Social Science

Parenting Where the Ground Is Level

Parenting Where the Ground Is Level

This weekend we had one of those celebratory moments in our lives where virtually everyone we loved most in the world was able to attend. Our daughter was baptized on Sunday and that meant people from Mississippi to Wisconsin figured out a way to get to our house for the big event. And for the first time since my husband and I said our vows of holy matrimony, both sets of our parents were in the same room at the same time.

I worried for weeks about how this would go. I wondered what we would serve for dinner (Frito Pie)…

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Tavris and Aronson on Justification

We’ve posted at length on Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson’s Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), a book which brilliantly details the far-reaching consequences of self-justification and cuts toward the heart of the human condition.

Perpetrators are motivated to reduce their moral culpability; victims are motivated to maximize their moral blamelessness. Depending on which side of the wall we are on, we systematically distort our memories and account of the event to produce the maximum consonance between what happened and how we see ourselves… The relatively small number of people who cannot or will not reduce dissonance this way pay a large psychological price in guilt, anguish, anxiety, nightmares, and sleepless nights. The pain of living with horrors they have committed, but cannot morally accept, would be searing, which is why most people will reach for any justification available to assuage the dissonance.

The unendurability of such a price generally leads people to rationalize one way or another to conform events to a pre-existing picture we have of ourselves. Such dissonance can be eased by delusion, “moral acceptance” – basically, anything goes – but the Christian message enters into that dissonance, formulates it. “I do not do what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate”; “simul iustus et peccator, saint and sinner at once”. Christians are so often described as self-righteous not least because our religion’s self-helpy, aspirational form may encourage us to distort things still-more to maximize consonance between “what happened” and our newly-inflated picture of ourselves, between the ideal of linear sanctification and the empirical evidence of recidivism. The only message which can speak effectively to the all-pervasive problem of justification is the assurance that what happened has been forgiven and is now of no consequence, and how we see ourselves was delusory to begin with.

“I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight, Oh Lord”: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

“I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight, Oh Lord”: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

The fourth and final installment of Ian Olson & I’s Halloween series for Mbird focuses on Frank Darabont’s 2007 adaptation of a Stephen King novella, The Mist—which has been spoken about briefly before. The film stars Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden & Andre Braugher.

Blake:

The Mist is a throwback 60’s style creature flick where a group of people are trapped in a grocery store surrounded by a strange, dense mist that came in after an intense storm the night before. If that was not weird enough for the poor captives, those who try to escape the store into the mist seem…

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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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Even Batman Had a Great Grandmother: The Historical Backdrop of Gotham

Even Batman Had a Great Grandmother: The Historical Backdrop of Gotham

Of all the shows in this season’s fall lineup, the last one I expected to love was Gotham. But I do. I love it. And not because I am a Batman fan. And not because Jada Pinkett Smith is incredible. But because I think Gotham points us beyond the everyday superhero story to something about ourselves.

If you are not familiar, Gotham is basically the back story of BruceWayne/Batman. In the first episode we meet the child Bruce Wayne at the moment he witnesses his parents being killed. It is as tragic and painful as it sounds. In all of these…

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A Snob By Any Other Name

A Snob By Any Other Name

The first time I suspected there might really be something between me and the woman who would become my wife was when she made an off-hand reference to one of my favorite movies. It was a relatively obscure film, and not one that usually came up in conversation. Huh, I thought, that’s interesting. My confidence was shaken a few days later when she mentioned having recently attended a certain music festival, which will remain nameless. Let’s just say my appreciation for The Grateful Dead and their ilk had yet to blossom.

I’m embarrassed to admit this. Not just that I had…

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Couple Dies of Confusion

In line with this weekend’s FOMO breakout session, here’s one of the illustrations we looked to, from the most recent season of Portlandia. We looked at the “fear of missing out” as a reaction based primarily in resentment, resentment pointed either at the past or at the future. The fruit of FOMO, then: regret about the lives we never lived, and anxiety about the ones ahead/not ahead. This video certainly falls in the anxiety category, as Kirsten Dunst finds herself haunted by confusion–befuddled at every corner by the distinction between right from wrong.

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

The third installment for Blake & Ian’s four-part series is Ian’s second selection, the 1982 classic creature flick The Thing, directed by John Carpenter andstarring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley & T. K. Carter.

Ian:

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of cosmic/body horror which viscerally manifests the alien abjection of sin. Through masterful use of freezing, tension-fraught atmosphere and brilliant (i.e. horrifyingly gory) special effects, Carpenter meditates on embodiment, identity, and paranoia with breathtaking results. The story, set in hostile Antarctica, follows a shape-shifting alien which can replicate the physiology and even the memories of everything (and everyone) it assimilates. Its arrival triggers an…

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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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Salvation by Sweat Alone

Salvation by Sweat Alone

An uncannily resonant follow-up to Evan’s recent post about the Church of CrossFit appeared in the NY Times Magazine this past weekend, courtesy of Mbird fave Heather Havrilesky. “Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?” she asks, and her answers are nearly identical to our own, i.e. we are all deeply religious, and a religion of law plays to our controlling inclinations. The line about the similarities with the faith of our pilgrim forebears is particularly telling; the roots of asceticism, regardless of the form it takes, can often be traced to the same place. As always, say what…

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Choose Your Own Narrative

Choose Your Own Narrative

I engaged in a Facebook fight recently. This hasn’t happened in a while. I try to avoid commenting on the status updates and posts that particularly (and regularly) annoy me–not so much out of a sense of honor as an awareness that my blood pressure can’t take it. But when I read a comment posted underneath a friend’s status update–a comment that appeared to defend prosperity preachers and minimize the evil of ISIS in one fell swoop–I couldn’t help myself. I loaded up my verbal ammunition and fired.

For the next several hours, I went back and forth with my virtual…

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“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

The second film selection for Blake & Ian’s four-part series comes from Blake’s selection of favorite horror films, the 1986 version of The Hitcher, starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Blake:

Jim Halsey: Why are you doing this to me?
John Ryder: You’re a smart kid…figure it out.

Whether it’s the rise of urban legends or the rise of actual incidents, hitchhiking is all but extinct nowadays. It seems to be another victim slain in the slow and continuous death of the old neighborly courtesies.

Hitchhiking is just one aspect of a wider American artistic landscape full of the open road–from…

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