Week In Review

Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Housekeeping thing: a few copies of A Mess of Help sent out had lots of 5s in their tables of contents. Let us know if you got one of those, and we’ll send a new one.

1. As we’re getting into the Christmas spirit, The Economist makes a surprising contribution with a survey of the Magi’s reception history. Apparently the men were likely astrologers/sages of some sort, but people found kings more appealing. In medieval times, some strange theologians talk about massive royal retinues encamped outside Bethlehem, etc. And in other strains of the tradition, they were bumbling traveler types, something in between the…

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Another Week Ends: Elephant Mothers, New Journalism, More Lumbersexuals, Passwords, Tauntauns and Nettles

Another Week Ends: Elephant Mothers, New Journalism, More Lumbersexuals, Passwords, Tauntauns and Nettles

It’s Christmas time, and it feels like everyone on the Internet is talking about…the Internet.

In Hard Cover!

As the debate continues about what journalism is becoming—in light of the fall of the New Republic and the retracted reporting of a certain Rolling Stone article—much of what gets talked about is money, and the kind of click-bait that tends to get corralled for the sake of it. As the age of online news matures, it seems that content is more the handmaiden to investors than public dialogue and interest.

But deeper than this, other discussions have emerged pointing to the “radical liberal”…

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Another Week Ends: Secular Salvation Myths (and Martyrs), Two Joels, Gingerbread Genius, and more Chris Rock

Another Week Ends: Secular Salvation Myths (and Martyrs), Two Joels, Gingerbread Genius, and more Chris Rock

1. If there’s an overriding theme this week, it would have to be the increasingly unavoidable dogmatism which seems to be driving our social and political discourse at the moment. What Chris Rock noted in relation to resurgent ‘political correctness’ rings true: as awful as recent headlines have been–and here in Charlottesville, they have been pretty awful (if not altogether trustworthy)–one wonders whether the ideological fervor almost detracts from the events themselves, whipping us instead into righteous frenzy. I mean, anyone wanting a primer on heresy-hunting need only check Twitter these days. There’s enough apocalyptic jargon, demands for repentance, and assertions about salvation to make the…

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Another Week Ends: GiP, Skinny Law, Depressed Clowns, Motivational Luther, Hipster Businesses, Nickelback Hate, Father John Misty, and Penelope Fitzgerald

Another Week Ends: GiP, Skinny Law, Depressed Clowns, Motivational Luther, Hipster Businesses, Nickelback Hate, Father John Misty, and Penelope Fitzgerald

1. First, there’s Steve Hall’s remarkable podcast about one of our favorite books, Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life. Thoughtful, heartfelt, and ingeniously brief, he manages to do the book justice–and capture something genuinely important–in a mere five and a half minutes:

Those living in the tri-state area take note: Dr. Zahl will be presenting at Olmsted Salon in NYC this coming Monday evening, 11/24 at 7pm, on the topic of “An Odd Sighting of the Paranormal: ‘Penrod’ Crosses Over to the Great Beyond” Fans of The Magnificent Ambersons (those proto-Tenenbaums), both the Orson Welles film version and the original novel…

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Another Week Ends: Life in Psychiatric Records, Faith as Ambiguous Blessing, Evangelical Women, Relentlessly Positive Millennials, Flawed In-Laws, and Friends of Sinners

Another Week Ends: Life in Psychiatric Records, Faith as Ambiguous Blessing, Evangelical Women, Relentlessly Positive Millennials, Flawed In-Laws, and Friends of Sinners

1. If anyone thought that medical records couldn’t be riveting and deeply touching, you’re not alone. But George Scialabba, an acclaimed thinker, writer, and book reviewer, voluntarily posted his psychiatric medical history in the current issue of The Baffler. Apart from the courage and vulnerability  such a move shows, as well as the compassion for fellow sufferers which presumably undergirds his release, Scialabba’s post offers a curious mixture of elements as a reader: self-reproach for such intimate voyeurism combined with a feeling that you’re really seeing yourself; wonder at how far short even highly accomplished people can fall far short of…

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Another Week Ends: MacNicol Burns Out, Winton’s Discretion, Lomax Forgives, Skeletor Insults, Lena Bares, and Zissou Goes Digital

Another Week Ends: MacNicol Burns Out, Winton’s Discretion, Lomax Forgives, Skeletor Insults, Lena Bares, and Zissou Goes Digital

1. In an unintentional bit of foreshadowing, yesterday’s dispatch from The Onion condensed a number of today’s (anti-Gospel) themes into a succinct bit of satire: the frenetic pace of modern-day America, the exhaustion and restlessness and the humble-brag workaholism endemic to our way of life, the overvaluing of accomplishment/career and the cult of productivity, the fear of idleness and aversion to ‘being’, the compulsive, non-stop proving afforded by technology–the sum total being what we not-so-lovingly refer to as the World of Demand. The stakes were drawn afresh for me this week in an article that came across my desk from an unexpected source, Elle magazine….

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Another Week Ends: Death Row Hymns, L’Arche Communion, Heresy Polls, Haunted Houses, Gossip Law, Andy Warhol, and 70s Halloween

Another Week Ends: Death Row Hymns, L’Arche Communion, Heresy Polls, Haunted Houses, Gossip Law, Andy Warhol, and 70s Halloween

1. A nice change of pace this week, with not one but two stories of grace to get the tear ducts working. First, via The NY Times Magazine, lawyer and writer Bryan Stephenson recalls “The Man on Death Row Who Changed Me”. During law school, Stephenson was asked to visit an inmate on death row, to inform the prisoner that a ‘real’ lawyer had yet to be assigned his case. Bryan arrives feeling unprepared and nervous about delivering what he assumes to be bad news. To say that the condemned man’s response takes him aback would be an understatement:

The…

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Another Week Ends: Misplaced Fear, Further Reflections on an Epidemic, Recovery and the Ego’s Death, Dave Eggers, Marilynne Robinson, and Clickhole

Another Week Ends: Misplaced Fear, Further Reflections on an Epidemic, Recovery and the Ego’s Death, Dave Eggers, Marilynne Robinson, and Clickhole

1. It’s a little too easy, but Barry Ritholtz over at Bloomberg helpfully reminds us that Ebola is no threat to the personal health of 99.99% of Americans, which goes into a broader point:

We fear the awesome predatory perfection of the great white shark, and have made the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” “the longest-running cable television programming event in history.” This seems somewhat disproportionate, given that 10 people a year die from shark attacks — out of more than 7 billion people. If you want to fear a living creature, than logic suggests it’s the mosquito — they kill more human…

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A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

1. Lots of interesting news on the how-can-we-be-sure-God-exists front. We’ve had our own part of that conversation, highlighting our own favorite Atheists and the hip trend of flogging Dawkins (dibs on Flogging Dawkins as a band name!). If the patterns are to be believed, it seems that the trajectory is toward a more humble, less aggressive atheism that acknowledges its own non-rational presuppositions. And humility is good for everybody, theist and atheist alike. Gary Gutting over at the New York Times sums up his series of interviews with religious philosophers, and while the ending seems disjointed (I’m an agnostic Catholic?), the middle is helpful:

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Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Before we get going, the Houston Conference is almost here!! While we never turn anyone away–last minute walk-ins more than welcome–we need to know by Monday morning (10/13) if you are planning/hoping to dine with us. You can either pre-register on the site (through Tuesday at midnight), or send us an email at info@mbird.com so we can reserve you a plate. The food is going to be delicious!

1. First off, this is both incredibly fascinating and incredibly sad. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Downtown Project, a “start-up city” in Las Vegas founded and pioneered by Tony Hsieh, the guy behind…

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Another Week Ends: Kafka’s Facebook, Pre-cations, New Hugo, New Pixar, the Empathy Police, and Kid Worship

Another Week Ends: Kafka’s Facebook, Pre-cations, New Hugo, New Pixar, the Empathy Police, and Kid Worship

1) Facebook at the top of our list again this week, thanks in whole to Joshua Rothman’s New Yorker article, “In Facebook’s Courtroom.” The article depends on a deadly cocktail of TMZ’s Ray Rice video release and Kafka’s “The Trial.” What he gets at, in doing so, is the idea of Facebook as our junk-room of judgment—a place where ‘likes’ are actually ‘hate-likes’ and a user’s status updates stand as verdicts on the world around them. Even the positive “Gratitude Challenge” trends that crop up are indirect judgments disguised as inspirational montages.

Rothman is not just talking about the tendency to…

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Another Week Ends: Axiomatic Romance, TMI Troubles, Welby’s Doubts, Antrim’s ECT, Recovering Moms, Reuniting Replacements, and Alien Baptisms

Another Week Ends: Axiomatic Romance, TMI Troubles, Welby’s Doubts, Antrim’s ECT, Recovering Moms, Reuniting Replacements, and Alien Baptisms

1. Love has been on the brain here in Cville as we put the finishing touches on the upcoming ‘Relationships’ issue of The Mockingbird. Among other things, we’ve been watching insane documentaries, interviewing experts, and listening to (un-)godly amounts of ABBA. So it was serendipitous this week to come across The Atlantic’s “Love Is Not Algorithmic”, a review of/reflection on Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), the new book by online dating guru and OKCupid co-founder, Christian Rudder. Most of it falls into captain obvious territory re: love & identity & control, but a couple of…

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