The Sleazy Moral Greatness of “Phone Booth”

Last night I watched Phone Booth, the 2003 thriller (brilliantly directed by Joel Schumacher, for real) in which an unseen killer traps Colin Farrell in a public phone booth and makes increasingly painful demands. It's terrifically intense--I couldn't look away. The high concept is so great: the man suffering in public, while nobody around him has any idea what he's going through. Both Farrell and his character are fun (he's a publicist, rather than a human being) and, by the end, surprisingly … [Read more...]

“Making Do”: I’m in Commonweal

with an actual review of Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City: Painfully conscientious, rule-bound, and motivated more by spiritual longings than by practical material concerns—these aren’t the terms in which most Americans think of low-income unmarried fathers. subscribers-only for now; I'll let you know if that changes. I had a more thematic piece on penitence in the book, not really a review, here. … [Read more...]

Seth Mnookin on Relapse and the Ghost World

One truism of addiction science is that long-term abuse rewires your brain and changes its chemistry, which is why triggers (or “associated stimuli,” in scientific parlance) are major risk factors for relapse. But these changes can be reversed over time. Walking past the apartment where my dealer used to live didn’t make me want to score; it made me feel as if I was in a phantasmagoria of two crosshatched worlds—but I was the only person who could see both realities. None of my colleagues at MIT, … [Read more...]

Random TV Note: “Elementary”

You know, I'm really enjoying this show. Stuff I like:* Let's be honest: My main thing that I like is the way Sherlock's addiction history and recovery are handled. I like that he's skeptical and combative about 12-steppery yet still does a lot of the hard work of it, the constant apologies (the first season of this show really was like that cartoon with the heterosexual date movie theater showing "Things Exploding/Men Apologizing") and amends. I loved his speech at the beginning of an … [Read more...]

Your Profession of Faith Is Not the Catholic Church’s TOS

Walk with me through some possibly ill-formed and definitely ill-informed thoughts about what it means to profess one's faith. I had to do this when I was becoming Catholic--I think this took place during Confirmation? probably that's wrong--and there was a set formula which I always misremember but which was probably actually, "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."What (on earth) did I mean? What should I have … [Read more...]

“I Would Like to Send You a Memory”

ok yes, there's some really great stuff here--I thought it would be glurgy or hipster but it is really neither of those things: The more I looked, the more I found. And I discovered that, secretly, the YouTube comment box had become the strangest and most wonderful place on the internet. A place that was fascinating, endlessly moving, and heartbreakingly human. "The hustle was sexy and graceful," and other moments of joy, penitence, grief, war, love, and growing up. … [Read more...]

“Never Quite Free”: My series on portrayals of penitence concludes

with a look at the Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed. This piece has a couple lines I really like: One way to mistell stories of penitence is to envision penance as a linear process of restoration. You do a bad thing, you feel bad, you make amends (often in a way which involves saying ritual words like “I’m sorry,” or doing something which offers an obvious symbolic parallel to your wrongdoing), status quo ante. There can be truly sublime portrayals of this kind of almost mathematical penit … [Read more...]


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