Dead Patrol

April 15, 2008

Dead Patrol is a web-exclusive series of video shorts by Jason Tisch. It distinguishes itself from the vast array of YouTube do-it-yourself videos with high production values, creative cinematography and realistic sets and designs. The five-minute episodes follow Lt. Brigham (Geneva alumna Joanna Lowe) and Cpl. Keenan (Brandon Keenan), the remnants of a militia trying to clear Pittsburgh of the undead so that the city can be rebuilt. The drama-filled scenes have Brigham and Keenan face existential questions while trying to survive the zombies attack. And while the series’s use of elementary CGI for some scenes break the sense of realism, its opening theme and high quality video make the series enjoyable and engaging.

Watch the series at: www.deadpatrol.com. The site currently features three episodes, as well as a way for viewers to donate to the continuation of this project.

Greg P. Veltman

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The Art of Stencil Apparel

April 14, 2008

Who knew that a stencil, spray paint and a shirt could make a great piece of clothing? This is Drew Dawes’s approach to making his signature clothing. He simply searches Google Images for what he wants, draws that image on a stencil, cuts it out and spraypaints it onto a piece of clothing.

Drew first started making stencil apparel for his high school band The Pones. After that he started making clothes for his Geneva-connected band Heart 2 Hart.

Megan Drew took the opportunity to sit down with him and ask him a few questions over lunch.

Megan: My favorite work that you stencil is the people. Do you enjoy stenciling people?

Drew: Yeah, no one really knows who they are, you know? So only those who know who that person is get a kick out of it.

Megan: Do you ever sell your apparel?

Drew: I started a fake company called Dazé. It turned a small profit but it was just over one summer.

Megan: How do you know what to make?

Drew: I just make what I want and if people like it and want it then I give it to them.

Megan: The question that everyone has now is: can we place orders?

Drew: Yes! adawes[at]geneva[dot]edu is my e-mail. It would be best if people would bring their own shirt or sweatshirt or whatever because the costs will be lower and that way we know it fits.

I have been impressed with Drew’s ability ever since I traded him my high school field hockey shirt with “DREW” on the back for his Pones t-shirt. His work is both impressive and stylish. I think everything looks better in stencil now.

Megan Drew

My Favorite Things – Hulu

April 14, 2008

I don’t like TV. That’s what I tell people. It’s too restrictive. If you find a show you like or a story you want to follow, you are stuck — every Thursday night at nine or some such. Sure, you can wait ‘til it’s on DVD, but who wants to wait? But I really, really like TV shows. There’s a certain pleasure to knowing you are watching the same story as someone else, somewhere else, and that just maybe tomorrow you will both be able to turn that viewing experience into a conversation.

That’s why I like Hulu.com. It streams full episodes of television shows for free, and it gets them up fairly quickly after they air. It doesn’t have everything, but the selection is much better than the assorted clips you can find on YouTube. It’s not limited to new shows or even to TV; it has full movies and a generous selection of older shows.

Of course, all of this doesn’t come without a catch. Hulu.com is legal, which means small commercial interruptions happen during the shows. But they are slight — nothing in comparison to the commercials that accompany live TV. And, when I can watch clips of last week’s SNL without having to sit through the full hour and a half (most of which is never funny), it’s a small price to pay.

Nate Campbell

Jesus for President (2008)

March 26, 2008

“Let’s make Christ our president, let’s have Him for our king.” Woody Guthrie wrote these words in the early years of the 20th century, and the sentiment holds weight and fascination almost a century later as it’s echoed in the title of Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s new book, Jesus for President.

Rather than shoehorning Jesus into the American political system, however, the book is about pursuing a different approach to government entirely. The authors lay out a fresh vision of the way the church and state should interact, eschewing entirely the prevalent notion that we must, in some way, make our mark on the government, because, goshdarnit, this is a Christian nation and we were founded on biblical principles!

Claiborne and Haw base their model on the radical lifestyles of both the early church chronicled in Acts and the early life of Hebrew civilization depicted in the Torah. Fortunately the book is not just a dusty dissertation on political philosophy and hermeneutics. This is the work of passionate people talking about the principles they are actively incorporating into their lives.
Their enthusiasm is catchy as they lace together anecdotes with history (at least as they see it) with an excitingly post-modern book design, one that frequently veers to the left of traditional layouts.

Ultimately, the authors’ conclusions about the way Christians ought to live in the world and practice radical subordination are thought-provoking, if perhaps more radical than most are willing to go. Even if you disagree with the authors’ conclusions, their thoughts are worth reading, pondering and grappling with.

-Nate Campbell

Jesus for President

No Country For Old Men (2007)

March 26, 2008

No Country for Old Men is not an average movie. It is a thriller, but not in an ‘edge-of-your-seat, non-stop action accompanied by pumping techno’ sense. It’s not laced with explosions or one-liners from seemingly super-human heroes.

The movie is quiet, almost too quiet. It has a minimalistic soundtrack, and the many scenes in which the characters refrain from speaking (for most of the characters, the term “terse” is too generous) are punctuated only by the howling of a lonesome wind.

No Country, though filled with its share of violence, does not glorify the bloodshed or use it as a thrilling catharsis. Rather, it is used to underscore the central struggle of the film, which is not a war of flesh and blood. The real struggle in the film is the battle within the three main characters’ minds as they deal with the pervasive darkness of the human condition.
This is not a brainless popcorn flick, but a taut, tense ride that offers viewers willing to be stretched a fascinating conundrum of a viewing experience.

-Nate Campbell

Gone Baby Gone

March 21, 2008

Who determines what is right or wrong? Do we simply aim at what seems better? These are the central questions this film raises in the context of an poor, old Boston neighborhood. Patrick (Casey Affleck) and Angie (Michelle Monaghan) live and work together as private investigators, following folks and looking for missing persons — usually dead bodies. They’re eventually approached to help the police investigate the disappearance of a 4-year-old.

In order to not spoil the film I’ll leave it there, but this deep and disturbing search leads Patrick to reflect on the morality, consequences and responsibility of his choices and actions. In asking ‘what is the right thing to do?’ we cannot merely explain our decisions as gut reactions or rely on platitudes; rather, the choices must become a lived reality — as painful and hard as the consequences might be. The complex characters struggle to know what is right and how to make choices in line with what they love.

-Greg Veltman

Bioshock

March 21, 2008

While BioShock is a first-person shooter, the game’s two best features are its storyline and stylistic innovations. The game is set in a massive underwater city called Rapture, a utopian society where scientists, artists and other great minds work unhindered by common morality. But something goes horribly wrong, as your character — the sole survivor of a plane crash near Rapture’s entrance — discovers. Rapture is in chaos, with most of its inhabitants either dead or genetically warped by a substance called ADAM. The game provides an assortment of awesome weapons and powers to help unravel the mysteries behind Rapture.

The game has an immeasurable amount of style (it’s set in 1960, and features matching architecture and music), but also forces you to think about certain aspects of humanity and morality. The whole concept of the hidden city of intellectuals comes primarily from Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, an idea that’s solidified both by references to Rand’s work and Rapture’s ties to the philosophy of Objectivism.

BioShock is an important game simply for what it means in the gaming community — it is an engaging, mature, adult work that addresses complex philosophical concepts, while remaining one of the coolest and most enjoyable games I have played all year. It blends higher art with what many consider to be the low art of video games.

While the game is an immensely fun landmark, it does have some flaws. The cut scenes at the beginning and end of the game seem underdeveloped. While the fighting is enjoyable, there isn’t much variety in the enemies, and the weapons you receive later in the game are not strong enough to deal with your foes. But despite any problems, I give my wholehearted recommendation — the choice is yours. As Andrew Ryan, founder of Rapture says, “A man chooses. A slave obeys.”

-Andrew Wright

Alanis Morissette: Live in Reading, PA

March 20, 2008

Some naysayers call her a man-hating, greasy, angry femi-Nazi, but that’s what I love about Alanis. I don’t mean that I am any of the above or that I think those qualities are always a good thing, but if that’s what makes her produce the music on the Jagged Little Pill tape that my dad no-so-randomly bought me just to spite my mom, then so be it. That tape changed my life at the impressionable age of thirteen. It changed the way I dressed, what I listened to and how I acted.

I drove four and a half hours and spent $70 on a ticket to see Alanis in Reading, Pa. Some people think that is too far and too much money to see a concert. But I say that it wasn’t far enough! It wasn’t expensive enough! I would take back any of the great concerts I’ve been to just to see Alanis. She founded my musical experience — how do you pay somebody back for that?

She opened perfectly with the powerful and haunting “Uninvited.” Her hour-long set hit every one of my favorite songs (except her hidden track on JLP; please listen to it), and she concentrated mainly on Jagged Little Pill with “Ironic,” “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Ought To Know.” She also pulled songs from some of her other albums, though. It was a beautiful performance, just like I knew it would be.

I thought I had missed the chance when I was young to see many great bands while they were in their prime. I guess that must be why this concert meant so much to me. I thought that I would miss Alanis perform live and experience that same feeling that I got as a grungy 13-year-old. If you think that is crazy or dumb, then I don’t want to be sane or smart because I know that you have a band that meant so much to you growing up that you would drive more than four-and-a-half hours and drop more than $70 to see.

-Megan Drew

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My Favorite Things by Jason Panella

March 20, 2008

I started cooking curries last spring, a wild idea born from memories of a meal prepared for my family over a decade ago by an Englishman. But that’s another story. I’ve since learned that “curry,” an Anglicized word attempting to lump any spicy Pan-Asian dish together for descriptive ease, is not a type or spice or sauce. But I’ve also learned the joy of cooking in the process.

I stocked up on then-unfamiliar ingredients (tamarind pulp, ground turmeric, ghee, fenugreek) and found new uses for old favorites (cloves, coconut, ginger, cumin seeds). I’ve learned how to dry roast, how to use a pestle and mortar, how to prepare onions and tomatoes in ways I’d never imagined.

Some of these incredibly healthy dishes take upwards of three hours to make, but those hours are never wasted. I feel at ease heating oil up on the wok, a sense of calm as I grind fennel seed and cinnamon together in my spice mill. I’ve learned to relax through cooking, a gift that I hope continues for years to come.

-Jason Panella

Auralia’s Colors – Jeffrey Overstreet (2007)

February 25, 2008

The people of House Abascar are in perpetual winter — not only are the citizens are under constant threat from marauding beastmen, but the kingdom was stripped of color years before by the since-vanished queen. Now, only the royalty can enjoy color while the rest of the people are draped in grays and murky brown. Morale is low. Fear and paranoia are a given. All await a spring — a grand return of color and joy — that may never come.

At the center of Jeffrey Overstreet’s debut novel is Auralia, a young girl living with the outcasts and criminals camped outside of Abascar’s walls. She spends her time exploring, often collecting materials for the richly-colored weavings she makes. Her joy and compassion are a blessing for the downtrodden outside the city gates, as are the magnificent — and illegal — gifts she makes for everyone.

But while Auralia is the heart of the book and the catalyst for much of what happens, she isn’t the focus; Overstreet populates the Expanse with a great cast. There’s King Cal-marcus, broken by his wife’s disappearance and the ghosts of the past; Prince Cal-raven haunts the woods outside of the kingdom’s walls, drawn more to the outcasts than the aristocrats; and a humble, un-named ale boy who is quickly swept into the adventure. There are also numerous minor characters that richly populate the story.

Overstreet sidesteps some of the standard fantasy tropes and delivers something different, something wonderful. None of the characters fit into the standard fantasy archetypes — Auralia isn’t a harmless waif or tough princess, but a complex, tattered young girl that has a deep love and faith in things she doesn’t entirely understand. And instead of a novel based around swords-and-sorcery action or medieval political intrigue, Auralia’s Colors gives the cast room to breathe and move about and take their own path.

Sometimes the prose is a little too lush, but Overstreet writes beautifully. He’s not writing the story of Abascar — he’s painting it. I also wish the book could’ve fleshed out a few things that seemed glossed over. But that almost seems like a minor afterthought; Overstreet gets everything else right.

The allegorical aspects and themes are also woven into the story well enough that they don’t fall out on to your lap. It’s all pretty powerful stuff, from the children’s whispers and trust in the Keeper that haunts their dreams, to the power of imagination and beauty, no matter how rugged or worn it may seem. The attention to detail and nuance that he’s gained as a film critic (for Christianity Today, among others) pays off. Auralia’s Colors is an accomplished and satisfying debut, minor blemishes and all.

-Jason Panella

Looking Closer Blog
Auralia’s Colors on Amazon