1. An interesting conversation/editorial about “A World Cup Mentality” over at the NY Times between David Brooks and Gail Collins. One particularly relevant soundbite (ht TB):

We in this country prefer pastimes that are rational and quantifiable. Football plays can be drawn up in a playbook and baseball lends itself to statistical analysis. Americans prefer pastimes that are rational; the rest of the world rewards resilience and neuroticism. But the rest of the world follows a sport that rewards resilience and neuroticism. Soccer is a sport perfectly designed to reinforce a tragic view of the universe, because basically it is a long series of frustrations leading up to near certain heartbreak.”

“But [soccer]’s also a game that teaches you that life is unfair. Because goals are so scarce, it is possible for a team to be outplayed for 89 minutes and yet still score one fluke goal and win the game. Superior performance often does not translate into victory.

2. Also from The NY Times, A.O. Scott’s beautiful review of Toy Story 3 could not be more enticing. He writes:

In providing sheer moviegoing satisfaction — plot, characters, verbal wit and visual delight, cheap laughs and honest sentiment — “Toy Story 3” is wondrously generous and inventive. It is also, by the time it reaches a quiet denouement that balances its noisy beginning, moving in the way that parts of “Up” were. That is, this film — this whole three-part, 15-year epic — about the adventures of a bunch of silly plastic junk turns out also to be a long, melancholy meditation on loss, impermanence and that noble, stubborn, foolish thing called love. We all know money can’t buy it, except sometimes, for the price of a plastic figurine or a movie ticket.

2a. On a related Pixar note, Slate has a wonderful slideshow of youtube clips about John Ratzenberger’s (Cliff from Cheers) involvement in the studio’s films. It would appear that there really is a ‘fruit-from-the-root’ ethos at work over there, with love birthing goodness and creativity rather than the other way around (ht AZ). It shows.

p.s. Our Gospel According To Pixar” publication is almost ready!! Stay tuned for an announcement before the end of the month.

3. I have to confess, I haven’t been a big fan of Narnia on screen, and from the looks of the new Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer, that doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon…

4. A very thought-provoking meditation over at The Topmost Apple about denial, powerlessness, repentance, and grace as viewed through the lens of AA’s first step. John Calvin even weighs in.

5. A fascinating piece from ABC news about self-proclaimed messiahs. Hard to believe the guts of Pastor Quiboloy, esp at the 2:30min mark, even harder to believe that the reporter cops CS Lewis (ht JS):

6. In music, NPR is streaming the entire new Stars record, The Five Ghosts, a full week before it comes out.

7. In television, The A/V Club has a great new post up asking How Has The Culture Of TV (And Watching TV) Changed? Not surprisingly, they use Friday Night Lights as one of their primary case studies. Definitely worth your time. And how about that Breaking Bad finale?! Did we just witness a perfect season of television? HBO has just posted some Game Of Thrones promos, and it looks fantastic.