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.
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!!!!!
Despite my instincts to steer clear of self help literature, I recently read Stephen R. Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Can anything good come from the self help genre? To my surprise, yes, especially this excerpted section below on “Scripting Others” from Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw (basically, self care). In the following section he talks about something akin to imputation—the act of attributing to someone a trait not otherwise natural to themselves.
At some time in your life, you probably had someone believe in you when you didn’t believe in yourself. They scripted you. Did that…
On the viral video front, there is an incredible story circulating about Kevin Richardson, the so-call “Lion Whisperer,” a South African zoologist (not the Backstreet Boy) who playfully interacts with lions and hyenas on animal sanctuaries. While watching the video, I kept thinking to myself this guy is crazy and going to end up like the Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin or Timothy Treadwell, the subject of the film Grizzly Man, who were both killed by the wild animals they studied. In comparison though, there is something very fascinating and almost otherworldly about how comfortable Richardson is with these lions—they actually know him and…
Sunday was Groundhog Day. As is my tradition (and should be yours if it isn’t already), I watched Groundhog Day the film, again (BING!). I also watched the DVD extras, which include some fascinating commentary from director Harold Ramis, also of Stripes, Caddyshack, and (Egon in) Ghostbusters fame. Unfortunately, the DVD special features I want to share with you are not available online, but I found a very similar and short interview with Ramis below. In these interviews he explains why the film continues to be a timeless existential classic applicable to anyone’s life situation, or religion, capable of saying new things to them each time they watch it. By the way, if you haven’t seen Groundhog Day yet, it’s about time—don’t wait till next February. Buy it so you can watch the special features.
I recently read Tim Keller’s book on work, Every Good Endeavor. One of the most important takeaways for me was learning more about John Coltrane, who is the inspiration for Keller’s title. Keller quotes the original liner notes to Coltrane’s most famous album, A Love Supreme, which use the words “every good endeavor.” This week I bought the album, something I should have done a long time ago. Here are those original liner notes, now in a CD booklet. Keller only excerpts the notes, but I feel the whole thing was worth sharing—”a love supreme” turns out to be Coltrane’s…
I was recently thinking how ABC’s Modern Family just isn’t as good as it used to be (for me) and that I kind of watch it out of duty nowadays. And then, BAM! They produce probably one of their better/best episodes ever. It revolves around high school anxieties, SATs, and college admissions: “Under Pressure.” The theme is certainly timely since this is the time of year many high schoolers start hearing back from college and university admissions offices. The unquestionable hero of this episode? Claire Dunphy. You have to watch the entire clip below to find out why:
I happily come across more pieces of culture than I know what to do with each year (or month, or week, or day) that speak to the Christian Message. This is a good problem to have–it means a blog like Mbird or a preacher like me will never run out of new material. Not using it can feel burdensome though, because I want to talk about it all—and sometimes I just procrastinate and never get around to it. I lumped some highlights together here in truncated form, keeping this list limited to the top ten (maybe 11) things I wanted to…