Archives for October 2007

The Great Pumpkin Monster

I have little doubt that about 95% of you have already seen this. But there is no reason why the remaining 5% should not have the opportunity to have their childhood memories brutalized and left for dead. Rough language and gore. And Peanuts characters.

Søren Says

Which is more difficult, to awaken one who sleeps or to awaken one who, awake, dreams that he is awake?
– Works of Love

What would you say to an Evangelical tempted to become Catholic or Orthodox?


Oh, Britney. Seducing a priest in the confessional? Madonna from 1989 called, she wants her schtick back. Actually, Madonna had a much better handle on sacrilege – girlfriend remembers her Catholic pieties:

Plus, while Madonna and Britney have both played the rosary-as-necklace card (and guess who did it first?), at least Madonna knew better than to drape the beads around the priest’s neck. Sheesh. Who’s styling that shoot?

Mark Steyn on The Full Metal Deer Apocalypse

“Back in 1996, Pat Buchanan, hot from his triumph over Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary, warned the country-club Republicans that he was coming to get them “like a character out of Deliverance.” In the film, you’ll recall, a quartet of suburban guys spend a nightmare weekend in the backwoods, in the course of which one of their number winds up getting strapped to a tree and sodomized by a mountain man. (“Squeal, piggy!”)

At the time of Pat’s remark, I remember thinking: What a great country! In how many other political cultures can a fellow identify himself with a stump-toothed inbred psycho hillbilly homosexual rapist as an applause line?”

Because "that pig-mask chick from Saw IV" was just a little too labor-intensive…

…Bizarro selects “couple ignoring the population crisis” as one of the scariest costumes of 2007.
See you in the funny papers!

"Well, Son…

…it’s either what they call a Harvest Moon, or the result of all the smoke from the fires, or the first sign of the Apocalypse. What do you think?”

How You Found Korrektiv

Two years later, “Nuns and Naked Women” is still the post that brings ’em in. Thanks for visiting, 219.20.164-san of Somewhere, Japan. We hope you’re happy in your hunt for pornography on the job at Softbank BB Corp, and if they ask you about it, you can truthfully tell them you rather enjoyed Percy’s paeon to New Orleans.

“…he’s batting as a switch hitter now”!

From the Bird’s Nest Soundtrack: Precious Angel

Birds Next, In Your Hair!

Chapter Four

When Diana gets home from work, the first thing she always does is take a shower. After the shower she towels herself off in front of the bathroom mirror, and once in a while she takes an extra minute to look herself over. She’s generally pleased enough with what she sees, (this hasn’t always been the case), but will often try to make sure by viewing her profile, sometimes cupping a breast with the opposite hand if she thinks they might have fallen a little since the last time she checked.

After wrapping a towel around herself, she went out into the main room of her studio apartment and turned on the music. She played again one of the last songs she’d heard at work, also from Slow Train Coming:

Precious angel, under the sun,
How was I to know you’d be the one…

Mark Knopfler, the guitarist, chunked out a couple of chords and then a few squirrelly notes as she danced her way back to the bathroom. In front of the mirror she combed her hair and attended to a few other minor ablutions. Her hips swayed from side to side in rhythm with the song.

The enemy is subtle, how be it we are deceived,
When the truth’s in our hearts, and we still don’t believe?

Lifting one foot up onto the counter, she inspected her toenails (unpainted) and went after the big one with clippers – she’s limber enough to bite these as well, but she doesn’t. Since she had her foot up on the counter already, she took another minute to examine a couple of white scars just below her ankle. They weren’t more than a quarter of an inch in length, between her ankle and Achilles tendon. There are similar scars in other, fleshier parts of the foot (one between her toes, for example), and all of this was somewhat imprecisely repeated on the other foot as well. There were a few similar marks on her left wrist, although she’s been able to keep them hidden under her stainless steel watchband. She’s ashamed of these marks now in a way she hadn’t been when she first made them, but looking at them also gives her back some of the feeling she’d had when she first made them. She certainly knows what another person would think, which is why she made them more or less discreetly in the first place.

You were telling him about Buddha
You were telling him about Mohammed in one breath
You never mentioned the one time the man who came,
And died a criminal’s death.

She’d usually scratched herself with a pin or a needle when she was feeling anxious, sometimes even a little desperate, and it actually had brought her a brief respite. A little bit of peace. Strangely confused with these thoughts was a feeling of pride: when she first started cutting she’d actually thought of it as artistic. Somewhat, anyway. The cuts on the wrist had been made six years before (they had been appreciated simply for the pain), during an especially bad patch, not too long before she’d started working at Queequeg’s. One day not long after she’d started she’d thought that maybe Queequeg himself would be proud. Larger than life, branded and tattooed, a wooden statue of the great Polynesian greeted Diana and everybody else from his station beside the front desk where the hostess and the seaters for the restaurant stood.

She hadn’t scratched herself since then, although she still checked these scars on her wrist fairly often, sometimes several times day, usually when prompted by feelings of sadness or anxiety. Underneath there is frustration at not being able to express herself in any other way. ‘This is what I did,’ she solemnly tells herself. ‘I don’t do it anymore.’ But she still thinks about it, and sometimes she thinks about worse, and of course she still bites her fingernails.

Shine your light, shine your light on me
You know I just couldn’t make it by myself,
I’m a little too blind to see!

After her shower she usually eats a simple meal by herself. After dinner she drives (not because it is far, but because it is dark) a couple of blocks up towards Capitol Hill and goes to the church of St. John Bosco. Actually, she doesn’t go into the church itself, but to the administrative offices in a building next to the church, to a conference room where the weekly RCIA class is always held.

RCIA stands for the ‘Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults’, and by ‘Christian’ is more specifically meant ‘Roman Catholic.’ In essence, of course, Christian initiation has been around since John the Baptist, but in its present form the RCIA has been in place since Vatican II, the momentous conference of Catholic bishops in the mid 1960’s. Naturally, the exact circumstances by which a person decides to join the church are unique for each individual, but once the decision is made, his or her path follows a pattern determined largely by the rhythm of the liturgical calendar, which is the same for all Catholic churches, if not for all Christendom.

The process usually begins with a phone call to the nearest parish office, though not always – people have been known to walk in off the street and end up staying for a lifetime. In Diana’s case, this call wasn’t taken by the parish priest she expected, but by another administrator (the ‘pastoral associate’), Martha, who invited Diana to come as an ‘Inquiry’ to a meeting on Wednesday night. This itself, Martha emphasized, was not the RCIA class, but often served as a prelude to it. Occasionally, Martha further explained, people come to the Inquiry class, attend for a while, and then decide not to continue. Some, of course, never come back, but most did. In most cases, absolutely no pressure at all was put on these inquirers to make a decision, at least by the parish staff, but some indication needed to be made by the inquirer that there was a desire to continue. At that point a sponsor must be found, if there wasn’t one already in place, and attendance was required at one mass during the weekend, usually Sunday morning. For some, attendance continues at the Wednesday night session (as it does for Diana), for some it does not.

Usually the RCIA class (more traditionally known as the Catechumenate) meets during and after a Sunday morning mass. The catechumen, as the inquirer is now called, begins mass with the rest of the congregation, but is dismissed after the gospel reading. At dismissal all the catechumens stand up at the altar, receive a blessing from the priest, and then file out to a meeting room, often the same room in which the inquiry classes are held. There, while the rest of the congregation donates to the collection and shares communion, they discuss the weekly readings, ask questions about scripture and the church, and sometimes share whatever personal experiences may have led them to consider joining the church. At St. John Bosco Martha led these meetings as well. Father Adamowicz, the parish priest, often stopped by after mass on the way back to his office.

Diana began attending the Wednesday night inquiry class in June of the previous year, and not quite a year later (shortly after Easter) she joined the RCIA class on Sunday mornings. This was a much more difficult decision than she had let her fellow inquirers and catechumens know; she still hoped that her reasons for doing so, as well as her reasons for hesitating, would become clearer as she got closer to Easter. Diana hadn’t shared much of her experience with her fellow wayfarers during either the Wednesday or the Sunday sessions, and neither they nor even Martha, had really understood why Diana had started going to church. She thought she might be able to talk with Father Adamowicz more easily than she could with the others, but even this thought filled her with a good measure of anxiety.

For most of the other people, their reasons for joining the church were obvious; some were preparing to get married, some were baptized Catholic but never confirmed as teenagers, and the decision by some was precipitated by some kind of disaster in their lives, disasters which were sometimes revealed through hints and allusions and at other times with surprisingly little discretion. Diana’s silence actually wasn’t noticed much by the others at the meetings. Diana never missed a Wednesday or a Sunday; even if she had been working late the night before, and the others found even her silent, continuing presence witness enough to her commitment to the church. Most of them noted that she never took exception to anyone else’s opinions (not many of them were very contentious, and were often expressions about what God had come to mean to them personally), and she seemed especially interested in hearing the personal stories of others. When they found out she tended bar for a living, her quiet nature seemed to make a little more sense. She even joked about it a little herself.

Once in awhile some of the other catechumens stopped by to see her at work. Most of them probably assumed that she was accustomed to listening to the stories of others. Once someone had even suggested that she would probably make a good counselor, at which point Diana nodded towards Father Adamowicz (occasionally he sat in on the meetings), smiled and said ‘Either that, or maybe Father should just start tending bar.’ As a matter of fact, one older couple (Jim and Sarah) were counselors, and jokingly volunteered their services to anyone Father Adamowicz wanted to send along.

Father Adamowicz had himself announced that this particular catechumenate seemed to be a pretty good group. He didn’t expand on this much, other than to say that they asked a lot of good questions, although Diana herself hadn’t asked very many. Nor was she especially moved by most of the issues raised by 0thers, except when it came to their personal stories. She wondered whether Father Adamowicz complemented every group, but in the end she decided to believe him. Normally suspicious of people, she found it very difficult not to trust him. As for the character of the group, individuals very seldom vied for more time to talk about themselves, and generally everyone in the group did a good job of who said what and how it might relate to the discussion at hand. Generally people were more inclined to listen than to talk, Diana only more so. Perhaps because of that Adamowicz hadn’t taken particularly special notice of Diana from the beginning.

Currently the church was in ‘ordinary time’, a period of several weeks in the liturgical calendar between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Lent. Most of the catechumens were present, grabbing chairs out of their stacks and setting them up in the usual circle.

After a short period of introductory small talk and opening the meeting with a short prayer, Martha asked for a volunteer to read the passages from scripture. Following the readings there was usually a brief silence, not too uncomfortable, but still a slight burden for everyone. Diana both feels and chooses not to feel this particular burden, since she hardly ever says anything and wasn’t about to begin now. Still, there were occasional moments when she couldn’t avoid the awkward feeling that people were conscious of her avoidance. Once Martha had even asked her straight out if she had any particular thoughts on the passage. She’d blushed briefly and simply said ‘No, not in particular.’ She could remember her first inquiry meeting, when Martha had everyone else go around in the circle one by one and introduce themselves, a comforting formality that worked as a kind of orbit preceding the splashdown into a sea of discussion concerning personal experience, scripture, patristics, and anything else that might be brought to bear upon their decision to be baptized. While all this could get pretty boring, Diana wasn’t able to shake the sensation that it must be vitally important in some way she couldn’t yet recognize.

John, already nearly completely bald in his late twenties, was the first to speak this week. He rubbed the strip of hair at the back of his head and proceeded with caution. “Well, what strikes me about this last reading is hearing my own name, though of course I’m the one to be baptized, not the one to do the baptizing. I’d just like to say that I’m looking forward to this Easter, which I think will make our wedding this summer that much more meaningful.”

John’s fiancée, Anne, is Catholic, and was therefore still in the church finishing mass. She, along with one other fiancée, as well as all the other spouses and sponsors, would join the meeting when mass was completed a few minutes later.

“I suppose I should also say that I don’t feel especially worthy, either, although I’m not sure any of us are really supposed to. To really be worthy of baptism, I think, one should either be a saint or, ah . . . I don’t know . . . at least want to be a saint. I think that baptism really signifies a beginning, a new beginning. Although I’m not sure how a newborn infant could want to be a saint. I guess they’re supposed to be without sin. Maybe that’s the same thing? I have no idea what I’m talking about actually,” he added, “someone help me out here!”

Diana resisted the urge to roll her eyes and told herself to be kind. To think kindly. It was hard sometimes, and especially here in church, of all places. Father Adamowicz wasn’t in the room this week, but she wondered what he would have made of this.

Jim tried his best to help John out. “At times I wish I had been baptized and raised Catholic from birth, but that also seems to be a way of forsaking the sacrifices of my own Presbyterian parents, for whom I’m quite thankful.”

John nodded eagerly, rubbed the back of his head again and said “Thanks.” Then he tried to pick up the ball again. “Okay, baptism signifies a new beginning, after having your sins washed away … right? But then, why was Jesus called to baptism? That doesn’t make much sense … I mean, He’s Jesus after all … what kind of sins … err … uh … ” He trailed off into a cloud of confusion that seemed to envelop the entire group.

An uneasy silence fell. Diana felt a scream building up within her, and more than anything wanted to climb to the top of the tree she was looking at though the sliding glass doors across from her. All eyes went back to Jim. He’d rescued them once before; could he pull it off again? He drew a deep breath and made a go of it.

“Well that doesn’t seem quite right. No, that doesn’t seem right at all. Christ is the goal of all our hopes, if I can put it that way. Joy of Man’s Desiring, as Bach wrote. Or set music to.”

He cleared his throat as a way of ending, while everyone else nodded in agreement. John nodded a little harder than the others, and even Diana joined in a little. ‘But what the hell?’ she thought at the same time. The question was a lot better than the response. Someone asked about what they would wear to their own baptism (this had been covered once before, at least), and they continued in this vein for a few more minutes before the spouses and sponsors began filing back into the room. Martha did her part as leader and said, “Lets take a few minutes for tea and coffee. The donuts were brought by Keith this week; do we know who is scheduled for next week?”

Jim’s wife Sarah, having taken one arm out of her overcoat, began waving in large, comic sweeps and said, “I’ll make sure that they’re there, I promise.”

At this loud chuckles began rolling around the room and descending upon Jim, who laughed as well and held his hands up to pat the air around his chest in imitation of someone trying to quell an angry mob. “Don’t worry, don’t worry. I think I was more upset than anyone else that we had to go without.”

“Well, a little privation never hurts, I suppose, but let’s not start Lent too early this year!” With this remark Martha began talking with John and Anne about preparations for the wedding that was still a long ways off, and the others followed her example by choosing among the maple bars, jelly rolls, and the chocolate, glazed, powdered, and sugar covered donuts. Everyone was talking informally with one another in small groups of two or three. A woman in her mid forties joined Diana, and together they sat by a sliding glass door leading out to a patio. Diana was thinking to herself that the coffee and donuts was a kind of communion itself. She thought about sharing this with Susan, her sponsor; would she consider it blasphemous? “This is what you really have next door, isn’t it?”

Susan chuckled. After awhile Susan raised her Styrofoam cup and added, “Probably not quite what you serve at the bar, but it tastes awfully good this morning.”

‘Probably didn’t get it,’ Diana thought. “Oh, yes, that’s good,” she said.

“Did you work last night?”

“No, my schedule is set for weekdays now. Almost always.”

With just such small talk the minutes were passed. Diana asked Susan about her husband and family, and fell silent as she listened not just to Susan but others in conversation around her as well. Keeping quiet was the most natural thing in the world for her. Soon Martha called out for people to gather in a circle once again.

“Just before the rest of you came in, we were talking about this week’s readings – mostly about baptism as a kind of calling to hope. John and Jim, I really thank you for your comments, they’re very perceptive and deal with an aspect of the Lenten journey we will all be taking up in a few weeks.”

“Jim, you were talking right before we all took a coffee break; had you finished what you wanted to say, or was there anything that you wanted to add?”

“Well if I forget donuts, how’m I supposed to remember what I said before eating?” His voice seemed to Diana vaguely reminiscent of Jack Lemmon’s.

Martha laughed and let him off the hook. “Seriously though, I did like what you had to say. I think baptism is a calling . . . but as for the rest, I think we’d better bring back Father Adamowicz.”

After a while he stopped speaking, was silent for a moment, and then took a sip of his coffee before staring into it, as if he were trying to read something in the grounds at the bottom. Others did the same. Some looked blankly into the empty center, others leaned forward, tilted their heads slightly, or pulled on their lower lip in contemplation of what they had just heard.

Diana had her fingers laced together, her hands resting in her lap. Why did it all seem so boring? She thought about Jim and wondered what events had brought him to such a pass that in his late sixties he should consider joining the church. Then she thought about events that had brought her to such a pass that she would consider joining the church, and then thought again about how much she was comfortable sharing with others in the group. Her parents (her mom, anyway; dad had been gone for some time now) weren’t religious, and besides, she maintained no more than incidental contact, and that was usually confined to the holidays. She hadn’t yet told them, but only because there hadn’t come an occasion on which she could comfortably bring it up. Meanwhile, the discussion continued for another half hour or so. After a brief closing prayer everyone stood up, more or less in unison, and after a few pleasantries on the way to the parking lot, took up the separate strands of their own lives.

Bird’s Nest in Your Hair is a kick-ass book by a promising young (well, on the cusp of middle-aged, but I understand he maintains his youthful demeanor by dating younger women) writer named Quin Finnegan…. I actually have no idea who this guy is, but the book blew my mind … and my lawyers will be contacting him.” –Bob Dylan

Saw Saw IV

Or rather, saw an eight-foot tall cardboard display for Saw IV in the lobby of a local multiplex when I went to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The lobby – you know, the ones the kiddies pass through on their way to Daddy Day Camp (which I’m sure contains its own horrific elements). I don’t know about anybody else’s six-year-old daughter, but this would give mine nightmares for a week:

I know, I know – if I don’t want my children to see such things, I shouldn’t bring them through movie theater lobbies.

To his credit, the theater manager (The Wife was not about to let the moment pass) was very patient in hearing us out, and even nodded when I pointed out that an ad featuring images like this one would not be allowed to run on TV before 9 p.m. (at least, I hope that’s true), while here, it was out on display 24/7. He said he’d pass the word.

Today in Porn, American Apparel Edition

The ladies of Jezebel inquire as to the motivation behind the graffiti on the above ad: misogyny or social commentary? As the man said in Spinal Tap, “What’s wrong with being sexy?” “Sex-ist!”

BookTV: Is Christianity the Problem?

On Saturday, October 27, at 7 p.m., BookTV (C-SPAN2) will air an Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) cosponsored debate on the topic “Is Christianity the Problem?” Christopher Hitchens, columnist for “Vanity Fair,” and Dinesh D’Souza of the Hoover Institution debated what is one of the most important questions in today’s culture war. The event was held last Monday at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York City and drew a crowd of approximately 1,000 people.

This debate is part of several events in ISI’s “Cicero’s Podium” debate series. To learn more about ISI’s Cicero’s Podium debate series, or to download past debates, please visit

Birthday Haiku

Theodore Potter
Rolled a gigantic boulder
Up the hill of life.

dark morning of the soul …