Identity
When Smartphones Get Too Smart

When Smartphones Get Too Smart

Well, this is pretty amusing. Writing for The Atlantic, James Carmichael explored our precarious relationship with self-knowledge via the awkwardness of Google Now. I’m almost surprised he didn’t quote Eliot’s line about humankind not being able to bear much reality (or law). I mean, some of us can’t even handle looking at our most-played in iTunes, I’d hate to think what kind of revelations a ‘smart’ tracking device might hold (e.g. “it’s 10:45pm! – Time to secretly gorge on your kids’ snack food”, “Beep beep beep! It has now been eighty seconds since you last checked your web stats”, etc)….

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Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Over the next few weeks, many kids will be starting school for the very first time. Cue collective family panic. It is an unwieldy process. Notebooks have to be purchased and lunches packed. Everyone has to wake up earlier. Much earlier. If you are like our family, you have the challenge of convincing a three year old that he does in fact have to wear a uniform on the daily. It is the opposite of fun.

But of course, the practical panic inducing tasks pale in comparison to the emotional anxiety that takes hold. We worry about our kids. Will they…

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The Vices of Leisure by the Virtue of Speed

The Vices of Leisure by the Virtue of Speed

Another missive from the busy trap. This one comes from Brigid Schulte’s book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. In the age of humblebragging, about the achievements you’ve undergone, the vacations you’ve eye-rollingly sped through, the go-gurt you’ve got jammed in the glove compartment, Schulte reminds us that this talk is all about the righteousness of purpose which, in the modern parlance, is held up by the metric of time. And, she notes, it’s not just for the frenzied East Coast corporate lawyer–people in North Dakota are crunched, too. She takes a trip to Fargo…

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Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Four Verses Thirteen through Twenty Six

Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Four Verses Thirteen through Twenty Six

This morning’s edition in The Mockingbird Devotional comes from Ethan Richardson.

“…Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life…” (John 4:13-26, ESV)

Jesus is saying here that he doesn’t buy into all the things we pretend to be. These are all portions of the same shallow water—the human propensity to “be okay.” We all posture in this way—sometimes we forget we’re even doing it…

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I Am What I Drink: Identity and Craft Beer

I Am What I Drink: Identity and Craft Beer

Long time readers of the blog will know the world of alcohol is one of life’s laboratories where our favorite theological themes are examined. Lord knows we’ve written a book’s worth of material on the subject of alcoholism, addiction, and the wisdom found in the world of recovery. Along with the very real and widespread issue of dependency, the bar scene is another petri dish where some of the most widespread identity-crafting techniques are employed. Chief among the questions of identity: what should I drink, and what will my order say about me.

For craft beer fans, the question of drink and identity is a…

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With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Everything you’ve heard about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is true. The movie is visually stunning, it’s exciting from start to finish, the special effects are some of the best I have ever seen, and…the movie is an amazing commentary on the flaws of humanity.

According to a recent article over at the New York Express Tribune blog, this may well be the whole point of the movie:

Director Matt Reeves specifically chose to focus on the evolution of the apes and the irony that while the simian virus may have helped to set them free, by making them more human, it also…

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You Are Definitely Not Your Introspections

You Are Definitely Not Your Introspections

In last week’s Op-Ed, David Brooks asked whether or not “knowing thyself” is possible and, if it is, where it can be separated from the pitfalls and stagnation of narcissism. Self-awareness, argues Brooks, is a “perfect breeding ground for self-deception, rationalization and motivated reasoning.” This happens when we get a little too close to the man in the mirror, which often drives us to oversimplifications or “ruminations”–the despairing paralysis of one’s own fears and anxieties. Either one makes us dangerous self-perceivers. We either become nighthawk depressives or impervious bigots. The best way to “know thyself,” Brooks astutes, is to take…

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The Nerdy Pharisees

The Nerdy Pharisees

When I was in college, a group of pledges from one of the socially-elite fraternities on campus painted “NERDS” in large capital letter on the roof of my fraternity’s house. It was a pejorative statement.

Until that act of vandalism, we didn’t know that we were nerds. We dressed nicely. We drank a lot. We were involved in campus activities. We weren’t the glasses-wearing, teetotaling, social pariahs portrayed in movies like Revenge of the Nerds. We were nice people.

But our niceness was precisely what made us nerds. The ever-evolving landscape of social distinctions can be difficult to discern. And, unless you’re one of…

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On TV: Rectify, “Donald the Normal”

On TV: Rectify, “Donald the Normal”

Sundance TV’s drama, Rectify tells the story of Daniel Holden – a death row inmate in South Georgia who is released from prison because of “lack of DNA evidence” after 19 years of appeals and stays of execution.  The series is wrapping up season two, and it’s still unclear to the viewer if Daniel is innocent or guilty of the crime he was sentenced to death for – raping and murdering his girlfriend when he was 18. There are “whodunnit” elements to the show and slow reveals that suggest both that Daniel may have done it, and that he couldn’t…

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The Ups and (Mostly) Downs of Single-Elimination Childhood

The Ups and (Mostly) Downs of Single-Elimination Childhood

A few thoughts on one parent’s devastating (and hilarious) attack on “America’s Kid-Competition Complex”. Turns out no one ever thought of a good idea in the middle of cramming for the SAT…

500 Miles from Bir-ming-ham: Umberto Eco and the New South

500 Miles from Bir-ming-ham: Umberto Eco and the New South

The New South aesthetic is farcical, but not irredeemably so.

Over pimento cheese fritters with bacon jam at a restaurant in South Georgia, I marveled at waiters in chambray shirts under plaid vests, distressed brick walls, and cocktail names like ‘rockin porch’. How, I wondered, had things down there come to such a pass? My companion, a Virginian who’d gone to a New England college, lightly objected to the rusty scythes and plows adorning the walls – wasn’t this a bit much?

The farm tools were almost a New South parody, the chiks comin’ home to roost. To the Georgian, it seems,…

Identity, Ass, and the Wrong Context

Identity, Ass, and the Wrong Context

Emily Newton on the new phenomenon of social media anonymity, and the teenage quest for a powerful new name.

Another Week Ends: Electroshock Silence, MMO Addiction, Little Miss Perfect, Novel Tweets, Dawkins Hubris, Weird Dylan and Mad Max

Another Week Ends: Electroshock Silence, MMO Addiction, Little Miss Perfect, Novel Tweets, Dawkins Hubris, Weird Dylan and Mad Max

1. Buried in a weekender earlier this month, you may have seen the, er, shocking report of a study conducted at UVA (of all places!) that found that “People Prefer Electric Shocks to Being Alone With Their Thoughts.” If you dismissed it as classic social science clickbait, Lord knows you’d have our sympathy. But it would appear the findings were for real. In an article for The NY Times this week, Kate Murphy expanded on them substantially, folding in a number of our hobby horses along the way (compulsive busyness, over-distraction, Romans 7, even male underachievement), while curiously missing a golden opportunity…

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Just One of the Guys?

Just One of the Guys?

Stephanie Phillips on what it means to be a woman (sort of) in Jenny Lewis’s new album, The Voyager.

Another Week Ends: Overrated Successes, Disappointing Babies, Nostalgia for Human Error, Impossible Repayment and Technocrat Baseball

Another Week Ends: Overrated Successes, Disappointing Babies, Nostalgia for Human Error, Impossible Repayment and Technocrat Baseball

1. William Deresiewicz’s clickbaity “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League” draws in high-achievers and their parents to, well, pull the rug out from under them. Apologies for the lengthy quotes, but it’s very good, ht MB:

These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures…

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