February 4, 2021

writing about the penitential peace movements of medieval Italy, and their lessons for the contemporary US: …Throughout the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries peace movements arose in Italy’s blood-rich soil: As a Florentine official described one such movement, “They seek peace, they pray for peace, they repeat peace, and all in one voice they call for peace, they clamor for peace.” The peace preachers were not only priests but also brothers from the new mendicant orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans,… Read more

February 3, 2021

In the order in which I saw them, so pretty random. The Pajama Game: Beautiful ice-cream frocks! Early Fosse choreography (especially pleasurable in “Steam Heat”)! A bizarre and disturbing attempt to wring a rom-com out of industrial labor compromise! This frequently-charming musical about a corporate manager who falls in love with a union officer made me think of that Jacobin article, “The Romance of American Clintonism,” where You’ve Got Mail is a Valentine’s card to antipolitics, a big chocolate box… Read more

January 25, 2021

reviewin’. Also I started a newsletter! Sayaka Murata’s 2016 tale of a woman who becomes the perfect convenience-store employee, her whole body humming with the rhythms of the store, could have been a tragedy or even a grotesque. Instead it’s a strange romance, in which Keiko is the ingenue facing down societal disapproval in order to be with her fluorescent-lit, fully stocked beloved. Keiko, far from stalling out in life, has to grow and change in order to turn her… Read more

January 18, 2021

In order of when I saw these things, meaning that the best ones are the first and last. Nights of Cabiria: Giulietta Masina is phenomenal as Cabiria, a hard-luck woman who refuses to become hard-bitten despite years of street sex work in the rougher outskirts of Rome. She yells, she fights, but most of all, she longs. That pixie face is just suffused with helpless hope. The shot of her profile at the extreme right of the screen, staring in… Read more

January 9, 2021

I read Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File is a very personal meditation on, and investigation into, the other Till case. After Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, when his family was seeking justice, sources leaked his father’s military file, which spelled out details which even his family had never been told: that Louis Till was executed by the military for rapes committed in wartime Italy. This leaked file was used to discredit the family… Read more

January 6, 2021

I don’t intend to issue a verdict on this movie, which is about the secret postwar love affair between a former Nazi torturer and one of his victims. It’s the kind of premise where I think most people go in, if they go in at all, saying, “Convince me that this was worth making,” and I have a lot of criticism for the film but did also end up thinking that that isn’t the right approach to it. So here… Read more

January 4, 2021

One of the things I’ve been saying a lot over the past year or so is that if you’re gay and Catholic (or in another Christian church with a relevantly-similar sexual ethic) it is good to reach a point where you are grateful to be gay. You will probably need to work to get there. Your education in the faith will not have encouraged you to think this way and will likely have discouraged you. And yet coming to a… Read more

December 31, 2020

Let’s start with the five best things I wrote this year. Not counting the Gay & Catholic sequel (forthcoming, if the Messiah tarries and they don’t cancel my contract). Oh and if you want my other year’s-best posts, here are the links for movies and books. 5. “Out of Line: ‘Sticking It to the Man’ and the Pulp Revolution”: “Publishers struggled to keep up with the demand for cheap fiction. The hunger for writers allowed unexpected, previously-unpublishable voices to break… Read more

December 30, 2020

Nonfiction top 10: 10. Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, eds. Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 – 1980. “A 2003 article describes the Goree Girls, a country-western ensemble made up of inmates at a Texas women’s prison, performing at the Texas Prison Rodeo for an audience of male convicts—grifters, cattle rustlers, murderers—as well as free visitors: ‘It was like something out of a dime novel,’ the warden’s daughter said. And she was… Read more

December 30, 2020

2020 was a year when I watched many movies and loved few. Here are the exceptions. I enjoyed a Marvel movie well enough, because it was about losers in love and included public humiliation through lobster-eating. I watched two movies about the discovery of an underwater monster, with parallel events and character backstories; of the two I preferred the indie Sea Fever to the more mainstream Underwater, but the Underwater monster was a real thrill, I have to admit. Sea… Read more




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