Archive for November, 2007

Ska granny

November 29, 2007

Went to Savers this afternoon because all tags of a specified color are $1 on Thursdays. Today it was green tags. (Didn’t find anything good with a green tag, dagnabbit.) At this price, you could walk out of there with pants/shirt combos to last you a week, with no repetition, for $10 (not counting weekends).

As I was making my way to the cash register, I saw an old woman browsing the racks. She was wearing a broad, weaved lanyard that said “SKA” on it. I thought it was a little strange, that at her age she would feel the need to advertise her taste in music. Then my eyes followed the lanyard a few inches to the right, and saw the word “ALASKA.” Less strange.


Is “lesbian” out?

November 28, 2007

Another stupid CNN headline: “Gay retired general questions candidates.” I bet he really got in their faces about homophobia in the military. Here’s the CNN screencap:


Somehow, questions like this are supposed to appear legitimate when asked by gay men. Professional enough? Seems a diversion from the real question: whether the presence of openly homosexual forces helps or hurts unit cohesion and loyalty.

And is “lesbiana” a typo or is this the new self-appointed adjective for homosexual women? Is the final “A” meant to emphasize their feminine gender? Can I start calling gay men “lesbianos”? I mean, I’m not gonna lie to ya . . . lesbiana with each other here. This seems silly to me. I thought these people were into ultra-inclusiveness. You know, GLBTQ—where Q used to stand for Queer, but now apparently stands for Questioning. I guess the L now stands for lesbiana. Stay tuned until next week, when the homosexual intelligentsia decides that the remaining letters also stand for words too outmoded to express the full complexity of the “alternative lifestyle.”

(By the way, the article itself didn’t say a single word about homosexuals.)

ECT on the Blessed Virgin Mary

November 27, 2007

First Things is publishing a series of “preliminary papers” by members of the ecumenical project Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). They are “currently engaged in studying what can be said together about the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The participants include some well known theologians from both sides: Edward T. Oakes, J.I. Packer, T.M. Moore, Matthew Levering, and Cornelius Plantinga. (The link above is to Oakes’s paper; here is Packer’s.)

The series should be worth the reading time. I found the paper by Oakes (on the Immaculate Conception) very interesting, with a lot of fascinating stuff from Pope Pius IX, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Essentially, he claims that if Mary was not immaculately conceived, her free consent at the Annunciation came (in however small part) from her own sinful nature, and not entirely from grace, thus making salvation history dependent upon a human action—“the very apogee of Pelagianism.”

Packer’s paper, however, was a real let-down. He sets Mary forth as a model of obedience, but spends nearly half the paper clearing his throat, listing his assumptions and letting us know he will not bother to defend them. The rest is, as he describes it, a “plain Bible study” of Luke (and John). More about Luke and his authorial methods than about Mary, I thought. And it doesn’t consider any of the soteriological questions that Oakes was concerned with. Boo. It is like he and Oakes are talking next to each other, but not to each other. Authorial freedom is great, but so is dialogue and discursive continuity.

Not surprisingly, Packer does not believe in any of the Catholic teachings on Mary. He almost seems to disagree on some level even with the Anglican Church’s handling of Mary: he says he has “been drilled” on the Magnificat, and that “England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer teaches” him to celebrate Mary’s feast days—i.e., were it not for the BCP, it would not have occurred to Packer to give her that much liturgical attention.

The human self is a fiction

November 21, 2007

Hi all, just checking in. Haven’t rapped at ya for a while.

The title of this post is an idea that came to me as I was reading earlier this morning. If it’s true, it’s a big deal, but since I just started thinking about it, I can’t say much more just now. But it has major implications for a theory of language and for mankind’s eternal salvation.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

First rejection

November 16, 2007

Got my first job application rejection today by e-mail:

Dear Curly Couch:

Thank you for submitting your resume for the position of Assistant Professor of _________. We have carefully reviewed the information you submitted, along with that of other applicants.

Although we were impressed with your credentials, we have narrowed our list of candidates and your resume is no longer under active consideration.

We appreciate your interest and wish you success in your future career endeavors.

Employment & Compensation Services
Anonymous State University

The funny part is that I just sent them my materials yesterday—I guess they really thought long and hard before sending my documents to the round file!

What they mean, of course, is that they had “narrowed their list” before they received mine, and so were able to save time by rejecting it outright. But it’s okay. I would have done the same thing, and in this particular case the university was, frankly, uninteresting to me to begin with, and I applied more from a sense of duty than love. (I.e., I was following the rule that if there’s an opening, apply, and stop to decide whether you like the place only if they express interest in hiring you.)

Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” (1999)

November 15, 2007

Just re-watched this tonight. I had seen it some years ago, but I know more about Elizabeth, her counsellors, and the various European intrigues than I did the first time around. I can only say that it was an unceasing pshaw-fest.

Among the many, many things to take issue with in the movie: the narrative jumps from Elizabeth’s accession in 1558 to her excommunication by the pope in 1570 in mere minutes. Since the actors do not appear to age during the movie, I was thinking we were still in 1560 or so. But no. It’s now 1570 and later, and Daniel Craig (the new James Bond) is playing a wicked Catholic priest (the only kind there was in that time) coming to assassinate Elizabeth.

At least two people are way too old for their characters: William Cecil looks like he’s about 80 at the beginning of the movie in the mid-1550s, but he was actually only in his 30s. He died in 1598 just shy of 78 years old. And Francis Walsingham looks like he’s in his late 50s when he comes back from exile in 1558, but really he was only about 26.

At the end, text on a black screen informs the viewer that “Elizabeth reigned for another forty years. Walsingham remained her most trusted and loyal advisor to the end.” Well, the movie ends with the execution of the Duke of Norfolk in 1572. That would mean Elizabeth reigned until 1612, which is 9 years past the actual date of her death.

As for Walsingham being her most trusted and loyal advisor: this doesn’t account for William Cecil or Christopher Hatton, both of whom very much had the Queen’s ear for very many years. But more importantly, Walsingham died in 1590. I guess Shekhar Kapur may be right, then, but only if you interpret “the end” in a very specific way. At any rate, it doesn’t communicate how Elizabeth treated her “most trusted” advisor. When he bankrupted himself paying off his dead son-in-law‘s creditors, and paying for his lavish funeral, Elizabeth wouldn’t contribute a penny to his plight. He died broke, and had to be buried at night so no funeral costs would be incurred.

It’s not called “the Golden Age” for nothing.

Photo gig

November 14, 2007

Had my first paying photography gig last month—though it would more properly be called a “paying” gig, since I never got paid. Can’t make too much noise about it, though, since it was an informal thing set up by a friend. Glad I didn’t fuss about it, too, because I now have my second paying gig. I am praying that it’s not “paying” also.

For this one I rented a nice lens, a Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS. This lens means business. It’s also so heavy you would probably opt to go without photos if you had to take it on vacation with you. And if you have about $1600 you can own one!

No sweet jumps with this rig

Bizarre blog trend

November 12, 2007

What kind of society browses the web for this kind of stuff?


Scary to say, too, but today was this blog’s highest traffic day ever. Actually, its 5 highest traffic days have all been in the past week. I don’t know why. But traffic lept upward like a rocket the day Bobby Jindal was elected Louisiana governor, and hasn’t slowed down yet. I’m routinely getting 3 times the number of views I was getting in the months prior to Jindal’s election.

But just to put it in perspective: a “high traffic” day on Curly Couch is a popular blog’s ghost town.

Wal-Mart’s pushing the Osteen poison

November 12, 2007

After spending all weekend grappling with revising an essay, I figured a good balancing measure would be a 10 p.m. Sunday night trip to Wal-Mart. I was not disappointed. A brotha struck up a conversation with me in the DVD section over some action movie I hadn’t seen, and berated me for not having seen “300.” And the mullets never rest at Wal-Mart, be it Sunday night or any other time.

I saw two products that put the fear of God into me anew: One was a 2-CD set called “Thomas Kinkade: Handel’s Messiah.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Oprah puts her stamp of approval on a book, or Kinkade on a CD, and people go out and start reading and listening.
kinkade handel’s messiah
Reading and listening are good things, especially when the material is first-rate, as it is in the Handel case. And the Kinkadians might get their taste expanded in a healthy way. I guess I hate to see Handel presented as if he had to be endorsed by TK in order to have credibility.

Wal-Mart is also pushing Joel Osteen’s new book in a big way: Become a Better You. (I saw two giant sales displays in the store: one was for Osteen, the other was for the movie “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.”) I flipped through Osteen’s book, and quickly came to realize that it’s a collection of reworked sermons from the past couple of years. The chapter that gave it away was the one on your “bloodline.” One of my favorite Osteen moments was when he gave that sermon: he looked out at his stadium full of 10,000+ people, of whom many were normal and even sub-normal in various respects. He said to them, “I don’t believe I’m looking at ordinary people . . . I’m looking at thoroughbreds.”

To quote Christopher Hitchens from his debate last month with Dinesh D’Souza, “gag me with a spoon.” But Joel knows what the people come to hear, and he gives it to them. He seems to think that one can “choose” whether to be sick or healthy. In his new book, he talks of a woman whose debilitating disease disappeared. This was not a miracle, but a result of her choosing to “live under the blessing” and not “under the curse.” (quoted from memory). Name it and claim it! I think we should be thankful that the world does not work that way.

Shoot Raw, enjoy 16-bit smoothness

November 9, 2007

I didn’t realize that one of the benefits of Raw over JPG was that it holds up better under Photoshop manipulation: you get smoother gradients. Here’s a sample from a sunset picture I took tonight (a sliver of the sky at 100% magnification):


For someone like me, with a 2.5 year old laptop, working in 16-bit really slows things down. But the improvement in quality makes it worthwhile. I would rather work in 8-bit and then slip a 16-bit copy underneath my adjustment layers at the last minute, but the adjustment layers affect 16-bit backgrounds differently than they do 8-bit ones. So wait I must, for the 16-bit smoothness.