Sometimes you go to a Damien Rice concert and Glen Hansard shows up to cover Jeff Buckley (at Warsaw Ballroom)

Friday afternoon office (at Alchemy Restaurant)

#Brooklyn (at Prospect Park Long Meadow)

So freaking psyched (at Brooklyn Academy of Music)

Fall break (at Dynaco)

For the first text in our creative nonfiction writing class, my students and I read St. Augustine’s Confessions. For the second, we read Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss.

I hadn’t read all of Wiman’s book when I assigned it, but I was pleased that the syllabus fairy saw fit to have me assign them together. Augustine’s book contains the meditations of an ancient church father; Wiman’s is subtitled “Meditations of a Modern Believer.” Augustine’s is addressed largely to God; Wiman’s is addressed mostly to us, and also to himself. When Augustine wrote his meditations, he was ill, run-down, beset by heresies, and in the midst of midlife turmoil, if not a crisis. Wiman’s book wraps around his own struggles with cancer and pain and belief. Augustine wrote to find, narrate, and undercover his faith — and Wiman did, too.

It’s beautiful, then, that two books by two men from opposite ends of history can speak to one another, and to us, so well, in so many ways. Wiman’s book, despite its subtitle, seems sometimes ancient; Augustine’s feels intriguingly modern.

Read the rest here.

… Girls certainly expresses what this looks like in a world where there’s no other moral duties except those you set for yourself. Douthat argues that this is why “reactionaries” like the show—because it illustrates this imperative and its pitfalls. As many commentators have noted, the characters’ overriding problem is a sense of anxiety: they are anxious about themselves, their relationships, and their jobs and money, certainly, but they are far more anxious to make sure they are finding out who they are, whatever the cost. Most of the show’s plot conflicts derive from this anxiety.

That’s all actually rather a relief to people my age and younger, who can watch other young people bowing under the weight of this obligation to self-actualize, without any of us really having a sense of what that means or where it came from.

But here is where I think Douthat gets it wrong, and it might explain why the show actually crosses political lines, at least among younger viewers.

Read the rest here.

… I’ll confess that in publishing this review, I knew it was going to be a little like lobbing a grenade over a wall, given that the review is forceful in tone. Here is why I went with it: not only did I think Jack pinpointed what made me so uncomfortable with the property since I was a teenager, but he did it not as some kind of cynical outsider but as someone with a great deal of personal investment in the matter, and he also made it possible to say something out loud that I think is important.

I believe it is vital for Christians to recognize that they are a massive market segment who are only going to see themselves marketed toward more in the future. And I believe that it is important for Christians to realize that they can use that power to ask for better entertainment, things that actually do explore the deep, complex questions that have animated our faith for millennia. I think it’s time for Christians to quit acting like victims and instead call a spade a spade when they see it.

And, most importantly for us, I think it is important to give audiences permission to feel morally outraged if they feel they’ve been had.

Read more here.

Midnight at Lincoln Center, with a new installation. (at Lincoln Center Plaza Fountain)

I read a good little post at Mockingbird today, and it reminded me why it’s so hard to write about culture as a Christian, for a Christian audience.

In the reflection, Will McDavid wrote that “cultural engagement”—a term I, too, have come to dread—is a poor substitute for the sort of cultural isolation that evangelicals and other Christians embraced in the twentieth century, and have just begun to claw their way out of in the relatively recent past.

But as McDavid points out, our “re-engagement” with culture has sometimes amounted to, well, talking about talking about culture. Things get much trickier when we actually pull out the actual cultural artifacts: it’s one thing to talk about watching movies, and a whole different, more complex thing to try to talk about specific movies (Noah, say, or Before Midnight, or Her, or Free Birds, orWolf of Wall Street).

I think that’s because we tend to treat actual cultural artifacts in the way we sometimes treat the Bible: as “proof texts” from which we can draw principles or truths for application. 

Read more here.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is no natural light in David Fincher’s movies.

Well. Sometimes there is. Someone walks across a campus, or a field, or a yard. But at the end of that journey is an experience that will pulverize any optimism the protagonist might have been feeling, which by that point is usually in shreds anyhow.

Gone Girl, adapted by Gillian Flynn from her bestselling novel, has had the sun sucked out of it too. It is more or less a classic noir film, with all the trappings, which is to say: it is dark.

Read the rest here.

Something is horribly wrong in this episode and I’m disturbed

You guys #nyff (at Alice Tully Hall)

It’s on (at Joyce Kilmer Park)

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me.

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Seamus Heaney
(spotted on the subway)