Archives for January 2008


Obvious Observation of the Day

Why on earth would they bother to make a movie like Untraceable, in which the browsing public speeds the death of an entrapped and tortured victim by clicking through en masse to watch the horror unfold? Who would pay to go to such a thing, when they can just click on the gossip blogs and be part of the real-life version?

… skirting the abyss …

The Sacrament of Penance Revisited

From: The Wittenburg Door

Søren Says

Irony is a qualification of subjectivity.

~ Concept of Irony

Today in Porn, Time to Hang it Up Edition, Part II

UPDATE: Apparently, this story isn’t quite as juicy as originally reported. Mr. Thompson’s connection with Clean Flicks, it seems, was tenuous at best. Thanks to the Darwins for the heads-up.

Okay, I give up for reals. Amy sends word about this, from the Christianity Today blog.

CleanFlicks Founder Arrested

Charged with forcible sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl, Daniel Thompson was known for editing videos to make them more family friendly.

Mark Moring

The co-founder of CleanFlicks, a video editing service once used by many Christians, has been arrested in Utah for allegedly paying a 14-year-old girl for sex.

Daniel Thompson, who ran CleanFlicks till the courts shut it down in 2006, had more recently operated Flix Club, a family-friendly edited-movie video business in Orem, Utah. He was arrested last Thursday on two charges of forcible sexual abuse and two charges of forcible sexual activity with a 14-year-old. Thompson is out on bail.

Thompson’s business partner at Flix Club, Isaac Lifferth, was also arrested on similar charges.

Thompson reportedly told police that Flix Club, which carried videos in which objectionable content had been edited out, was only a front, and that he and Lifferth were also involved in making and distributing porn movies.

Flix Club was forced to close last year after a federal court ruled that movie-editing businesses violated U.S. copyright law when they “sanitized” films by removing nudity, sex, profanity, and other objectionable content.

According to police reports, Thompson and Lifferth allegedly paid two 14-year-old girls $20 each to perform oral sex, and Lifferth allegedly had intercourse with a 16-year-old girl multiple times, including in the offices at Flix Club.

“I would have never suspected there was other stuff going on,” the father of the 16-year-old told the Daily Herald in Provo. “I guess I didn’t know Daniel. He always seemed like a real decent guy.”

Obviously not. USA Today blogged several news items about the story under the title, “Clean Flicks, dirty man?”

Ironically, and perhaps prophetically, Thompson’s MySpace page includes the tagline, “Somewhere in the valley between Good and Evil.” On that same page, for his “status”—where most people write something like “single” or “married”—Thompson wrote “Swinger.”

And when Christianity Today starts dropping Today in Porn bombs, it’s definitely time to pack it in.

Snow Day at the McCain Place

Turn your head sideways to view.

Pool Kid

First Son’s second video:

Today in Porn, Time to Hang it Up Edition

I mean, when First Things starts running Today in Porn items, you can either say, “My work here is finished,” or “Hey, I’ve just been made irrelevant!” The rest, it seems, is silence.

Those Whom The Gods Wish To Destroy, They Record.

Oh, this just keeps getting richer. The good people at Catholic Radio International went and interviewed me about the whole Young Jesus-Eater thing. The chat opens with me stumbling through some thoughts on Catholic fiction, God help me. (Didn’t see that coming.) But I had fun all the same, and the soothing tones should make the perfect antidote to the stress of your evening commute! And yeah, I’m working on a graphic novel.

Your Peculiar Aristocratic Title, presented by Lady Fortune the Absurd of Greater Internetshire

Speaking of names to be feared, I found this meme machine over at Is My Phylactery Showing? (Very Lord William the Contrite of Mellow under Trollness), and I thought I’d try it out and see how I might burnish my self esteem. This is what it came up with:

Most Noble and Honourable Quin the Cowardly of Chipping Sodbury

“Whell!”, I say to myself, “this won’t do at all. I’ll hit the button again…”:

Most Noble and Honourable Quin the Carnivorous of Melbury Bubblewick

Better, but somehow that doesn’t quite get at the essence of me.

Most Noble and Honourable Quin the Mystical of Piddletrenthide on the Carpet

“Noble and Honourable”, yeah, yeah, I like to think so, and the “Mystical” part is certainly very good, but what’s this about piddling on the carpet? That won’t do at all.

Most Noble and Honourable Quin the Insubstantial of Under Yockenthwaite


Book Meme, continued.

From Satyrica, a recent translation of Petronius’ novel by R. Bracht Branham and Daniel Kinney. The first five sentences on page 123 actually extend over to 124:

But just who fears my name?
Who wants to stop me? Pawns without a name –
bought and sold, cheap – stepsons of Mother Rome!

It’s part of a poem, of course; a parody of Lucan’s Civil War by the character Eumpolus after a banquet.

Okee-dokee; I’m not sure they’re following, by I’m tagging Mr. Red Pants, Farrah, Catherine, Bill B., and Henri again, since he may need a little encouragement.

Tony Judt on The ‘Problem of Evil’ in Postwar Europe

“Meanwhile, we should all of us perhaps take care when we speak of the problem of evil. For there is more than one sort of banality. There is the notorious banality of which [Hannah] Arendt spoke — the unsettling, normal, neighborly, everyday evil in humans. But there is another banality: the banality of overuse—the flattening, desensitizing effect of seeing or saying or thinking the same thing too many times until we have numbed our audience and rendered them immune to the evil we are describing. And that is the banality— or “banalization”—that we face today.

After 1945 our parents’ generation set aside the problem of evil because —for them—it contained too much meaning. The generation that will follow us is in danger of setting the problem aside because it now contains too little meaning. How can we prevent this? How, in other words, can we ensure that the problem of evil remains the fundamental question for intellectual life, and not just in Europe? I don’t know the answer but I am pretty sure that it is the right question. It is the question Hannah Arendt asked sixty years ago and I believe she would still ask it today.”

Sarah Boxer on Blogs

“The word “blog” is a portmanteau term for Web log or Weblog. In 1997 Jorn Barger, the keeper of Robot Wisdom, a Web site full of writings about James Joyce, artificial intelligence, and Judaism as racism (he’s reputedly a racist himself), coined the word “Weblog.” In 1999 Peter Merholz, the author of a Weblog called Peterme, split it in two like this—”We blog”— creating a word that could serve as either noun or verb. “Blog” was born.

Today there are, by one count, more than 100 million blogs in the world, with about 15 million of them active. (In Japan neglected or abandoned blogs are called ishikoro, pebbles.) There are political blogs, confessional blogs, gossip blogs, sex blogs, mommy blogs, science blogs, soldier blogs, gadget blogs, fiction blogs, video blogs, photo blogs, and cartoon blogs, to name a few. Some people blog alone and some in groups. Every self-respecting newspaper and magazine has some reporters and critics blogging, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.”

I think she somehow misses the boat, but it’s still (or maybe because of this) worth reading.

Anne Applebaum on Katyn, a film directed by Andrzej Wajda

“For decades after it took place, the Katyn massacre was an absolutely forbidden topic in Poland, and therefore the source of a profound, enduring mistrust between the Poles and their Soviet conquerors. Officially, the Soviet Union blamed the murder on the Germans, who discovered one of the mass graves (there were at least three) following the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941. Soviet prosecutors even repeated this blatant falsehood during the Nuremberg trials and it was echoed by, among others, the British government.

Unofficially, the mass execution was widely assumed to have been committed by the Soviet Union. In Poland, the very word “Katyn” thus evokes not just the murder but the many Soviet falsehoods surrounding the history of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. Katyn wasn’t a single wartime event, but a series of lies and distortions, told over decades, designed to disguise the reality of the Soviet postwar occupation and Poland’s loss of sovereignty.”

Bird’s Nest In Your Hair

Chapter Two

There were four women above, each in a different colored dress. The main conflict seemed to be between a woman in blue and a woman in red, who was assisted by a woman in purple and another in yellow. The woman in blue had her hands tied to two ropes that led upward in opposite directions, as if she were trying hard to ring two giant bells simultaneously. Her head was rolled back on her shoulders as if she had just taken an uppercut to the chin. She was obviously, maybe too obviously, in a lot of pain. The woman wearing the red dress, who had blue tattoos on her arm as well as a grim look on her face, was inflicting this pain and stood in the foreground holding a bat or perhaps a whip of some kind. The woman in purple was holding up the woman in blue for the next blow. The face of the fourth woman was just visible above the outstretched arms of the torturer in the foreground, her upward leer revealing that she was enjoying the torture every bit as much as the victim was suffering. Below the four women was a couple staring out at the viewer: a bare-chested hunk had just raised himself on one elbow, apparently appalled at some scene he must be watching, perhaps even the one above, while another woman lay back on the pillow behind him. Down the right hand side of the poster were printed giant kanji in red, certainly the title of this “erotic thriller” from the fifties or sixties, to judge from the style of the drawing. Who was this outraged man?

While holding up the center of the top with her left hand, she tried to get a corner taped down straight with her right. That way, the whole poster wouldn’t be crooked. She was about to ask for some help when she realized that with a less permanent fix on the first corner she could more easily adjust it with the second. Then Tom walked into the store.

Since their night spent together in the hotel room, Julie had noticed that Tom had pretty well dropped any pretense of coming by the store during her shifts. The courtship was over. In fact, she didn’t hear from him for days afterward, which bothered her a little. Maybe he wasn’t all that different than the kid with the van. He asked how she was doing and was polite as always, but didn’t at all refer to anything that hinted of their romp in the hotel room. Something that was there for her just didn’t seem to be there for him. She accepted his generic manner as coolly as he gave it, reasoning that part of the problem was that they were at work. This helped; it only occurred to her later that this could be considered as shrewd, as he seemed at first surprised and then pleased at the coolness with which she treated him, not knowing that she had only been copying his own carefully controlled manner.

When he later made a crack about Jane Hackman (“Hackwoman, I mean” – obviation as courtesy, since he wasn’t sure she’d get it), she was happy; she knew that the ice had been broken. When he asked her out for a drink after work her remaining insecurity melted away, but continued to play it cool. But how hot she felt. She said “maybe,” to his sly grin, then grinned herself and said “okay.”

She was pleasantly surprised when he made no pretense about leaving the store together. He grabbed a black bag out of the office and waited for her as she walked out the door ahead of him. None of her co-workers registered much of anything, although she accepted that they were almost certainly talking after they’d left.

He took her to a different place, driving past the center of town to a different hotel, down on the water. Obviously he’d developed a pattern, she thought, and given his age there were probably … how many women had he taken to this hotel? Was the desk clerk actually smiling at him? He decided they should stop off in the bar for a drink, although truth be told, she could have done without the pretense. Or perhaps it wasn’t a pretense to him, but a necessary ritual.

Since it was a Thursday night the bar wasn’t very crowded, and they sat down in a booth overlooking the water.

“You know, this is where Led Zeppelin stayed when they came to Seattle. About thirty years ago.”

“Jeez, I wasn’t even born then.” As soon as she said this she wished that she could take it back. Or was her youth something she wanted to emphasize around him? He laughed and she realized it didn’t matter.

“You know who they are, don’t you?”

“Stairway to Heaven, right?”


He started to make a joke about a female version of the band – Roberta Plant, Jenny Page, but stopped himself short. She probably didn’t know the names of the band members, and the joke was getting stale anyway. He washed it down with the rest of his drink.

“What about taking a look at the room?”

By the time they got up to the room, the mood had lightened somewhat. In the comparative privacy of the hallways they poked and prodded each other as they walked along giggling, then stopped alongside the ice machine for an embrace and a kiss. Once inside the room he tossed his camera in a chair as she tossed herself on the bed, bouncing twice and then settling into her favorite reclining position. This time she was able to get her hand under her head on the first try, and he was sober enough to notice the seductive look she wore on her face.

“Well alright,” he said while laughing, and stretched himself out on the bed, parallel to her.

They started making out, which he did more out of a sense of duty, but obviously still enjoyed by her, so he played the game for her as well as he was able. A couple of shifts together, a night out for drinks, and the affair was already old hat to him. After about five minutes he had all her clothes off, while she had him down to his pants and shoes. He thought of Elizabeth, wondering in what ways Julie looked like her, and sat up to take off his socks after kicking away his boots. He turned around to see her posing again.

“You know you look great when you do that.”


“How would you feel about capturing that fine look on film?”

She furrowed her eyebrows, lifted the corner of her mouth, and ducked her head to one side.


“A girl as good looking as you should be captured for all time, that’s all.”

“Well, help a girl work up to it at least,” she said, and held out her left hand towards him as an invitation.

“Oh we’ll have a work out all right,” he answered, somewhat disappointed but still holding out hope. He realized that he’d been a little sudden.

She realized that she was somewhat in control without thinking too much about it. This was the key, she realized: not to think too much about it. She thought about all the hours she’d spent with Dr. Cervantes and realized she’d gotten nowhere near to figuring this much out.

Half an hour later they were still lying in bed, he smoking the proprietorial, even propish cigarette, she shooing away the smoke with a somewhat exaggerated wave.

“Well, what about those pictures you promised me?”

It was his turn to be surprised, since he’d been wondering how to bring the subject up again.

“Can a guy smoke in peace?” he said, laughing. He was thinking of pictures as a natural extension of sex. As he lay there smoking, he imagined a documentary describing the history of photography in just these terms. It’s all been confirmed by the historical record, he thought. Consider those shadowy, lurching motion pictures from the late 19th century, with bodies so much like our own. As a technological development, the camera is simply a more mechanical means of capturing visual reality, and since part of that reality is the naked body, it followed naturally that human beings would begin filming the naked body, and eventually the naked body engaged in sex. It was just another step in the technological development of art after cave paintings, vase paintings, frescoes, and pornographic lithographs. All of which had featured nudes.

He stubbed out the cigarette in a convenient ashtray and then proceeding to roll out of bed and back into his pants. He grabbed the camera out of his bag and snapped the flash into place. “We should probably make the bed,” he added, at which Julie got out of bed, put on her underwear and a tee shirt, and began pulling up the covers. Tom started moving around the bed when Julie jumped on top of the covers and took off her shirt.

From whatever time it was that the first portrait of a person was drawn, with the development of representational technique the subject has had a greater hand in its creation. The person knowingly drawn or painted or photographed reacts to the artist, whether in weeks of sitting or in preparation for the instantaneous flash. A relationship is formed between the model and the artist, and somewhat more subtly, the model and the means of representation. Which is why Tom said to Julie what almost every photographer tells their models, certainly the naked ones: “Make love to the camera!”

Did she ever.

It probably had something to do with a full century of naked women on film, or it might have been the confidence she’d found in her newly discovered sexual satisfaction. It might also have been Julie realizing that Tom’s feelings for her were somewhat limited, and that she would have more fun by settling for all the paraphernalia and equipment.

She jumped right in, starting out on her knees, arms back, breasts out. Head up, head down. Standing, sitting, front back, center, first from below and then from above. Winking. Eyes open, eyes closed, even eyes crossed. Happy, sad, pouting, gloating, laughing, lewd (frequently), silly, suspicious, seductive, grim, prim, mournful, vain, haughty, naughty, tentative, contemplative, and in the end (arms outstretched in a giant V), victorious. She was a natural. She certainly had the figure for it, and in her very early twenties was limber enough to work herself into every shape and position Tom could have wanted. She’d began posing with a slight sense of bashfulnessl, but by the end she felt she was the one in complete control.

As for the one holding the camera, he’d fantasized about her as soon as he’d met her, and about her mother for years before that, masturbating to her memory with his morning erection while sitting on top of a chilly toilet in the privacy of an unlit bathroom. Now he would have actual pictures to supplement his increasingly deficient memory. He’d begun taking shots even while acknowledging her hesitation, but any need for this had evaporated fairly soon. The twenty minutes of posing and clicking had been twenty minutes of great fun for both of them. More fun than the actual sex, really – the photographs might have a future.

“Hey, that’s great, just great. What about some room service?”

After setting the lights a little lower in the bathroom, they decided to take a shower. He took a few more pictures before stepping into the stream. A little while later, after the shower, he grabbed the sandwiches outside the door while she continued toweling off. He noticed that the on and off routine with his trousers was getting a little tiresome, and so sat down on the edge of the bed, flicking through the channels while she sat on the bed, going through a brochure detailing various options for local entertainment.

“You just love the visual stimulation, do you?”

Tom murmured in reply, wondering how he should say that it had more to do with work than anything else. “Research,” he said, wondering how much she knew already.

The steel plate lid rang out gently as she lifted it off the china. She tore into a roast beef sandwich with the same zeal she’d shown for the camera and the shower.

“So give me the scoop, Tom. These are the sort of documentaries you were talking about, right?” Nodding towards the television.

“Mm huh.”

“Hey, if you think I’m gonna make a movie, forget it.”

“Well… you’ve got talent.” He said, beginning slowly and tapering off towards the end. “They’re always looking for talent.”

“Is there money in this?” she asked as a way of ignoring him.

He nodded yes, still transfixed by the screen.

“So why do you keep the store?”

“It’s mine.” He thought she was going to start naming a price. What did she care about his business?

“But it’s not like you need the money, is it?”

He was once again surprised at how freely she spoke.

“Nah, I have plenty of money. Wife does, anyway,” he said, going all in.

“What’s with that anyway?”

“You mean my wife?”

“Yeah. I mean, does she know? Does she care?”

“We have a kind of understanding.” He turned away from the TV, finally, feeling that he need to make something clear. “Actually, we are committed. I hope that you -”

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine with me, I was just wondering. Trying to get the full picture and all.”

“Well, don’t worry about that.”

“Not worrying. I just wondered what’s in it for her.”

He didn’t have an answer. “What was in it for her?” he wondered, and then pushed the thought out of his mind. It felt strange to be talking about Helen with a 20 year old, especially since he tended to confuse her with Elizabeth, and even more especially because this confusion was actually intended, or at least accepted.

“Don’t be offended.”

“Not offended, either. Just wondering.”

Tom realized that Julie was sharper than he’d first realized. She was quiet at first, just as he’d remembered Elizabeth. Some of the time she seemed to be barely treading water, but there were times in conversation, even out of it, when she seemed to turn on something extra. In the same way that she had gone through all those different poses. But why had she posed for the pictures?.

As if she’d been reading his mind, she spoke up about the session. “Hey, I’m not so sure I like having those pictures out there. Now that I think about it.” She made a grab for the camera, but he pulled it out of the way just in time and held it at arm’s length.

“Whoa, girl. Easy there, this is expensive equipment.”

“C’mon Tom, I mean it. Hand it over.” She was definitely feeling out of control again.

“We’re wasting an entire roll, baby,” said Tom, trying to sound like Austin Powers.

Julie gave him a death stare until he acquiesced. “Alright, alright already,” he said, putting down his cigarette and opening up the back of the camera.

“What was I thinking?” she thought. She stuffed the negatives into her purse, just to be safe.

“No need to worry now, reassured Tom. They’re ruined, baby.”

“Better them than me,” said Julie, and did her best to make up by taking a drag on his cigarette.

There Will Be Blood

Ernie and I talk it out.

Book Meme Rules

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Senor Godsbody tagged us for this fun meme. The first book I reached for was a slim volume: Spiritual Direction and Meditation by Thomas Merton. Too slim for this meme, however, at a mere 108 pages. Next book down the pile: The Boxcar Children, sitting next to the computer ever since I posted something about it here some weeks ago. It’s long enough, but page 123 isn’t all that interesting; so I cheat, continuing down the pile to this: Fathering Your School-Age Child: A Dad’s Guide to the Wonder Years: 3 to 9 by Armin A. Brott, who offers up three sentences of pretty damn good advice:

They need to know that we all fall on our face sometimes, and that making mistakes doesn’t turn you into a bad or unlovable person. So if your child falls down (actually or metaphorically), don’t jump in right away. Not giving her a chance to pick herself up sends the message that you don’t think she can take care of herself–and that can undermine her self-confidence in every area of her life.

I also checked the Holy Bible, which offered forth a passage advising Moses to shave the Levites from head to toe; and Will in the World, which had a bit about the young William Shakespeare knocking up the older Anne Hatheway and so being compelled to marry her. And then I felt compelled to walk across the room and pull The Moviegoer off the shelf, any three sentences of which are bound to please, and sure enough: “‘Wave to Joyce,’ Sharon commands me. Joyce is leaning on the sill, a brown-haired girl in a leather jacket. She has the voluptuous look of roommates left alone.” Ah.

So now I’m supposed to tag five others: Ironic Catholic, angelmeg, Ash Mash, Alana, and anyone who came to Korrektiv looking for information on attached earlobes.