“One Nation, Under the Influence”: I review a National Archives show on US Boozin’

for The American Interest: “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History,” on exhibit at the National Archives through January 10, is a lot like a 2 a.m. barroom yarn: rambling, studded with odd and fascinating moments, but lacking the one thing that might make it all make sense. ...“Spirited Republic” is organized mostly-chronologically. The opening sections make creative use of the archival material to tell the story of alcohol’s role in early American civic history: A reproduction of Ge … [Read more...]

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“Who Dares to Say That Love Is Like the War?”: A Gay, Catholic Poet in the 20th Century

I don't want to be tokenistic but I'm betting the best way to get you to read this terrific article is to show you these paragraphs: In the meantime both men underwent a private transformation. Thompson had abandoned Catholicism at Harvard, though he had never entirely renounced the faith. In 1952 he told his lover (who had been raised an Anglican) that he wanted to practice the Catholic faith again. Trower was initially taken by surprise, but six months later he followed Thompson into the … [Read more...]

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“This Town Is Dead at Night”: I watch that Iranian-Californian vampire flick

for AmCon: When I heard there was an Iranian-Californian vampire movie where a lady vampire skateboards through a deserted town under the streetlights and the palm trees, her chador blowing out behind her like Dracula’s cape, I thought, That’s awesome!But by the time we actually reached the skateboard scene in “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” all I could think was, That’s terrifying!“A Girl” is a totally effective piece of atmosphere: dreamlike, black and white, with a phenomenal sound … [Read more...]

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Fra Angelico and the Sex-Hating Church

A really rambling post.Now that my book is out I've been doing a lot of interviews, and in many of them I've been asked to tell my conversion story. A huge part of my conversion involved realizing that the Catholic Church wasn't what I'd thought it was. For example, I had this image that the Church opposed and rejected the human body--the beauty of the body, the joy of the senses--and denigrated all sensual beauty and pleasure, from the beauty of a Japanese maple to the ecstasy of sex. (I'm … [Read more...]

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“How to Be Intoxicated”

This article is annoyingly coy (it's all "there's danger in intoxication! there are no guarantees!" but it's scared to say what that actually looks like) but the basic idea is right on and important. And if you want specifics there's always The Secret History so I guess somebody's already written the stuff he leaves out: ...When colleges pick the one book that every new student should read (as they increasingly do through required summer reading programs), they tend to choose something of the … [Read more...]

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Working at the Disco: I Watch “The Last Days of Disco”

For the first half of this movie I was not totally sold on it--despite its setting in "The Very Early '80s" and its discussions of group socializing vs. "ferocious pairing off" and the Robert Sean Leonard of it all. "It's fun enough, but it's no Damsels in Distress," I thought.By the end I was so fascinated and pleased that I wanted to rewatch it immediately. I listened to the commentary track, which I rarely do with Netflix dvds because I am greedy and want my next one as fast as possible. … [Read more...]

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The Killing Joke: I read “Infinite Jest”

Finished it and flipped back to the very first page. Hugely tempted to just go in for an immediate re-read. It's an engrossing, brutal book.I found the first 100 pages or so a really mixed bag--my one real criticism is that the book itself sometimes seems... bewildered and amused?... by the existence of people who aren't white. There are definitely exceptions. The Hugs Not Drugs/"shit down your neck" scene is fantastic, and feels real, or rather feels exaggerated in the way both life and the … [Read more...]

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