Culture Cues

Notes On Hell

Dante, Hell’s topographer, imagined its location and architecture with such specificity that Botticelli could map it in painstaking detail two centuries later. By now, images that stirred Savonarola’s audience to fear of sin have dwindled to plot devices in pulp thrillers and horror movies. Of all impossible thoughts, Hell is the most unthinkable for us moderns. Displaced by myths of progress, the concept survives largely as a cultural heirloom, a curio. A place where the worm does not die and the ever-burning wrath of God never goes out strikes us as preposterous. Continue Reading
shofer

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, began Tuesday, October 4, just before sundown and will last until nightfall this evening. This Day of Atonement is marked by fasting for twenty five hours, extended synagogue services, and penitential liturgies. It is a day to afflict the soul with recognition of one’s sins, with repentance, pleas for forgiveness, and determination not to offend ever again. Sacred stress on this “Sabbath of all Sabbaths” is on sins against God. Offenses against other people require reconciliation with the person sinned against. Continue Reading
Huey Newton

The violent bear it away. That title of Flannery O’Connor’s 1960 novel still resonates. Some relentless atavism is at work in our culture, a monstrous irrationality that awakens what O’Connor called “the stuff of which madmen and fanatics are made.” Violence, no longer shunned, is now an accepted political tool. The attempted assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh—preceded by U.S Attorney General Merrick Garland’s refusal to enforce federal law against protesters at justices’ homes—exposed the fragile divide between constituted order and willed anarchy. Continue Reading
pregnant pro-abortion protester

The Dobbs decision has been thoroughly analyzed and discussed elsewhere. What appears here are notes jotted in the margins. Begin with the anarchic trajectory of Justice Kennedy’s “mystery passage” of thirty years ago. Roe v. Wade invented a Constitutional right out of whole cloth. Planned Parenthood v. Casey exalted the grounds of that invention. The 1992 decision codified Justice Kennedy’s madcap dictum: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Continue Reading
Minton in drag

Biden’s new appointment to the Department of Energy is a strutting, non-binary drag queen. He is also a packmate in the leather subset of “pup handlers.” You can bone up on the culture of puppy love later. For now, pay attention to Sam Brinton holding forth on the ethical necessity of role-playing of another kind: genderqueer pronouns for the newly discovered constellation of gender identities. A link to his three and a half minute video is in the previous post. Still, it is better to have the libretto in front of you. Continue Reading