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Posts tagged "This American Life"

Stories of Grace and This American Gospel

Stories of Grace and This American Gospel

In an article from The Atlantic, Cody C. Delistraty writes about the psychological comforts of storytelling. He writes, “Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness.” He also says stories can impact and form our emotional lives. Storytelling pulls back the curtain on others’ minds so we can see how people operate and think. This process can validate and challenge our own beliefs. Another reason we tell stories is that we all want to be a part…

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The Foolish and the Weak are Confounding the Wise and the Strong...Yet Again

The Foolish and the Weak are Confounding the Wise and the Strong…Yet Again

If you haven’t watched any of Austin Rogers’ first 12 Jeopardy wins (running currently), you’ve missed seeing the most money amassed over a 12 day period (over $400k) in Jeopardy history. Rogers is a bartender from Manhattan. Do yourself a favor, and start setting your TiVos and DVRs, and treat yourself to a master. It’s not what you think, though. Rogers is tremendous at trivia, but he’s even better at poking fun at the Jeopardy Intelligentsia. Take the last 4 episodes for example (through Oct 11). While being introduced, Rogers has mimed making a martini, solving a Rubik’s Cube, and…

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Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

The Miami Herald called it the love story that defied death, the dark romance that hit the front page of the paper in 1940. It all started when Carl Tanzler, or Count Carl von Cosel as he preferred to be called, spotted the beautiful but dying tuberculosis patient Elena Hoyos in a Florida hospital in 1931. Though Elena never returned his affections, was married at the time, and died shortly after she caught von Cosel’s attention, he visited her tomb every day for the next year and half. And then, one fateful night, he claims to have heard Elena singing…

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A Story of the Unexpected: "Just What I Wanted" from This American Life

A Story of the Unexpected: “Just What I Wanted” from This American Life

This American Life’s recent Christmas episode, about gifts, told stories of mostly bad news: two of the three segments were about characters realizing that the thing they most wanted was bankrupt of what they actually needed. They were about expectations and disappointments, about human longing and our tendency to put our faith in the wrong things.

The first segment, however–the prologue–was the precise inverse: the thing we didn’t realize we wanted was the thing we needed most.

It’s a good story. It starts off with a Marine named Luke who, while serving in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005, spent his off-time watching Gilmore Girls.

Luke Huisenga: Yeah, I mean,…

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Flannel Antinomians and a Satisfaction Guaranteed

Flannel Antinomians and a Satisfaction Guaranteed

If the pattern keeps going, we’re going to need Ethan Richardson to write volume two of This American Gospel. Ira Glass and crew at This American Life have given us some of our favorite stories and sermon illustration over the years, and episode 591’s exploration of LL Bean’s return policy joins the ranks. If you need a frank discussion about the role of antinomians in 2016, look no further.

Check the glossary for a fuller treatment, but the short spiritual definition of an antinomian is someone who, after encountering the Gospel of love and forgiven sins, “goes rogue” with the “un-Christian…

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The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

I feel sorry for those who have to put up with me this month. It gets pretty unbearable. You see, some people try to lose weight in January. For me, it’s June, the month when the calendar empties out and I can devote what little willpower I have to the project of reduction. The other eleven months of the year, for whatever reason, such attempts have always proven to be “subject to futility”.

So for thirty days at the beginning of each summer, the majority of my mental energy is occupied consumed by dieting. I try to play the single-mindedness for laughs, but it’s irritating.

The…

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String Theory, Shoestring Theory, and Your Entry in Modern Jackass Magazine

String Theory, Shoestring Theory, and Your Entry in Modern Jackass Magazine

In 2010 Kathryn Schulz, a journalist for the New Yorker, wrote a book called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. This passage comes from that book, and describes a phenomenon we know all too well: that we pretend to know something that we, in fact, don’t know anything about. Maybe we lay out the chief causes of the Flint, Michigan water crisis because we skimmed a Washington Post story on it. Maybe we throw out some statistics about incarceration in America–statistics even we didn’t know before they came out of our mouth. Maybe we describe to our spouse how he/she should water the fig plant….

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Unexpected Help from the World of Xanth

Unexpected Help from the World of Xanth

A few weeks ago, NPR’s episode of This American Life was called “Show Me the Way,” (a rerun from 2012) and it focused on stories of people in trouble who sought help in strange places. The main story was about a fifteen-year-old who, feeling antagonized by both his stepfather and his high school, walked himself eight miles to the airport and then flew off to Florida using several years’ worth of paper route money in search of Piers Anthony, his favorite author.

Xanth, the fantasy kingdom in Piers Anthony’s books, looks remarkably like Florida, and fifteen-year-old Andy used the maps in…

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The Love We Can't Believe Doesn't Exist

The Love We Can’t Believe Doesn’t Exist

As we all know, love stories are often too good to be true.

On This American Life last week, NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, who now has his own podcast called Hidden Brain, tells the story of a love-letter scam created by a man named Don Lowry. In the 1980s, Lowry purchased the address lists of major men’s magazines and began sending catalogs advertising female penpals. Interested men could peruse this catalog of pretty girls, with photographs and extensive bios, and begin receiving letters and pictures for a subscription fee.

You might have an idea of what these pictures and letters…

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The iPhone Fades to Black: A Review of Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

The iPhone Fades to Black: A Review of Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Another excellent reflection from our friend, Tim Peoples.

The 2015 release of both a straightforwardly critical documentary and (based on the marketing so far) a celebratory biopic about Steve Jobs may give the impression that he is a polarizing figure, i.e., that Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine and Boyle + Sorkin via Isaacson’s Steve Jobs represent, respectively, those who dislike and those who love the man. As Gibney shows in the introduction to The Man in the Machine, however, there is no meaningful bifurcation of opinion about Jobs’ legacy. The dominant cultural assumption, which the documentary was explicitly created to undermine, is that…

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Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer's Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer’s Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

This reflection comes to us from Tim Peoples.

I’m no hero, and that was brought home to me in a three-month binge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (twelve films and three TV series…thanks very much, Age of Ultron marketing!).

Several works in the MCU follow a wider cultural trend of the deconstruction of the American male (ht DZ at the Love, Suffering, and Creativity conference), which shows us how low our anthropology should be. For example, the Iron Man trilogy is mostly about Tony Stark’s attempt to atone for war profiteering, and the third installment even provides a post-Iraq/Afghanistan meditation on post-traumatic…

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"This American Life " - On Re-purposing Our Monuments of Shame

This American Life ” – On Re-purposing Our Monuments of Shame

There was a great story on NPR’s “This American Life” this week.  Back in 1999, on an annual list of 354 U.S. & Canada Cities, Kankakee, Illinois was voted the worst – number 354. The criterion included crime rate per capita, climate, unemployment rate, etc. When the list came out, David Letterman (a nearby Indiana native) felt some compassion for Kankakee, knowing that they had (like a lot of Mid-West towns at the time) lost a lot of lot key industries in the 90’s, leaving the town a shell of itself.  The last thing he felt that the town needed…

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