Matt is the Canon for Parish Life and Evangelism at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, AL, where he lives with his wife Hawley and two children. In addition to regularly contributing to Mockingbird, he is an amateur humorist and recently won The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest. He likes to ride bikes.
A yearly Christmas pleasure is King’s College at Cambridge’s famous Festival of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, nine lessons and nine carols with a beautiful choir and traditional music. For those who just can’t wait, here’s a bit of the rationale of the King’s College service, followed by an Mbird-friendly, fresh and down-to-earth spinoff to tide you over:
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who, at the age of thirty-four, had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that…
Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, is now in its fifth season. After four hit-or-miss seasons, the show really is getting better, and Seinfeld had one his most interesting guests recently: Bill Burr. One thing I love about the episode is the chemistry between Burr and Seinfeld. By the end of the episode they literally didn’t want to end it, and neither did I. Plus Burr had some gem riffs/monologues and one-liners. Seinfeld had his share, too.
Something I love about really great comics is that they “get it,” at least implicitly. They’re perceptive about life and human nature, and they are…
If you don’t know Humans of New York, it’s one of the few creative things worth following on Facebook. It is curated by a guy named Brandon who simply collects quotes and photos of the people he meets (mostly in New York City), posting them on his blog and social media. He has a huge following. I was struck by a recent post. It’s a down-to-earth presentation of a theology of the Cross versus one of glory:
“I’ve written so many stories and novellas that nobody will look at, plays that I can’t get produced, screenplays that will never be made. Everything is so branded these days in the art world, it’s so hard for an outsider to get work.”
“In what way would you consider yourself an ‘outsider?’”
“I’m interested in failure, so those are the themes that I like to explore. But we live in a society that celebrates triumphalism. A society wants art that reaffirms itself. We want to read about characters that win.”
“What was your lowest moment as an artist?”
“I worked on a screenplay for two years, and it had just been turned down by the fifth theater in a month, and I remember walking down 5th avenue in the middle of winter, tossing the pages one by one into the slush, vowing never to do it again. It was just a few blocks from here, actually.”
In the film Dead Poets Society, Neil Perry, a young prep school boy, goes against his father’s wishes and performs in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The father blames the boy’s teacher, John Keating (played by Robin Williams) for Neil’s disobedience, demanding Mr. Keating stay out of the boy’s life. In reaction to the situation, that evening Neil’s father takes him home, telling Neil he plans to enroll him in military school.
Later that night Neil, unable to handle the thoughts of his possible future, takes his own life.
Of course, today this plot holds a bitter irony since one of Robin…
I usually roll my eyes at and delete email forwards. But I just received one worth passing on that had the subject “The endings of All the fairy tales……….” The email included about a dozen images of fairytale, cartoon, and superhero characters later in life with children on their hips, grey hair, beer bellies, and the like. Maybe you received this one back in 1999 or thereabouts, and I’ll admit that the quality degraded as I scrolled down, but the first couple are gems:
To be honest, I didn’t even know Thomas Kinkade was dead. That was until I read this fascinating piece on Kinkade, America’s favorite sentimental “Painter of Light,” from The Daily Beast by Zac Bissonnette: “The Drunken Downfall of Evangelical America’s Favorite Painter.” I also had no idea Kinkade was (a) an Evangelical Christian and (b) an alcoholic. The story is at once alarming, yet not surprising, and ultimately really sad. Thus, I can’t help but explore it here.
(Before I move on, I should preface this essay by noting that Kinkade died on Good Friday two years ago, so I was probably distracted…
In our perennial pursuit of children’s books that address true-to-life issues, my wife and I recently stumbled across a gem at the library called Yours Truly, Louisa by Simon Puttock. The story explores a theme of passive aggression, which is not normally seen in children’s books, but it should be, given how pervasive an issue it is (and ultimately a dead end). As such, there is a theological undercarriage of the law, since passive aggressive communication tends to be a symptom of legalism. The book has a hopeful (almost Biblical) ending, though, that makes it all the more worthwhile.
It has been a Mockingbird tradition to highlight worthy graduation speeches amidst the vast sea of snoozers. As the spring commencement season approaches, I want to point out that Ed Helms, the actor who played Andy Bernard on The Office, will be giving a speech at Cornell University’s graduation on May 24. This is noteworthy because Andy Bernard, the sycophantic airhead with anger-management issues, always brags about how he went to Cornell (’93). “Ever heard of it?”
Helm’s upcoming speech is bound to go at least semi-viral just by his showing up at Cornell. But it’s even more likely to go viral…
The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbcher Goes to School (by Laurie Halse Anderson) is a children’s picture book about a young girl who has untamable red hair with a mind of its own. Zoe loves her hair, her parents love her hair, and last year, her free-spirited kindergarten teacher loved Zoe’s hair since it helped around the classroom, picking up trash, erasing the chalkboard, setting the snack table, and comforting the children during nap time. But things change this year when Zoe goes to first grade. “School has rules,” her new teacher, Ms. Trisk, likes to say. “No wild hair in…
In my perennial search for great children’s books written by people other than the beloved Sally Lloyd-Jones (there are few), I recently came across the clearest illustration of the law (demand) and grace (love) paradigm in storybook form: The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen. The story is about sad Mr. Fish, and all the other fish of the sea, who each in their own special way tell him to smile and cheer up. You know, what’s wrong with you? Mr. Fish’s constant refrain to these well-intended yet naive advice givers goes like this:
I’m a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face. So I spread the…
This is a clip from a longer interview on The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne, an Irish program on RTÉ Television (ht, AP). Much of what Bono says here overlaps portions of the book Bono: In Conversation With Michka Assayas that we’ve highlighted in the past. Bono seems to be in something of a league of his own as such a huge rockstar who is so open with his (solid) Christian faith, and he is articulate about it to boot. Watch the whole interview here.
By the way, did you happen to catch the amazing/dizzying U2 performance of “Invisible” on the roof of 30 Rock on the premier episode of The Tonight Show Staring Jimmy Fallon? Their acoustic set of “Ordinary Love” was pretty mesmerizing, too. Some worthy lyrics here:
‘Cause we can’t fall any further
If we can’t feel ordinary love
And we cannot reach any higher
If we can’t deal with ordinary love
Are we tough enough
For ordinary love
To the surprise of so many who watched, last week an Italian nun dominated The Voice of Italy by signing Alicia Keys’ “No One” in English. The absolute highlight of her appearance (which you can see in the video below) is when J-Ax, a heavily tattooed Italian rapper and one of the voice coaches, reacts with pure delight to Sister Cristina, including shedding a few tears of joy. Another highlight is that she says she auditioned for the sake of evangelism—something she claims Pope Francis inspired her to do. We are all ears, Sister! I also love that some of her fellow sisters appeared on the show in support.
Here are some highlights. Make sure you click “CC” on the video to get the English captions.
Question: What brought you here to The Voice?
Sister Cristina: I have a gift and I am giving it to you. Shouldn’t things be this way?
J-Ax: If I had met you during the Mass, when I was a child, now I would be Pope! I would surely have attended all the functions.
Sister Cristina: Well you have met me now.
Question: What does the Vatican say about you auditioning at The Voice?
Sister Cristina: Listen, I don’t really know. I am waiting for Pope Francesco to call me on the phone. He always says we should go out and evangelize telling God doesn’t take anything away from us but will give us more. I am here for this. [The audience erupts in applause, and J-Ax begins to cry.]
P.S. Have you seen this? Aaaauuugghhh!!!!!