Film/Music/TV

A Snob By Any Other Name

A Snob By Any Other Name

The first time I suspected there might really be something between me and the woman who would become my wife was when she made an off-hand reference to one of my favorite movies. It was a relatively obscure film, and not one that usually came up in conversation. Huh, I thought, that’s interesting. My confidence was shaken a few days later when she mentioned having recently attended a certain music festival, which will remain nameless. Let’s just say my appreciation for The Grateful Dead and their ilk had yet to blossom.

I’m embarrassed to admit this. Not just that I had…

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Failure in a Society that Celebrates Triumphalism

HONY

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.”

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

The third installment for Blake & Ian’s four-part series is Ian’s second selection, the 1982 classic creature flick The Thing, directed by John Carpenter andstarring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley & T. K. Carter.

Ian:

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of cosmic/body horror which viscerally manifests the alien abjection of sin. Through masterful use of freezing, tension-fraught atmosphere and brilliant (i.e. horrifyingly gory) special effects, Carpenter meditates on embodiment, identity, and paranoia with breathtaking results. The story, set in hostile Antarctica, follows a shape-shifting alien which can replicate the physiology and even the memories of everything (and everyone) it assimilates. Its arrival triggers an…

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A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

1. Lots of interesting news on the how-can-we-be-sure-God-exists front. We’ve had our own part of that conversation, highlighting our own favorite Atheists and the hip trend of flogging Dawkins (dibs on Flogging Dawkins as a band name!). If the patterns are to be believed, it seems that the trajectory is toward a more humble, less aggressive atheism that acknowledges its own non-rational presuppositions. And humility is good for everybody, theist and atheist alike. Gary Gutting over at the New York Times sums up his series of interviews with religious philosophers, and while the ending seems disjointed (I’m an agnostic Catholic?), the middle is helpful:

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“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

The second film selection for Blake & Ian’s four-part series comes from Blake’s selection of favorite horror films, the 1986 version of The Hitcher, starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Blake:

Jim Halsey: Why are you doing this to me?
John Ryder: You’re a smart kid…figure it out.

Whether it’s the rise of urban legends or the rise of actual incidents, hitchhiking is all but extinct nowadays. It seems to be another victim slain in the slow and continuous death of the old neighborly courtesies.

Hitchhiking is just one aspect of a wider American artistic landscape full of the open road–from…

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Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Before we get going, the Houston Conference is almost here!! While we never turn anyone away–last minute walk-ins more than welcome–we need to know by Monday morning (10/13) if you are planning/hoping to dine with us. You can either pre-register on the site (through Tuesday at midnight), or send us an email at info@mbird.com so we can reserve you a plate. The food is going to be delicious!

1. First off, this is both incredibly fascinating and incredibly sad. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Downtown Project, a “start-up city” in Las Vegas founded and pioneered by Tony Hsieh, the guy behind…

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Love and Logos in the Dying of the Light

Love and Logos in the Dying of the Light

Reviewing Sons of Bill’s new record.

A couple of years ago, The New Yorker asked “Whatever happened to movies for grownups?” It’s an important question, and one that has only become more pronounced since David Denby posed it, and not just at the multiplex. In fact, nowhere does it apply more than to the carcass that passes for commercial rock and roll these days. There may have been a time when literacy and restraint didn’t automatically throw you into a niche market, but that time seems to have gone, for better or worse. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong…

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Drifting Closer in the Dark: An Introduction to the Musical Folklore of Slaid Cleaves

Drifting Closer in the Dark: An Introduction to the Musical Folklore of Slaid Cleaves

We could not be more excited to have Slaid Cleaves join us for the Houston Conference next week. It’s just one of the reasons we hope you’ll meet us there.

There’s plenty of eye-rolling when it comes to American country and folk music, mainly because so much of what used to constitute its storytelling now seems untrue. Songs about rust and horses and top hands and tree yodelers—this used to be far-reaching content; it has since shrunken into American oblivion, re-visited mainly in nichey beer bars by minor players. For anyone other than the Americana devotees, country songs consist, at best, of naïve nostalgia about “simpler times”, and at worst, of abject denial about who we are. And perhaps it is true.

A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

This is the transcript of a talk given over the weekend by Mbird’s Will McDavid at The Olmsted Salon in NYC, loosely based on our recent Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis. For the audio, go to the Olmsted site here, and to order the book, go here.

I first want to speak a little about why I wrote this book. I think the relative decline of the Christian religion among intellectuals has resulted in a few interesting consequences for the Bible. People now are relatively less likely to study the letters of Paul, in which he lays out much…

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“Is This Real Life or Is This Just Fantasy”: Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932)

“Is This Real Life or Is This Just Fantasy”: Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932)

Ian Olson (who brought Mbird a wonderful reflection on Law and Grace in the new Godzilla) and I decided to put together a 4-part series in celebration of October and Halloween–Mbird-style, of course! We both chose two of our favorite horror films and wrote an article for each one and then allowed the other to present a brief addendum/rebuttal about the film and the article written. This week we open with a classic vampire film from 1932 from the Danish filmmaker, Carl Theodor Dreyer, entitled Vampyr.

Ian:

How awake must I be to grasp the real world? To see it for what…

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October Playlist

  1. 1995-texas-mockingbird-and-bluebonnet

    T-minus two weeks and counting!

    I’ll Have To Dance With Cassie – God Help the Girl

  2. Everything’s Tuesday – General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board
  3. The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow) – The Jam
  4. Nuclear Boy – 2020
  5. Can I Borrow a Kiss? – The Knack
  6. No Substitute – The Shivvers
  7. So Long – ABBA
  8. Niemals Einer Meinung – Die Toten Hosen
  9. That’s How People Grow Up – Morrissey
  10. Lady With the Spinning Head – U2
  11. Glorious – Andreas Johnson
  12. Not a Second More – The Lees of Memory
  13. Elevate Me Later – Pavement
  14. The Creature from the Black Lagoon – Dave Edmunds
  15. Drinkin Days – Slaid Cleaves
  16. Cold Hands – Carl Anderson
  17. Why Go Alone – Chris Von Sneidern
  18. Dancing in the Dark – John Legend


Aphex Twin’s Syro and the Joy of Forgetting (and Remembering)

Aphex Twin’s Syro and the Joy of Forgetting (and Remembering)

Enigmatic and revered electronic artist Aphex Twin (real name Richard D. James) released his long awaited new album, Syro, last week, ending a 13-year hiatus that followed his previous album, Drukqs. The new album is–in true Aphex Twin form–a colossally dense and impeccably composed piece of electronic music that morphs, warps, and toils considerably for its 65 minute run time. This tends to make for a somewhat unsettling listen in places (given the harsh and, in some cases, terrifying sounds he exuded during much of his 90s output, it’s not unexpected). As soon as you get your footing on a…

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