Another Year Ends: Best Teacher Ever, Instagram Envy, Tyson on Kierkegaard, Elf Code Origins, Johnny Football, DFW Cobainification, Atheist Gospelby David Zahl on Dec 20, 2013 • 4:32 pm 1 Comment
1. Grab your kleenex, cause here comes the one way love, ht JZ:
2. The NY Times lobbed one straight over the plate last Sunday with “The Agony of Instagram,” a look into “an online culture where the ethic is impress, rather than confess.” It’s fairly one-sided of course–Instagram is just as much an outlet for inspiration and creativity as it is identity curation and law–but still, a few of the soundbites are just too tempting not to reproduce:
For many urban creative professionals these days, it’s not unusual to scroll through one’s Instagram feed and feel suffocated by fabulousness: There’s one friend paddling in the surf at Positano under a fiery Italian sunset. Another is snapping away at a sweaty Thom Yorke from the third row at an Atoms for Peace concert in Austin. Yet another is sipping Champagne in Lufthansa business class en route to Frankfurt, while a fourth is huddling with friends over omakase at Masa.
Members of the Facebook generation are no strangers to the sensation of feeling a little left out when their friends post from that book party they weren’t invited to, or from someone’s latest transporting trip to the white sands of Tulum. Yet even for those familiar with the concept of social-media envy, Instagram — the highest achievement yet in social-media voyeurism — presents a new form of torture…
“[There's my Instagram friend] in Cannes, she’s in New Mexico. She’s in Abu Dhabi for a film shoot. She’s going to Holland. She was just at Jared Harris’s wedding on a yacht in Miami,” Ms. Benincasa said. “I’m standing there in my stained sweatpants, I was thinking, ‘I really need to up my game in life.’ “…
Instagram envy may constitute the most first-world of problems, but it is starting to attract the attention of some lab-coat types like Andrew Przybylski, a psychologist and research fellow at the University of Oxford, who are going so far as to try to quantify FOMO (fear of missing out) and finding that Instagram is the biggest culprit among social networks.
On the upside, sort of, The Wall Street Journal tried to explain “Why Our Online Persona Is Needier Than Our Real One.”
3. A great Riff from Mark O’Connell on the relationship between self doubt and creativity–particularly the dubious phenomenon known as the “inner critic”–appeared in the NY Times Magazine, under the title “The Dutch-Elm Disease of the Creative Mind”, ht JD:
I’ve spent so much of my adult life writing criticism — as an academic and then as a former academic writing about books and culture — that I have begun to detect a sort of hypertrophic enlargement of the part of my brain that looks at what the other parts are doing or planning to do and says, “Sorry, chief, but that’s not going to cut it.” My concern here is that I have inadvertently allowed my inner critic to become the writer in residence of my very soul.
4. If you missed “Mike Tyson Explores Kierkegaard” in The Wall Street Journal last week, do yourself a favor! Not much actual exploring, truth be told, but Iron Mike nevertheless seems physically incapable of giving bad copy:
Alexander, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, even a cold pimp like Iceberg Slim—they were all mama’s boys. That’s why Alexander kept pushing forward. He didn’t want to have to go home and be dominated by his mother. In general, I’m a sucker for collections of letters. You think you’ve got deep feelings? Read Napoleon’s love letters to Josephine. It’ll make you think that love is a form of insanity. Or read Virginia Woolf’s last letter to her husband before she loaded her coat up with stones and drowned herself in a river.
5. Rooted posted a terrific talk from Mbird contributor Cameron Cole on “Johnny Manziel, Martin Luther, and the Goodness of Badness.”
6. In the humor department, Buzzfeed’s “21 Comics that Capture the Frustrations of Depression” contains a bunch you will have seen, but a couple of worthy new finds as well. While we’re on the subject of unhappiness, Oliver Burkeman contributed a sympathetic editorial for the Times about how the pressure some bosses put on their employees to have fun backfires. Nothing rules out a good time like the commandment Thou Shalt Have a Blast (pun intended). He writes, ht CB:
The pressure to maintain a cheery facade in such workplaces can be stressful and exhausting in itself, a form of what the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild called “emotional labor.”… The attempt to impose happiness is self-sabotaging. Psychologists have shown that positive-thinking affirmations make people with low self-esteem feel worse; that patients with panic disorders can become more anxious when they try to relax; and that an ability to experience negative emotions, rather than struggling to exclude them, is crucial for mental health.
7. Next, this is is fantastic (and uplifting!). Over at Liberate, Buddy the Elf–that’s not a typo–wrote a short piece on “The Lost (Christian) Origins of the Elf Code”. A true must-read. And while you do so, treat yourself (and your loved ones) to Yule Log 2.0.
8. Following the announcement of a Jason Segal-starring DFW movie, The New Statesman laments what they see as the creeping “Cobainification of David Foster Wallace”. Fair enough:
Wallace isn’t an aphorist. For me, what makes his fiction so good is that it’s hard – not “difficult” in an elitist sense, but just in that it wants you to work with him, to dig towards something half-remembered and hard to grasp and maybe, just maybe, true. The Wallace of This Is Water – and the Wallace of popular culture – is a fortune-cookie merchant: the artist as life coach.
This is why the idea of a Wallace movie makes me so uneasy. Not just because it’s insensitive, and not just because there’s no way it won’t get twisted into some awful, jarring morality tale about genius and suicide. It’s because a Hollywood DFW feels like the final step in the canonisation – or maybe the Cobainification – of David Foster Wallace.
9. Finally, on The AV Club, Jason Heller asks “What Makes an Atheist Love Religious Music?” and the question prompts a fabulous little essay, as well as a cool overview of some outre gospel. Elsewhere on that site, their selection of Enlightened as the Best TV Show of 2013 may feel a little aggressively contrarian, but even if the Armenian conclusions leave a bit/lot to be desired, Todd VanDerWerff’s observations about how hard it is to make a decent show about doing good (vs doing bad) will certainly get you thinking. And speaking of good shows and the possibility of redemption:
P.P.S. While we’ll keep posting fresh content over the next few (holiday) weeks, the pace will be significantly slower.
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