Friday, October 05, 2012

Pop Culture Roundup

I recently finished reading Alone with a Jihadist by Aaron Taylor. In case you missed it, here's my review.

I'm still making my way through Bo's Lasting Lessons. I was a bit distracted by the Taylor book and my classroom reading, so it's been a little slow-going lately. I'm still enjoying it, though. Bo does a pretty good job of relating how he ran the football program to how one could run businesses. Lately I've read about accepting blame as the leader, not giving special breaks to stars, motivating middlemen, and recognizing that people on the ground (players) will relate to peer leadership (the seniors) in a way different from how they relate to the guy at the top. I've particularly found that last one true as a pastor. I'm not sure how well every lesson he shares translates to a church environment, but maybe I just need to think more creatively about that. Even if the lessons don't always seem to fit, I still get to enjoy the anecdotes that Bo shares along the way about different players he's coached, various assistants who have worked for him including future head coaches Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr, and of the couple of ill-fated years he ran the Detroit Tigers. And it's all told in Bo's natural style, which is also fun.

The Coffeefamily went to see Hotel Transylvania last weekend, starring the voice of Adam Sandler as Count Dracula. Dracula runs a hotel as a safe haven for monsters away from the torches and pitchforks of humans. More importantly for him, it's a place where he can play overprotective father to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), whom he wants to shield from human threat as well. Then a traveling human (Andy Samberg) accidentally stumbles upon the hidden castle, threatening Dracula's plans. Other voices include Steve Buscemi, CeeLo Green, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, David Spade, and Molly Shannon. The movie has some great and well-timed humor, some of which seems to have Sandler's stamp on it, and including some hilarious and well-done musical sequences. The film also touches on issues of prejudice and grief, as Dracula learns to trust in Mavis' decision-making, and really learns to trust others in general.

We watched Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, starring Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, a villain aspiring to become part of the Evil League of Evil. Unfortunately, a few things stand in his way: the self-absorbed superhero Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), a crush on sweet community organizer Penny (Felicia Day), and his own ineptitude. He keeps a video blog of his endeavors along the way. I'd heard good things about this ever since it came out, and it didn't disappoint. The songs and humor are both sharp, and the story takes some unexpected twists. Writer/director Joss Whedon has a way of giving weight to his shows even if they're primarily comedies.

I've finally and very belatedly begun watching The Walking Dead. No better time than October, right? I figure that with the new season starting on the 14th, I have between now and then to watch all 19 episodes. I'm already four in, and am hooked just like I figured I would be. If for some reason you're not familiar with this show, sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes wakes from a coma to discover a post-zombie apocalypse landscape. It takes him the entire first episode to start catching on to what this means and how he should act accordingly: riding into a major city area on horseback, for instance, wasn't his best idea. Fortunately, he soon finds a remnant of survivors who help get him up to speed. This group, as it turns out, includes his wife and son, but that brings some complications. Coffeewife and I watched the first four episodes together, but I get the feeling that I'll be watching the rest by myself.


Mumford and Sons, Babel - Time for another round of British folk-rock featuring plenty of banjo and tweed...not that there's anything wrong with that. This long-anticipated follow-up did not disappoint as the guys once again delivered driving acoustic tunes featuring Mumford's slight growl overtop. The title track hits pretty hard right off the bat and they don't let up for the entire album. Perfect for listening while enjoying a pint with your best mates.

The Sundays, Blind - As is often the case, I flipped on the community station after determining that the other radio stations were playing the usual disappointing array of pablum. And one of the first songs that I heard during this particular car ride was The Sundays' cover of The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses." Curious, I pulled up the album on Spotify. As it turns out, this was released back in 1992, and there was something about the band's general sound that reflected that. It made me want to wear flannel and watch PCU. But being of the generation that loved that kind of stuff, I considered that a good thing. Their overall sound is reflective mid-'90s British rock-pop, which I enjoyed while attempting to write a sermon earlier in the week as I was taken back to more care-free days.

Grouplove, Never Trust a Happy Song - I heard this band's single "Tongue Tied" by chance on some website, and I became curious enough to listen to the entire album. Despite the title of the album, these sound like a lot of happy songs. They're snappy and catchy, with perhaps more serious themes here and there, but the music offsets it with bright drumbeats, guitars, and synth sounds that are meant for dancing around the house to...not that that happened. Ahem. It's a peppy album and I didn't regret trying out the whole thing.

El Ten Eleven, Transitions - I saw this album advertised on Spotify and figured, "Why not?" The first song is ten minutes of bland synth-rock, which caused me to give up before the second song started. That's why not.

David Byrne & St. Vincent, Love This Giant - This collaboration is quite fun, featuring brass over electronic drumbeats, with Byrne and St. Vincent (Annie Clark) providing an interesting contrast in vocals. I first heard their song "Who" on the community station (sensing a theme?) and rushed to Spotify to hear the entire thing the first chance I got. It's quirky and odd, but in an "it works" sort of way.

Scott Lucas & the Married Men, Blood Half Moon - I first heard this band's music on a podcast that I like to listen to called Sound Opinions, which a few weeks ago featured their song "Lover the Lullaby." These guys are quite eclectic, with their lineup featuring electric guitar, accordion, and violin. It's the kind of unique sound that I especially look for, sounding like something of a cross between The Beta Band, The Decemberists, and Abney Park. This album includes a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ain't No Grave," among other great pieces such as the track I heard first and the epic "Out of the Boat."

So I guess I was 5 for 6 this week. Not too shabby.