Very excited to have this essay on The Gruen Effect, synthetic eternities, and the redemption of time published in Notre Dame's Church Life Journal:
What else is the Gruen Effect but the creation of a “bad infinity”? Even more than blocking out the external elements, the duration-less experience is meant to block out the truth of death through the simulation of eternity. As the shopping mall experiences its own physical death in America, the “bad infinity” of the Gruen Effect has become digitized. It is, of course, the experience of being online, or what anachronistically was once called “surfing the web.” There is as much or more Utopian hope in the promise of becoming an uploaded consciousness as there ever was in being a pure consumer denuded of the vagaries of the physical world.
Think here of “San Junipero”, the lone episode of the show Black Mirror to unironically interpret the use of high technology to “positive” ends: the consciousnesses of two lovers are uploaded to a simulation of a city which perpetually exists in 1987 and, it is insinuated, live happily ever after. The song “Heaven is a Place on Earth” plays—on the nose, but appropriate. But what anemic imagination would conceive of eternity as simply one night in 1987 forever? Or, at least for as long as the servers which create the illusion are functional? Han again writes that “there is a rush from one present to the next and an aging without growing old. Finally, one perishes in non-time.” In “San Junipero” there is no hope for salvation and no death to give life coherence. It is just a flat non-life within the duration-less loop of a counterfeit eternity. Empty time which cannot be remembered or redeemed.
Yes, Advent is a time of asceticism. The latter originally meant “training.” The liturgical color violet should remind us of that, but also the practice of our Orthodox brethren to fast during this time. When we practice asceticism we stop treating things as ends for us and begin to accept God’s order again. We retrain ourselves, so to say; fasting is just one aspect of that retraining. True asceticism is a tool to prepare ourselves, to be open to receive the Word Incarnate, and goes beyond a mere giving up of some objects (alcohol, chocolate, etc.) but aims to recalibrate our entire focus towards reality. It aims at changing our desire, to turn it away from selfishness and toward the attitude of acknowledging God’s order, receiving it in obedience.
Wisely, the mystics remind us that such phases of giving up things are to be interrupted by phases of fulfillment, of action, like our breathing is a harmony of inhaling and exhaling. When we inhale, we fill our lungs with the oxygen we need. For that purpose, however, we have to be open: If our airways are blocked, we cannot inhale. We cannot do so in a vacuum, either, and the world around us is just that: an empty place that cannot (ful)fill us. Inhaling, however, is rather passive; we are filled with something. Asceticism works a bit like this. It removes blockages and directs us to sources of fresh air. It prepares us to be (ful)filled. Only when we exhale do we become truly active. We use the air stored in us to speak, to sing, for bodily action—we express ourselves. We come to ourselves and to the mystery of our own being, God, and meet him in our soul.
I’m Still Here is the best American film of the 2010s:
The best American film of the decade begins in Panama: home video from the early-1980s, a boy at the top of a waterfall and his father watching below, waiting for him to jump. It’s a young Joaquin Phoenix (then known as Leaf), and at the end of this extraordinary film I’m Still Here, he flies to Panama and recreates the scene exactly—with director Casey Affleck’s dad playing Phoenix’s dad. Before diving into the hyperreal, back to the beginning: when young Joaquin finally does jump, we’re plunged into an abyss of television screens all showing different broadcasts and reports on the 2006 Oscars ceremony. Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor that year for playing Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and he looked like a different person: pudgier, fresh-faced, not all that interesting. But we see him win, and entertainment anchors reporting on his win, and then subsequent appearances on talk shows, red carpet interviews, and press junkets. And then we cut to the hills above Los Angeles, a burly man in a dirty blue hoodie with his back to the camera mumbling about being misunderstood and constrained by category.
Titus & Scott Beauchamp discuss his new book on his war experience, on becoming a man & a writer, & on what the military taught him about what's wrong with society in an age of individualism & consumership. We talk about community & honor, about the need to make sense of uncertain times & to know on what to rely, as well as the difficulties with talking seriously about our predicament in the first place, given our anxiety about what's coming next."
"Long before Venice became a mere tourist museum with canals, it was one of the most ruthless, enduring, efficient and innovative empires of the second millennium. Growing up in the US public school system, we at Radio War Nerd naturally had no idea until recently. Luckily for us, we have the legendary RWN guest "Annibale"—who previously educated us about the Hundred Years War, the Italian Resistance in WWII and Italy's "Years Of Lead". In part one, we learn about the rise of the Republic of Venice, its sacking of Constantinople, and its gory wars with rival Republic of Genoa."
My debut book review in the Washington Examiner Magazine. Excited to be a regular contributor moving forward!:
During his life, D.H. Lawrence was thought of as a pornographer posing as an artist. The novelist, poet, essayist, and playwright was, for a time, synonymous with purple prose and licentiousness. His novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was put on trial for obscenity. James Joyce found Lawrence’s writing filthy, and Virginia Woolf held him in the lowest esteem. Rebecca West, in an elegy published after Lawrence’s untimely death from tuberculosis in 1930, wrote of her discovery that what she’d always “put down to Lawrence’s persecution mania had a solid basis” in the numerous obituaries that denied him not only the homage due a deceased genius but also the “courtesy paid to any corpse.”
Nearly 90 years after his death, that unfair reputation remains tragically intact. So why has the New York Review Books Classics imprint brought out a new edition of his selected essays? Because there’s much more to Lawrence’s work than his detractors care to admit. There is his complex and vivid philosophy, based on following one’s primal drives into a more sensual engagement with life and a more honest sense of self. And there is, above all, the lush beauty of his language, prose that has a pulse and gives off heat.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor