The Long and Surprising History of Roller Derby

More than 27,000 fans flocked to Shea Stadium for the 1973 world championships. Michael Evans/The New York Times

By Jennifer Harlan, The New York Times

It sounds like a human freight train: wheels clattering around the turns, bodies thumping against each other, toe stops shrieking against the track. A rainbow of hair and wheels goes by in a blur, shouts and grunts punctuating the din. It’s part endurance race, part wrestling match, combining strategy, athleticism and camp. And it’s all done on roller skates.

At first glance, roller derby seems like a feminist punk fever dream. It is unapologetic and aggressive, a full-contact whirlwind populated by characters with names like Carnage Electra, Miss U.S. Slay and Bleeda Kahlo. But the blood, sweat and mascara that seem so essential to the modern sport have roots stretching back nearly a century. …

Now in the throes of its third renaissance, roller derby is making yet another comeback. Since 2004, the W.F.T.D.A. has grown to include 463 member leagues in 33 countries. There are now roller derby leagues on every continent except Antarctica.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

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Behold, the millennial nuns

By Eve Fairbanks, Huffpost

When I asked Tori what made her stray from this path to become a nun, her whole demeanor changed. Her face got pinker, and she looked almost shy. She asked if she could read the full story to me from her prayer journal. This was too important to discuss extemporaneously.

One afternoon when she was a senior at her all-girls high school, Tori found herself drawn to the chapel. She wasn’t deeply religious growing up, and the chapel was a space she usually avoided: small and dark and silent, with uncomfortable knee-high prayer stools. But on that day, as she sat to pray, a thought occurred to her that was so unbidden and forceful “that I stood up from my seat and physically ran. I mean, I ran out of the chapel. I was so filled with fear.” The thought: What would it be like to wear a nun’s habit?

She didn’t want to be a nun, she explained. But in the ensuing years, she just couldn’t get the vision out of her head. In the goalie box, putting on strapless dresses for dances—she kept seeing herself in a black veil.

And then one day, at a chapel on her college campus, she heard His voice.

“What does it sound like?” I asked her.

“It doesn’t sound like anything. I just knew it was Him,” she said. And His message was clear: “Evangelize.”

Tori put down her prayer journal, looked up and started to laugh. She said she expected this story must sound “crazy” to me. She didn’t seem to mind. Discerning the religious life, she explained, is “a process of falling in love.”

To read the entire essay, click HERE


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Rise of the Titans: Fascism, Christianity, and the Seduction of the Brutal

By Tara Isabella Burton, MereOrthodoxy

EXCERPT: Brutal atavists share with Christians, after all, the conviction that the modern world—particularly, the unenchanted modern world—is fundamentally broken, fundamentally in need of reformulating. Like Christians, these brutal atavists envision a return to an Eden: a place where the Venn diagram of Nature and Civilization is a circle. They envision a wholesale re-boot of humanity.

For Christians, this lure is tempting: it seems a ticket to an enchanted world. It seems a ticket back to Eden.

But of course, such tickets are too good to be true. …

As Christians, after all, we cannot hold to the primordial. Our God—our incarnate, crucified, resurrected, God—does not belong to the cataclysm-before-history, nor solely to the cataclysm-after.

Our God acts in history, in flesh-and-blood, in weakness, in contingency, in particularity. He is to be found not in the chisels of Grecian statuary but in skin and breath and—through the Eucharist—in food. His story is not a valorization of death but of its defeat: a historic resurrection that, in its absurdity, stops the world from spinning. The pagan cycles of birth and death, construction and destruction, are upended. Death is not the beginning, nor is it the end—and so it is not our god.

To read entire essay, click HERE

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In Brooklyn, ‘tradpunk’ Christianity meets millennial counterculture

An Anglo-Catholic service at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Montreal. Photo by Janet Best/Creative Commons

By Tara Isabella Burton, Religion News Service

EXCERPT: Within that paradigm, we are all too often encouraged to focus on our selves, to buy into a never-ending feedback loop of seeking consumption and self-actualization: a capitalist ouroboros masquerading as self-care. We are reminded to put on our own oxygen masks first — a phrase memorably popularized by capitalist-spiritualist guru Oprah Winfrey, to purge toxic people with bad energy from our orbit, to practice self-preservation with Darwinian brutality.

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Meghan Markle and Thomas Merton


The Duchess of Sussex, who was fiercely intellectual at school, fully engaged with the work of American Catholic theologian Thomas Merton. Mr Merton was a monk, ordained as Father Louis, who wrote more than 70 books on spirituality, social justice and pacifism. His most notable work is his autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” – originally published in 1948.

His philosophy embraces the idea that the world is not black and white, but an “endless shapeshifting vista of grey, of muted maybes and possibilities,” which appealed to Meghan.

According to the 2018 book ‘Meghan: A Hollywood Princess,’ it was Meghan’s heritage that meant the philosophy struck a chord with her.

Royal biographer Andrew Morton wrote: “Because of the racial duality of her own background, Meghan was attracted and inspired by the work of the American theologian.”

To read full article from Express, click HERE

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We never had any wizards in my neighbourhood.

The Stray Cats on stage at the Markthalle in Hamburg in 1981, with Brian Setzer singing and Slim Jim Phantom in the background. Photograph: Photo 12/Alamy

Brian Setzer, The Guardian:

“My dad had been in the Korean war with some guys from the deep south, and when I was a kid he told me: “This is the music they liked and I like it too.” He played me Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. I thought, “Wow.” I’d never heard anything like it. Rockabilly was dead in America by then, but we lived for the music and the whole lifestyle. I loved the old cars and motorcycles, the music, the fashion. Nobody was doing anything like that in 1979. I couldn’t relate to prog rock with its lyrics about dungeons and dragons. We never had any wizards in my neighbourhood. We had ’58 Chevys on my block and a couple of good-looking girls, so that’s what I wrote about.”

Read entire article from The Guardian HERE.

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Lord have mercy on Robert Johnson

“Robert Johnson wakes up the genius in everyone, and his music speaks to all of us – but with that genius also comes the devil,” observed blues singer Keb’ Mo’ in the new Netflix documentary “Devil at the Crossroads: A Robert Johnson Story.” Solid for music and blues aficionados.

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The fate of an ancient faith

6 O’Clock Prayer is held outside The Church of Mar Addai, with Father Thabet (left) leading the prayer, (Father Yousif (center) and Bishop Michael Najib (right). Photo: ALEXANDRA ROSE HOWLAND

Please take the time to read Emma Green’s article in The Atlantic: “The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East.” Through the story of Catrin and Evan Almako’s story, Green reports on the fate of pluralism in the region. She is simply a top-notch reporter.

  • “The graph of the religion’s decline in the Middle East has in recent years transformed from a steady downward slope into a cliff. The numbers in Iraq are especially stark: Before the American invasion, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. Today, fewer than 250,000 remain—an 80 percent drop in less than two decades.”
  • “The precarious state of Christianity in Iraq is tragic on its own terms. The world may soon witness the permanent displacement of an ancient religion, and an ancient people. Those indigenous to this area share more than faith: They call themselves Suraye and claim a connection to the ancient peoples who inhabited this land long before the birth of Christ.”
  • Continue reading
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Torchbearers for Eddie Cochran

The Stray Cats playing their hit “(She’s) Sexy & 17” at the Rockpalast Festival in Germany in 1983. From left: Setzer, a fan onstage and Rocker. (Manfred Becker)

“If you weren’t around, it may be hard to understand the rise of the Stray Cats,” writes Geoff Edgers for the Washington Post. “It’s as if they appeared from outer space, or at least a Pomade-speared time machine packed with hot rods, tattoos and Eddie Cochran licks. That a rockabilly trio could top the MTV stable in 1982, the same 1982 stuffed with leg warmers, Members Only jackets and synthesizers, would seem not merely unlikely, but impossible.”

Amen to that. Nothing but deep gratitude and respect for these guys. First saw them at the Hollywood Palladium on August 21, 1982 — a night tattooed in my greaser soul. It flipped my world upside down.

“One way to start explaining the Stray Cats is with a photo. It was snapped as they played their hit “(She’s) Sexy & 17” at the huge Rockpalast Festival in Germany in 1983,” writes Edgers. “The image, black-and-white and blurry in spots, features Setzer, the singer and leader, swinging his Gretsch, eyes closed, air between his white shoes and the ground below. Rocker isn’t wearing a shirt and has his back to camera, suspended in the air as he balances one boot on a stand-up bass adorned with the word ‘Dangerous.’ Phantom is out of the frame but we know what he’s up to. He’s standing — the drummer always stood — pounding his snare like Joe Frazier on the heavy bag.”

Slim Jim Phantom (James McDonnell) loved music, “whether the Beatles or the Stones. But as he got older, he started noticing the song credits. That Aerosmith adapted ’50s rocker Johnny Burnette’s ‘Train Kept a-Rollin’ ‘ and that the Beatles played a killer version of Carl Perkins’s ‘Honey, Don’t.’ Humble Pie did Cochran’s ‘C’mon Everybody.’

“Lee and I had always played,” Phantom says. “We had some older guys that we played with, and we knew all the blues and Jimmy Reed and those kinds of songs. But at the same time, we were trying to find something that was a little bit different.”

“Enter Brian Setzer. He was two years older and had been taking guitar lessons since he was 8. By his 16th birthday, Setzer already had the look. He could play the guitar better than anybody they knew. He could also write music. … Sometime in the mid-’70s, Setzer heard Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-a-Lula” playing on a jukebox at CBGB, a punk rock club in New York. That got him hooked on the music that had emerged in the 1950s by loosely combining R&B and the raw energy of hillbilly music.”

After their meteoric success, the Stray Cats broke up. “Put it in this order,” Setzer told Edgers. “Youth, success, separation, alcohol. All of that. I don’t really need to get into it.”

“I think the bigger picture really has come into focus,” says Phantom. “If we scrutinize it, the why will become we love this music. We’re still the torchbearers for Eddie Cochran.”


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Bob Marley wrote that. I can’t change that.

One of my favorite Johnny Cash stories revolves around his duet of Bob Marley’s anthem “Redemption Song” with Joe Strummer of The Clash. That is some wild chemistry. Cash was recording at Rick Rubin’s house in LA and they were sifting through songs for “American IV: The Man Comes Around.” Strummer was on vacation and came by Rubin’s every day so he could watch Cash sing. Strummer extended his vacation and had been hanging out at the house for a week and a half. Because Cash had a home in Jamaica, they decided to do a reggae song. (“If you’re going to do a song from Jamaica, it has to be a Bob Marley song,” said Cash.) Rubin talked Cash and Strummer into singing “Redemption Song” as a duet while Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) played guitar.

According to Rubin, “There was one line I was wary about because it was not good English and I said, ‘Johnny do you want to change this word to say it the way you’d say it?’” Cash looked at Rubin and said, “Bob Marley wrote that. I can’t change that!” That is top-shelf respect – and one more reason why I love The Man in Black.

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