Greetings from VA! It’s taken a week or so, but we’re just about set up down here in our new home.
1. Last week The Washington Post reviewed Elaine Ecklund’s new book Science Vs Religion: What Scientist Really Think, which polls the beliefs of over 1700 scientists at America’s most elite research universities. The findings are of interest:
These surveys and 275 lengthy follow-up interviews reveal that scientists often practice a closeted faith. They worry how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. Fully half of these top scientists are religious. Only five of the 275 interviewees actively oppose religion. Even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves “spiritual.”
2. Over at the NY Times, novelist Jonathan Franzen makes a convincing case for Christina Stead’s 1940 novel The Man Who Loved Children as canon. The essay also proves an opportunity for Franzen, a mockingbird favorite, to air some thoughts on the so-called “decline” of the novel:
“Telling the story of [...] inner life is what novels, and only novels, are for. Or used to be, at least. Because haven’t we left this stuff behind us? High-mindedly domineering males? Children as accessories to their parents’ narcissism? The nuclear family as a free-for-all of psychic abuse? We’re tired of the war between the sexes and the war between the generations, because these wars are so ugly, and who wants to look into the mirror of a novel and see such ugliness? How much better about ourselves we’ll feel when we stop speaking our embarrassing private family languages! The absence of literary swans seems like a small price to pay for a world in which ugly ducklings grow up to be big ugly ducks whom we can then agree to call beautiful.”
3. In the clearly-there’s-a-God department, this week the news broke that after more than a decade of silence, director Whit Stillman officially has a new project underway! At least, casting has begun for “Damsels In Distress,” a comedy described by Stillman as “ultra-low budget.” Needless to say, we could not be more excited. Be sure to read the full cast breakdown, as there are some priceless Stillman-isms buried in there.
According to Open Casting, the storyline, “centers on a group of college girls who take in a new student and teach her their own misguided ways of helping people. Lily, a new student at Seven Oaks University, winds up filling in with a dynamic and highly individualistic group of girls, addicted to the elegance of the past: Heather, Violet and Rose all volunteer at the campus Suicide Prevention Center, convinced that musical dance, sharp clothes and good hygiene — the Dior perfume “Diorissimo” is their trademark — can all contribute to staving off the inevitable self-destructive impulses that follow hard on the heels of failed college romances. Despite their sophisticated talk and savvy use of perfume, the girls are plagued by Cupid’s arrows and must adjust their psyches to the onset of amour.”
4. On a less positive note, it appears that Charles Grodin has turned down an offer to reprise his role from The Great Muppet Caper in the new Jason Segal Muppet film… Say it ain’t so, Charlie!
5. Finally, the A/V Club has an astonishing article up this week on what sounds like a brilliant episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Titled “A Sermon For Today”, the episode involves, “a traveling preacher named Dr. Breen delivers a sermon called ‘What’s Your Hurry?’, about slowing down and enjoying life, and the people of Mayberry respond by working themselves into a tizzy to put on a ‘relaxing’ band concert.” You can watch the full episode in bite-sized chunks there as well.