Monday, August 21, 2017


How have I never read/watched/experienced Frankenstein before now? The old film (1931) is great--overt and over-the-top, signaling what's going to come next at every moment.

But Young Frankenstein is truly great--hilariously mirroring the original in (almost) every way. Truly a joy to watch. (And the ending is even better than the book or the original movie--it is the reversal of the original.)

In the Bride of Frankenstein--the sequel to the original--a man who makes small people wants to make a (regular-sized) wife for the monster. So he coerces the original Frankenstein to join him. Of course, the woman Frankenstein creates wants him rather than the monster for whom she was intended. Here is the second half of the creation of man in Genesis--the creation of woman, and so of family and of a new race.

What is most moving and profound to me in this film and the original are the moments in which fear does not reign--in which the monk who is blind accepts the monster, shares with the monster, and teaches the monster to communicate. Rather than reject him, which leads to destruction--acceptance diminishes the difference between them and creates space for relationship.

And, of course, the book. I think it's better as a myth than it is as a literary masterpiece. Am I alone in that? Shelley has the monster speaking in such flowery Victorian that it's pretty hard to imagine he's a monster. Karloff's grunting portrayal is so much more horrific. Or maybe it isn't--I don't think anyone's made a film in which the monster is eloquent for comparison.


I'm resisting the waning of summer (the semester starts this week), but today two things happened at the library that made me dread the semester's onslaught less: 

A student I had last semester came over to tell me that besides classes in his major and minor, my class was in his one or two favorite classes at college. (Hilarious specificity. Also, he's a science major.) He also mentioned that he gave Tocqueville's Democracy in America to his dad, who is reading it. Excellent. 

A very effusive and kind colleague told me that a presentation I gave on campus last week was scholarly and well-delivered. 

Also, we saw the eclipse, which was pretty awe-inspiring, even though it poured during the very peak. I was not expecting the eclipse glasses to be so totally dark. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Random Assortment

~ On men adopting female pseudonyms.

~ On overdue manuscripts.

~ An essay on eclipses.

~ Painting and the eclipse. (My real question--could this guy see afterward? If so is all the talk about blindness just fear-mongering? Have people been going blind from eclipses for hundreds of years or not??)

Monday, August 14, 2017


This summer, when we were traveling, we visited a really great doctor, who was covered by our insurance (I called to check). Turns out that the insurance covered that doctor's $230 fee, but not his $170 "facility charge," because he's located in particular hospital. WTF? Sorry Mom, but that's the only way to put it. (They did negotiate the cost down to $100 dollars on our behalf, thanks so much.) It's fine--we can afford this--but what is insurance even for? So that you only have to pay a hundred dollars when visiting the doctor; not $400?

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Random Assortment

~ More Jean Vanier. (And there's a documentary, Summer in the Forest! It's a bit over-produced, but the story is, of course, wonderful.)

~ Fireworks!

~ I had no issues with Goodnight Moon, but I do now.

~ I had never even heard of the Donner party before visiting the site. Reading more about it is even worse.

~ I think PAL would've liked this (about McDonalds).

~ On typewriters in prison.

~ The inventor of a self-cleaning house. (Charlotte Perkins Gilman might have loved this.)

~ Jane Jacobs, Georgia O'Keeffe, and the Power of a Marimekko Dress.

~ I think this is a powerful piece with an implicit criticism of the terrible NYTimes article advocating for the murder of disabled children.

~ I am partial to the Modern Love series, but this is especially profound. And I think it's applicable to more areas of life than just love.

~ Foster Care as Punishment: The New Reality of 'Jane Crow'." In the community I grew up in, CPS was eschewed because they might interfere with parents' decision to punish their children as they saw fit (i.e. with spanking). But racial and class-based interference is a far bigger problem. Free Range parenting should have something to say about this.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


(All from Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal)

"Please let Christian principles permeate my writing and please let there be enough of my writing (published) for Christian principles to permeate."

"Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted."

"Oh dear God I want to write a novel, a good novel. I want to do this for a good feeling & for a bad one. The bad one is uppermost. The psychologists say it is the natural one. Let me get away dear God from all things thus 'natural.' Help me to get what is more than natural into my work--help me to love & bear with my work on that account. If I have to sweat for it, dear God, let it be as in Your service. I would like to be intelligently holy. I am a presumptuous fool, but maybe the vague thing in me that keeps me in is hope."

"If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me. Right at present this does not seem to be His policy. I can't write a thing. But I'll continue to try--that is the point."

"Maybe I'm mediocre. I'd rather be less. I'd rather be nothing. An imbecile. Yet this is wrong. Mediocrity, if that is my scourge, is something I'll have to submit to. If that is my scourge. If I ever find out will be time to submit. I will have to have a good many opinions."

"What I am asking for is really very ridiculous. Oh Lord, I am saying, at present I am a cheese, make me a mystic, immediately. But then God can do that--make mystics out of cheeses."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Yesterday, one of Ilana's students asked if I am her twin. It made my day.

(I'm 9 years and one kid older than her, which is a lot. Ilana suggested I show them my graying temples to straighten them out.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Beach Reading

Wise Blood

Wow--O'Connor is amazing--every word perfectly in its place. And oh what mystery. The irony, the humor, the intelligence, the subtlety. I don't think any words I have to talk about this book are adequate. Plus I never really begin to get O'Connor until I'm several readings in. It's an odd book, but somehow her telling of this odd story makes it feel less strange than it is.

That Nothing May Be Lost

I'm only halfway through and happy to have more to read. How wonderful it is to have a friend who writes a book. (I mean, I have plenty of friends who write books, but the academic sort aren't actually meant to be read.) Anyway, it's like being back in NoVa and getting to go to the nicest Catholic church around, to hear the best homilies. Clearly, Fr. S (I forgot his old blog name) is well-steeped in the scriptures and in the Catholic tradition.


I got to hear the author read from this book last year, and she mentioned in her talk that a couple of people I know a little bit are characters in the book. Well, they don't appear until near the end, and it's an odd book, but it was well worth reading just for their appearance. I would love to be a character in a book. Take note, dear readers who might also be aspiring writers.

Anyway, this book is weird--it's meditative and stream of consciousness and really meant to be read out loud. It's sort of great--it's a meditation on the ending of love and on identity after child-birth (and of course on the tension between work and care) (I love that stuff). 


Today is our fourth anniversary, which we discovered in an email of congratulations from Fr. OP, who married us.

Francisco: "I guess we have our bachelor's degree in marriage."

Also, I think that today, four years in, we've come across our first irreconcilable difference--Francisco prefers lights to come on when the car door is open; I prefer none.

Me: "Who says you get to decide?"
Francisco: "God."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


"Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Isaac grew, and on the day of the child's weaning
Abraham held a great feast."

I think that on the day of Chester's weaning I will hold a great feast. Although as time passes it seems less and less likely that such a day will ever arrive. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Random Assortment

~ On video games and work. A colleague suggested that virtual reality will be a cheap, useful diversion when the end of work arrives. This concerns me.

~ Calders in motion.

~ Gotta love Philly. (Francisco says it's civil society in action. I will be staying out of the dumpsters.)

~ Is there any better writer anywhere? I suggest not.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


"You get used to it." --Francisco, about the dill pickle potato chips he inadvertently purchased.

Later: "I asked you what kind you wanted and you said you didn't care!"