Why Rock Couldn't Stay at the Commune

It’s very cool, very punk-rock, folk-rock, and all the other rockin’ signifiers of hip radicalism, to be going to a commune. Or to hang-out at one for a season. But to actually stay for good is not what rock-tuned set wants.How do we know that? Well, tell me about a rock song that celebrates . . . . Continue Reading »

NPR’s Disturbing Prenatal Testing Story

Yesterday NPR’s Morning Edition reported on advances in the development of precise prenatal tests for Down syndrome and other genetic disorders. The report praised new tests that allow women to know more accurately and more quickly whether their children have a genetic disorder. Prenatal . . . . Continue Reading »

What Should We Read about George Washington?

It’s George Washington’s birthday, and the problem a lot of us have is that he comes across too stiffly for us to really appreciate. What we need are the best books and, essays, as well as the best film depictions and art-works, that bring the actually quite passionate man to life. Here . . . . Continue Reading »

Confession and Curse in True Detective’s Episode Five

In the opening of True Detective’s fifth episode, a man named Dewall gets a read on Rust: “I can see your soul in the edges of your eyes. It’s corrosive, like acid. . . . And I don’t like your face. . . . There’s a shadow on you, son.” Dewall is strangely attuned to the terms and images that have characterized Det. Rustin Cohle, in all his nihilism and shadiness—extending even to a punning gloss on that nickname, a nickname that Dewall cannot know. Dewall is the “cook partner” of meth chef and murder suspect Reginald Ledoux, and Rust is undercover. The cover is blown here, in a sense; Rust is found out, albeit not as a detective. He looks unsettled, and his unsettling sets the agenda for the episode, in which characters seek to get a read on others and not be read themselves. Continue Reading »

A River Runs Through It

As a young woman in 1968, American Wallis Wilde-Menozzi moved to Rome, leaving behind a troubled first marriage and a tenured faculty position in the UK. In The Other Side of the Tiber, she reflects upon that experience and the decades that followed, in which she developed as a writer, married again and raised a family, and became acculturated to her new home. Her metaphor for remembering is the Tiber, the river that runs through Rome, carrying with it the residue of earlier times and civilizations. Like the river, she writes, one’s memories are always a fluid part of one’s present. Continue Reading »