Friday, November 27, 2015

November 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

A few extra items for November, because some months are like that. It helped that I had a week's vacation in there. Anyway...

1. This month I read Beyond Resistance by John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the UCC and contributor of the foreword to my book. Dorhauer takes the reader through a brief tour of the issues facing the institutional church these days, among them being the rise of postmodernism, and explores possible responses to them. He introduces the concept of "church 3.0," which will look radically different from the versions before it (in case you're wondering, 1.0 was pre-Reformation and 2.0 was Reformation to present day). Essentially, he argues that many churches entrenched in the 2.0 way of doing things should just carry on as best they can, while also making room for 3.0, which may have none of the features that many love about 2.0, including Sunday worship, buildings, and professional seminary-educated clergy. I don't read many books like this nowadays, but this was a welcome foray back into the genre with fresh information and an encouraging take on where we may be headed.

2. I also read An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation by Nyasha Junior this month. I know Nyasha through Twitter, the subject matter is a bit of a blind spot for me, and I wanted to support her while learning more. This book offers a brief overview of the history of womanist thought, a contrast to feminism, and names notable figures and their methods within the movement. One of the most interesting points to me was how difficult womanism is to define. While there exist several definitions that people have ventured and to which many refer, there have been so many nuances to it that Nyasha argues that one must pay attention to the particular scholar than anything else. I found it an informative read, and it gives plenty of leads to other works in order to learn more.

3. I've been watching and enjoying the first few episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead, where Bruce Campbell reprises his role from the films--chainsaw hand and all--to combat the forces of darkness summoned by the Neconomicon, aka the Book of the Dead. The show retains all the gore and humor from the movies, and is an incredibly fun and faithful return to that world. It also has the benefit of vastly improved special effects and Lucy Lawless as Ash's no-nonsense foil. I was excited when this show was first announced, and so far I haven't been disappointed.

4. I finally got around to seeing Inside Out this month, starring the voices of Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Lewis Black among others as the various emotions inside a young girl's head. I would rank this among Pixar's best offerings, as it combines humor and more touching moments to portray the joys and struggles of growing up, moving, adjustment, and relationships. The artistic imagining of how the brain processes feelings, thoughts, dreams, and memories was creative and well done, and the room got a little dusty for me more than once.

5. We saw Mockingjay Part 2 this past weekend, the final installment of movies based on the Hunger Games book series. Since the last book was split into two movies, it picks up where the last left off with Peeta recently rescued yet brainwashed by the Capital, and Katniss and the rest of District 13 wondering how to finally topple the oppressive regime. While each book and its film adaptation has been intense in its own way, I think this was bound to be moreso given what the group has to do and events near the end of the story. It shows the horrors of war without romanticizing it, and how easily the ones advocating revolution can quickly become the new oppressors. It was at times painful and gut-wrenching to watch, but people who have read the books know that going in.

6. So I was driving someplace minding my own business when the local community station played a song called "One Time" by Marian Hill, and I've been listening to their whole debut EP, Sway, ever since. They're a duo of a singer and electronic musician in the vein of Phantogram, but their songs tend to be lower key and more sultry. It's the perfect album for sinking into the couch with wine and your special friend. Here's the song that got me hooked:

7. This week Five Iron Frenzy released an EP titled Between Pavement and Stars, which is a collection of B-sides from their Engine of a Million Plots recording sessions. It includes the provocative "God Hates Flags," which had been previously released, and a remixed version of "Blizzards and Bygones," which is particularly haunting. I pretty much love everything that Five Iron does, and this is no exception. Here's a live performance of the title track from a couple years ago: