Didn’t Know It Was a Devil Town: I Finally Watch “Friday Night Lights”

For years people told me I had to watch Friday Night Lights. And they all said the same four things: "Coach and Tami Taylor have the best marriage on television. I love how Dillon is its own character, and the show honors those who stay in their nowhere hometown instead of going Somewhere to be somebody. Ugh, skip season two, some dude kills a dude and it's just a soapy mess. Oh and you don't have to care about football, seriously, it's not a show about football."Some of this is true! Here … [Read more...]

“Pro Wrestling (With Angels)”: I review the new Mountain Goats album

at AmCon: CDs of “Beat the Champ,” the new album from indie folk/rock band the Mountain Goats, come with a small white sticker proclaiming: THIS RIGHT HERE IS AN ALBUM ABOUT PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. I guess they had to get the ironic disclaimer out of the way: Yes, this is a weird thing to do, roll with it please. If you do roll with it you will find an utterly unironic tribute to the wrestling heroes of singer/songwriter John Darnielle’s childhood—and one of his band’s best albums. … [Read more...]

Toller Cranston Skates for Mexico: A Fever Dream

One reason I loved the Mountain Goats' new album Beat the Champ so much is that it speaks about a kid projecting his own emotional turmoil onto the storytelling sport of pro wrestling, in a way which deeply resonated with my experience projecting my own emotional turmoil onto the storytelling sport of figure skating. If I made my own sports concept album it would be Toller Cranston Skates for Mexico, and it would be about, mostly, the Lillehammer Olympics, which allowed skaters who had left … [Read more...]

Video Killed the Video Star: Short Movie Reviews

Blonde Venus: This is a severely odd movie. Dir. Josef von Sternberg. Cabaret star Marlene Dietrich is wooed, won, and whisked off to America by Herbert Marshall... but when she has to return to her nightclub job and Cary Grant starts tiptoeing around, all bets are off. Going in I only knew this as "the one where Dietrich sings in a gorilla suit" but maybe the most memorable part of it is the extended passage in which she tries to avoid losing custody of her child due to homelessness. The ending … [Read more...]

Quick and Cheap Reviews of Quick and Cheap Movies

Or, a quick fix of slick flicks.Devil's Pass: Found-footage Dyatlov Pass Incident investigation. Some fun Russian scenery; very nice twist at the end.Kill List: An aging contract killer goes in for One Last Job and things predictably go haywire. An unexpectedly emotional film; you can feel the regret and confusion of the characters, and their relationships are sharply-drawn. Also very twisty in the back half, with the final twist an especially nasty one. Much better than it had to be, … [Read more...]

“Domestic Tranquility”: I review Andrew Cherlin on working-class families

for the Weekly Standard:When the sociologist Timothy Nelson asked low-income men who didn’t live with their children what the ideal father was like, eight of them spontaneously mentioned the same man: Ward Cleaver, the dad from Leave It to Beaver. That might make sense if Nelson’s interviews had taken place in the 1950s-60s, when the show aired; but these men were interviewed in the late 2000s. Why did they hark back to a man old enough to be their own grandfather? Maybe it is because the … [Read more...]

It’s Called AltFem, Not CtrlFem: An Eccentric Report

Yesterday I went to the launch of AltFem, a new magazine from the people who brought you AltMuslimah and AltCatholicah, which explores the intersection of feminism and what I suppose we must call "traditional" faith. It was a religiously diverse event--lots of headscarves; several babies! I spoke on the first panel, about forging a more inclusive feminism. I'm going to do at least one more post inspired by the event, which will be on an underexplored aspect of Mary's role as model of motherhood, … [Read more...]


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