Archive for August, 2010

Three small indie films, America and feeling alive

Posted in art, film, music, news, pop culture on August 23, 2010 by Trip Jennings

If you’re like me you don’t darken the doors of a cineplex much these days, choosing to watch the latest movies via DVD player or digital streaming.  Also like me you might prefer films that are, in the words of marketing experts, more niche than mainstream. Translation: films that consider 100,000 viewings a considerable feat.

It is to those films — or at least a few examples — that I turn today.

Let me start out by saying this post is not so much about my refined tastes as a lover of film as much about a few movies I want to recommend. Because I want as many people to watch these films as possible I feel I need to come clean about about my film preferences. They are commodious, ranking me somewhere between an everyman and an art-house aficionado. Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Bergman’s The Seventh Seal are two of my all-time favorites.  I also love Real Genius, not exactly Val Kilmer’s finest work. So while I am a cineaste — yes I JUST used that word — I’m all about movies of varying types of artistic quality, insight and technical prowess. In other words, give me Iron Man, Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead over artistic jewels that try too hard. Give me Dodgeball, Zoolander and The Anchorman — hell, CaddyshackBack to School or The Hangover— over The Last Emperor or Howard’s End. (O.K., yes, I loved City of God and In the Bedroom, and I’m still a bit embittered 15 years after the fact that Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction for the Best Picture Oscar. But I’ve watched The Bourne Ultimatum like 20 times and still secretly love it when Jason Bourne jumps through that window from the roof of a nearby building.)

Point is, I am not a film snob.

So when I say you need to watch the movies I’m about to recommend it’s not coming from some esoteric appreciation for style or technical creativity. It’s about the storytelling, and how these stories made me feel, which is sad, quiet but also strangely wiser and connected to the world around me. In other words, alive. Continue reading


We miss you, Joe

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2010 by Trip Jennings

Fifty-eight years ago today former front man for the Clash, Joe Strummer, was born in Ankara, Turkey. R.I.P. Joe. Here’s a great couple of songs to remember the man.

The tempest in Gotham

Posted in news, religion on August 20, 2010 by Trip Jennings

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

I’m not going to dwell long on the tempest currently whipping many Americans into a frenzy. I mean of course the general hysteria, and all the teeth-gnashing and clothes-rending, that have accompanied the plans for a proposed cultural center/mosque in New York City.

Over the past few days I’ve engaged in a wide-ranging, sometimes frustrating exchange on my Facebook page regarding this topic. I’ve written several long posts, and I’ve tried to remain respectful during the intermittently tense back-and-forth. But somewhere between my first tentative foray into the debate and the umpteenth 500-word response I filed it dawned on me that I’m a debatin’ fool, and it’s not good for my health. I’m not going to change my interlocutors’ minds. They aren’t going to change mine. So I re-posted this opinion piece from the New York Times by William Dalrymple on my Facebook page as one would plant a flag to announce where one stands. I read the piece thanks to a Facebook friend who was kind enough to send me a link to it. Now I’m sharing it with you. If you want to agree or disagree, fine. But don’t expect any debate from me. I’m out enjoying life. Continue reading

Will hipsters be the death of Christianity? Ugh, I doubt it.

Posted in pop culture, religion with tags , on August 18, 2010 by Trip Jennings

Hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Hi, my loyal handful of readers. It’s been a while since I posted and I apologize. Been a busy week. Still is. I have only a few moments to write this up, but this post on Religion Dispatches is well worth poring over if you’re interested in hipsters or Christianity and/or both.

The author of the post is reviewing a book by a guy named Brett McCracken who tackles the phenomenon of so-called ‘hipster’ churches. That the book reviewer lives in Brooklyn, the epicenter of hipster-ism, at least on the East Coast, and opens her review with scenes from tattoo-and-body piercing central is sort of cool, and funny and hip in its own way.

As the reviewer sees it, McCracken divides hipster churches into two categories: authentic ones and wannabes, the author tells us.

The author goes on to write that McCracken describes himself as a hipster at the same time that he questions whether certain hipster churches out there can pull off the balance between being authentic and being cool. That question, tweaked just a little, so that it juxtaposes authenticity and relevance might more accurately reflect the plight of many churches that seek the elusive goal of striking the right balance between relating to the world while adhering to core beliefs.

There’s a whole lot more I wish I could write on this subject.  There are some really interesting insights in this piece, as well as questionable assumptions McCracken makes about the hipster church phenomenon, at least based on this review. But I got to run.


Buffy and a little silliness on a Saturday night

Posted in music, pop culture, Uncategorized with tags , , on August 15, 2010 by Trip Jennings

This is one of my favorite numbers from one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For neophytes the episode’s simply known as the Singing Buffy. For aficionados of the TV series and the larger Buffyverse it’s known as Once More with Feeling. I spent much of today keeping my family in varying stages of hilarity as I tried to learn a few lyrics from this song, which is titled I’ve Got a Theory. The lyrics that eluded me for much of the day concern witches and are sung by the character of Xander (The bit I’m talking about starts 23 seconds into the video). It took me maybe 20 attempts to finally get the lyrics and sing along with him.

I’m not confident enough to broadcast my own halting, insecure performance. Maybe another time. So I’m just posting the video (I apologize for its gargantuan size. I’m still learning how to tweak embed codes). If you feel up to the challenge, take a stab at singing along with the cast of Buffy.

Yes, we’re a silly bunch at my house. And I’m the lead cutup. That’s mostly because I’ve got to release some of the tension from having to act like a grown up most of the time.

How far does privacy extend in the age of GPS tracking?

Posted in science with tags , , , , on August 14, 2010 by Trip Jennings

Today the New York Times highlights an interesting, and increasingly ripe legal issue currently working its way through the federal courts: privacy, and how far its extends, in the age of GPS tracking.

The story begins with a real-life example in which local law enforcement attached a GPS tracker to a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant. The legal question before the court: Does this action violate the 4th amendment, resulting in an illegal search under the Constitution. (The GPS tracker allowed police to know the whereabouts of the suspect 24 hours a day without his knowledge.)

My interest in this subject is admittedly less dramatic and more prosaic than, say, trying to hide from the authorities. It rises out of a vague notion of self-preservation. But it’s no less important for millions of Americans who now walk around with GPS trackers. Of course I’m talking about smartphones.

As I write this, my Droid Incredible sits a few feet away on my desk. Like many smartphones, it came with a GPS function already loaded onto the platform, a hugely convenient app that I utilize when I use Google Maps, Google Earth and FourSquare. I can hide my location when I want, meaning my FourSquare friends can see where I am when I want them to.

Beyond what happens if law enforcement decides to track my goings and comings using my phone, does the GPS function send out data on my location the entire time the phone is on and does Google, or a third-party vendor, collect that information, which then can be handed over to authorities requesting it?

Potentially more troubling, what happens to that information if it is collected but never requested by authorities? Where does it go? Who or what has access to it? What are the safeguards protecting my information?

Admittedly I am not a tech wizard and my concerns could be allayed by someone more knowledgeable in how GPS works if it turns out that my scenario doesn’t reflect the current state of affairs or capabilities.

But until then the issue remains out there for millions of Americans who own smartphones, which are basically small GPS trackers.

You learn something new every day

Posted in music, science on August 14, 2010 by Trip Jennings

After living the better part of half a century, you think you know someone until a newly discovered fact causes you to re-think your assumptions about the person and even the world in which you’ve made your way over the better part of five decades.

It turns out that Olivia Newton-John, the singer of 1970s and ’80s pop standards who starred opposite John Travolta in the movie ‘Grease,’ has scientific greatness in her blood. I did not know this. The revelation came yesterday, 21 pages into a biography of Robert Oppenheimer by Jeremy Bernstein, the physicist who wrote profiles of scientists for the New Yorker magazine for decades. Continue reading