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“This American Life ” – On Re-purposing Our Monuments of Shame

This American Life ” – On Re-purposing Our Monuments of Shame

There was a great story on NPR’s “This American Life” this week.  Back in 1999, on an annual list of 354 U.S. & Canada Cities, Kankakee, Illinois was voted the worst – number 354. The criterion included crime rate per capita, climate, unemployment rate, etc. When the list came out, David Letterman (a nearby Indiana native) felt some compassion for Kankakee, knowing that they had (like a lot of Mid-West towns at the time) lost a lot of lot key industries in the 90’s, leaving the town a shell of itself.  The last thing he felt that the town needed…

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Tim Tebow, Battle Creek, Nice Guy Displacement…and the NCAA Comeback

Tim Tebow, Battle Creek, Nice Guy Displacement…and the NCAA Comeback

All Tim Tebow does is win – NCAA Championships, Heisman Trophies, NFL Playoff Games, “guy I most want to date my daughter contests”, etc. He’s still looking for a job in the NFL though, because, even though he wins, teams don’t trust him. He takes too long to get rid of the ball and isn’t particularly accurate. In short, he’s the opposite of the NFL “prototype” quarterback. That’s a tough label to shake.

There’s a rumor this week that he may get another shot–as a third string QB for The Philadelphia Eagles and Coach Chip Kelly. Kelly worked out Tebow this…

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We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

Warning: some spoilers ahead, but no major plot developments, I don’t think. It’s hard to tell with sitcoms, especially one in the 30 Rock vein.

Netflix’s newest “original” show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, very quickly won me over with its blend of goofy characters and cultural commentary. From the mind of Tina Fey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt feels a lot like 30 Rock, but has a slightly different, more optimistic tone, mainly due to Ellie Kemper’s portrayal of the titular character. Kimmy’s demeanor is reminiscent of Leslie Knope, so it’s nice see another solid female character step in to fill the void left…

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God in The Storm

God in The Storm

Like you, I’ve currently been trying to move through season three of House of Cards as slowly as possible, and not watch the whole thing in one sitting. It’s hard to do, even though this season is a lot less binge-friendly than the first two. And it’s hard to do predominantly because the Underwood’s ‘house of cards’ is nearly finished, and also never finished. While manipulative play after manipulative play proves time and again that control is only one move ahead of them, the thrill in watching the show comes from this precise tension–that one slip of the hand, or…

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“We All Need Someone Who Knows Our Mistakes and Loves Us Anyway”

“We All Need Someone Who Knows Our Mistakes and Loves Us Anyway”

That quote comes from Steve Hartman’s wonderful (and brief) cbsnews.com article from last week about a Gainesville, Texas basketball team that follows here in its entirety. But the quote also can certainly be applied to Lady Rose’s “intervention” on behalf of her new father-in-law (Lord Sinderby) on this week’s Downton Abbey Season 5 Finale – a finale that heaps grace upon grace in scene after scene, redeeming perhaps DA’s worst season with it’s best season finale. (Storyline spoilers ahead) During the weekend-long wedding festivities celebrating the union of Lord Sinderby’s (Jewish) son and (Anglican) Lady Rose, Sinderby repeatedly makes clear…

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Winners and Losers Under Your Own Inner-Editor

Winners and Losers Under Your Own Inner-Editor

I have to admit, as a watcher of The Bachelor, that I participated in this phenomenon without ever thinking about it. Colson Whitehead, in the most recent NYT Magazine, talks about the “loser edit” in most competition-based reality television shows, the fact that, in winnowing 30 TV faces from total strangers into winners and losers, requires some narrative-building and, in the case of the losers, narrative-obliviating. As many of us (I hope?) can recall, there are the moments at the end of each of these shows where the ousted suitor, the ousted chef, the ousted whatever creates this reaction among…

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A Brief Parenting Lesson from Mr. Spock

Like many people, I’m a huge fan of the original Star Trek. And I loved Spock. I loved his pointy ears and his earnestness. He was exotic, smart, and thoughtful. And my goodness, was he cool under pressure.

And so when I heard of Leonard Nimoy’s death, I knew that it was important to talk about how his Jewish Orthodox tradition impacted his boyhood and later informed the character of Spock. It is a wonderful story. I’ll let Nimoy speak for himself:

Sometimes, as religious people, we lose sight of how beautiful our traditions really are. We forget that they seep into our bones and show themselves at the least expected moments.

But Nimoy’s most important lesson here speaks to me as a mother. During worship I can often get caught up in what my children should be doing. And I forget that God is so present to them, regardless of if they are quiet or still. Despite my anxieties, my kids are getting exactly what they need. So thanks for this story, Mr. Spock. Let’s here it for the tiny rule breakers in our midst.

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

1. Where to start with a hierarchy of most severe ‘little-l law’ in ‘secular’ society? We could start with body image, health, having cool experiences, and the like, but prosperity honestly takes the cake. And among the people who have already checked that box, it’s fast becoming political correctness. Political correctness is important, but its ascendant, uncompromising severity and occasional use as a class-code leads to a totalization which is, to say the least, in tension with the traditional (L/l)iberal ideal of discourse. Cue Camille Paglia, who had some fantastic things to say in America Magazine (Jesuits) about the backslide of feminism and…

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Farewell to Parks and Recreation

Farewell to Parks and Recreation

Earlier this week, Parks and Recreation concluded after a remarkable seven-season run. While other outlets have covered the show’s legacy in far greater detail than I can provide (check out Uproxx and Grantland for that), I wouldn’t feel right if I missed this opportunity to eulogize a show that has meant so much to me over the past several years. Parks and Rec might not have been as smart as Arrested Development or as laugh-out-loud funny as The Office, but it had an over-abundance of what many modern sitcoms lack—heart. In many ways, Parks and Rec might have had too…

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Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

I’m struggling a lot with these two true, inspiring, triumph of the human spirit distance runner stories that Disney and her sports arm (ESPN) have perpetrated upon us this week as paradoxical bookends to the low anthropology/high Christology that I have come to love about Ash Wednesday. This past weekend, ESPN master human interest storyteller, Tom Rinaldi, narrated one of his best sports mini-docs with the story of Kayla Montgomery, who won three North Carolina high school distance running state championships in 2014, despite running without being able to feel her legs! (Yeah, the story is as good as it…

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Parsing America’s Professional Prophets: Thoughts on Recent Commercials

Parsing America’s Professional Prophets: Thoughts on Recent Commercials

A teacher of mine in college used to say that the Old Testament prophets didn’t quite get supernatural revelation, but they read the future just like everyone else. But while other prophets would read the signs of the times in the stars, or in a peculiar palm-line, or in hallucinogenic-induced visions, the Hebrew prophets read the future from a close examination of Israel’s heart. Because the heart of a culture – often something few are aware of until decades later, if ever – determines its future, directs its role in the complex drama between humanity and God, traces the plight…

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Another Week Ends: More PC, Orthorexia, Perfect Ripostes, Grace in Addiction in Asheville, SBTB Redivivus, and Implausible Pop-Country Songs

Another Week Ends: More PC, Orthorexia, Perfect Ripostes, Grace in Addiction in Asheville, SBTB Redivivus, and Implausible Pop-Country Songs

1. One subject that’s been on our minds lately is political correctness, the orthodoxy of speech by which the progressives are divided from the bigots. It’s a division almost as absolute as that between righteous and sinners, and the press and universities – places supposed to be bastions of the liberal ideal of open speech – have instead been on the forefront of the new censorship. Fredrick deBoer, a leftist activist and grad student at Purdue, weighs in:

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19 year old white woman — smart, well-meaning, passionate — literally run crying from a classroom…

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