crimson peak: spirited, but lacking soul (at TFPO)

Guillermo del Toro’s ode to Gothic literature begins with one of those typically useless warnings: “Beware Crimson Peak!” Not something actionable like, “Don’t trust Thomas Sharpe and his sister” or “Stay away from Allerdale Hall if you value your life.” No: “Beware Crimson Peak,” delivered to a terrified little girl by her dead mother’s frightful apparition. The warning isn’t without purpose. It’s a lazy trick to set an ominous mood for audiences – without ending the story before it begins. After all, a practical warning would mean that the film’s plucky heroine, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), never would marry Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and never go to Allerdale Hall to experience the horror, the horror!

If this sort of atmospheric but pointlessly cryptic warning were the film’s only instance of crystal ball-gazing, it would hardly be worth mentioning. But ... READ THE FULL REVIEW AT THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE


forget buddhism. meet the Buddha. (at TFPO)

A review of Buddha for Beginners by Steven T. Asma.

Say “Buddhism,” and the free-association machine will gin up everything from the Dalai Lama, self-immolating monks, and robed meditators to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Kung Fu movies, and that chubby laugher with no hair. Or, perhaps, “Buddhism” will simply considered as yet another category among the world’s major religions, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism.
But just as Christianity can’t be simply reduced to affectionate pastiche (hello, buddy Jesus!), and sweeping pop-culture generalizations – or treated as a categorical, conceptually-unified block – Buddhism is an umbrella spanning a rich diversity of ideas and practices flourishing in 2,500 years of history.

Buddha for Beginners, by Columbia College Professor of Philosophy and Distinguished Scholar Steven Asma, isn’t about “Buddhism” when by “Buddhism” we mean the ways in which the Buddha’s teachings have found expression in different and idiosyncratic cultural practices. In this sense, “Buddhism” is a manifestation of that most fundamental human instinct: The taxonomic impulse to label everything and, for better and worse, confine everything to their labels. Prof. Asma doesn’t condemn these many cultural Buddhisms and their corresponding Buddhists as rightly or wrongly labeled. But he is willing to do what few primers in the field of religious studies are willing to do, namely... READ THE FULL REVIEW AT THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE


disjointed "breathing room" suffocates its good ideas

Review of Breathing Room, on stage at the Greenway Court Theatre

I can appreciate an avant-garde piece as much as the next open-minded traditionalist, except when it feels like a strained, even failing, rearguard action to unify fragmentary ideas into a cohesive whole. The point of Breathing Room is well-taken: A call for reconnecting with nature as an antidote to what creator/composer Mary Lou Newmark terms “modern technologic vertigo.” But the affair is curiously artless or, at least, undeveloped; barely molded clay, despite ... READ THE FULL REVIEW AT THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE