In Which I’m Inspired by Direct Mail. Really.

I just finished The New Evangelization: 2003 - 2013 Missionary Letters, which is basically a collection of fundraising letters from A Simple House, an intentional Catholic community which practices "friendship evangelization" among the poor in DC and Kansas City, MO. It's a genuinely moving book with solid reflections on the theory and practice of charity. There are good explanations of why the authors focus on friendship as vs. efficient meeting of material needs, and there are countless … [Read more...]

Too Much Harmony: “Water by the Spoonful,” A Play About Friendship, Dissonance, and Humiliating Identity

Last night I saw Quiara Alegria Hudes's Pulitzer-winning Water by the Spoonful at Studio Theatre. It uses dissonant jazz as a metaphor for the disjunctions and collisions in our own lives, asking whether these discordant notes will ever resolve into harmony. The show tells two parallel stories: A young vet with PTSD fights with his cousin about how to mourn his dying adoptive mother, and members of an online support group for "crackheads" (their term, which is important, see below) strive to … [Read more...]

“Art Breakers”: I’m in The American Interest

reviewing: The first chamber sets up the thesis of “Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950,” at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington through May 26. As visitors enter, a 1950s filmstrip plays, showing nuclear blasts recorded for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. To one side, so you only see it once you’re already in the room, there’s a smashed baby grand piano with an axe still sticking out of its body: the remains of a 2013 performance art piece in which Raphael Montañez Ortiz hacked the … [Read more...]

“Dyscommunication”: I review “Tribes” at the Studio Theatre

for AmCon: If you couldn’t understand what your family was saying, would you understand them better or worse?Nina Raines’s ”Tribes” opens with four Britons hurling abuse at each other around the kitchen table. I think it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s mostly just crass and painful: Mom, Dad, brother and sister describing one another’s passions, hopes, beliefs, and sex lives in the most contemptuous terms possible. The fifth member of the family is deaf and yeah, you do feel that perhaps he … [Read more...]

Snow Day Thoughts

A series of points too small for a real post.* While I was in Boston for the US National Figure Skating Championships (of which more later!! THEY WERE SO GREAT) I also got to go with Ratty to the Museum of Fine Arts. It has some terrific Spanish painting from the Counter-Reformation era--I love this stuff, even in the court paintings you feel like you can smell the blood. The only thing that glows is the flesh of the Crucified. There's an extremism which I think some people find wearying but … [Read more...]

In Which Our Heroine Attends a Truly Fantastic Skating Choreography Competition

What do you mean, Sunday was the first day of Advent? It felt just like Christmas to me!That's because I got to attend the MK Young Artist Showcase 4 at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena. Choreographers from otherworldly locales such as Salt Lake City and Austria competed, plus there were exhibitions by local synchro skaters and also 2011 national champion Ryan Bradley, seen here in his "Doublet Your Pleasure, Doublet Your Fun" program and here in his winning short program.I really had no idea … [Read more...]

“Disorientation”: I review a photography show at the Sackler Gallery

for AmCon: Now that the shutdown is over, I can tell you about a small but punchy photography exhibit at the Sackler.“Sense of Place,” which runs through November 11, disrupts many of the cliches of East vs. West. In these tired oppositions, Europe is a clash of swords and horses; China, Japan, or any other part of the undifferentiated East is a lone monk crossing a quiet pond. The West is the land of change and history, the East is the land where life is as fleeting and yet eternal as the s … [Read more...]


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