Wednesday, October 28, 2009

THREE LINKS. First, in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Yale Political Union, the only article you'll ever need about the ypu.

But also: Noli Irritare Leones turned me on to these two interesting posts: a friendship contract; and the "moral murkiness" of charity. The latter link has a terrific story of a fistfight, and reminds me of my post about pregnancy center counseling, leadership, and complicity.
OUT AND ABOUT, LIKE A RORSCHACH BAT*: Here's where I'll be in the next few days. If your own itinerary looks similar, why not say hello?

Thursday: All-day conference at Heritage on "Religious Practice and the Family: What the Research Says." This is totally free, they feed you, and I should be able to get an article out of it... and, uh, it's also a fascinating subject!

Then, at night, I shall venture into darkest Rosslyn (it's actually about four blocks from the metro, but I am scared of suburbs) to see Synetic Theater's wordless adaptation of Dracula. I saw their Midsummer Night's Dream earlier this month, and it was amazing--funny, sexy, eerie, poignant, all conveyed solely through music and movement. I'd been hearing about this troupe, mostly made up of Georgian immigrants, for years; I can tell you it lives up to the hype. More once I've seen Dracula.

Friday: "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror," at the American Film Institute Silver theater in Silver Spring. Again, a short (though uphill) walk from the metro. Scary movie with live music. I'll be at the 9.30 screening.

Saturday: Halloween!

Sunday: "Night Editor," AFI, 12.45 pm--tickets only $5! Noir, and I'm hoping the title indicates that there will be at least a bit of newspaper-noir, a subgenre I can never resist.

(Also, this is All Saints' Day, of course, so I will be churchifying.)

*Possibly the second-most obscure blog heading I've ever used. That Hattifatteners quote might still be the most obscure.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"SHELF LIFE." My new AmCon column--which is only available to subscribers online, so check your local libraries and newsstands!--takes a look at Martin Luther King, Jr. Public Library. I think this is my favorite DC column so far.
THE PURPOSE PRIZE. Hey, that's my aunt! (Second item.)
"Conservatism is my sexual preference."
--the FC, around 5 a.m. Sunday morning

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The last bus I missed to Maudlin Street,
so you drove me home in the van
saying, "Women only watch me
for my blogs..."

Sean Collins says more or less what I thought about Danica Novgorodoff's Slow Storm comic... except that he was easier on white-$#@!up Ursa than I was. But yeah, the art is amazing.

Maggie Gallagher on Ricky Gervais vs. Oscar Wilde (yeah, you have to fight through some partisanage, but it's worth it--scroll until you hit the Wildery if you have to).

Mark Shea on converts vs. cradle Catholics--yeah, I think this is a good assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of all us messed-up popish folk.
HOT LINKS FOR HORROR CHICKS. I revisit Night of the Living Dead. (Also contains comments on Paranormal Activity, so you might want to avoid this post if you're avoiding fairly general yea-or-nay commentary on that flick.)

Lotsa horror-bloggers list the tropes which always freak them out! Fascinating. I will say a) my thoughts about Zelda in the movie of Pet Sematary can be discerned from my thoughts about the mother in the Willard remake (which I otherwise loved--and, in fact, I definitely would not make this same criticism of the novel of Pet Sematary),

and b) I can only think of two tropes which get to me as horror in a way that they affect me in no other genre. #1: the sea. Discussed here and here and here. The black and churning ocean.

#2: traumatized blondes. From The Birds to Vertigo and way beyond... horror is literally the only genre in which blondes really do it for me. I mean, I wouldn't kick Veronica Lake out of my... uh, church pew... but for the most part it's only in horror that blondes make sense to me.

The More You Know!
...D'Addario was a rare breed of supervisor for a paramilitary organization. He had learned long ago to suppress the first impulse of command that calls for a supervisor to intimidate his men, charting their every movement and riding them through investigations. In the districts, that sort of behavior usually resulted from a new supervisor's primitive conclusion that the best way to avoid being perceived as weak was to behave like a petty tyrant.
--David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

This petty-tyranny is what leadership isn't. Leadership is getting men to love what you love. ("Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.") Leadership is about creating future leaders, who can see what you couldn't see. Command is always, at its best, a form of submission: submission to the target, to the unseen, to the mission, to the barely-apprehended beloved.

[edited to clarify what I meant by "this"!]

Friday, October 16, 2009

LESBIAN CHRISTIAN WHATNOT. Disputed Mutability is back!!! "Celibacy I could accept. Assimilation never!"

and Miss Ogilvy seeks novel recommendations.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: A TERRIFIC DATE MOVIE! Unless you're heterosexual or something.

No, an actual review is here. Probably too long, probably chewing a bit too hard, but there you have it....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The fundamental anthropological truth of the Gospel is not that we are sinners, but that we are loved. Repentance is not grasping that I am a sinner, any fool with a modicum of self-knowledge and awareness knows that about himself. No, repentance is knowing in a deep and personal way that I am loved.

(the rest)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

PURGATORY IS A ROMAN A CLEF, AT BEST: Elie Wiesel's play The Trial of God is amazing, and if you're reading this blog, you probably should read it. It's based on a real thing that happened: Wiesel, fifteen years old, was taken under the wing of some fellow Auschwitz prisoners who were rabbis and Talmud scholars. One night they put God on trial, as Job did. God did not deign to appear in the dock as He did with Job. They brought in a verdict of guilty. Then they made their nightly prayers.

The Trial of God changes both the setting and the outcome. We're in a 17th-c. village which has recently been scourged by a pogrom. This early-modern setting gives a sense of the ways that Jew-hate has existed across millennia. The pretext for the trial is that this night is Purim--the night celebrating the Hebrews' miraculous victory, recorded in the Book of Esther, against the genocidal villain Haman. A traditional formula states that on this night, Jews must get so drunk that they can't tell Haman from (the Jewish father and hero) Mordechai. This is carnival for Jews, carnival with a knifepoint as sharp as it should be (yet almost never is) for Christians.

The idea of recasting the Book of Job as a Purimspiel is astonishing. Everything in this play rang true to me. Initially I did wonder about some things said by the local Orthodox Christian priest, in which he explicitly praised Haman and said he was a true Christian--that seemed like making one's opponents unnecessarily stupid. But actually I think it illustrates how insane Jew-hate makes the haters. A Christian who hates Jews must be open to shockingly absurd reworkings of the Gospels, and Paul's letters.

I'd recommend that you avoid any edition of this play which includes interpretive essays by Christian theologians. My copy has two, a foreword and an afterword, and both seem rather disgustingly invested in taming the text. There is no way to make this text "safe" for Christians--or Jews. There is no way to make this text an apologia for God. It is not possible, and I'm somewhat shocked that anyone tried.

I do think Wiesel's play is haunted by the Christian understanding of God, not solely the Jewish understanding. There are several moments where it seems like there's a deep desire and need to see God Himself suffer. If only one could be certain that God Himself is crucified with the persecuted Jews, then perhaps God might be worthy of love... or perhaps not. Perhaps this would simply make Him yet another clown, another puppet yanked around by the strings of history and hate.

What Wiesel does display so helplessly is the terrible cry, "If there is no God, what do we matter?" If there is no God, why does human suffering matter; why does justice matter, beyond the dumb utilitarian desire to hurt less and enjoy more; why are there Jews? It is the raw fact of the Jews, and nothing else, which stands in the face of atheism in this play. It seems as though the choice is: Either the Jews are absurd, or God is.
THREE DEFENSES OF THE BUTCH MANTILLA: This is not a post about sincerism!

But in my previous vast post on the subject, I said this:
My strong impression is that sincerism is connected to a belief that ethical discourse is the only valid philosophical discourse. Talk of right/wrong always trumps talk of beautiful/banal. (I hope this formulation indicates that I do think sincerity--like ethics-talk!--is frequently appropriate.) If you say, "Women covering their heads in church is just another sign of Paul's misogyny!", and I drawlingly reply, "Well hmmm, I'd rather see a bulldyke in a mantilla than a nun in a pantsuit"... I've stepped out of the ethical discourse into the aesthetic, and therefore forfeited my right to be taken sincerely/seriously.

(And I mean it, too! I'd clip a daggone diaper to my head if it meant that most women would wear actual pretty lace to church instead of board shorts!)

which, understandably, led some readers to say that they were not willing to get on the "misogyny is okay if it's pretty!" train I seemed to be conducting.

So here are three defenses of my position, in order from least to most persuasive-to-me.

#1. Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty? In any case where we're negotiating a tradeoff between beauty and equality, I'll defend the practice of asking, "How much beauty for how much equality?" In this case the beauty is obvious--those headscarves and church hats are lovely!, and the various kludges women used when they were caught short without their headcoverings (such as bobby-pinning the church bulletin to their hair) strike me as charmingly humiliating and wry. Meanwhile the equality is quite minor and fairly unsettling--neither men nor women would be expected to wear some symbol of their submission to God.

However, this argument does fail to meet a major objection, which I hinted at in the Hamlet (/Ophelia) quote. The mantilla can be understood to imply that women need more signs of submission to God than men do. This is a subspecies of the "outsourcing their spiritual lives to the womenfolk" that I decried here. If we understand the mantilla this way, we oppose its beauty not only to truth but also to men's submission to God. Both of these oppositions seem to me to be much harder cases than beauty v. equality, and I'd be hard-pressed to take beauty's side here.

So ultimately I think the "tradeoff" argument fails, though the fact that I consider it a strong argument should give some sense of how I approach these issues.

#2. Spending time, nowadays it's equal, nice, it's paradise.... I might be more amenable to ditching the mantilla if it really meant that women would be equal! But it never does, you know? Ridding ourselves of these ways in which tradition beautifies our subordination never ends the subordination (and often doesn't even mitigate it); it simply replaces beautiful subordination with banal.

I note that the solution is always to ditch the specifically feminine symbols of submission, rather than universalizing them--nobody ever says that men should wear the mantilla. Julia Serano might have some sharp words about why that happens.

#3. The Man-Mary, again. If we look for ways to express both the spiritual equality of men and women, and gender difference, we may find ourselves in dangerous territory! Since I doubt adopting the yarmulke will win many friends among Our Elder Brothers in the Faith, we must look around for specifically Catholic forms of submission which are restricted to men, as the mantilla is restricted to women. Guess what we find?
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: PEAR AND BRIE. Before we get to the adventures, a quick beer review: I'm sipping a Lagunitas "Little Sumpin' Extra" ale, and the overwhelming smell and flavor is of... walnut husks. Green walnut husks. I am unconvinced that this will become a regular beer for me.

Anyway, some sandwiches! Basically, I did a bunch of variations on one basic toasted cheese sandwich containing pear, Brie, balsamic vinegar, and some form of sweet onion. The basic procedure was to set the oven to 375, halve a small ciabatta roll, fill the role with sliced pear, onion, and cheese, wrap the roll in aluminum foil and bake for 15 mins.

The variations: #1--I sauteed the onion slices in butter to caramelize them, then drizzled the pear and onions with balsamic.

#2--I roasted the onion slices in balsamic before making the sandwich.

#3--I didn't pre-cook the onions in any way, but sliced them thinly, drizzled with balsamic, and topped the brie with a bit of cayenne.

I liked the third variation the best (and it's also the easiest and quickest), but in fact they were all good. I think the flavors didn't quite meld in the first variation, but I'm not sure why. I feel like one more ingredient would make this sandwich perfect--even the third variation had a tad bit too much roll proportional to filling. I wonder if sliced apples would work? Sorrel leaves?? Or just an extra layer of pear....