Netflix’s newest series, Stranger Things, premiered July 15, and it has swiftly become one the most talked about shows of the summer. Each major media outlet has published their own think pieces, quizzes like “Which Stranger Things Character Are You?” have circulated, and Winona Ryder (who stars in the series) has made her comeback as a magazine cover girl.

There aren’t spoilers in this essay. Or shouldn’t be, unless you consider the lack of information an incredible spoiler (and I hate these type of concessions, because plot is secondary to the creation of character, formation of relationship between audience and narrative, and the feelings depicted and attached to the narrative). The only spoiler I’m going to provide happens by episode three, when teenager Barb goes missing, pulled by a monster into a pool and through to the “other side.” Despite being a minor character, I became infatuated with Barb.

More… “We Got to Talk about Barb”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.


Here in the crowded retina clinic, we’re waiting to have pictures taken of our macula with marvelous cameras, the backs of our eyes are about to be zapped with lasers or, like me, our central retinal veins have occluded — fancy term for a blood clot — and the retinas have swollen. The result is blurred and distorted vision. Luckily, only my right eye is afflicted.

I’ve already read the chart — could barely make out the large E at the top — and have had dilating drops put into my eyes, so now I’m waiting for my pupils to become pie tins, big enough for someone to look all the way into my soul.

Albert DiBartolomeo is the author of two novels, several short stories, numerous commentaries for the Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications, and has written for Readers Digest,… More…

The latest episode of Glee brought viewers yet another tearfest: Quinn quivering tearfully when boyfriend Sam breaks up with her; Sue blinking away tears while singing “This Little Light of Mine” to hospitalized children; Rachel tearing up after a compliment from ex-boyfriend Finn; and a Justin Bieber serenade driving some glee club members into an emotional, teary frenzy.


It was enough to make a person wonder: Do tears serve a purpose beyond the obvious expression of emotion?

A study published recently in Science takes us a little ways toward an answer. Investigators found that the smell of tears triggered neither sadness nor empathy in men, but it did make them feel less attracted to women. Men exposed to the scent of fresh emotional tears experienced decreased testosterone levels and less activity in brain areas involved… More…

The day K. came in and said, “I don’t care anymore,” was a revelation. By then, the communal living space/art collective housing 17 artists and hangers-on that was my home had been battling bedbugs for three months. Only four of the 17 rooms (mine not included) were actually infested, but communal living as it is, we all had to share in the initial bedbug cleansing procedures familiar to anyone who has had or read about bedbugs — the thorough packing all personal items in plastic, the taping of holes and cracks in walls and furniture, the wrapping of each bed in a plastic sack not unlike those used to wrap corpses at homicide scenes. We tried not to let hysteria get the best of us as we emptied our rooms of every doodad, every picture, and watched the mountain of 17 people’s-worth of belongings mushroom in the gallery space. We… More…

Why have there been so many earthquakes lately? Do you think it’s a sign that the end of the world is coming? How should we prepare? — Jackie


Oh boy. If you’re looking for signs that the end of the world is coming, you can find more convincing ones than earthquakes. From what I understand, earthquakes happen all the time. The Earth’s plates get the urge to shift, kind of like when you get the urge to turn over in your sleep, and so they do, producing seismic waves that most times go unnoticed. Only sometimes do they damage local infrastructures, and that’s when we hear about them. It’s heartbreaking — the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are devastating in objective terms of damage and loss, and devastating on the internal landscape of anybody who has a heart…. More…


I have a rare form of cancer. I only have a few months left. Can you offer any consolation? — Yuki M.

I will try. I don’t know if you’re afraid or not, but I would be, and maybe what you’re afraid of is not dying, but rather love. I guess that does sound a little far-fetched, but when you look at it another way, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

Crater Lake

There was a war between good and evil. We decided to call the body good.

That made death evil. It turned the soul Against death completely.

Like a foot soldier wanting to serve a great warrior, the soul wanted to side with the body.

It turned against the dark, against the forms of death it recognized.

Where does the voice come from that says… More…

I was recently sitting in the back of a cab with a boy, the radio on. A commercial began with a woman telling her husband in a teasing, sexy voice that she had something that would excite him. Instead of a trip to Turkey or a pair of handcuffs and a paddle, the item was revealed to be a new set of curtains. The man playing the husband sounded bemused at best. Although it was just another poorly produced local radio ad, dread crept in. I imagined myself finding sexual pleasure in textiles made of synthetic fabrics, yelling at my husband for not picking up his socks, and wearing only practical underwear for the rest of my life. I turned to the boy and without explaining myself announced, “I never want to get married.”

A Vindiction of Love by Cristina Nehring. Harper…. More…


The word “domesticity” gives me the vapors. Just the sight of a ball of yarn and knitting needles makes me have to lie down and fan myself for a while. A deeply neurotic part of my brain appears to equate learning how to sew a button with giving up my career, marrying a dentist, and moving to the suburbs to tend to little Basil and sweet Paprika.

I am not afraid of spiders — I am afraid of needle and thread.

It is a fear of turning into the type of woman that Christina Stead’s fictional Letty Fox described as “cave wives”: dull, stay-at-home types whose only topics of conversation are their new knitting projects, their children, or the interesting things their husbands said. I know that these women are mostly fictional stereotypes created by my own subconscious…. More…