OTW Fannews: On fanfiction

Thursday, 24 July 2014 04:55 pm
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Posted by Janita Burgess


OTW Fannews: On Fanfiction Banner

  • Blogger Christopher Olah took a look at some Fanfiction.net statistics. "In the following post, we will visualize the Harry Potter, Naruto and Twilight fandoms on fanfiction.net. We will also use Google’s PageRank algorithm to rank stories, and perform collaborative filtering to make story recommendations to top fanfiction.net users." The post includes a look at languages, ships, slash and more.
  • ParentDish advised parents about fanfic reading and writing. "On the plus side, I am thrilled my daughter, who has never been a fan of books, is suddenly carrying stories with her everywhere - she can even read them on her iPhone - and has an insatiable thirst for words she never had before. She has even let me read a few chapters myself (with the caveat: 'Don't worry, Mum, this isn't actually based on anything I've done... yet') and she is a gifted story teller. And as Wattpad.com has over 1000 story downloads per day and with a whopping 25 million users, she is far from alone."
  • NY Mag decided to look for how fanficcers were responding to the World Cup. "Does all of this have you so intrigued? Yes? Well, brace yourself for another enthusiastic subset of World Cup erotica: the One Direction fan-fic crossover. Here’s a book that imagines two of the band members as rival soccer players at FIFA 2014 as well as lovers in bed. Here’s a shorter one about an abandoned blow job. And fear not — no matter where you turn for your World Cup smut — there will always be ball jokes."
  • Women of China took a broader look at slash in China. "With the rise of Sina Weibo and Wechat, two major instant messaging platforms in China, tanbi is no longer the cult genre it was a decade ago. There has been a growing number of girls, or fojoshi (a Japanese term for girls who endorse male homosexual love), who have started to write fan fiction that moves tanbi into the world of mainstream literature. A recent work pairs two X-men, Magneto and Professor X, powerful opponents who care about each other, at least in the Hollywood megahit X-Men: Days of Future Past. 'There are so many fojoshi that it's almost a selling point now,' Yang, the researcher says."

Does your favorite fanfiction have a page on Fanlore? If not, start one! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

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Posted by Benjamin Howard

by Emily Joy Allison 

I get a lot of scornful, “I can’t believe YOU watch THE BACHELOR” sort of comments from my friends when they find out about my obsession. Granted, if you know me even a little, it’s a bit surprising. On the surface, someone like me (feminist, relatively moral human being, incurable monogamist) watching a show like The Bachelor requires a level of cognitive dissonance few are capable of. But I promise it all makes sense if you dig a little deeper.

What appeals to me about The Bachelor franchise isn’t the drama, the hot men, the international travel, or the suspense of the rose ceremonies. It’s the completely accidental, unintentional running commentary the show provides on human nature in general, and specifically human relationships.

Hear me out.

We laugh at the people competing for love every Monday night at 8/7c because we intuitively recognize the motions they are going through as false. We see that, by and large, the emotions these men and women purport to be feeling are fabricated products of a completely unnatural situation involving isolation, groupthink, and lots of alcohol. “Nobody could fall in love in eight weeks while dating twenty-four other people!” we scoff. When the last rose is handed out, we see the dejection on the face of the unlucky bachelorette that didn’t get chosen; we wonder how she didn’t see it coming; we know Hunky McHotpants only let her go because she wasn’t as pretty as the other girls and that’s really all he cares about anyway. If we have even a vestige of a conscience, we feel a pang of empathy as we watch the jilted almost-lover riding away in a black limo, crying and talking about how stupid she feels for thinking this time things would be different.

But here’s the thing: each of us has been in the metaphorical black limo. We have all, at one time or another, felt stupid for thinking, this time, it would be different. We have all imagined ourselves in love with someone we didn’t really know, we have all let special circumstances and free booze replace hard work and critical thinking. There is a very thin line that separates each of us from the contestants on The Bachelor, and that line is social shame. Most of us wouldn’t be caught dead baring our souls on national television like that, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t thought those Exact. Same. Things.

Which leads to the question of whether or not those things, those feelings, are fake—as we assume them to be when we see them on television—or whether they’re integral parts of the human experience. Anyone can tell you that much of The Bachelor franchise is heavily manipulated, if not outright scripted. Read interviews with past contestants and they will tell you that the producers will purposely set up situations to cause drama and ask extremely pointed questions just to get the “money quotes” they need to make the series as successful as it is. It is both a science and an art. But it’s not all fake, as the (albeit few) very real and lasting marriages that have resulted from the show will testify. Sometimes it’s real, and sometimes it works.

Which could just as well be said about our relationships in real life.

Sometimes it’s real. And sometimes it works.

I wonder if some part of the scorn and derision people express towards The Bachelor comes from the fact that The Bachelor is, unintentionally but effectively, a mirror of human nature. It shows us what we are really like at our rawest, our most shameless. It shows us just how far we will go to find love (and just how far we will go to get laid).

And that is, well, kind of gross. It’s uncomfortable to see ourselves and our pain in the face of a drunk, white girl in a limousine with mascara smeared all over her cheeks, whose name is probably “Britney S.” and has an occupation like “dog lover” or “free spirit.” We’re more sophisticated than that, aren’t we?

Deep down, we know we aren’t. So it is easier not to look at it. It is easier to watch Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black and Game of Thrones, more serious, sophisticated shows, and pretend that those somehow say more about human nature than a series as shallow and frivolous as The Bachelor.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis writes of his deceased wife:
“Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. And how or why did such a reality blossom (or fester) here and there into the terrible phenomenon called consciousness? Why did it produce things like us who can see it and, seeing it, recoil in loathing? Who (stranger still) want to see it and take pains to find it out, even when no need compels them and even though the sight of it makes an incurable ulcer in their hearts? People like H. herself, who would have truth at any price.”
Perhaps that also applies to reality television. 

Emily Joy Allison is a poet and provider of fine burritos in Nashville, Tennessee. Her first album is called Dichotomized and can be found on her website emilyjoypoetry.com. You can follow her on Twitter @softlysoaring. 

You can follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OnPopTheology. If you'd like to support what we do here, you can donate via the button on the right of the screen.

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Posted by Roger E. Olson

Illegal Immigration of Children: The Underlying Problem Nobody Seems to Talk About According to news reports, about sixty thousand unaccompanied children have arrived in the U.S. from Central America via Mexico in the last one to two years. Some have died in the desert attempting to cross the border alone. Many are being smuggled to [Read More...]

Mother Jones

Thursday, 24 July 2014 05:00 am
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Posted by Richard Beck

I came across this great quote from Mother Jones, the famous labor advocate and community organizer:

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Premarital Sex and Marital Problems

Thursday, 24 July 2014 09:00 am
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Posted by Libby Anne

I’ve written a lot about my parents decision to have us children court rather than date. From time to time I’ve seen readers express confusion as to why parents would reject for their children a process that worked for them. The truth is that my parents turned to courtship for my siblings and I because they believed that dating hadn’t worked for them.

I recently mentioned that I was conceived before my parents married. In other words, when my parents taught my siblings and I abstinence before marriage, they were teaching us something they had not themselves practiced. Reader Angela saw this as hypocritical:

It’s kind of surprising to me that your parents could have embraced some of the beliefs that they did seeing as they did not follow courtship guidelines themselves and that you were conceived out of wedlock. I mean, did they consider their own relationship inferior? Did they feel that your dad was never able to respect your mom? Or did they think that they were the exception? Either way it seems more than a little hypocritical to force a lifestyle on your children that you have never practiced yourself.

It’s actually more common than not that parents turn to courtship et al for their children because they feel their own dating experiences damaged them. They want to help their children avoid their mistakes. This is actually true for a lot of homeschooling culture, and especially Christian homeschooling culture. Parents often turn to homeschooling because they want something different—something better—for their children than what they themselves had.

My mother was raised in a fundamentalist home and my father converted as a teen. They were both swept up in the evangelical fervor of the early 1980s. They both believed that sex before marriage was wrong and against God’s plan, but they’d never heard of alternatives to dating. When they reached adulthood, each left home for college and the workforce, moving across the country from their childhood homes.

Both of my parents dated other people seriously before they met each other. When they met and began dating, they planned to wait until marriage to have sex, but that didn’t work out. I was conceived while my parents were engaged. My mother told me about all of this when I reached my teenage years. She warned me, knowingly, of the dangers of unchaperoned visits.

I think a lot of this comes down to expectations. If you don’t expect sex to be saved for marriage, you won’t feel betrayed when it’s not. But if you do expect it to be saved for marriage and it’s not, you will experience betrayal.

From here on out, we’re going on my perceptions of my parents’ relationship, and on things they’ve mentioned in passing over the years. A lot of this is me thinking through the belief system and trying to understand what happened to my parents. When my parents had premarital sex, they betrayed their principles in a profound way. This created a trust problem. Neither could trust the other to stand on principle and say “no” to grievous sin.

My father looked at my mother and saw a woman who hadn’t had the self-control to say “no” to premarital sex. My mother looked at my father and saw a man who didn’t have the fortitude or character to say “no” to premarital sex. In other words, that my parents did not wait for marriage to have sex—even sex with each other—had a profound effect on how they viewed each other and created longterm challenges for their marriage. In fact, that each gave in and had premarital sex even affected my parents’ perceptions of themselves.

My parents hoped to help my siblings and I avoid these same pitfalls. They believed that if we could wait for marriage before having sex, our marriages would start out on a much firmer foundation. They hoped that practicing courtship rather than dating would help us avoid their mistakes. The emphasis on chaperones and short engagements, parental control and the fast-track to marriage—these things would help ensure that we did not have sin of premarital sex.

And here’s where I bring things back to expectations—if my parents had not expected to save sex for marriage, they would not have experienced betrayal and a breach of trust when they did not. Having had premarital sex created challenges for their relationship only because they placed such value on not having premarital sex.

My husband Sean and I had sex in the months leading up to our marriage. Because of my upbringing, we waited six months to even kiss and another six months before we had sex, but as my thought through and reevaluated my entire belief system my ideas about premarital sex changed. I no longer saw it as sin. I no longer saw it as wrong. So when I had premarital sex, I wasn’t doing something I believed was wrong, and nor was Sean. We didn’t violate our consciences or our convictions—and we have suffered no negative repercussions. I don’t think less of Sean for it, and he doesn’t think less of me.

Having premarital sex does not in and of itself lead to breaches of trust and marital challenges. But having premarital sex when you believe premarital sex is wrong can lead to breaches of trust and marital challenges.

John McIntyre's notes on 'Word Crimes'

Thursday, 24 July 2014 02:24 am
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Posted by Barbara Partee

John Lawler (thank you!) pointed me to this blog entry by John McIntyre, which was written in response to readers' requests for his reactions to "Weird Al" Yankovic's Word Crimes.  I see that Mark Liberman is already a McIntyre fan (here, here, here, for instance), but I hadn't known about him before. I should — as John Lawler pointed out to me, he's an Oriole fan; and the Baltimore Sun, where he is an editor, was our family's daily paper through all my school years.

His notes on 'Word Crimes' really just consist of references that he agrees with, one by Stan Carey at Sentence first, and the recent guest post by Lauren Squires here on Language Log. He also refers to a couple of nice posts by our resident curmudgeon Geoff Pullum both here on LLog (on the curious English of police reports and the inability of journalists going on about the passive voice to accurately identify passive constructions) and in Lingua Franca (on ambiguity).

I don't have a very good excuse for passing this on — I'm just pleased to have been alerted to the existence of such a thoughtful and articulate writer who happens to be a copy editor by profession (and is a fellow Orioles fan!).  I love his self-description: "mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers' work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun's night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics."

I'm so glad that he's teaching editing, and wish there were more copy editors who were "moderate prescriptivists" like him!

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Posted by Natalie Wilson

Lucy_(2014_film)_posterSure, Scarlett Johansson is a great actor. Alas, her lead role in Lucy does not do her justice.

The premise of the film—that we only use 10 percent of our brains—is a faulty one and caused quite an angry buzzing across the Internet (as here and here) even before the film’s official release. The direction this premise takes in the film is sadly uninspiring. Guess what we would do with 100 percent of our brains? Kill people who have done us wrong, time travel to get quick views of world history (replete with overly and inaccurately costumed Native Americans) and then morph into an Ursula-like oozing mass as we transform into a gooey super-computer. Hmmm, I would have picked creating world peace, ending poverty, eradicating rape and child marriage, undoing the lasting effects of colonialism and empire … But sure, I guess strapping on a pair of deathly high stilettos and killing a bunch of baddies might be someone’s choice. I cannot imagine who, though, and certainly not Johansson.

She is articulate in interviews and clearly chooses her roles carefully (as here), noting she never pictured herself doing “a lot of hand-to-hand combat” for roles. Surely this is partly due to the fact that reporters and critics, like the one linked above, use phrases such as “her unlikely action hero status.” Woman as hero is still an exception rather than a rule, and often one that is derided as impossible. This is why I was hoping Lucy would be a film to root for, because great films with complex female heroes don’t come around nearly often enough, and every silver screen fail is another win for the “women can’t be heroes” camp.

This argument aside, Johansson is good in the action role she is given, believably capturing the transformation from regular young woman into super-charged brain creature. Betrayed by her man, who cuffs her to a suitcase to be delivered to key villain Mr. Jang, early scenes of her terror are convincing and palpable. That’s thanks mainly to her acting prowess, not the film’s many stony-faced villains (who are all, by the way, Asian, except for the white man who betrayed her in the first place, but race is a topic for another review.)

Later in the film, as the synthetic drug pack that was sewn into Lucy’s stomach breaks and seeps into her system, Johansson conveys the electrifying jolts so adeptly that I was twitching in my seat. She also captures the beyond-humanness of her character excellently—so well, in fact, that it becomes hard to identify or sympathize with Lucy. She becomes, as IMDB describes it, “a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.” This is one area where the film falters. And we have seen this story before. Sure, this time it is a woman getting revenge against a group of male bad guys, but this alone does not a great female-driven action movie make. Ultimately the narrative and the script are lacking—and Johansson’s talent cannot make up for that.

As for the rest of the film, there are lots of stunning visuals, oodles of action-packed scenes and many compelling juxtapositions of humans and jungle animals. Stunning visuals do not make up for a thin, improbable story based on false claims about brain use, though. The high-death-count action scenes dripping with gratuitous violence quickly become tiresome (and preposterous) in a film that is claiming to be about putting one’s brain to better use. And if you want human-animal juxtapositions, I recommend seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes over Lucy. True, Dawn is appalling in its lack of female characters, but Lucy doesn’t do much better. Yes, Johansson is the lead, but there are no other female characters of note, nor even one female baddie, cop, scientist, etc.

True, seeing Lucy wield her powers, both with weapons and without, has its pleasures in a film world where males are far too often still the action leads, but to have another female-led action movie be only so-so is very disappointing. Perhaps having Lucy in theaters is better than having no female-led action-hero movies at all (as will continue if Marvel has its way). And, hey, at least her power is her brain. Sadly though, one of the main things she does with that brain power is kill. Hardly something to cheer about.

If you want to watch a movie where females wield guns to a much better effect, go back to Thelma and Louise. Or if you have a hankering for a female superhero, Johansson as Black Widow is far more intriguing than her as Lucy. Or perhaps you are a fan of Lucy creator Luc Besson, who has, after all, written/directed many films with complex and compelling characters. Save yourself some money and rent The Fifth Element instead.

Morgan Freeman is passable in Lucy as philosopher/scientist Professor Norman, who waxes poetic about “cerebral capacity,” but his most interesting claim—that humans are more concerned with having rather than being—is never explored in the narrative. Instead, in the final scenes, as Lucy gets close to 100 percent brain capacity, the film truly jumps the shark. Stock-still in a chair in a tight black dress and massively high black stilettos, Lucy hopes to download all her knowledge into a computer so that, before she ceases to exist, she can share this knowledge with Dr. Norman. As she attempts to do so, she begins to sprout vine-like roots from her body, the color of dark blood, that ooze and spread throughout the lab in tentacle-like masses as a gaggle of male scientists and her lone protector cop watch in stunned amazement (in one shot from above, she sits in the middle of several of these growing ‘arms,’ looking much like a sci-fi take on Ursula).

Once she makes it to 100 percent brain capacity, her body (and all of its tentacle masses) dissolves, leading to the question “where is she?” From the beyond, she answers, “I am everywhere” in a text message to the cop’s phone. There we have it, folks, the age-old destructive, elusive female monster who spreads into a primordial mass and threatens to undo the ordered world of science, medicine and the law. Thank goodness this monster (she is earlier called a witch) gives over the knowledge to good old Dr. Norman in the form of a handy USB drive.

Hopefully somewhere on that USB stick there’s a document containing the following directives:

1) Don’t go about gratuitously killing people just for the sake of it.

2) Do not wear shoes so cripplingly high that you are unable to navigate your way safely through the world.

3) If given the chance to watch Lucy, pick Thelma and Louise instead.

As for you human brain-users out there, why not put that noggin to use solving the following question: How much cerebral capacity will it take to finally get a Wonder Woman film off the ground? Now there is a brainy woman I am ready to see.



Natalie Wilson teaches women’s studies and literature at California State University, San Marcos. She is the author of Seduced by Twilight and blogs for Ms., Girl with Pen and Bitch Flicks

July 23, 2014

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 11:30 pm
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Posted by Caitlin H.

"A lot has happened," says Caitlin. This is her visual diary for the week.

“A lot has happened,” says Caitlin. This is her visual diary for the week.


I just want to enjoy being a teenager. Read More »


I’ve spent the past four days at soccer camp. Read More »


I don’t know what you are going through. Maybe you’re in heaven or maybe you’re in hell. Read More »

Editor’s note: Marah doesn’t have internet access this week.

Patterning Friendship on Family

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 09:19 pm
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Posted by Leah Libresco

This post is one in a series on friendship, explored through the lenses of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along and C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. When my friends gathered to discuss friendship, we kept reaching for analogies drawn from families — both biological links, like siblings, and chosen families, like the women who settled down in Boston [Read More...]
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Posted by Fred Clark

Roger Ebert’s movie glossary defines an Idiot Plot as “Any plot containing problems that would be solved instantly if all of the characters were not idiots.” Hemant Mehta eyes the trailer for Christian-brand comedy The Virgins and doubts that an Idiot Plot can be redeemed simply by attributing the characters’ idiocy to religious devotion.

Click here to view the embedded video.

“I grow restless,” Ebert said, when the misunderstandings driving a plot “could be ended by words that the screenplay refuses to allow [the characters] to utter.”

This was less of a pitfall in Shakespeare’s day, and even up through Victorian times, when convoluted and capricious mores and manners were understood to prevent those characters from uttering those words. The characters in Pride and Prejudice were constrained by social norms that no longer hold sway. So for that same plot to work in Bridget Jones’ Diary, the characters have to be constrained by something else — some limitations within themselves. Thus Elizabeth Bennett comes across as a smart, capable person who is prevented from being fully honest — to others or to herself — by the stifling rules, roles and expectations of class, gender and manners that shaped her life and her time. Bridget Jones, facing fewer such external rules, just comes across as neurotic and indecisive.

The essence of a romantic comedy is pretty simple: Introduce two characters who belong together, then contrive to keep them apart for about 90 minutes. Again, this is trickier now than it was in Austen’s or Shakespeare’s time. A lot of contemporary romantic comedies are annoying because the only obstacle they can imagine to keep their heroes apart is a kind of mutual immaturity. That serves the need of the plot, but it makes the couple less likable, which means we don’t care as much when they finally get together in the end.

One solution is to find a contemporary setting that still involves something like the kind of stifling social constraints in a Jane Austen novel. That’s what Ang Lee did with The Wedding Banquetwhich, like The Virgins, is more of a farce than a romantic comedy. The complications and misunderstandings that drive the plot in Lee’s story could all be cleared up with just a few honest words from the protagonists. But they can’t say those words — not because an arbitrary “Idiot Plot” screenplay prevents them, but because the story involves a closeted gay man in New York and a visit from his ultra-traditional Taiwanese parents.

Matthew Wilson may be trying something similar with The Virgins. Wilson is a white evangelical, a graduate of Biola University, so he’s intimately familiar with the mores, rules and expectations that govern white evangelical purity culture. That purity culture provides more than enough constraints and complications to construct a satisfying romantic comedy or romantic farce. The rules and expectations of purity culture are exactly the sort of thing that can prevent characters from uttering the words that would otherwise clear up all the misunderstandings driving the plot, thus ending the movie in the first act.

But that only works when — as in Austen — the characters are also critical of those cultural rules and expectations. If they’re not critical of them, but just blindly accept them, then, well, they look like idiots and we’re back to an Idiot Plot. This is where Much Ado About Nothing goes wrong. The Claudio/Hero subplot is driven by something very similar to white evangelical purity culture. Claudio accepts that purity culture uncritically, which makes him seem as villainous as Don John and makes it difficult for the audience to be happy for him in the end (or to be happy for Hero, who surely deserved better than that judgmental idiot Claudio).

I haven’t seen The Virgins, so I don’t know if it falls into that same trap — utilizing the constraints of purity culture to drive the plot without ever critiquing that culture, and thereby falling back into Idiot Plot territory. But the trailer leads me to suspect that is the case. (As Hemant wrote, “Maybe they should stop trying to make everything perfect and just jump each other on the porch of that locked house.”)

There’s another aspect of white evangelical culture that makes it hostile territory for this kind of farce. “Maybe we’re not supposed to stay here tonight,” the virgin wife says at one point in the trailer for The Virgins. She’s referring to divine intent — to an abiding assumption of God’s micromanagerial providence. This is related to the way evangelicals pray for a good parking space, or sometimes interpret the consequences of our own actions as divine will. That religious outlook doesn’t seem compatible with the kind of farce involving “wild adventures” on “one crazy night.”

“Why are you doing this?” the virgin groom says later in the trailer for, directing that question upwards, to God. I was reminded of a similar cry to the heavens, from Griffin Dunne in Martin Scorsese’s wild-night farce After Hours.

“What do you want from me? What have I done?” Dunne cries out, kneeling as though in prayer.

That works in After Hours because Dunne’s prayer isn’t directed toward the providential God of white evangelicalism. It is directed, instead, toward New York City itself. New York is the kind of cruel, capricious and unresponsive god you need if you’re writing a farce. The benevolent, attentive God of white evangelical piety shouldn’t be allowing such a farce to play out. Trying to write a farce with that kind of God in it is like trying to write a thriller in which everyone has cellphones with reliable connections and the police are always responsive, cooperative and competent.

The trailer for The Virgins makes it clear that Matthew Wilson has a good eye for capturing the nuances of white evangelical culture. Whether or not he’s also able to critique the assumptions of that culture will mean the difference between this being a workable story or an Idiot Plot.

Off to School You Go

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 07:00 pm
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Posted by Brittany

Illustration by Cynthia.

Illustration by Cynthia.

Congratulations, class of 2014! Whether you just graduated from eighth grade, high school, or college, you should be extremely proud of everything you’ve done to get to where you are today. I just graduated from college myself, and it really was a fantastic four years—stressful and satisfying in all the right ways. And I don’t know if it would have felt as special if I had gone to college in my hometown—the good moments were more awesome, and the bad ones more awful, because I was on my own for the first time in my life.

Moving somewhere new by yourself is a super intense type of stress, especially if you are like I was and have never really been on your own before this. I was thrilled when I got into New York University, which had been my dream school since I was 12. But leaving behind my friends, family, and small Chicago suburb was, I admit, a little terrifying. I still remember the excitement, fear, sadness, anxiety, gratitude and hope I felt as my family drove the 14 hours between my old and new homes. But don’t worry! You will rule at this—just know that, like all good things, this will take time. So be patient, and hey, maybe read these tips on making the most of your Big College Move:

1. Breathe.
OK, it’s July, so you’re deep into summer and probably spending your time going to grad parties and collecting mad gifts from distant relatives. You’re probably also starting to shop for new clothes, desk supplies, a fresh laptop, and twin XL sheets. Meanwhile, you’re stressing out about saying goodbye to your family, your best friends, and the family pets. Of all these tasks, those goodbyes will be the hardest. You will cry every single time. That’s OK! During first few months of college, I often caught myself “accidentally” listening to Sufjan Stevens’s song “Chicago,” which inevitably made me sob uncontrollably, alone in my dorm room. All that means is that I have feelings, and so do you, and you should let yourself feel ALL of them. But what’s great about 2014 is that we have so many ways of staying in touch with our best friends every day, no matter how far away they are, whether it’s through social media, texting, or video chatting. I suggest adding some stationery to your shopping list, because handwritten letters (especially the kind that come with cute care packages) are nice to send and receive every once in a while. And don’t worry that those goodbyes are forever—winter break comes fast, and it will be a blast!

2. Do your research.
Prepare for this move the way you’d anticipate a fun vacation, by looking up all the cool stuff there is to do and see in your new town. Before I moved to New York, I spent hours reading travel guides on the city at my local Borders (RIP) and watching New York–centric episodes of my favorite Food Network and Travel Channel shows to psych myself up.

If your college is in a small town that doesn’t get regular visits from the likes of Rachael Ray or Anthony Bourdain, I’m sure you’ve already discovered that a little googling will land you in a pile of resources for students and visitors. Make a list of the places you want to visit once you’ve acclimated to your campus and your schedule.

3. Don’t let social anxiety get the best of you.
The summer before I moved, NYU held a number of meetups in Chicago for incoming freshmen. I went to a few of them (with my mother by my side for moral support!), but I felt anxious about inserting myself into social situations with new people. I think I had fantasized that the shy caterpillar I was all through high school would somehow transform into a social butterfly in college. But at these student mixers, I was so terrified of saying the wrong thing that I barely spoke at all. Moving to a new city where I knew no one suddenly seemed more frightening than exciting.

This is why I thank god for Facebook. I found a handful of Facebook groups created by and for kids about to start their first year at NYU, including a huge one for the entire class of 2014, and another one for my specific program. Over wall posts and private messages, I got to talk to other people who were going to be studying the same subjects as me, attending the same classes, and living in my dorm. Chatting with these new friends via social media eased a lot of my insecurity about leaving the nest and helped me see that many of the people I was about to meet seemed really cool and interesting. Some of them even shared my extracurricular interests and my sense of humor. Before we ever met in person, I found myself confiding in these new online friends. We shared our fears about the coming year, and that’s how I discovered that I was not the only person freaking out about moving to a big new city—far from it! What’s more, I realized that I wouldn’t be by myself at all—I already had a network of friends and acquaintances in place. As we got closer to move-in day, we made plans to attend various Welcome Week tours and activities together, and to this day, these people remain some of my best friends.

4. Be nice to your family.
I can guarantee you that everyone in your family will annoy you more and more the closer you get to moving day. It’s not because you’re not going to miss them, it’s actually the complete opposite! Think about it: Not only are you moving away from your loved ones, they are losing you, too. Your last few weeks at home will probably heighten emotions all around—don’t be surprised if your parents start pulling out baby pictures, or if your siblings start loudly arguing about who’s gonna get your room when you’re gone. These are all their ways of trying to cope with letting go. Your family is just as stressed as you are. They will help you no matter how spazzy you act, but maybe lighten up on them, all right?

5. Breathe some more.
As you get closer to heading out the door, be extra sure to do something every day that is just for you. Maybe start a fresh journal just to document this year, or dig out your favorite childhood toy to bring to your dorm. (Sometimes that reminder of home can be a perfect stress reliever during midterms and finals.) Printing out pictures and preparing decorations for your dorm is also really fun, and it can help you feel comfortable in your new place quicker. A month before I left, I made a playlist of all the songs in my iTunes about New York, and it was exactly what I needed to put on replay to get me pumped for the trip. But your playlist doesn’t have to be about a specific city—it can be about leaving home, traveling, starting a new life—or anything that helps you get excited about your upcoming adventure.

6. Be nice to yourself (part one).
As I mentioned earlier, I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to talking to new people. Luckily, it’s gotten easier after four years of nothing but meeting new people, but it can still be really tough. When I got here, none of my high school friends were enrolled at NYU, and I had no family in New York. The city was overwhelming and strange. I cried as my family hugged me goodbye. I cried the day before classes started, worried that the people I had met online wouldn’t stick around. My point is, I cried a lot—but I also saw a lot of other kids crying over the same, or similar, things.

It’s important to remember that every freshman is just as new as you are. Some people carry themselves with more confidence than others, or are naturally more outgoing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not scared. They had to say goodbye to their people, too. Shake off your self-doubt and introduce yourself to strangers—they will be so relieved when you do. Join clubs, go to school events, and start ticking off activities from that well-researched list of places you made over the summer. What’s cool about a residential college is that it allows you a lot of independence. It can be overwhelming and scary at first, but you’ll start paving your own path in due time.

7. Be nice to yourself (part two).
You don’t have to like your school. Just because it was your dream school at one point in time doesn’t mean it’s gonna seem all that dreamy once you’re there. The best advice I can give you is to not force yourself to stay somewhere that makes you unhappy.

Of course, don’t be rash with your decision. Like I learned at the student mixers, you will not magically transform into a new person the minute you get to college, so take into account your own nervousness and give yourself at least three months to ease into your new environment. By then, you’ll probably have some sense of whether this is the right school for you. If you put in a whole year, you’ll be absolutely sure one way or the other.

There are lots of good reasons to transfer: Maybe you didn’t realize that your chosen school’s whole social scene revolves around a sport you don’t happen to enjoy. Or maybe you thought you’d love Chicago, but you come to find that you actually hate the noise and clutter of big-city life. Or you may decide you hate making art, after all, and you want to leave art school to study medicine. Whatever it is that’s making you regret your first choice, don’t feel like you’re stuck with it! Leaving does not equal giving up—sometimes, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your future.

8. Let it suck.
Even if you love your school, college will involve making mistakes. You will endure some awful teachers, miss a few deadlines, work an awful job, and maybe have to drop some toxic friends. All of those things, while unpleasant in the moment, will make you stronger and teach you how to laugh at yourself. Laughing is VERY IMPORTANT: It will help you get through the tougher aspects of the next four years. Speaking of which…

9. Have FUN.
Check in with yourself from time to time and make sure you’re happy where you are and with what you’re doing. That will make all the stress of college worth it, and will (I swear) make these four years ZOOM by. The next thing you know, it’ll be your next graduation day. I hope you arrive there feeling triumphant, proud, and ready for the next adventure. ♦


Wednesday, 23 July 2014 07:06 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Under the Subject line "Notice of Online Survey of Higher Ed CMOs", I got an email last week from someone who described herself as the Chief Marketing Officer of the Chronicle of Higher Education. It began like this:

Dear Mark,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has partnered with SimpsonScarborough, a higher education market research firm, to study the organization and operations of the marketing unit within higher education institutions. The purpose of this study is to better understand marketing budgeting, staffing structure, responsibilities and priorities at higher education institutions.

And the next day, the Director of Project Strategy at SimpsonScarborough sent me a note, under the Subject line "Online Survey of Higher Ed CMOs",  that started this way:

Dear Mark:
The Chronicle of Higher Education and SimpsonScarborough, a higher education marketing company, would like to invite you to participate in an important online survey of higher ed chief marketing officers. The purpose of this study is to better understand the role and influence of marketing in higher education including budgeting, staffing structure, responsibilities and priorities at higher education institutions.

These messages — and the follow-up nudges — puzzled me for two reasons.  First, I was not aware that "higher education institutions" routinely had "chief marketing officers". At Penn, the Wharton School apparently has a CMO, but as far as I can tell, neither the university as a whole nor other schools do.  So maybe colleges and universities really should have CMOs, but my second reason for being puzzled by these messages is that I'm pretty sure that I'm not one. I mean, I do my best to follow Taoist management practices, but I like to keep track of which responsibilities I'm fulfilling by creative non-action.

Maybe the Chronicle just sent these message to all its subscribers, in the hopes that those who happen to be CMOs will respond.

Anyhow, all of this left me with a meta-question: for how many (and which) values of X is CXO defined? In addition to the most common ones (CEO, CFO, CIO, COO, etc.), a quick web search turned up 5 interpretations of CAO and 3 of CBO — without even getting into the jokes like Chief Beer Officer:

A Chief Academic Officer
A Chief Accounting Officer
A Chief Administrative Officer
A Chief Analytics Officer
A Chief Acquisition Officer
B Chief Brand Officer
B Chief Brokerage Officer
B Chief Business Officer

What are your favorites?

Tears for the perpetrators. Anger at the victims.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 05:34 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Amy @ Watch Keep highlights a rare story of a local church responding appropriately to finding an abuser on its payroll.

John Sluder was an associate pastor at Believers Church in Auburn, Alabama:

His arrest in May got him kicked out of the church where he had been for 30 years.  Lee County Sheriff’s detectives say the two adult victims came forward in April to report they were abused in the early 1990′s.

… [Attorney Ben] Hand represents Believers Church where his father is the pastor. Hand says the church was stunned, then angry, when Sluder was arrested by Lee County, after two adult victims revealed Sluder had molested them on several occasions in the early 1990′s when they were 8 and 9 years old.

“Every child, including my own daughter that has had contact with him has been questioned to make sure there are no other potential victims out there,” said Hand.

… ”He was told if he came on church property, he would be arrested from trespassing and was forbidden from every returning to Believers Church. His bond was lowered from $100,000 to $25,000 and that is a nominal bond, and we have recommended that nobody make that bond. He needs to be there,” said Hand.

… ”The full extent of the law needs to be handed down. And we have to do everything we can to protect these kids ant they need to know they are safe and that society will come to their defense,” said Hand.

Amy contrasts this response by Believers Church with the image-control, stonewalling and circling of the wagons she more often encounters in her work with SNAP (the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests):

Tears for the victims. Anger at the perpetrator. This is a refreshing response from a church who gets it. It’s not about them. It’s about the kids harmed by one of their own. But they don’t protect their own image and shun and silence these kids, now adults, who though it took a long time, bravely came forward to report the harm done to them. Kids will be safer now, and other possible victims of Sluder will know they are not alone and perhaps have the courage to come forward as well, begin to heal and protect others.

Those first two sentences cut to the heart of the matter: “Tears for the victims. Anger at the perpetrator.” That provides the basis for a very simple test for whether we’re opposing evil or abetting it. Who are we angry at? Who are we crying for?

That, I think, captures what’s so horrifyingly upside-down about the story Madeleine Baran documents in her four-part investigative report for Minnesota Public Radio, “Betrayed by Silence: How three archbishops hid the truth.”

This a remarkable example of the craft of journalism — Baran and her team did their homework, and she writes beautifully even when the subject matter is deeply disturbing. It’s a long read, and it’s depressing, enraging and unsettling, but you should read it all anyway.

Chapter One: It all began in Lafayette

Chapter Two: The church protects its own

Chapter Three: Archbishop makes vow, breaks it

Chapter Four: Cover-up unravels from the inside

The two-sentence summary of all that Baran documents is simply the opposite of what Amy wrote at Watch Keep: Tears for the perpetrators. Anger at the victims.

Time after time, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis failed that test, abetting evil instead of opposing it, directing their tears, and their anger, at the wrong people.

Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. Photo by Jennifer Simonson, Minnesota Public Radio.


Chaos and Fictional Theology

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:09 am
[syndicated profile] onpoptheology_feed

Posted by Benjamin Howard

by Ben Howard

As a writer who occasionally has opinions about Christianity I am required by divine fiat to have a definitive position on the issue of the afterlife. A footnote to this rule hastily added in recent years forces me to write about this topic at least once a year to stay in good standing with the (possibly imaginary) powers that be.

Now, before I dive into my very well thought-out, possibly genius, and definitely correct opinion, let me make one quick note: Almost all discussions about the afterlife are stupid, or at least whatever synonym of that word I need to use to both not insult the participants of the conversation and make it clear that I do not see the value in their thoughts on hell, heaven, or divine realms of puppies/ice cream/Backstreet Boys montages.

Clear? Good.

With that out of the way, I'd like to tell you my useless (but remember, totally correct) opinion. I believe in annihilationism.

If you're unfamiliar with annihilationism, be assured that you're not alone. While it was one of the beliefs about the nature of salvation and eternity that some of the Church Fathers subscribed to, it has been a minority view throughout history. At its essence, it bridges the gap between traditional beliefs in hell and universalism. There is no eternal conscious torment in annihilationism, but neither is eternal life granted to all. Instead of hell, those who are not saved are “annihilated,” which sounds a bit violent until you realize that it essentially means they die (like everybody else) and then stay dead instead of being resurrected.

To explain how I came to hold this position, let me discuss two things I hold as universal givens: sin and death. When I use the word sin, I don't mean sin as an individual’s actions or even habits and inclinations. Instead I use the word sin in a metaphysical sense, as the force that un-creates God's good creation. To my mind, this is the central crisis of the Christian story, creation vs. un-creation, existence vs. non-existence, with sin as the force which pushes us closer and closer towards the non-existent, un-created side of the equation. This act of un-creation ultimately results in death, not just the death of an individual, but the death of all existence, everything and everyone.

And while this may seem bleak, here's the kicker, in this telling of the story Christ's sacrifice doesn't save us from our sin. Instead he overcomes the consequences of our sin by resurrection and new creation. Resurrection and immortality are graciously bestowed on a grateful people rather than prizes earned by good behavior or gifts given to all without their desire or consent. Also, it eliminates the unjust punishment present in spending an eternity in hell for a finite number of crimes. We aren't punished for sin; we simply receive the natural consequences of our existence. We live and we die, just like everyone; there just isn't an infinity-length encore.

This belief is simply logical to me, it's clean and direct. It's a system wherein, if you believe in an afterlife, chances are you're right. If you don't believe in an afterlife, chances are you're right too. It treats everyone equally and we all experience the same fate for our actions. It's clear, it's to the point, and it's just.

It makes so much sense.

Which is why I'm also convinced it's completely wrong.

Think about your favorite book, or your favorite movie, or whatever fictional story happens to resonate with you. Think about how the story progresses, how it moves from point A to point B to point C, always laying down more narrative track following the route the author has laid out in advance. The author may even get a bit creative and jump around, perhaps it starts at point C and works backward, maybe it starts in the middle, exploring backstory as it goes, but it always tells an ordered story. If it's a good story you'll get little bits and pieces that explain the motivation of the characters, quick asides about their pasts, small scenes that further illuminate their personality, all of it building incrementally to the final climactic moments. All of it makes perfect sense.

But that's what fiction does; it makes sense.

In contrast, our own lives, our own stories, present us with a far less cohesive narrative structure. Of course order still holds sway over most areas of our lives, causes have their effects, questions have their answers, and crises have their resolutions, but there also exists something else: chaos. And chaos is what ushers in the unpredictability, it's what keeps things from being neatly arranged, ordered, tidy.

And it's the reason why, despite answering all the questions I may have about death and the afterlife, my own closely held beliefs are just too clean and orderly. They are fiction, not reality. 

Yet I don't know what an accurate theory about the afterlife would look like with it's chaos-inflected jagged lines and logic-averse inner constructs. My mind recoils at the complexity such a theory would require, like trying to explain quantum mechanics to a child who has just mastered the ability to count to three. Reality exists to boggle the mind.

But we must believe something, and in the end I believe what I believe, all the while uncertain and almost entirely convinced that what I believe is wholly incorrect. And with this uncertainty come the seeds of humility, not fully developed, but growing, slowly. The ability to listen to others, who I'm convinced are just as wrong as I, and respond with a modicum of grace. 

Universalism? No, but maybe.
Hell? No, but maybe.
Aliens? No...but maybe? 

Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHowardOPT.  

You can follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OnPopTheology. If you'd like to support what we do here, you can donate via the button on the right of the screen.

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Good work, SBC!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 04:58 pm
[syndicated profile] rachel_he_feed

Posted by Rachel Held Evans

When we find ourselves at odds with our fellow Christians over issues that are important to us, it’s easy to slip into the habit of expecting the worst in one another, forgetting just how much we have in common as followers of Jesus. 

As much as I disagree with the Southern Baptist Convention’s positions on gender and sexuality (among other issues), it’s been really encouraging to see the SBC partner with Christians of other denominations in advocating for a humane and loving response to the flood of child refugees crossing the border into the U.S. to escape violence in their homeland.  

I’ve been especially encouraged by the words and actions of Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, who took a trip to the border last week and who wrote a really powerful challenge to Christians regarding their response to the child refugees. Says Moore: 

The Christian response to immigrant communities in the United States cannot be “You kids get off of my lawn” in Spanish. While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by gospel and mission.
I’m amazed when I hear evangelical Christians speak of undocumented immigrants in this country with disdain as “those people” who are “draining our health care and welfare resources.” It’s horrifying to hear those identified with the gospel speak, whatever their position on the issues, with mean-spirited disdain for the immigrants themselves....
This is much more than a “political” issue, abstracted from our salvation. Jesus tells us that our response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Jesus Himself (Matt. 25:40). God will judge those who exploit workers and mistreat the poor. No matter how invisible they seem to us now, God hears (Isa. 3:15; Amos 4:1; Jas.5:4).

My prayer is that such a unified response among Christian leaders around this situation will not only lead to a loving response to these children but also to all who suffer, all who need of a home, all who come to the U.S. seeking a better life. 

May we continue to find common ground standing in solidarity among "the least of these."

The most awkward crash blossom ever?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 02:09 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman


[h.t. Omri Ceren]

The Washington Post, among others, used the AP headline unaltered:

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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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