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Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

This Ray Rice saga doesn’t seem to be going and it just keeps getting more interesting. Just yesterday (Friday September 19th) ESPN’s Outside the Lines released a report of the long, detailed timeline of events from the original incident right up until Roger Goodell’s press conference yesterday. It’s a fascinating account of the NFL’s behind-the-scenes PR spin machine, complete with new revelations (Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh wanted to release Ray Rice back in the spring?) and some of the thought process behind the original 2 game suspension.

It’s this last aspect of the story that I find to be most interesting….

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Another Week Ends: American Immortals, Henry James, U2charists, Authentic Nerdists, AWK Prays, and Reclusive Deities

Another Week Ends: American Immortals, Henry James, U2charists, Authentic Nerdists, AWK Prays, and Reclusive Deities

1. Part and parcel of the juvenilization we touched on earlier this week is the phenomenon UPenn bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel (best name ever?!) describes as “the American immortal”, that not-so-peculiar species that devotes so much of its time/energy to prolonging life that it kills them (often before they die). Surprise surprise–underneath the aversion to growing up may lurk a denial of human limitation which is ultimately a denial of death. In the latest bit of watercooler bait from The Atlantic, “Why I Hope To Die at 75″, Emanuel challenges the notion of “compression of morbidity”, the widespread presumption that the…

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Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Are you not entertained? All signs point to “No, I’m not entertained”, per David Puddy and the cheesy 8-ball jacket (thank you, Seinfeld fans). Rather, we’re disgusted.  I’ve read it in comments here. I’ve seen it on Facebook and Twitter – we’re fed up. I get it, really, I do. It’s an awful thing. However, I have to admit my two (polarized) reactions to all of this.

On one hand, I really don’t want to write about this crap two weeks in a row. This week though, we have four more (count them, four – Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer,…

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#Blessed in the Storm

#Blessed in the Storm

It may be the most ubiquitous hashtag on the internet. We use it on every platform. And, of course, it totally transcends every category. Everyone from the 16 year old with a new Lexus SUV to the wife telling the world about her 40th wedding anniversary is #blessed. Of course, for those of us who drove an old pick up truck in high school or who’s first marriage lasted just two years, #blessed cannot mean anything good. We have somehow failed. Our lives have not measured up.

Certainly there are underlying theological implications. We may worry that other people are #blessed…

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Liv Ullmann on Something Better Than Violence

While we’re on the subject of social media, a highly unusual interview came across my desk this week, with Swedish actress-director Liv Ullmann, widely known for her collaborations with Ingmar Bergman. If at first it sounds like the rant of a septuagenarian, keep reading–would that we all could be so frank. It’s almost enough to make a person want to go rewatch Scenes from a Marriage (which is really saying something!):

Liv+Ullman+2012+IIFA+Awards+Day+2+1gzfVbxS37Il“What is this chatting? And then they Twitter, and I understand the Twitter can be so mean and horrible and people are killing themselves because of what they’re reading about themselves. A lot of evilness comes when you are anonymous.” It’s a false democracy, [Ullman] thinks, a veneer behind which powerful groups can slip in and assume power.

Maybe being famous means she can’t understand why others might want to be celebrities. It’s true, she can’t fathom it – why people would set their self-worth by such a measure. “We should tell them what is really to be cared for. It’s not because you’re suddenly famous, it’s really when you’re sitting one person to another and you are listening to each other and the other person is seeing you and then you have maybe a strange thought and you say it and suddenly see some understanding in the other person. Or you go to a movie and things you didn’t have words for are there. That is the communication I prefer.”

Ullmann apologises. She’s gone off topic, she says. Her eyes are gleaming. She’s made this screamingly mean movie [an adaptation of Strindberg's 'Miss Julie', starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell] to try to show people how not to behave. People ought to feel bad more than they do, she says, to try to make amends. “If you have a row with your husband and you see them lying down trying to sleep and you see they’re so scared, instead of saying: ‘You have to change or I’ll leave’, you should say: ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’” When Jesus hung on the cross, he asked forgiveness of the brutes. There’s something that is better than violence. ‘Forgive me’, you should say, even if you have been wronged.”

Online Honesty and Instagram Authenticity – Bryan Jarrell

In honor of passing 4000 followers on Twitter(!), here’s the final talk from our 2014 NYC Conference, by our social media guru himself, Bryan Jarrell. Now if we could just up our FB game

Online Honesty and Instagram Authenticity ~ Bryan Jarrell from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

P.S. Many, many thanks to Mark Babikow for filming and editing all the videos!

Virtual Reality and the Attempt at Limitlessness

Virtual Reality and the Attempt at Limitlessness

If you have yet to see it, The Verge has a phenomenal (and gorgeous!) article on virtual reality that is really worth your time. With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR earlier this year and Sony’s attempt to bring virtual gaming to PlayStation, dubbed “Project Morpheus”, we might begin to see virtual reality making headway into the mainstream—and I have a feeling it might be a bit more sophisticated than the Virtual Boy I had growing up. In any case, Matthew Schnipper has some comments that are on point in the introduction. He writes,

The promise of virtual reality has always been enormous….

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Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

There I was, reclining in the waiting room while my son met with his speech therapist, as I do every week. Computer on my lap—heaven forbid I sit there unoccupied—I was reading A.O. Scott’s new treatise for The Times on “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” I like Scott’s writing, so I ignored the instinct to roll my eyes at the prospect of yet another think-piece about stunted millennials; I had time to kill, after all. It opens with some bold claims:

Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the…

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Another Week Ends: Commodified Experience, Counterproductive Shaming, Fake Asia Trips, Net Addiction, and Star Wars Minus Williams

Another Week Ends: Commodified Experience, Counterproductive Shaming, Fake Asia Trips, Net Addiction, and Star Wars Minus Williams

1. The New Yorker weighs in on “bucket lists“, ht DH:

Whence the appeal of the bucket list? To stop and think about the things one hopes to do, the person one hopes to be, is a useful and worthwhile exercise; to do so with a consciousness of one’s own unpredictable mortality can be a sobering reckoning, as theologians and philosophers recognized long before Workman Publishing got in on the act…

As popularly conceived, however, the bucket list is far from being a reckoning with the weight of love in extremis, or an ethical or moral accounting. More often, it partakes of a…

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Left Hooks in Elevators: Acting on the Anger in Our Hearts

Left Hooks in Elevators: Acting on the Anger in Our Hearts

It’s tough to admit this publicly. I’ve kicked the dog a time or two – not recently, but I have struck another living thing out of anger. I think back on that and I cringe, because it feels really dark. It can be terrifying to reflect on a time when I haven’t been able to control my anger. If I were to prioritize the sin tendencies I have in the order of how quickly I want them rooted out of me, vindictive, reactionary anger would be number one. I can’t imagine what it would be like for one of my…

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Ideology and Its Discontents (an Apology for Eutyches)

Ideology and Its Discontents (an Apology for Eutyches)

Maybe you’ve noticed this trend too: Lena Dunham’s Girls, despite critical acclaim, has suffered from reviewers saying it’s not racially diverse enough. Game of Thrones has been lambasted for its sexism and weak female characters. The Cosmopolitans has been written off for lacking socioeconomic variety.

Such things can be painful and troubling to watch, and sometimes it’s best not to view them, perhaps not even to screen them. But such criticisms, for me, are also strangely reminiscent of the one-dimensional cultural lenses prevalent in the Christian world. Drugs are bad, so watching media which contains drug use should be avoided. Affairs are bad, so Madame Bovary was listed…

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Motivation that Works: Colbert Introduces the Pavlovian Fitness Band

Sadly, this actually exists (ht BFG).

Rob Karlsson Will Not Make Your Life a Misery (Or Will He?)

Rob Karlsson Will Not Make Your Life a Misery (Or Will He?)

I have a love/hate relationship with The New Yorker. Each week, the magazine arrives. First: I admire it’s glossy cover. Then, the cartoons (“Hey, honey, look at this one. We’re not like that at all.”) Next: the always funny “Shouts and Murmurs.” Then a survey of the table of contents. Another food essay. Pass. (I will never eat there anyway.) In depth political journalism? Maaaaayyybee. The obligatory high-brow look at low-brow culture? Yes, please. (Recent examples: a super-aggressive female MMA fighter and a luchador in drag.)

But then there’s the fiction piece. And I’m torn. I know it will be good….

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The Virtue of Irreverence

The Virtue of Irreverence

I don’t remember the first time I heard Joan Rivers crack a joke, but I’m pretty sure I remember my reaction: shock. And asking whether women were allowed to talk like that–whether people were allowed to talk like that. And, over time, a deepening appreciation for the no-holds-barred humor that perfused everything she ever did.

Writing about Joan Rivers is quite a different animal from writing about Robin Williams. A few weeks ago I did the latter, and the feeling that accompanied that tribute was warmer, more familial. There was a quiet bravery to Williams, and a tenderness that inspired admiration–but…

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Love in Creature Form

Love in Creature Form

This week, I had the privilege to interview the man responsible for one of our favorite sources of grace in practice, the Editor of the Modern Love column in the New York Times, Daniel Jones. In a ninety-minute conversation we talked about some of the favorite Modern Love columns, about the reasons couples fall in love and the reasons couples cheat, as well as some of his thoughts on online dating and the new delusions of control offered us in the tech-savvy and convenience-seeking age. (We will be publishing the interview in the next issue of The Mockingbird, which is…

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