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A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma...

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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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    How to be Hip and Cool According to Infinite Jest

    How to be Hip and Cool According to Infinite Jest

    I have a strong hunch that I’m a cynic, and I don’t like it. So whenever people I respect sound off about cynicism, I’m all ears. If you spot it, you got it and if you got it, you spot it, after all. David Foster Wallace offers a piercing insight into cynicism and the human condition in this passage from Infinite Jest:

    It’s of some interest that the lively arts of the millennial U.S.A. treat anhedonia and internal emptiness as hip and cool. It’s maybe the vestiges of the Romantic glorification of Weltschmerz, which means world weariness or hip ennui. Maybe…

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    Forgiveness in Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Novels

    Forgiveness in Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Novels

    This week I’ve waded deep into the world of Patrick Melrose. He’s from the upper crust in Britain, and if his world of ten thousand dollar weekend splurges in NYC and posh dinner parties in the English countryside aren’t quite applicable to my life, the pressure he feels to interpret and weave together his threads of experience into a meaningful story (and an ugly form of self-absorption that only serves to breed dread and guilt) most definitely are.

    Edward St. Aubyn’s acclaimed series of novels pick up with Patrick at the age of five and carries him through an abusive relationship…

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    The Internet and the Ache in Franzen’s Purity

    The Internet and the Ache in Franzen’s Purity

    Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, came out last week, and although it temporarily cost me some good moods and positive self-regard, I got through it. Franzen has a real knack for exposing the ugly personal implications behind most of my daily behaviors. He has a low anthropology, which is partially why his writing is so attractive. Purity includes his take on what the Internet and social media mean for the contemporary self as well as his accurate insights into relationships and family life, achieved so memorably in Freedom and The Corrections. This book gets in your face but also boasts…

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    Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

    Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

    Set to start my senior year of college, a few interactions from my first semester in Charlottesville still stick with me. One was a question my advisor asked me as I anxiously slumped into a chair in his office for the first time. The second is a comment I made over lunch with a professor I respect and am hugely intimidated by.

    The question that sent me squirming in my seat was a seemingly simple one: “What are you passionate about?” … Crickets. He prodded, offering up easy suggestions for an 18-year-old male: sports, food, money, girls … “Sex?” he even asked, in…

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    Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

    Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

    “You suffer from despair,” Emma Stone tells Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the trailer for Woody Allen’s new movie, Irrational Man. “It was at this moment that my life came together,” Phoenix chimes in later via voiceover, “I’m Abe Lucas, I’ve had many experiences and now a unique one … This was the meaningful act I was searching for!” With this exclamation, he seems to have shaken his despair, assumedly the inner conflict that the film will center around. But, unless Woody Allen has had an extreme change of religious conviction, I suspect that Phoenix’s transcendent, unique act won’t lead to…

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    Check, Please!

    Check, Please!

    Being a college student means asking for separate checks at restaurants. Generally, my friends and I wait until the end of the meal to say, “Oh yea, could you split those up by the way? Yeah that’d be great, thanks,” as if it was an afterthought and the waiter/waitress had no idea what was coming all along. In truth, splitting up checks is pretty annoying. It means more buttons pressed and cards swiped and pens gathered, and I do often feel pangs of guilt asking servers to do it. But generally they’re accommodating, and they know what to expect when…

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    Alfred Hitchcock: Artist of Anxiety

    Alfred Hitchcock: Artist of Anxiety

    Alfred Hitchcock agreed to sit down with François Truffaut for a five-day interview in August 1962. The Frenchman aimed to pick the master’s brain and snag some good tidbits for interested cinephiles. Gradually, their conversation started to flow and the product was a wonderful book. In its introduction, Truffaut calls Hitchcock an “artist of anxiety.” While he is pointing at his knack for touching on our “nighttime, metaphysical anxieties,” I found the examples of Hitchcock’s own daily worries very interesting.

    Here’s Hitchcock on his anxious desire to keep everything running according to plan:

    I’m full of fears and I do my best…

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    Vast Construction Work in O’Connor’s Wise Blood

    A quick passage from Flannery’s first novel, Wise Blood, that comes just after protagonist Hazel Motes has arrived in Taulkinham (“Town of the Little Cross”). The following doubles as both a dark look at how consumerism has limited our vision and a metaphor for O’Connor’s fiction falling on unreceptive ears:

    His second night in Taulkinham, Hazel Motes walked along down town close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky. The stores in Taulkinham stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.

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    Motes goes on to found the “Church Without Christ” and preaches from atop the hood of his car before blinding himself with lime and ending up dead in a ditch (can you say BLEAK!?). Yet despite his efforts to physically blind himself, he still has the tools to see Christ. He desires after the truth that O’Connor’s fiction tries to present. But he’s not quite there yet. Fortunately, the beauty of the prose – the description of the sky as God’s “vast construction work” – is also an encouraging reminder of His presence in and around us.

     

    Gospel According to Pixar: Inside Out

    Gospel According to Pixar: Inside Out

    The reviews for Pixar’s latest, Inside Out, are not just hype. I went to see the movie on Tuesday night, and I’m still processing different parts of it, which to me is always the sign of a goodie. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Pixar: appealing to all ages – wholesome, charming fun for kids and adults but still emotionally rich and thought-provoking.

    Here are two things that I thought the movie did really well and stick out as reasons to go see it: the wonderful, gospel-infused treatment of memory and the strong examples of self-sacrificial love.

    Before I get…

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    Jurassic World and Facebook Elegies

    Jurassic World and Facebook Elegies

    Sitting in a breezy movie theater waiting for Jurassic World to start, my friend looked up from his Facebok timeline to ask me a question. We had been talking earlier about the devastating death of a friend and classmate, and in the last hour it had started to dominate our News Feed. “Dude, are we supposed to like these posts?” He asked. “It doesn’t seem quite right.”

    In this day and age, it seems like nothing has truly happened until it’s documented online. As the saying goes, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” Jacob Silverman wrote an article with the phrase as…

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    Reading Memoirs: David’s Little Helper

    Reading Memoirs: David’s Little Helper

    I love reading memoirs. Turning to personal accounts of people’s paths through life is fun; it allows me to enter into their experiences for a while. I can’t deny, though, that implicit in my reading is a vague desire to live vicariously through the subject. I read stories to be transported and transformed. Art that deserves merit can have this transformative effect, but with memoirs I think my aim is less lofty. Some of the more memorable ones I’ve encountered were by Chuck Lidell, Rob Lowe and Jony Ive, among others– an eclectic bunch, yes, but all with flourishes of…

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