Thursday, March 31, 2005

How We Speak Today

Catherine Seipp's column today at NRO had the following hilarious anecdote on current mores:

"I can't get away with it," responded Angel's Tim Minear, whose new show The Inside is a
Silence of the Lambs-style gorefest that will premiere on Fox later this year.
"Children are gutted on my show from stem to stern, but I couldn't have a serial
killer say the word 'retard' because that would have been insensitive."

Read the rest at

Hanoi Jane Talks

"Jane Fonda has no regrets about her trip to North Vietnam in 1972 - with
one big exception: her visit to a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun site used
to shoot down U.S. pilots."

At least she regrets something. More at

Cesar Chavez Day

Today was Cesar Chavez Day. This site above points out something most people don't know about Chavez: he was firmly opposed to illegal immigration. That shouldn't surprise anyone. If you want to improve working conditions for poor Americans, it wouldn't make any sense for you to encourage even poorer foreigners to flood the job markets.

Cesar Chavez was also, I've heard, a devout Catholic. During what turned out to be my conversion, I remember thinking a few times that any church that could (theoretically) get Cesar Chavez and Pat Buchanan on the same pew and have them, when the time came, turn to one another and say, "Peace be with you", was a churh that was probably big enough to hold even me.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Homeland (In)Security

A new report which analyzes government data says that the number of illegal aliens is growing. The terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 supposedly taught us the value of controlling our borders, but we have a couple million more illegal aliens now than we did then. How is this a good idea? For anyone other than businesses who don't care where they get their labor, so long as it's cheap, I mean.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Life Imitates the (Animated) Movies

Anyone remember the bit in The Incredibles, when the hero is hit with a "wrongful life" suit? Crazy, right? Europe has just handed down its second wrongful life ruling, according to this news story:

NARAL's "Sex Ed Haikus" Contest

NARAL recently hosted a "Sex Ed Haikus" contest (as is usual with this sort of thing, any resemblance to actual haiku is purely coincidental.)
Jack Fowler of NRO's the Corner suggested
Please someone destroy
The sonogram machines! They’re
Revealing the truth!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Something From Yesterday's News
There's so much to dislike in this news story--and I mean the events, not the way they are covered--but it was the final quote that got to me:

"I wanted to know where God was when this happened," Free [a man
whose niece was wounded in the shooting] told the Chicago Sun-Times. "He was
supposed to be everywhere. He could have at least been there."

That annoyed me, and I'm not quite sure why. I also know I'm not being all that charitable toward this guy. People say stupid things when they're upset. Reporters can fluster people. Questioning God's presence or concern are pretty common whenever we are experiencing tragic events. And I'm hardly immune to the "why me" syndrome myself. But it annoyed me. All I could think was, "Why wasn't God there at the shooting? Why not ask where God is when babies are ripped from their mother's wombs everyday? Where is God when people are torturing and starving their children? Where was God when Ed Gein was making his breast-complete vests of women's skin and dancing around in them? Where was God when Hitler slaughtered 6,000,000 Jews?" Assuming the church where the shooting occurred is some Protestant Christian group (I'm not familiar with them) and assuming Free is a member (the article doesn't say, but in the first flush of my annoyance I assumed he was), is his Christianity so fragile that the first time something bad happens to him, his faith breaks? Is he one of those people who think bad things only happen to bad people? Are the people in that church so socially isolated and historically cut off that they think bad things only happen to people who lack faith? What's the deal?

Today my annoyance has faded and I can pity the man. If he and others at that church (assuming he is a member) believe in a sort of health and wealth gospel in which bad things simply don't happen to people with enough faith and if they see no potential good in suffering, then they are in for some bad times--beyond the relatively uncomplicated stress of having a gunman open fire on you, I mean.

I don't understand the health and wealth gospelers, myself. Or even the more common "have faith and nothing bad will happen" type thinking. What Bible are they reading? Ever heard of Job? Or that bit about being persecuted for Jesus' sake? Having to carry the cross? And do they have any acquaintance with history? I don't recall ever hearing that individual Jews and Christians were always spared disease and disaster because they had faith in God. I don't recall ever hearing that Christian nations were spared trouble just because they were Christian (let's not even mention the Jews as a group--ai yi yi!) But the attitude is everywhere.

This kind of stuff made me angry even as a child. My younger sister came home from a slumber party once, telling how, when bad weather threatened, the host child had said she wasn't afraid because she knew Jesus wouldn't let anything happen to them because she believed in him. I was very angry about that. I already tended toward atheism even then (I was about 13), but my attitude was that, damn it, if you're going to believe, take it seriously. I knew about Job and I knew bad stuff--especially bad weather, for goodness' sake!--happens to everybody. Faith isn't some lucky charm. Jesus isn't a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. That cross you're supposed to pick up and carry is a torture device, not a Ring of Protection +5. When I was yelled at for criticizing that girl's "thinking", I got off a parting salvo: "It will make people hate God!"

And I was right. It can. Case in point: A lovely older woman my husband and I used to know apparently lost her faith over this kind of thinking. As best my husband could piece together from what she said to him, she came from one of those Protestant groups that, whether it actually preached the idea officially or not, held that bad things won't happen to you if you have faith and act right. And she went along with that up through her early married life. Then one of her children died of SIDS. Explain that, health and wealth gospelers.

Catholics and Science Fiction

Ignatius Insight has a great interview with Sandra Miesel, on "Catholics and Science Fiction." There's two parts.

I already knew Miesel from seeing Catholic-related articles of hers online, and I liked what I'd read. Also I think she was the author of an article about contemporary neo-paganism that I found to be the best--and that includes fairest and most accurate--article on the subject I've ever read. (As a former neo-pagan, I remain irritated by people who get it wrong.) If I'm remembering correctly, her involvement with fandom goes a long way toward explaining why an article by a Catholic in a Catholic or generalized Christian magazine (I forget where I read it) is better than any I've read elsewhere; there is a lot of overlap between sf/f fandom and the neo-pagan subculture. Anyway, the interview, as well as any Catholic articles by her, are worth reading. And now I know she writes a little fiction, I'd be up for trying that too.

Are Boring Black Novelists More Interesting Than Boring White Novelists?

This is kind of funny. A novelist active in the 1890s was assumed by some twentieth century scholars to be black, on the basis of a photograph that might charitably be described as ambiguous and the fact her second novel took place in an area that later become a black tourist spot. That's it. No other evidence, and her novels apparently gave no indication that she might be black. Now she's been identified as white. But not before she'd inspired the reprinting of some old works by black women and the spilling of a fair amount of scholarly ink about her own novels' racial subtleties and whatnot.

Here's a link that provides links to the February 20th Boston Globe article that outed Kelley-Hawkins as white and articles commenting on the whole thing.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

French Health Mullahs Go After Dead Guy

"France's National Library has airbrushed Jean-Paul Sartre's trademark cigarette
out of a poster of the chain-smoking philosopher to avoid prosecution under an
anti-tobacco law."

Idiots. But perhaps I am being unkind. After all, does not our society tell us that tobacco is the root of all evil? Clearly we must stamp out the demon weed wherever we find it, and if that means rewriting history to make it smoke-free, so be it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Something to Keep in Mind

Jonah Goldberg made a comment on The Corner this morning that bears repeating:

"Feeling passionately about something -- contrary to the popular culture's version of politics -- doesn't prove you have principles. It proves you're excitable and leaves open the possibility you have principles."

Schizoid Pride!

Here's an interesting piece posted by a man who doesn't believe schizoid personality is a valid disorder, but a base personality type. Actually the piece is a paper his fiancee wrote about him some years ago. The writing is not of high quality, but it makes for an interesting read. Especially for people like me who are strongly introverted and can sympathize with a lot of the talk about how extroverts oppress us. Hey, don't laugh. When even pedophiles are claiming they are normal and natural and their diversity should be celebrated, why is it okay to try to change the harmless introvert?

Yet More Pointless Personality Tests

I am Apocalypse Now.

I am Albert Einstein.

There are actually some more serious personality tests at the site. As well as an "ask the oracle" test that will give you an answer to what you should choose from among up to five options.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Feeling uninspired? Here's an article about US soldiers who've lost limbs and still want to return to the fight:

What Obsolete Skill Are You?

This is an odd quiz; since when is "growing one's own food" an obsolete skill? Here's my results:

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.
You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by


Monday, March 07, 2005

Executing for Crimes While Underaged

Maclin Horton has some interesting commentary on the recent Supreme Court decision that we can't execute people for crimes committed when they were under eighteen. Horton is bothered not by the ruling, but by the reasoning behind it and the reaction (or lack of reaction) to it.

My question--of the ruling, not Horton's commentary--is if it is wrong, as Justice Kennedy would have it, to execute young criminals before they've had a chance to attain a mature realization of their own humanity (or come to actualize their personhood or some such twaddle), why can't we just keep them in prison for a few years until they've had a chance to do that and then kill 'em? I'd think spending a few years thinking about your own imminent demise would mature your understanding quite a bit.

The World We Live In

I don't mean to make light of a mauling, but one line in this article takes the cake. The wife of a man who was mauled by chimpanzees says, "One was at his head, one was at his foot. But all that time ... he was trying to reason with them" [ellipses in source.]

Reason with them?!?!? They're chimpanzees! You have to wonder, are these people vegans or just your ordinary, garden-variety idiot?

(Hat-tip to Ace of Spades.)

NRO Contributer Utters Blasphemy!

From today's NRO article by Alex Massie: "...the Python brand of humor is generally, and I think undeniably, a boy thing..." Aaargh! Say it ain't so! Last time I checked the contents of my trousers, I was still tending toward girlness, and it's never even occurred to me that loving Monty Python was a boy thing. Jeez, it's not like they're the Three Stooges or something.

In Which Auntie Suzanne Has a Thought

Man, I love the information age. A few minutes ago I had a thought: All of the Americans who say America should be more like France and the rest of Europe, all of those Americans are against nuclear power--doesn't France get most of its energy from nuclear power?

Within a couple of minutes, I'd typed "France + nuclear power" into Google, and an article by Frontline producer Jon Palfreman called "Why the French Like Nuclear Energy" came up second from the top. It seems to be a few years old, so there's probably more up-to-date information out there, but it answered my question. Yes, France gets about 76% of its energy from nuclear power. It also addresses why the French are friendlier to nuclear power than Americans. Briefly, the French trust the government and large, centralized projects more than Americans do, the French need nuclear power more than Americans do, and the French think more highly of scientists than Americans do. Also the government put a lot of effort into getting people to consider the benefits of nuclear energy, rather than just the problems.

Now, I read through that article very quickly, so I may not be summing up as well as I should, but that's not the point. The point is that I can wonder about something and, assuming I'm near a computer, in a few minutes I can have the answer I'm looking for. It's great to be able to find information so quickly. You'd think I'd be used to it after all these years, but every once it still strikes me as amazing.

Then again, I was in a Wal-Mart a few months ago, pointing out some buttons to my husband, and saying wasn't it amazing the stuff we take for granted, here's buttons with intricate swirling designs on it that would have been so amazing to our Viking forebears that they would have been proud to wear them as an ornament, and here we look at them as nothing, just some ordinary something sold for 67 cents and hanging on a piece of pasteboard at Wal-Mart. And I really was amazed at the great detail we can put onto small buttons--so gratuitously and so cheaply. It's possible that I am easily impressed.

Who You Gonna Call? Spiritbusters!

The Curt Jester has a funny song parody up that made me laugh. In your mind's ear, hear Ray Parker singing:

Orthodoxy makes me feel good
I ain't afraid a no post-modernist

I also like the picture of Cardinals Ratzinger and Arinze blasting a sound system.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Quote of the Day--Or Week Or Month

"Abandon self-control and you will soon be controlled by someone or something else."
(Mark Shea)

A New Blog of Politics and Haiku

Here's a new blog that could be promising, Zen Politics.

No, I'm not endorsing Zen. I'm not even necessarily endorsing the politics found therein. I just like the mixture of politics and haiku. And I seem to remember Michael Rehling from some haiku groups I participated in many net eons ago. If you'd rather have the haiku without the politics, he has some 'ku up at Haiku Hut .

World Over Bits

I enjoyed World Over's interview with Michael Medved, available here:

I'd meant to listen to it last Friday when it aired (the TV show is simulcast on radio and you can listen online), but I forgot and had to wait until it was archived. It was still enjoyable a week late. I don't actually care about the Oscars or other entertainment industry awards shows, but it was interesting to hear what he had to say about this year's Oscars picks. And his annoyance with the way Million Dollar Baby was marketed mirrors my annoyance with the early reviews I read. From the reviews, I thought it was a boxing film. And the first reviews I saw were so good, I wanted to see it--and that's even though I don't often go for sports movies. When I later found out what it's really about, I felt really annoyed that not one of those early reviews I read had even mentioned it was a euthanasia film. Imagine how angry I would have been if I had made it to the theater before I saw the later reports and had spent my money on what I thought was going to be an inspiring, "underdog succeeds against great odds" film, only to find out it is a "kill the underdog" film.

Anyway, since I happened to have listened to the Medved interview shortly before this week's program aired, I decided to go ahead and listen to the new one while I prepared supper. It has short interviews with Mel Gibson and with Francis Cardinal Arinze, who seems like a delightful man. I liked his response to the question about whether Catholic politicians who support abortion should receive Communion or not: he said, basically, that if you have a public figure saying he supports killing unborn babies, that he supported it yesterday, and that he will continue to support it tomorrow, but he still wants to take communion, it only takes a little elementary school child to know what the answer should be.

Given that a lot of self-proclaimed Catholic politicians have the attitude of the one out in California (I forget her name) who recently said, in essence, "how dare the bishops presume to tell the parishioners how to practice the faith," I won't hold my breath waiting for them to develop the wisdom of these hypothetical schoolchildren.

A Breath of Air, by Rumer Godden

I should probably refrain from commenting until I've finished it, but this book was a pleasant surprise. I found it in a thrift store and picked it up, knowing nothing about the book, only that I've liked everything else I've read by Rumer Godden. (The Dolls' House, The Kitchen Madonna, In This House of Brede.) It turned out to be a modern re-telling of The Tempest, and surely better than most modern retellings. Not (so far anyway) fantasy or, worse, psychology or, infinitely worse, a PC screed with Caliban as the hero. I used to participate in some online Shakespeare discusssions that kept loose track of Shakespeare re-tellings, adaptations, etc. in modern films and novels, but I don't recall this book ever being mentioned. It was published in 1950, but according to Amazon it is still in print.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

How One Woman Came To Vote Republican

"The Making of a 9/11 Republican"

Cinnamon Stillwell relates how 9/11 turned her from a liberal to a conservative, or at least a Republican. Back in the old days, she says

"I wrote off all Republicans as ignorant, intolerant yahoos. It
didn't matter that I knew none personally; it was simply de rigueur to look down
on such people. The fact that I was being a bigot never occurred to me, because
I was certain that I inhabited the moral high ground."

I'm embarassed to say I have some familiarity with that scenario.

Let Them Cuddle Dolls

This is sad.

"As Japan produces fewer children and more retirees, toymakers are
designing new dolls designed not for the young but for the lonely elderly --
companions which can sleep next to them and offer caring words they may never
hear otherwise."

Since I read this I've been wondering if anyone will market them here in the US. We don't seem to have taken to electronic dolls and pets the way the Japanese have, but like Japan we have an aging population; I have on a few occassions seen old people--old women, specifically--going around clutching dolls, either as mere comfort objects or because they thought the dolls were babies. The Baby Boomers will soon be retiring, and the hedonism so many of them embraced themselves and promoted in others may just come back to bite them in the ass. If a doll can give them comfort, that's good. But if all they have is a doll, it is also sad.