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Identity Narratives from the Bathroom Floor

Identity Narratives from the Bathroom Floor

If you’ve never seen The Bachelor (though chances are you probably have), then you’ve missed some of reality TV’s best attempts to turn real people into caricatures. Whether it’s the intention of the contestant, the careful edits of the producers, or a combination of both, every person who steps out of the limo has a cohesive and clear-cut identity. Usually this is executed in the narrative portion of the show when we “meet” the contestant and get a nice video montage of her life, but it can also be done through behind-the-scenes commentary (“My friends all consider me the party girl…

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“Ken M” and the Wisdom of Trolls

“Ken M” and the Wisdom of Trolls

It must have been Mockingbird that first introduced me to the “genius of Ken M.” Since then I’ve grown addicted to his commentary. Ken M (aka Kenneth McCarthy) is a 30something comedy writer masquerading as an opinionated 70something, dropping random comments on the internet. Flood Magazine called him “the world’s preeminent Internet troll,” only Ken M manages to use his superpowers for good. His comments, at times haughty-conservative, or faux-intellectual, or grumpy-everyman (but always ridiculous), are designed to draw the ire of fellow commenters.

When, for example, the Associated Press produces an article about “space junk” littering the orbit, Ken M responds:…

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MLK, Bobby Kennedy, and the Monumental Grace of Sleep

MLK, Bobby Kennedy, and the Monumental Grace of Sleep

This wonderful reflection was written by Benjamin Self.

I.

The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock…and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble.

— Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle”, 1819

Between 1959 and 1968—the year he was assassinated—Martin Luther King, Jr., gave at least five speeches in which he referenced the early 19th-century American short story, “Rip Van Winkle”. These speeches included a commencement address…

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Something Missing (in Recovery Services)

Something Missing (in Recovery Services)

Compulsion is brutal.

But the last decade has seen a huge cultural effort to remove spiritual death from the tragedy of addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous was, and largely still is, the model for treatment, but a Higher Power does not play well in the wave of commercial exploitation of “recovery services.”

Squeaky clean, dead serious ads put coifed “addicts” and similarly serious “therapists” in front of us. With all the sincerity of “ethical” car sales shills, the very worst in any of us has the same cure as a dirty floor: buy me. There is a new, aggressive PR explosion everywhere, which loudly…

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March Madness Preview

March Madness Preview

The NCAA tournament, that glorious spectacle that only comes but once a year, is finally upon us. Sportswriter Bob Ryan said that if the field of 68 duked it out six times, we’d have six different winners. Sounds like brackets will be busted early and often, which, in my view, makes for the most enjoyable viewing experience. Sure, Michigan State was my pick last year (sorry Hoos), but I was stoked to see Middle Tennessee State do the unthinkable and knock off Sparty in the first round. Once my dreams of a perfect bracket are shattered, usually in the first…

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The Zacchaeus Option

The Zacchaeus Option

I guess there comes a point in every couple’s life where watching TV and not showering is a more alluring prospect than long hygenic rituals followed by being social. My wife and I are binge-watching a new show called Imposters. I thought the show’s premise was implausible, almost silly at first. But now we’re hooked.

Imposters begins with a newlywed couple so immersed in their own love and happiness, it’s almost nauseating. After some intimate moments (this show is on Bravo) we cut to the husband, Ezra Bloom (played by up-and-coming actor Rob Heaps), talking about his nuptial bliss with co-workers at the…

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Internet Trolls Have a Case of the Mondays

Internet Trolls Have a Case of the Mondays

A doozie of an article from the WSJ last week, provocatively titled, “We’re All Internet Trolls (Sometimes).” The piece highlights recent research out of Stanford and Cornell on the patterns and habits of internet trolling. Like any study of taboo topics, the research has its own missing pieces, but some of the findings are, frankly, revealing:

New research by computer scientists from Stanford and Cornell universities suggests this sort of thing—a generally reasonable person writing a post or leaving a comment that includes an attack or even outright harassment—happens all the time. The most likely time for people to turn into trolls?…

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Frak Me! On Cussing and Taboo Aversion

Frak Me! On Cussing and Taboo Aversion

This one, on cussing and cultural taboos, comes to us from Scott Larousse.

Of recent trends in language, the increased frequency of curse words stands out. On Twitter, in speeches, in pop books, and in online news and opinion outlets, certain words are on the rise. A recent Gmail ad invited me to sign up for its listserv by clicking a button labeled “Hello Yeah”; The A.V. Club’s report on the Oscars is headlined, “Here’s what we know about the great Best Picture f*%&-up of 2017.” The Net is increasingly rife with cuss-words.

As a kid, I remember our stunned silence when a…

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The Magic in Magical Thinking

The Magic in Magical Thinking

“…conscious uncoupling…”

“…and Mexico will pay for it!”

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

We cannot help it. Humans desperately need to square the circle. I want to find a cosmic thread or Special Sauce that allows the New York Football Giants to somehow, over about 6 coaching changes and zillions of players post-LT/Simms, to somehow get to the Super Bowl every year.

That is Magical Thinking.

But not every illogical extrapolation is as delusional as the Giants making the Super Bowl in the next few years. Not all desire-driven reality-bnding is magical. Heroin, smoking, and bacon have no objective merit: to…

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Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Over the past eight years or so, Mockingbird contributors have said quite a lot about the works of Thornton Niven Wilder. His contributions to the idea of a theo-poetic approach to the Gospel, i.e., an approach that avoids didacticism by employing literary archetypes to illustrate gospel themes, are well documented on this site. For a couple of examples, read this from Wilder himself, or this from Paul Zahl. Wilder’s Angel that Troubled the Waters is a tour de force in such terms, and it illustrates what this site is usually trying to do: use an oblique approach to get in past the heart’s defenses, because a didactic frontal…

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The Eternal Solution of Vampirism or, “If I Were a Vampire”

The Eternal Solution of Vampirism or, “If I Were a Vampire”

Last weekend I made what I should publically refer to as a “shame-purchase.” When nobody was looking, I bought the entire movie collection of The Twilight Saga. Don’t make it a thing, but modern teen vampire stories are my kryptonite, and they almost always follow the same plot structure:

Awkward, fragile human (female) falls in love with strapping, obsessive vampire (male). Love between them is so sexy and intense that only way for the human to survive and thrive — to live — is for her to become vampire. Needs more blood.

This script hits really close to home. Mortality is so…

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Alexa, Now!

Alexa, Now!

Whenever a new technology comes on the scene, there’s always a bridge that needs to be built. That bridge is a cognitive bridge and it takes some powerful envisioning (and marketing!) to communicate that vision to the public. It is a bridge between what before was only manageable by human intuition and hard work, and what can now (supposedly) be entrusted to another. In short, every new technology today is a bridge from human agency to automation, a bridge that will deliver us from the toil of Egypt into the Promised Land, from the land of servitude and strife into…

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