Friday, February 27, 2015

February 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for February...

1. I was given Eager to Love by Richard Rohr as a Christmas gift, and have been reading it little by little the past few weeks. It's actually my first encounter with Rohr's writing, although I've been meaning to check out some of his stuff for a while after a lot of glowing recommendations by colleagues. In this work, Rohr examines the lives and witness of Francis and Clare of Assisi, as well as their enduring influence on religious orders and Christian practice in general. I'm a longtime Francis fan, and this has been a fascinating and inspiring look into the spirituality behind what he and Clare were trying to do in their movements. They were both devoted followers of Jesus, and while their approach seemed radical in their own time, I think it still would today.

2. When I finished all of the episodes of Parks and Recreation available on Netflix (read: all of them save the season currently airing), I thought that the final episode of last season would have been a perfect finale. I knew they were planning one more season, but I would have been perfectly satisfied if they'd ended it there. Another season, with a time jump and a drastically different set of circumstances for most of the characters, caused me to worry that the latest episodes would feel unnecessary. Thankfully, I haven't felt that way. The characters' lives are clearly different, but their personalities and relationships remain largely the same. The series finale, which aired this past week, featured a look into where each of them will end up doing, as well as a celebration of what Leslie has striven to do the entire series: work to make the lives of others even a little better. As fitting as I thought the previous season finale was, this did just as well.

3. We're nearing the end of the newer episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix, which includes all but the latest series with Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. Jenna Louise Coleman is the current companion to Matt Smith's Doctor, who provides a bit of spunk that others haven't had. I loved the story arc with the Doctor's impending death from the sixth series, but the seventh seems a bit meandering and disjointed, perhaps in part because there's a change in companions midway. What I'm really looking forward to is finally watching the 50th anniversary show, which as of this writing we're only a few episodes away from.

4. I've been listening to and enjoying Paperhaus' new self-titled album this month. I never heard of them prior to a few weeks ago; they have kind of a Modest Mouse vibe, with lots of focus on the interaction between guitars as their driving sound. There are only 8 tracks on the album, but each takes its time in developing musically. As mentioned, there's a lot of interplay between guitar sounds, and plenty of room given for meandering and noodling, with some long instrumentals. Being acclimated to jambands, I didn't mind these the way others would, and I was simply appreciative of the musicianship and experimentation. While each song gives itself a lot of space, the album as a whole gets in and gets out. I especially liked "Cairo," "Untitled," and "Surrender." Here's the video for "Cairo:"

5. I've also been listening to Tomorrow Is My Turn by Rhiannon Giddens, which pulls from a wide variety of musical influences including blues, soul, bluegrass, and gospel. Giddens' voice itself is smooth and strong, and each song showcases her many talents amid a diversity of instruments. Here she is performing "Waterboy" on Letterman: