Friday, April 16, 2010

Overstuffed Pop Culture Roundup

I'm putting off the rest of Walden for a time. I feel bad, because this is the second time that I've done so. But I'm getting pretty close to sabbatical and there are some other books that I want to concern myself with right now. Even so, it remains on my nightstand with my place marked, and I'll probably even take it along on my different outings for those moments when I get sick and tired of thinking about theology, church, ministry, whatever.

I finished For the Love of God for my book study group, and I am really freaking happy about that. I can't say that I am tremendously better off for reading it, I can't even say that I was all that good about paying attention as my eyes moved down each page. Part of it is my very limited knowledge of Eastern traditions, and part of it was that every essay started to sound the same. I did not find it edifying or enriching; it only drove me up the wall with its redundancy. I would recommend this book to no one at any time for any reason. I award it no points, and may God have mercy on its soul.

I've been reading Walking a Sacred Path this week, for which I spurned Walden. This provides information on the history and use of the labyrinth, which will be part of my sabbatical. The author, Lauren Artress, spends some time on the geometry of the labyrinth as well, noting the symbolism of the circle and the various angles and pathways incorporated into the design. I haven't reached the chapters on practice yet, though.

We watched I Love You, Man the other week. Paul Rudd plays a sensitive career-minded guy who basically has no guy friends. When he realizes that he'll have no best man at his wedding, he embarks on a search for some dudes to hang out with. Hijinks briefly ensue before he meets Jason Segel's character, a man-boy who loves Rush. I'm a Paul Rudd fan, so it was easy for me to like this movie.

We also watched Pirate Radio the other week. Set in 1960s Britain, where less than an hour of rock music was permitted by the BBC per day. Enter ships like Radio Rock, who broadcast from outside the boundaries of the law. The cast, which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Darby, Bill Nighy, and Nick Frost, goes from one crazy stunt to the next, while Kenneth Branagh plays a British politician obsessively trying to shut them down. There's also a subplot involving a kid who comes on board looking to meet his dad. It tries to be a coming-of-age story for that character, but it's more about the entire crew rebelling against society by rotating rock songs 24 hours a day.

For some reason, we watched Enough this week. It was on the Oxygen network, and laziness about flipping the channel at some point changed to, "fine, let's see how it ends." Jennifer Lopez stars as a wife and mother who eventually tries to escape her controlling, abusive husband. Due to his connections and money, however, he doesn't make it easy for her. Finally, she decides to stop running, trains in martial arts for a month, and then goes and beats the crap out of him. There was something about this that seemed overcooked. The "somebody's sneaking up on her" camera technique was used way too often, and the whole thing was pretty much little more than a revenge fantasy.

Finally, I watched Inglourious Basterds the other night. It took me a while to make up my mind about this movie. Brad Pitt stars as the leader of a small band of Jewish-American soldiers who are dropped into 1940s France to basically do nothing but kill Nazis. Since it's still a pretty recent movie, I don't want to spoil it for people. But let's just say that the movie ends quite a bit differently than what historically happened. Like Enough, this movie was ultimately a revenge fantasy; a study in catharsis. The scenes that I liked the best had the least to do with the plots: a slow-building opening scene where Christophe Waltz's Nazi "Jew hunter" is interrogating a milk farmer, and a tense scene in a pub involving some of the Basterds, a double agent, and a high-ranking Nazi trying to sniff out possible infiltrators. Mike Meyers makes a cameo as a British officer, and he and Brad Pitt may be the worst-acted two characters in the movie. Ultimately, I can't say I liked it, especially when Tarantino decided to get heavy-handed. But the scenes where he took his time were very good.

I picked up the newest album from Galactic last week, entitled Ya-Ka-May. Here, Galactic combines hip-hop with New Orleans jazz for yet another funky, smooth effort. I can't say that I liked it better than their previous album, From the Corner to the Block, but it ranks up there.

Here's Jason Mraz singing to Muppets: