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Empathy in Sorrow, Freedom in Truth: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Empathy in Sorrow, Freedom in Truth: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Here’s a look at George Saunders’ new and acclaimed book, Lincoln in the Bardo (appropriately released just in time for these days of Lenten journey). This review was written by Ethan Richardson & CJ Green.

…As in the land of darkness, yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but, O yet more miserable!
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave.

— Milton, Samson Agonistes

The first two pages of Lincoln in the Bardo detail a charming, Beauty-and-the-Beast kind of love story, albeit in a very George Saunders style: an older, overweight, lame-legged, toothless printer, a beautiful and young woman, their arranged marriage. The…

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More Robert Farrar Capon & Less Thanksgiving Turkey

More Robert Farrar Capon & Less Thanksgiving Turkey

Like many people who are fans of Robert Farrar Capon, my introduction to him and his work was through The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection. I first read the book over ten years ago when it was being passed around a small group of women in my (at the time) small church who knew about good books. I’ve read it several times and tend to give copies away to friends who need this book. (I think everyone needs this book, so I’ve given away a lot of copies.)

Capon opened my senses up to food and life and faith…

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Performance, Death, and Grace in Sing

Performance, Death, and Grace in Sing

Buster Moon desperately wants to save his theater… and himself. When he was a young koala, his parents took him to see a stage production in which a sensational Suffolk sheep named Nana Noodleman (voiced by Jennifer Hudson) sang about ‘finding a way home’ and ‘carrying a weight’ as she gracefully performed an operatic rendition of the Beatles’ Golden Slumber. That moment convinced him that the theater would not only become his career aspiration, but his very identity and legacy in the world. Sing, directed by Garth Jennings and starring Matthew McConaughey in the lead role as Buster, aptly demonstrates…

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Lowland Hum, You Always Move Me

Lowland Hum, You Always Move Me

Lowland Hum’s third studio album, Thin, is out today. Its 11 tracks wrap their way in and around several different heart-level themes, but one that maintains precedence throughout is the freedom to be small. Their previous self-titled album aimed for, and executed, a bigger sound with a fuller production; by contrast, Thin relies on the musical capacity of the husband-and-wife duo, Daniel and Lauren Goans, alone.

This is a fragile place to be. As always, the music is greatly informed by the Goans’ marriage — a favorite lyric: “Andrew Wyeth, you always move my wife” — and as their sound becomes more intimate, its investigation of their relationship grows deeper. As Lauren says, the music…

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Learning About the Gospel from Self-Help, AA, and Tony Robbins

Learning About the Gospel from Self-Help, AA, and Tony Robbins

The following comes to us from Bill Walker.

The kind of religion many people in America grew up with went something like this: do or believe these things in order to be “right with God.” But as experience will show, following either of these directives tends to lead to greater frustration, disillusionment and anxiety. “Am I really good enough?” “Am I really saved?” This encounter with church or Christianity for many did not enable a more joyful, tranquil and abundant life. It did the opposite. Sometimes it told folks they had to vote Republican. In other instances, it made them feel…

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Suffering, Love, and the Sounds of Silence

Suffering, Love, and the Sounds of Silence

The camera hovers over a swelling sea, looking down, and a boat glides from the bottom of the frame, up through the middle, and passes, steady, up the frame and out through the top. The camera pans out slowly, the boat slowly being swallowed by the scale of the world it inhabits. Just as the stern goes out of view and the ocean dominates the screen, the camera cuts away.

This is the world of Scorsese’s Silence, a place beautiful and alluring, but dark, chaotic, and threatening. The sea holds danger, chaos, and the boat’s stately but frail procession across the…

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Fathers, Sons, Law, and Grace in August Wilson's Fences

Fathers, Sons, Law, and Grace in August Wilson’s Fences

My mother and father always attempted to instill into me and my brothers an appreciation for culture. Mom was and remains extremely well-read in classic literature, hailing Steinbeck as her favorite; she enjoyed foreign cinema and took me (while in the womb) to an Ingmar Bergman film festival; she could reference renowned plays and decided to middle-name me after Neil Simon; and her record collection lined the living room perimeter containing everything from Funkadelic to Simon & Garfunkel, Temptations, Barbara Streisand, The Police, Rick James, etc…

But I think the most significant (though at the time not fully appreciated) exposure came…

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Passengers and the One Thing We Can't Live Without...

Passengers and the One Thing We Can’t Live Without…

This week I finally caught the movie Passengers.  I know, I know, the critics panned it, audiences largely hated it, but I loved it!  I think the interpretive problem for most viewers was a matter of viewpoint.  If one views Passengers from the standpoint of sci-fi or romance, I agree that it falls short, but that’s not the genius of the film, which is its social commentary.  The underlying theme of the film is that the one thing humankind cannot survive without, beyond the obvious necessities of food, water, or medicine, is our deep-seated, vital need for relationship, for companionship, for interaction with…

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(The Tide Decides) When The Hill and Wood Goes

(The Tide Decides) When The Hill and Wood Goes

If the cover of The Hill and Wood’s brilliant new record, When You Go, looks familiar, that’s because lead singer/songwriter Sam Bush and I share not only a long friendship but an affection for the work of Australian artist Jeremy Geddes. Sam somehow got permission for Geddes’s “Ascent”, part of his series of astronaut-slash-deepseadiver-floating-in-space paintings. No dove in this one, you’ll note. Instead, tentacles of fresh, slightly tangled plant-life are breaking through the voyager’s vacuum-sealed armor as he/she/it rises into the light. That’s no coincidence either.

The way Sam tells it, this record wasn’t supposed to happen. After a couple of…

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In This Hope We Rebel: Rogue One, An Advent Story

In This Hope We Rebel: Rogue One, An Advent Story

Everybody!!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers magnificently on the promise Star Wars fans have known still lurked within the franchise but struggled to manifest over the last seventeen years of films. Yes, I’m hyperventilating a little–but so will you. Rogue One is so excellent it would be easy to drown the internet in superlatives praising it but part of the excitement that accompanies it is the sheer wonder of witnessing a story that celebrates heroism and hope without resorting to the stale devices that characterize so many blockbusters. Gareth Edwards has composed an elegy to broken human beings consecrated to…

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Rogue One: Moral Licensing and a Father's Love

Rogue One: Moral Licensing and a Father’s Love

Bust out your bagel-hair earmuffs and blast the John Williams! The latest installment of the Star Wars Universe, Rogue One, blasted its way into theaters this weekend. On the podcast last year, I noted my disappointment with Ep. VII, particularly derivative plot and narrative callbacks. Rogue One was the droid I was looking for. A standalone entry to the Star Wars Universe, the movie tells the story of how Princess Leia got those super-important Death Star plans back in 1977. It needed about three more minutes of character development, and a few of the CGI characters were a bit off, but…

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Manchester By the Sea: Notes on the Best Film of the Year

Manchester By the Sea: Notes on the Best Film of the Year

I’m pretty sure my wife and I would’ve gotten together without Kenneth Lonergan’s help, but you never know. It was the summer of 2002, and she was the first person I’d ever heard mention his film You Can Count On Me in casual conversation. A deceptively smart mixture of pathos and heart (and great acting), she counted it among her favorites as well. I’ve told the story elsewhere–let’s just say the episode doesn’t reflect particularly well on yours truly. But it should give you a sense of what the man’s work means to me.

When Lonergan’s long-delayed follow-up Margaret finally appeared…

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