Friday, September 01, 2006

Pop Culture Roundup

Faith of My Fathers by Chris Seay is a cool idea: three generations of pastors from one family sit around and talk about church and ministry: what's changed, what should change, lots of anecdotes. This was one of those discounted gems at Nearby Osteen Purveyor, so I was surprised and delighted to find this. The chapters closer to the beginning are better because they're about structure, style, boundaries, and self-care. When the guys get into politics and "sin," it's a mostly predictable and annoying rehash of "hate the sin, love the sinner" blah blah blah. Donald Miller of Blue Like Jazz makes a few appearances, and I find him to be the bright spot in those more political chapters, especially when he calls out Republicans for declaring themselves "pro-life" while ignoring all the death in Africa and closer to home. Seay's father doesn't come out looking too well in these discussions: Miller will give a long diatribe stating his case, and then all Seay's dad can say in response is, "Well...I'm against abortion so I'm Republican." Granted, he was probably caught off guard (and Seay writes that there was a lot of tension in the room during these parts), so there's no way to write him off as representative of all thinking on the issue.

Entourage - Ari is fired. We basically saw that coming in the previews. But the execution of it is really good. The guys start interviewing with other agencies, and they get the exact same pitch everywhere they go. Meanwhile, Ari first tries to get Vince's movie back and after that doesn't work prepares one of his own...which turns out to be the same as all the others. But there's a lot of depth and sincerity behind what Ari does, and when he does get fired, one sees how human he is. Bob Ryan, meanwhile, is the best side character they've featured on the show. His last scene this season sums it up wonderfully as he gives up on the town that he used to have such a close relationship with. Oh, and Jeremy Piven won an Emmy this week for playing Ari. Woohoo!

No movies watched this week, so I move to a second TV show: the 3rd season of Arrested Development came out on DVD this week and we're already almost finished with it. It helps that only 13 episodes were in this final season. There are other well-written comedies on TV (few and far between), but there was only one Arrested Development. In fact, we've reached the point in the season where they centered an entire episode around the possibility of them being cancelled, including making fun of what audiences gravitate toward (simple plots, obvious comedy) and speculation that they'd be picked up by another network ("Did you talk to the Home Builders' Organization?" "No, the HBO wasn't interested in us." "Then it's [S]howtime.") It just plain sucks that this show was cancelled.

I bought two new albums this week. I've been more (overly) obsessed with books to the neglect of some of my favorite bands, so when I found out that two of them recently had new albums out, I paid a visit to the store. I picked up High and Mighty from Gov't Mule, which is their usual brand of hard-nosed blues rock mixed with Haynes growling at someone for screwing up. Mule gets more than a little political here with lines like, "New Jim Crow, different shades of brown." I also picked up Earth to America from Widespread Panic, on which the band just sounds tired. Really. I've only listened to it once so far, but a lot of the songs have sort of a "contractual obligation" vibe to them...cookie cutter and not very inspired. Or maybe the album just needs to grow on me. The latest issue of Relix reveals that Panic's guitarist George McConnell up and left the band this summer, mostly due to all the comparisons to original founding member Michael Houser, who died in 2002. McConnell was more polished and bluesy, and people didn't like that. I don't blame him for leaving. So yeah, the album definitely isn't great.

Around the web, visit the website for The Wittenburg Door and watch for my first ever contribution in their September/October issue.