January 21, 2011


+ Today is the feast of Saint Agnes. I usually take time on this day to think how fitting it is that St. Agnes is the patron of the day before the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade.  St. Agnes is one of the great virgin martyrs of the Roman persecution--a girl of only 13 years old, she refused to stain her purity and was killed by the governor's son who was in love with her.  The Courtier has a lovely meditation the symbolism associated with St. Agnes, and specifically with El Greco's painting of her (with St. Martina & the Virgin), above, which hangs, happily for us, in the National Gallery.  A Roman poem about St. Anges can be found here.

+ A professor played Thoreau on his students by taking away their cell phones for five days and offering extra credit (Chronicle of Higher Education):
In a burst of honesty, a student wrote: "My expectation as well as fear about giving up my phone was that I would not have anyone to talk to. I had imagined myself just being all alone for the entire weekend. I was basically afraid of being alone." She experienced a "feeling of emptiness. I felt like I lost a friend."

I don't know whether it occurred to her that such emptiness might be a good thing, that she would have many more such feelings during her life, with or without her phone, and that she might want to get used to them, or at least find a way to use them.

+ Still riding on the high of Colin Firth's performance in The King's Speech.  I want to go see it again.  Here's a great profile of him from the WSJ where he talks about this role, and his preparations, especially regarding the stutter.

+ Edward Gorey had a cat fetish.  Not that I'm surprised.

+ So typically I think art from everyday found object is pretty lame, but these vignettes made in empty toilet paper rolls are actually quite enchanting.  I don't know what you'd do with them, but I think they'd mesmerize a child.

+ The best chevre you can buy here in the states is made by Laura Chenel.  The Wine Muse takes a look at her new Sonoma creamery.

+ Speaking of cheese: today is NATIONAL CHEESE LOVER'S DAY.  Only such an auspicious and exciting occasion would allow me to lay aside my principles and link to Huffington Post.  But these 9 California Cheeses really are the best of the best of the best.  Also, who wants to come over for mac and cheese tonight?  because I am so making that.

+  The best thing I've read all week was my friend Meghan Duke's recent lesson of heresies, inspired by her tutoring two 7th grade girls (at First Things):
But my students are not the sort to be deterred by one little charge of heresy. So armed with their newly heightened awareness that the Incarnation unites two natures—one fully human and one fully divine—they were determined to grasp just how those two natures are united.

“It’s like cookie dough” one of the girls explained. “You have sugar cookie dough and chocolate cookie dough and when you combine them and bake it you have . . .” but before I could bellow, “May your tongue and mind which have formed such blasphemy be burned up by divine fire!” she had realized her own mistake. If you combine sugar cookie dough and chocolate cookie dough, you get neither a sugar cookie nor a chocolate cookie. (Read the full piece here.)

+ I don't understand why, but very few English majors have read The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne.  It is truly one of the funniest books I have ever read. The narrative (if you can call it that) is all tangled up and warped, earning it the moniker "First post-modern novel"  (It was first published in 1759.)  Well, a new London publishing house has created a "visual edition" that uses fun tricks of type layout, cut outs, and other graphic enhancements to show the text. It looks like a lot of fun, and I can't think of a better story to present this way. Via Caustic Covers, with lots more photos.  The famous "black page" from the novel is below:

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