Well, well, well. Here we go again, 2013 edition.

selfie_2658134b1) The Religion of Food. Well, as we might have said last year, and the year before that, it seems the foodie is here to stay. Of particular interest this year was the spirituality of food–things like Jay Z and Beyonce joining arms with the 22 Day Challenge. Jay Z pledges: “Why now? There’s something spiritual to me about it being my 44th birthday and the serendipity behind the number of days in this challenge; 22 (2+2=4) coupled with the fact that the challenge ends on Christmas day…It just feels right!” This is no news: food, in an environment of excess like ours, with unlimited grocery items and recipe books and dieting trends, provides us a privileged sense of culinary self-navigation. Often times we have framed it like a challenge, an opportunity to come anew to a cleaner, more elemental sense of who we are. 2013 was no exception that, when it comes to cleanses and fasts and fast-food rants, we are closer to believing, contrary to the Bread of Heaven Himself, that it is what goes into a man that defiles (and defines) him. And, of course, we’re never just talking about food here…

From the New Yorker:

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From Mockingbird: “When a Cleanse Is More than Just a Cleanse”

“Why Do We Judge People By the Food They Eat?”

“Why Your Dinner Doesn’t Look as Good as It Did Online”

“How Food Replaced Art as High Culture”

photo(1)2) The Selfie. I don’t know about you, but the phenomenon of the self-taken photograph seems to be less about where you are and more about displaying that you are. Out there. Somewhere. Countless selfies on our Newsfeeds are nowhere special, really–the grocery store, the bathroom, funerals (…)–and the real distinguisher is the face-trends you find people emulating. There’s a ironic duck face, the silly-and-aware-young-self-depricator, there’s the kissy-face, when a young (female, usually) person bites the inner parts of the cheek to hem out their cheekbones, resulting in a pain-pinched kiss look. Then there are also the guys who really go for, abs blazing in the bathroom mirror, sometimes carrying in one hand an instrument of violence (a gun, a sexual inuendo), sometimes flexing. (A segue to the sexting issue is obvious here for 2013.) Like social media in general, the selfie is a costless relationship to the world, a semblance amongst semblances that can be edited, filtered, and retaken without hesitation to consider the process. A selfie can relate to/mimic the selfies trending on the web and create, through a kind of self-portrait, a way into that world. No risks necessary doesn’t really do it justice.

From the Onion: “Man Taking Photo With iPad Oblivious to How Badass He Looks”

From Mockingbird: “Don’t Look Now But Your Soul Toupee Is Showing”

“The Return of the Selfie”

“Peacocking Culture of Me: The Selfie Phenomenon”

“The Me Me Me Generation vs. The Me Decade”

3) The Wrecking Ball herself. It didn’t begin with the VMA twerk, but that’s what did it, and what more can be said than what Sarah Condon wrote of it not long ago (see below)? After shedding, quite publicly and quite audaciously, the Hannah Montana that made her famous, made her Miley to the world, the public rode her out on a rail for weeks. But not before she rode another rail, quite willingly, in a music video, connected to a, the, Wrecking Ball, singing “All I wanted was to break your walls / All you ever did was break me.” This didn’t help, at least for all the folks who saw her antics as a cry for help. It seems, for Miley’s 2013–which, to MTV, means “Miley Called the Shots in 2013″–there’s a real confusion about what “calling the shots” really means; and what it means to have regained a sense one’s celebrity, one’s career path, by way of becoming an object of absurd cultural commentary (at best) or a slutty version of self-sabotage (at worst). Either way, it’s clear neither Hannah Montana nor VMA Ratchet-Twerker is Miley Liberated, and lots of people are riding the Wrecking Ball with her, of that we can be sure.

From the Onion. Prescient, to say the least:


Entertainment Scientists Warn Miley Cyrus Will Be Depleted by 2013

From Mockingbird: “This Ain’t Your Mama’s Broken Miley”

“As Long as You’re Watching People Having Sex, You Could Be Learning Something”

“What Miley Teaches Us About Being Human”

“Topping the Charts in the Internet Era”

ethan4) Death and suicide. Whereas the anxious mind seemed to be the existential entry point last year, we’re thinking a lot about death lately. And despite the fact that this is the launch point for PZ’s Panopticon, it’s not just us. We are hearing about Death Apps for your iPhone, Obamacare and “Death Panel” paranoia, and even Tanya Luhrmann talked about the presence of dead souls abiding with their loved ones long after they’ve died. And that’s not even to mention suicide, the fact that the CDC’s study showed a 31% increase in suicides in the last 10 years. It is, they say, an “epidemic.” What does this mean for us? Where do we go with the question of our deaths, and its answer, in the Christian framework? What do we say about the appalling emotions we feel with such occurrences, when they come near? Where–if anywhere–is there a word of comfort for the unanswerable question of the end? It seemed, this year, that people wanted to talk about it…we certainly did.

From Mockingbird: Reflections on an Epidemic (and the Most Important News of the Year?)

From Mockingbird: Announcing PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religions

“The Suicide Epidemic”

“In the Presence of All Souls”

“Mortify Our Wolves”

photo-15) Pope Francis. Just this week, I was gchatting with a friend who commented that he’d never before seen so much talk about a religious figure, for such a sustained period of time, in such a positive light. I know I’ve been a Christian long enough to trust that those words are always the famous last ones–”successful” churches facing pastor scandals, celebrated Christian non-profits skimming from the top, etc.–but something really beautiful, and really radical, is going on in the Vatican. His first Apostolic Exhortation came out just in the last month, he wrote, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.” He kisses the disfigured. He has left the pope-mobile. And did you know he was a nightclub bouncer in college?

From the Onion: “Vatican Quickly Performs Damage Control on Pope’s Tolerant Remarks”

From Mockingbird: “What’s Wrong with the New Pope? A Commentary on the Commentary of the Most Recent Interview”

“This Revolutionary Pope”

“Like Pope Francis? You’ll Love Jesus”

“Is Pope Francis Leaving the Vatican at Night to Minister to the Homeless?”

Have I missed any? Let’s hear them! And more importantly, let’s see some ironic selfies!