Friday, January 08, 2010

Pop Culture Roundup

My first book of 2010 is The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. I'd leafed through it a couple times at Barnes and Noble, curious but never committed, and then I got it as a Christmas gift. I thought it would be more madcap, but part of the joke is how seriously the author approaches the subject. In effect, this really is an instruction manual for how to defend yourself from zombie attacks. The most interesting part has been simply learning more about the world of zombies: the book details the root cause of zombie-ism, how to kill zombies, what weapons work best, best options for safe havens, and most effective methods to take down a zombie army. The book finishes with 80 or so pages of zombie outbreaks throughout history. It's been quite fascinating, and entertaining.

I've also been reading For the Love of God for my book study group. This is a series of essays on spirituality and God-experience by a diverse array of authors such as The Dhali Lama and Matthew Good. Good's essay on experiencing God in all of creation and the presence of both death and resurrection has been a personal favorite so far.

We watched Angels and Demons this past week. I was iffy on watching it, because 1) I really liked the book, 2) I got really sick and tired of the Da Vinci Code "controversy" when that movie came out, and 3) I didn't like the Da Vinci Code movie. A&D was done better, although it was still kind of a flat action movie with a lead actor who is not an action star. They also made changes to story, effectively cutting out one of the book's major characters and minimizing the discussion of religion and science that was such a huge part of the book. At best, that discussion was just used to prop up the action stuff. So it still wasn't a great movie, but at least better than its predecessor.

We also watched The Incredible Hulk this week. This is the version with Edward Norton after people realized how awful the previous movie was. This was also a case of "I'm bored, and this movie is on." It actually wasn't horrible. In this version, Bruce Banner is hiding from the government while trying to find a cure for his condition. The military, of course, is trying to hunt him down because they want to weaponize his condition; to create supersoldiers. One soldier volunteers for such an experiment, and eventually we end up with The Hulk versus The Abomination. Lou Ferrigno has a cameo, as does Robert Downey, Jr. in a foreshadowing of a possible Avengers movie down the road.

This past episode of Monday Night RAW was surreal. They've had celebrity guest hosts the past few months, and this past Monday's host was Bret Hart, a former wrestler who left the WWE some 12 years ago under very ugly circumstances. The short version is that at that time, WWE and another company, WCW, were going neck and neck in ratings with WCW starting to have the edge. Hart was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with WWE's direction and started talking to WCW. Hart was also the WWE Champion at the time, and he wanted to drop the belt his way before leaving. The owner, Vince McMahon, came up with a plot to take the belt off of him during the 1997 Survivor Series pay-per-view in Montreal by having Hart's opponent and real-life bitter rival Shawn Michaels apply a submission hold and have the ref quickly ring the bell. That all sounds like a typical scripted wrestling story, but it wasn't. Click here for a much more exhaustive version. And so for 12 years Hart had vowed never to work with WWE again after what has come to be known as the Montreal Screwjob. Well, this past Monday Hart returned to RAW and stood face to face in the ring with Michaels, and the two had appeared to reconcile, even hugging at the end. That last part almost caused a Coffeepastor Head Asplode. It was really strange, but it was the most excited I've been to watch wrestling in a couple years.

I've been listening to Flight of the Conchords' newest album, I Told You I Was Freaky, which is essentially all the music from season 2 of their HBO show. The music is not unlike that season: flashes of brilliance, but not as strong as the first. The guys do more rap and R&B on this one, which again is hit-and-miss. I think that's also what happens when your first album is of songs you've spent years crafting and performing in stand-up routines, and your second album is of songs that were more hurriedly produced for your TV show.

This is my cousin's band, Wayside Manor. I felt like giving him some props here.