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Bill James at the Bottom of the Order

Bill James at the Bottom of the Order

This one was written by our friend Larry Parsley.

Brian Kenny, the popular sports anchor for the MLB Network, has penned a delightfully polemical take on baseball stats in Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution. Kenny is definitely on the side of the geeks. He sets his book up as a battle between the unsung heroes (baseball stat guys, ostentatiously referred to as ‘sabermetricians’) and the rubes (old school managers, retired ballplayers, and members of the Baseball Writers Association of America). As far as Kenny is concerned, the old school baseball people adopt a “purposeful ignorance” when it comes to the…

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Inspirational Memes and The Real Big Magic

Inspirational Memes and The Real Big Magic

While sipping my morning coffee today, I scrolled past the following inspirational memes on Instagram (sandwiched between hundreds of baby photos and recipes from the paleo/primal nutsos I follow):

At first, I felt totally exhilarated: I was inspired, empowered, on top of the world. I’m going to take this day by the freaking saddle! Forget that my husband just started a new job and he’s working approximately 100 hours a week. Forget that I have my own work to do – time stolen in the small moments between the blessed mess of raising two very young and “spirited” children. THIS IS GOING…

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What Has Hollywood to Do with Jerusalem?: Production Values and Proclaiming the Gospel in the “Ark Encounter” and Ben Hur

What Has Hollywood to Do with Jerusalem?: Production Values and Proclaiming the Gospel in the “Ark Encounter” and Ben Hur

If size matters, the new theme park in northern Kentucky, the Ark Encounter, is a massive success. The center-piece of the park, which opened in mid-July, is a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, over 500 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. It is, according to the Ark Encounter website, the “largest timber-frame structure in the world.” The first phase of the park also includes “Ararat Ridge Zoo (with a petting zoo), a 1,500-seat restaurant, a gift store under the Ark, and a zip line.” Future attractions will include “a pre-Flood walled city, the Tower of Babel, a…

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Tennis Gods and Failing Bodies

Tennis Gods and Failing Bodies

This one comes to us from Lindsey Hepler. 

When I was eighteen years old, during that awkward summer between graduating from high school and starting college, I took a trip to London with my parents. By a stroke of luck and happenstance, my two sisters were away on their own adventures, so I got to be the only child for a week. It was a fantastic trip—complete with a 24 hour jaunt to Paris, a meal so memorable, I still think about it, and two days at Wimbeldon—for the men’s and women’s finals, no less. My parents are avid tennis players,…

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Another Week Ends: Contra-Coddling, Dumb Phones, Harambe, Optional Church, TV God, and the Millennial Whoop

Another Week Ends: Contra-Coddling, Dumb Phones, Harambe, Optional Church, TV God, and the Millennial Whoop

Kudos to the trend buckers out there, the first of whom being the University of Chicago, who sent this letter to their class of 2020 before their arrival on campus. In opposition to the kind of coddling we’ve seen surface over the past couple years in academia, Chicago promises their students that there will be no such thing as trigger warnings in their classrooms. Diversity, if it means anything at all, will be as offensive as it is accepting. Part of the job of the university, they argue, is to level the playing field of discourse—something that a culture of offense prohibits…

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The Postmodern Community: A Magnifying Mirror of Me

One of the most interesting books (if you are a nerd like me) I’ve read in the last couple of months is Babel, a book co-authored by Ezio Mauro, an Italian writer, and Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist. Himself a secular Jew, Bauman seems to always offer profound insight into our Western cultural climate, and if you manage to read Babel, it will likely leave you with more questions than answers. Here’s just one quote that is ripe for reflection and is good fodder on the self’s bent-inwardness (incurvatus in se):

41TCtCOvLTL…[C]ommunities came to be supplanted by ‘networks’—forms of association made to the measure of ‘self-communication’. In stark opposition to the old-style communities, a network is a grouping (more correctly, a list or a roll-call of names or addresses) meant to be selected/composed by the individual on his/her sole responsibility for the selection of links and nods. Its ‘membership’ and boundaries are not ‘given’; neither are they fixed—they are friable and eminently pliable; defined, drawn and endlessly redefined and re-drawn at will by the network’s composer placed firmly in its centre. By origin and by its mode of existence, it is but an extension of the self, or a carapace with which the ego surrounds itself for its own safety: cutting its own, hopefully secure, niche out of the dumbfounding, inhospitable, and perhaps—who knows?!—hostile offline world. A ‘network’ is not a space for challenges to the received ideas and preferences of its creator—it is rather an extended replica or magnifying mirror of its weaver, populated solely by like-minded people, saying what the person who admitted them is willing to hear, and ready to applaud whatever the person who admitted or appointed them says; dissenters, individuals holding to contrary—or just unfamiliar and thus uncomfortably puzzling—opinions are exiled (or, at least consolingly, amenable to being banished) at the first sign of their discordance.

Surviving November

Surviving November

Even though it’s not even September, the weary need their rest. As we enter a particularly vicious (and ridiculous) election cycle, we bring out from the archives our “Surviving November” series from four years back. Based on Jonathan Haidt’s work, The Righteous Mind, DZ delves into the sociology of political strife, and what hope we might be able to gather in spite of it.

 

I. Political Divides, Intuitive Dogs, and Rational Tails

Maybe the non-stop and increasingly ludicrous “opposition ads” have started to make you dread turning on the TV. Maybe you can’t read your (predominantly pop culture-focused!) Twitterfeed without getting depressed about…

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A Just Relief: How the Gospel Inspires Justice and Mercy – Raleigh Sadler

Just when you thought the NYC Conference videos were finished!

A Just Relief: How the Gospel Inspires Justice and Mercy – Raleigh Sadler from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

This Week: Come See Stars in My Crown With PZ in Stamford, CT!

You Are Invited: This Wednesday Aug 24th at 7:30pm to the final installment of our summer film series, “Religious Hope From the Movies”, at the Avon Theater in downtown Stamford, Connecticut. To whet your appetite our host, Paul Zahl, produced the following blurb:

stars-in-my-crown-movie-poster-1950-1020537482I’ve never met someone who didn’t fall for this movie. We’re talking about a Hollywood Western entitled Stars in My Crown, which was released in 1950 and starred Joel McCrea. Stars in my Crown was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who made many movies you’ve heard of, such as Cat People (1942) and Out of the Past (1947).

Interestingly, Stars in my Crown was Joel McCrea’s favorite movie in which he acted, and Jacques Tourneur’s favorite movie that he directed.

You’ve got to come see this movie with us next Wednesday at the Avon Theater in Stamford.

Why?

Well, it presents a Christian minister who is the essence of grace in practice. Somewhat episodic, Stars in my Crown tells the story of a sincere, delightful, and persistent minister who is faced with problem after problem after problem in the small town where he has planted a church — from the strong resistance of the local doctor, who is a rationalist, to a power play from the town’s “big man” (and also the Klan) against an African-American senior, to an inward assault upon the minister’s own faith and confidence when a typhoid epidemic brings his ministry to a standstill.

Stars in my Crown is one of the few mainstream movies — together with the French movie Leon Morin, Priest (1961), and a small handful of others — that depicts a minister or priest with accuracy, empathy, and sympathy — in short, with Christian understanding.

At 7:30pm PZ will introduce the movie — which we featured, by the way in Mockingbird at the Movies (2015) — and right after the movie’s over, we have a special guest. Our special guest is Peter McCrea, son of Joel McCrea, who will talk about his father’s spirituality, and why it is that Stars in My Crown was his dad’s favorite.

Hope you can come.

Another Week Ends: Mandating Happiness, Facetuning Your Face, The Never-Ever Golden Age, and The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere

Another Week Ends: Mandating Happiness, Facetuning Your Face, The Never-Ever Golden Age, and The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere

Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with psychologist and ‘experimental theologian’ Richard Beck, author of Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted.

1. The New Yorker asked last week whether or not you can mandate happiness? Looking specifically at workplaces—workplaces that are basing their strategy from positive psychology and “science of happiness” studies—the article describes that happiness (believe it or not, people!) triggers better personal relationships in the workplace, and thus higher productivity. What the studies do not show, though, is that that happiness cannot be…

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Back To School, I Mean Anxiety, I Mean School

Back To School, I Mean Anxiety, I Mean School

After months of swimming pools and sleeping late, the school year is upon us. For so many reasons, we rejoice in its arrival. The fall means that we get to reboot the family schedule. We buy a new day planner (if you’re a Technology Memaw like myself) and make dinners in the crockpot again. If you are lucky enough to go to one of those schools that requires uniforms, then by now you have spent a mortgage payment on tiny sailor dresses. It is all very exciting.

Also, the school year brings enough devilish anxiety to blow the roof off of…

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Throwback Thursday: The 1983 Interview with…Robert Farrar Capon!

Throwback Thursday: The 1983 Interview with…Robert Farrar Capon!

Another gem from The Wittenburg Door, the satirical Christian magazine of yore which brought some heavy-lifting (and light-humored) interviews back in the day. This is their phenomenal interview with hero bon vivant Robert Farrar Capon (ht MM).

Door: You used to teach theology?

Robert Farrar Capon: Someone had to do it.

D: We’re glad it was you and not us.

RFC: So is the theological community.

D: We were going to be easy on you, but now you have forced us to ask the difficult questions. Here’s our first: What is theology?

RFC: That’s a difficult question?

D: Quit stalling.

RFC: Theology is a funny kind of knowledge. Unfortunately, most…

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