Addiction
Alone with Oprah: Lindsay Lohan and Public Recidivism

Alone with Oprah: Lindsay Lohan and Public Recidivism

I can’t explain why I started watching Oprah Winfrey’s network documentary series about Lindsay Lohan, simply called “Lindsay.” We lived in Manhattan when her infamous Marilyn Monroe-esque photos were published by New York Magazine. There was something about Lindsay juxtaposing herself with such a tragic and talented figure that made her surprisingly interesting. But honestly, the subsequent jail time, trips to drug rehab, and tabloid partying lifestyle made me sort of numb to caring. And then Oprah decided to make her life a pet project. And I was compelled to tune in.

The series begins on a note of hopeful promise….

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D.G. Myers on the Art of Dying

A powerful (and very Holy Week-appropriate) reflection on death came from literary critic D.G. Myers, who faces his own mortality in the throes of prostate cancer. This was originally uncovered by our friends over at The Dish.

tumblr_kvtcvdVG4q1qzkyblo1_500Dying is the problem, not death. As an Orthodox Jew, I believe with perfect faith in the resurrection of the dead, but until that happens, death is the termination of consciousness. No peeking back into life. I won’t get to keep a scorecard of who is crying at my funeral, who is dry-eyed, who never bothered to show up. If I want someone to cry at my funeral, I need to patch things up with him before the last weak images flicker out.

In the past few weeks I have been approaching ex-friends whom I have damaged to ask their forgiveness. I’ve been behaving, in short, as if dying were a twelve-step program. Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Not that I mind having enemies. One person whom I approached recently accused me of “basking in self-importance,” which is one possible way, I suppose, of describing the tireless knowledge that death is near. But there are other persons, including some with whom I have had very public fallings-out, whom I don’t want as enemies when I pass away. To die without accepting responsibility for the damage I have done to relationships that were once meaningful to me would be shameful and undeniably self-important.

An Introduction to the Excessive World of The Mockingbird

An Introduction to the Excessive World of The Mockingbird

This letter from the editor opens up our first issue of The Mockingbird, our quarterly magazine which has just arrived in mailboxes! To subscribe to The Mockingbird, click here. 

“Tell me which kinds of excesses fascinate you, tell me which kinds of excesses appall you, and I will tell you who you are.” –Adam Phillips, “In Excess”

If Phillips is right, and excesses are the ways we are revealed, then there’s plenty to say about what’s been passing through my Newsfeed. Just this week: Kanye West commissions a Kim Kardashian pop-art portrait from one of Andy Warhol’s cousins in Arizona….

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What Would Jesus Tweet? The Gospel in the 21st Century (Conference Recordings!)

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An enormous thank you to all the fantastic people at St Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Louisville, KY, who made the What Would Jesus Tweet mini-conference possible earlier this month! What a privilege it was to meet so many new friends; the warmth and graciousness of the welcome we received was nothing short of overwhelming. To read a (very generous!) re-cap of the event, go here. The recordings are now available, both on our Resources page and here, in the order in which they were given. Click on the talk titles to download, or on the players below to listen:

Talk 1: What Would Jesus Tweet? – David Zahl


Talk 2: Everybody’s Anxious, Nobody’s Bored – David Zahl


Everything New Is Moralism Again – The Rev. Jacob Smith


The Psychology of SalvationDr. Eric Johnson


Talk 3: What We Talk About When We Talk About Freedom and Closing Q&A – David Zahl and Jacob Smith


Another Week Ends: Negatively Positive Thinking, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Love and Friendship, Fun Families, Facebook Sociology and Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories

Another Week Ends: Negatively Positive Thinking, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Love and Friendship, Fun Families, Facebook Sociology and Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories

1. Think positive! The New Yorker this week pushes back against the “think I can” trend, famously espoused by Thomas the Train – and even in adult media, too. While it’s certain that confidence often sometimes helps (Seahawks defensiveback Richard Sherman self-imputed the title “best cornerback in the league” and subsequently grew into it), it tends to break down in the long run, ht TB:

According to a great deal of research, positive fantasies may lessen your chances of succeeding. In one experiment, the social psychologists Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer asked eighty-three German students to rate the extent to which they “experienced positive thoughts, images,…

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Another Week Ends: Self-Making Atheists, Structural Dating, Indiscriminate Addiction, Christian Metal, Guilty Pleasures, and Failed Figure Skaters

Another Week Ends: Self-Making Atheists, Structural Dating, Indiscriminate Addiction, Christian Metal, Guilty Pleasures, and Failed Figure Skaters

1. In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik took the release of two new books about the history of atheism to issue one of his periodic ‘state of modern belief” pieces. Most of the word count is devoted to the question of when the burden of proof definitively shifted from atheists to believers (The Onion weighs in here), and while there are certainly some interesting tidbits, one can’t help but be distracted by: first, wasn’t the exact opposite thing was being said five years ago?, and second, the dichotomy he embraces from one of the books is downright weird, at least…

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Another Week Ends: Hoffman and Addiction, Parenting Confessionals, Harris v Haidt, Trite Apologies, Super Bowl Commercials and Transform(ers)ational Ministry

Another Week Ends: Hoffman and Addiction, Parenting Confessionals, Harris v Haidt, Trite Apologies, Super Bowl Commercials and Transform(ers)ational Ministry

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, of Magnolia and, more recently, The Master fame, passed away this week in what the press generally called a “heroin overdose”. On the subject of addiction, it was painful and touching recalling his role in Owning Mahowny, and a moving reflection on Hoffman’s death comes from fellow Hollywood icon and recovering addict Aaron Sorkin at Time, ht BJ:

I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant…

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Killing Time: The Law of Facebook Obsession

Killing Time: The Law of Facebook Obsession

We’ve certainly said a lot about Facebook already. See here, here, and here for some fine examples. In the past week, though, some of you will have no doubt encountered Time Magazine’s new “Facebook-time-wasted calculator” (they didn’t give it a sexy name, and that’s the best I could do). This app analyzes the activity on your Facebook account and returns an estimate as to how many days, weeks or, in some cases, months you have been “wasting” on Facebook. All of which, of course, assumes that we would all be doing something more productive with our time.

I know people who are leaving Facebook because of…

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A Brief Reflection on Philip Seymour Hoffman

A Brief Reflection on Philip Seymour Hoffman

The first time I realized Philip Seymour Hoffman was astonishing was when I saw the movie Magnolia. In it he plays the character of a nurse named Phil Parma. Phil has been charged with caring for an elderly man dying of brain cancer. As is the case with so many nurses, Phil goes far beyond the call of duty, and attempts to connect the dying man with his prodigal son. It is a beautiful movie about the desperate pain and honesty of the human condition. And it seems appropriate that in remembering the life of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I think of this compassionate character first.

I suppose the second…

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Another Week Ends: Wealth Addiction, Bieber/Britney Compassion, Friends Generation, True Detective, Grand Theft Auto, Better Praise and Conference Calls

Another Week Ends: Wealth Addiction, Bieber/Britney Compassion, Friends Generation, True Detective, Grand Theft Auto, Better Praise and Conference Calls

1. This one really deserves a post of its own. So much writing about Wall Street greed has the air of jealousy and pettiness around it. Nothing’s an easier target or more convenient prop for self-righteousness than a corporate cog (i.e. “I may not be swimming in it, but at least I believe in something–at least my work has meaning–unlike all those soulless automatons I knew in college who are chasing the almighty dollar. How do they live with themselves?!”). Which is part of what makes Sam Polk’s “For The Love of Money” column in The NY Times last week…

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Another Week Ends: Reciprocal Favors, Atheism’s Biggest Challenge, The New Yorker Profiles Francis I, Declining WASPs, Social Media Christmas Cards, Ascendant Meritocracies, and Simon Pegg

Another Week Ends: Reciprocal Favors, Atheism’s Biggest Challenge, The New Yorker Profiles Francis I, Declining WASPs, Social Media Christmas Cards, Ascendant Meritocracies, and Simon Pegg

1. New Year’s Resolutions: we’ve said about all we’re going to say concerning a yearly ritual of personal bootstrapping, but some great articles this year from Tullian Tchividjian (on the spiritual side of things), from Woody Guthrie’s Sermon-on-the-Mount-standard life guide (pictured below), and finally, a wonderful Quartz article about how to make resolutions you can keep. After long study, they basically reverse-engineered the historically Christian approach to behavior change, from one perspective:

Losing weight, drinking less alcohol, and spending more time with family tend to top New Year’s resolution lists—but they are also among the most commonly broken resolutions. Although about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of us manage to achieve these goals…

I have…

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The Year in Television 2013

The Year in Television 2013

2013 was a little tricky in terms of television–I can’t remember the medium ever being so dominated by a single show like it was by Breaking Bad. In this instance, that was a very good thing; even the year-end backlash that we’re currently seeing can’t obscure the conclusion of what was for all intents and purposes a Great American Novel. But there were plenty of signs of life elsewhere, including a number I’m sure we didn’t catch. But here are a few.

Top Twelve Television Series of 2013

12. Parenthood. Because even if it’s faltering, we can’t not include the most consistently…

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The Secret Santa-Sower and the Heroin Addict

The Secret Santa-Sower and the Heroin Addict

I lead a Thursday morning Bible study. Recently, we have been working our way through the parables (often using the backdrop of Robert Capon’s amazing Kingdom, Grace, Judgment), and this morning, it was time for The Parable of the Sower. You can imagine how happy I was when fellow Mbirder, Ethan Magness posted this clip on Facebook last night, understating, “it’s a nice portrait of imputation.”

The Secret Santa is a perfect analogy for the Sower, who scatters seed willy-nilly across all types of ground. As a group this morning, we were struck by just how strange it is that the…

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You Can Never Have Enough (Copies of Tomb of Ligeia): A PZ’s Panopticon Teaser

You Can Never Have Enough (Copies of Tomb of Ligeia): A PZ’s Panopticon Teaser

As we approach the holiday season, in which I look forward to Paradox Interactive’s Europa Universalis IV and a new sweater for the frigid mid-Atlantic, I was recently reminded of the floater, a (non-) fictional man on the ceiling lovingly created by Paul F.M. Zahl, an out-of-body person watching the doctors operate on his body. What could each religion mean to him, when he needs it most? Specifically, things – a new historic simulation video game or a Tauntaun sleeping bag?

Zahl, in his newest book, PZ’s Panopticon, examines the religion of Things in a remarkably fresh way, using his ‘panopticon’ (‘all-seeing’) of…

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On TV: I Am Deacon Claybourne

On TV: I Am Deacon Claybourne

This fantastic reflection on Nashville comes from our friend Stephanie Phillips:

I have a confession to make: I still watch Nashville.

I realize this hardly makes me a singular phenomenon; last week’s ratings indicate I was joined by five and a half million. The reluctance of my admission finds its basis in the direction the show has taken since around the second half of the first season, when the narrative’s musical focus was usurped by suds: Rayna’s failed marriage (that was quick!); Teddy’s transgressions turning from financial to sexual; Juliette taking showers with a dude named Dante, for Music City’s sake. I considered…

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