Archive for March, 2008

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

SeeqPod – Playable Search

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