“Escape from Enlightenment”: I’m at First Things

reviewin': For over twenty years Will Allen was the in-house videographer for the Buddhafield—a religious group, eventually numbering over a hundred members, that mixed meditation, ecstatic experience, and ballet. In 2007 the group shattered amid accusations of emotional and sexual abuse. The title of Allen's new documentary shows which side he ended up on: It's called Holy Hell.Holy Hell confirms some stereotypes of cults and challenges others. The Buddhafield offered much that our c … [Read more...]

Doomed Queen and Beaten Champion: Concert review, Tristen & the Mountain Goats

A few weeks ago I got a chance to see the Mountain Goats in concert. Let me tell you to do this thing if you get the chance. The Mt Goats is sort of one guy, John Darnielle, and the people he gets to help him make narrative, terrifically-structured indie music; I've yapped about their stuff here and here among other places. I super love them but am wary of live music for whatever dumb reason, so when I finally saw them at Calvin College, I was totally blown away. Darnielle was losing his voice … [Read more...]

File Under Sacred Music: Movie Notes

Daisies: A mid-'60s Czech feminist romp, and incredibly enjoyable from the first frame to the last. The costumes and set designs are all about childlike fun; the overall ethos is, "Eat dessert first!"Victor Morton points out the way this film is women's lib, not women's rights, and like all purely liberatory gestures it can't be justified--and Daisies itself acknowledges that! It cheerfully admits that it's unsustainable and gratuitous, utopian in the fullest sense, a Candyland and not a … [Read more...]

“Escape from Detroit”: I watch “Don’t Breathe”

for AmCon, and end up ranting about the sacred Victim, obviously: Don’t Breathe, the new horror flick from director Fede Alvarez, opens with the flapping of wings and far-off sirens. Dawn is breaking on a deserted street, which we slowly approach from the sky. A man is dragging a blonde body through a city where everyone else seems to have vanished. more (also apparently I badly misremembered Wait Until Dark so apologies for that...) … [Read more...]

From Evelyn Waugh, “The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold”

His strongest tastes were negative. He abhorred plastics, Picasso, sunbathing, and jazz--everything in fact that had happened in his own lifetime. The tiny kindling of charity which came to him through his religion sufficed only to temper his disgust and change it to boredom. There was a phrase in the thirties: "It is later than you think," which was designed to cause uneasiness. It was never later than Mr. Pinfold thought. … [Read more...]

“Celibacy, Self-Acceptance, And the Extra Inkling”: I’m at First Things

readin': I’ve just finished Charles Williams's 1937 novel Descent into Hell, which was recommended to me by a couple of Catholic friends. Williams might be called “the extra Inkling.” Everybody knows J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but far fewer people remember the other, less aggressively punctuated members of the club, including the philosopher Owen Barfield and Tolkien's son Christopher.Williams is the best-known of these auxiliary Inklings, and his writing is indeed what the youth of toda … [Read more...]

“Divine Disco: The beatific sub-genre that delivered sermons on the dance floor”: The Guardian

grauniading: With its reputation for sex, drugs and unbridled hedonism, disco doesn’t have a reputation as the most god-fearing genre. But, as every clubber knows, on a great night you can have something akin to a spiritual experience on the dancefloor, putting your hands in the air and giving yourself over to a higher power: music itself.A new compilation, put together by DJ and inveterate crate-digger Greg Belson, confirms that the cultures of Saturday night and Sunday morning aren’t so di … [Read more...]