aided by the more abstract guidelines and ideas I've heard from others. So I'm not very helpful with abstract discussion, but I know that we rely on it to shape our more one-to-one attempts.

Scans_Daily: William S. Burroughs in comics form. I... am not sure what I think of Burroughs's writing from day to day. His work mostly diminishes the longer you look at it. But comics might be the best form for understanding what was compelling in his work in the first place. (Via Journalista.)

The Rat: Crusoe, El Dorado, Naipaul.

Oh, and hey, Spider-Man shills for Planned Parenthood. Also via Journalista. Babies suck!

...And as long as I'm snatching links from Journalista, this piece about the Doug Marlette cartoon killed from Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression is really good--mostly because it includes one of several cartoons that Christians could have yowled about in self-righteous caterwaul, but were harsh and necessary, much like the Mohammed cartoon that got yanked.
NOTHING ORIGINAL IN ME EXCEPT ORIGINAL SIN: My apologies to the people who have complimented me for coining "Potterdammerung"--I totally didn't. I've seen it in several places, including, I think, Cacciaguida's opera-and-Potter-heavy site.

Also, this seems as good a time as any to link to my old post on the awesomeness of fanfiction.
OKAY, I succumbed and wrote a couple posts after reading The Potterdammerung. They're here. The first one is pretty abstract, with no references to specific plot events--it's about the (or a) difference between genre-crossing and genre-switching--but the second one is spoileriffic.
My attitude toward butter is essentially this: Anything good enough for Cleopatra to bathe in is good enough for me.
--Al Martinez, "Nothing Is Better Than Butter," in Best Food Writing 2000

Friday, July 20, 2007

Loving you is driving me crazy;
People say that you were born lazy
'cause you think that blog is a four-letter word...

Paleo-Future: Gardens of glowing electrical flowers.

Sed Contra: Powerful post on St Camillus de Lellis.

Vatican Film Library: Includes footage of Leo XIII--and a 1911 Inferno! Via Dappled Things.

And this has an awesome headline, over a truly amazing story.
Everybody's got blogwatch but me...

Family Scholars: Elizabeth Marquardt has a powerful NYT op-ed about children with three parents. Marquardt's Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce is amazing: introspective, forgiving, and insightful. I would pay lots of money I don't have to make every newspaper article that quotes Stephanie Coontz quote Marquardt as well.

Hit & Run: Vote for the Guilty Party--"none of the above; for a new election" option proposed in Massachusetts. Sounds blatantly awesome.

Scrutinies: Socrates for high-schoolers book rec. Haven't read, but sounds interesting.

Monday, July 16, 2007

OR POSSIBLY CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE WITH RANDOM PAGES RIPPED OUT?: Ever get the feeling that your "conversion story" is just God playing Mad Libs?

(scare quotes for great justice!)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

They haven't watched this blog on the air,
Not that anyone but me even cares...

A mix today of serious and... a supervillain with a fudgsicle.

The Agitator: House crime subcommittee hearing on pain treatment.

Beaucoup Kevin: The greatest panel in comics history. Via Journalista.

Child of Divorce/Child of God: "At Prison Fellowship, our focus on shalom was about more than theory. It was about finding better ways of administering justice that incorporated restitution and restoration of shalom into the process. You will see a powerful representation of that concept here. In the trailer for this film, you will see men building, stacking bricks, smoothing them. These men are building homes for people whose families they murdered, people who they mutilated and raped. They are doing something practical to restore the peace of the community, a peace they brutally shattered." (more)

Comics Should Be Good: Grant Morrison's New X-Men: That was awesome! I heartily join in the love for Beak. But CYCLOPS ISN'T BORING! I loved his storyline in NXM, but also loved previous, more Boy-Scoutish iterations of the character. HE IS AWESOME, YOU SHUT UP! >:(

...Aaaaaaanyway, here's me bubbitzing about NXM, then Sean Collins replying, then me yapping a bit more. I note that even if I was right about the comics' flaws, Morrison did a ton of stuff I really, really enjoyed. Would definitely recommend his NXM to anyone with even vague interest in an X-Men comic.

CSBG link via Journalista.

First Things: Powerful essay on illegal immigration and the corruption of a community. Worth reading regardless of your position on the current fracas. (Oh, and.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

"IT'S NOT A COMPLEX ROLE--IT'S JUST YOU IN A WIG!": Movie reviews. In chronological order:

Zoolander: World's dumbest male model is recruited for evil assassination plan. This is goofy fun, and I enjoyed it a lot. I don't think I'd seen Ben Stiller in anything before; he has a terrific airhead-voice.

Cabaret: *sigh* You guys probably already know the basic deal of this movie: Cabaret singer and her crowd during the rise of Hitler, loosely based on Isherwood's Berlin Stories, stars Liza Minnelli (...) and Michael York.

I admit that this worked for me while I was watching. It's very cliched, and Minnelli is only really good when she's singing, but basically, the movie kept my attention even as I was annoyed with myself for being affected by it. In the end, though, I just don't think it's very good. Sentimental, unsubtle, heartstring-tugging in the worst way.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company Presents the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged): Does what it says on the tin.

This is a three-man comedy team doing "condensed" versions of everything Shakespeare ever wrote (except for Coriolanus) in 90 minutes flat. I laughed a lot, but in the end, I was kind of disappointed. I'd expected the humor to be more, I guess, insightful, more based on the substance of Shakespeare's plays--more Rosencrantz & Guildenstern-type humor--when in fact it's basically broad high-school humor done with absolutely brilliant comic timing. There's one moment during the quickie Hamlet (the "What a piece of work is a man" speech) where I did think the humor was based on real insight, but for the most part, it was as much dumb fun as Zoolander. Which is fine, but not quite what I was hoping for.

And the white-guy rapping for Othello is... just embarrassing. ZOMG, stop.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: I'm not sure I'm competent to comment on this. I went in with a strange lack of expectations (having deeply disliked the fourth movie) and walked out with an equally strange lack of reaction. I'm fannish about Harry Potter--I have Opinions and Theories and so on, as that Goblet of Fire link will make abundantly clear--but this movie left me with a feeling of entirely unfannish neutrality.

Some quick, not-too-spoilery notes: Everyone's motivations are cleaned up, as is usual with the movies; they're much better than the books at making the good characters actually act rightly and making everyone act more or less sensibly. The Death Eaters and esp. Bellatrix are awesomely creepy, and the final confrontation is very cool once the explosions stop. Oddly, the movie felt more wedded to my hated concept of "good people" than the book, despite Sirius's line about the world not being divided into good people and Death Eaters. Surprisingly, Dan Radcliffe is the best of the young actors, mostly though not entirely due to lack of competition. Kreacher is awesome. Luna is okay but too lispy and sugary. A friend who hadn't read the book said she was still able to follow the movie just fine.

Anyway, still excited for Book 7, so hey.

eta: Much more, and somewhat different!, from Cacciaguida.
The belief that a person has a share in an unknown life to which his or her love may win us admission is, of all the prerequisites of love, the one which it values most highly and which makes it set little store by all the rest. Even those women who claim to judge a man by his looks alone, see in those looks the emanation of a special way of life. That is why they fall in love with soldiers or with firemen; the uniform makes them less particular about the face; they feel they are embracing beneath the gleaming breastplate a heart different from the rest, more gallant, more adventurous, more tender; and so it is that a young king or a crown prince may make the most gratifying conquests in the countries that he visits, and yet lack entirely that regular and classic profile which would be indispensable, I dare say, for a stockbroker.
--Swann's Way

Monday, July 09, 2007

THE FBI AND POT. (Via Ratty.)

As an old print ad used to say, Many people who smoke marijuana go on to harder things.

Like grad school.
KITCHEN ADVENTURE: IF WE WERE ALL LITTLE FIGGIES THEN WE'D SING FIGGY-WIGGY-WIGGY-WIGGY-WOO! You know, people always say these are their favorite posts....

Anyway, not sure what to say about this adventure. It wasn't a complete success, but neither was it a complete failure; so if you have any thoughts on resolving the main problem, drop me a line.

Roasted Figs with Goat Cheese. The recipe (from Food and Wine) was stupidly easy: Preheat the oven to 425. Cut the figs as if you were going to quarter them, but only cut 3/4 of the way down, so the quarters are still held together at the bottom. Stuff the figs with goat cheese, roast ("in an oiled pan," but I just used a foil-covered pan) for 12 minutes, and drizzle with warmed honey. Note that you really don't need a lot of goat cheese--I bought too much. Many goat cheese sandwiches are in my future.

The first time around, these were a bit too sweet. The bigger problem, though, was the fine grit on the outside of the figs.

No problem, I thought, I'll just wash them. So the next time I made the recipe, I washed the figs carefully, then roasted them with the goat cheese, quite a bit of black pepper, and a dash of cinnamon. No honey. This flavor combination was much better, and there was a lot less grit... but it was still a slight problem. Did I just need to wash them even more, or try a new batch of figs, or what?? The sweet/goaty combination is a lot of fun, so I'd like to learn to do these better.

Also, these look super elegant in the cookbook picture, but actually they have a tendency to fall over during cooking, so they serve up a little sloppy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

CITY ON THE EDGE OF WHATEVER. I hear where they're trying to cast a replacement for James T. Kirk, my first male crush. (First female crush was Diana from V. Yes, I know, this explains everything.) I'm telling you right now, there's only one man who can bring the true Kirk to the screen these days:


Anything less, and I will not only withhold my dollar; I may riot.

Monday, July 02, 2007

LATHER, RINSE, REPENT: I found these contrasting theses of Radical Orthodoxy both intriguing and very funny. Somehow via Inhabitatio Dei.
But the angel said to me, "Why marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come."
--Revelation 17:7-8

Creepiest beast ever, y'all. It's the absence of present-tense: beast tomorrow and beast yesterday, but never beast today. So scary and real.