Friday, January 11, 2013

Pop Culture Roundup

A while back I was given the book Seeing David in the Stone by a business-minded church member who thought I might benefit from its lessons on leadership. I hasten to add that this was not as a judgment, he just figured it'd be a useful tool. As I've become more interested in how organizations run and the role of leadership in that process, I decided to finally give this book a look. Citing the examples of many well-known figures such as Marie Curie, Dwight Eisenhower, Thomas Edison, and Sam Walton, among others, the authors present 12 signature marks of effective leadership including differentiating oneself for opportunity, convincing the cautious, working with critics, and so on. I had a little trouble with this book on two fronts. First, some of the jargon used was and is something I need to spend more time with in order to understand, and second, I'm dubious as to how much of this is translatable into a church setting. A non-profit volunteer organization is a much different animal from a corporation. There was useful stuff here, but it would still need to be adapted to account for context.

We finally got around to watching Green Lantern a few weeks ago, starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, a hotshot test pilot who's a bit directionless until a fateful encounter with a crashed alien spaceship that leaves him inheriting a green lantern ring from its dying inhabitant. The other lanterns are highly skeptical of a human holding the ring until it turns out he's the only one who can come up with a way to defeat an evil fear-based entity threatening to destroy Earth. As superhero movies go, this was probably middle of the pack. The special effects are top notch, but there was something about the plot that seemed rushed. I can only expect so much from a film like this, and I enjoyed it for what it was. Reynolds is one of my favorite actors and the Green Lantern is my second favorite DC hero behind Batman, so I'll pop some popcorn and put up with some loosey-goosey plot points.

Thanks to Coffeeson's newly-acquired interest in the Stink series of books by we have watched Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer several times over the past few weeks. See, Stink is Judy Moody's younger brother, so that's been the big draw. He has a prominent role in this movie as Judy wants to totally have the bestest summer ever, you guys. Unfortunately, two of her best friends have other big summer plans elsewhere, so she's stuck at home trying to make her own fun with her brother and her Aunt Opal (Heather Graham). Also, Jaleel White can still find work, here in particular as Judy's teacher. It's a cute movie for elementary school kids, and it's one of the less annoying things that I've had to watch as a parent, so I'll call it a win on those fronts.

I've made it through four seasons of Mad Men. The fifth isn't on Netflix yet, but I'm hoping to see it before whenever the new season starts. I've certainly heard plenty about how the fifth season started, so I'll look forward to that, as well as to having a show to look forward to watching on TV as brand new episodes air. I do have to say that part of me has never gotten over the standoffish ways with which people approach each other, ever putting on airs at the expense of vulnerability or real relationship. Part of it is the business Don and company are in, but part of it is just easier. I've been meaning to write a blog post exploring this more. Guess I'll have to get around to that.

Also, it appears that I have until February 10th to get completely caught up with The Walking Dead before new episodes start airing. For me, that means basically all of seasons 2 and 3 so far. I'm making good progress, as I'm halfway through season 2 now...the past few days I've been watching 1-2 episodes a day. This is easily the most intense TV show I've ever found myself caught up in. I find it engrossing, but after many episodes I find myself either incredibly wound up or exhausted. And it's not just the constant threat of danger, it's also the emotional trauma that the characters endure either due to losing loved ones or to the tense dynamic between them at times as they do their best to survive.


The Piano Guys, The Piano Guys
- A piano guy and a cello guy combine classical pieces with modern songs to create unique and creative new tunes. My favorite is probably their combination of the theme from the Bourne movies with Vivaldi's Double Cello Concerto ("Code Name Vivaldi"). It's fun and very well done. Here, take a listen:

Passion Pit, Gossamer - You're probably familiar with Passion Pit's single "Take A Walk," which I'm ashamed to say I didn't know was by Passion Pit until recently. The rest of the album is electronic power pop, which I like when I'm in the mood, but at the time of listening to this, I don't think I was. I found the whole thing...fine.

Passion Pit, Manners - As often seems to be the case, I sometimes read reviews of an album on Amazon where many reviewers say, "Well, this is nothing like [some previous album of theirs]. If you really want to hear good stuff from this artist, listen to that instead." Such was the case when I read reviews of Gossamer: a bunch of people said that those new to Passion Pit should really listen to Manners instead. So I did. It struck me in a way that Gossamer didn't, which may have been when I listened to it, the mood I was in, or whatever else. But I liked this one better.

Derek Webb, Stockholm Syndrome - My favorite artists who self-identify as Christian nowadays are the ones who deign to buck the "handful of cliches over 3 guitar chords" formula; the ones who don't feel the need to mention God in every verse if not every song; the ones who dare to be critical of Christian attitudes and behaviors; the ones who risk sharing an actual viewpoint about current events or some cause that's important to them. Derek Webb, whom I've been meaning to listen to for YEARS, falls into that category. Offering up an interesting mix of acoustic/electronic as he critiques the church and American culture, I can't believe I didn't make it a point to listen to this years ago. The former Caedmon's Call member has my fandom.

I think I need to start offering "Albumwatch Mea Culpas" every so often, where I take another listen to albums that I didn't really like at the time that I wrote about them to see if I've changed my mind. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood or passed judgment too quickly on some of these. So maybe I'll offer my first round of those during the next Roundup.