Category: Arts & Leisure

Joy Williams and the redemption of Venus

The last time Joy Williams released a solo album she was a blond purveyor of effervescent Christian pop. A career reboot led to a surprising wave of commercial and critical success as half of the alt-country/neo-folk act The Civil Wars, followed by the equally surprising crash and burn of that Grammy Award-winning duo. Now Williams is back with a lushly produced, highly arranged solo album called Venus. There has…  [more]

Inside Out and a theology of Sadness

The outstanding new Pixar film Inside Out gives walking, talking personalities to the various emotions inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. My favorite moment takes place about midway through the movie and involves Joy, a Tinker Bell-like sprite voiced by Amy Poehler; Sadness, a blue bespectacled blob voiced by Phyllis Smith; and Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend, who has the conveniently…  [more]

Comedy, community and church

I’m a big fan of comedy. The schedule on my DVR will tell you that when I want to relax at the end of a day, a sitcom or sketch show or comedy talk show is where I’m likely to turn. A few comments from comedians I appreciate lately have gotten me thinking about how the comedy I like the most creates a sense of relationship and community. It makes me, the audience member, feel like a friend and an…  [more]

The revealing darkness of Game of Thrones

Sunday’s season finale for Game of Thrones included awful, consciousness-searing scenes I can never un-see. A dagger thrust into a chest. A forgiving embrace interrupted by a poisonous death. Misogyny in the name of religion. Suicide. It was a pretty typical episode. I can’t wait for Season 6. As the show’s title suggests, Game of Thrones features kings and kingdoms vying for power and dominance in…  [more]

Jurassic World’s cruelty toward its creatures

One reason 1993’s Jurassic Park became so iconic was the timing of its release. The 1990s saw a growing popular interest in paleontology, particularly among kids. These days, a third grader will rattle off the identities and powers of Marvel superheroes; back then, they were more likely to know the scientific names and relative sizes of dinosaurs. Any dinosaur-obsessed kid who goes to the new Jurassic World,…  [more]

American Ninja Warrior and spiritual formation

I’ve developed a bit of an obsession in the last few years with American Ninja Warrior. It also happens to be one of my kids’ favorite family television traditions. The American version of what began as a Japanese program is now in its seventh season. The show takes contestants through a series of obstacle courses, presenting challenges requiring agility, quickness and upper body strength. Each stage gets…  [more]

Miranda Sings and the many faces of narcissism

YouTuber Colleen Ballinger’s malaprop-mad persona, Miranda Sings, has a lot of “suscribers” pretty “essited” by her cat sweaters, garish lips and blaring songs. As Miranda, Ballinger burpily parodies everybody from illiterate online commenters to basic girls to inspirational speakers to do-it-yourselfers to inept webcammers. Next month, Miranda will be sharing her wisdom in a book…  [more]

The faithful eclecticism of Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface

After a well-earned and slow rise to indie prominence with their 2013 LP Vessel, Twenty One Pilots just blew up the charts with a No. 1 album called Blurryface. Anyone even remotely interested in modern music with soul should be paying attention. Band members Tyler Joseph (vocals, keyboards) and Josh Dun (drums) have proven that genre rules are meant to be broken and that melodic and lyrical precision still have a…  [more]

Double jeopardy and the Duggars

For a long time, I didn’t know what to think about the Duggars. As a believer, I wanted to support the family for standing by their ideals. But the baby churning, fairly prudish values and occasionally extreme stances made me uneasy. When I lived in Arkansas, working as a journalist just a couple hundred miles from their compound, I would hear stories about the Duggar family. Nothing that was alarming, but…  [more]

The withering witness of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child

In a recent Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, Toni Morrison remarked that her age has brought her to reflect on her life, and in so doing, her regrets. “It's not profound regret,” she said. “It's just a wiping up of tiny little messes that you didn't recognize as mess when they were going on.” In a way, this illuminates the emotional turmoil that marks the lives of her…  [more]

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