1. A lot has happened in the world this past week. And it’s probably an indictment that the piece of news that I’ve been most focused on is the announcement that Whit Stillman’s long, long-awaited new film Violet Wister’s Damsels in Distress will close the Venice Film Festival in September. The first stills from the movie has also hit the net – see below – so the countdown has begun! I’d wager we’ll be seeing a trailer before Kate Preston’s annual Sag Harbor Labor Party.

Anyone want to spring for a plane ticket so I can cover the event in person? I’m only sort of kidding.

2. A truly moronic/depressing take on the relationship between science and religion in the LA Times that’s worth reading if only for what it reveals about what passes for “rational” discussion of religion these days. The authors go to great length to list all of the ways belief in God plays on and warps our basic psychological “DNA,” without once entertaining the notion that they may have the convergence backwards. Meaning, all the evidence they give suggests that humans have an in-born inclination toward God, that it constructs them, not the other way around. The irony is almost unbearable. As a sidenote, I’m sure they’re not excited about the recent reports on John Lennon’s deathbed politics, ht SZ:

Among the psychological adaptations related to religion are our need for reciprocity, our tendency to attribute unknown events to human agency, our capacity for romantic love, our fierce “out-group” hatreds and just as fierce loyalties to the in groups of kin and allies. Religion hijacks these traits… We can be better as a species if we recognize religion as a man-made construct. We owe it to ourselves to at least consider the real roots of religious belief, so we can deal with life as it is, taking advantage of perhaps our mind’s greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason. [Oh the, um, humanity!]

3. As a fitting antidote, hop over to Sarcastic Lutheran and read the stunning, where’s-the-hidden-camera sermon on Addiction, AA, the Bondage of the Will and Romans 7, ht MB.

4. Next, an interesting report from The Atlantic things that cause brain shrinkage. Not only are the Internet and vegetables mentioned, so is religious affiliation… sort of (no, swimming in the ocean didn’t make the cut). An equally amusing and inconclusive report from The Atlantic has to do with Things Nice Guys Have To Do To Be Found Attractive.

5. In the comic relief department, The Onion’s “Last Male Heir To Bloodline Watches Movie Alone On Laptop” is a laugh riot:

Nathan Brandten, the last remaining male heir to a rich genetic lineage stretching dozens of generations into the dim and distant past, watched a movie alone on his laptop late Friday evening, sources reported. Brandten, 32, the final product of a dwindling bloodline that his proud forebears fought relentlessly to advance even before the dawn of history, decided to spend his free time after work watching the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy film The ‘Burbs.

“I think I’ll just stay in tonight,” said Brandten, whose scared and frostbitten ancestors traversed the icy Bering Strait into a bewildering and perilous new world so that his precious genetic material might one day flourish. “Thank God for Netflix streaming.”

6. As a follow-up to our recent post on Jim Henson, The Awl posted the best and most thorough article I’ve ever read on The Muppets a couple weeks ago “Weekend at Kermie’s: The Muppets’ Strange Life After Death.”

7. It turns out that, lo these many years, scientists have been hard at work to determine the saddest scene in movie history. Findings were published this week, and the winner comes from the 1979 Ricky Schroder film The Champ. I’ve never seen it – and now I’m not tempted to – but those of you who have, is it really that sad?

8. Great little profile of pop heroes Fountains of Wayne in NY Magazine. Their new record, Sky Full of Holes, comes out next week, and let’s just say that, despite the not exactly uplifting title, I have a good inkling that it’s utterly delightful, almost as good as the near-perfect Welcome Interstate Managers. Also in music, those looking for an overview of gospel-boogie from the early to mid-80s, look no further!

9. Finally, in the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up/laugh-or-you’ll-cry department, there’s this, ht MG: