A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

This is the transcript of a talk given over the weekend by Mbird’s Will McDavid at The Olmsted Salon in NYC, loosely based on our recent Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis. For the audio, go to the Olmsted site here, and to order the book, go here.

I first...

I Gotta Try Losing Sometime: Rivalry, Redemption, and Donkey Kong

I Gotta Try Losing Sometime: Rivalry, Redemption, and Donkey Kong

“I wanted to be the hero. I wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted the glory, I wanted the fame, I wanted the pretty girls coming up and saying, ‘Hi, I see you’re good at Centipede.’” – Walter Day

“When I have to watch that pile of eight tapes...

That’s Some Arthur You’ve Got There: Robert Farrar Capon on the Layoff of the Accountants

That’s Some Arthur You’ve Got There: Robert Farrar Capon on the Layoff of the Accountants

A particularly vivid unpacking of Christ’s lesson on dinner party etiquette in Luke 14:1-14, this time from pages 282-284 of Father Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus:

That, I take it, is the point of Jesus’ words against reciprocation and repayment. Jesus is saying,...

Love and Logos in the Dying of the Light

Love and Logos in the Dying of the Light

Reviewing Sons of Bill’s new record.

A couple of years ago, The New Yorker asked “Whatever happened to movies for grownups?” It’s an important question, and one that has only become more pronounced since David Denby posed it, and not just at the multiplex. In fact, nowhere does it apply...

Decentering, Humbling, and Sanctifying: David Brooks and Dorothy Day on What Love Can Do

Decentering, Humbling, and Sanctifying: David Brooks and Dorothy Day on What Love Can Do

NY Times columnist David Brooks spoke recently at The Gathering, an annual conference of Christian philanthropists, and his remarks have to be read to be believed. It’s an elongated and even more explicitly sympathetic version of what he said at the 92nd St Y earlier this year, and as such,...

Drifting Closer in the Dark: An Introduction to the Musical Folklore of Slaid Cleaves

Drifting Closer in the Dark: An Introduction to the Musical Folklore of Slaid Cleaves

We could not be more excited to have Slaid Cleaves join us for the Houston Conference next week. It’s just one of the reasons we hope you’ll meet us there. There’s plenty of eye-rolling when it comes to American country and folk music, mainly because so much of what used...
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Couple Dies of Confusion

In line with this weekend’s FOMO breakout session, here’s one of the illustrations we looked to, from the most recent season of Portlandia. We looked at the “fear of missing out” as a reaction based primarily in resentment, resentment pointed either at the past or at the future. The fruit of FOMO, then: regret about the lives we never lived, and anxiety about the ones ahead/not ahead. This video certainly falls in the anxiety category, as Kirsten Dunst finds herself haunted by confusion–befuddled at every corner by the distinction between right from wrong.

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

The third installment for Blake & Ian’s four-part series is Ian’s second selection, the 1982 classic creature flick The Thing, directed by John Carpenter andstarring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley & T. K. Carter.

Ian:

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of cosmic/body horror which viscerally manifests the alien abjection of sin. Through masterful use of freezing, tension-fraught atmosphere and brilliant (i.e. horrifyingly gory) special effects, Carpenter meditates on embodiment, identity, and paranoia with breathtaking results. The story, set in hostile Antarctica, follows a shape-shifting alien which can replicate the physiology and even the memories of everything (and everyone) it assimilates. Its arrival triggers an…

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Manning Down

Manning Down

We are resentful at being the butts of the divine joke of grace that says nothing matters except plain, old, de facto, yes-Jesus faith.

–Robert Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

There are many reasons to admire Peyton Manning. He has a golden arm. He can read defenses like you and I can read a billboard. He even had to overcome adversity, teaching himself how to throw a ball again after suffering a neck injury.

On a personal level, I admire Peyton Manning because he is my age. I have a hard time recovering when I stub my toe on a coffee table; I can’t…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Back from Texas, here’s yesterday morning’s devotion, just a day late. It comes from Paul Walker.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. (2 Corinthians 1:19-20, ESV)

“Yes” is a gracious word. Yes, please come in. Yes, please stay for dinner. Yes, I would love to go with you. Yes, of course, take all the time you need.

“No” is a forbidding word. No, you may not come. No, there isn’t room for you. No, I’m too busy. No, it was due yesterday.

Human beings are both Yes and No. Most children learn to nod “yes” and shake their…

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A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

1. Lots of interesting news on the how-can-we-be-sure-God-exists front. We’ve had our own part of that conversation, highlighting our own favorite Atheists and the hip trend of flogging Dawkins (dibs on Flogging Dawkins as a band name!). If the patterns are to be believed, it seems that the trajectory is toward a more humble, less aggressive atheism that acknowledges its own non-rational presuppositions. And humility is good for everybody, theist and atheist alike. Gary Gutting over at the New York Times sums up his series of interviews with religious philosophers, and while the ending seems disjointed (I’m an agnostic Catholic?), the middle is helpful:

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Thomas Nagel

These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Thomas Nagel

More Dr. Michael Nicholson goodness on his favorite atheists series! Check out last week’s pre-Camus for an introduction to the series.

Thomas Nagel (1937 – )

Thomas Nagel had me at, “I confess to an ungrounded assumption of my own, in not finding it possible to regard the design alternative as a real option. I lack the sensus divinitatis that enables—indeed compels—so many people to see in the world the expression of divine purpose as naturally as they see in a smiling face the expression of human feeling” (Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,…

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Salvation by Sweat Alone

Salvation by Sweat Alone

An uncannily resonant follow-up to Evan’s recent post about the Church of CrossFit appeared in the NY Times Magazine this past weekend, courtesy of Mbird fave Heather Havrilesky. “Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?” she asks, and her answers are nearly identical to our own, i.e. we are all deeply religious, and a religion of law plays to our controlling inclinations. The line about the similarities with the faith of our pilgrim forebears is particularly telling; the roots of asceticism, regardless of the form it takes, can often be traced to the same place. Say what you will…

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Choose Your Own Narrative

Choose Your Own Narrative

I engaged in a Facebook fight recently. This hasn’t happened in a while. I try to avoid commenting on the status updates and posts that particularly (and regularly) annoy me–not so much out of a sense of honor as an awareness that my blood pressure can’t take it. But when I read a comment posted underneath a friend’s status update–a comment that appeared to defend prosperity preachers and minimize the evil of ISIS in one fell swoop–I couldn’t help myself. I loaded up my verbal ammunition and fired.

For the next several hours, I went back and forth with my virtual…

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From The New Yorker

ht NL:

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“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

The second film selection for Blake & Ian’s four-part series comes from Blake’s selection of favorite horror films, the 1986 version of The Hitcher, starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Blake:

Jim Halsey: Why are you doing this to me?
John Ryder: You’re a smart kid…figure it out.

Whether it’s the rise of urban legends or the rise of actual incidents, hitchhiking is all but extinct nowadays. It seems to be another victim slain in the slow and continuous death of the old neighborly courtesies.

Hitchhiking is just one aspect of a wider American artistic landscape full of the open road–from…

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PZ’s Podcast: Whipped Cream

EPISODE 177

There is a current meltdown in more than one venerable institution within the Christian Church nationally. It’s like the explosions at the beginning of Cloverfield. They seem a little far away at first, but, turns out, they’re headed right for you.

I try to interpret these escalations of conflict within the Church as an expression of incompatibility — the incompatibility of institutions and institutional process with the improvisation and inspiration that mark genuine spiritual religion. (The phrase “improvisation and inspiration” to describe what ought to be, comes from Lloyd Fonvielle.) I have to say, institutions and property and hierarchy are in general incompatible with the teachings of the Founder. Emil Brunner stated this unarguably in 1951 in his book The Misunderstanding of the Church.

“Karma” comes into this, too, tho’ it’s a word I’m a little uncomfortable using, as it sounds awfully Eastern in this context. Meanwhile, Christianity has the same idea! Not to mention Eric Clapton and the Band, who electrified the world once in their performance of “Further on up the Road”. It’s striking how one’s persecutors yesterday become the persecuted themselves, today. As Marshall Schomberg at the Boyne cried to his Huguenot troops, pointing at the French soldiers across the river, “Voici vos persecuteurs!” You never have to worry that someone’s going to get his or her comeuppance. It always happens. You’re not going to have to lift a finger.

Finally, there’s the hope of the Contraption. God is actually with us. He’s neither against us nor indifferent. He is pro nobis, and that’s nothing new. Here, tho’, we can also look to Jane Austen. She’s going to have the last word today.

This podcast is dedicated to Jacob and Melina Smith.

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Before we get going, the Houston Conference is almost here!! While we never turn anyone away–last minute walk-ins more than welcome–we need to know by Monday morning (10/13) if you are planning/hoping to dine with us. You can either pre-register on the site (through Tuesday at midnight), or send us an email at info@mbird.com so we can reserve you a plate. The food is going to be delicious!

1. First off, this is both incredibly fascinating and incredibly sad. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Downtown Project, a “start-up city” in Las Vegas founded and pioneered by Tony Hsieh, the guy behind…

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