On Election Day, the Prospect of Healing a Divided Nation

“A Birmingham Prize Fight” (1789) by W Allen — Birmingham Museums Trust

It’s November 3, 2020, and the mood in America is tense. Millions of us have already cast our votes, and millions more are on their way to the polls, in quite possibly the most important election of our lifetimes. Just a few weeks later, many of us will be gathering with our families for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. Regardless of the election’s outcome, the air is guaranteed to be thick with tension. …

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the source of much spoiler controversy when first published in 2005, and again when adapted to the screen in 2009. Photo: Warner Bros.

A couple years ago, I was enrolled in a Gothic literature class, and I took some heat from the professor because I hadn’t read the foreword of the book we had just started. (As I recall, the book was Ann Radcliffe’s 1791 novel The Romance of the Forest.)

My defense was simple. Forewords and introductions have a tendency to contain spoilers, and I wished to avoid them. The professor seemed surprised by this explanation, so I elaborated on why it’s important to me to avoid spoilers. Reading is not just a passive experience for me. I’m constantly trying to piece…

Photo via Pixabay

Tell someone you don’t like being hugged and you’re likely to encounter some amount of judgment, even if it’s only unspoken. People will look at you like you’re some strange new alien life-form who has just slithered out of a saucer-shaped UFO. They’ll look at you like you’re a cold and unfeeling robot. Perhaps they’ll wonder if your childhood was spent torturing small animals, and maybe they’ll entertain suspicions that as an adult you’re hiding even darker secrets in the cobwebbed clockwork of your mind.

But we’re none of those things.

One of my favorite professors in college was a…

Photo: Pixabay via Pexels.com

He lies in bed and debates running to the closet for the ski mask. He’s almost positive Sheri left it there, tucked into the pocket of her coat. Almost positive. He thinks of the mask with the longing of a child on Christmas Eve, waiting for morning. An intensity of desire he has not felt since Audrey Tisdale first allowed his hands under her shirt in tenth grade.

His body is warm enough beneath the mountain of quilts and blankets, and against the danger of Sheri’s icy feet he has taken the precaution of pajama bottoms and a thick pair…

Photo by Diana Parkhouse via Unsplash

When I was fourteen years old, my father asked that I go hunting with him. I resisted. We lived in rural Georgia and hunting was an ingrained part of our culture. For as long as I could remember, there had been a deer’s head stuffed and mounted on the wall of our living room. In my parents’ bedroom, there stood a gun cabinet which held half a dozen rifles. Locked, but the key’s location not a secret, and within easy reach.

My father’s request was more significant than I realized at the time — a traditional father-son bonding experience in…

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Sunday morning, going on noon, and we were headed to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. My sister was in a long-distance relationship and we were picking up her boyfriend, flying in from Texas. Riding shotgun, I was in a groggy state of semi-consciousness, alternating between fifteen-minute cat naps and reading a few pages of the book I’d brought along.

We’d been on the road most of the morning, fighting the traffic, but we’d made it to the outskirts of Atlanta with time to spare. The boyfriend’s plane wouldn’t be landing for another hour. Since neither of us had wanted breakfast, we were…

Gillette: Youtube

A little over two weeks ago, Gillette aired an ad that received a significant amount of pushback from the public. As of this writing, the video has 741k likes and over 1.3 million dislikes, putting its approval rating at somewhere around 36%.

Though the words “toxic masculinity” are never uttered clearly (there is perhaps one mention of it, but garbled, a tinny voice over a radio), it quickly became known as “Gillette’s toxic masculinity ad.” And the reaction to the ad was largely negative.

But why?

In the days after the ad’s airing, I came across this analysis by Thomas…

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

A lot of fans really, really do not like The Last Jedi.

The reasons why are legion.

There are the trolls who say the film is being too inclusive, that it’s pushing diversity and a political agenda. These fans are best left ignored.

There are people who had certain expectations that were not met, expectations about Rey’s parentage, or about Snoke’s mysteries.

Also within this group were people who expected to see Luke Skywalker as a badass warrior.

Some of these expectations about Luke were generated by the Legends/Extended Universe novels, in which Luke is often presented as just that…

Rakicevic Nenad via Pexels

It’s a quote first said, as near as I can tell, by Carl Sagan, and repeated by nearly every noteworthy skeptic who has followed in his footsteps:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

I’m conflicted about it.

On the face of it, I think it’s a great quote, and one I wholeheartedly agree with.

But it’s also a quote that leaves itself dangerously open to interpretation when read outside of context, as quotes often are, especially on the open internet.

Let me explain.

For the skepticism advocate, the meaning of the quote is clear. …

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

I have a confession. I think the first 20–30 minutes of Batman v Superman are very nearly a masterpiece. The rest of the film is a mess, have no doubt about it. But the way that the film sets up Batman’s fall from — well, not grace, but heroism — is, I think, rather brilliant.

When it comes to the naysayers of DC’s current line of films, there are two types of critics.

The first is the kind of person, usually a longtime comics fan, who sees the characters as paragons of virtue. They each embody a certain trait. For…

Craig Partain


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