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About David Peterson

David graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016 and has been at Mockingbird since 2015. He helped edit Mockingbird at the Movies and produce the Mockingcast. David especially likes going to matinees solo and then writing about them.

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    It Comes at Night and the Fear of Grief

    It Comes at Night and the Fear of Grief

    If you’ve caught any trailers for It Comes at Night, you know it’s a scary one. I went to see it the other day, and, preparing for the worst, I took a seat near the back and nestled in behind my popcorn. Sensing a particularly horrific part coming, I fixed my eyes at a corner of the screen. Alas the scares came too suddenly for me to look away, but for the most part, I didn’t want to. In Trey Edward Shults’ second feature, not all was as it seemed. It Comes at Night promised something sinister lurking outside the red…

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    The NBA Finals, Finally

    The NBA Finals, Finally

    The NBA playoffs have come to their long awaited climax: the third straight Finals matchup between the Cavaliers and Warriors. Neither team has been slowed down at all thus far. The Warriors are 12-0 and the Cavs are 12-1. The average margin of victory across the playoffs has been a disappointingly wide 13.5 points, and both teams made quick work of their conference finals foes – including 30+ point beat downs of the Spurs and Celtics, respectively. So there’s a lot of pressure on this series to deliver.

    Still, there have been some memorable moments in these playoffs: the electric first round matchup of…

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    Entry of the Gods Into Alien: Covenant

    Entry of the Gods Into Alien: Covenant

    The latest Alien movie is in theatres, and it’s a lot like the others, which means tons of casualties, and robots can’t be trusted. A few wrinkles separate Covenant, though. First, Danny McBride is in this one, and he’s a convincing space cowboy. He knows his John Denver, and he won’t rest until the crew is rescued. “We didn’t come here to be safe,” he says. Next, we have a rather sad depiction of Christianity in Billy Crudup. He wants to do the faithful thing, but the multitude of monsters make it difficult for him. Finally, Michael Fassbender plays two…

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    When the World Tastes Like Cold French Fries

    When the World Tastes Like Cold French Fries

    Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood is a small collection of essays printed in a charming paperback edition, and it’s perfect for carrying around this summer. A poet by inclination, Chew-Bose’s essays are lyrical and wonderfully meandering, especially the lead, “Heart Museum.” This passage is from a little further along in the book, in a piece called “Miserable.” She shows great sensitivity and power illustrating the world’s ability to disappoint.

    As a child, a Slinky stalled on a flight of steps caused me acute stress. The way it would cede to its coils — sometimes pause and appear to levitate — and then fail, abandoning…

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    Transhumanism: No More Death

    Transhumanism: No More Death

    “Unreal City,
    Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
    A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
    I had not thought death had undone so many.”
     – T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland.

    In an excellent essay for n+1, Meghan O’Gieblyn connects transhumanism’s striving take on human perfectibility with Christian eschatology. “Ghost in the Cloud: Transhumanism’s Simulation Theology” draws on the writer’s personal history to provide a well-considered take on what an increasing reverence for technology might mean for our spirituality.

    O’Gieblyn describes her first encounter with Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines after a co-worker lent her a…

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    A Passage from William Deresiewicz's Excellent Sheep

    A Passage from William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep

    William Deresiewicz (who will be speaking at our upcoming conference on Friday afternoon, 4/28!) made waves in 2008 when the American Scholar published his essay, “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” His full length book from 2011, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, expounded upon the earlier essay and was a bestseller. The book’s premise is that kids arrive at Ivy league schools and other elite colleges proven experts at jumping through hoops. But beyond their noteworthy ability to ace tests, students are woefully unprepared for the real world. Deresiewicz found,…

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    The Idiot Redux

    The Idiot Redux

    Elif Batuman takes the title of her first novel, The Idiot, from a Dostoevsky classic. Her young protagonist, Selin, mirrors the innocent Prince Myshkin of the Russian novel. Although an allusion to that giant makes Batuman’s literary ambitions clear, for her sharp narrator, the title may be too self-deprecating. Selin’s a Turkish-American student starting at Harvard with dreams of becoming a writer. From the first pages, we are introduced to her primary writing medium for her early college years: email. Batuman said that when she first finished a draft of the novel in 2001, she had no idea that the…

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    March Madness Preview

    March Madness Preview

    The NCAA tournament, that glorious spectacle that only comes but once a year, is finally upon us. Sportswriter Bob Ryan said that if the field of 68 duked it out six times, we’d have six different winners. Sounds like brackets will be busted early and often, which, in my view, makes for the most enjoyable viewing experience. Sure, Michigan State was my pick last year (sorry Hoos), but I was stoked to see Middle Tennessee State do the unthinkable and knock off Sparty in the first round. Once my dreams of a perfect bracket are shattered, usually in the first…

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    Big Little Deaths

    Big Little Deaths

    In a memorable section of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Daedalus comes upon a relatively large sum of money and squanders it, prodigal son style. Daedalus shifts several times in the novel from extreme penitence and self-denial to full-on pursuit of his sinful desires. This tension between reverence for accepted teachings and the rebellious grandiosity of youth is fertile ground in literature, and well-traveled mental territory for an angsty young man. But groping after a higher plateau, an intimation of immortality, comes at a price. Whether it’s listening to upbeat music in a packed concert…

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    More from Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote

    In an excellent chapter from The Antidote, Oliver Burkeman (who will be speaking at the 10th anniversary conference in April!) analyzes our obsession with setting goals. “Goal Crazy” zeroes in on the 1996 disaster at the summit of Mount Everest, documented most memorably in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Burkeman’s insight that the goals we set often become assimilated into our identities has strong resonances of Law. We are so uncomfortable with the undeserved gift of grace that we create goals for ourselves and then lament our inadequacies when we fail to meet them. Aided by the work of “stockbroker turned expert on organisational behavior,” Chris Kayes, Burkeman writes,

    The Everest climbers, Kayes suspected, had been ‘lured into destruction by their passion for goals.’ His hypothesis was that the more they fixated on the endpoint – a successful summiting of the mountain – the more that goal became not just an external target but a part of their own identities, of their sense of themselves as accomplished guides or high-achieving amateurs … ‘The more uncertain climbers felt about their possible success in reaching the summit,’ as Kayes puts it, ‘the more likely they were to invest in their particular strategy.’ A bizarre self-reinforcing loop took hold (Notes of Mental Health Issue here): team members would actively seek out negative information about their goal – looking for evidence of weather patterns, for example, that might render the West Ridge approach even more risky than usual – which would increase their feelings of uncertainty. But then, in an effort to extinguish their uncertainty, the climbers would increase their emotional investment in their decision. The goal, it seemed, had become a part of their identity, and so their uncertainty about the goal no longer merely threatened the plan; it threatened them as individuals. They were so eager to eliminate these feelings of uncertainty that they clung ever harder to a clear, firm and specific plan that provided them with a sense of certainty about the future – even though that plan was looking increasingly reckless.

    Burkeman continues the chapter with a discussion of how uncomfortable we are with uncertainty. His prescribed antidote, embracing our fragility, sounds a lot like belief, and Christ’s parables of the Kingdom:

    “Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities – for success, for happiness, for really living – are waiting. ‘To be a good human,’ concludes the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum, applying this perspective to her own field of ethics, ‘is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertainty, and on a willingness to be exposed. It’s based on being more like a plant than a jewel: something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.'”

    20th Century Women and Guilty Filmmakers

    20th Century Women and Guilty Filmmakers

    If I need another reminder of my overwhelming guilt and shame, I can always turn to the movies. It’s perverse, but I definitely derive some libidinal satisfaction in recognizing guilt on screen. Over the years we’ve seen various heroes or, more appropriately, antiheroes of this ilk. Martin Scorsese’s developed an impressive oeuvre on the subject. Manchester by the Sea overtly depicted a man dealing with it. You don’t have to look far. Movies like this do well to highlight the fact that we mess up. The gap between who we aspire to be and who we really are is significant….

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    What Kids Can Teach Us About Screens

    What Kids Can Teach Us About Screens

    Devorah Heitner, who was interviewed on our podcast back in October, recently wrote an interesting article on the themes from her book, Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. The kids in the piece demonstrate quite a grasp of the ambiguities and pitfalls of constant connectivity.

    Heitner’s stance is that children are “digital natives” – this is the water they grow up swimming in. While generous towards their sometimes excessive usage, she also recognizes the hand of the Law in the social media landscape. Here, she addresses the tight-rope walk of curating an appealing online self-image: “Middle school…

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