Another Week Ends

1. “The Filthy Moralist: How Louis C.K. Became America’s Unlikely Conscience” in The Atlantic is […]

David Zahl / 4.13.12

1. “The Filthy Moralist: How Louis C.K. Became America’s Unlikely Conscience” in The Atlantic is remarkable, especially in its conclusion. As always when it comes to Louis, there’s a high depravity quotient, so don’t say we didn’t warn you. But also as always when it comes to Louis, the darkness is not neutral or meaningless (or merely shocking). In fact, it might even be worth the discomfort in this case to get to the final couple of paragraphs, which truly capture what Louis is about, whether he wants to be or not. It strikes me as especially pertinent as we prepare for a conference about honesty (where sex addiction is on the docket):

What if, sinking darkly through his veils of shame, jabbing at us with his aggressions, he is showing us a better way to live? “Perhaps,” suggested Marshall McLuhan, “the world has been given to us as an anti-environment to make us aware of [God’s] word.” There’s Louis’ comedy for you—or for me, at least: an anti-environment through which we might discern, brokenly, the gleamings of the Kingdom. Grace strews its hints through Season Two of Louie: the startling charity of a neighbor when Louis’ sister falls ill, or the duckling that Louis’ daughter smuggles into his luggage before he takes off for a USO tour in Afghanistan—the fluffy, ridiculous duckling that eventually saves his life.

2. David Brooks reflected on the intersection of contemporary social activism and film noir heroes Sam Spade this week in what has to be one of his most creative columns:

A noir hero is a moral realist. He assumes that everybody is dappled with virtue and vice, especially himself. He makes no social-class distinction and only provisional moral distinctions between the private eyes like himself and the criminals he pursues. The assumption in a Hammett book is that the good guy has a spotty past, does spotty things and that the private eye and the criminal are two sides to the same personality.

He is reticent, allergic to self-righteousness and appears unfeeling, but he is motivated by a disillusioned sense of honor. The world often rewards the wrong things, but each job comes with obligations and even if everything is decaying you should still take pride in your work. Under the cynical mask, there is still a basic sense of good order, that crime should be punished and bad behavior shouldn’t go uncorrected. He knows he’s not going to be uplifted by his work; that to tackle the hard jobs he’ll have to risk coarsening himself, but he doggedly plows ahead.

3. While we’re looking to our reliable standbys, Tullian Tchividjian’s post earlier this week entitled “Grace Prevails” is absolutely wonderful and hits on a number of our favorites subjects (and via a couple of our favorite authorities). The ending packs quite a punch:

There is nothing that is harder for us to wrap our minds around than the unconditional, non-contingent grace of God. In fact, [as Bono says] it “defies our reason and logic,” upending our sense of fairness and offending our deepest intuitions, especially when it comes to those who have done us harm. Like Job’s friends, we insist that reality operate according to the predictable economy of reward and punishment. Like the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal son, we have worked too hard to give up now. The storm may be raging all around us, our foundations may be shaking, but we would rather perish than give up our “rights.”

Yet still the grace of God prevails! His gracious disposition toward us thankfully does not depend even on our ability to comprehend it. When we finally come to the end of ourselves, there it will be. There He will be. Just as He will be the next time we come to the end of ourselves, and the time after that, and the time after that.

And for evidence of what Tullian is talking about – i.e. just how tragically difficult it is for us to wrap our law-loving hearts around God’s grace – look no further than the increasing number of polemics the poor guy seems to be provoking over there. Actually, don’t look – unless you’re not exhausted by life enough already. Oy vey!

4. Next, and speaking of reactivity, our beloved Axl Rose will not be taking part in this weekend’s Rock N Roll Hall of Fame induction after all. And I for one found his public letter convincing – the “Hall” has always been a bit of joke, no? – but perhaps I’m just viewing the situation through, ahem, rose-colored glasses. On a similar note, The Atlantic published a piece on the geography of Heavy Metal, and as you might expect, Scandinavia is still leads the world in the production and export of shredding, by a massive margin. And let us never forget:


Dylan’s post-Love comment is one for the ages, no?!

5. On Wired, Jonah Lehrer interviewed Eric Kandel about his new book The Age of Insight, which looks at the burst of creativity that occurred in fin-de-siecle Vienna (Klimt, Schiele, Schnitzler, Schoenberg, and, of course, Freud) through the lends of neuroscience:

Modernism in Vienna brought together science and culture in a new way to create an Age of Insight that emphasized a more complex view of the human mind than had ever existed before. Whereas the Enlightenment thinking of the 18th Century emphasized that human beings were distinct from all the other animals because they were created by God as rational creatures, the Viennese Modernists, influenced by Darwin, realized that humans evolved from simpler ancestors. Moreover, they were — as the physicians, Freud and Schnitzler, and the artists, Klimt, Kokoschka and Schiele would point out – not rational creatures, but people that were importantly driven by unconscious mental drives.

6. Can’t resist posting a couple more Whit Stillman-related articles. First, there’s Richard Brody’s online review for The New Yorker that outstrips the one from Anthony Lane that appeared in the print edition pretty handily:

The young women lend the school an air of discipline and self-discipline, of rules to apply and rules to follow—and that, if followed, bring pleasure and inner peace—but, in their romantic confusions and disappointments, they themselves have trouble benefitting from their own wisdom. The principle of chaos and sorrow is, unbeknownst to them, contained in their gospel of renewed wholeness, because there’s something like original sin at the bottom of it… Stillman distills his unspoken confession: he was, indeed, away, and he returns with crisp clothing and fresh scent, a dance craze, an aptitude for heartbreak, an unbroken string of loopily witty discourse, an unmollified rage to proselytize, and a vast fund of poise, grace, wit, humor, self-control—and forgiveness.

Second, Slate has a charming look at Why Whit Stillman Loves Dancing. Remember, folks, the cha-cha is no more ridiculous than life itself. (Details about the pre-conference Damsels outing coming soon!)

7. Also in the much-anticipated film department, the reviews for Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods are in and they’re fantastic. The Atlantic calls it “a delightful demolition of the horror genre, a tale that subverts not only its own terrors, but those of pretty much every scary movie you’ve ever seen.” And The A/V Club writes, “It’s an exercise in metafiction that, while providing grisly fun, never distances viewers. And it’s entertaining, while asking the same question of viewers and characters alike: Why come to a place you knew all along was going to be so dark and dangerous?”

8. Onion Headline of the Week: “Questions Linger About Long-Fingered Man.”

9. Finally, in TV, The AV Club roped Paul Feig into doing a wonderful walk-through of the much beloved Freaks and Geeks (our appreciation of which went back into the slider earlier this week).



P.S. Needless to say, the pace may slow a bit next week as we prep for the conference. But take heart that we’ve just revamped the mobile versions of this site. So if you’ve got Mbird on your smartphone or iPad, be sure to empty the cache and/or reinstall. It should hopefully run a lot faster and be easier to use.