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Wednesday, March 13 2013

Austerity and the Arts—and George W. Bush

I never would have thought it possible, but George W. Bush’s recently revealed attempts at creating art have had the incredible effect of forcing me to see him as a human being.


Monday, March 4 2013

What Happens When ‘Downton’s Head Valet, John Bates, Loosens His Vest?

Forget Bates the valet and his perfect Windsor knots. Agent Gates wields a gun, kicks ass, and otherwise protects Devonton Abbey from unsavory spies.


Sunday, March 3 2013

I Write, Therefore I Am

Black people had plenty to say about slavery -- especially slaves themselves -- and as soon as they learned to write, they did.


Wednesday, February 20 2013

‘Why Jazz Happened’ Makes Its Points Like a Snazzy Lawyer in the Courtroom: Zip, Zam, Zot

New Orleans to swing, swing to bop, bop to cool, cool to hard bop, hard bop to free jazz—"jazz style periods" are so often presented like this. But jazz's transformation often shifted independently of cultural happenings, and those shifts were far from linear.


Tuesday, February 19 2013

‘Going Clear’: Lawyers, Guns, Money & Scientology

Lawrence Wright’s devastating, impeccably researched history of Scientology’s “Prison of Belief” vividly illustrates the ability of this “Church” to successfully prey upon nearly every dark strain in the modern American psyche, from celebrity-worship to ego-mania and the lust for power and money.


Thursday, February 7 2013

Old Ideas and New Generations: What Leonard Cohen Means to Us

Leonard Cohen endures and conquers. But does he mean something different to Millenial audiences than he did to their parents? Can the legend of Cohen escape its own clichés?


Sunday, February 3 2013

‘Pray the Gay Away’: On Being Beaten with the Bible Belt

A mother attempting to stab her own daughter, an exorcism, a school suspending a student -- author Bernadette Barton describes growing up in the religious South.


Monday, January 21 2013

Chicago—The Other Black Renaissance

The biggest difference between the Black Chicago Renaissance and the Harlem Renaissance is brand awareness. The fact is, from roughly the early ‘30s to the ‘50s, Chicago was black America’s most fruitful cultural capitol.


Tuesday, January 15 2013

Anonymous and the New Religion: Data

As the world is increasingly filtered through computers there is emerging a reliance on data as a belief system. Groups like Anonymous are pushing us further towards data, as they highlight the divide they see between belief and information.


Thursday, January 10 2013

In America, Imagination is a Third Party: The Presidency in Fiction

Fiction lets us to explore our weirdest speculations and darkest fears about the person who sits in the White House. Is reality, under America's current president, worse than fiction?


Thursday, January 3 2013

After Mary Wells Dared to Leave Motown, Did She Fall Off the Face of the Earth?

Back when Martha (Reeves) and the Vandellas and the Marvelettes would have one big hit and then nothing much for months, and the Supremes didn’t have a hit among their first nine releases, Mary Wells was Motown’s reigning pop star, queen and cash cow.


Tuesday, December 11 2012

Swing Guitarist John Pizzarelli Really Does Have the World on a String

John Pizzarelli is a blazing swing guitarist whose music is among the most consistent pleasures and most reliably smart expressions of the “The Great American Songbook” of the last 25 years.


Wednesday, December 5 2012

James Wood’s Criticism Is Like Tectonic Plates Under Pressure, Forming Mountain Ridges

James Wood's new collection of essays and reviews, The Fun Stuff, at once subverts the critic's elitist persona and fortifies it.


Monday, November 26 2012

The Magnificent Seven: Bazillion Points, All Metal and Punk Pens Blazing

Since it launched in 2007, Bazillion Points has released seven of the best books about metal and punk, including the very best book about metal, yet.


Thursday, November 15 2012

History as Fiction / Fiction as History: The Allure of the Historical Novel

Because history can be seen to be a malleable artifact, it’s a useful tool to employ when writing fiction. Because history is often chaotic, fiction can be the best way to approach it.


Tuesday, November 13 2012

Takin’ It Easy for Us Sinners: The Dude and Jesus Christ

Even a cursory look at The Big Lebowski and the Gospel reveals that Jesus of Nazareth was an original Dude and Lebowski of Los Angeles is, in his own way, a practitioner of Jesus’ way and life.


Vanessa Veselka on Giving a Voice, at Least a Little Bit, to a World that Has No Voice

The world around us is the world of the book, says Vanessa Veselka. In Zazen, there's a highly fetishized identity politics world that someone is getting lost in.


Tuesday, November 6 2012

Claire Vaye Watkins Walks the Tightrope Between Chaos and Control

Claire Vaye Watkins' first short story collection, Battleborn is winning well-deserved rave reviews. Here, she discusses monkeys in chinaberry trees, Yo La Tengo, and what it's like to be a putter-inner.


Sunday, November 4 2012

Michael Chabon Grows Up with ‘Telegraph Avenue’

Michael Chabon writes with empathy, with earnest reflection and self-consciousness, pervaded by sepia-daubed nostalgia.


Tuesday, October 30 2012

In Defense Of ... The Marriage Between Music and Television

One wonders if Elvis, the Beatles, the Who, et. al. would have gained such importance had TV not been available. Those hips wouldn't have been so polarizing, those haircuts wouldn't have been so cutting edge...


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