New Here?
     
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.

Contact

Author Archive
    
    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…

    Read More > > >

    From Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote

    Last week, DZ posted from Oliver Burkeman’s excellent article on time management and the law of unread emails. I just finished up his 2012 book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, and, boy, good points of connection abound. Trying to get to the bottom of why we have such difficulty doing what we are told to do, or, rather, not doing what we are told not to do, Burkeman uses a study conducted by Daniel Wegner at Harvard’s ‘Mental Control Laboratory.’

    When you try not to think of a white bear, you may experience some success in forcing alternative thoughts into your mind. At the same time, though, a metacognitive monitoring process will crank into action, to scan your mind for evidence of whether you are succeeding or failing at the task. And this is where things get perilous, because if you try too hard – or, Wegner’s studies suggest, if you are tired, stressed, depressed, attempting to multi-task, or otherwise suffering from ‘mental load’ – metacognition will frequently go wrong. The monantidote-oliver-burkemanitoring process will start to occupy more than its fair share of limelight on the cognitive stage. It will jump to the forefront of consciousness – and suddenly, all you will be able to think about is white bears, and how badly you’re doing at not thinking about them.

    Could it be that … our efforts to feel positive seem so frequently to bring about the opposite result? … When experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content. Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss. Our efforts at mental suppression fail in the sexual arena, too: people instructed not to think about sex exhibit greater arousal, as measured by the electrical conductivity of their skin, than those instructed to suppress such thoughts.

    He concludes this chapter, entitled “On Trying Too Hard to be Happy,” with the metaphor of a Chinese finger trap. In the case of striving for our own happiness, he writes, “‘doing the presumably sensible thing is counterproductive.’ Following the negative path to happiness is about doing the other thing – the presumably illogical thing – instead.” In other words, try to climb out of that ditch and before long human nature kicks in, handing down a shovel.

    One Reader's Favorite Fiction from 2016

    One Reader’s Favorite Fiction from 2016

    My two favorite entertainments this year were Greg Jackson’s Prodigals – a collection of short stories on seekers at various life stages – and Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash – a sleek, psychological drama set on a gorgeous Italian island. This post is about books, but I wanted to mention the film because it hasn’t appeared on the site yet, and it’s one that our consumption patterns indicate could be of interest. Here’s a scene from the movie that’s up there with the “City of Stars” montage in La La Land and Michelle Williams’ impromptu run-in with Casey Affleck in Manchester…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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….

    Read More > > >

    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….

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >