Friday, February 06, 2009

Pop Culture Roundup

I read three books this week. Yeah...three.

The first is another on my short list of "repeat reads," High Fidelity. I wasn't sure why I was drawn back to this book at this particular time, but after I finished the timing made a lot of sense. If you aren't familiar with the book or the movie (which is one of my favorites as well), Rob is a guy in his mid-30s who owns a struggling record shop, is trying to figure out his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, and is trying to make sense of his life in general. The book, more than the movie, has Rob feeling pushed to strive after something bigger; to not "keep his options open" and finally commit to something that he can't back out of. Part of this push stems from his coping with his lack of accomplishment at his age. The movie focuses more on Rob's problems in relationships; the book is more about his overall sense of purpose. As I near my 30th birthday, reading this again was perfect.

I also breezed through Rob Bell's latest, Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Bell first takes us through a few broad interpretations of the Biblical story arc: namely that God wants to save people from exile and combat the attitude of empire. Empire, Bell observes, brings an attitude of entitlement, an inability to see or understand the situation of the poor, the fear of losing one's position of power and influence, and the use of violence to keep that position. Bell notes how the church itself can have an attitude of empire and neglect its true purpose. I experienced this book to be a little more stream-of-consciousness than usual, and that's saying a lot considering Bell's past efforts. And both his Biblical interpretation and his theology can be a little convoluted at times. But the last couple chapters, if you can stick with him all the way to the end, contain some powerful words to the church about its function and relevance. This includes a question near the end that he asks about who would protest the elimination of one's church from its neighborhood: would only the members protest, or would the surrounding community that it is called to serve protest as well?

And if that wasn't enough, I finished yet another book this week. It's called Dealing by local sports writer Terry Pluto, and is all about the rebuilding of the Cleveland Indians in the early 2000s after their success in the 1990s. He briefly chronicles the success of those earlier teams, the realizations by management that players were getting older and more expensive, and the eventual need to hit the reboot button. They even set a goal in 2002 to be where they want to be by 2005, and sure enough, they won 93 games in 2005 (although they missed the playoffs in the final week of the season). It's an interesting glimpse into the decisions made during those years, the simplest explanation being, "invest in prospects." And because of that, we eventually got Crisp, Sizemore, Sabathia, Lee, Hafner, Victor Martinez, and others who eventually became impact players on the Tribe roster. Publicly, of course, all people saw was the team losing guys like Ramirez, Roberto Alomar, Bartolo Colon, Thome, and would take years for fans to appreciate the payoff.

Flight of the Conchords opened this week with the band playing a gig at a library, and Bret rapping, "50 Cent is not that good...Mos Def is not that good...Ice-T is not that good..." He went on like this for a while. Afterwards, Murray warns him that now these rappers will be after him because he dissed them, leading him to form a gang consisting of a guy in his 70s, an older Chinese couple, and their weird pawn shop friend. Hilarity ensues. The music was stronger this week. Probably my favorite episode of the season so far.

From around the web, this was my favorite Super Bowl commercial this year: