And All at Once I Had to Face the Big Light: Some movie reviews

Rachel Getting Married: The story of a woman coming out of rehab just in time for her sister's wedding. I think even people who don't share my particular issues would find this a gripping, intensely painful story, showing our attempts at self-justification (and how even our attempts to do the right thing, be good, and/or make amends become self-centered and self-justifying) and how hard it is for well-meaning people to love one another. The set-piece scenes, like the toasting, are uniformly … [Read more...]

“Music of the Trilobites”: I’m in AmSpec

on music, drinking, and John Darnielle's novel Master of Reality. You can read it now even if you don't subscribe: I read John Darnielle’s 2011 novel Master of Reality under the unfamiliar constellations of Australia—which was fitting, since the slender book is about being both physically and spiritually far from home. Master of Reality is an entry in Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books about pop or rock albums. (The other books in the series tend to be straightforward critical studies.) I’ve n … [Read more...]

“Music of the Trilobites”: Me in AmSpec

not really a book review!I read John Darnielle’s 2011 novel Master of Reality under the unfamiliar constellations of Australia—which was fitting, since the slender book is about being both physically and spiritually far from home. Master of Reality is an entry in Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books about pop or rock albums. (The other books in the series tend to be straightforward critical studies.) I’ve never listened to Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, but Darnielle’s diary of a 1980s te … [Read more...]

The Mask of Obedience

Last year I wrote this really scattershot, unsatisfying post about "The Beauty of Obedience," rescuing obedience as a positive term and a category you're allowed to care about. I recognize that that post was not the tightest thing I've ever written, and in fact, I'm still kind of flailing around trying to talk about what a positive vision of obedience might look like, but here are yet more extremely scattered thoughts.I've been thinking about that terrific phrase, "the mask of command," and … [Read more...]

“A Stillborn Child Leads to a Murder Charge”: Me at AmCon

on an awful, years-long case: In 2006, 15-year-old Rennie Gibbs became pregnant. She tested positive for marijuana and cocaine during her pregnancy. Her daughter Samiya was born a month premature, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. An autopsy on the child found traces of a cocaine byproduct, and Rennie was charged with murder—or rather, with what Mississippi calls “depraved heart murder,” signifying an especially callous crime. Gibbs’s case has wound its way through the legal syste … [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...]

“This Is the Beginning of the End of the War on Drugs”: Maia Szalavitz

at the intriguing new site Substance: For anyone interested in addiction and drug policy, the last year or so has been the most fascinating period in recent memory. Having kicked heroin and cocaine in 1988 and written about the subject ever since, I can’t remember a time when public opinion and actual policy have changed so quickly—and in such a rational direction.I’m not just talking about marijuana—although the fact that the Obama administration has allowed two states (Colorado and Washing … [Read more...]


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