The scientist who yields anything to theology, however slight, is yielding to ignorance and false pretenses, and as certainly as if he granted that a horse-hair put into a bottle of water will turn into a snake.
–H. L. Mencken
Saturday was my birthday, and I was showered with a heap of my favorite kind of gift: Stories about triumphant people whose lives have been ruined. I’d like to say that it is theological conviction that makes me read these stories end to end, but it is probably some sort of dopamine-stimulating Schadenfreude. Either way, it is an embarrassment of riches.
As promised, the new Dylan record reviewed by a true expert and friend, Mr. Ken Wilson:
I’m a bit of a Dylan fanatic. I’ve seen 51 shows and counting (Lord willing); I make his mother’s banana bread on his birthday; I’ve heard so many live versions of his classics that I fancy (the heart is deceitful), when hearing an off-night mp3, that I could improve his phrasing. Nothing serious, even if my cockatiel is named “Bob.”
But he’s my favorite character, not my hero. I only skim the thick volumes that treat his every lyric like it’s as reference-rich as Finnegan’s Wake….
The recent interview with Bob Dylan in Rolling Stone is, without a doubt, the most fascinating thing I’ve read all year. It’s contentious, sure, but a lot of Dylan interviews are contentious–you know, where you get the sense he’s almost enjoying confounding the interviewer. Or at least not willing to put up with an ounce of nonsense or non-wisdom, especially when it comes to his work and person. For example, reading how Dylan responds when the interviewer, Mikal Gilmore, tries to lure him onto the partisan bandwagon-of-the-month is worth the price of admission alone. In fact, we watch as Dylan’s…
1. Over at The Daily Standard, writer and lecturer Joseph Epstein asks, “Who Killed the Liberal Arts?” With pre-professional education and a degree of liberal-arts relativizing on the rise, Epstein finds a central problem with American higher education to be the same kind of achievement cult that recent films like Waiting for “Superman” have criticized. Epstein’s phrasing is particularly succinct:
Trained almost from the cradle to smash the SATs and any other examination that stands in their way, the privileged among them may take examinations better, but it is doubtful if their learning and intellectual understanding are any greater. Usually propelled by…
1. As the Olympics wind down (and Morrissey gets his London back), we would do well to read Heather Havrilesky’s jaw-droppingly insightful piece “The Loneliness of the Person Watching the Long Distance Runner” that appeared in the NY Times Magazine last week. She absolutely nails the religiosity at the heart of much contemporary athleticism. And she even touches on how we instrumentalize suffering in a distinctly theology-of-glory-like way, i.e. as a means of self-salvation. Which is a bit ironic, since as far as cultural commentators are concerned, I consider Havrilesky a gold-medalist:
1) The New Yorker recently released a very good (and very short) story from none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald, called “Thank You for the Light.” A “pretty, somewhat faded woman of forty,” a midwestern corset saleswoman, she cannot find a place to smoke a cigarette away from judgmental eyes. She is becoming desperate and in her desperation she finds, yes, a church. A small sampling here, but be sure to take the extra five minutes and read the whole thing here.
And to herself she was thinking, If I could just get three puffs I could sell old-fashioned whalebone.
Flow, river, flow
Let your waters wash down
Take me from this road
To some other town
It is a disservice to lump Easy Rider into the slews of “counterculture” or “indie” filmscapes of the late 1960s and early 70s. It’s not that these descriptors aren’t accurate–both are quite true–or that it wasn’t a hippie-handed film, standing against those “scissor-happy, beautify America” typesetters that George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) could still so aptly classify. What makes it different, though, and thus limited by such descriptors, is that it so inclusively sups with the whole (“All walks of life!”) far too…
Davy Jones’ premature death last month was only the most recent (and visceral) in a long line of Monkee tragedies. Journalists have done their best to respect the late entertainer, shoring up The Monkees’ legacy by mentioning their influence on such contemporary attempts to manufacture prefab chart-toppers as American Idol and The Voice. And they’re not wrong. The Monkees do represent one of the more crass meetings of commerce and art in the TV-era. But the larger tragedy is that most people think that’s all they were.
The singles speak for themselves: “Last Train to Clarksville” “Valleri” “Listen to the Band”…
This is about sentimentality. I’m not so bearish about sentimentality as I once was. In fact, I’m pretty bullish on it these days.
Yes, I know: “Sentimentality (is supposed to be) long-term cruelty.” And some well-known dictators have been a lot nicer to their pets than to their subjects. In other words, it’s possible to be a sentimentalist and awful at the same time.
But sentimentality has the benefit of being in touch with feeling. And feeling is good. Feeling is deep, instinctive almost, and often allied with love. Don’t we generally wish we had more “heart”…
A fitting follow-up to our recent post about how memory relates to self-justification from NPR, “For the Dying, A Chance to Rewrite Life.” The segment looks at a new therapeutic technique being used with the dying, something called “dignity therapy,” which involves those in the last stages of life putting together formal written narratives of their lives. As you might imagine, the results have a sacramental aspect, combining confession, apology, self-justification, delusion and willful if heartfelt revision. What’s perhaps most interesting is the conclusion of the piece; dignity therapy may superficially appeal to our denial of death – i.e. the…
Apple cultivates such a serene image, it’s hard to believe that the underlying corporate culture, at least if reports about the late Steve Jobs’ management techniques are to be believed, is one of confrontation, brutal criticism and threat. Then again, perfectionism tends to produce such fruit. Sort of the opposite of Pixar, which is ironic, since Jobs help found that studio as well. Not that either company has suffered creatively (Cars 2 notwithstanding).
Wired took the announcement of retirement as an opportunity to report on a few recent discoveries on the relationship between creativity and anger. Discoveries which frankly challenge the…
WHAT: Mockingbird seeks to connect the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways.
WHY: Are we called Mockingbird? The name was inspired by the mockingbird’s peculiar gift for mimicking the cries of other birds. In a similar way, we seek to repeat the message we have heard - God’s word of grace and forgiveness.
HOW: Via every medium available! At present this includes (but is not limited to) a daily weblog, semi-annual conferences, and an ongoing publications initiative.
WHO: At present, we employ three full-time staff, David Zahl and Ethan Richardson and William McDavid. They are helped and supported by a large number of contributing volunteers and writers. Our board of directors is chaired by Mr. Thomas Becker.
WHERE: Our offices are located at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA.
WHEN: Mockingbird was incorporated in June 2007 and is currently in its seventh year of operation.
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