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    The Sad Optimism of La La Land

    The Sad Optimism of La La Land

    In the end of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone get what they’ve always wanted. Once it’s theirs, though, they realize it’s not what they were expecting. Stone’s imagination steers us through the final scene, a montage of what could have been. It’s funny and heartbreaking, in turns. Her quirky, unsuccessful play premiers to a sold out auditorium, and Gosling’s depressing gig playing mood music at a lousy restaurant wins impossible acclaim. It’s not what actually happened, and it’s not the way things ever happen.

    Happy endings are the stuff of fairytales. And though it feels like…

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    Arrival and the Problem with Drawing Lines

    Arrival and the Problem with Drawing Lines

    “Plenty of directors make violent movies. Denis Villeneuve makes movies about violence, which is not quite the same thing,” writes A.O. Scott in a review of last year’s Sicario. That film followed Emily Blunt as an idealistic FBI agent enlisted in an off-the-record task force fighting cartels. Another Villeneuve film, Prisoners, featured Hugh Jackman as a blue-collar father seeking vigilante justice for his children’s kidnappers. In both, characters decide to draw their own morality lines, using their better judgment and a perceived “greater good” as barometers for action. In Sicario, we see the effect of this thinking in institutions whereas in Prisoners…

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    Welcome to Westworld

    Welcome to Westworld

    HBO’s ambitious new show, “Westworld,” splits its time between a wild west-themed adult amusement park populated by humanoid robots and wealthy patrons and an off-site control room where scientists and technicians make sure everything runs without a hitch. The idea comes from a 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name, so you can bet that the robots will eventually rebel in some way (probably sans dinosaurs). The appeal of the park for visitors is that they can pursue their wildest fantasies with no apparent consequence. Some drink and gamble in the saloon before following a beckoning prostitute upstairs, and…

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    Karl Ove Knausgaard Loses Control

    Karl Ove Knausgaard Loses Control

    How I spend my time, what books I read, where I get my news, who I talk to and allow to influence me, these are the things I always want to manage (and micromanage). This is clearly a huge factor in my tendency to procrastinate. I don’t want to do that, so I put it off, forever. Of course, the truth of our psychology is that I am not my own person and never could be despite my protestations to the contrary. Too bad that never sinks in unless it’s forced on me.

    Occasionally, I recognize my desire for constant control….

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    Mr. Robot Wants to Save the World

    Mr. Robot Wants to Save the World

    “Watching a group of young people rebel against the one percent — these are not new ideas,” Portia Doubleday, a star of the hit show Mr. Robot, explained to an interviewer. “They’re things that as a society we’re all thinking but don’t know how to tackle. He’s just relating to what so many of us are wondering, but don’t say, and don’t have a platform to,” she said, referencing the show’s talented creator/writer/director, Sam Esmail. We’ve seen this whole young rebel thing done, she’s right, but any good iteration usually has something fresh to communicate, and Mr. Robot is no different….

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    Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

    Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

    In a particularly memorable chapter from his book, Falling Into Grace, John Newton (who’ll be speaking at our Fall Conference in Oklahoma City 10/28-29) opens with the story of “The Scorpion and the Frog.” You may already be familiar with the story, but I wasn’t, so I’ll run through it quickly:

    The scorpion is looking for a way to cross the river, but, for obvious anatomical reasons, he’s having a hard time finding anyone willing to give him a ride. He asks the frog, who says, “No way, you’ll sting me!” The scorpion eventually cajoles the frog into giving him a lift across the…

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    A-Rod's Legacy: It's Complicated

    A-Rod’s Legacy: It’s Complicated

    Normally, a great athlete announcing his/her retirement provides an opportunity to reflect on a legacy. Image-management, tweaking of narratives and ad nauseam SportsCenter coverage often ensue. For professional athletes, therefore, this can be viewed as a strategic opportunity to forge a lasting impact, like a President in the final year of his second term. Different players choose to handle the retirement issue in different ways. Michael Jordan retired three times, Brett Favre stumbled over it so much we were eventually begging him to leave and Peyton Manning stepped into his next job as Papa Johns and Budweiser PR-man on the…

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    Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

    Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

    Returning to an Episcopal Church during college after some years worshiping in different traditions, I was surprised that the various creeds and dictums came back to me quickly. It was so assuring to hear the words that I had been so familiar with growing up, finding them still there in the recesses of memory. When the pastor said, “Hear these comfortable words” after the Confession and the Prayers of the People, the scripture then, and also the familiar liturgy throughout, really were that to me: comfortable words. Dwelling on them in content was important, no doubt, and a few teaching series I’d…

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    Tidy Lies and Messy Truths in Flaked

    Tidy Lies and Messy Truths in Flaked

    In a few recent Netflix shows, Will Arnett plays existentially ambivalent and sometimes despondent characters with alcoholic tendencies. He voices the title role in Bojack Horseman, an animated series centering on a maladjusted former TV star who’s going broke and doesn’t know how to engage in a meaningful relationship. And in the more recent Flaked he plays Chip, an exemplary community member with a colored past, basically killing time before the lease runs out on his furniture store in Venice Beach. He produces both shows and has a larger hand in the creation and writing of the latter, which claims AA…

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    The Graduates (Almost): Thoughts on Church and Worship

    The Graduates (Almost): Thoughts on Church and Worship

    This is Part 2 of a multi-part series about college, faith, and the expectations of millennials from the perspective of two near-graduates: David and Lizzie, Mockingbird’s finest interns.

    In our first “Millennials” post, Lizzie and I discussed the confluence of work and play in college and the uncertainties in discerning our next steps. In the second, we thought about our church experiences as young people. We noticed, as we talked and wrote, that we spend a lot of time in worship, and that worship is rarely focused on Jesus, much less anything beyond our phone screens. For Lizzie, jamming out at a Widespread…

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    Thomas Wolfe and the Armor of Affect

    Thomas Wolfe and the Armor of Affect

    Growing up involves enduring moments of self-recognition that accompany moving through different life stages. Or so I’ve been told. This new knowledge offers an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus. I’ve been going through such a stage over the past month or so, wondering how much the self I have worked to build and project is a reflection of how I truly feel deep down and would like to be seen. Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time and The Rive–whose chest-puffing epigraph, “A Legend of Man’s Hunger in His Youth,” effectively characterizes the frenzied egotism at play in the book (and my…

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    Listening to Sad Tunes

    Listening to Sad Tunes

    I rely solely on my more knowledgeable friends to give me music suggestions and shape my listening habits. This is a good idea because I’m basically tone deaf, and it allows for a bit of an eclectic personal playlist (that, at least, is my hope). To find something I really like, I keep my ears open and wait to hear what sticks. This streamlined process led me to an old Deerhunter album called Halcyon Digest this week. I think it’s awesome, but it’s also really sad. So, as I listen obsessively, I’m wondering, why am I so hooked on this…

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