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A Conspiracy of Hope and Light: Reviewing U2's Songs of Experience

A Conspiracy of Hope and Light: Reviewing U2’s Songs of Experience

I don’t think I’ve ever read a review of a U2 record that isn’t preceded by a lengthy prologue wrestling with the band’s stature, either in the culture at large or the reviewer’s upbringing or both. They’re the kind of band that provokes not just adulation and irritation but qualification, even from their most ardent fans. I guess when you court importance–and the record release as Event–as Bono and co have done so doggedly these past 30-ish years, you’re kind of setting yourself up for it. Whatever the case, people have baggage when it comes to U2.

Earlier this year David…

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Thor: Ragnarok - When The Unjust Are Freed and Those Hurt Are Left Without A Home

Thor: Ragnarok – When The Unjust Are Freed and Those Hurt Are Left Without A Home

This review was written by Caleb Ackley. (Spoilers ahead.)

After having grown extremely used to superhero films presenting gritty realities in harsh, dark tones, I was initially off put by the trailer for the latest Thor installment. Candy-colored and none-too-serious, this, it seemed, was uncharted territory and I proceeded to the theatre warily- excited, at the very least, to see Jeff Goldblum in blue makeup-but unsure of what to expect beyond that.

The film begins with Thor in a kind of pseudo-underworld where Chris Hemsworth (the ever-muscular and flaxen-haired), while taking on a fiery enemy and his minions, is given a chance…

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Psychomachia, 8-Balls, and Alien Righteousness

Psychomachia, 8-Balls, and Alien Righteousness

This one comes to us from RJ Coburn.

Psychomachia is the name given to the common trope found in movies, television, and comic strips when a character is dealing with temptation. Two versions of his or her self appear, an angel version and a devil version. Commonly, the devil is on the left shoulder (or standing on the left, if shown as a full-sized person) and the angel on the right. This represents the battle of the soul, or as Homer tells Lisa on an episode of The Simpsons, “Inside every man is a struggle between good and evil that cannot…

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When Whitney Houston Writes Your Prayers

When Whitney Houston Writes Your Prayers

It’s that time of year again! Oh, you thought I was talking about the holidays? Nope, I’m referring to the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, known as Engagement Season: the month and a half where your social media feeds seem to consist solely of diamond rings and “YES!!!! I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend!!!! #helpweneedaweddinghashtag.”

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love engagements and weddings, maybe a little too much. I will stop whatever I’m doing to scroll through engagement photos or watch a wedding video, and I’ve been planning my own imaginary…

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Music, Truth, and David Zahl’s A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll

Music, Truth, and David Zahl’s A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll

Last week I was revising an essay that’s in my thesis for my MFA in creative writing. It’s about music and memory, and I write about how music roots us to past, present, and future versions of ourselves. While I was revising that piece, my soon-to-be-15-year-old daughter asked me to review one of her essays. It was also about music and memory. It was about other things, too (essays are usually about other things besides the obvious things), but it was a sort of exploration of different seasons of her life and music was the vehicle that carried me through…

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The Gospel of Alexander Hamilton

The Gospel of Alexander Hamilton

If you haven’t yet snagged your e-version of Never Satisfied Until Satisfied In Thee: Finding Grace in Hamilton, now’s your chance! Mockingbird’s latest e-book is a wonderful collection of gospel-centered essays about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s landmark musical, Hamilton. Edited by Tim Peoples and Cort Gatliff, this e-book features fresh essays by Stephanie Phillips, Michael Sansbury, Lauren R.E. Larkin, Margaret Pope, Matthew Linder, Amanda McClendon, and the editors themselves.

The following excerpt comes from Cort’s introduction:

My life can be divided into two distinct eras: Before Hamilton and After Hamilton. On October 1, 2015, after months of following the online hysteria and critical acclaim, the former era came to an…

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20 Years Later: Reflecting on the Ageless Imputation of Good Will Hunting

20 Years Later: Reflecting on the Ageless Imputation of Good Will Hunting

This timely reminder of the (timeless) emotional punch packed by Good Will Hunting comes to us from Sam Guthrie, twenty years after the film’s release.

Twenty years ago, a few no-name actors from New England wrote a screenplay about a math prodigy from South Boston. With the help of stars like Robin Williams and Stellan Skarsgård and the vision of director Gus Van Zant, Good Will Hunting became a hit and kickstarted the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (as well as his brother Casey) who in time would all become household names.

Out of the numerous gems in the treasure chest of Good…

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Anne Lamott and What Dies (and Grows) in the Creative Struggle

Anne Lamott and What Dies (and Grows) in the Creative Struggle

If you write, you’ve probably read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She is the shy, neurotic, wise, funny, dread-locked, recovering alcoholic, who is a font of sanity and encouragement for many of us engaged in the compulsion of writing. Anne grew up in a family of atheists, but came to faith and got sober — in that order, as that sobriety wasn’t instantaneous. Her descriptions of the struggles and joys of parenting, the messiness of life, and the wonders of being part of a church family are alternately hilarious and weepingly beautiful.

There aren’t many interviews with her, but when…

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December Playlist: Happy Birthday Baby Jesus 2017

Bringing out the Christmas trappings early actually felt like a necessity this year. Hope you dig the mix.

You can find my other mixes on http://hbbj.holiday/ Enjoy!

Masculinity in Crisis: Unexamined Libidos and the Organizing Principle of Lady Bird

Masculinity in Crisis: Unexamined Libidos and the Organizing Principle of Lady Bird

If it’s true what Stephen Marche writes in The Unmade Bed, that there’s nothing less manly than talking about manliness, I’m not sure where that leaves me. After reading Marche’s latest column in The New York Times, “The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido,” I realized I’m averaging one essay per year on the subject:

Underachieving Boys and the Masks Men Wear
Online Males, Deadbeat Females, and the Simplest Thing in the World
Are You Man Enough? When Virile Was a Compliment
Please Help The Cause Against (Middle Age Male) Loneliness

It’s some of the stuff I’m most proud of, to be honest, partly because…

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Raising the Stakes Is Lowering the Stakes for Justice League

Raising the Stakes Is Lowering the Stakes for Justice League

From Justice League expert Jeremiah Lawson, here is an insightful look at the recent holiday season blockbuster.

It may be a law of blockbuster cinema that there is an inversely proportional relationship between how high the stakes are raised in explicit and implicit narrative terms and the actual significance of said stakes. In a phrase, when everything is at stake, you can be relatively confident nothing is at stake, and this is, in sum, a weakness that the film Justice League can’t shake off.

The plot is as follows: in the wake of Superman’s death through Kryptonite exposure and injuries fighting General Zod,…

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Bad at Love

Bad at Love

This one was written by Anna Nott.

I am convinced that I, perhaps along with a good portion of the rest of the world, continue to listen to Halsey’s hit “Bad at Love” for more than just the fact that it’s super catchy. The lyrics are profoundly confessional, stating:

I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe
that we’re meant to be.
But jealousy, jealousy, jealousy, jealousy
Gets the best of me.
Look, I don’t mean to frustrate, but I
Always make the same mistakes, yeah I
Always make the same mistakes ’cause
I’m bad at love!

When she sings, “I believe that we’re meant to be, but jealousy gets…

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