22 August 2006

The good news about poetry and octopi

The mail continues to bring nice letters. Today, Christianity and Literature sent word that they have accepted "Down the Sea's Throat, Singing." Wow. That's the third poem accepted this year. The third poem accepted ever. The third poem accepted since I became with child. I think there's a connection here.

In other news, I have today learned about the mating practices of the giant octopus. Why? you ask. Long story. The point is, it's fascinating. The upshot: relatively small male octopus approaches relatively large female octopus, uses his fake arm (his reproductive organ is a third right leg) to insert a 1-meter-long rope of sperm into the female who later hangs strings of up to 100,000 eggs in underwater caves, then fasts as she tends them obsessively, clearing the strings of any possible sea debris for about seven months, at which point she dies (the father has died a few months after mating) and maybe 100 of the young survive.

I'm glad human reproduction doesn't require such sacrifice. Then again, maybe it does. Nine months tending the womb, not quite so obsessively, and most males and females involved in the process do survive the experience, but it's a daily death to serve the little bugger rightly. Maybe if I were mothering 100,000 simultaneously, even if only .01% survived, it would be a different story.

But maybe that survival rate has something to do with it. The mother octopus has given herself for a worldful of children, and she is designed to sacrifice herself entirely even if only for a very few who make it into real octopus-ness. The odds of becoming real humans aren't so much greater for our species. And we need true sacrifice from another perfect love in order to become so.

17 August 2006

Unity in Diversity

The New York Times posted an exciting article this morning: "Overcoming Adoption's Racial Barriers" invites us to consider the many orphaned children in America and the pressing need for American families to truly embrace diversity. Adopting children of a different skin color does not come without difficulties (and the article addresses some of those), but embracing those difficulties and, more importantly, those children seems a special opportunity for the Church to model in its member families what the real Family of God actually looks like.

Judy Stigger, a counselor at The Cradle, a Chicago agency that specializes in interracial adoptions, unintentionally points exactly to the kind of unity-in-diversity that I have in mind: "It's about getting people to realize that they should not be thinking about being, as one 8-year-old put it to me, 'a white family with a weird child,' but a multiracial family." Just like the real family God has been making for centuries.

09 August 2006

The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: The Great American Satire

Let's all see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and laugh at ourselves. Well, more likely, laugh at everyone else; you've got to wonder watching this thing if everyone else in the theatre is laughing because they think the film is funny or because they know they're being mocked. Probably not the former, which made me and Micah laugh harder.

This film, according to Roger Ebert, "inhabits the biopic formula all the way through--even down to the slightly draggy stretch in the second act," and all to the glorious satirical end of mocking Americans for everything American. The theological discussion amid grace at the Bobby dinner table, which offers a panoply of fast food, is probably not far from the actual notions most church-goers seriously entertain. The final victory shot that superimposes Ricky Bobby against an American flag is ridiculously patriotic, suggestion that winning a NASCAR race is one of the most American things one could do.

Product placement, homophobia, beer drinking, lover-trading between dumpy men and hot women, fast cars, pot smoking, perfunctory religion, hellaciously independent children: it's an Amerian dream.

04 August 2006

What, What

And now I love The New Pantagruel more than before. This morning's email brought news of another accepted poem: that online mag "Ruth" will publish sometime in the near future. Woot!

03 August 2006

Fun with Style and Idols

I am having a love-hate relationship with Michael Harvey's brief style book called The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett, 2003). Why I love it: weighs in at barely over 100 pages, retails for $6.95, and mostly does not commit the errors it identifies. Why I don't love it: claims that two excerpts in the Introduction are "nearly majestic writing," and I beg to differ. But every page since that problem has gotten better. Way better.

For example, Chapter 2 has observed that we often fail to write clearly because we do not want to admit who actually committed certain actions; thus, we choose passive voice or use grammatical expletives to avoid the question of agency. Of course, sometimes we do this because some teacher told us not to use first-person pronouns, so we discover the all-purpose "one" and everything goes downhill from there. Anyway, here's the excerpt (from page 20) that made me laugh out loud:

Some people instinctively turn to the pompous style when things get rough. Consider an example from the Bible, when Moses returns to the Israelites after he has spent forty days on the mountaintop. He's bringing the Ten Commandments, but while he's been gone all hell has broken loose. The Israelites, feeling abandoned in the wilderness, have begun worshipping a new idol that Moses' brother, Aaron, made: a golden calf. Furious, smashes the Ten Commandments and turns to Aaron, who was supposed to have been in charge during his absence. What happened? he wants to know. Where did the golden calf come from? Aaron doesn't flat-out lie, but he tries to weasel out of his role in the debacle:

"And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf" (Ex 32.24).

"There came out this calf." I've always wondered what look Moses gave Aaron when he heard this. (The Bible doesn't say.)"

It's worth noting that the original incorrectly cites the passage as Exodus 32.23, but the observation remains grammatically perfect. The children of Israel are running around naked, Moses is furious, so Aaron blameshifts. "I just threw the gold in the fire and out came this calf." Our classic excuse when we're caught red-handed.