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Be of good cheer, little pup, for thou too in resurrection shall have a little golden tail. ~Martin Luther @revdeaconb

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    Another Week Ends: Prophetic Marshmallows, Honest Obituaries, Psychopathic AI, A Game for Good Christians, and the Bruised Face of Forgiveness

    Another Week Ends: Prophetic Marshmallows, Honest Obituaries, Psychopathic AI, A Game for Good Christians, and the Bruised Face of Forgiveness

    1. This week, a social science story takes the lede. New research out of NYU and UC Irvine is casting real doubt on the hallowed Stanford Marshmallow experiment, a study long used to tout the virtues of delayed gratification, patience, and self-control:

    The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second one if she can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room. Whether she’s patient enough to double her payout is supposedly indicative of a…

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    The Easter Effect, Dolly Parton, and a Specific Kind of Jesus

    The Easter Effect, Dolly Parton, and a Specific Kind of Jesus

    Happy Easter! By now, the ham leftovers should be about finished, the bonnets returned to their boxes, and the elusive eggs left unfound on Sunday are easily discovered by following the faint smell of sulfur. Clergy are just about recovered from the multiple services of Holy Week. And for those of us from liturgical traditions, Alleluias are back on the table. Lent has passed, and we’re now in an “Easter State of Mind.”

    That “Easter State of Mind” is the subject of one of the better think-pieces offered up by the web this year. At the Wall Street Journal, George Weigel…

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    Mr. Rogers on the Root of Everything

    Mr. Rogers on the Root of Everything

    It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! The official trailer dropped this week for the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, due this June. “Love is at the root of everything—all learning, all relationships—love, or the lack of it,” says Fred into the camera, meaning we’d better bring a box of tissues to the theater with us. In the meantime, to keep us sated till the big day, here’s a quick hit list of our past writings on the man and his legacy.

    First, here’s DZ’s take on a touching 2011 profile of Mr. Rogers in The Spectator, in which…

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    Altered Carbon and Why We Hate Our Bodies

    Altered Carbon and Why We Hate Our Bodies

    A quick note: Altered Carbon is a show with real theological insight, but the road to those insights is marked by lots of nudity and violence. It’s as bad or even worse than Game of Thrones or Westworld. Even though a hard-R rating applies, the sex and violence is a part of the show’s Flannery O’Connor style commentary on the misplaced desire to escape the body. St. Paul’s admonition not to cause fellow Christians to falter in their faith is one easily parodied and misapplied, but in this instance, it’s worth taking seriously. Also, this write up is spoiler free.

    In Altered Carbon’s…

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    Jet Ski Carrots and Oscar Night Incentives

    Jet Ski Carrots and Oscar Night Incentives

    Of the Mbird readership who watched the Oscars last year, about one-fifth of us decided not to watch them this year. So say the Nielsen numbers, anyway, which showed a 19% decline in the show’s broadcast over previous years. I like to think that’s because of the growing popularity of Sunday evening church services, but alas, we all know that’s not the case. The growing trend of limited release passion projects (who in Ebbing, Missouri, would ever watch Three Billboards?), the expected and deserved victory lap over Harvey Weinstein’s exile, cord cutting, you can pick your favorite poison for this year’s…

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    I, Tonya Justifies the '90s

    I, Tonya Justifies the ’90s

    Where were you in 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan took the famous billy club to the knee? Can you believe that event took place nearly a quarter century ago? It’s one of those strange decade-defining events that’s lasted in our minds alongside the Milli Vanilli lip syncing scandal of 1990, the Clinton affair scandal of 1998, or the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994. For those who weren’t following the illustrious world of ’90s U.S. figure skating, or for those who simply weren’t born yet, there’s a fresh chance to get in on the story with this year’s Oscar bait dark comedy I,…

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    The Last Jedi's Last Rites: The Weight of Failure in Star Wars

    The Last Jedi‘s Last Rites: The Weight of Failure in Star Wars

    It’s really tempting to dismiss December’s new Star Wars movie premiere tradition as the same-old same-old. Three years into this new chapter, and one worries the franchise is falling into the same pattern as the Marvel movies we all have trouble keeping up with. Good guys, bad guys, heroes, villains, you’d be forgiven for writing it all off as a film studio’s easy money or an exercise in blissful nostalgia. It’s an easy critique of 2015’s The Force Awakens, which some panned as an unoriginal remix of A New Hope (a major critique that soured me on the film).

    Thankfully, The Last…

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    Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 2)

    Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 2)

    Too long for one post, we’re looking at the advent of the “sadcom,” a unique TV comedy developed over recent years. Sadcoms are shows that find humor in the debauched and dysfunctional lives of lead characters, punctuating that wildness with sincere moments of sympathy. For a longer breakdown, check out part 1, with a review of BoJack Horseman‘s season four.

    It’s worth asking how we got to this place, where alcoholic horses and mad-scientist grandpas become critically acclaimed television for adults. It’s a question that Elizabeth Bruenig’s write-up “Why is Millennial humor so weird?” worked to answer last August in the…

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    An Obituary from Beyond the Grave

    An Obituary from Beyond the Grave

    With Halloween right around the corner, it’s the perfect time of year to remember the sobering reality that death comes for us all. Hooray! That’s the case for many as the streets fill up with ghosts, ghouls and zombies, though that certainly isn’t the case universally. In my neighborhood, the ghosts and ghouls are generally outnumbered by the hoards of Jedi, Avengers, and Disney Princesses that come with open pillowcases. For a master primer on our cultural denial of death, look no further than Ethan Richardson’s piece in the Mockingbird Magazine’s Love & Death issue.

    While we may be in a…

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    Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 1)

    Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 1)

    On the TV front, two new seasons of Mockingbird favorites are now out for your viewing pleasure. Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty just finished its third season, with Nielsen knighting it the most popular comedy on television, and Bojack Horseman’s fourth season is now available for binging on Netflix. Both shows are regulars in our “best of TV” columns each December, occupying a fair amount of Mockingbird HQ water cooler chitchat. It’s a little silly to think that TV shows featuring an alcoholic super-genius grandfather and a washed up 90s sitcom-star horse garner critical acclaim and commercial success, but that’s…

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    Everybody Touch Somebody: Glory & Grace in Last Chance U

    Everybody Touch Somebody: Glory & Grace in Last Chance U

    The very first shot of the second season of Netflix’s documentary series Last Chance U shows a hot Mississippi sun peeking out through trees. The second shot is of a small church near the rural town of Scooba. The third shot is also of a church, while the audio of a preacher addressing his congregation plays as a voice-over. “As the coach watched himself on that screen, he didn’t like what he saw” expounds the voice-over, referencing the show’s first season. “Can you imagine if a documentary was made about your life? And they followed you, the good the bad,…

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    Another Week Ends: Empathy Gadgets, Billy Joel, Axl Rose, Campus Sinners, Finnish Sports, and an Arvo Pärty

    Another Week Ends: Empathy Gadgets, Billy Joel, Axl Rose, Campus Sinners, Finnish Sports, and an Arvo Pärty

    The biggest news of the week is, of course, the news that Mbird is hosting a Reformation Conference in D.C. this October! Check out the conference page for details, mark your calendars for October 27-28, and get ready celebrate 500 years of the Christian tradition we love so much. Now: onto our regular wrap-up.

    1. Here at West Virginia University, we are a mere 8 days away from move in weekend. It’s been a quiet news summer on the free-speech front, though the think-pieces certainly haven’t stopped coming. As schools prepare for another semester of classes, there are no signs that…

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