Just finished this excellent 1978 manifesto about contemporary cities’ hostility to children, and I think a lot of people who read my stuff (esp policy wonk types and parents) would love it. Its central points include things like: # Every neglected space will be discovered and used by children. The dangerous, hidden activities of childhood are often the ones we remember most fondly and learn from the most–maybe because they’re the activities in which we exercise the most complete responsibility…. Read more

and the broadness of actual Catholic tradition: But given this year’s theme, the limited gender expression was striking. The garments on the red carpet and within the exhibit attest to Catholicism’s major contribution to the world of fashion: clerical wear, from liturgical vestments to everyday cassocks. The prevailing Catholic silhouette is descended from the ancient Greek and Roman tunic. Yet no male celebrity was bold enough to break free of the confines of the standard well-tailored pant. more, including samurai… Read more

is playing my song: The immediate response to death in many medieval communities was song. Why? In discourses of the time, music reflected realities beyond the human sphere; it joined the individual soul and the motions of the heavens. The words of the chant Subvenite—recorded above and sung at the moment of death in Klosterneuburg—depict a connection between the earthly and heavenly communities. The music itself would also have been understood to bridge the two realms.  Music was considered capable… Read more

I recently watched The Big Chill and Return of the Secaucus 7 one after the other–two films with startlingly similar setups and character notes, but which differ sharply in tone and theme. The Big Chill is this famous awfulfest with Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum and more, as former radicals reunited by the suicide of a member of their friendship group.  But really by the suicide of The Sixties! They spend a weekend at the home of the married… Read more

Best one first! Ushpizin: A poor, childless Orthodox Jewish couple in Jerusalem have no idea how they’ll afford to celebrate Sukkot (the Feast of Booths, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt), let alone how they might entertain any guests on this feast of hospitality. Their prayers are answered by a miraculous windfall of money–and then the guests turn up. But these guests have some nasty secrets connected to the husband’s troubled past…. This is a stellar film, heartfelt and prayerful. Depressed… Read more

Barry Unsworth’s 1995 novel has a terrific hook: Sometime in England’s fourteenth century, a demoralized, fugitive priest becomes part of a band of wandering players–and helps them solve a local murder. I loved so much of this slender book, and frequently stopped to savor its pleasures. The priest is mostly a terrific narrator: slightly pedantic, certain of his own unworth, headstrong but with a taste for helplessness. The setup is so smart. The players, under severe financial pressure–they need to… Read more

reviewing a recent book on the German 1890s through the rise of the Nazis: Martin Duberman, in his recent “novel/history” Jews Queers Germans, rarely describes clothing. He describes, instead, physical attractiveness—the role of sex appeal in history. Admiration for male physical beauty shapes the lives and beliefs of all his heroes and, by the end, two of his villains. Describing the social status granted by bodies instead of by clothes also perfectly illustrates one of Duberman’s subjects: the final defeat… Read more

criticizing their most recent study. Giving me space to do this is v. characteristic of these people’s generosity btw: What about marriage before kids? Some women prefer single motherhood, due to their assessments of the men around them. But they know it’s harder financially. Doesn’t everyone? And the large majority of my clients, while reluctant to judge others’ lives, believe marriage would be best for their own babies. So why doesn’t it work out that way? There are two main… Read more

Oculus is a time-bending, hallucination-filled tale of an old and evil mirror that destroys a family by making the dad do bad things. This sounds predictable, yes? “The Shining, but cheesy,” you’re thinking. But that’s a much apter comparison than it might seem. Oculus has Stephen King’s ability to capture the real emotional dynamics in violent families. What starts out as a fairly ordinary paranormal-or-madness? tale turns into a jagged meditation on what it’s like to survive child abuse. Oculus… Read more

This is a documentary about Anthony Weiner’s 2013 campaign for mayor of New York City. At the start of the film–whose makers included a former aide–Weiner has already resigned in disgrace from Congress after a sexting scandal. But he’s back and hungry for his second chance. Spoiler alert, he extremely does not become mayor, because it turns out he was still sending girls raunchy photos of himself after he said he’d stopped. After the movie’s release he pled guilty to… Read more

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