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Having finally made their terrible way across the Dead Marshes, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum stand at last before the Black Gate of Mordor. Unfortunately for them, it is shut tight, and it is only when Gollum, under pressure, reveals another, secret way that they decide to try another route, one that he has kept secret until just now, much to Sam’s annoyance and suspicion. While they are there, they see the immense armies that Sauron has already started to gather to himself.

On one level, this is a rather simple chapter, with a straightforward plot. Beneath the surface, however, there…


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The conservative/progressive/centrist alliance that tanked her nomination shows how bankrupt far too many politicians truly are.

Ever since Neera Tanden was announced as President Joe Biden’s pick to run the Office of Management and Budget, I’ve been furious at the attacks she’s received from left, right, and center and, like many others, I was almost incandescent at the sheer hypocrisy of Republicans suddenly seeming to care about someone’s tweets and seeing them as a barrier to her being able to fulfill the duties of the office. …


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Natalie Haynes’ new novel is a beautiful and haunting story of the women of the Trojan War.

We seem to be living in something of a golden age of reimaginings of the Trojan War. Some, such as Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, center the experience of the love between men, while others, such as Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, emphasize the role that women played in the conflict. Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships is one of the latter, and it is truly a triumph of powerful feminist storytelling.

The novel tells the stories of the various women, both human and divine, that took part in the Trojan War and its aftermath. There are all…


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If there’s one thing guaranteed to rile up the American right these days, it’s “cancel culture,” that bogeyman of the conservative imagination that has become so prominent that it was built into the theme of this year’s theme for the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was framed as “America Uncanceled.” Did you know that an entire country had been canceled? Neither did I. Good thing we have an entire philosophical movement to remind us, right?

Everywhere you look, you can see conservative thinkers and writers wringing their hands about the various “victims” of cancel culture. In The Washington Post, Kathleen…


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And to make matters worse, they’re using “science” to justify their ugly behavior.

Sometimes, I like to entertain a fantasy that we live in an alternate universe, one in which the GOP, as the party that espouses conservative policies and philosophies — including personal freedom and liberty above all — decided to support the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. In this imaginary scenario, they didn’t become enslaved by the religious fundamentalist wing of their party, and instead saw queer folks as deserving of the same personal dignity as their straight counterparts.

Unfortunately, not only do we not live in that universe, we inhabit its opposite — a world in which the GOP is constitutionally…


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The West Virginia senator’s opposition to Neera Tanden is as dishonest as it is politically useless.

I’ve never been a fan of Joe Manchin.

I first met the current senator from West Virginia way back in 2003, when I was a member of the Young Democrats at Marshall University. At the time, Bob Wise was governor and, while he was a bit of a doofus at times, overall he was what I thought of as a good Democrat, someone committed to the welfare of the working class (I attended Marshall University on a Promise Scholarship, one of his most significant accomplishments). Manchin, on the other hand, struck me as the kind of Democrat I’d already come…


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In order to truly heal, perhaps America just needs to let Trump go.

In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, conservative commentator Henry Olsen coined a new term in the Trump lexicon: TDS, Trump Deprivation Syndrome. It’s obviously analogous to the (overhyped) Trump Derangement Syndrome, which conservatives used to dismiss the many valid criticisms that progressives had against Trump and his truly despicable regime. …


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As soon as I read S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass, I fell in love. It had everything that I enjoyed about epic fantasy, with the added benefit that it was based, not on the traditional Western European/medieval iconography, but instead on medieval Islamic mythology. I loved the sequel, Kingdom of Copper, which raised the emotional stakes significantly, and I recently finished the third and concluding book, The Empire of Gold, which is a triumphant wrapping up of the various plot threads that had been raised in the previous books. …


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And maybe he does, too.

No sooner had it been announced that Rush Limbaugh — the brash, brutal, and just plain terrible radio host who made punching down a staple of conservative discourse — had died than the media firestorm began. Those on the left derided him (rightly), for his particularly ignorant form of cruelty: his comparing Chelsea Clinton to a dog, his mocking of gay men who had died of AIDS, his dismissal of a college student as a “slut.” …


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I’ve been wanting to watch Judy, the 2018 Judy Garland biopic starring Renée Zellweger for quite some time now, both because I’m a gay man and because I’ve been a fan of Zellweger’s for quite some time now. I was not disappointed; though the screenplay has a few weaknesses, Zellweger’s performance as Judy more than makes up for it.Through her profoundly embodied performance, she allows us to empathize with this most tragic and brilliant of classic Hollywood stars.

Like most biopics, Judy takes a slice of Garland’s life and uses it to make sense out of her life. In this…

Dr. Thomas J. West III

Ph.D. in English | Film and TV geek | Lover of fantasy and history | Full-time writer | Feminist and queer | Liberal scold and gadfly

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