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Finding Faith: Top Ten Albums of 2015

Finding Faith: Top Ten Albums of 2015

It’s that time of the year again, time for another top ten albums list. The more of these I write, the more I realize how futile it is to attempt to pick ten albums to represent the year in music. This year the task was made even harder by the launch of Impossible to Say, Blake Collier’s and my music podcast. Thanks to the podcast, I listened to probably twice the amount of new music I listened to last year, which made winnowing down this year’s list an arduous task. So, without further ado, here are the albums that have…

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American Horror Story Taught Me That the Will Is Bound

American Horror Story Taught Me That the Will Is Bound

Thesis 3. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins. – Luther

I think it’s safe to assume that most of American Horror Story’s viewership is not, strictly speaking, Christian, and I wouldn’t make a motion to change that. The show features a ton of sex, drugs, and victims skinned alive, but, by what would seem to be the mark of my kind, I cannot practice what I preach and am currently up to my neck in season five. (So the first piece of evidence supporting the theory of the “bound…

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Another Week Ends: Little Richard, Brand Luther, Star Wars, Marilynne Robinson’s Soul, and Identifying As…?

Another Week Ends: Little Richard, Brand Luther, Star Wars, Marilynne Robinson’s Soul, and Identifying As…?

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast.

1) On the heels of “identity” being Dictionary.com’s word of 2015, Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill discusses a theme that we have spoken about quite a bit ourselves this year, namely, the increasingly fluid cultural understanding of identity politics. O’Neill takes on the phrase “I identify as…” as a telling move from what we used to say about ourselves: “I am…” And with this new movement of self-identification comes the emphasis on subjectivity, the need for one’s identity to be transient, temporal—rather than objective, fixed, given.

O’Neill describes that this rampant interest…

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The Hero’s Conflict is Himself: Reviewing Adao’s Dance

The Hero’s Conflict is Himself: Reviewing Adao’s Dance

One of the many powers of fantasy fiction is that it helps the reader walk a balance between cognitive rest and restlessness: while graciously pausing the pressure of the ‘real world,’ fantasy fiction also tends to question conventional modes of thinking. This is certainly the case for our friend Russ Masterson’s book, Adao’s Dance, which chronicles the story of sixteen-year-old Adao who, after receiving a cryptic dream one night, undertakes the task of climbing a deadly, near-impassible mountain called The Dragon. What follows is a series of adventures that challenge his friendships, his worldview, and ultimately his life.

Adao includes plenty…

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We Are the Chosen, And We Are Not Spared: Making Sense of Season Two of The Leftovers

We Are the Chosen, And We Are Not Spared: Making Sense of Season Two of The Leftovers

In an effort to keep his show alive, Damon Lindelof and company are doing a lot of interviews after the finale of their mindblowing second season. This is a good thing, because nearly everyone I have talked to who’s been (ravenously) watching The Leftovers is desperate for more details. (That doesn’t mean the show is doing all that well, ratings-wise. In fact, no one is watching it.) The show has kept a lot of boxes buried in the woods, if you know what I mean. It has kept a lot of reasons carefully undefined.

This is frustrating for viewers, but it…

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The Devil Made Her Do It: Culpability and Pardon in Jessica Jones

The Devil Made Her Do It: Culpability and Pardon in Jessica Jones

Another fiscal quarter, another Marvel property hits the airwaves. Not that that’s a bad thing–I quite enjoy the Cinematic Universe, especially as it embraces the less heroic side of comic book lore. Daredevil, Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy are favorites from the recent past, and so a Thanksgiving binge with Jessica Jones was an easy choice. Thirteen episodes later, and my wife and I were impressed: the show is well written, with stellar performances from Kristen Ritter (Jessie Pinkman’s girlfriend in Breaking Bad) as titular character and David Tennant (Broadchurch, Dr. Who) as the show’s supervillain. To get the pun…

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New Music: Josh Ritter’s Sermon on the Rocks

New Music: Josh Ritter’s Sermon on the Rocks

Sermon on the Rocks, the new offering from Josh Ritter, opens with the slow-burning, apocalyptic “Birds of the Meadow,” a song aiming for prophecy that repeats the refrain, “Fire is coming, fire is coming.” These are the words of those who stand on street corners bellowing through megaphones: hellfire and damnation, intoned by Ritter in a deep, foreboding tone that matches the lyrics. For those of us who have grown up surrounded by American Christianity, these words sound all too familiar, resounding with notions of an angry God, just biding his time before coming to purge the world with fire….

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From nerdcorerisingmovie.com

“The Dopest Innovation Since the Slicing of Bread”: Question Bedtime by MC Frontalot and the Development of Nerdcore Hip-Hop

Picture the Viper Room, an iconic, purposefully run-down concert venue on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, filled with the fans from the current show, a rap group I didn’t recognize. The fans of the band on stage are in front, and they’re a pretty diverse mix of Los Angelinos who are all dressed for a hip-hop concert. Hanging around the back, near the walls, looking at their phones, talking to one another, wearing ironic t-shirts referencing inscrutable internet memes and coding jokes,  are the fans waiting to see Random aka Megaran and the headliner, MC Frontalot—the father of nerdcore…

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Don’t Miss Out on Master of None

Don’t Miss Out on Master of None

It’s been fun to keep up with Aziz Ansari since his turn as Tom Haverford in Parks and Rec. From stand up specials to pop-sociology books, his star has certainly been on the rise these past few years. Aziz’s latest project, the Netflix comedy Master of None, showcases not just Aziz the actor, but Aziz the storyteller and Aziz the cultural critic. TV critics are generally in agreement: Master of None is really good. Like, awards season good. Like, best show on TV this year good.

The show follows Dev, a loosely autobiographical Aziz, as he navigates life and love in…

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Afraid of a Love That There’s No Cure For: Reviewing Trainwreck

Afraid of a Love That There’s No Cure For: Reviewing Trainwreck

Some of you will want to slash my tires when I say this: I hated most of the movie Trainwreck. Like really hated it. I watched it at my parents’ house and, as any self-assured 31-year old girl would do, I held my finger over the “Pause” button all two hours and five minutes of the movie, lest my parents walk in during one of the many “salacious” scenes; there are parts of this movie that would make a seasoned hooker blush. My disdain dramatically shriveled though, in the manner of having a wart frozen off the bottom of your…

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Hairshirts and the Priestly Fellowship: Reading J.F. Powers’ Wheat That Springeth Green

Hairshirts and the Priestly Fellowship: Reading J.F. Powers’ Wheat That Springeth Green

In a review of J.F. Powers’ book of letters, Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker refers to the mid-century writer as a Catholic cross between Chekhov and Garrison Keillor. Says Gopnik, “His tales had a Trollopean sensibility: he accepted the necessity of the divine institution, without unduly sanctifying its officials. Small rivalries (I recall one good story in which a priest with a valet engenders the envy of his colleagues) and little epiphanies (as in the beautiful ending of the story “Lions, Harts, Leaping Does,” in which a dying friar loses his pet canary in a snowstorm ) were his…

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“In Your Guts, You Know You’re Nuts”: Amends by Eve Tushnet

“In Your Guts, You Know You’re Nuts”: Amends by Eve Tushnet

In her hilarious first novel, Amends, released this past August, Eve Tushnet brings together a lively troupe of totally unhinged characters to participate in a reality TV show about addiction. The novel’s “talent” (the cast) lugs around dark histories and fears and sins, but their instability makes them not only interesting but also completely approachable. Reading about screw-ups is always healthy: you’ll be reminded of the refreshing axiom that ‘no one is perfect,’ or at least that you aren’t as messed up as these guys, thank God. Featuring a wolf-girl, a confessional with a camera, some dangerously hard apologies, and any number of avant-garde sexualities, this…

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