Unless you are slobbering neanderthal (a creature that most certainly did not exist… EVER!) you ought to be very frustrated with American political discourse, and equally, evangelical discourse on political America. With the constant stream of opinionating and commentating on the opinionators coming from politicians to the media, to major evangelical mouthpieces, it is almost impossible to find a cogent argument these days that isn’t riddled with fallacies.
So when I discovered The NonSequitur it was like finding the stash of Christmas presents in my parents’ closet still unwrapped. Here’s an excerpt from the site’s “about” page…
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Day 58 – The Strife Aquatic|
Check out this clip from Wednesday night’s episode of “The Daily Show” in which Jon Stewart analyzes (in his own way, of course) Obama’s Tuesday night Gulf Speech. Of particular interest, I think, is the fourth minute when he begins to look at the President’s use of religious language. Sure, Stewart interprets Obama’s assurance that there is a hand guiding us as “May God have mercy on our souls” and “freaky talk,” but keep watching.
It gets really interesting when he shows clips of Fox News in which Gretchen Carlson says that “some people” might think that calling out to God in this situation is “disingenuous coming from a president who doesn’t go to church on a regular basis.” To this, Stewart responds, “You must really hate this guy.”
If my friend and Curator Magazine editor, Alissa Wilkinson was late to the “Media Diet” party, then I am, without a doubt, a crasher. That being the case, however, I still want to take a bit of time here to record the specifics of my own media ingestion. I find, as I’m sure every other writer who has engaged in this exercise has, that it is a mildly self-serving endeavor. But even more that, I’ve found myself deeply interested, not only in the writers I follow or care about like Alissa or, at The Atlantic, Susan Orlean and a number of others, but in the reading habits of most anyone who cares to divulge.
The reason for this, I think, is that we are in a time of transition of how we consume media. Almost every writer who shares his or her media diet notes this, as I will too. So, without further ado, my media diet:
I’m a loyal person. I like to find one way to do a thing and then stick to it, to make it my routine. In that way, I’m also a creature of habit, so figuring out my routine is not only a necessity, it’s an obsession. And it’s a work in progress. Despite my hunch that there has to be a better way, I am betrothed to Google Reader. I’ve even tried the varied ways to make Google Reader friendlier such as using Feedly to “pretty up” my RSS feed. But, unfortunately, that fell flat. When Google introduced Fast Flip, I thought that may be the answer, but the fact that it doesn’t work on just any site I wish killed that option too. When Sessions posted a few months back that he was forsaking Reader for good old-fashioned bookmarks I tried to follow suit, but soon found that I missed having articles served to me. My latest compromise has been to use the “Next” bookmarklet in Reader. This allows me to choose some of my most necessary feeds and flip through them, viewing the actual web page instead of the ugly Reader interface and it also has the residual benefit of removing the constant pressure from the “unread” counter.
So each morning begins with a few (hundred) obsessive clicks around the Internet. Among my top reads are Engadget, NYTimes, The Daily Beast, HuffPost and Religious Dispatches. From there I check Twitter to see what interesting pieces might have slipped through the cracks and also to get my friends’ recommendations from around the web. Then, throughout the day I repeat this routine, sometimes choosing to click my “Next – Culture” or “Next – Books” bookmarklet to see only stories that I’ve categorized as such.
When it comes time to get out of apartment (where I work in the mornings) and onto the train, I toss a physical book into my bag (right now it’s McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, expect some thoughts soon) and my iPhone in my pocket. It would be an understatement to say that my phone is my new portable media hub. I can access articles I saved using Instapaper’s “Read Later” bookmarklet offline, or check Twitter or Google Reader when I’m online. On top of that I’m also in the midst of a (so far) successful reading experiment in which I’m reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s A Thousand Splendid Suns in its entirety on the Kindle app on my iPhone. I was skeptical, but this has been a great way to decrease the weight of my bag and sneak in a few pages whenever I can. I will definitely keep this up.
On a related note, I have a list a mile long of books that I’m reading and/or want to read. And with my new gig as a book reviewer for The Star-Ledger, the hits keep coming. I’m currently whittling down 8 potential candidates to 5 reads for my first piece covering religion-related books.
When I had to drive to work I used to listen NPR every morning and I truly miss this. I’ve tried a few things such as streaming my local station while I work or listening to podcasts, but neither has caught on. I’m a reader and so if I have anything to read at hand (which, as you can see, I always do) I can’t just listen. Though I’m sure my eyes would thank me for the break if I did.
Additionally, my wife and I subscribe to a few print periodicals such as the New York Times Weekend edition, which we read throughout the week, as well as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Honestly, these don’t get read nearly as much as I wish they did, but who has the time? We also are members of Audible.com so we have a glut of unread (un-listened to) audio books. Again, I consumed these at a much faster rate when I was driving everyday.
I must also note that while all of this reading is happening there is a constant soundtrack, mostly from my own iTunes library which I’m obsessive about maintaing and which features selections from nearly every genre (although, I’m not big on classical). Sometimes, when I’m tired of my own collection and there’s nothing new on my radar, I flip over to Pandora to potentially discover something to add to my library.
Nighttime is when I catch up on television and movies. “Caprica” and “Parenthood” have joined the old Hulu standby’s “The Office,” SNL and “30 Rock” to comprise, with the occasional late night Daily Show/Colbert Report, my (online) television watching. And Netflix features (often documentaries) fill in the gaps when there’s nothing new on Hulu.
I’ve said on more than one occasion that if I could make media consumption my full-time and well paying job, I would. In the meantime, I’m fortunate to have a work situation that allows for a lot of media consumption in the cracks between and even, in some cases, pays me a little money to do it.
As you perhaps know by now, Brit Hume of the Fox News Channel got famous yesterday morning for saying on the air that Tiger Woods should convert to Christianity if he wants to make a personal comeback. (Video above.) My colleague David Gibson writes:
Hume’s framing of his altar call to the wayward golfer raises at least two other debatable points.
One is the purpose of Christianity: It is eternal salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. That is the entry point, the foundation of it all. Christian belief should lead believers to behave in upright ways, to sacrifice themselves totally, and to live as Christ did. But if that happens, it is really a welcome result of belief. In his remarks, Hume almost sounds like all those Christian “life coaches” and prosperity gospel preachers who see Christianity as a means to a happy and successful life. Christianity is more about what has been called “the sanctification of failure,” namely through Jesus on the cross. In that sense Tiger has plenty of opportunity to be a witness.
The other problem with Hume’s comments is that they are contradicted by so much evidence. Anecdotally, one need look no further than the sanctimonious Christian pols-turned-philanderers, or the many high-profile pastors who turn out to have feet of clay. Statistics also show that Christians are as likely to divorce or abort as everyone else, and Bible Belt states often have much higher rates of marital breakdown and teen pregnancy than other regions.
Check out my op-ed piece for the “Houses of Worship” column in the Wall Street Journal today. It’s in the paper but it’s also available for free online.
Here’s an excerpt:
This feeling of intellectual distance from grass-roots Christianity is not new. It’s been almost 30 years since Charles Malik, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly and a devout Christian, gave a speech at Wheaton College called “The Two Tasks.” To the audience assembled for the dedication of Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center, he said: “The greatest danger besetting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism.” This idea was picked up by historian Mark A. Noll 14 years later in his 1994 book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” The “scandal” of the title, he said, was “that there is not much of an evangelical mind,” despite what he sees as a biblical mandate to better understand creation. Mr. Noll asserts that this lack is reinforced by the historical experience of evangelicals in America, whose churches and ministries have gained more adherents at the cost of fostering anti-intellectualism and bad theology.
Give it a read if you have a moment and feel free to comment either here, or over at the WSJ site.
The only thing more miserable than journalism-job-hunting right now has to be journalism-job-hunting while social networking provides you an intimate look at what you’re missing. It seemed about as bad as it can get already, with nearly every media outlet shedding jobs and the traditional path to a magazine career so obliterated that even a great internship now promises you next to nothing.
But now, the mysterious, glamorous aura of journalism is pulled back, and, particularly if you haven’t work to occupy you, you can stalk other writers’ careers down to the minute: watch them do their reporting on Twitter, see the finished result when they post on their Facebook profile, and, more painfully, watch them all worry about the state of the media from their office chairs. You can convince yourself that they’re no more qualified than you—their writing no better, their connections no more illustrious, their thinking no more original—and wonder how you happened to be the one who drew the short straw.
I know this sounds incredibly self-pitying, and most of my friends who still have jobs in the media are neither ungrateful nor insensitive about their employment status. But there’s something doubly humiliating about being so close to the newsroom—to the point you’re a wall post away from a great editor him or herself—and still as much an outsider as ever.
You know that something is really the wave of the future when old-fashioned people actually start trying it, and then rejecting it as just plain too new-fangled. First Virginia Heffernan confesses that she hates her iPhone and its tarty, cutesy face. Then in The Columbus Dispatch, Joe Bundo says he violated his own baffling rule of technology adoption ("Always wait five years, to see whether it will go away on its own") to sign up for Twitter, which his 18-year-old daughter told him he would hate, and which he did in fact hate.
In what sort of hell would you be subjected to the passing thoughts of not only Martha Stewart and Marc Dann but also car dealerships and a building under construction? That hell would be called Twitter.
I find it kind of amusing that he's just repeating everything everyone else has said about Twitter, except he's repeating it way after everyone else has moved on. It's possible that he hated it because he followed … Martha Stewart and car dealerships, and not interesting, informative people. It's also possible that he didn't see the use because he never … tweeted.
The pride in unadaptability is baffling to me, and neanderthalism really is not as cute as Bundo seems to think. Technology never "goes away;" it gets replaced by new, better technology. Which we should then ignore for another five years until it's passe and then embrace, while disparaging whatever replaced it? This makes no sense.
Inspired by a nice, long piece by Charles Homans in the Washington Monthly about the birth and death of the conservative web magazine Culture11, we're again talking about what conservatives do and don't get about culture and how to write about it. First some summary of Homans' essay.
He starts with Conor Friedersdorf's idea to "save conservative journalism," which he eventually articulated in a great piece on Culture11 called "Electric Kool-Aid Conservatism." Friedersdorf, a fairly well-respected young journalist, suggested the right "has a problem with narrative," and that rather than activists, it needs writers who can show through stories why conservatism makes sense. He paired up with Joe Carter, who ran the Christian blog Evangelical Outpost and worked on Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, and David Kuo, a repentant former Bush staffer, to start Culture11. The stie's goal was to become a kind of sounding board for young conservatives thinking about popular culture in ways that went beyond the narrow scope of Republican politics.
Two quotes from Homans to explain how that turned out:
On his Twitter, NYU prof Jay Rosen wants to know why the McCain campaign did its best to piss off the media. He's referring to an interview with Columbia Journalism Review, in which Weekly Standard writer and McCain campaign blogger Matthew Goldfarb described his role with the campaign:
I was a cudgel. I pissed off the media. They were furious about it. That was the effect the campaign was looking for.
Now that Goldfarb has said so in so many words, it seems obvious. The liberal media was a constant campaign theme, and now that Sarah Palin has pretty much started running for president in 2012, the theme goes on.
Here are two recent news items that prove France is five million times classier than the U.S.A.:
- The French consume almost 60 litres (that's 15.9 gallons) of wine per person each year — more than any other country in the world. Not like those boorish Americans, who consume just a bit over 10 litres of wine each per year and 50 billion pints of classless beer collectively.
- The French government is bestowing the gift of a newspaper subscription on all French citizens when they turn 18. Sarkozy says it is the French government's responsibility "to make sure an independent, free and pluralistic press exists." (Which is why he's making it dependent on government help? Hmm.)
I'm wondering if this would actually work: Would people read print publications if they were literally dropped in their laps?
Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, newest correspondent for Pajamas TV, has completed his first report from Gaza. Unshockingly, it switches between Joe inviting the media elite to interview him so he can say he's "not the story," and Joe saying he's not here to push an agenda and then declaring his opinions, with dabs of actual reporting mixed in.
The media was always a front of the culture war but in the last election especially, media became more divisive. I won't repeat Sarah Palin's complaints because she repeats them enough already — and of course Joe has the same beef about the liberal media, which is why he's going to Gaza to find the truth that he doesn't believe the elite media tells.
But there's another theme mixed in with all the liberal-media-bashing. He and Pajamas TV are not just taunting the "liberal" media. They're also taunting the "professional" media, the "traditional" media, and the "objective" media.
- No public Twitter messages.
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