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My Big Sick: When A Diagnosis Threatens to Define Us

My Big Sick: When A Diagnosis Threatens to Define Us

Over here in Sydney, the eclipse didn’t occur, and a 14-hour time jump from the East Coast means I actually often receive current events updates on a delay (while lying in bed reading them on my phone at 6am). The weird FOMO/day-ahead mentality, where my daylight is your nighttime, renders me disoriented; I feel as though I’m watching the world from a distance, as a bystander to all things America. The break from that most patriotic of traditions, the 24-hour news cycle, has been healing for me: in the absence of bottom-of-the-screen news tickers, I can choose when and how…

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When You Can't Get the S-Town Off of You

When You Can’t Get the S-Town Off of You

There are these golden moments in interviews where everything before and after becomes fuzzy, and the clarity of what is happening between those two people gets thrust into sharp contrast, like an audio pull-quote. Recently I had just that experience.

I felt an urge to relisten to S-Town just a few weeks ago. It was even more moving the second time, hearing Brian Reed tell the story of the eccentric genius John B. McLemore and the equally colorful supporting cast of characters that were his family and neighbors. It was like listening to a real-life Flannery O’Connor story; Southern Gothic meets…

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Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

The Miami Herald called it the love story that defied death, the dark romance that hit the front page of the paper in 1940. It all started when Carl Tanzler, or Count Carl von Cosel as he preferred to be called, spotted the beautiful but dying tuberculosis patient Elena Hoyos in a Florida hospital in 1931. Though Elena never returned his affections, was married at the time, and died shortly after she caught von Cosel’s attention, he visited her tomb every day for the next year and half. And then, one fateful night, he claims to have heard Elena singing…

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Theology Lessons from a Ghetto Star

Theology Lessons from a Ghetto Star

Another amazing one from our friend Chad Bird. 

When the phone rang at his friend’s house, Tommy Shakur Ross picked up the receiver. And into his ears fell razor-sharp words that would keep falling and falling, shredding his insides in their violent descent…

Tommy—who goes by Shakur—was a member of the L.A. gang, the Eight Trays. Raised by a minister father and church-going mother, Shakur discovered within the gang a new identity, a new culture, new aspirations. He even received a new name; he became Joker.

But despite his moniker, Joker was dead serious. He was out to earn a reputation, score points,…

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Welcome to Night Vale, Governor Ventura. Limetown next exit, and now for the weather…

Welcome to Night Vale, Governor Ventura. Limetown next exit, and now for the weather…

When my mother bought a new Oldsmobile Intrigue, I was very happy, more happy than I should have been over an Oldsmobile. Why? Because it was The X-Files car from their 1998 big screen debut, that’s why! You remember, the scene where Mulder and Scully are following the train to the cornfield with the glowing bee domes? They were driving an Intrigue.

I loved The X-files. I loved Chris Carter’s other series, Millennium, the Lance Henriksen creased forehead vehicle. Heck, I even loved The Lone Gunmen. Add the metaphysical and abstruse to even the most mundane of procedural shows, and I’m…

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Freedom's Just Another Word

Freedom’s Just Another Word

The first time I heard an Aussie ask “How are you going?” I thought he wanted me to give him directions, which is hilarious because I know how to get to, like, three places here. Then I realized I was being presented with an alternative to our American phrase “How are you doing?” And I decided that I really liked it.

There’s a chance I’m taking idioms too personally here, but my journey through faith has been like this: religion to grace. Javert to Valjean. Imperative to indicative. My early years of preoccupation with behavior—to my idea of God as the…

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Wendell Berry's World-Ending Fire of Original Sin

Wendell Berry’s World-Ending Fire of Original Sin

A few days ago, I happened across the round-table discussion with Wendell Berry, Paul Kingsnorth (author of the forthcoming Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist), and economist Kate Raworth on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week hosted by Andrew Marr. The conversation, from this past May, centered around problems associated with the environmental movement, particularly issues of idealism without responsibility.

Wendell Berry, an avid environmentalist himself, is not opposed to stirring the pot. He just released a book of essays optimistically titled The World-Ending Fire and is the subject of a documentary produced by Nick Offerman — yep, that Nick Offerman — called Look and…

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Dear Evan Hansen, I'm Missing Richard Simmons from S-Town, or: A Note from the Outcast

Dear Evan Hansen, I’m Missing Richard Simmons from S-Town, or: A Note from the Outcast

I saw the emotional avalanche that is Dear Evan Hansen two weeks ago, on a yearly childless pilgrimage my husband and I make to the city where we fell in love, and conveniently, where Mockingbird holds an annual conference. Maybe it’s the range and sincerity displayed by headliner Ben Platt, with whose image I am considering adorning my bedroom walls (I think my husband will be fine with it; considering our age difference, it would be more of a proud Teen Mom situation). Maybe it’s the poignant and earworm-ridden soundtrack. Maybe it’s the tendency of the cast to depart from the…

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A Quick Update from Mbird HQ

This Just In: Starting today, March 31, The Mockingcast and the Same Old Song podcast will be taking a break as we focus our energies on the upcoming conference in NYC. We’ll resume once things settle down and will update you when we know more. The Mockingpulpit and PZ’s Podcast will continue as is. Thank you for your patience! In the meantime, Scott Jones is starting a new project/podcast, Give and Take (Tagline: “Cultivating the Art of Conversation”). For more info, or to subscribe, click here. And don’t forget about his ongoing New Persuasive Words program, co-hosted with Bill Borror.

[We are experiencing some problems with our iTunes feed at the moment and are working to fix.]

Oh and speaking of NYC, we are officially running out of seats for the meals. So… if you’re planning on eating but haven’t pre-registered yet, we need to know ASAP. Sign up on the conference site or email us at info@mbird.com post-haste. Be sure to check out the full list of breakout sessions, too!

P.S. Something is coming… And it’s not alone. All will be revealed April 27th.

Fear Models and Clean Antennae: Pete Holmes on Fresh Air

Fear Models and Clean Antennae: Pete Holmes on Fresh Air

Another TV season, another bid for our wallets. HBO is making its case this season with comic Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow’s latest, Crashing. Holmes is famous for his standup comedy and “You Made It Weird” podcast (see our writeup), and his biography of “almost-youth-minister-turned-comic” is one for the annals of Christendom. Fewer ex(?) Evangelicals have articulated so well what a law-saturated theology can do to a person. For those of us who can’t afford HBO-to-go yet, here’s a few lines from Pete Holmes interview on NPR’s Fresh Air that make it hard to say no. Hold on to your wallets!

On the relationship between…

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PZ's Podcast: Eternal Return

PZ’s Podcast: Eternal Return

EPISODE 228

I keep trying to make sense of the divisions we are almost all feeling currently. How can one get “under” them, i.e., in hopes of lessening them a little? Does anyone who is reading this enjoy feeling estranged from others, especially old friends, for example, because of political opinions? Very few, I’ll bet. But it’s happening.

Then the insight came: Remember what it was like 47 years ago. Remember what it was like in the Spring of ’70. Everybody, and I mean, everybody, was up in arms! If you were a college student then, your campus was probably shut down….

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Special Food & Drink Mockingcast (Plus, What Would You Eat If You Weren’t Afraid?)

Excited to announce a brand new special episode of The Mockingcast, dedicated entirely to the Food and Drink issue of The Mockingbird! Scott really went to town on this one, compiling multiple interviews with contributors and excerpts from the mag itself (and a host of other goodies as well). Click here to listen. Fair warning: not to be consumed on an empty stomach!

Also, as another preview of the print edition, just before Thanksgiving Break we asked our readership what they would eat if they weren’t afraid—afraid of indigestion, afraid of death, afraid of angry spouses, social scrutiny, moral reproach? More as a thought experiment, we wondered what we’d really reach for if all the rules were wiped clean from the counter: What would you allow yourself to indulge in were it not for the consequences—bodily and ethical and otherwise?

Maybe you read about it and thought, “I have no deep-seated issues with food. I eat what I want and, believe it or not, what I want is healthy, natural food.” Fair enough (what’s your secret?!). For everyone else, loosen the belt a notch and grab a stack of napkins, cause here’s what you came up with:

  • Cheetos in a can
  • Krystals
  • KFC Double Down Sandwich
  • Hot McDonald’s fries!
  • Wendy’s chocolate Frosty
  • My mother’s oatmeal cookies
  • Cinnamon Life cereal with whole milk
  • BBQ sauce with anything
  • Onion rings
  • Cookies & Cream ice cream
  • A sack of Five Guys fries
  • Talenti’s pumpkin pie gelato
  • A try of cannolis with extra marscapone
  • New Jersey bagels with cream cheese and lox
  • Triple chocolate fudge cake
  • Cracklin’ Oat Bran
  • Pork soup dumplings
  • Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese Family box (all for me)
  • Those enormous Great Harvest salted butterscotch cookies
  • Deep-fried Oreos
  • A vat of queso with warm tortillas
  • Bagel dogs with sauerkraut
  • Fluffernutter milkshakes
  • All you can eat Brazilian steakhouse
  • Dominos Ultimate Pepperoni Feast
  • Shake Shack anything
  • Several tubes of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls
  • Fruit by the Foot, Swedish Fish and Gushers
  • French fries everyday, at every meal
  • Hot Krispy Kremes
  • A dozen Krispy Kremes in five minutes
  • A half-dozen Krispy Kremes, squeezed together into a ball, eaten like an apple
  • My wife’s mojo-marinated roast pork
  • Bacon bacon and more bacon
  • Chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery
  • Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts toasted with butter
  • Momma’s Pancake Breakfast at Cracker Barrel
  • McDonald’s Big Mac Extra Value Meal with an apple pie

Click here to order the Food & Drink Issue today! And those who’ve already wolfed their copies down, feel free to share your favorite bits in the comments. Or what (else) you’d eat if you weren’t afraid.