Friday, November 28, 2014

November 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

Six [EDITED: SEVEN] items for November…

1. I read Lila by Marilynne Robinson this month, which is the third (and presumably final) book in what has become a trilogy, first with one of my all time favorites in Gilead, and the follow-up, Home, which in some ways is the same story from another character's perspective. In this third installment, we focus on Lila, the mysterious young woman who wanders into John Ames' church one Sunday, and eventually marries him. The reader is given hints of who she is in the previous books, but this one fleshes her out immensely. We learn about her past, which certainly has not been an easy road, as well as her attempts to settle into life in Gilead as a preacher's wife (also not an easy road). Robinson paints a word picture of a woman whose finding a community begins to make gentle her deep scars and trust issues. I think I liked this one more than Home, but Gilead remains my favorite of the three.

2. I've been keeping up with the latest season of The Walking Dead, the first half of which wraps up this Sunday. It's been kind of a disjointed one so far, where first the group has to escape from Terminus and deal with the fallout. That part, the first 3 episodes, were tight, suspenseful, and focused. After that, the show seemed to wander a little, first with the adventures of a break-off group heading to Washington, D.C. alternated with the whereabouts of Beth and another group seeking to rescue her. Neither of these stories have been especially captivating, but the finale might surprise me. In the meantime, I've also been reading the graphic novels and have made it far enough to be able to anticipate where the show might go next, which is a small point of pride. Despite the meandering nature of the past few episodes, this is still my favorite show at the moment.

3. The music video for Ingrid Michaelson's "Afterlife" is wonderful:

4. I was given a copy of The Sacred Gaze when I received my spiritual direction certificate, and finally delved into it this past month. Susan Pitchford draws on the spiritual traditions formed by Francis and Clare of Assisi, as well as Paul's musings on "looking in a mirror dimly" to talk about our image of God and of ourselves. This book has been a helpful reminder to me in some ways of traditions and concepts related to contemplation and the process of drawing near to God. It is a helpful resource for people seeking a good introduction to such concepts, but also some insight into how one's view of self contributes to the spiritual life.

5. The third and final season of The Newsroom started a few weeks ago, and the first episode set up the season quite well: a brewing family feud for ownership of the company that owns ACN, one member of the newsroom involved in espionage, and another member beginning to blossom from a producer into a reporter. I wish this show had a longer shelf life than it's going to be given. Sure, it's a bit idealistic (a criticism which Sorkin's The West Wing seemingly was able to escape), but I enjoy the witty fast-paced dialogue and the "what-if" nature of the world it presents.

6. Coffeewife and I played hooky the day before Thanksgiving to see Mockingjay, Part 1. At this point in the story, Katniss and a handful of others have been rescued from the special Quarter Quell edition of the Hunger Games, while Peeta had been captured. As the main group recoups and plans in the underground bunker of District 13, both sides shoot a series of propaganda pieces with Katniss as the face of the rebellion and Peeta as the highly manipulated "voice of reason" on behalf of the Capitol. As much as some decry splitting book adaptations into more than one movie, I think it worked well for them to do so here: they could take their time setting the stage and fleshing out the plot, and the result was a better story. It was a transitional movie and felt like one in some ways much like Catching Fire did, but did what it was supposed to do with excellent acting and effects.