“Haunted Hollywood”: I watch “Maps to the Stars”

for AmSpec: Part of the reason David Cronenberg’s new Maps to the Stars is so engrossing is that it’s two kinds of movie at once. The surface is all brutal Hollywood satire, the child star who only eats red Skittles and the washed-up actress demanding that her assistant fetch her Xanax and Kozy Shack pudding. This stuff is breathtaking: the massage therapist who helps his scantily-clad clients work through child abuse (“I’m going to press on a personal history point now”), the hateful cheek-kis … [Read more...]

Edward Gorey’s Tarot Set

YES PLEASE: Since he supplied us with a visual vocabulary for cutesy dread over many decades, perhaps it comes as no surprise that Edward Gorey designed a set of whimsical tarot cards. The set is called the “Fantod Pack,” the word fantod signifying “a state of worry or nervous anxiety, irritability” and thus possibly the most Edward Gorey word ever. (David Foster Wallace was fond of the word as well, using the phrase “howling fantods” multiple times in Infinite Jest; the main clearinghouse websi … [Read more...]

“Public Policy’s Absent Aesthetics”: I’m at AmCon

rantin': ...What leapt out to me was the absence of the aesthetic side of smoking vs. wearing the patch. I don’t just mean that smoking looks good, although it does: Smoke dissolves like perfect conversation. Smoke turns women into chapels.What I mean is that all these aesthetic associations reinforce nicotine addiction. The sights and smells and sounds of smoking (tapping the cigarette against the pack; I knew one woman who made a little kiss sound every time she took a drag) intertwine in … [Read more...]

“Jesuits Offer Spiritual Retreats for the Homeless”

from Jesuits.org: It all began in Chicago in 1998 when Jesuit Father Bill Creed was asked by his provincial to find a way to make the Spiritual Exercises available to the economically disadvantaged. Along with Ed Shurna, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Fr. Creed developed a format for providing Ignatian retreats to men and women who are homeless and in recovery from addiction.Today the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) is a national network with overnight … [Read more...]

“Should I Attend the Wedding of a Gay Friend of Family Member?”: I’m in the current Christianity Today

subscribers-only for now. I'm one of four respondents (the others are Peter Ould, Lisa Severine Nolland, and Sherif Girgis) and the only "yes." It's a more-conciliatory but also more tightly-written version of the answer I give in my book. … [Read more...]

“Opening the Time Capsule: The Forgotten Era of Black Indie Film”

...forgotten indie films from '68 through '89?! WHERE DO I SEE THESE: Last week, the Film Society of Lincoln Center concluded its beautiful ode to an era, “Tell it like it is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986.” The survey of more than a dozen titles produced during the period, some never-before seen, offered a peak into an unheralded, often forgotten moment of visual storytelling which is responsible for some of the most impressive and richly nuanced portraits of black life in fil … [Read more...]

“In Cana of Galilee”: PEG

old post well worth revisiting: This initiation of the miracle by Mary is not just an illustration of the importance of women. It also parallels another story, from the Old Testament: that of Eve, who drives Adam to eat the apple. The miracle of Cana shows that, just as Jesus is the New Adam, Mary the Immaculate is the New Eve. Just as Eve had to push Adam to act, Mary pushes Jesus into the world, not simply by giving birth, but also by initiating his public life. What a powerful symbol, that … [Read more...]


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