Posts tagged "NY"
Paying Taxes To The Pale King

Paying Taxes To The Pale King

Tax Day marks the release of Mockingbird icon David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel, The Pale King. Quotes forthcoming, but from the few reviews that have appeared already, it sounds predictably ripe… Italics mine.

Michiko Kakutani in The NY Times: [DFW's] posthumous unfinished novel, “The Pale King” — which is set largely in an I.R.S. office in the Midwest — depicts an America so plagued by tedium, monotony and meaningless bureaucratic rules and regulations that its citizens are in danger of dying of boredom.

Just as this lumpy but often stirring new novel emerges as a kind of bookend…

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James Franco and Bradley Cooper Are More Perfect Than You

James Franco and Bradley Cooper Are More Perfect Than You

A wonderfully insightful article by Carina Chocano in The NY Times Magazine, “Our Imperfect Search for Perfection,” using, among other things, the two recent Hollywood releases “The Adjustment Bureau” and “Limitless” to discuss our profoundly troubled relationship with perfection. Certainly the first time I’ve ever seen Pelagius in the Times (and certainly in conjunction with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). I was only disappointed she gave the Christian understanding of human fallibility such short shrift. Weird, almost – because fashionable or not, what she’s describing here is nothing less than the unshakeable and inherent religiosity that plagues all of…

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Stumbling and Imperfectable

Stumbling and Imperfectable

A stunning and poetic few paragraphs in Jonathan Schell’s moving reflection in yesterday’s The NY Times on the disasters afflicting Japan right now, specifically the tragic partial meltdown of several nuclear power plants:

The chain of events at the reactors now running out of control provides a case history of the underlying mismatch between human nature and the force we imagine we can control.

Nuclear power is a complex, high technology. But the things that endemically malfunction are of a humble kind. The art of nuclear power is to boil water with the incredible heat generated by a nuclear chain reaction. But…

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Social Animal Redux

Social Animal Redux

A couple more items in our ongoing ‘coverage’ of David Brooks’ new treatise on human nature, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.

1. The NY Times Book Review gave some thoughtful if ultimately suspect/predictable ‘pushback’ this past week. That is, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the reviewer, Thomas Nagel, is engaging in the exact behavior Brooks is describing, i.e. dressing up an emotional reaction in intellectual language. But his summarizing is helpful, and his conclusions are nevertheless to be taken seriously:

The main problem that Brooks addresses in this book is how to understand the…

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The Power and The Glory and Luke 19

The Power and The Glory and Luke 19

I was intrigued by a recent article in The NY Times entitled, “Mexican Church Takes a Closer Look at Donors,” which looks at the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico. Apparently it receives large donations from Mexican drug lords. It’s convicting for several reasons, and certainly made the ash on my head yesterday feel a little bit more real.

The first element I found convicting, especially during the season of Lent, was the idea of “an acceptable offering and sacrifice.” The article opens by pointing out that the Roman Catholic Chapel in Pachuca, Mexico has a plaque that honors its…

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David Brooks Gets Inside Your Head

David Brooks Gets Inside Your Head

The final post in our neuroscience extravaganza should come as no surprise: David Brooks’ editorial in yesterday’s NY Times, “The New Humanism.” Building on the comments he made in last week’s interview with The Daily Beast, Brooks synthesizes some of the recent neuroscience findings in a characteristically digestible way, offering us another preview of his new book, which came out yesterday. Not much to add here, and less to subtract – I’ve reposted almost all of it – suffice it to say, you have to go out of your way not to be struck by how much Brooks’ insights jive…

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Dehumanization and the Human Mind

Dehumanization and the Human Mind

Kicking off a day full of neuroscience is the review in the NY Times of philosopher David Livingstone Smith’s new book, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others. Those familiar with Smith’s work, for example Why We Lie and The Most Dangerous Animal, will not be surprised to find his original sin obsession in full bloom. That is, he’s continuing with his exploration of the underbelly of evolutionary psychology, this time describing the very uncomfortable intersection between human nature and genocide. Reviewer David Berreby’s conclusions are almost equally fascinating:

Dehumanization is a mind-set, as Smith writes, that…

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Another Week Ends: Grace & Cutting, Depression & Recession, David Foster Wallace, Burned-Over Generations, Greg McElroy, Supernatural, Arcade Fire

Another Week Ends: Grace & Cutting, Depression & Recession, David Foster Wallace, Burned-Over Generations, Greg McElroy, Supernatural, Arcade Fire

1. Continuing this past month’s unexpected foray into gender-related topics (i.e. here, here, here and here), Christianity Today published a doozie of an article earlier this week on its Her.meneutics site, “The Gospel of Grace for Women Who Self-Injure”. A couple lines from the conclusion (ht DB):

I’m not surprised that self-punishing behaviors occur among Christians. And this is not to blame the church. For legalism — and I would argue that this is what these behaviors are at their core — comes in guises both religious and secular. The desire to control the destiny of a few…

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Self-Criticism, Self-Compassion and Self-Indulgence, Reconsidered

Self-Criticism, Self-Compassion and Self-Indulgence, Reconsidered

A number of insights to be gleaned from the report in Monday’s NY Times, “Go Easy On Yourself.” Not just in the sense of horizontalized Law (discipline/criticism) vs Grace (compassion) – though that too – but in the clearly universal discrepancy between head knowledge and heart knowledge, and most remarkably, in the immediate objection that self-compassion will lead to self-indulgence. An objection known in Christian terms as the fear of antinomianism or licentiousness, which crops up whenever freedom is being proclaimed. In fact, I’ve rarely heard it voiced so clearly in the social science realm. Now, if the “self” part…

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Technology, Honesty, Loneliness and Identity: Facebook Making Us Sad, Take 2

Technology, Honesty, Loneliness and Identity: Facebook Making Us Sad, Take 2

A follow-up to the recent post about Facebook making us sad is the full-length review in the NY Times of MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. She’s basically exploring the psychological side effects of the Internet, which of course, have an enormous amount to do with identity, anxiety, control and what we call the Law. Although one does detect a slight air of curmudgeonliness (“in my day…”), and some of the insights may strike you as awfully self-evident, it nevertheless sounds like a worthwhile and important book:

Many…

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Sweet Emotion on American Idol?

Sweet Emotion on American Idol?

Not being a huge American Idol person, or post-Rocks Aerosmith fan, everything in Jon Caramanica’s article in this past Sunday’s NY Times, “Steven Tyler Escapes From Idolatry,” was news to me. Those of you who’ve seen the episode in question can tell us whether it was indeed a lightning-striking instance of grace on TV or a carefully played media-moment (or both, as the article suggests). But there’s an unmistakeable note of Nazareth here – in regards to Mr. Tyler, that is – of folks being caught seriously off guard by his charisma/character/kindness, of their preconceptions being exposed for what they…

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"I Did It All For The Glory Of [Me]"

"I Did It All For The Glory Of [Me]"

In recent years, nearly every personal newspaper, magazine, or internet piece has been written written by someone “who is working on a memoir,” “has just completed a memoir,” or “is thinking about writing a memoir.” While some of these pieces are very good, most are unmemorable, becoming indistinguishable from previous entries within moments after reading. Why so many memoirs?

Neil Genzlinger’s recent NY Times Book Review The Problem with Memoirs laments the market saturation. While reviewing four memoirs (none of which I’ve read), he offers guidelines for deciding whether a memoir should be published:

Sure, the resulting list [of tens of thousands…

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Positive Thinking and Bad Medicine

Positive Thinking and Bad Medicine

An interesting editorial in Monday’s NY Times by Richard Sloan, entitled A Fighting Spirit Won’t Save Your Life, about the dangers of linking spirituality and physiology. Suffice it to say, the author is no homeopath. Yet as anti-religious as he comes across, there are definitely some sympathetic ideas being expressed. John 9 springs to mind:

The idea that an individual has power over his health has a long history in American popular culture. The “mind cure” movements of the 1800s were based on the premise that we can control our well-being. In the middle of that century, Phineas Quimby, a…

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Nietzsche, Socrates, Seneca and The Philosopher’s Stone

Nietzsche, Socrates, Seneca and The Philosopher’s Stone

A fascinating if somewhat downbeat review of James Miller’s new Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche appeared in this past weekend’s NY Times Book Review, containing more than a few gems about human nature and the search for meaning. In particular, the book details how various philosophers have negotiated, or failed to negotiate, the impossible gap between the ideal and the real (known to us as, well, sin) in their own lives. Lots of prime divided-self/Romans 7-material in here:

If the proof of a pudding is in the eating, and the proof of a rule is in the exceptions,…

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Reynolds Price, In Memoriam

Reynolds Price, In Memoriam

The concluding paragraphs of the Southern writer’s obituary in last weeks NY Times were pretty striking: 

The undercurrent of Christian charity evident in Mr. Price’s previous work became even more pronounced in these and later novels, like “Roxanna Slade” (1998) and “The Good Priest’s Son” (2005), in which fallible characters face momentous moral choices. The deepening moral tinge, which some critics found too schematic, was rooted in Mr. Price’s Christian faith: he was an unorthodox, non-churchgoing believer.

“The whole point of learning about the human race presumably is to give it mercy,” he told The Georgia…

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