Another Week Ends

1. Irrepressible Moneyball author Michael Lewis profiled new Mbird fave Daniel Kahneman for Vanity Fair […]

David Zahl / 11.18.11

1. Irrepressible Moneyball author Michael Lewis profiled new Mbird fave Daniel Kahneman for Vanity Fair in his recent piece, “The King of Human Error,” providing perhaps the clearest and best overview of the great social psychologist’s research yet. The anchoring effect makes for a particularly terrific addition to our ongoing catalog of human fallibility. But it’s the humility of the man himself which makes the deepest impression:

[Kahenman and his partner Amos Tversky] had a rule of thumb, [Kahneman] explains: they would study no specific example of human idiocy or irrationality unless they first detected it in themselves. “People thought we were studying stupidity,” says Kahneman. “But we were not. We were studying ourselves.” Kahneman has a phrase to describe what they did: “Ironic research.”

2. Our friend BLS recently posted an inspired meditation on “A.A. and Salvation” on her Topmost Apple site:

A.A. is the example par excellence of Grace, in fact: those who recover in the program recognize, sometimes early on and sometimes much, much later, that recovery is solely on account of the utterly unmerited Grace of God. “The best efforts” of human beings – either the alcoholic or those who’d tried to help her – had no effect on the problem; it’s not until people let go – till we surrender all control – that we are able to recover. It is a left-handed process entirely: great power unleashed in the midst of – and, in fact, by means of – pain and weakness.

I realized that one of A.A.’s singular features – one of the things that make it different from religion as it’s usually practiced – is that it’s an open-ended process. There is no ultimate “goal”; there’s no particular endline that, once having crossed it, you can say that you’ve definitively “arrived.” There aren’t any particular “metrics” – which means that there is lots of opportunity for adventure and the chance to continually learn. There is the priceless opportunity to live one’s own life, as it plays out in all its reality, under the Grace of God.

3. On a related note, “Risen From the Gutter, He Whispers Hope to Hollywood’s Junkies,” CNN’s  profile of recovery-guru Bob Forrest is worth your time, and not just because it mentions Mbird faves Jack Kerouac and Michael Jackson. Forrest’s on-stage breakdown is immensely powerful, his cursing of Christ a profound indication of how close he had come to the Man himself. CNN also published an unintentionally hilarious headline this week in its guest editorial “All It Takes To Solve the US Debt Problem is Willpower.” You think?!

4. A couple of very touching tributes to the man behind PZ’s Podcast (new episodes coming early Dec) popped up this past week on The Gospel Coalition, one from Ray Ortlund “I Honor Paul Zahl” and one from Tullian Tchividjian “The Burned Over Place.” Don’t forget to pre-register for the LIBERATE Conference in Fort Lauderdale in February (23-25th). The sooner you do, the cheaper it’ll be!

5. I serendipitously stumbled across a new must-watch Mbird movie this past weekend, the slice of Norwegian brilliance known as Trollhunter. If the title alone isn’t enough to get you to watch it (streaming on Netflix instant!), think of it as a considerably cleverer Cloverfield, with gorgeous scenery and the funniest Christian subplot I’ve, well, ever seen. What a friend we have in Jesus…

6. Craig Finn of The Hold Steady was interviewed over at Slate about his new FNL inspired record, Clear Heart, Full Eyes, and touched on a number of very sympathetic points. Cannot wait!

Slate: Before you go, I wanted to ask about your handling of religion, something else that sticks out about your songwriting. Not that many indie rockers get into that subject.

Finn: Well, I think faith is just an interesting topic, and it’s something that I quite honestly struggle with. But I always find, however much I believe about the Catholic Church—and I have some major problems with it—I always find that going to church is a very peaceful and a really nice time for me. Sitting through mass, and sitting in mass. You know, the thought of forgiveness, redemption—those are things that hold an awful lot of beauty for me, and really relate to our lives, no matter who we are. So those are the kind of parts that I focus on. And obviously there are things that are really scary and awful that I try to forget about.

7. In TV, this week brought the sad news that our beloved Community will be replaced mid-season. Apparently this does not equate to a flat out cancellation, but still, what a bummer! Yes, the increasingly annoying way they’ve lazily made Shirley into a one-note shrill Christian this season represents a significant chink in the armor of TV’s most inventive comedy, but even so, the Chaos Theory episode remains the best half-hour aired this year on any network. Otherwise, Bored to Death has been enjoying its funniest season yet, and Homeland just blew the doors off itself (in a good way!). Despite a lukewarm review in The Times, I’m excited about the PBS doc on Woody Allen airing this weekend, too. Of course we’re also one week away from:


Keep an eye on the Christianity Today website for an article about Jim Henson and his creations by yours truly. The online version is three times the length of the print version, just, you know, FYI.

P.S. A big thank-you to everyone in Tyler who were so gracious to me/us last weekend during the Pixar event, especially our inspiring compatriots at B3 Ministries, new friend Chris Legg and the entire Green Acres community.

P.P.S. We’ll be sending out our big year-end update and appeal the week after Thanksgiving. To be sure you receive one, sign up for our mailing list!


One response to “Another Week Ends: King of Human Error, Open-Ended AA, Hollywood Junkies, Trollhunter, Craig Finn, Community and Muppets”

  1. Chris Legg says:

    David, it was great to get to meet and “fellowship” with you. Cool to get to meet a brother with similar passions. I look forward to coordinating stuff in the future! And I wish we could catch the Muppets together. I look forward to your thoughts eagerly…

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