The 2017 awards season kicked off in earnest on January 8 with the 74th Annual Golden Globes, and it turns out: The voters of la-la land love La La Land.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association bestowed a record number of trophies on Damien Chazelle’s original musical about two lovers trying to make it in Hollywood. The other major contender of the evening, Barry Jenkins’s quietly powerful Moonlight, didn’t win the Best Supporting Actor and Best Director awards it was tipped for, but it did come away with the Best Motion Picture (Drama) prize over Manchester by the Sea. Other big winners included The Crown, Elle, Atlanta, The Night Manager, and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Read more updates below, or check out our full wrap-up of the evening.
After being shut out for the majority of the 2017 Golden Globes, Moonlight finally triumphed where it really mattered, with a win for Best Picture (Drama). Barry Jenkins’s stunning film about the coming-of-age of Chiron, a young boy growing up in Miami, was nominated for six awards but took home only one, with the loss of Mahershala Ali in the Best Supporting Actor category coming as a particular surprise. Moonlight will now have some extra momentum heading toward the Oscars in February, although whether it can beat this year’s Globes juggernaut, La La Land, is anyone’s guess.
Jenkins adapted Moonlight from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who grew up in the same Liberty Square housing project in Miami as the director. If you haven’t seen it already, this New York Times story by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who visited the area with the two men, is well worth a read.
Jimmy Fallon at the Globes: Game, Charming, and Barely There
When it was announced, this summer, that Jimmy Fallon would be hosting the 2017 Golden Globes, The Guardian’s Brian Moylan argued that Fallon’s selection could herald a new era for the awards show. Fallon, Moylan wrote—as opposed to the show’s previous hosts, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and certainly to Ricky Gervais—“promises to be a totally different kind of host.”
As Moylan put it,
As the steward of The Tonight Show, he’s not known for telling jokes in the same way that Gervais or Fey and Poehler are. Instead his most resonant bits are ones of collaboration, when he brings out the best in other celebrities and gets them to engage in wacky games or silly stunts. Also, his humor doesn’t have the sardonic edge of the previous hosts. Fallon has the temperament of a labrador retriever: always happy to be there, excited for anything that comes his way, and just dying for someone to scratch his belly.
Fallon did, indeed, offer moments of wackiness this evening. He began the Globes telecast with that La La Land-inspired musical number. He brought Questlove in as the show’s DJ. He did an “Oprah-Uma”-reminiscent play on the sort-of-rhyming names of Jessica ChastAIN and Eddie RedMAYNE.
Beyond that, though, the most notable aspect of Fallon’s hosting approach was … his general non-presence as a host. He had, overall, very little screen time.
That wasn’t Fallon’s fault. It was a reminder, though, of how different the demands that are made of the hosts of the Globes versus, say, the hosts of the Oscars. Fallon’s semi-presence during the evening highlighted the extent to which the “host,” at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual affair, is really more of an emcee than anything else. He introduces other people. He makes fun, but he also, more importantly, makes way. Fallon does indeed, as Moylan put it, “bring out the best in other celebrities”—which is a good thing, since that, apparently, is the job he was tapped to do for the evening.
As the night winds down, it’s a clean sweep for La La Land, the L.A.-set original musical that will surely be tipped for similar Oscar success next month. The film won seven Golden Globes in total: Best Picture (Comedy or Musical), Best Actor and Actress for stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, Best Director and Best Screenplay for Damien Chazelle, and Best Original Score and Song. In winning all seven of the awards it was nominated for, La La Land became the most-awarded film in the 70-plus year history of the Globes.
Could such sweeping success lead to a backlash for La La Land, which is now the clear favorite for the Oscar for Best Picture? Perhaps. There were some slightly awkward optics as the film’s winners repeatedly took the stage and triumphantly noted how “daring” it was to try and make an original musical. Original musicals are few and far between in Hollywood these days, to be sure, but the (so far un-awarded) Moonlight, funded independently, featuring no major stars, and sprung to surprising word-of-mouth success on the back of critical acclaim, feels a little more “daring” than a nostalgic, if well-made, showbiz musical starring Stone and Gosling.
Meryl Streep vs. Donald Trump (and Mixed Martial Arts)
Meryl Streep might be Hollywood’s best example of actor as craftsperson; now she’s making a play as statesperson. After a moving introduction from Viola Davis, Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for a career’s worth of work by giving a full-throated articulation of the current Hollywood political mindset. She reassured the entertainment world of its value, and she took aim at Donald Trump and what he might represent.
The meat of the speech came with Streep reflecting on the episode where Trump seemed to mock a disabled reporter, or as she called it, the “moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.”
“It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie, it was real life,” she continued. “This instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in a public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
She transitioned to the need for a “principled press” to “call them on the carpet for every outrage,” adding that the “famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community” should support the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Perhaps most surprisingly, in defending “the most vilified segments in American society right now”—by which she meant the type of people who attend the Golden Globes—she said something likely to be taken as a culture-war salvo: a highbrow-type aiming lower. “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” she said, “and if you kick us all out, you’ll have nothing to watch except for football and mixed martial arts, which are not arts.”
Cue the politically divided reads of the moment:
An important lesson from #MerylStreep for Democrats and progressives: Speak truth.
Winning will follow.
'Hidden Fences': A Terrible Gaffe, but a Pretty Great Meme
On the red carpet before the start of the Golden Globes ceremony, NBC’s Jenna Bush Hager began her question to Pharrell—who produced Hidden Figures, the new film about three black women who helped to send men to the moon in the 1960s, and for which he is nominated for a best original score—like so: “You’re nominated for Hidden Fences.”
It was a flub that would be repeated during the Globes ceremony itself by Michael Keaton, announcing the nominees for best supporting actress in a motion picture. (“Since the camera was focused on the actresses,” the New York Timesnotes, “it’s unclear if Mr. Keaton said it with a wink and a nod.”)
It was also a flub, however, that would quickly lead to some very good jokes on Twitter.
I can't believe I haven't seen #hiddenfences yet!! But you know, I still need to see Boo! A Madea Moonlight, so...I'll get to it.
Tom Hiddleston Makes a Humblebraggy Humanitarian Speech
It would not be charitable to write off Tom Hiddleston’s Golden Globes acceptance speech as a total humblebrag. But it would be inaccurate to say it was not, a little bit, a humblebrag.
First, though, it was an attempt to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis and an appreciation of entertainment’s role even in dangerous situations. Accepting the prize for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries from his turn in BBC and AMC’s The Night Manager, he launched into a story about having recently visited South Sudan with the United Nations’ Children’s Fund. He spoke of there being a “terrible situation” for children there (cue producers’ cut to the Stranger Things kids), and he dedicated his award to “those making a difference.”
But the main point of his speech seemed to be an anecdote about him grabbing a “dirty beer” with other humanitarian workers. There, he was approached by Médecins Sans Frontières doctors and nurses who told him they’d watched The Night Manager as bombs fell in the country. “The idea that I could provide, or we could provide, some relief and entertainment for the people who work for Unicef and Médecins Sans Frontières, who are fixing the world in the places where it is broken, made me immensely proud,” he said.
Reaction to the speech online was … mixed:
That was a long story Tom Hiddleston told to pay himself a compliment. #GoldenGlobes
When trying to predict the Golden Globe television winners, always remember two things: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves to pick the hot new TV show. They also love any prestige drama to come out of the UK. The Crown, Netflix’s epic chronicling of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, was both, so of course it was guaranteed a couple trophies. The first went to star Claire Foy, who dedicated her award to Elizabeth; the second was for Best TV Series (Drama).
The Crown had some hot competition this year from new dramas—NBC hit This Is Us, Netflix’s summer smash Stranger Things, and HBO’s much-discussed Westworld were among the nominees—but the Globes will always break a tie for the Brits. The same goes for The Night Manager, a BBC miniseries adaptation of a John le Carré novel that aired on AMC last April, which won four Globes tonight. Though American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson was the bigger hit with both critics and viewers, The Night Manager surprisingly beat it in every category it was nominated for (Best Miniseries, Best Actor in a Miniseries, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress).
Hugh Laurie Suggests 2017's Show Will Be the Final Golden Globes ... Because Trump
Hugh Laurie won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a limited series or TV movie for his performance in The Night Manager. The Brit used his speech—the third time he had occupied the Globes stage as an award winner—not just to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the honor, but also to take another of the evening’s swipes at the incoming U.S. president.
"Thank you, first of all, to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for this amazing honor,” Laurie began. He paused. “I suppose it’s made more amazing by the fact that I’ll be able to say that I won this at the last ever Golden Globes.”
The crowd didn’t quite get what Laurie was hinting at. They offered him a few tepid laughs; then he tried again.
“I don’t mean to be gloomy,” the actor said. “It’s just that it has the words ‘Hollywood,’ ‘foreign,’ and ‘press’ in the title. I just don’t know what—”
At this point, the crowd got it. Laurie was suggesting that a Trump administration might do away with the organization that was handing out the awards he and his fellow Hollywooders had just received. Those Hollywooders began laughing, and applauding.
“I also think that, to some Republicans, even the word ‘association’ is slightly sketchy,” Laurie continued, to more laughter.
The actor continued with more traditional acceptance-speech fare: expressions of gratitude, expressions of humility. And then—an homage to his Night Manager character, Richard Roper, and perhaps to another person, as well—he concluded his speech: “I accept this award on behalf of psychopathic billionaires everywhere."
Viola Davis Wins a Long-Awaited Prize for 'Fences'
“This is my fifth nomination. I took all the pictures, went to the luncheon,” Viola Davis joked as she won the first Golden Globe of her career. “But this is right on time.” The trophy came for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her work in Denzel Washington’s Fences, an acclaimed adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. She praised Washington and the film’s producers for taking on such a stage-bound work, noting, “It doesn’t scream moneymaker. But it does scream art. It does scream heart.”
Fences has actually proven a solid moneymaker, already grossing $40 million since its December 16 release, buoyed by rapturous reviews and Washington’s star presence. Davis’s work in the film is extraordinary (she’s arguably a quasi-lead, taking over the film for its last act) and has been hotly tipped to win an Oscar for months; her Globe victory marks the first step. Davis thanked Washington before leaving the stage, calling herself “a friend and a fan.”
The Surprising First Golden Globes Winner of the Night
Perhaps Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Best Supporting Actor win for Nocturnal Animals shouldn’t have been a surprise—the Hollywood Foreign Press clearly enjoyed the movie, handing it three nominations including Best Director and Screenplay to Tom Ford. Still, Taylor-Johnson has largely been off the radar this awards season—his part is somewhat small and esoteric in the film, which got mixed reviews and made little impact at the box office. Aside from tonight’s Golden Globe, the only other trophy Taylor-Johnson has gotten this year is the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s “Virtuoso Award.”
The two Best Supporting Actor frontrunners were thought to be Mahershala Ali, who has cleaned up with critics associations for his work as Juan in Moonlight, and Jeff Bridges, a beloved veteran who did career-best work in Hell or High Water. Taylor-Johnson is still seen as having only an outside shot at even grabbing an Oscar nomination, but he got his moment in the sun tonight, directing most of his speech to his wife Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed him in the 2009 film Nowhere Boy, and their four children.
Jimmy Fallon Compares Donald Trump to King Joffrey
The most controversial thing about Golden Globes host Jimmy Fallon has, historically, been in how uncontroversial he is. The SNL alum and Tonight Show host’s friendliness is legend—but when that friendliness extended to Donald Trump in September, his ruffling of the then-candidate’s hair ruffled some viewers who wondered why he hadn’t asked any tough questions.
He brought a bit more political bite to his show-opening monologue tonight. “This is the Golden Globes, one of the few places left where America still honors the popular vote,” he said early on.
Then he turned his attention to Game of Thrones. “A lot of people have wondered what it would have been like if King Joffrey had lived,” he said, referring to a vindictive school-age tyrant who once served as the show’s big villain. “Well, in 12 days we’re going to find out.”
And the firm that tabulates the Globes votes? “Ernst and Young, and Putin.”
Those quips didn’t quite pierce the typical Fallon aura of affability and awkwardness, though. The night started with a chipper pre-taped musical number that flaunted the Hollywood Foreign Press’s rolodex by enlisting many of the year’s acting nominees (highlight: Eleven from Stranger Things rapping), climaxing with Fallon and Justin Timberlake partnering for a La La Land-esque reverie. Then Fallon took the stage to a supposedly malfunctioning teleprompter; if his ensuing clumsiness—“cut to Justin Timberlake, please!”—was meant to be a joke about Mariah Carey’s New Year’s Eve debacle, he should have thrown in a “It just doesn’t get any better” or something.
Once he began his monologue in earnest, he made the strange choice to impersonate Chris Rock at length. The bit seemingly existed just to deliver a punchline about The People vs. O.J. Simpson nominees not being able to thank Simpson himself in their acceptance speeches. The joke wasn’t all that edgy—but apparently Fallon still felt he had to deliver it in the voice of an edgier comedian than himself.
With Jimmy Fallon behind the podium as this year’s host, the Globes promises to be a more Hollywood-friendly affair (last year’s host Ricky Gervais was perhaps too focused on mocking the inflated egos in the room). Still, the awards can be hard to predict because of the nebulous nature of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which decides on the winners.
The 90-member group votes on the best cinema and television of the year, bifurcating the former into comedies and dramas and the latter into comedies, dramas, and miniseries/TV movies. The film awards can be particularly crucial in setting the narrative for the Oscar race ahead (the Academy Award nominations are announced later this month): A publicity-grabbing speech, or shocking victory, can help catapult an actor or movie into frontrunner status. On the TV side, the Globes are less good at predicting the Emmys (which aren’t given out until September), but the Hollywood Foreign Press tends to gravitate toward new shows, so nominees like Westworld, The Crown, and Atlanta could do well.
For the best-drama category, the race seems to have come down to Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea, two critical favorites that are hotly tipped for Oscar victory. Casey Affleck and Jackie’s Natalie Portman are frontrunners in the lead-acting categories, but neither seems secure—Denzel Washington in Fences, in particular, could begin a run at his third Oscar here. On the comedy side, the musical La La Land is the obvious frontrunner in every category; it’s viewed as the consensus favorite filled with old-fashioned movie magic. Meanwhile, the best-director category—where Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight and Damien Chazelle’s La La Land are both competing—will be the most crucial indicator of which film will see more support as the Oscars draw nearer. (I broke down the nominations in more detail here.)
A scientist and a monk compare notes on meditation, therapy, and their effects on the brain
Can training the mind make us more attentive, altruistic, and serene? Can we learn to manage our disturbing emotions in an optimal way? What are the transformations that occur in the brain when we practice meditation? In a new book titled Beyond the Self, two friends—Matthieu Ricard, who left a career as a molecular biologist to become a Buddhist monk in Nepal, and Wolf Singer, a distinguished neuroscientist—engage in an unusually well-matched conversation about meditation and the brain. Below is a condensed and edited excerpt.
Matthieu Ricard: Although one ﬁnds in the Buddhist literature many treatises on “traditional sciences”—medicine, cosmology, botanic, logic, and so on—Tibetan Buddhism has not endeavored to the same extent as Western civilizations to expand its knowledge of the world through the natural sciences. Rather it has pursued an exhaustive investigation of the mind for 2,500 years and has accumulated, in an empirical way, a wealth of experiential ﬁndings over the centuries. A great number of people have dedicated their whole lives to this contemplative science.
Unlike most entries in the Star Wars saga, Rian Johnson’s film actually explores the systemic oppression the Resistance is fighting against—and the movie is all the more fascinating for it.
This article contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
For 40 years, the Star Wars saga has largely been one of good guys and bad guys, of the Rebels and the Empire, of the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force. Those straightforward, elemental stakes were crucial to George Lucas’s original pitch for the space-opera series. J.J. Abrams said that when he began devising the story for Star Wars: The Force Awakens—the long-awaited seventh episode of the franchise that came out in 2015—he quickly realized the film had to return to that good-vs.-evil dynamic, even though Return of the Jedi (a.k.a. Episode VI) had ended with the downfall of the Empire.
“We very consciously tried to borrow familiar beats so the rest of the movie could hang on something that we knew was Star Wars,” Abrams said after the film’s release. A bold group of Rebels doing battle against a monolithic Empire was thus recast as an independent Resistance fighting off the new threat of the First Order, with both sides consciously styling their look and their tactics after their forbears. Abrams’s decision was simple almost to a fault—but forgivably so, given how much additional work the director had to do in terms of setting up the film’s new characters.
The condition has long been considered untreatable. Experts can spot it in a child as young as 3 or 4. But a new clinical approach offers hope.
This is a good day, Samantha tells me: 10 on a scale of 10. We’re sitting in a conference room at the San Marcos Treatment Center, just south of Austin, Texas, a space that has witnessed countless difficult conversations between troubled children, their worried parents, and clinical therapists. But today promises unalloyed joy. Samantha’s mother is visiting from Idaho, as she does every six weeks, which means lunch off campus and an excursion to Target. The girl needs supplies: new jeans, yoga pants, nail polish.
At 11, Samantha is just over 5 feet tall and has wavy black hair and a steady gaze. She flashes a smile when I ask about her favorite subject (history), and grimaces when I ask about her least favorite (math). She seems poised and cheerful, a normal preteen. But when we steer into uncomfortable territory—the events that led her to this juvenile-treatment facility nearly 2,000 miles from her family—Samantha hesitates and looks down at her hands. “I wanted the whole world to myself,” she says. “So I made a whole entire book about how to hurt people.”
The GOP succeeded in delivering on many of its promises. But the new code, which Congress will vote on this week, will not be as lasting, or as simplified, as they’d hoped.
The legislation congressional Republicans finalized on Friday and are likely to enact next week delivers on many of the party’s—and President Trump’s— promises for a landmark overhaul of the tax code. But the rush to pass the bill through a narrow Senate majority and without Democratic support forced the GOP to sacrifice some of their long-held aspirations for tax reform.
The final bill permanently reduces the corporate tax rate all the way from 35 percent to 21 percent, nearly matching the 20 percent goal House Republicans set in their 2016 campaign plan (though not as low as the 15 percent Trump ran on). It cuts taxes sharply for business owners, and companies will be able to write off costly purchases of new equipment and buildings.
Most of the country understands that when it comes to government, you pay for what you get.
When I was a young kid growing up in Montreal, our annual family trips to my grandparents’ Florida condo in the 1970s and ‘80s offered glimpses of a better life. Not just Bubbie and Zadie’s miniature, sun-bronzed world of Del Boca Vista, but the whole sprawling infrastructural colossus of Cold War America itself, with its famed interstate highway system and suburban sprawl. Many Canadians then saw themselves as America’s poor cousins, and our inferiority complex asserted itself the moment we got off the plane.
Decades later, the United States presents visitors from the north with a different impression. There hasn’t been a new major airport constructed in the United States since 1995. And the existing stock of terminals is badly in need of upgrades. Much of the surrounding road and rail infrastructure is in even worse shape (the trip from LaGuardia Airport to midtown Manhattan being particularly appalling). Washington, D.C.’s semi-functional subway system feels like a World’s Fair exhibit that someone forgot to close down. Detroit’s 90-year-old Ambassador Bridge—which carries close to $200 billion worth of goods across the Canada-U.S. border annually—has been operating beyond its engineering capacity for years. In 2015, the Canadian government announced it would be paying virtually the entire bill for a new bridge (including, amazingly, the U.S. customs plaza on the Detroit side), after Michigan’s government pled poverty. “We are unable to build bridges, we're unable to build airports, our inner city school kids are not graduating,” is how JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon summarized the state of things during an earnings conference call last week. “It’s almost embarrassing being an American citizen.”
Neuroscientist James Fallon discovered through his work that he has the brain of a psychopath, and subsequently learned a lot about the role of genes in personality and how his brain affects his life.
In 2005, James Fallon's life started to resemble the plot of a well-honed joke or big-screen thriller: A neuroscientist is working in his laboratory one day when he thinks he has stumbled upon a big mistake. He is researching Alzheimer's and using his healthy family members' brain scans as a control, while simultaneously reviewing the fMRIs of murderous psychopaths for a side project. It appears, though, that one of the killers' scans has been shuffled into the wrong batch.
The scans are anonymously labeled, so the researcher has a technician break the code to identify the individual in his family, and place his or her scan in its proper place. When he sees the results, however, Fallon immediately orders the technician to double check the code. But no mistake has been made: The brain scan that mirrors those of the psychopaths is his own.
Breitbart is peddling holiday goods. But whatever happened to peace on earth and good will?
Surveying America back in 2013, I concluded that “Christmas Is Kicking Ass in the War on Christmas,” noting the open-air Nativity scenes in the secular progressive enclave of Santa Monica; the 76-foot Christmas tree uncontroversially erected in the heart of New York City; the choir publicly singing "Happy birthday, Jesus! Happy birthday, Lord!" in Washington, D.C., and more.
This affection for the holiday that marks the birth of Jesus Christ extended all the way to the White House, where President Barack Obama recorded videos wishing the nation “Merry Christmas” in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. “This is such a wonderful time of year,” Michelle Obama added one year, “a time to honor the story of love and redemption that began 2,000 years ago, to see the world through a child’s eyes and rediscover the magic all around us, and to give thanks for the gifts that bless us every single day.”
Companies are going to be able to save a ton of money by locating factories abroad.
Despite Donald Trump’s “America first” rhetoric, many suspected that the tax plan he would support would actually increase the incentives for U.S. multinationals to move both profits and operations overseas. I wrote about this inevitability a few weeks ago, before the details of the Trump-GOP tax plan emerged.
Now that the bill is advancing, it’s clear that things aren’t as bad as many feared. They’re worse.
As discussed in the previous piece, Trump administration economic officials argue that by lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and moving to what is called a territorial system—mainly, companies pay taxes on foreign earnings only to the foreign nation where those profits are booked and never owe anything to the U.S. no matter how low the foreign nation’s tax rate is—would lead to more jobs and profits staying in or coming back to the United States.
How Iris Chang tried to bridge the gap between a fading memory and a horrific lived reality
The book case in my childhood bedroom contained worlds far from my own. There was my volume of folk tales from the Childcraft encyclopedia series, along with an illustrated Bible. Sandwiched between them was the blood-red spine of Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking. The book had awoken the mainstream Western consciousness to the truth of the Japanese military’s horrific massacre of Chinese soldiers and civilians prior to World War II. Unlike many historians, Chang thrust stories and photographs of rape, disfigurement, killing contests, and live burials in front of her readers, forcing them to choose either to shudder and remember or look away in complicity.
While Chang faced a barrage of attacks from other historians, as well as from the publisher contracted to translate her book into Japanese, the debate over what happened in Nanking from December 1937 to January 1938 had been raging before the publication of her book. Japan, for instance, remains divided over the number of Chinese killed in Nanking during those six weeks. The massacre camp generally supports the Tokyo War Crimes Trials figure of “upwards of 100,000” deaths; skeptics claim 15,000 to 50,000, while others venture only up to 10,000. Outside of Japan, James Yin and Shi Young, whose work Chang frequently cited, place the minimum death toll as high as 369,366.
David Bentley Hart’s text recaptures the awkward, multivoiced power of the original.
In the beginning was … well, what? A clap of the divine hands and a poetic shock wave? Or an itchy node of nothingness inconceivably scratching itself into somethingness? In the beginning was the Word, says the Gospel according to John—a lovely statement of the case, as it’s always seemed to me. A pre-temporal syllable swelling to utterance in the mouth of the universe, spoken once and heard forever: God’s power chord, if you like. For David Bentley Hart, however, whose mind-bending translation of the New Testament was published in October, the Word—as a word—does not suffice: He finds it to be “a curiously bland and impenetrable designation” for the heady concept expressed in the original Greek of the Gospels as Logos. The Chinese word Tao might get at it, Hart tells us, but English has nothing with quite the metaphysical flavor of Logos, the particular sense of a formative moral energy diffusing itself, without diminution, through space and time. So he throws up his hands and leaves it where it is: “In the origin there was the Logos …”