1. In his short article “The Pitfalls of Indie Fame” on Grantland, Chuck Klosterman captures something we have been trying to say on here forever. Don’t be put off by all the music jargon; he is using the critical success of the tUnE-yArDs debut record as an opportunity to reflect on the cruelty of the Law. Which may be particularly pronounced in the indie world (or any rarified/snobby setting for that matter), but the phenomenon is universal. The human relationship to righteousness is a troubled one, love/hate at best, and it finds expression in every possible arena. And while non-religious forms of Law may be more mercurial, they are no less demanding and impossible as religious ones. That is, no one escapes “judgmentalism” by avoiding church – it’s everywhere, ht SJ:

For the next 15 years, [tUnE-yArDs savant Merill Garbus] must validate other people’s belief in her own brilliance. There is no other option. Because if she doesn’t, those same people will view her inability to become transcendent as hilarious. They will look back at [her record] w h o k i l l and talk about it like it’s Cop Rock. And they’ll technically be making fun of themselves, but she’ll be the only person being criticized by name.

This happens all the time. It now seems super-funny that so many people once believed Arrested Development was among the most important bands of the early 1990s. The idea of anyone advocating the merits of Fischerspooner now seems totally ridiculous. It somehow seems crazy that Cornershop was previously viewed as luminous, even though their songs still sound good to me. It’s just an impossible problem: We always want to reward art for being innovative, but most artistic innovations are not designed to hold up over time. They exist as temporary reactions to other things happening within the culture. And that means they will seem goofy and dated when the culture changes again.

2. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the “new marriage killer” is… nagging. They go so far as to call it “an enemy of love.” Before you get your get your gender defenses up, rest assured, it’s not some anti-woman tirade or opportunity for male self-righteousness. That is, the root problems are evenly distributed. At least according to the experts they cite. Read between the lines and there’s a lesson (about judgment and fear) that applies to all of us:

It is possible for husbands to nag, and wives to resent them for nagging. But women are more likely to nag, experts say, largely because they are conditioned to feel more responsible for managing home and family life. And they tend to be more sensitive to early signs of problems in a relationship. When women ask for something and don’t get a response, they are quicker to realize something is wrong. The problem is that by asking repeatedly, they make things worse.

Men are to blame, too, because they don’t always give a clear answer. Sure, a husband might tune his wife out because he is annoyed; nagging can make him feel like a little boy being scolded by his mother. But many times he doesn’t respond because he doesn’t know the answer yet, or he knows the answer will disappoint her…

On another marriage-related note, in reference to Seal and Heidi Klum’s recently announced split, Slate asks the question, “Do Vow Renewals Always Mean Divorce?” According to their “research,” external solutions may not be effective when it comes to internal problems… Go figure.

3. One last downbeat article and I’ll let up, promise. The NY Times published a pretty interesting look at the difference between anxiety and fear this past week, Joseph Ledoux’s “Searching the Brain for the Roots of Fear.” A fitting follow-up to Blair’s excellent post from earlier this week.

Scientists generally define fear as a negative emotional state triggered by the presence of a stimulus (the snake) that has the potential to cause harm, and anxiety as a negative emotional state in which the threat is not present but anticipated. We sometimes confuse the two: When someone says he is afraid he will fail an exam or get caught stealing or cheating, he should, by the definitions above, be saying he is anxious instead.

But the truth is, the line between fear and anxiety can get pretty thin and fuzzy. If you [once saw a] snake at a particular rock on the path of your walk, and are now at that spot, the rock may stand in for the snake and elicit fear, even though the snake itself is nowhere to be found.  In modern life, many fear states are like this — they are brought on by things, signposts or signals that stand for harm rather than things that are truly harmful… [Anxiety] depends on the ability to anticipate, a capacity that is also present in some other animals, but that is especially well developed in humans.  We can project ourselves into the future like no other creature.

4. A few highlights from the theolosphere this past week: First, a hilarious entry from Mark Galli on his fear of worship music. Then there’s Ray Ortland’s inspired non-formula for (possible) growth. And our friend Tullian Tchividjian reproduced a golden passage from PZ’s Grace in Practice.

5. I lied. Back to dysfunction junction. USA Today took a look at the now cleverly-titled phenomenon known as Apatheism (AKA Religious Nones), collecting an impressive number of laugh-or-you’ll-cry soundbites, ht BZ. Obviously the people being interviewed haven’t heard that “religion helps us gain self-control” – !!

6. A few weeks ago, The Atlantic summed up a bunch of the willpower research/theory that we enjoy highlighting so much in their timely “Why You Don’t Go To The Gym.”

7. Big news in Film: Whit Stillman’s absurdly long-awaited Damsels in Distress has a domestic release date! April 6th in NYC and LA. Which means, of course, that it will be in theaters during the Spring Mockingbird Conference! In fact, I hereby volunteer to personally lead an outing the night before the conference, Thursday 4/18 for anyone who is in town (seriously). The countdown begins now…

In slightly more Hollywood-centered news, it’s hard not to feel for George Lucas when he announces his retirement by saying, “Why would I make any more [big budget movies] when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”

8. Finally, isn’t it wonderful how television has begun filling the cinematic void known as January these past few years? There may be no way for Downton Abbey to top its initial run, but that hasn’t made this season any less enjoyable. The third episode was particularly good. And I have to confess – I don’t quite understand the “too-soapy” criticisms. Was last season really that un-soapy? I mean, Turkish princes? It’s part of the fun. My only real gripe with the series would be that, given all the hullabaloo about historical accuracy, the complete lack of any religious dimension can be a bit distracting. But I could watch Maggie Smith read the phone book, or social registry, any day.

Then there’s Justified, which is off to a terrific start. How they continue to come up with villains that are simultaneously goofy and terrifying is beyond me. And the Timothy Olyphant-Walt Goggins chemistry is through the roof; with the possible exception of Jesse and Walt, they are the finest male leads on TV.  Do yourself a favor.