Friday, October 29, 2010

Pop Culture Roundup

I continue to read Fellowship of the Ring. I almost gave up again. The hobbits are wandering and wandering and wandering through the woods, they sing some songs along the way. They stop to rest and sing another song. They keep going and run into a guy singing a song. They go back to the guy's house, have a long rambling conversation, and sing a song. They leave the guy's house, they keep wandering, the wandering and conversation is described in meticulous, pedantic detail, there's some more singing, nothing's happening, nothing's happening, nothing's happening...finally, they meet Aragorn, and the plot seems to be picking up after the first 150 pages. I'm seriously debating whether I'll read the other two books now.

I just started reading The Practicing Congregation by Diana Butler Bass for my book study. Bass' project the past few years has been to make the case that there is such a thing as a vibrant mainline church. This book in particular will describe the common features of such churches. I've only read the introduction and first chapter, which notes congregational philosophies over the past century or two. She describes the "social congregation" (1870-1950), where churches were the main place for socialization (this era saw the birth of the fellowship hall) and the "participatory congregation" (1950-current) which are heavily-programmed, "seeker-sensitive," and have something for everyone. She uses this as a lead-in to talking about the practicing congregation, or intentional congregation, where community, relationships, spiritual practice, and service are emphasized more and are not really driven as much by programming or structure. Bass argues that many churches are still operating out of the "social" or "participatory" mindset, which may or may not be working for them. But more and more mainline churches that were once dying are redefining themselves and finding new life in the "practicing" paradigm. I have more to write about this, but as I read this first chapter I couldn't help but think, "Wait...this sounds like where I am." And I felt affirmed. Like I said, probably more to follow about this. I think I was only supposed to read the first chapter for my study, but I may just keep going.

We went to see Red this past week. Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent who finds himself targeted for a hit. He turns to a few fellow retirees to help him find out who and why. Caught up in the crossfire is Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker), a worker at Pension Services who Frank frequently calls while pretending that his latest check hasn't come. Since he's called her so much, those who are going after him target her as well. Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren play Frank's allies; Malkovich in particular steals a couple scenes as one whose work hasn't been kind to his mind. It was a fun action movie that had some great humor throughout, but there were also some great moments highlighting how with age comes wisdom and perspective.

My guilty pleasure song lately has been "Airplanes" by B.o.B., and not at all because of Hayley Williams:

Let's learn about sharks: