Wanted: World Youth Day for Introverts

It’s hard to imagine Flannery O’Connor at World Youth Day. As a child, she marked the jacket of her journal with the warning “MIND YOUR OWN BIDINIS.” As an adult, she thrived in places like Yaddo and Andalusia, where people, by and large, did exactly that. Of the crowds on the New York City subways, [Read More...]

Ralph Branca: Remembering Jerusalem

The athlete whose career seems in retrospect to have been defined by an instance of decisive failure can be forgiven for imagining himself accursed, particularly if the failure itself looks wildly anomalous. When the Red Sox’s Mike Torrez gave up a pennant-winning homer to Bucky Dent — normally one of the most harmless batters in [Read More...]

Rick Perry and the Politics of Treating ‘em Ugly

Even conservatives are coming down on brand-new presidential candidate Rick Perry for accusing Ben Bernanke of treason and declaring that Texans would treat the Federal Reserve chairman “pretty ugly.” “That is not…a presidential statement,” Karl Rove told Fox News. In Tuesday’s column, Ross Douthat called Perry “the conservative id made flesh.” It’s a brilliant turn [Read More...]

A Thundering Squadron of Cassocks

This title barely qualifies as a pun. Cassock, the name for the clerical garment with the 33 buttons, may share an etymological root with cossack, the name for the Ukrainian horse-soldiers who took a famously unsportsmanlike approach to warfare. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, cassock comes from the French casaque, meaning long, coat. Casaque, [Read More...]

Who Wouldn’t Want a Hapsburg?

Ib First Things, George Weigel calls Otto von Hapsburg, son of Austria-Hungary’s last emperor, who died at the age of 98 this past July 4th, “The First– and Last European.” I have a feeling Hapsburg’s cousin, Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon-Dos Sicilias, who continues to reign in Spain — I think she’s got it! [Read More...]

The Importance of Being Snooki

“A comedy of bad manners” — that’s how the Roundabout Theater Company describes this mashup of the Importance of Being Earnest and Jersey Shore. Santino Fontana and David Furr, who play Algernon and Jack in Roundabout’s production of Wilde’s last, best play, stay in character as they recite some of the reality show cast’s most [Read More...]

For the Love of Bad Music

Jani Lane, former lead singer of Warrant, who died yesterday at age 47 of unknown causes, often expressed regret for writing “Cherry Pie.” He needn’t have. It was as catchy as it was mindless, which is probably why it made the top 10. It came out the year I went to college, and I can [Read More...]

News Flash: Catholics and Jews Still Largely Cool

In one of the Simpsons’ earlier seasons, Marge writes to the producers of Itchy and Scratchy to complain about the show’s rampant and graphic violence. After some finagling she gets what she wants — in spades. A typical episode of the new, socially responsible Itchy and Scratchy finds the former antagonists sitting side-by-side on a [Read More...]

Water and Gin: A Selective History of London Riots

You know you’re in a country with a solid civil-rights tradition when, four days into a massive riot, the authorities begin to talk about using water cannon. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced today that “we now have in place contingency plans for water cannon to be available at 24 hours’ notice.” Meanwhile, the rioting, [Read More...]

Newsweek’s Cover: Not Sexist, Just a Slap

The cover of this week’s Newsweek features Michele Bachmann. As many observers noted, it is not a flattering photo. Anyone old enough to have seen the movie Hot Resort, starring a very young Johnny Depp, will recal a minor character who is in thrall to some Maharishi figure. The expression she wears when venerating his [Read More...]

The Loopy Fun of Popular Piety

In today’s Patheos column, I write about popular piety, how the forms of devotion that go viral, so to speak, among the people run to the melodramatic, the sensational and the sentimental. It’s easy to wince at this kind of thing, but easier still, sometimes, to wince at the people who are wincing. In his [Read More...]

Riots and the Antisocial Media

Whether reacting to the welfare cuts in Prime Minister David Cameron’s new austerity budget or gripped by simple lust for mayhem, Londeoners have carried their rioting through its third straight night. Parliament’s recess has been cut short; the England-Netherlands football match has been cancelled. Police — of whom 16,000 are now patrolling London’s streets — [Read More...]

America’s Financial Future: A Dirt Sandwich?

Today in Slate, William Saletan that our country’s left-right ideological divode will soon be rendered irrelevant — by its creditors, of all people. The deal they force on America will involve both tax hikes and entitlement cuts — in other words, the worse of both worlds. As he explains: Their message was delivered on Friday [Read More...]

Clerical Narcissism: Myth or Mess?

“Narcissist” is the new n-word. Unmatched for versatility, it can mean everything from “won’t text me back” to “queer as a three-dollar bill.” Once upon a time, disagreeable people could hope to be labeled neurotics or paranoiacs; no longer. Members of my generation are fully committed to watching each other watch themselves. Just recently, Irish [Read More...]

How to Have a Good Spiritual Childhood

My RCIA class held the three-hour retreat that preceded Easter Vigil, and our admission to the Sacraments, at a Montessori school, whose grounds spilled back from the street over a couple of grassy, well-shaded acres. The day being Saturday, no students were present, but judging by the height of the tables and chairs, the youngest [Read More...]

Big Revolutionaries Don’t Cry

Of all the responses to Joe Biden’s alleged comparison of Tea Party Republicans to terrorists, I like Rand Paul’s the best. The Kentucky senator tweeted: “I would prefer to be known as a freedom fighter.” That’s my idea of taking ownership. Under scrutiny, the truism that one nation’s terrorists are another’s freedom fighters turns out [Read More...]


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