Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Seven Quick Takes: Drama version

Thanks to Jen for hosting!

1. This past month I've been teaching an acting class for homeschoolers, using Shakespeare as our texts. Our final project was Act 3 Scene 4 from Macbeth, the banquet scene in which Banquo's ghost shows up and puts a crimp in Macbeth's social life. I was working with my Macbeth, talking about how I wanted him to slam down his goblet when he saw the ghost. "Avaunt! Quit my sight!' I bellowed at the ghost, and banged the goblet on the table. The stem shattered on impact, gouging my finger deeply. The actors around the table took one look at the blood and glass all over my hand, and did exactly what their characters were supposed to do: screamed and jumped back from the table. In our performance today, that moment was perhaps the crispest bit of the whole scene -- apparently a little blood teaches more than hours of direction.

2. Butterfly bandages are awesome at closing gaping cuts.

3. Speaking of blood, Macbeth is a show that requires buckets of gore. We needed to smear the face of the murderer with blood, and douse Banquo's head (my favorite line of our scene was Macbeth shouting at the ghost, "Thou can'st not say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me!"). I tried working off this recipe for blood, using the "gouts and smears" formula, but the chocolate syrup was just too brown to overcome with red food coloring. I must say, though, that my skin felt nice and soft after I rinsed a test smear off my face. For performance, we ended up using a some professional stage blood that I'd unearthed from my college stage makeup kit. The stuff was ten years old, but it looked most convincingly fresh dripping down Banquo's face.

4. After the Goblet Incident, Darwin ventured out to Target looking for some unbreakable goblets, and returned with these impressive plastic specimens.
Not only were all fingers safe during performance, but we can use them to replace all the broken wine glasses at our house.

5. Speaking of drama and children: the three-year-old has recently discovered her inner drama queen. We've seen a number of hissy fits lately -- fits that are, I might add, immediately discouraged. The other night, she was angry at Darwin about something before family prayers. We all knelt down, and he asked her to lead a Hail Mary, reasoning that it might soften her mood to do something constructive. She complied, and pronounced the prayer in an unusually clear voice, right up to "...blessed is the fruit of your womb...". Then, looking up at Darwin with a glint in her eye, she finished up: "Ugly."*

*She had to sit on the couch while everyone else went upstairs to get ready for bed, and when Darwin came down to get her, she was suitably and tearfully contrite and declared that she was ready to pray now, Daddy.

6. Speaking of children: I have rarely seen a child with so little hair as Jack. A friend of mine just had a baby five weeks early. Her baby, only 5 lbs. 8 oz., was born with more hair than Jack has now.

You can see Jack's hair, if the light is just so. Darwin says, "Jack's hair is still very... subtle."

7. My sister tells me that her cell ringtone for all the rest of her family is "You're So Vain". Personally, I don't think that song captures my unique essence.

Affirmative Action and Me

It always annoys me when I am confronted with a form which demands to know my "race or ethnicity" and offers no "mixed" option. Being exactly half "white" and half "hispanic", it seems tiresome to have to pick one or the other. "Just pick the one you feel represents you most," a nice lady at the DMV once told me. But of course, what I think represents me most is being half each -- not picking one over the other. I would certainly not say that I "am" Hispanic, yet the experience of having a large Mexican-American half to the family is hardly accidental to my life experience.

One of the areas I knew this would make a more than usually substantive difference in my life was deciding how to fill out college application forms. I objected to the idea of racial quotas (something that was still going on fairly explicitly in 96/97) and I figured that with an English last name even if I were tempted to try to take advantage of "Hispanic" status, I wouldn't pass the laugh test. So I put myself down at "Hispanic" on the PSAT and "white" on the SAT, and simply refused to pick on all my college applications.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

White House Meeting Ferments Beer Brew-hahha

It's not unusual for people attempting to smooth over a contentious discussion to say that they'd of course be willing to get together for a friendly beer some time. Apparently, when one has the resources and media visibility of the President, it's possible to actually pull this off, but trouble can ensue.

When President Obama called Cambridge police officer Crowley last week to try to smooth over tension resulting from Obama's declaration that Crowley's arrest of Professor Gates had been "stupid", Officer Crowley suggested that the three men should get together for a few beers. It seems that Obama thought this was a good idea, and a beer summit between the three men is currently scheduled to take place are scheduled to get together at a White House and knock back a couple cold ones.

However, this morning's Wall Street Journal reveals that peace making is never simple, American brewers are upset over the likely offering at the beer fest:
Late Wednesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs hinted the presidential cooler will likely be stocked with what he understood to be the two guests' own personal favorites -- Red Stripe and Blue Moon.

"The president will drink Bud Light," Mr. Gibbs added.

The problem is that all three beers are products of foreign companies. Red Stripe is brewed by London-based Diageo PLC. Blue Moon is sold by a joint venture in which London-based SABMiller has a majority stake.

And Bud Light? It is made by Anheuser-Busch -- which is now known as Anseuser-Busch InBev NV after getting bought last year by a giant Belgian-Brazilian company.

Among rival brewers, the news fell flat. "We would hope they would pick a family-owned, American beer to lubricate the conversation," said Bill Manley, a spokesman for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a California-based brewer that happens to be family-owned.

Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams, decried "the foreign domination of something so basic and important to our culture as beer."

Genesee Brewery, Rochester, N.Y., released a statement congratulating the president for having beer at the meeting but adding: "We just hope the next time the President has a beer, he chooses an American beer, made by American workers, and an American-owned brewery like Genesee."
For the past several days, David von Storch, co-founder of Capitol City Brewing Company -- which owns a brewpub just a few blocks from the White House -- has been lobbying the administration to serve his company's "Equality Ale."

"What better beer to have them drink than the only beer brewed in the District of Columbia, Capitol City Brewing Company Equality Ale!" Mr. von Storch wrote in an email he sent Tuesday to several White House staffers.
When questioned by reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Gibbs, the White House spokesman, tackled the beer issue head-on. "As I understand it -- I have not heard this, I've read this, so I'll just repeat what I've read, that Professor Gates said he liked Red Stripe, and I believe Sergeant Crowley mentioned to the president that he liked Blue Moon. So we'll have the gamut covered tomorrow afternoon. I think we're still thinking, weather permitting, the picnic table out back. All right?"

Dan Kenary, president of Boston-based Harpoon Brewery, said he wanted to make a run at getting some of his beer into the meeting but couldn't find any intermediaries with close White House contacts. "I think just showing up at the gate with a case of Harpoon would make them look at us funny," he said.

Not to add to the frey, but the ale which most immediately springs to my mind is Avery Brewing Company's "Collaboration Not Litigation Ale".

No one seems to be aiming that high, however. Some advocate of hope and change to be planning to drink the famously making-love-in-a-canoe Bud Light. But perhaps it's indicative that beer is truly the drink of the working man that Officer Crowley actually have the highest grade beer tastes -- though as quality beers go I'd see Blue Moon as more of a filler than a headliner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Favorite Picture Books

A few weeks ago, a family we're close to had a birthday party for their three-year-old daughter, and for a present I'd picked up a copy of an old Darwin favorite (one which I heard many times as a child) Bedtime for Frances.

Later, on hearing the recipient had much enjoyed the book, I said, "Oh yeah, that's always been one of my favorites."

It occured to me afterwards that it's perhaps odd for a grown man to have favorite picture books, and while it's true that I didn't necessarily take time out to read them before I had kids, I easily could have listed off a dozen or more favorite picture books at any given time. Perhaps we have bookish enough readers that this will not seem terribly odd to you for an adult to have favorite picture books. Either way, the following is a rather slap dash listing of favorites with a few notes on why -- making use of Amazon links since it's the fastest way to get images in on all these.

There are several other Frances books, all of them charming, but A Bargain for Frances is a favorite because of its lessons in negotiating and diplomacy for the 3-5 year old.

Ignore the later sequels, but the original Babar books are imaginative and charming in the extreme. From The Travels of Babar comes the useful line, "I've had enough. I'm going to smash everything." And I find that I still read the books in the same tone and cadence I recall from the voice of the reader on the Caedman audio books we had of Babar when I was a child. (Does this mean that our children will someday read the Narnia books with the voices of Kenneth Branaugh and the other British actors recruited to read the audio books they listen to all the time?)

What child does not at times wear his wolf suit and make mischief of one kind and another?

Although I'm fond enough of Peter Rabbit, I like Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Tom Kitten and the Fierce Bad Rabbit at least at much. Plus I can't help noticing the salutory moral involved in all of these stories being about foolish or mischievious animals being nearly killed and/or eaten.

As with Babar, I dislike all the later knock-offs, but the classic George books are quite enjoyable and the source of several household favorite lines.

Sadly, one of my favorite series of picture books in pretty thoroughly out of print, and very expensive. Graham Oakley's Church Mice books were very British and utterly charming. Now, however, they seem to be selling for quite a bit used.

I'm sure I've missed some favorites, but these seem to hit the high points.

UPDATE: Are the Amazon-hosted images loading for people? Questions on technical issues in the Darwin household. Okay, went through and hosted all the images on Blogger. Sigh...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Get There from Here

There's been much discussion of late about what other country's health care apparatus the US should consider emulating, and in such discussions France is often mentioned. Now, all cheerful ribbing against the French aside, their health care system is not nearly as "socialized" or nearly as afflicted by treatment denials and waiting lists as those of the UK or Canada. It is also rather more like the system that the US already has, in that it is a hybrid public/private system, though in their case there is a guaranteed base level of coverage everyone has through the government (funded via a hefty payroll tax -- not unlike Medicare) which most people supplement with private coverage. Most doctors are in private practice, and 25% do not even accept the public plan, just as some practices in the US do not accept Medicare. However, everyone does have that minimum level of coverage, and the French spend a lower percentage of their GDP on health care than the US (11% versus 16%) which when you take into account that France's GDP per capita is a good deal smaller than that of the US (which is the polite, economist way of saying it's a poorer country) works out to the US spending about twice as many dollars per person on health care, while still not having universal coverage.

So what are we waiting for? Why don't we go enact the French system here right now? Why doesn't Obama put on a jaunty beret, dangle a cigarette coolly from the corner of his mouth, hoist a glass of wine, and just say, "Oui, nous pouvons."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gotta get me some sleep

(Necessary disclaimer: I am not pregnant.)

It's been a matter of concern to me lately that I can't seem to keep my eyes open. Either I can't wake up when Darwin's alarm goes off, or I have to nap when baby goes down for his afternoon snooze, or both. My afternoon low period has become serious dead time. I've actually started drinking coffee in the morning to boost my energy levels, and I don't even like coffee all that much.

I see looking back over my novena for order that one of my conclusions was to get up earlier. I know that during the school year, getting up early is the difference between getting all our work done in the morning or slouching through the afternoon. Yet if I'm always exhausted, how can I stay up?

What makes me so tired? The answer is so basic it's almost stupid: I'm not getting enough sleep. I've never believed in a division of labor for night wakings. Since Darwin has to leave the house and get up early to go to off to work, I don't expect him to get up in the middle of the night to deal with this or that (and of course he can't nurse the baby). Unlike me, he can't put his coworkers in front of a movie or in quiet time and take a nap. But this also means that my night's rest is constantly interrupted.

Here's a rundown of last night's activities:
  • go to bed at 11:30, read for a while
  • turn the A/C off, surprised that it's still on, put the sleeping girl in the hall back in her bed
  • 3:10: Julia comes in and wants her necklace taken off. Have to turn on the light to fix that.
  • 3:40: Isabel comes in, needs a drink of water.
  • 4:25 wake up from bad dream, turn A/C back on and shut windows because it's way too humid
And this was a night where no one wet the bed. (Here's my dirty secret for dealing with a bed-wetting: since we have plastic sheets on the girls' beds, I leave the bed-stripping for the morning and only wash the girl, then put her to sleep with one of her sisters.)

Now all this might not sound like that disturbed a night to most parents. And indeed, if those were the only distractions, I might count it a restful night. But in between everything, the baby was nursing. And nursing. He starts off the night in the crib, but comes into bed whenever he wakes up. Then I roll him from side to side whenever he starts fussing so I don't have to fully wake up. The problem is, I am waking up.

Jack is almost a year old. He doesn't need to eat every two hours. I don't want him to eat every two hours. I want him to sleep in his crib, because then he doesn't snuffle and paw at me all night and wake himself up. And frankly I have no attachment to a family-bed-style arrangement (especially with a queen-sized bed). But I've taken the lazy road of not training Jack to sleep all night in the crib at 6-8 months like I did with the girls, because I haven't wanted to deal with the few very sleepless nights and the crying it out that this would entail -- and also because now the crib is in our room, not the kids' bedroom like it was before. Now he has more powers of yelling persistence (and volume). But it's gotta be done.

The baby in his crib all night: I'll sleep to that!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The well-crafted paragraph

It's been eight years since I read The Secret History but this paragraph still strikes me as the epitome of style.
Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally believed to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion. I remember well, for instance, the blind animal terror which ensued when some townie set off the civil defense sirens as a joke. Someone said it was a nuclear attack; TV and radio reception, never good there in the mountains, happened to be particularly bad that night, and in the ensuing stampede for the telephones, the switchboard shorted out, plunging the school into a violent and almost unimaginable panic. Cars collided in the parking lot. People screamed, wept, gave away their possessions, huddled in small groups for comfort and warmth. Some hippies baracaded themselves in the Science Building, in the lone bomb shelter, and refused to let anyone in who didn't know the words to "Sugar Magnolia". Factions formed, leaders rose from the chaos. Though the world, in fact, was not destroyed, everyone had a marvelous time and people spoke fondly of the event for years afterward.

--The Secret History, Donna Tartt, Chapter 7
Factions formed, leaders rose from the chaos. A golden line in context. It's become a catchphrase here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Understanding the Police

The nation (or at least, that portion of it which follows the news cycle) suddenly found itself in one of these "national conversations" about policing this week, after President Obama accused the Cambridge, Mass. police of having "acted stupidly" in arresting his friend and supporter Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside his own home for "disorderly conduct". The police report, minus some privacy data such as addresses, can be viewed here. The short version, is as follows: Prof. Gates returned from a trip to China and found himself having trouble getting into his house, so he and his cab driver forced the door open. A passerby saw this, feared a burglary was taking place, and called the police. Officer James Crowley of CPD arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, saw Prof. Gates in the house as he approached it, and though he looked to be a resident, but knocked, explained the situation, and asked for ID to be sure.

Here the two versions of the story diverge. According to Prof. Gates, Officer Crowley repeatedly refused to identify himself, lured him out onto the porch, and then arrested him. (You can read the Professor's version in an extended interview here.) According to Officer Crowley, Prof. Gates did provide identification, Crowley was satisfied that he was the homeowner, but Gates had immediately taken an angry tone (repeatedly accusing Crowley of treating him this way because he was black) and that Gates followed him outside, accusing him of racial bias and generally shouting at him, until after a warning Officer Crowley arrested him for disorderly conduct.

Now, I think it's pretty appalling to be arrested at your own house for yelling at someone, even a police officer. At the same time, the police report rings a lot truer to me that Prof. Gates'. And while even given that account, I don't like the idea of arresting someone in front of his own house for being loud and rude towards the police, it strikes me that Prof. Gates violated a lot of the very basic rules that everyone knows about interacting with police. Perhaps I can best explain with an example:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ideal House: Real-life version

It has an address: 2910 Ratterman Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211.

Front view. I've never seen the garage look so nice.

My dad's house is this big 1913 Victorian foursquare beauty, replete with burnished wood and carved mantels and stained glass and a hidden staircase with its own entry. And five bedrooms, and a full basement.

Detail of livingroom mantel.

Unlike my own suburban box, every room in his house has windows on two sides for better light and airflow. There's an enormous backyard with what appears to be an overgrown fountain, or a ivy-choked planter, or a huge bird bath (we never really exacavated it to discover its original purpose).
Planter-ish thing? Or pool? You decide.

Here's the view from the upstairs hall -- in January.

And now, this wonderful house is ready for a new family. I'm married in Texas, two of my brothers teach at Catholic high schools in Kentucky and New York, my one sister just got married, my other sister is starting college in the fall. It's just my dad and my brother left in this house, and the place is just too big to be a bachelor pad. It needs life. It needs kids running around and playing music and charging around the backyard and racing up and down the stairs.

Stairs to entry. Baby not included.

Want to see a bit more? Take the virtual tour. Or contact the realtor to see more pictures and get more details.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Orphan Openings: Trauma Team Edition

Though hardened by fifteen years service on the Fruit & Vegetable Clean-up Team, Kurt felt a tightening in his gut as cleanup vehicles flashing lights played across the carnage: some three dozen watermelons fallen off a pickup truck onto I-35. Broken rinds littered the road, the lights of the emergency vehicles making them first more livid red, then purplish blue. Pulp and seeds were thrown every which way, with tire treads running through the carnage and spattering it up on the guard rails.

"You expect to see this kind of thing in a war," Kurt told the reporter from News Nine, trying to assume the tough but sensitive man who's seen too much demeanor that would lead her to call him later. "But this is no war. This is right here at home. Seeds and pulp thrown all over like an artillery barrage hit an infantry battalion."

One of the other men dropped an armful of broken rinds into the cleanup bin, touched the crucifix hanging around his neck, and murmured a prayer.

Kurt shook his head. "How can you believe in God when you see things like this?"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Alphonse Creator Matthew Lickona

I posted a while back about the publication of Alphonse, a graphic novel written by Matthew Lickona and drawn by Chris Gugliotti. I've since had a chance to read Alphonse, Issue One and enjoyed it. It's an off-beat and dark story, but a very evocative one. Alphonse's mother is a serious druggie -- long in denial about the fact she is pregnant. When she shows up at a women's health clinic, 34 weeks pregnant, she insists that she can't go through with the pregnancy, and a doctor agrees to provide an abortion and hysterectomy. However, Alphonse is not your ordinary, helpless child of 34 weeks gestation. He is, through fate or the harsh mix of chemicals his mother's habits have exposed him to, aware of her thoughts and his danger, and also unusually coordinated for his size and age.

In the first issue we see his escape from the abortion clinic, and his rescue by a pro-life protester who takes him home and begins to nurse him through the withdrawal which removal from his mother's chemical habits causes. A man of action despite standing under twenty inches tall, Alphonse seems poised to bring about changes in the intersecting lives of a number of characters.

Alphonse is not a political cartoon or simple message book. It is a gritty fantasy told in a macabrely inventive visual style -- using a fantastic situation to explore a topic which is often considered radioactive in our society. Abortion is a topic which many seek to pigeonhole quietly by declaring a "tragedy". Alphonse seeks to be the Macbeth to this tragedy -- bloody, bold and resolute.

Author Matthew Lickona agreed to answer a set of questions for me in order to provide you with this interview.

Q: How did the idea for Alphonse come to you, and what can you tell us about where the story is going?

A: My inspiration for Alphonse actually came from another comic character: Gary Cangemi’s Umbert the Unborn. I think I first encountered him in The National Catholic Register. Cangemi had created Umbert to manifest the personhood of the fetus, and to that end, he had endowed the little guy with reason, will, and a pretty thorough understanding of the outside world. In particular, Umbert knew about legalized abortion.

Umbert was (and remains) a cheerful fellow. But he got me to thinking: what if it were true? What if there really was a sentient fetus, suspended upside down in the dark, barely able to move, completely dependent on its mother for sustenance and care, and constantly aware of the fact that, at any moment, it could be killed? That if Mom made the fateful choice, there was nothing - not even the law - standing between it and violent death? Month after month in the dark, wondering when the axe might fall. What would that experience be like? What would it do to a person? >Alphonse was born out of that question.

Where is the story going? Well, by the end of issue one, Alphonse has survived the attempt on his life, and the fallout from his escaping the abortion clinic is just beginning to ensue. Issue two is largely about that fallout, and the ways that the various characters deal with it. We get a little more insight into the cause and nature of Alphonse's character and condition, and the wheels are set in motion that will eventually bring about the climax in issue five.

Q: Did the comic book genre seem to come naturally from the subject matter? I've got to admit, I'm not normally a comic book reader (nor a comic strip reader since Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side left the funny pages) but as I read the first issue of Alphonse I couldn't really picture it as just prose.

A: Yes. Comic books land on the storytelling continuum somewhere between prose and movies, and I think that in Alphonse's case, that's a good thing.

I mean, you could make a movie out of the story, but it would have to be animated - I think a CGI preemie scurrying around the screen amid live actors would be just too darned creepy. It would overwhelm the story, and just freaking people out is not my goal. Animation provides a level of abstraction from reality that would render Alphonse a little more tolerable, I think.

But comic books, which abstract the images from motion, provide an even further remove, and my hope is that such abstraction serves to dampen the horror to the point where the story can come through clearly.

As for prose, I suppose I could have written things out, but it would have been a lot harder to keep from getting too heavy-handed. (I'm sure some people think the comic is heavy-handed as it is.) Take, for example, the montage on page four. I think that by the time I finished describing Mom's doodle of the monster sperm attacking the fleeing egg, the nightmare image of the abortion machine, the ominous and demanding abortion protestors, and the way they serve to chain Mom to this baby that terrifies her, the reader's eyes would be glazing over, and the hope for an engaged conversation between author and reader would be lost. In comic form, the whole thing can be taken in pretty quickly - Alphonse's connection to his mother's drug-fueled dreams is established, and we can move along without belaboring the point.

HOWEVER, these reasons are, to some extent, justifications after the fact. The truth is, my older brother collected comics when he was a teenager, and I read every issue he bought, many of them more than once. I found some of the stories - Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's BATMAN: YEAR ONE, for example - deeply affecting and memorable, and that may be part of the reason why I never placed comics among the things of childhood that one ought to put away. Suffice it to say that when Alphonse first came to me, he came to me as an illustration. Maybe that's because he was inspired by Umbert. Maybe it's because I have been privy to so much back-and-forth about the use of graphic images in the abortion debate. Or maybe it's just because I like comics.

Q: Given the subject matter, I'm curious whether your illustrator is someone with a Catholic or pro-life background. What did he think of the project when you introduced it to him?

A: You know, I'm hesitant to speak for my artist on this one. But I will say that he wasn't interested in doing a piece of propaganda - which was good, because I wasn't, either. I'm pretty sure he signed on because he read the script and thought it was a good story.

Q: Any particular illustration stylistic influences? Two things really struck me, though they may be totally my own thinking: The cover looks like a horror-show version of the cover of Angel in the Waters (which I read to my kids a bunch of times when we were expecting our youngest) and Alphonse's hat, overalls and scalpel look in some of the pictures you've posted reminds me Boondocks.

A: Angel in the Waters - ha! That's awesome, in a sort of scary way. I actually approached Ben Hatke, who illustrated Angel in the Waters, about this project way back before I found Chris (needless to say, it didn't work out). But no - Hatke's book was not a source. Chris sent me a lineup of six cover possibilities, and we went with this one for a number of reasons, some of them having to do with the starkness of the image, and the way it presented Alphonse as an isolated figure (even as he is connected to Mom via the umbilical cord). Ultimately, I think it came down to drama and simplicity.

As for the overalls and hat image - that was just my first rendering of Alphonse, for better or for worse. I don't think Chris ever saw it. I get what you're saying about Boondocks, but it wasn't a direct inspiration. I first fell in love with Chris's work because some of the stuff on his website reminded me of Bill Sienkiewicz, one of my very favorite comic book artists - though Chris's style is obviously very much his own. I gave Chris descriptions and characteristics, and he took it from there.

Q: What's the reaction to the book been? Has it been covered at all by secular comics sites?

A: Reaction has been varied, and it's come mostly from other Catholics. Some have understood the project right off and thought it worthwhile, others have expressed concern that the central premise will prove too radioactive, that it will prevent the story from getting through. Some, I think, have simply found it puzzling. Plenty of folks have simply kept silent, and I won't venture to guess at why.

I am just now beginning the push to secular comics sites. The comics market is extremely crowded, and I think for a project like this - self published, and dealing with a difficult subject - to attract any notice, it's going to have to have something of an established fanbase. Most of the media people I know are involved with the Catholic press, so I've started there in my effort to build support and find an audience. Also, it seemed to me that a story like this might be dear to the Catholic heart - particularly if that Catholic heart was fond of the grotesque scenarios found in Flannery O'Connor. I don't want to preach to the choir here - I don't want to preach, period - but I thought maybe the choir would find it worth singing about.

Q: Though I don't want to overplay the evangelization aspect of this (who was it who said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union"?) but what do you want people to come away from Alphonse with -- but as a Catholic and as an author more generally?

A: My fondest hope is that this is a story that will linger in the reader's mind after he or she has finished it and walked away.

I could say that I'd like it to give readers an enlarged sense of the world, but that's awfully hifalutin.

I could say that I'd like it to give readers on both sides a better sense of the opposition - and if the characters are actually characters, as opposed to cardboard cutouts; if the story really is a story, as opposed to propaganda, then it's certainly possible it will have that effect. But that's more of a byproduct. It's not why I'm doing this.

So I'll stick with the lingering.

Q: This is partly a charitably funded project. How is it going so far and what do you still need to make Alphonse happen?

A: Well, issue one was funded mostly by donations from friends, family, and a couple of surprising sources, so that much has been a success. Issue two is, as of now, about $1300 away from being funded. Overall, I need about $17,000 to finish the project. The story really works best if you can take it in from start to finish all at once, so I keep hoping for a rich patron to come along and help me turn it into a single graphic novel. But barring that, I'll keep begging and scraping to get the issues out one at a time. I'm not picky. With any luck, the issues will start to catch on, and I can use the proceeds to help fund what remains.

As of now, 39 backers have pledged $3,283 towards the $4,600 cost of getting Alphonse Issue Two produced. There is just over a week left to the fund drive. To contribute and track progress visit the Kickstarter page for Alphonse here. You can purchase copies of Alphonse for $2.99/ea plus shipping from IndyPlanet.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Disappointed Horse

As you contemplate the end of your weekend, you might want:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Culture Crash

That mainstream American culture is something of a train wreck is hardly news at this point, and that regard there's a certain wisdom to the approach, "Let the dead bury their dead," rather than having the brashness to be the one shouting, "Oh, hey, look! A body!" Still, occasionally one runs across things which are at the same time so sad and so indicative of our cultural ills one feels the need to comment. Such a case, to my mind at least, was this article from the most recent Atlantic Monthly suggesting that for the modern Homo suburbanicus middleclassus marriage is a failed idea which should be pretty much abandoned. Or as the cheery sub-headline succinctly put it: "The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?"

The author is a 47 year old woman, a successful performance artist married to a musician, who after twenty years of marriage and two children find herself in the aftermath of an extramarital affair deciding that she really doesn't feel like doing the work to rebuilt a relationship with her husband.
Which is not to say I’m against work. Indeed, what also came out that afternoon were the many tasks I—like so many other working/co-parenting/married mothers—have been doing for so many years and tearfully declared I would continue doing. I can pick up our girls from school every day; I can feed them dinner and kiss their noses and tell them stories; I can take them to their doctor and dentist appointments; I can earn my half—sometimes more—of the money; I can pay the bills; I can refinance the house at the best possible interest rate; I can drive my husband to the airport; in his absence, I can sort his mail; I can be home to let the plumber in on Thursday between nine and three, and I can wait for the cable guy; I can make dinner conversation with any family member; I can ask friendly questions about anybody’s day; I can administer hugs as needed to children, adults, dogs, cats; I can empty the litter box; I can stir wet food into dry.

Which is to say I can work at a career and child care and joint homeownership and even platonic male-female friendship. However, in this cluttered forest of my 40s, what I cannot authentically reconjure is the ancient dream of brides, even with the Oprah fluffery of weekly “date nights,” when gauzy candlelight obscures the messy house, child talk is nixed and silky lingerie donned, so the two of you can look into each other’s eyes and feel that “spark” again. Do you see? Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance. Sobered by this failure as a mother—which is to say, my failure as a wife—I’ve since begun a journey of reading, thinking, and listening to what’s going on in other 21st-century American families. And along the way, I’ve begun to wonder, what with all the abject and swallowed misery: Why do we still insist on marriage? Sure, it made sense to agrarian families before 1900, when to farm the land, one needed two spouses, grandparents, and a raft of children. But now that we have white-collar work and washing machines, and our life expectancy has shot from 47 to 77, isn’t the idea of lifelong marriage obsolete?

Armed with her experience and the knowledge gained from a passel of books seeking to analyze the ills and possibilities of modern marriage, the author goes out for a "girls night" at the house of one of her friends, and discovers that her own thinking has touched off similar thoughts among her married friends:
But it is now our second Girls’ Night dinner since my horrifying announcement, and Rachel has eschewed Ian’s customary wine-club Bordeaux and is mixing some alarmingly strong martinis.

Leaning forward heavily across the bar, she swirls her glass and huskily drops the bomb: “I have to tell you—since we talked, I too have started thinking divorce.” “No!” we girls exclaim. With a stab of nausea, I suddenly feel as though now that I’ve touched my pool of friends with my black pen, a cloud of ink is enveloping them.

“You can’t!” Renata cries. “Ian—he’s the perfect father! The perfect husband! Look at this … kitchen!”

It’s true: the kitchen is a prime example of Ian’s contribution to their union. He based the design of the remodel on an old farmhouse kitchen they saw during their trip to Tuscany, and of course—carpentry being another of his hobbies—he did all the details himself, including building the shelves. One of the room’s marvels is how ingeniously and snugly all the specialty kitchenware is housed—the hanging copper pots, the garlic press, the mandolin, the lemon zester, the French press coffeemaker …

“Ian won’t have sex with me,” Rachel says flatly. “He has not touched my body in two years. He says it’s because I’ve gained weight.” Again, we stoutly protest, but she goes on. “And he thinks I’m a bad mother—he says I’m sloppy and inattentive.”

The list of violations unfurls. Last week, Rachel mistakenly gave the wrong medication to the dog, a mistake Ian would never make. She also forgot to deglaze the saucepan and missed the window to book the family’s Seattle flights on Expedia, whose chiming bargains Ian meticulously tracks.

Rachel sees herself as a failed mother, and is depressed and chronically overworked at her $120,000-a-year job (which she must cling to for the benefits because Ian freelances). At night, horny and sleepless, she paces the exquisite kitchen, gobbling mini Dove bars.

After spending a while diagnosing the problems with this friend's relationship, another speaks up:
“You know, it’s funny,” says Ellen, after a moment of gloom. (Passing note: Ellen has been married for 18 years, and she also, famously, never has sex. There were the hot 20s with Ron and the making-the-babies 30s, and in the 40s there is … nothing. Ellen had originally picked Ron because she was tired of all the bad boys, and Ron was settle-down husband material. What she didn’t know was that after the age of 38, thanks to Mr. Very Settled-Down, she was never going to have regular sex with a man again.)

“When marriage was invented,” Ellen continues, “it was considered to be a kind of trade union for a woman, her protection against the sexually wandering male. But what’s happened to the sexually wandering male?”

In our parents’ era, the guy hit 45, got the toupee, drove the red Porsche, and left his family for the young, hot secretary. We are unable to imagine any of the husbands driving anything with fewer than five seat belts.

“Ron only goes as far as the den,” Ellen says. “He has his Internet porn bookmarked on the computer.”

“Ian has his Cook’s Illustrated,” Rachel adds. “And his—his men’s online fennel club.”

The author sees hope in some rather bleak ideas:
So, herewith, some modest proposals. Clearly, research shows that what’s best for children is domestic stability and not having to bond with, and to be left by, ever new stepparent figures. Less important is whether or not their overworked parents are logging “date night” (or feeling the magic). So why don’t we accept marriage as a splitting-the-mortgage arrangement? As Fisher suggests, rekindling the romance is, for many of us, biologically unnatural, particularly after the kids come. (Says another friend of mine, about his wife of 23 years: “My heart doesn’t lift when she walks in the room. It sinks, slightly.”) If high-revving women are sexually frustrated, let them have some sort of French arrangement where they have two men, the postfeminist model dad building shelves, cooking bouillabaise, and ignoring them in the home, and the occasional fun-loving boyfriend the kids never see. Alternately, if both spouses find life already rather exhausting, never mind chasing around for sex. Long-married husbands and wives should pleasantly agree to be friends, to set the bedroom aglow at night by the mute opening of separate laptops and just be done with it. More than anything, aside from providing insulation from the world at large, that kind of arrangement could be the perfect way to be left alone.

As far as the children are concerned, how about the tribal approach (a natural, according to both primate and human evolution)? Let children between the ages of 1 and 5 be raised in a household of mothers and their female kin. Let the men/husbands/boyfriends come in once or twice a week to build shelves, prepare that bouillabaisse, or provide sex.

Or best of all, after the breast-feeding and toddler years are through, let those nurturing superdads be the custodial parents! Let the Type A moms obsessively work, write checks, and forget to feed the dog. Let the dads then, if they wish, kick out those sloppy working mothers and run effective households, hiring the appropriate staff, if need be. To a certain extent, men today may have more clarity about what it takes to raise children in the modern age. They don’t, for instance, have today’s working mother’s ambivalence and emotional stickiness.

In any case, here’s my final piece of advice: avoid marriage—or you too may suffer the emotional pain, the humiliation, and the logistical difficulty, not to mention the expense, of breaking up a long-term union at midlife for something as demonstrably fleeting as love.

I'd originally thought about quoting a little bit of the article and then writing a lot of analysis, but as I thought it over, I think that putting it out there -- like a cadaver on the dissection table -- with a few basic pointers may make things rather more clear.

A couple of things particularly struck me, though.

Foremost, I was utterly unsurprised when the one sex-starved woman mentioned her husband heading off into the den to watch his internet porn. It would little surprise me if the over-achieving husband has similar habits. In a world in which sex has been totally divorced from its biological meaning, why not retreat into the world of unreality? Why accept a real person with needs and moods and desires and a body which is the product of age, genetics and personal habits when carefully selected bodies can be seen doing anything one desires only a mouse click and a couple dollars away? This is the natural path down which one goes when one separates the mating urge from mating with one's mate.

The other thing that struck me as interesting was how an excessive emphasis on equality seemed to be driving unhappiness. The author talks about "co-parenting" rather than "parenting", and emphasizes down on the line all the tasks which she is perfectly happy to do in order to hold up her half of the household duties. Her friends over-achieving husband Ian is quick to blame his wife for not holding up her duties equally, on everything from feeding the dog to maintaining the body type he prefers. I'm not an absolutist about "traditional roles", although MrsDarwin and I have always felt strongly about maintaining a single income family with a full time parent at home, but the one thing I think is probably almost never healthy is a strong emphasis on doing everything equally in a marriage rather than having some sort of roles. If you both work full time careers, and both strive to do equal amounts of housework, parenting, cooking, etc., it seems to me that comparisons will almost invariably spring up.

"I do the dishes every night, but she hasn't swept the floor in three days."
"I end up having to help the kids out with homework while she just takes them out to fun activities which cost lots of money."
"I make more money, but he's always going out to lunch as if money were no object."

And on, and on. Perhaps I'm an unusually unpleasant person, but in a work environment I can't help constantly measuring myself against the other people who are "doing the same thing I'm doing". This can be pretty harmless at work so long as one keeps a lid on it. After all, it's just work, and we get to walk away at the end of the day. But when you bring this same tendency towards competition into a marriage, I can see nothing but trouble coming of it. There it seems to me that it's very important to have complementary but different roles -- not do everything together as "co-parents". This doesn't have to be some kind of radical partitioning. But if one of your major goals is, "We'll make equal money, do equal work, and have equal fun," I think conflict will almost invariably result. Marriage is meant to be based on complementarity, not measured equality.

Finally, I'm reminded of something one of my Indian co-workers said when someone asked her how it was that she'd remained happily married for 20+ years to a man she only met ten minutes before her wedding. "You just tell yourself you don't have any other options," she said. "If you really believe that, it helps you avoid starting problems that will make you want out." At this point in modern America's divorce culture, it's very hard to tell yourself that there are not other options, but I think that rebuilding that mentality -- not just as in "I'd better put up with this, because there's no way out" but rather "I had better make sure that I'm easy to live with, because if I cause problems there is no way out of them" -- is probably the only real path back towards marital stability and sanity in the wider culture.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Some of the greatest tv news coverage ever: Monty Python's documentary on the Piranha brothers, Doug and Dinsdale.

But for those pressed for time, here's the money quote:

Economics and Morality

I may have to turn in my Catholic Geek card for this admission, but I still haven't finished reading Caritas in Veritate, I'm only about ten pages in. Though I've tried the usual background reading, Benedict's prose (though more readable than some of his predecessor's) is not really the sort of thing one can read one paragraph at a time in between working. And while I do usually have 30-60min between 11pm and midnight in which to read before falling asleep, I must confess I've mostly been devoting that time to finishing a spy novel rather than turning tired eyes to Catholic social thought.

However, if I may nonetheless take the liberty of addressing some of the general discussion of economics and morality which has been stirred up by the encyclical, there is what seems to me a familiar dynamic coming into play as people discuss whether the Church can or should teach on matters of economics. The situation strikes me as somewhat similar to the argument about whether the Church can teach on matters of science.

On science, I would like to think, the terrain if fairly well understood. The Church does not and cannot teach with any particular authority on scientific theories themselves: Is the universe six billion years old, or only 6000? Is string theory a load of rubbish? Does the Earth revolve around the Sun? Will the expansion since the "big bang" end in a "big crunch" or in the heat death of the universe?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spiritual Armor and Social Justice

Fr. Fox, the best blogging priest on the 'nets, posted his recent talks for a homeschooling conference. Go and read; perusing Fr. Fox's homilies and speeches is like taking a mini-retreat.

From his talk on equipping your children with spiritual armor:
Paul tells us our Faith is a shield.

There are a lot of things to say about Faith, but let me highlight three aspects.

Faith is about knowledge—it matters that we know our Faith;
Faith is about obedience to what Christ teaches—it matters that we live our Faith;

And above all…

Faith is a choice of the will—which is why the habits of faith matter, because they’ll help us stand our ground and keep our choice strong when it’s not easy.

Notice Faith is a shield—not the sword. Our Faith is not mainly an offensive weapon, but a means of defense—against the attacks of the enemy.

"Flaming arrows" sound pretty scary, but St. Paul assures us our shield of Faith will do the job.

Remember, our Faith is not just ours—when we speak of our Faith, we mean our personal, individual choice of faith, but we also speak of the Faith of the Church. Remember that from the Ritual of Baptism?

Right before the child or the adult is baptized, the deacon or priest asks that person—or others to speak for her—to renounce the devil, and profess faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everyone joins in, and then the priest says, "This is our Faith. This is the Faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!"

When we recall that people die for that profession, even at this hour, those words take on new meaning, don’t they?

My point is, we have as our shield not only our personal faith, but the Faith of the Church, the whole Church. But it has to be personal, too; we have to be used to holding it, with a familiar grip—or we’ll fumble and drop it at the first sign of trouble.
And from his talk to teenagers on social justice:
Now, that example raises a couple of issues associate with the Church’s social teaching, did you notice?


What do you think the Church says about unions?

Ø People have a right to form or associate with unions—Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII.
Ø Unions should be about advancing the good of working people but not at the expense of others’ legitimate rights and the common good
Ø Catholics should not affiliate with unions if they aren’t compatible with Catholic teaching in general.

What the Church does not say about unions:
Ø That working people must belong to them.
Ø That unions are always right or should always prevail.
Ø That unions should be about employee versus employer: Pope Leo suggested the possibility of unions including employers—what idea was he trying to cultivate there?

Solidarity: i.e., yes, I am my brother’s keeper.
Related to this is the "common good." The idea is that sometimes I have to ask, not just what’s good for me, but what’s good for…us.

Let’s go back to that example: you go buy food in the store. You pay for it. You eat it. But you decided to buy some extra food and drop it off at the food pantry on the way home: you remembered the poor man, Lazarus.

Now, are you finished thinking about "justice" in this case?

Ø What about the workers who produced the food or brought it to you?
Ø What about the way the food was produced—care for the natural environment?

The workers involved in bringing this food to you are entitled to a fair wage and just working conditions—did they have the ability to negotiate and bargain collectively if they wanted to?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Language Acquisition: Spanish Edition

Some good friends of ours are hosting a 12-year-old orphan from Columbia for the summer, so we here in the Darwin clan have all been doing our parts at trying to pick up a little Spanish. I have no good explanation as to why I never picked up much of any Spanish before. Growing up in Los Angeles, with one of my parents of Mexican ancestry, I somehow managed to pick up less Spanish than MrsDarwin did growing up in Cincinnati. I think that because Spanish was so omnipresent in Southern California, learning it never seemed like the sort of exclusive knowledge that fascinated me. Being able to say "I speak Spanish" didn't so much say "intellectual" as "works in construction".

Learning a spoken, modern language which is so directly related to Latin, has been interesting. Reading through a grammar text (more familiar to my Wheelock-formed Latin background) while listening to Pimsleur conversational language records is an interesting contrast, and leaves we wondering what the differences are between how grammar is presented to natives in elementary and high school grammar versus in a formal language acquisition course for outsiders.

I'm curious if any of our readers know: Would one sit down and study the forms of first, second and third conjugation verbs as a native Spanish speaker? Are the conjugations even formally named except by non-native speakers? Or is it more common to simply talk about -ar, -er and -ir verbs and then irregular verbs?

I am rather charmed by having two version of the verb of being, one for permanent conditions and one for characteristics which are had at the moment. It seems like all sorts of fun could be had with those distinctions. For instance, while some might say, "El coche está sucio," in my case it would be more accurate to say that, "Mi coche es sucio," as my vehicle has become permanently scruffy.

Though perhaps what seems to the beginner to be cleverness would just come across as grammatical incompetence.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Few Thoughts on NFP

Sometimes you run across an argument which strikes you as wrong in such a way as to crystallize and clarify your thinking on a topic. Such a case, for me, was running into this debate from last week at InsideCatholic on the topic, "Is NFP Misogynous?"

The "yes it is" argument contained the following key elements:
Assuming any methodized sexual intercourse devised to avoid pregnancy by an otherwise open-to-life-marital-couple can actually "work," who bears responsibility for the method? I seriously question whether NFP, for many, isn't a misogynous practice -- imposing upon women an undue share of the physical and emotional burden of the theologically questionable quest of planning pregnancy.

First, we must be real. Modern NFP practices demand daily bodily measurements of women, not men.... A woman most desires sexual intimacy when she is at her most fertile.... This is also the moment when we are most likely to conceive a child. It's the moment NFP-practicing women measure and chart and predict as "fertility awareness," a "maybe-child" zone. For NFP-practicing women avoiding pregnancy, it is the moment they must say "no" to both themselves and their spouses....

I don't buy it. It sounds like a scheme to impose on women who wish to time pregnancies an almost penal practice of self-measurement, self-control, and self-denial, while requiring, at a minimum, a sort of suffering acquiescence from a spouse whose interest in the chart becomes rather strategic....

NFP needs to go the same way as the rhythm method -- which did not "work" and was, more importantly, female unfriendly. In its place, perhaps we all need to suck it up and admit what the theology asks of us: Have sex whenever you both want to... and expect a baby every time. Otherwise, don't copulate. That's a fair burden on both spouses.
The woman presenting the "no it isn't" view did a perfectly decent job of presenting the standard arguments for NFP, but I'd like to dig into one aspect in particular, especially given that by the sixth comment on the article we already see a theology student trying to argue that the "planning" involved in Natural Family Planning is really no different than the use of barrier methods of contraception since it involves "the intention of having sex without baby" and is thus "using one's intellect to create a tool which limits the possibility of procreation".

I'd like to start from a point of biological realism. The bodily organs which are used in this very pleasant thing we call sex are part of the reproductive system, which means than whenever we have sex we are performing an action which is at a biological level meant to be reproductive, in the sense that our bodies would not have this capacity were it not for the fact their function is reproductive in nature. (Interesting side note: think of all the most pleasurable things the human body can do and ask yourself, how does each one of these relate to a basic element of human survival. Generally speaking, the greater the physical pleasure, the greater the relation to survival.)

Within the overall structure of intercourse, a normal, healthy man is capable of begetting children any time he has sex. However, women (like females of virtually all other mammals) are only biologically able to conceive a few days out of the month. (Both of these reproductive strategies make a lot of sense for the individual and the species as a whole at the evolutionary level, but I don't think it's necessary to go into all that here.) Even at the "right time", a woman may or may not conceive as the result of having intercourse. Conditions have to be right for the sperm to reach the egg, the egg has to be healthy, and the sperm has to successfully implant. What this boils down to is that while the probability of getting pregnant from any one random act of intercourse is perhaps 1-10% depending on the people involved, having sex frequently will almost invariably result in pregnancy unless there is a health/age problem involved.

Other creatures, our non-rational brethren in the animal kingdom, do not worry about when they should not reproduce. Driven by instincts and natural compulsions, they mate when it is their season, have as many offspring as they can, and hope (if one may apply that word to the unthinking) that those offspring will thrive. If there are not enough resources to go around, the young, weak, and old die off. We humans see this kind of suffering as something to be avoided, and so human societies in all times and places have striven not to outgrow their resources -- using methods ranging from self denial to slaughter.

From a Catholic point of view, human life is sacred and thus abortion and infanticide are completely unacceptable as means of population control; and the sexual faculties have a moral integrity resulting from their relation to the creation of new human beings and so the sex act should not be modified (as with birth control) to remove its inherent fertility. Thus, for Catholics, the answer to the need not to have more children than one can provide for is to have sex less. Because sex has a clear and inherent reproductive aspect, which we consider it wrong to try to circumvent artificially, if you want to not get pregnant you will have to avoid having sex at least some of the time.

Now, this is where the question of whether Natural Family Planning (NFP) as practiced by modern Catholic couples is "natural" comes in. The woman's body gives certain signs of when it is likely to be fertile. These signs are rather less obvious than those of many of our fellow mammals. Female chips, for instance, have a large pink swelling around their genital area when they become fertile, such that one can tell if she is fertile from quite some distance away.

Signs of human female fertility are much more subtle. (The evolutionary reason for this would make a very interesting inquiry, I can think of a few very interesting reasons.) However they are now pretty well understood and easily learned.

So, what are the options for the Catholic couple who are seeking to remain true to the Church's understanding of human sexuality and the human person and also seeking to avoid having more children then they can raise and support?

Ms. Campbell advises, "Have sex whenever you both want to... and expect a baby every time. Otherwise, don't copulate. That's a fair burden on both spouses."

The thing is (leaving aside the dangerous problem of trying to figure out what is "fair" for both spouses in some sort of power politics sense) that this is in a sense not actually all that natural. We are not made such that sex results in a baby "every time". Sex is somewhat likely to result in a baby perhaps 30% of the time, and highly likely to do so only about 10% of the time at best. Since unlike a lot of our fellow creatures, our sex drives are not only "on" when we're fertile, the rest of the time sex serves to strengthen and deepen the bond between a couple who are going to have a lot of work and difficulty together raising children. So if you only, ever have sex when you absolutely expect to have a baby, you're actually using sex in a more minimal fashion than we're physically designed for.

If they know anything at all about their biology (from experience if nothing else) a couple is going to know they won't get pregnant every time. And knowing this, the drive is strong to say, "Surely this time is okay." Though husbands should try hard to be sensitive to the greater difficulties that pregnancy means for their wives than for them, this line of thinking is naturally going to appeal more to the man than to the woman. Desires for "fairness" aside, pregnancy is naturally going to effect the woman more directly than the man.

Given that we have the understanding of female fertility signs available to us quite easily in the modern world, it is going to cause significantly less stress without couples to use that knowledge to actually know "we might get pregnant now" versus "we almost certainly won't get pregnant now" rather than relying the more more amorphous "chances are decent we won't get pregnant this one time" or the inaccurate "we shouldn't have sex unless we're absolutely sure we want to get pregnant."

NFP works within the natural structure of what sex is -- a natural act which has both unitive and procreative elements. It encompasses self denial in that it accepts that if you want to avoid pregnancy for a while you are going to have to forgo having sex, but it provides system and achievability to that self denial by telling a couple when it is that they need to forgo sex. If you need to avoid having another child for the next year or two, you may end up having to avoid having sex nearly half the time. However, that is much more achievable and healthy for a couple than attempting to avoid it entirely for those same years -- and the differentials of fear and desire that would result from such an attempt.