Thinking of Another Place

I was thinking just now about how I’d like to return to this little seaside town in Northern Ireland called Newcastle, which I had occasion to walk around for about 5 hours one summer a few years ago, with my best friend. We didn’t really know where we were, but we spent the afternoon walking around, playing little storefront casino games and drinking some sort of ale in the lobby of a fancy hotel. The air smelled salty and vaguely Nordic. There were green mountains all around, and low-lying gray clouds, and a famous golf course that someone said Tiger Woods really enjoyed. It was a lovely afternoon.

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The Most "Redeeming" Films of 2008

This according to Christianity Today. Every year we (the film critics for CT) vote on our picks for the “most redeeming” films of the year, defined as “movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are “feel-good” movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.”

Here is our somewhat eclectic list. I mean, where else will you find a critics’ list that includes both Rachel Getting Married and Fireproof??

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Tags | Film

Is Christianity Cool?

This is the title of chapter one of the book I am writing, and it’s the underlying question of the whole thing. I don’t expect to answer it definitively in the book, but it’s a question that begs to be explored, because it’s a question that is at least latently present in all the major movements and expressions of contemporary Christianity.

It’s a very complex question, to be sure. The book I am writing will treat it as such, and will not approach it in any sort of bifurcated, black-and-white manner. But that it is a complex question does not mean we should avoid talking about it and considering the very profound implications of the issues surrounding whatever answer we might give. Part of the problem in Christianity for the last several decades, I think, is that we’ve been unwilling to not only ask these questions but to wrestle seriously with them.

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The First Great Song of the Obama Era

Warning: Hyperbole and annoyingly effusive praise ahead.

It’s not everyday that you hear a song that just blows your mind. It’s not everyday that an album lives up to the hype. But that is the case with Animal Collective and their new album Merriweather Post Pavilion (released today), specifically the song “My Girls.”

The New York band, building on last year’s wonderful Panda Bear side project, increasingly seems to know how to gracefully weave a tapestry of postmodern musical mish-mash sounds—everything from screams to techno beeps to industrial crashes and subtle piano. Merriweather refines their sound and focuses their experimental tendencies like never before, resulting in an album that is an instant 21st century classic.

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Obama's Blow to Hipster Cynicism

When Obama won the presidency on November 4, 2008, hipsters everywhere were ecstatic. The vast majority of hipsters (that is: indie-dressing fashionable young anti-establishmentarians) were Obama fans, and those that were not were mostly anarchists or otherwise apolitical or libertarian. But while Obama’s election was a proud moment for hipsters, it was also a significant blow to their long-term viability.

Hipsterdom blossomed in the George W. Bush presidency, because he represented everything they were against: conservatism, boots, oil, ranches, patriotism, Neiman Marcus. After 9/11, even while many in the media forecast a new era of sincerity, hipsters became more cynical than ever before, retreating into irony and hedonism despite (probably because of) the government’s calls to be patriotic, unified, responsible citizens. Hipsters responded by becoming aggressively apathetic and cheerfully hedonistic. But during his campaign and ultimate victory, Obama unified the youth culture like it hadn’t been unified in a long time, and hipsters were called out in droves from their cynicism. Suddenly there was a reason to care about politics, to think good thoughts about America again.

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Thoughts at the End of the Bush Era

When George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election and took office eight years ago, I was a senior in high school. I was naïve, an ambitious go-getter on the cusp of college and newness and a world of glorious uncertainty. Eight months after Bush’s inauguration, I went to Wheaton College to start my freshman year. I said goodbye to my parents, hello to my new roommate, and jumped right into the exciting new chapter in my life. The second week of school, 9/11 happened, and the world changed.

Eight years have passed since then. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree now. Some people I loved are now gone. Four Olympics have happened. I went to a few other continents. Our spirits have soared and been crushed. Some wars have started. Many babies have been born.

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Why You Should Watch Friday Night Lights

I was born and raised on the banks of the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a sandy and humid spot to grow up—full of pecan trees and azaleas and armadillos. People were nice, and most everyone seemed to be working hard to support their families and maybe earn enough to put in a below-ground pool. And football was huge. From elementary school on up, it was the thing to do.

I remember some great Friday nights when I was about 10, watching our local high school team (the Jenks Trojans) playing at their stadium across the bridge, on the other side of the river. On Fridays at school, everyone wore school colors (maroon), and there were occasionally pep rallies. Sometimes the high school players would come in their jerseys and make an appearance at an elementary school assembly. We all thought that was pretty cool.

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Golden Globes Recap: The Good and Bad

I almost forgot the Golden Globes were on tonight, but remembered just in time to set my Tivo this morning. After watching the ho-hum show, I have some thoughts on the good and bad:


  • Kate Winslet getting two acting trophies for best supporting actress (The Reader) and best actress in a drama (Revolutionary Road). She was astounding in both films; especially Road. And I just love that she referred to Angelina Jolie as “the other one” in her acceptance speech.
  • Sally Hawkins winning best actress in a musical or comedy for her amazing work in Happy-Go-Lucky. It’s so hard to portray truly good characters in film; Hawkins manages to do it with grace and subtlety.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona winning best musical or comedy. Sooo happy to see this film getting some accolades.
  • Christopher Nolan’s meaningful, concise acceptance on behalf of Heath Ledger. Nicely done.
  • Mickey Rourke and Colin Farrell winning best actor trophies. Is this the year of the vice-ridden rebel actor? Seriously, though, these guys were great in The Wrestler and In Bruges, respectively. Surprising that Farrell won, but he’s an underrated actor and deserves his dues.
  • Laura Dern winning for Recount. She’s one of my favorite working actresses, and her role as Katherine Harris in Recount was hilarious and so apt.
  • 30 Rock and Mad Men winning the T.V. comedy and drama awards. Great shows.
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Tags | Film

Reformed Luddite Talks About Communication

In the wake of my recent treatise against Twitter in Relevant magazine, I’ve felt a little bit guilty. I’ve felt like I need to apologize to technology for being so hard on it, for assuming the worst about it always. I still and always will insist on critical analysis of new technologies, and I still believe that we should err on the side of skepticism rather than unthinking embrace, but I’ve come to realize this week that the technologies I often and have very publicly railed against (Facebook, Twitter, Bluetooth, etc) can and are being used for good things. God uses these things in spite of their creepy digital impersonality.

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Introducing: Christian Hipsters

I am writing a book about Christian hipsters. It’s a book I’ve been thinking about for years, planning in my head, and “researching” by every means necessary. I signed the contract with Baker Books in September, and since then I’ve been visiting churches throughout the country, seeking to understand “cool Christianity” in all of its skinny-jean, big-haired glory.

Over Christmas break, I picked up the new Welcome Wagon album. For those who don’t know, Welcome Wagon is a Brooklyn duo made up of an admitted hipster Presbyterian minister and his wife. The album is produced by Sufjan “Christian hipster icon” Stevens, and it is super nerdy and ironic and earnest and cool. The album came out on December 9 and promptly made my top ten of the year.

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Brett currently works full-time for Biola University as managing editor for Biola magazine. He also writes movie reviews for Christianity Today and contributes frequently to Relevant magazine.

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