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Faith Moves In Mysterious Ways

Nov 23 2014 @ 11:49am

After reflecting on the way Mormons have changed their teachings on polygamy and race, Will Saletan posits that the LDS Church will come to affirm the lives and loves of gay people:

When you look back at these stories—not just the reported facts, but the way the church has recast them—you can see how a reversal on homosexuality might unfold. First there’s a shift in the surrounding culture. Then there’s political and legal pressure. Meanwhile, LDS leaders have to grapple with the pain of gay Mormons—now acknowledged by the church as “same-sex attracted”—who sacrifice for an institution that forbids them to love and marry. Within the church hierarchy, less conservative voices gradually replace leaders who have died or stepped down. Eventually, the time is right for a revelation. When you pray hard enough, and you know what you want to hear, you’ll hear it.

The church is well along this path. Two years ago, it acknowledged homosexuality as a deeply ingrained condition and said it “should not be viewed as a disease.” Today, in its essay on polygamy, the church affirms its defense of traditional marriage, but with a caveat. “Marriage between one man and one woman is God’s standard for marriage,” the essay concludes—“unless He declares otherwise, which He did through His prophet, Joseph Smith.” It happened once. In fact, it happened twice. When the time is right, it’ll happen again.

Not so fast, Douthat replies.

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Discovering The God Of Peace

Nov 23 2014 @ 8:34am

We’ve featured debates about Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence over the last few months. In a new interview about the book, she admits her views of God and religion have changed over time:

The change began while I was writing “A History of God.” I expected it to be like its predecessors: a rather smart, clever thing where I showed how people just “rejigged” the idea of God to suit their purposes. But things started to change there. I started seeing in depth how inadequate my idea of God had been. As a young girl, and a young nun, I thought of God as “up there.” Then reading all these people, Maimonides, Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas, all the great voices of the monotheistic tradition, and hearing them say that all our ideas of God are man-made and can’t possibly measure up to who God is — this was a start of the deepening of my understanding.

I tended to favor the individual and the mystical over the organized. But one of the things that I’ve learned is that religion is largely about community. People before Luther simply didn’t experience God in an individual way. You did it by living with the idea of God in community and acting kindly and creatively.

How she makes the case for the continued relevance of the tradition of religious non-violence:

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Responding to a book by Jeffrey Kluger, Brooke Lea Foster defends today’s young adults from accusations of narcissism:

[A]re Millennials any more narcissistic than, say, the Baby Boomers, who were once considered the most self-obsessed cohort of their time? Consider the 1976 cover story of New York Magazine, in which Tom Wolfe declared the ‘70s “The Me Decade.” One could argue that every generation seems a little more narcissistic than the last, puffing out its chest and going out into the world with an overabundance of self-confidence, swagger, even a bit of arrogance. These traits are simply hallmarks of early adulthood—it’s often the first time people are putting themselves out there, applying for first jobs and meeting potential life partners. Overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes. …

[S]tudies have directly contradicted the idea that Millennials are the most narcissistic of previous generations.

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Fangs And Farsi On Film

Nov 22 2014 @ 6:44pm

Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features a vampire heroine who claims her victims in a chador:

Performed entirely in Farsi, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is set in Bad City, a fictional Iranian ghost town (played by Taft, California, situated in the San Joaquin Valley) where oil rigs pump continuously and corpses are dumped in ditches. Plot is subordinate to mood and atmosphere … aspects enhanced by the film’s high-def black-and-white imagery. Yet punctuating the film’s pleasingly languid rhythm are jolts of fear and desire.

The girl of the title (Sheila Vand), never identified by name, slinks through Bad City long after sunset cloaked in a chador. She coolly observes the evil that men do before bearing her fangs and exsanguinating them, the fate that befalls her first victim, a heavily neck-tattooed pimp and drug lord (Dominic Rains). Those not guilty of any crime—besides possessing the XY chromosome—are still not above suspicion; in a demonic growl, our undead heroine warns a wide-eyed seven-year-old tyke wearing a tatty sport coat, “Till the end of your life, I’ll watch you.” This vigilante upholds a gender-inverted Sharia law.

Melissa Leon recommends that viewers reserve judgment about the movie’s gender politics:

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Face Of The Day

Nov 22 2014 @ 6:13pm

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Scott Chasserot‘s portrait series Original Ideal explores how people envision their ideal selves:

The experiment is actually fairly straightforward and easy to understand. First, his subjects have their portrait taken in the most unadorned, simplest terms possible. Then, the photos are modified many times over into 50 different versions of the original that are all shown to the subject, one-by-one, while monitoring their brain activity using an Emotiv EEG brain scanner.

Based on the data from the brain scanner, Chasserot can pinpoint the photo that generated the strongest positive reaction. Finally, he posts the original image and the ‘ideal’ image side-by-side so you can see the differences.

See more of Chasserot’s work here, and check out a video about the project below the jump:

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Finding Antigone In Ferguson

Nov 22 2014 @ 3:34pm

In an interview about her book Citizen: An American Lyric, the poet and playwright Claudia Rankine recalls visiting Ferguson, Missouri a week after the protests began this summer. She describes how visiting the memorial reminded her of classical tragedy:

It was a very hot day, and there were a lot of people standing around, waiting for something to happen. Things were happening at night, the police force was coming out at night, but during the day they were just sitting in their cars, watching out the windows. And so there was a kind of odd, steamy, hot August waiting happening.

Really, I just kind of looked at the memorial and stood. And then I found myself being approached by people. A man stood next to me, and saw a picture of Michael Brown at the memorial, and said, “He looks like me.” I didn’t want to say yes, because I didn’t want to align him with a person who had passed away. So I said nothing. And then he said it again, he said, “He looks like me.” So at that point I looked at him and looked at the photo, and he did look like Michael Brown. And I began to think, I wish there was a way to stop him from identifying with somebody who is dead. But the real understanding was that he too could be dead, at any point. He just stood there. He was a teenager. He was still in his pajamas.

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Not long ago, we featured Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” as our Saturday short story. This week, she accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards, and gave a brilliant acceptance speech, seen above, in which she stated her desire “to share the honor with her fellow-fantasy and sci-fi writers, who have for so long watched ‘the beautiful awards,’ like the one she’d just received, go to the ‘so-called realists.’” And then Le Guin reminded us of why fantasy matters:

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The Man Who Made Mapplethorpe

Nov 22 2014 @ 1:27pm

Philip Gefter’s Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe, his new biography of the curator Sam Wagstaff, reveals how Wagstaff’s romantic relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe aided the latter’s rise as a highly celebrated and controversial photographer in the 1970s and ’80s. In a preview of his book, Gefter describes their meeting this way:

In 1972, when he was a 50-year-old man about town, he met and fell in love with Mapplethorpe, a struggling artist half his age. Mapplethorpe, who attended Pratt Institute, a pre-eminent art school, had gotten his cultural education at Max’s Kansas City and the Chelsea Hotel but had not yet claimed photography as his medium. He was still making collages and assemblages with found photographs from physique magazines and Polaroid self-portraits, often naked. Wagstaff thought they were in keeping with the conceptual work being done in that period, but the unapologetic homoerotic component was completely new.

Fan Zhong’s review of the biography sketches a telling scene of what Wagstaff did for Mapplethorpe:

On February 5, 1977, a floppy-haired boy from Queens named Robert Mapplethorpe truly arrived. Following the opening of the 30-year-oldphotographer’s New York exhibitions at Holly Solomon’s venerable SoHo gallery, where he showed refined studies of flowers, and at the Chelsea alternative art space the Kitchen, where he showed refined studies of S&M acts, 200 guests in black tie filled One Fifth, a stylish Art Deco restaurant off Washington Square. Diana Vreeland, Catherine Guinness, Elsa Peretti, and Halston; the art dealers Klaus Kertess and Charles Cowles; Danny Fields, the notorious manager of the Ramones and Iggy Pop; and Arnold Schwarzenegger all circulated amid a riot of downtown’s demimonde. Mapplethorpe turned up in a velvet dinner jacket—the feral photographer at his art world cotillion.

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When Literary Fame Comes Late

Nov 22 2014 @ 11:10am

In a conversation about the novelist John Williams – most famous as the recently rediscovered author of Stoner – Charles J. Shields and William Giraldi compare his posthumous reputation with that of Herman Melville, riffing on why his writing resonates now:

Charles J. Shields: The literary parallel that comes to my mind is what happened to Melville. He died in such deep obscurity that more than one New York newspaper began his obituary with a sentence like, “The current reading generation will not be familiar with the name Herman Melville, but there was a time when the writer’s work was on everyone’s lips.” The Melville Revival didn’t occur until 45 years after his death. Williams didn’t die unknown of course in 1994, but he saw nothing during his lifetime like the attention that’s been given to his novels recently. And I bring up the Melville-Williams connection for another reason, too. You mention “the architecture of an expert craftsman.” As an experiment, I broke one of Melville’s shorter chapters in Moby-Dick into free verse — it read and sounded gorgeous. Williams was that sort of craftsman, too. … What’s your opinion about why Williams is being carried into the pantheon dead instead of living?

William Giraldi: Our need for beauty and wisdom is such that we will find it: sooner or later, one way or another, beauty and wisdom will have out.

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The Little Stories Of YouTube

Nov 22 2014 @ 10:22am

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Mark Slutsky describes his absorbing website, Sad YouTube, as being comprised of “[m]oments of melancholy, sadness and saudade from the lives of strangers, gleaned from the unfairly maligned ocean of YouTube comments.” In an interview, he expands on why he started the site and what might be its deeper meaning:

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