Watched/Read/Listened – End of June 2017

From mid-June to mid-July, my commute goes from 25+ minutes each way to about 7 minutes each way because of a lovely blessing I like to call The Magic House, where I housesit every summer. It’s a good thing for me for many reasons, including the wonderful little deck where I can spend hours reading & watching clouds go by. In fact, I’m sitting on the deck right now as I write, watching the sun drift down and enjoying the cool of the evening, surrounded by lovely potted flowers.

The only downside from this is that I spend a lot less time in the car, and therefore a lot less time listening to podcasts. Thus, my “listening” section of W/R/L is really condensed (if not gone completely). Still, there’s a bit to report in the Watched and Read sections, so I’ll share a bit of that from the final two weeks of June.

WATCHED

Riverdale.  This show was on my “maybe check out” from this past TV season, but I never managed to put the premiere on the DVR. What made me check it out finally? It was on Netflix on a night I needed some brain candy, and the next thing I knew I had watched three episodes, and very nearly went for the fourth until I realized how late it was AND that I really wanted my wife to try it. That was Tuesday night. We’d finished the whole thing by the following Monday. (It helped that the weather wasn’t super great that weekend.)

Why do I like it? My friend asked me the other day, and it’s hard to articulate exactly what it is – as my friend Richard says, it’s not like the acting is spectacular or the plots are mind-blowing (some of the plotlines very disappointingly dropped the ball.) Honestly, I think it’s simply that it’s excellent brain candy that tantalizes with a few intriguing plot twists, some slow character development and Cole Sprouse.

House of Cards. 5 seasons of House of Cards, lots of buzz about it, and I had never checked it out. But my brother-in-law loves it, so we thought we’d give it a try. We’ve finished nine episodes of Season 1. I’m enjoying it, but it’s so dark & twisty that it’s hard to bingewatch it without getting down (which was my fear and why I never watched it.) Still, I think the acting is phenomenal and the plotlines are fantastic, so I know I’ll go back to it.

Harry Potter Weekend. Because it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen the films or that I own most of them, I will still watch them on Freeform, even though they are just a vehicle for commercials for various Freeform premieres.

The Great British Baking Show, Season 4. As I’m writing this, I realize that you, dear reader, have no idea of my obsession with this show. When I am sad, I watch Baking. When I am happy, I watch Baking. I own all of the seasons and binge-rewatch them regularly. And so, with the new series that debuted in June, I am all about the Baking. If you’ve not seen it, do give it a try. Go back and watch old seasons. Watch the magic of a competition show where people are exceedingly nice to one another, where they even HELP each other, where the judges do not rant, rave or insult, where you grow to love the participants, and the hosts are full of wonderful jokes and sheer kindness. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s my happy place.

Beauty and the Beast (2017). FINALLY. I really should have seen this in the theater, but I’m no good at going to the movies. It was fantastic. Really enjoyed Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Heck, I enjoyed everything, which surprised me a bit, because I get twitchy about hearing songs that I know really well sung differently. I think I might like this version even better than the original.

READ

My fiction reading was The Invisible Library, billed as Doctor Who meets Librarian Spies. Totally my thing! Unfortunately, while the premise is pretty great, it appears to suffer from what I like to call George RR Martin syndrome, aka “Here’s an awesome idea! Here’s another! And another! Wouldn’t it be cool if?” until the story is a tangled web. Sigh.

I read a couple of great non-fiction blogs and magazine articles, too. Two are columns in the latest O (Oprah) Magazine.

Martha Beck, Food of the Gods (6 Things You Need to Do to Feed Your Soul).  When it comes to diets, you’ll get lots of advice. Some people swear by Whole30. Some swear by Paleo. Some say staying gluten-free changed their lives. Your mileage may vary, but one thing that’s absolutely true: you need to find what works for your body to help it be the healthiest it can be. The same is true of spiritual practices. Ask ten people what helps them be the best person they can be, and you’re likely to get ten different answers, from prayer to yoga to singing. Some find Buddhist principles nourishing, others prefer traditional Christian prayer like the Daily Office. Beck offers six ideas for finding practices that nourish you – and you might be surprised by what she suggests. (If you find her article intriguing, I encourage you to check out my friend Meredith Gould‘s outstanding book Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice.)

 

 

 

W/R/L | 28 May – 3 June 2017

Dear readers – this was perhaps a much more exciting week. At least from my perspective. (It really is remarkable what one can experience when not dulled by Migraine.)

WATCHED

Red Nose Day Special on NBC. Listen, we all know that the best Red Nose Day skit is this one with David Tennant and Catherine Tate (close second: the “original carpool karaoke” with James Corden & George Michael.) NBC is still working up the hype with the US version (and as James Corden mentioned on a recent Talking with Chris Hardwick, the issues of networks and contracts make it difficult to draw specific star power, even when someone like Corden would like to be a part of it) so there was something missing. It would be really great of Red Nose Day to grow to a cooperative event like Stand Up to Cancer concerts have been.

I should be honest, though. I really only watched for two things: Stephen Amell’s run on Ninja Warrior and Red Nose Actually.

Witness Stephen Amell in all his Salmon Laddering glory:

And Red Nose Actually. Which was fun and lovely.

And then, of course, I watched lots and lots and lots of softball at the Women’s College World Series started up. There were surprises and heartbreaks, but by the end of the weekend, the bracket was shaped up into pretty much exactly what I thought it might be.

READ

Still working on Assassin’s Fate, and loving it so much I might need to do a re-read this summer of the original FarSeer books.

And then their was this article about a robot priest called BlessU-2, which offers  “blessings in a choice of German, English, French, Spanish or Polish. Worshippers can choose between a male or female voice. The robot raises its arms, flashes lights, recites a biblical verse and says: “God bless and protect you.” If requested, it will provide a printout of its words.” It’s not intended to replace priests; it’s meant to provoke a debate about whether one needs a human to receive a blessing. I’m on the side of “yes, you need a human”, because a blessing is so much more than the words. A blessing comes from the connection humans have with the Divine through one another. An offered blessing comes from one human’s desire to share their experience of the Divine with another; without the conviction of experience, the blessing is hollow. It is only words. It must be infused with something Other, something a robot cannot offer, for the robot has not known the love of the Divine.

LISTENED

Speaking of blessings, I had a great one Memorial Day weekend when I ventured to Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Joy, PA for worship. I came to know Trinity when my wife’s grandfather died. He was a long-time, devoted member of Trinity. When we went to the funeral, I found myself wandering a bit, church nerd that I am, and exploring – where I encountered Pastor Mike Martine, who later introduced me to Associate Pastor Matt Pensinger. We had a lovely chat, friended each other on Facebook, and stayed in touch. One of the very cool things Trinity does is offer “contemporary” worship with a band, so that was the service we attended, and wow-oh-wow was it Awesome with a Capital A.

The hallmark of the service is the music, which provoked an unexpected reaction in me. Like many progressive Christians, I have an awkward relationship with “worship” music.  The theology can be… questionable.  Sometimes it’s over simplified, sometimes it just sets forth something that perpetuates harmful tropes. It’s probably been 4 or 5 years since I’ve listened to any new Christian music because I’ve just avoided it. In March, when I presented at a United Methodist evangelization event, I was surprised by how much I responded to the truly great music, even though the lyrics of one song made me slightly uncomfortable. Since then, I’ve been pondering how our theological foundation is crucial to what we understand when we sing this music.  What I hear in a song (or prayer or sermon) depends upon what my context is as a human being. What have I experienced of the Divine? What do I know to be true? Do these lyrics confirm this or are they contradictory?

When I worshipped at Trinity, I realized just how true this is. At Trinity, a progressive, liberating, integrated theology is preached and taught at all ages. Service born out of love for God (leading to love of neighbor) is their truth. There is hope when you sing “You are good You are good/When there’s nothing good in me” because what you have been taught within the community is that God is good, God is loving, and grace pervades all.  Not all communities provide this in their preaching and teaching. Not all children learn this in faith formation. Far too often the words “When there’s nothing good in me” lead to shame that is exploited within the community. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Driving home from Pennsylvania, I thought about whether there was space in my life to explore worship music again, and decided to give it a try. I spent some time with Spotify and found some music I really liked. I found lyrics I really liked. I found at least one song that I was super-singable but the lyrics made me cringe.

I’m still pondering all of this, (and not just the theology. Do I have a responsibility not to financially support a band that comes from a church that is notoriously anti-LGBTQ, for example.) I suspect there will be a longer blogpost about this coming. In the meantime, it’s not lost on me that I spent a week not really listening to any podcasts, just listening to (and singing loudly!) Jesus music, and I had a really, really good week.

Here are a couple of the songs that I especially liked listening to last week.

Until next week, dear ones. <3

W/R/L 21-27 May 2017

Dear Readers – if I’m honest, this was not the most exciting week. It felt like a week of treading water and having difficulty concentrating. (I lost an entire day to a nasty migraine, too.) Nevertheless, I have committed to these blogs, and so I humbly offer this missive to you.

WATCHED

General Hospital. The last week of May sweeps brought what should have been the culmination of some well-built up storylines, but in the end this particular fan is a little disappointed. Well, maybe a LOT disappointed. The Nurses Ball did have some wonderful moments – James Patrick Stuart’s performance was one – but overall it felt like it was lacking something. Maybe it was a disappointing lack of payoff for the Chimera storyline. Maybe it was the lack of couples coming together for the first time. Maybe it was the lack of something really driving the stories forward. Maybe it was the distracting product placement. Probably all of those things.

NCAA Softball Tournament – Super-Regionals. For the most part, the Super-Regionals didn’t provide the same excitement as the Regional tournament. Ole Miss came close to upsetting UCLA – so close – proving the upstart Cinderella team could keep pace with the old guard, but in the end they couldn’t pull it off for the crucial wins. LSU’s match-up with Florida State, higher ranked and featuring Jessica Burroughs, one of the best pitchers in the game, cold steel and lights-out, might have been a steamroll, but LSU has grit and the pulled out the wins they needed to advance. Finally, Arizona went up against Baylor – on paper, Arizona was the higher ranked team and had the most talent – but Baylor, like LSU, has grit and weren’t about to go away quietly. In the end, Game 3 on Sunday night was one of the best and worst and most infuriating games I’ve never watched as my Wildcats were behind, came back, looked like they were going to take it… and let it slip away. It was heart-breaking to see seniors like Danielle O’Toole and Katiyana Mauga not advance.

This week brings the start of the WCWS (a bucket list event for me. One day I’ll get there, I will!) There are some good match-ups. It’s hard not to like Florida to take the whole thing since they’ve been so, so good this season – they are the team to beat – but the Pac-12 teams have something to prove, so watch for Washington and Oregon to play to show they belong there and UCLA to play to remind people that we wouldn’t have softball as we know it without that program, and they haven’t lost anything. I’ll be cheering for LSU because they are one of my wife’s favorite teams, but I won’t be sad if the final features Florida vs. Oregon – that could be some great softball.

READ

Still reading Assassin’s Fate.

LISTENED

Larry Wilmore has a new podcast called Black on the Air.  It’s worth a listen, though he still feels a little rough as he gets used to the whole podcast gig.

Make Me Smart had an interesting feature about anonymous sources – who is really passing along that info we’re hearing in the news – and the keys to cracking the code journalists use for telling us about their sources.

I told you it was kind of a boring week.

Can I offer you some GIFs?

The super power I wish I had:

Relevant to all of my interests:

A reminder that love is… awesome.

Also relevant to all of my interests.

The West Wing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And this

See you next week, friends.

 

 

W/R/L | 14-20 May

Normally I write these posts on Sunday afternoon, but this week I decided to give myself a bit of a break so I could focus wholly and completely on editing some photographs and yelling at the TV during the NCAA Softball Regionals. I don’t regret it, even if it means the post is a little late.

WATCHED

Derek Jeter Day Ceremony – Fantastic, from the highlights of an incredible career to seeing former players on the field for the ceremony to tributes from current and former players. I love baseball.

General Hospital, which was pretty decent leading up to the Nurses’ Ball. I’m intrigued with the Chimera thing – how will it all end up playing out? Who will get hurt and who will be the heroes? As long as I get more Valentin, I think I’ll be happy. (It would be nice for Ava to get some comeuppance, too.)

The Grey’s Anatomy Finale which was very surprising. Slightly uneven, matching the rest of the season, but the Megan storyline and acting were pretty excellent, as was the clever way they ended up writing out Stephanie – though some of those scenes really had me shrieking at the TV.

The NCAA Softball Regionals which started with a bit of controversy because of Minnesota not getting a seed in the tournament, instead being sent to the Tuscaloosa regional despite being ranked in the Top 10 all season and winning the Big 10 tournament. Then several of the games were impacted by weather, delaying and even postponing games. And then, there were the shocking upsets… it made for a pretty wild weekend of softball.

Finally, late Saturday night, when I wasn’t quite ready for sleep I watched a Stevie Nicks concert I had on DVR. I love Stevie Nicks, and I really liked this kinda uptempo, contemporary version of “Stand Back”.

READ

This kinda of haunting article in The Atlantic, “When Your Child Is a Psychopath.” We all know of kids who have what in polite talk we call “issues”; there are troublemakers, there are those who act with no consequence, but we believe that every kid is, at heart, a good kid who just needs guidance, more involved parents, maybe some medication. But what if your child doesn’t fit that? What if their brains are wired just a little differently, and the teaching, training and praying doesn’t work? What if your child is a psychopath? What interventions are there for when you realize the problem is really that big? And what happens when you don’t realize until they are in jail as a juvenile offender? It’s a really good read that made me think about how we classify good and bad, what sort of interventions we need, and how this all ultimately affects how we approach crime and incarceration.

And, still working on Assassin’s Fate.

LISTENED

Both Make Me Smart and Pod Save America spent some time talking about media consolidation, spurred on by Sinclair Broadcast Groups purchase of Tribune Media earlier this month.  Fascinating stuff, and just a bit scary.  @zeynep does a MUCH better job of explaining the pitfalls on Make Me Smart, so go listen

The other excellent thing I listened to will probably make you roll your eyes. I mean, I rolled my eyes when I saw that Krista Tippett had interviewed Glenn Beck on OnBeing. Glenn Beck??? Seriously? But yes, as part of OnBeing’s Civil Conversations Project , it happened. And as it turns out,  Beck knows you are rolling your eyes at him. I found myself nodding in agreement with him about several things, frustrated with him about others, but mostly I found myself wondering – where is the line between apology and repentance? Is it enough to just be sorry? What does it truly look like to realize you were wrong and change your ways? Glenn Beck might be doing some really great things in the world, and he appears to truly want some civil conversation AND action to help human beings, from refugees to immigrants to victims of sex trafficking. He might be his own worst enemy by continuing to peddle in outrage – and as long as that pays his bills, it doesn’t look like he’s going to change all that much. Still, the conversation (or at least a read-through the transcript) is worth your time.

Speaking of forgiveness repentance, #SlateSpeak tackled that topic last week.

And that, my friends, was my week.

Be Grace-full.

W/R/L | 7-13 May 2017

WATCHED

Last week, I treated you to a rant about General Hospital and Grey’s Anatomy. This week, I only want to tell you that GH delighted and intrigued me – the Chimera! Anna/Alex/Valentin/Nina! OK, one other thing, Michelle Stafford’s portrayal of Nina was so on point this week.

And Grey’s blew me away. Pun/no pun, your choice.

There is definitely a benefit to being mostly spoiler-free for these shows, especially as we wend our way through May Sweeps and Finales.

This video caught my eye on Facebook. Watch it all the way through.

And finally – I watched a new movie on Friday night!

I loved it. It took a bit of getting used to Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent, but I really enjoyed the plot and the script, which was peppered with humor. The acting was superb, too.  (And, of course, the mid-credit and after-credit scenes were so typically Marvel wonderful.)

READ

I kept reading The Road to Little Dribbling until I realized the new Robin Hobb book, Assassin’s Fate, had dropped to my Kindle so Little Dribbling is waiting a bit while I re-familiarize myself with the world of Fitz and the Fool. (So much awesome.) I’ve loved these books from the very first one, and this last one is so far very satisfying – though be warned, at 864 pages, I’ll probably be reading it for awhile!

LISTENED

Two particularly excellent podcasts:

Pod Save America Bonus Pod with Trevor Noah – Trevor Noah is awesome. That is all.

The Nerdist with James Corden – What a lovely conversation with James Corden, who appears to be a Very Good Guy Indeed.

OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF

Pretty excellent convo at #SlateSpeak last Thursday.

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