From Monticello to Notre Dame to Hillsdale to Ashland back to Kansas (and now off to Cincinnati)
What have I been researching?
September has been a crazy month. After spending a month at Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA, I got back to Kansas only to turn around again and head off to the University of Notre Dame. I was lucky enough to be awarded a fellowship by the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, empowering me to conduct research into the university’s archives. Sadly, I did not find the Jacksonian Catholic treasure trove I was hoping for, but I did find quite a few memorial sermons by Catholic priests celebrating Battle of New Orleans. Those quite interesting, praising Jackson’s military ability and identifying God’s miraculous work in the battle’s outcome in favor of the United States.
So, not the most ground breaking discovery, but still important to the picture I am seeing of Jackson being ventured as the agent of God’s wrath, and in turn, the mostly godly option to succeed Monroe for the presidency.
Someone I did discover more about was Father Benjamin Petit, a French Catholic priest and a fierce critic of Andrew Jackson and his policy of Indian Removal. While I knew Archbishop John Hughes of New York was no fan of Jackson, finding other Catholic critics of Jackson had not been easy, or at least common in my experience, as most Catholics eagerly favored Jackson and joined the ranks of the early Democratic coalition. But Petit bitterly opposed the treatment of the indigenous, so much so that he joined the Potawatomi on the “Trail of Death.”
I may not have scored archival big at Notre Dame, but I am glad I found Petit.
I also spent a weekend at Hillsdale College, followed by a long weekend at Ashland University, and now I am at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. Can’t stop, won’t stop!
What have I been writing?
I wrote about Britney Spears’ religious biography following her supposed conversion to Catholicism for Current.
For The Critic, I wrote about the changing image of George W. Bush among the public and historians.
Where can you hear me?
I was recently on the Ashbrook Center’s American Idea Podcast, hosted by Jeffrey Sikkenga, talking about “American Prophets,” specifically Joseph Smith Jr., Robert Matthews, and Nat Turner.
You can hear me talking about Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, on National Review’s Political Beats podcast, hosted by Scot Bertram and Jeff Blehar.
What have I been reading?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
(re-read) The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America by Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz.
(re-read) Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier by Benjamin E. Park.
(re-read) American Messiahs: False Prophets of a Damned Nation by Adam Morris.
The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt by Patrick H. Breen.
The Time to Fund New Universities Is Now by James M. Patterson (Law & Liberty).
The recurring problem with the MacArthur 'genius' grants by Samuel Goldman (The Week).
The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War by Emma Green (The Atlantic).
What Comes After the 9/11 Era? by Ross Douthat (New York Times).
Where Have All the Sex Scenes Gone? by Sonny Bunch (Washington Free Beacon).
What have I been watching?
The Suicide Squad (2021; HBO Max): It’s hard to deny that The Suicide Squad is an amusing, but it just doesn’t quite deliver. It’s fun yet doesn’t feel all that fresh when compared to what it’s intimating. It’s a perfectly fun and fine movie, but just not a great one. It’s also 15/20 mins too long.
Reminiscence (2021; HBO Max): You would think a sci-fi neo noir with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson would be in my wheel house but sadly, Reminiscence is as forgettable as it is predictable. It’s got some interesting trappings and cool settings, but it’s just bogged down by a bloated and weak script.
Queenpins (2021; Paramount+): While it feels like a discount version of Goodfellas with coupons, despite its stupidity and simplicity, it’s a heck of a lot of fun (and actually pretty funny at times).
Cry Macho (2021; HBO Max): There is no denying that Cry Macho is enjoyable, but there is also no getting around Eastwood is just too damn old for this role. It’s bittersweet and reflective, but it’s no Gran Torino.
What have I been thinking about?
Should I buy a pair of Belgian slippers?