Welcome to the Ludovico Centre*

27 04 2010

I know, I know: It’s like obsessing that ‘there’s somebody wrong on the internet!’

But Gott im himmel, I cannot let this go:

Strict Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma

Strict: so THAT’s what they’re calling punish-evil-women measures these days.

According to James McKinley Jr of the New York Times:

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

Got that?

The first provision is presumably driven by an overwhelming need to ensure that woman understands exactly what she’s about to do—because, hey, women are such silly little things who go about evacuating their uteri for just any ol’ reason.

And who could be against a truly informed consent?

Um. . . then. . . about that second provision?

But wait! There’s more!

Two other anti-abortion bills are still working their way through the Legislature and are expected to pass. One would force women to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about their reasons for seeking an abortion; statistics based on the answers would then be posted online. The other restricts insurance coverage for the procedures.

Any penalties attached for writing over the questionnaire ‘BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO HAVE A CHILD RIGHT NOW YOU DUMB FUCK!’ or  ‘NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS YOU NOSY PIECE OF SHIT!’?

And just in case you think I’m overreacting, how’s this for an Alex-in-the-movie-theatre mind-fuck:

Several states have passed laws in recent years requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, and at least three — Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi — require doctors to offer the woman a chance to see the image. But Oklahoma’s new law says that the monitor must be placed where the woman can see it and that she must listen to a detailed description of the fetus. [emphasis added]

Tell me—tell me this is not about punishing women.

(*Yes, that’s a A Clockwork Orange reference)


Friday poem (Sunday): Ratty Go Batty

25 04 2010

I fucking hate money.

I may have mentioned this antipathy previously, but as I’ve spent the past few months working 1 & 2/3 jobs and actually saving money and am still—STILL—awoken by fears of debt and bills, it’s worth emphasizing.

Yes, money is useful—I get that. Unlike Sue Lowden, who thinks bartering livestock for splints and surgery is a good idea, I find it much easier to stuff a few pieces of green paper than chickens into my wallet, and coins are certainly a more durable form of change than eggs. Even an anti-capitalist like me can agree with Adam’s Smith’s observations on the ease and convenience of a common currency.

But I hate having to think about it, having to worry over it, to be shaken from sleep by it. I work—more or less hard—and certainly a lot, but months of unemployment years ago have left me in a hole which narrows my views and shortens my breath.

Piss and moan, piss and moan, I know. Get back to work!

But before I do, a bit more kvetching, over the top and angry and sly and funny for being over the top and angry and sly, courtesy of Caroline Fraser:

Ratty Go Batty
Look what your God has done to me. —Dracula

What a joke, this planet. The inmates
running the asylum. See them
in their little cars, whizzing? Stop
and go! Riding the escalators, flashing

their shiny finery, hoarding,
hawking. Wearing dark glasses
indoors. The rest of the animals
continue rational, sleeping in caves

or nests in winter, pursuing food, marking
territory clearly. None of this
petulance. What can be done
to restore order? Give the government

over to the insects, for the tidy digestion
of all that dung, give the infants
to the higher mammals
with the softest fur. Let it be done.

(Nearly) No comment

21 04 2010


Scott Roeder: Abortion Doctor’s Killer Complains Of Treatment In Prison, Files For Early Release

(h/t: Huffington Post)

Friday poem (Wednesday): The Purification of Space For Dorothy

14 04 2010

There’s grading, a lecture to polish, and oh, have I mentioned that my apartment is a mess? You know what this means, don’t you?

It’s poetry time!

No, this is not like my old habit of cleaning my apartment whenever I had statistics homework. Not at all. (Even if grading sucks as much as stats.) Anyway, cleaning’s a drag; poetry is pure pleasure.

The New Yorker recently had a review of Kay Ryan’s work, and I was thinking of using one of the poems from the essay—Wait, I think it was, or Waiting—but I decided against it, for one of the very characteristics the reviewer noted of her poems: They’re short.

Now, I  like short poems—most anything longer than 4 pages and my fingers itch—but I wanted something a bit meatier this week, more involved than 10 or 20 lines.

No particular subject; just something that would pull me down and hold me under for awhile.

This one isn’t long, not really, so it doesn’t take much breath; still, you live in a city and your breath does catch on people like this.

Liliana Ursu caught Dorothy with her words. (Translated from the Romanian by Bruce Weigl.)

The Purification of Space For Dorothy

She has hair the color of rust.
She wears a red dress
and three watches:
one for her daughter in California,
one for her daughter in New York,
and one for her sister in Scotland.
She smokes cigarette after cigarette.
She takes lithium and tells everyone,
“Love, and do what you want.”

She listens to the same play on the radio
and tries to convince me
that Ibsen is American.

“He was like me, of course.
He can’t be anything else.”

She has a lover who works for God, she says.
“I’ve never met him,
so I wear this red dress
so he will recognize me
and know I am the fire.”

I pretend not to understand her.
I pretend I’m in a hurry
when she asks me, almost silently,
“What do you do
up in your apartment:
do you laugh or do you cry?”
I would like to answer her.
I would like to take her hand with three watches
and caress her
as if she were an orphan,
but she is on fire.

Below our mailboxes,
each morning,
she leaves a cup full of coffee,
a pack of cigarettes,
and, near them, a card which says,
“Live your life in beauty.
I leave these so you may partake,
as if in the body and blood of Christ.”

When she meets me running up or down the
she says the same thing:
“Fly if you want, but don’t run.
God loves us all,
but those who fly he loves the most.”

Quietly, Dorothy with rusty hair
and dress red as fire
“Raspberries ripen only in summer,
only when I dream of my love,”
and she shows me her empty wallet.
“Everything I touch turns to gold,” she says,
“then into silver, then to tears.”

Dixie Carter, Rest in peace

12 04 2010

I know, Dixie Carter played Julia Sugarbaker, she wasn’t actually Julia Sugarbaker, but she did such fine damned job of it, the real difficulty is in finding which clip to play.

So I’ll offer a couple.

Crazy southerners:

Involuntary sequestration:

And sorry for the crappy quality, but this bit (near end of vid) of testifyin’—from 1987—is worth it:

Much better than another ‘No comment’.


11 04 2010

Here’s a little tip: If the free e-tax provider that you used last year tells you that you OWE FOUR TIMES MORE than what you received last year as a refund, and it sends you around and around its e-form trying to figure out what went wrong, it’s probably worth your time to try a different e-filer.

And yeah, I know, don’t wait until April to do your fucking taxes, either!

No comment

10 04 2010

From Brian Fisher at the American Family Association’s Focal Point blog:

First, the most compassionate thing we can do for Americans is to bring a halt to the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. This will protect our national security and preserve our national identity, culture, ideals and values. Muslims, by custom and religion, are simply unwilling to integrate into cultures with Western values and it is folly to pretend otherwise. In fact, they remain dedicated to subjecting all of America to sharia law and are working ceaselessly until that day of Islamic imposition comes.

The most compassionate thing we can do for Muslims who have already immigrated here is to help repatriate them back to Muslim countries, where they can live in a culture which shares their values, a place where they can once again be at home, surrounded by people who cherish their deeply held ideals. Why force them to chafe against the freedom, liberty and civil rights we cherish in the West?

In other words, simple Judeo-Christian compassion dictates a restriction and repatriation policy with regard to Muslim immigration into the U.S.

I may need something stronger than ‘No comment’. . . .

h/t: ChristianityToday

No comment

6 04 2010

Declaration by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell:

WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and
WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and […]

WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

Two words, buddy. . . .

*UPDATE* TNC has a graceful follow-up to this story, in response to the Guv’s recognition that, oh, yeah, slavery was kind of big, bad deal, wasn’t it?

(h/t: Huffington Post)

Time is a bastard

5 04 2010

I can’t think big without thinking small.

Okay, so not strictly true—I can aggrandize with the best of ’em—but I do have to gather enough nails before I can be confident of a structure holding.

So in attempting to come to terms with medieval thought-modernity-post-modernity, I want to make sure I get the timelines right, even if, in the end, it’s really not about the dates at all.

It’s a litt. . . a lot embarrassing how poor is my knowledge of any pre-twentieth century history. I picked up bits here and there as a background to understanding certain contemporary conflicts, but I had no sense of how this tied into that—hell, I had only the thinnest sense of this and near-none of that, much less of any ties.

I am therefore now engaged in the process of infilling 500 or so years of European history, beginning around 1200 and heading into the 1700s.

Lotta shit happened; who knew?

I don’t want to go too far back into medieval times, because, again, I’m interested in the transition, but the 13th century seems a reasonable spot into which I can row my boat: It’s  in this century that the  papacy achieves its greatest power (only to see it begin to decline as kings begin to accrue and guard their increasing territorial power), as well as the century of the Inquisition.

Perhaps I could have begun with the First Crusade (Pope Urban II, 1095), or even further back with the split between the eastern and western Christianity (1054). Or I could have gone the other way, and begun with the first Black Death pandemic in 1347.

But the 13th century seems right: that monarchs began to assert themselves against the claims of the Vatican augured the beginnings of the nation-state (not to arrive fully until the dissolution of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires in the early 1900s), which carries its own moral and political claims. It was also during the 1200s that the earlier re-discovery by Christians of classical texts became integrated into various university curricula; Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, published late in the century, is the apotheosis of Aristotelian Christianity.

Can I tell you that before I began this project I knew almost none of this?

I swore after I took my prelims, and then again after I finished my dissertation, that I was done learning.

Hah. And I thought I was so smart. . . .

It’s getting better all the time

4 04 2010

I blame Rod Dreher.

No, he didn’t start it—well, maybe he did—but he certainly propelled my thinking back a thousand years or so.

Mr. Dreher, you see, is an American old-school conservative: He’s skeptical of modernity even as he admittedly eats of its fruits; skeptical of government (that’s the American part) even as he decries a culture which, in his view, corrodes human dignity; and a believer in community and roots even as he’s repeatedly moved his family around the country.

I say this not to damn him, not least because he is honest about his contradictions, but to locate, if not the then at least a, source of my current trajectory.

You see, I became interested in one of his contradictions, and took off from there.

Dreher has written (not terribly thoughtfully, for the most part) on Islam and the violence currently associated with it. He then contrasts this to contemporary Christianity, and to the relative lack of similar violence. There are all kinds of commentary one could offer on his views and contrasts, but what squiggled into my brain was his unquestioning acceptance of a main tenet of modernity—why would this professed anti-modern base his critique on a pillar of modern thought?

Time: The notion that there is a forward and a back-ward, and that forward is better than back.

This notion of the forward movement of time, the accretion of knowledge, the betterment of the status of the world, has explicitly informed progressive thought within modernity, but it runs underneath almost all of modern Anglo-American and European thought.

(Disclaimer: I’m not talking about the whole world in my discussion of modernity, or of all forms of modernity—there are forms of modern art and architecture, for example, which are distinct from that of  political theory—but of the set of ideas which emerged out of Europe and which greatly informed European philosophy and political institutions. These ideas have of course also found a home across the globe (not least in the United States), but in attempting to trace the ideas back to there source, I’m confining myself to the United Kingdom and the continent. Finally, I make no claim that these ideas in and of themselves are unique to Europe, but that there particular shape and constellation is historically specific. That is all.)

Okay. So, what got to me about Dreher’s contentions regarding Islam was that Christianity today was ‘better’ in some objective (or at least, intersubjective) way than Islam, that is, that even those who are not Christian would see that Christianity is better for the world than Islam.

I’m neither Christian nor Muslim, so theoretically I could simply dismiss such claims about the relative merits of these religions as a kind of fan jockeying of a sport I don’t follow—except that, contrary to Franklin Foer, religion has been a far greater force in the world than soccer.

In any case, even if it is the case that currently there is less violence associated with Christianity than with Islam, it wasn’t always so: The history of Christian Europe was until very recently a history of warring Europe.

I’ll leave that for another day. What is key is the general formula:  that at time t x was strongly associated with y, and that if at time t+1 x is no longer strongly associated with y it is not to say that x will never again associate with y.

To put it more colloquially, just because it ain’t now doesn’t mean it won’t ever be. That Christianity is no longer warring doesn’t mean it won’t ever war.

To believe otherwise is to believe that the past, being the past, has been overcome, never to return; the future is all—a thoroughly modern notion.

Again, as I’m not a fan of either team, I’m not about to engage in Christian-Muslim chest-bumping. More to the point, shit’s too complex for that.

Besides, that’s not what I’m interested in. In thinking about time, I got to thinking about what else characterizes modernity, and thus what might be post-modern, and oh, are we really post-modern? no I don’t think so even though I once took it for granted (which goes to show the risks of taking things for granted) and maybe where we are is at the edges of modernity and who knows if there’s more modernity beyond this or whether these are the fraying edges and hm how would one know maybe it would make sense to look at that last transition into modernity and what came before that?  the Renaissance but was that the beginning of modernity or the end of what came before that? hmm oh yeah the medieval period and Aquinas and . . .  uh. . .  shit: I don’t know anything about the medieval period.

So that’s why I’m mucking about the past, trying to make sense of those currents within the old regime which led, eventually (although certainly not ineluctably) to the new.

It’s a tricky business, not least because I’m looking at the old through the lens of the new; even talking about ‘looking back’ is a modern sensibility.

So be it: Here is where I stand; I can do no other.

Well, okay, I can crouch, and turn around, and try not to take my stance for granted or to think that my peering into the past will in fact bring me into the past.

But I can still look.


My starter reading list, on either side and in the midst of.

  • A Splendid Exchange, William J. Bernstein
  • God’s Crucible, David Levering Lewis
  • Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, Uta Ranke-Heinemann
  • Aristotle’s Children, Richard E. Rubenstein,
  • A World Lit Only By Fire, William Manchester
  • Sea of Faith, Stephen O’Shea
  • The Science of Liberty, Timothy Ferris
  • Betraying Spinoza, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
  • The Scientific Revolution, Stephen Shapin
  • Leviathan and the Air-Pump, Stephen Shapin and Simon Schaffer
  • Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris

Suggestions welcome.