TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2012: Year of the Musical Comeback

So much of pop music is meant to be disposable.  Dance now, forget later.   But the finest songwriters connect our current context to the larger questions that cut across eras.   The best music is timely and timeless.    2012 was the year of the musical comeback.   From Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” to Sinead O’Connor’s “How About I Be Me (and You Be You),” the best of the 80s and 90s came roaring back.    If anything, the righteous anger that flows from our most resonant artists resurfaced … [Read more...]

The Best Music of 2012: If you can find it…

Having purchased several thousand albums, cassettes, and compact discs in my lifetime, my switch to digital downloads has taken AWHILE.   I still prefer a physical rendition of the music (probably because I expect Apple iTunes to change their user terms someday; I don't want to repurchase MP3s.)    But I can't argue with the convenience that comes with digital.   It is so fast, so easy, so simple to download.   And it is amazing how many songs can be crammed onto an iPod.     I'd still rather buy … [Read more...]

REMEMBERING 9/11–“What’s Not to Like?”

I visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City over the summer.  It is a peaceful place amidst the hubbub of Manhattan.  Cascading water silences some of the din.    The diversity in the names inscribed in the marble are a stirring tribute to the many peoples and tribes that constitute America.   Two squares flowing with water mark the site of each of the twin towers.    (Check out these 360 degree panorama views here).   I was struck by how the water flows out from beneath the victims' names befor … [Read more...]

DNC: Back to School Special

Few things concern parents more than their children’s education.   We want to make sure our kids are challenged and encouraged, stretched and supported all at the same time.   And so the job of teachers—to raise test scores amidst the competing demands from parents and school districts can be maddening.   God bless the educators who dare to care, who resolve to equip the next generation in reading, writing, and arithmetic (not to mention arts and science!).Perhaps that is one reason why a mov … [Read more...]

The Hunger Games in China

As the father of two tweens, The Hunger Games movie was a hot topic in our house for months before its premiere.   My kids found Suzanne Collins’ trilogy exciting, smart, and intuitive (especially compared to the monotony of Twilight).   Katniss Everdeen struck them as a strong, intelligent young woman who sees that there’s more to life than sparkly boys.   Director Gary Ross makes movies with mass appeal that are timely and intelligent (like Big, Dave, Pleasantville, and Seabiscuit).    The Hung … [Read more...]

Chad Johnson and HBO’s School of Hard Knocks

The gap between news headlines and reality TV continues to shrink.  Just days after Miami Dolphins’ wide receiver Chad Johnson was arrested for domestic battery, HBO’s series Hard Knocks had inside footage of Johnson being released by Coach Joe Philbin.   While a high profile performer like Johnson is always bound to attract attention, never before have cameras caught the likely end of a Pro Bowl career.   A private moment of great sensitivity, awkwardness, and importance is broadcast just days a … [Read more...]

London Olympics 2012: Women Rule

What has been your favorite Olympic moment?   How cool to see double amputee Oscar Pistorius compete in the 400 meters as South Africa's 'blade runner'.     Jamaicans celebrated the remarkable speed of Usain Bolt and the Brits rejoiced in the tennis grit of Andy Murray.    Americans can be so proud of our swimmers, our gymnasts, and our track and field athletes.  My favorite victory came from a woman who finished last in her event.   Why does Sarah Attar’s Olympic moment stand out?  Allow me to e … [Read more...]

Is Apple losing its mojo? Applefied Ads strike back

Do you find the new Apple "Genius" commercials blanketing the Olympics annoying?  They lack the simple, relaxed cool that characterized Apple for so long.   They seem to be trying to hard to please.   Is Apple losing its mojo?One of my sharpest students at Pepperdine, Bryan Evans, felt that Apple's white backgrounds on their print ads had fallen into cliche.   Too much of a good thing is still too much.  So he cooked his own series of Applefied Ads.   What if other companies adopted Apple's m … [Read more...]

Comic-Con Countdown: Chewbacca sighting!

As thousands of fanboys and girls descend upon San Diego for Comic Con, I stumbled across the one and only Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, signing autographs at the Course of the Force tour stop in Huntington Beach.   Beyond the free samples of Otter Pops and Farmer John's sausages (couldn't quite figure out the Stars Wars connections), Mr. Mayhew was offering his signature in exchange for donations to the Make-a-Wish foundation.   While it would obviously be cool to see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, or H … [Read more...]

What Piece of Pop Culture Challenged (or Inspired) Your Faith?

The AV Club over at the Onion recently asked the question, “What early piece of pop culture first challenged your religious faith or lack thereof?’   The staff’s answers unspool like an atheist revival with spirited testimonies of where they first encountered a crack in their convictions.  Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, John Lennon and Marilyn Manson are cited as the creative catalysts of doubt.   Televangelists serve as a rather obvious source of skepticism, but so does the self-centered depict … [Read more...]