1. “I am not Jesus, but I have the same initials.” Thus sang Jarvis Cocker on the classic Pulp track “Dishes” (at bottom), and it now looks like he has a new contender to the throne, Tim Riggins himself, Mr. John Carter of Mars. That’s right: Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton’s first live-action feature is out this weekend, and the consensus thus far is that there’s no consensus. Some claim that it’s an overblown mess, others that it’s the sort of exceedingly fun pulp adventure that doesn’t get made anymore. But Stanton is a filmmaker that I trust over any of his critics. That said, the trailers and publicity have been light on plot details, so I was surprised to stumble on Slate’s suspicious sounding, “How Christian is John Carter?” Don’t read it if you don’t want some plot spoilers. Suffice it to say, Carter’s messianic trajectory in the film contains more than a few echoes of Tim Riggins’ trajectory in season four of Friday Night Lights (“once you see the Jesus Christ in his John Carter, it’s hard to unsee it”). What we can safely reproduce is the tidbit that Slate dug up of Stanton talking about his last film, the delightful WALL*E:

The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that’s not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say—that irrational love defeats the world’s programming.”

2. On a WALL*E-related note, a couple of interesting bits about the role of ‘choice’ (and Law) when it comes obesity cropped up this week. “You’re Fat and You Know It: Why Government Anti-Obsesity Efforts Fail” points out the impotence of information when it comes to willpower, while Jonah Lehrer discusses the epidemic in terms of addiction over at The Wall Street Journal. Thank God for McSweeney’s, which produced a helpful guide about how to remember units of measurement, a couple examples of which include:

Pint: The amount of ice cream eaten in one sitting that guarantees shame.

Minute: The amount of time you must listen to your cell phone ring before it goes to voicemail if you don’t want the caller to know you’re avoiding their call.

Day: The time it takes to prepare before doing something you don’t want to.

3. An incredible find by Wesley Hill over at Writing in the Dust is Mary Karr’s televised comments on the James Frey scandal of a few years ago:

The most privileged, comfortable person in this auditorium, from the best family, has already suffered the torments of the damned. I don’t think any of us get off this planet without suffering enormously. And one of the chief ways we suffer is by loving people who are incredibly limited by the fact that they’re human beings, and they’re gonna disappoint us and break our hearts…. Your parents — no matter how great their marriage was, at some point [it] trembled in its foundation, and it was terrifying. And you fell in love with someone who didn’t fall in love with you back. Or whatever. We are all heartbroken. It’s the human condition….

The thing I was gonna say about [James] Frey is, the sad thing was he didn’t think his suffering — from being an alcoholic and trying to get sober — he didn’t think that whatever his level of suffering was, was sufficient. [But,] you know, you don’t have to go to Auschwitz to suffer.

Karr is fantastic, and very funny. She goes on to give her definition of a dysfunctional family, i.e. “any family with more than one person in it.” I can’t recommend the interview in question more highly, and not just because of her unbelievable wisdom (and courage) in regards to her own tendency toward self-justification. This woman is a fount of insight on pretty much all our favorite subjects (grace, Jesus, alcoholism, suffering, creativity, compulsion, humor, happiness, literature, love, judgment, marriage, WASP culture, entertainment, etc etc etc):

4. Speaking of the human condition, Science Daily told us last week that, “Winning Makes People More Aggressive Toward the Defeated” ht JD:

“It seems that people have a tendency to stomp down on those they have defeated, to really rub it in,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. “Losers, on the other hand, don’t really act any more aggressively than normal against those who defeated them.”

5. Back at the box office, the always insightful Andrew O’Hehir wrote a column for Salon entitled “When Harry Met Sally — And Ruined the Rom-Com,” in which he makes a few bold if undeniable claims, which inadvertently underline the point about endings I was trying to make in my review of Broadway Danny Rose:

“Friends With Kids,” an enjoyable new indie comedy that marks the directing debut of writer and actress Jennifer Westfeldt (best known for “Kissing Jessica Stein” in 2001 and her recurring role on TV’s “Notes From the Underbelly”), has a lot going for it. But its excellent collective craftsmanship, its rampant dirty talk and its gloss of contemporary metropolitan morality only convey the appearance of novelty and flexibility, while in fact the underlying formula is as rigid as the sonnet.

…do you have even the slightest particle of doubt about what’s going to happen at the end of “Friends With Kids”? Or about the kinds of second-act and third-act reversals the two characters will go through, or about the scenes where one of them is alone in tears and another is alone and grim-faced on the rainy streets of Brooklyn, while whiny indie-pop plays on the soundtrack? …I mean, I guess you do have a particle of doubt, and I did too, because while you’re watching a movie it’s just human nature to imagine the possibility that it could end up resembling real life. But in another, more analytical part of our minds we understand that the doubt is, in itself, the desired effect, and isn’t to be taken seriously.

6. A couple of recently discovered Onion treasures include “Mother’s Anxiety Soothed by Anxious Phone Call from Son” and “Thing That Rest Of Room Immediately Forgot Man Said To Be Remembered By Man With Deep Shame For Rest Of His Life”

7. Next, Tullian Tchividjian gave us a stunning devotion this week on “One-Way Love.” And Andy Whitman’s review of the new Springsteen record, by all accounts the Boss’s most Christ-haunted collection, is certainly worth your time over at Christianity Today. Sounds like par for the latter-day Springsteen course, that is, a healthy mixture of broad character studies and quasi-Gospel anthems that appeal simultaneously (and a bit confusingly) to the human spirit and something more transcendent without ever approaching the musical ambition of his earlier albums.

8. Finally, in the strange bedfellows department, how could we not mention Pat Robertson’s out-of-nowhere endorsement of the legalization of marijuana?! Say what you will about the issue or the man (and there’s a lot to say!), the soundbite that Slate grabbed was far from what we’ve come to expect, ht AZ: “I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up.”

p.s. Ten more days until the Early Bird rates expire for the Spring Conference!