Filmmaker James Payne has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Far Western, “a music-fueled, character-driven documentary film about Japan’s history and obsession with American country music.” I’ve written before about how the Japanese can assimilate various aspects of Western culture, and give them a unique spin that, in some ways, makes their versions superior to the original. How strange would it be if that most prototypical of American musical genres turns out to be most celebrated in a distinctly non-Western culture?
And speaking of country music, Dave Heaton listened to the top ten country songs on the radio and wants to know why country music is so happy all of a sudden. “What tales there weren’t in any of these songs, were songs about losing the love of your life, songs about tragedy, about poverty, about sitting at the bar feeling like the world has been ripped out of your heart, your future pried from the grasp of your fingers. No songs about the deep sadness we traditionally think of when it comes to country music.”
Jessamyn West thinks we should all stop picking on Comic Sans: “…people pile on Comic Sans in a way that they’d never pick on nerds in school. And every time you see your library or your community center making a poster with Comic Sans — “Hey, come to the puppet show!” — there’s a bit of a nose wrinkle, an almost-sneer. Like they didn’t get the memo. Like they don’t even know. Like a puppet show is serious business.” Via
One day, Christopher Thomas Knight left modern civilization behind and lived without any significant human contact for nearly 30 years. “Knight's arrest, rather than eliminating disbelief, only enhanced it. The truth was stranger than the myth. One man had actually lived in the woods of Maine for twenty-seven years, in an unheated nylon tent. Winters in Maine are long and intensely cold: a wet, windy cold, the worst kind of cold. A week of winter camping is an impressive achievement. An entire season is practically unheard of.” I’m an introvert, and I like my solitude, but Knight’s story is something else entirely. Via
Devon Maloney argues that the negative visions of dystopian sci-fi novels and movies help us navigate our technology-filled society: “Stories from Brave New World to The Hunger Games… have been successful in our culture not because we want to be afraid of technology — who would voluntarily fear anything? — but because they serve as a vehicle of catharsis for the things we don’t, or are prevented from, understanding and using.”
As we all know, Guardians of the Galaxy had a pretty rockin’ soundtrack. But did you notice all of the cool user interface designs going on in the background in those spaceships and on those alien worlds?
Finally, my comrades at Christ and Pop Culture have been posting some really excellent work lately. Nick Rynerson considers the existential truth of Clickhole, The Onion’s satire of BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and similar sites. “Clickhole exists to remind us that we are taking the clickbait hook, line, and sinker — and ruthlessly heading toward a nihilistic confirmation of our ultimate meaninglessness and depravity. The site doesn’t let us get away with crafting an alternative narrative of reality to distract us from the cold harsh reality that things are not okay. We are not as happy, moral, kind, put-together, crafty, or thoughtful as we think we are.”
Derek Rishmawy dismantles the heresy of Americanism: “…in Americanism, America enjoys a special favor from the Lord, not granted to other nations. He has a special love for us, and our history demonstrates the unique role that God has played in the founding of our nation, as opposed, to say, Russia, or Mexico.”
Jeffrey Bilbro writes about J.R.R. Tolkien's ability to make goodness compelling and desirable. “Rather than portraying an exceptionally good character, he instead portrays rather ordinary characters who are drawn by exceptionally beautiful visions of goodness or shalom. We long for the rich life experienced by the hobbits in the Shire, the elves in Rivendell, the dwarves in Moria and their kingdom under the Lonely Mountain, and the men in Rohan and Gondor. These places are not perfect, but their vibrant communities offer rich visions of shalom, of beautiful, harmonious ways of life.”
My friend James Hoskins has written a beautiful piece about pursuing beauty. “Lying there, listening to the melancholy goodness of The Cure, or getting lost in one of my songs during a show, I felt a kind of pleasurable ache in my soul — a longing that I could not explain. But, no matter how many times the song repeated, no matter how many shows we played, no matter how many years I chased after it, I could never satisfy that longing; I could never fully capture the experience of transcendence I yearned for.” As someone who used to play in a band, Hoskins’ experiences really resonate with me. And I, too, hope God is a Cure fan.
Comic Sans image by Liftarn.