The Victimhood Culture

From the Atlantic:

Last fall at Oberlin College, a talk held as part of Latino Heritage Month was scheduled on the same evening that intramural soccer games were held. As a result, soccer players communicated by email about their respective plans. “Hey, that talk looks pretty great,” a white student wrote to a Hispanic student, “but on the off chance you aren’t going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!”

Unbeknownst to the white student, the Hispanic student was offended by the email. And her response signals the rise of a new moral culture America.

When conflicts occur, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning observe in an insightful new scholarly paper, aggrieved parties can respond in any number of ways. In honor cultures like the Old West or the street gangs of West Side Story, they might engage in a duel or physical fight. In dignity cultures, like the ones that prevailed in Western countries during the 19th and 20th Centuries, “insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery,” they write. “When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions.”

The Refugee Crisis and Christian Hope


Over the past week, the refugee crisis facing Europe has been a matter of intense discussion here in the UK and around the world. While the facts, figures, and politics have long received attention on the news, pictures of the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach pressed the tragic situation of Syrian refugees upon the public consciousness with a visceral intensity. Those images spread on social media, along with hashtags such as #refugeeswelcome, spurring popular outcry against the UK’s asylum policies and a call for us to follow the example of countries such as Germany.
Christians have been among the most vocal of those calling for action, the voices of church leaders being buoyed upon a vast swell of moral sentiment, especially online. People have appealed to the teaching of Jesus, expressed in such parables as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). In a widely shared piece, the left-wing cleric Giles Fraser castigated politicians who campaign on the basis of Christian morality for their supposed hypocritical response to the crisis, maintaining that only the most radical action would suffice:
[W]hy not all of them? Surely that’s the biblical answer to the “how many can we take?” question. Every single last one. Let’s dig up the greenbelt, create new cities, turn our Downton Abbeys into flats and church halls into temporary dormitories, and reclaim all those empty penthouses being used as nothing more than investment vehicles. Yes, it may change the character of this country. Or maybe it won’t require anything like such drastic action – who knows? But let’s do whatever it takes to open the door of welcome.
The Church should have a peculiar affinity with displaced persons. Displaced persons and refugees are disproportionately represented in the Scriptures–Abraham, Jacob and his family, Moses, David, and Christ were all displaced or refugees at points in their lives. The early Church spread in part through the diasporic movement of refugees escaping persecution in Jerusalem. The people of God, in Old Testament as in New, are called to think of themselves as ‘aliens and strangers’ (Leviticus 25:23; 1 Chronicles 29:15; 1 Peter 2:11), as those thrown upon the hospitality of the world’s polities, or to emulate the apostle as cosmopolitan selves (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). As Luke Bretherton observes, much as the foetus or the suffering and dying, the refugee is a test of our preparedness ‘to recognize bare life as human life worthy of respect and to be afforded dignity as a potential or existent participant in a particular human community.'[1]

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The Late, Great Stephen Colbert


It was early July, about nine weeks before the debut of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and we were sitting in his temporary office above a BMW dealership on the far west side of Manhattan. He looked very tired, and he was apologizing (unnecessarily) for rambling on in a way that was maybe a little uncomfortably overemotional. “I didn’t leave the studio until 2 A.M. last night,” he said. “Didn’t get to bed until three, and I’ve been traveling and just got here—.”

He’d been up late doing a strange stunt the night before, stepping in unannounced as host of Only in Monroe, a local public-access program in Monroe, Michigan, about forty miles south of Detroit. There was all sorts of pressure on their first show, he said. “First show! First show! Well, f*** the first show. There’s going to be 202 this year—how do you do a first one? So I just wanted to go do a show someplace. And now we’ve done it.”

The idea was to do Only in Monroe more or less as it always is—same production values, same set and graphics and crew—just a ton more jokes. His first guests were the show’s regular hosts, Michelle Bowman and (former Miss America) Kaye Lani Rae Rafko Wilson. (Colbert on-air: “I’m not sure how many people that is.”) He did Monroe news and the Monroe calendar, and about twenty minutes in, he brought out his next guest, “a local Michigander who is making a name for himself in the competitive world of music, Marshall Mathers.”

The Dark Side of Television’s Golden Age

From Pacific Standard:

By most critics’ accounts, we’re living in a Golden Age of Television. Not to be confused with the first Golden Age, which took place from the 1940s through the ’60s, today’s mantle refers to the abundance of quality comedy and drama available for consumption on cable and streaming networks. Pioneers, includingMad Men, Game of Thrones, Girls, the Wire, and 30 Rock, have transformed the tube from a provider of comfort food to an importer of important cultural commentary. The male leads have become tortured and complicated. Streaming and DVD, meanwhile, have eradicated former commercial and technical creative restrictions. Once labeled a “vast wasteland” of offensive and boring distractions by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton N. Minow, today the former guilty pleasure is being called a “social requirement.” Yay?

Michael Z. Newman and Elana Levine aren’t cheering. Their monograph,Legitimating Television: Media Convergence and Cultural Status, was first published in 2011, but, in 2015, its central argument is as relevant as ever. Newman and Levine contend that, from its inception, television criticism has sneered at lower-class mass audiences and undiscerning—read: historically feminine—daytime viewers. Critics have elevated television’s status by perpetuating these “hierarchies of taste and cultural value and inequalities of class and gender” to distinguish the good from the bad. Sound familiar? Today, criticism is still promulgating the same old idea, but with a streaming-era twist: Most television is still for undiscerning boobs, but thanks to new, exciting formats, some of it is also highbrow.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Interesting review from The Verge:

I never knew that the apocalypse could be so soothing.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, which launches on PlayStation 4 tomorrow, might just be the most relaxing take on the end of the world yet. It thrusts you into a mysterious town devoid of people, but in their place there are no zombies or radioactive monsters or other terrors. There’s nothing but memories. Rapture may look and control like so many other first-person games, but it’s different in that there is no action whatsoever. Instead, you simply walk around, trying to figure out what exactly happened. It may not sound like much, but it’s absolutely engrossing.

The Hidden Meaning of Life According to the Little Prince

From Crisis:

A new film based on St. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic The Little Prince recently made its premier. I haven’t seen it yet but it looks wonderful. Watching the previews reminds me of how important The Little Prince has been in my own life. I cannot count how many times I have read the book to my children at bedtime or explain the way in which it has changed the way I think about so-called children’s books. Saint-Exupery is keen to use the memory of childhood to show that we are all, in a way, still little children.

All grown-ups were once children … but only few of them remember it.

This is not an exercise in nostalgia or the desire to retreat to the past. Rather, it is an embrace of all that has gone into making up a full grown human being. We ought not to forget that we are rather rare creatures, made up of imagination and memory and dearly-won virtues. The past is part of who we are. If poets, as Shelley would have it, are the legislators of mankind, we begin to see that they exercise their responsibility in part by drawing us back into a world wherein what is important is not merely in what we see but in what is invisible. The Little Prince, like all great books, fills this role by reminding us of who we are and what exactly it is that makes us so special.

How to Adapt a Book Into a (Good) TV Show


Todd VanDerWerff: What’s your process for turning a book or something else into a TV show or film?

Graham Yost: With Justified, it was both easy and hard. It was easy in the pilot in that Elmore [Leonard] had given us “Fire in the Hole,” a novella. That story is a perfect fit for an hour-long episode of television. I used a lot of what he had written and then kept the [hero’s] father alive, turned him into a criminal, did this and that. Made some choices, added some characters. Ultimately, we kept [the character of] Boyd alive, which is a very different ending.

Okay, what do you do for the second episode? Now it’s adapting an approach, adapting a type of storytelling. It’s adapting the kind of characters that Elmore would have. That became something we had to find out as we went along.

From the Trenches to the Shire

Via University Bookman:

Many words have been devoted to the literature and lives of two of the twentieth century’s most beloved novelists, friends, and World War I veterans, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Unique among such works, however, is Joseph Loconte’s new book A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War. While many books find themselves reiterating the same often-tired textual analyses of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Lord of the Rings, Loconte—a professor of history at The King’s College—chooses to frame his work differently. This book is devoted, not to discussing Tolkien or Lewis, but to instead describing the horrors of trench warfare and the religious and spiritual rhetoric permeating contemporary culture. Lewis and Tolkien experienced trench warfare first-hand, as members of the British Expeditionary Force in the Great War. Loconte recounts a number of Lewis and Tolkien’s wartime experiences—including Tolkien’s service at the Battle of the Somme and Lewis’ injury from shell shrapnel—and expounds on how these events influenced both authors’ future literary work. This book is especially welcome as the centennial anniversaries of the Great War continue these next few years. The memories of that war have al but faded, so the literary echoes of that conflict remain all the more important.

Netflix and the Future of TV

Interesting piece:

When Netflix released the first season of House of Cards to the world, every episode at once, it was treated as a milestone in a revolution. It was a front-page story in The New York Times—“New Way to Deliver a Drama: All 13 Episodes in One Sitting.”

But inside Netflix, said its chief content officer Ted Sarandos, it was merely “a super-practical decision.” The company had been paying attention to its users’ viewing behavior, Sarandos said. Some people watched four episodes of a show. Some people watched seven. “Nobody watched one.”

The Future of HBO

Interesting story:

It was two years ago, on May 30, 2013, that Richard Plepler stood onstage at a New York media conference and declared that he had no plans to upend the cable ecosystem with a broadband-only version of HBO. “For right now,” the CEO said, “we have the right model for our business.” The comment echoed one that his boss, Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes, had made on an earnings call a month earlier: “We don’t think it makes sense.”

Behind closed doors in Seattle, however, a growing team of engineers was hard at work on the very product being denied. The top-secret project would be HBO’s answer to younger, scrappier and fast-growing Netflix, giving HBO access to a whopping 10 million more subscribers — the “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers”— who had remained beyond the reach of even the most successful pay cable channel until now. But like so many secret projects, this one was enormously dangerous: After all, those HBO engineers were meddling with a decades-old, multibillion-dollar system of cable- and satellite-television distribution. If things went wrong — and especially if they went right — it could lay waste to the entire cable paradigm, a long-protected business model that still provides HBO with roughly 75 percent of its annual revenue.

Plepler dropped the bombshell — HBO indeed would be launching a broadband-only subscription service — at Time Warner’s investor day in October 2014. Five months later, he was back onstage at Apple’s Spring Forward event in San Francisco, filling in the details of HBO Now, an over-the-top service that for $14.99 a month (nearly double what Netflix charges) would allow viewers to watch Game of Thrones and other HBO programming without having to sign a contract with a cable provider. “This is the single boldest decision that anybody in the existing cable-satellite ecosystem of programmers has ever made,” says BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield. “There is no doubt that Richard’s partners” — the cable companies — “didn’t want him to do it. And he did it anyway.”