“Urge and urge and urge,” Whitman intoned. “Always the procreant urge of the world.” These words signal the life instinct, eros, that innate, libidinal drive for pleasure and survival.

Humans are compelled by life, attracted to it and aroused by it. The procreant urge motivates us to act, stimulates our choices and actions, shapes our personal identity. There’s no subjectivity, no consciousness, absent coital awareness. The properties of life — what it means and how it appears to be alive — are conditions for their own perpetuation: to love life is to make it.

We are drawn to life, that inner bloom within the verdant body. We seek intimacy with the animated, energetic fertile parts, the warm, electric, pulsating body that’s flowing with blood, propelled by agency and personality. The sensual qualities of living flesh stir up an intense and unconscious desire for the continuity of our kind. More… “Sex with the Dead”

Allen Mendenhall is an associate dean at Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty. Visit his website at


Howard Hughes was one of the most significant and impactful figures of 20th century. Tycoon, movie producer, and philanthropist, Hughes was immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, a romanticized epic about the Hughes’s ascent as rugged individualist willing to combat the film industry, risk his life experimenting with airplanes, and manhandle classic Hollywood’s greatest actresses. The film also represents his eventual move toward complete isolation, his obsessive compulsive disorder encouraging him to seclude himself into sanitary screening rooms while watching and re-watching films. The film presents Hughes as a complicated but passionate man. Scorsese is nothing if not a film fan and The Aviator does much to unpack the ways in which Hughes’s foray into filmmaking contributed to Hollywood. The movie celebrates Hughes as a visionary and rugged individualist. He is reiterated as a folk hero. Like a true femme fatale, walks in Karina Longworth’s new book, Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, which serves to provide more depth into Howard Hughes, looking not only at his work, but using his personal relationships to help illustrate his significance as Hollywood magnate but also addressing aspects of his character. The book not only challenges this image of Hughes as hero, but uses Hughes as a Trojan horse to unpack Hollywood’s ethically murky legacy. More… “Subverting Seduction”

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


Did you ever wonder where the odd term “pundit” comes from? Today it refers to talking heads on TV and opinioneering newspaper columnists. But the word derives from the Hindi “pandit,” which means a learned or wise scholar whose judgments deserved to be treated with respect. You know, like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill Maher.

Given the current moral panic over “cultural appropriation” sweeping trendy U.S. college campuses, I’m surprised that Indian-American students have not demanded that the word “pundit” be banned or at least preceded by trigger warnings. More… “Pundits, Moguls, Sachems, and Czars”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.



I remember seeing a reproduction of Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” when I was a child. It disturbed me. I felt that something horrible had happened to Christina and that she was left out there in the field, maybe to die. And what was happening in that lonely house up at the top of the hill?

There is, perhaps, no other American painting as recognizable and as loved as “Christina’s World.” The only other painting that comes to mind is “American Gothic” by Grant Wood. But for all his popularity (or because of it), Wyeth has generally been scorned by the critics. He has been called a cheap sentimentalist applying painterly tricks in the service of an empty nostalgia. New Criterion founder Hilton Kramer said simply, “he can’t paint.” Dave Hickey said Wyeth’s palette was “mud and baby… More…


A little background is in order. Last summer, I picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Blink. Then I wrote a belated review for 3QuarksDaily. The book, like most everything Gladwell writes, is a fun and sometimes exciting read. But I decided that, in the end, there wasn’t much of an argument in it. A nasty feeling crept over me. I wondered whether we’d all been duped into thinking that Gladwell had been saying something interesting when it really boiled down to well-placed anecdotes and well-told stories. The nasty feeling transformed into an admittedly nasty review titled “Down, I Say, Down With Malcolm Gladwell!”

I asked the reader to allow me to prove that Blink is “a piece of shit.” I talked about “sliminess” and “outright incoherence.” I called him a “huckster” (I’ve always liked that word)… More…

In a move seemingly calculated to tease and titillate Right-wing conspiracy theorists around the globe, Hillary Clinton wrote a senior honor’s thesis at Wellesley on Saul Alinsky and then later had it sealed from the public during the eight years of her husband’s presidency. The thesis has taken on legendary status since then. Peggy Noonan called it “the Rosetta Stone of Hillary studies.”

   Candidates’ Stories

Barack Obama: The Audacity of Hope Hillary Clinton: Living History John McCain: Worth the Fighting For

On the face of it, such hysteria appears warranted. Saul Alinsky was a radical’s radical. He spent much of his life doing, and theorizing about, grassroots political organizing. He started in the working-class neighborhoods of Chicago but he dreamed of a national worker’s movement with no less than revolutionary aspirations. At the same time, he was obsessed… More…


The list of misogynist rumors about strong women leaders is long and fertile, but none lodge in the memory quite so vividly as the notorious “horse story” involving the Empress of Russia, Catherine II. Upon her death in 1796, word swept around Europe that she had been involved in a tryst with a stallion; the horse was supposedly being lowered onto her by servants using pulleys when the ropes snapped, crushing her to death. In reality, the 67-year-old Catherine suffered a stroke on the privy in the Winter Palace of Saint Petersburg and died in bed. But the scurrilous equine rumor has proven unshakeable for more than two centuries. Where did it come from? According to biographer Virginia Rounding, its elements had been brewing amongst her enemies for decades.

Wide-eyed stories about Catherine’s appetites had been circulating since… More…