The Common Good

Blog Posts By Brandon Hook

Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 4 weeks ago
As a privileged child growing up in suburbia, I could never imagine losing my parents. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities they gave me, and the love they have poured out on me for as long as I can remember.“You’ll understand once you have a child, Brandon,” my dad has told me countless times in a sort of sage-like way. Without saying, we both acknowledge that I will not understand the love parents have for their children until I have a child of my own.But, even if I could not comprehend the love my parents had for me, I am able to understand that I could not be who I am today — more likely, I would not be much of anything — without their presence in my life. And that’s not to say that anyone missing a parent cannot function.But thousands of children to parents living in the U.S. without citizenship are abruptly forced to carry on without one or both of their parents, as a record number of people are being deported from the U.S. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), nearly 45,000 parents were removed in the first six months of this year.   
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 4 weeks ago
There are some artists whose work leaves you walking away thinking, “How in the world did they do that?” The Yeasayer performance at the 9:30 Club in D.C. on Nov. 15 was one such performance. The psychedelic electro pop group hailing from Brooklyn pumped out a wholesome set of favorites from its older releases as well as songs from its recent — and divisive — album Fragrant World, all to the backdrop of what looked like a chunk of the Epcot ball from Disney World.But the elaborate — and frequently trippy — back drop and light show seamlessly augmented the synth-laden songs, morphed electric guitar, and catchy hooks. It was truly and audiovisual experience. Had their performance included some neon gummy worms or something, it would have engaged nearly every sense.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 5 weeks ago
It’s not unusual to hear someone rapping about clothes — and how expensive theirs are — on the radio these days. Consider Jay Z and Kanye West’s collaboration “Otis,” where Jay Z belts, “Photo-shoot fresh, looking like wealth / I'm 'bout to call the paparazzi on myself.”And if you don’t hear about their diamond studded jewelry and designer clothes, some rappers aren’t shy about showing them off in music videos.But Seattle-based hip hop group Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who recently hit number one on the iTunes album charts and stopped by D.C.’s 9:30 club on Nov. 13, chose a different approach to the whole clothing concept and, for the most part, hip hop in general.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 6 weeks ago
Doing some good with 100 bucks, winning some bets, and making a Wes Anderson Star Wars trailer. Plus, a 26-pound gummy snake, a new Hitchcock trailer, the most popular music cities, and an awesome photo book. Nice.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 6 weeks ago
Some guys throwing basketballs into hoops from really long range on a baseball field, a record-setting zombie walk, a Sufjan music video, a Skittle sorting machine, a new clip from Portlandia, a way to tag your friend's really dirty car without getting dirty yourself, and a Magic Schoolbus movie trailer. That's a lot to take in, I know. Divide and conquer.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 6 weeks ago
If you were overwhelmed by all that election business, you might have forgotten that October just happened, and with it came a new release from one of my personal favorite musicians, Andrew Bird.Hands of Glory, Andrew Bird’s latest record and companion to March’s Break it Yourself, is the product of a pair of recording sessions prompted by an immense response to Bird’s “old-time” sets on recent tours.Reinterpreting songs from Break It Yourself and featuring covers of classic country tunes, these “old-time” performances find Bird and his full band playing to a single microphone with an entirely acoustic setup.Drawing inspiration from these sets, Hands of Glory features two brand new original tracks, a new interpretation of “Orpheo Looks Back” from Break It Yourself and covers of Van Zandt, the Handsome Family, Alpha Consumer and others.The results are fantastic.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 7 weeks ago
Abraham Lincoln was a storyteller, so it’s fitting that his story has been hashed out on the silver screen — without vampires.And to say that it simply was “hashed out” would be an injustice to director Stephen Spielberg and everyone who contributed to Lincoln, a film that will be remembered as much for its beauty as the iconic character from which it gets its name.  I’m not going to lie (pun intended), even though Lincoln is one of the most important figures in American history, I was hesitant about seeing a movie with the potential to be a two-and-a-half hour history class.But I was more than pleasantly surprised.Despite its length, the film drew me in and held my attention — even as a millennial growing up with the Internet, which I’m convinced has significantly chipped away at the already small attention span I have.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 7 weeks ago
A really expensive letter that John Lennon wrote to Eric Clapton, a terracotta pot that doubles as a grill, a Sufjan cover of "The Star Spangled Banner," the first ever Bob Dylan Facebook status update, a record player that plays paper, and a tiny kitty getting blow dried in slow motion. Woah. 
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 7 weeks ago
Last Saturday, supporters of Public Broadcasting gathered in Washington, D.C., for a march in response to Mitt Romney's now-infamous Big Bird comment, referring to his plan to cut funding for PBS. Armed with puppets and posters, the rally culiminated in speeches and puppet shows with the backdrop of the nation's Capitol building.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 7 weeks ago
A new Mumford video, a giant Gollum statue in an airport, a man taking a robot leg to the 103rd flor, a bunch of moleskine planners, and people riding slip n' slides into kiddie pools. Happy Monday!
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 7 weeks ago
The first silent political ad, free temporary hosuing, sock insurance, Stephen Colbert having some fun with David Byrne and St. Vincent, and an awesome time lapse video of nature. Lots and lots of Internet goodness.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 8 weeks ago
Freelance Whales’ performance on Wednesday was a bit like my experience with Hurricane Sandy: One minute was jubilation at the prospect of no work for two days, and the next minute was a mellowed out restlessness, presumably from staying inside for too long.That is definitely not to say that the performance was by any means terrible or disengaging. Rather, it simply means that the group from Queens meandered through most of their current catalogue, which consisted of the poppy, upbeat Weathervanes and the recently released, mellow, ambient Diluvia.For popular catchy songs like “Generator ^ First Floor,” “Hannah,” or “Ghosting,” the crowd was quick to nod their heads, raise their hands, and sing along.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 8 weeks ago
What’s the first thing you think of when you think poetry readings by a Poet Laureate and a Pullitzer Prize winner? Well, whatever it is, I’m sure you weren’t thinking dogs.Nonetheless, pet dogs were brought up more than anything else during poetry readings by Billy Collins and Mary Oliver at the Strathmore in Bethesda, Md. on Sunday. They managed to bring up their dogs in a beautifully poetic way, of course.But perhaps the most important take away from the evening came from Oliver during a question and answer time after the readings. She said something like this: “Pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it. We’re soaked in distractions. The world didn’t have to be beautiful. We can and should think about that beauty and be grateful.”Those are words I have tried to live by for the last year.Both poets demonstrated that attention in their work — even in poems about dogs.  
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 8 weeks ago
New Andrew Bird, a little Reformation polka, a concert film from Mumford and Sons, an app that hides all those pesky political Facebook updates, an awesome Halloween costume, a Hobbit-themed airline safety video, The Buddhist Rapper, and, of course, the top ten ways to smash a pumpking.I know, that's a lot to take in.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 8 weeks ago
As the credits rolled after Looper in a packed Chinatown movie theater in Washington, D.C., I simply sat in reverent silence. Moviegoers on all sides began to rise and quietly leave the theater, but for a brief moment all I could do was just sit there. Quite simply, the movie blew my mind.When I snapped out of it my thoughts started racing, analyzing the ending, which I won’t ruin for you, and the movie as a whole. It wasn’t a question of whether it was “good” or captivating — those were givens. Rather, I started mining the film’s rich themes and questions, particularly what it said about love.While sitting there, lost in my mind, I began to notice the music accompanying the names moving onscreen. The song’s chorus sang something like, “I loved you so much that it’s wrong.”I don’t think the song choice was an accident.That lyric, I think, illuminates the crux of the film: can something like “Love” — not just romantic love — become perverted? Or, in other words, can our love for one person lead us to do horrible things to others?
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 8 weeks ago
Some crazy faces, hilarious animal photo bombs, awesome music at NPR and KEXP, God in Golf (in a good way), and Sojourners' very own Alycia Ashburn (talking Creation Care with the people at OnEarth). Awesome links for an awesome day!
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 9 weeks ago
Google StreetView is in the Grand Canyon, a video tries to explain why the moon looks so big sometimes, a space shuttle gets shuttled across Los Angeles, Jon Stewarts talks with veterans about job qualifications, and Richard Nixon looks like a hipster. Woah!Brandon Hook is the Online Assistant at Sojourners.
Posted by Brandon Hook, Jessica Turner, Janelle Tupper, Martin Witchger, Krystal Brewer 2 years 9 weeks ago
On Tuesday, the religion, policy, and politics project at Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) hosted a forum to release PRRI's fourth American Values Survey (AVS), a large national, multi-issue survey on religion, values, and public policy.We sent some of our interns to listen in on the findings. Here's what they thought about some of the issues raised by the report.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 9 weeks ago
Videochat karaoke, dogs underwater, an Internet college sweatshirt, and "Emergency Compliment" posters. The Internet is full of awesomeness.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 9 weeks ago
If I were given one word to describe New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra, probably best known for singing the female part on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” it would be eccentric.But that word is based almost entirely on her live show, where — after dimming the lights and playing the theme for The Godfather over the 9:30 Club’s speakers on Tuesday — Kimbra walked onto the stage, decked out in sleek elevator shoes, a fluffy dress laden with glitter and color (which eventually became a tutu), and what looked like pom poms draped over her shoulders. She would’ve looked even more out of place if her drummer wasn’t rocking a sweet high top fade.But, even though concerts are performances — and as such necessitate an element of spectacle — the music obviously remains the reason people flock to see their favorite musicians.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 9 weeks ago
Best places for a Halloween party, Stephen Colbert and The Hobbit, some sweet glass anatomical models, a green auditorium, and a really fashionable dog. Good day.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 9 weeks ago
Science students are known for their interpretive dance skills, right? Well, soon they might be.For the last five years, Ph.D. students in science from all over the globe have been participating in Science's annual Dance Your Ph.D. contest. The rules of Dance Your Ph.D. are simple:You must have a Ph.D., or be working on one as a Ph.D. student.Your Ph.D. must be in a science-related field.You must be part of the dance.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 10 weeks ago
In case you’re out of the loop, Passion Pit have emerged over the last five years as a pretty big indie-dance-rock group from the Boston area, seamlessly mixing elements of Vampire Weekend, the Beach Boys, and 80s music, among many other sounds and influences. Passion Pit started as a side project of lead singer Michael Angelakos — one that he thought wouldn’t go anywhere and was just for fun — and has quickly gained steam, releasing its second album last summer and performing on Saturday Night Live this past weekend.On Tuesday they wrapped up three sold-out shows in Washington, D.C., with a triumphant performance, inspiring even the more awkward shyer attendees to move a little. Even the frat daddies who showed up because their girlfriends made them were getting into it.Angelakos is well aware of Passion Pit’s tendency for infectious catchy songwriting.“People feel like they're always singing along,” Angelakos told the Huffington Post. “There are always parts to sing along to. It's built into the music.”
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 10 weeks ago
Most people in Washington know that changing the world is hard. But it's even harder when you're a sweet potato named Claude. But Claude is more than just a sweet potato. Claude is a symbol. From celebrity chefs and mom bloggers to churchgoers and YouTube stars, ONE campaign members are mobilizing en masse around the country today — World Food Day — to raise awareness of global hunger and malnutrition. These activities are part of a new campaign from ONE that’s calling on world leaders “to make measurable commitments to reduce chronic malnutrition for 25 million kids by 2016 so they can reach their full potential.”As part of the campaign, supporters around the globe are celebrating the sweet potato, an example of a nutritious crop that can help fight chronic malnutrition. Which is why Claude is a sweet potato and not a french fry.Every year, malnutrition is the underlying cause of more than 2.4 million child deaths — or more than one third of all deaths of children under the age of five. Chefs Mario Batali, José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, Spike Mendelsohn and Hugh Acheson are among dozens of celebrated chefs who will support the campaign by shining a spotlight on the humble sweet potato in the coming months.Claude the Intern - watch more funny videos
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 10 weeks ago
Top o' aftornune to ya!Francis Chan recently sat down with the Northern Irish Christian band The Rend Collective to test his Northern Irish speaking skillz. Chan holds his own. Most of the time he mimics his Irish friend well.But what do I know? I'm not from Ireland. I do, however, enjoy accents. And hopefully you do too. Enjoy.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 10 weeks ago
Jens Lekman is a storyteller.Wait, Jens who? How do you pronounce that?Jens (pronounced “Yens”) Lekman is a witty, hopelessly romantic Swedish musician from a suburb of Gothenburg.Lekman was at the 9:30 club in D.C. last Friday — armed with a small acoustic guitar that fuels his unique indie pop style. Occasionally he reached over and pressed the pads of his sampler, cuing thumping bass accompaniment and flurries of strings to compliment his smooth voice, violinist, bassist, drummer, and pianist.While he may not be on top of the iTunes album charts, Jens (I feel like we’re on a first name basis simply because he was so relaxed and open at the show) is definitely worth a listen, whether it’s at home, in the car, on the go, or — especially — in concert.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 10 weeks ago
Just in case you missed it (ICYMI), here's a roundup of new music that should be rocking your Spotify playlists. Beth Orton: Sugaring SeasonIn her first release since 2006’s Comfort of Strangers, British singer-songwriter Beth Orton created a beautiful record leaning more toward the folk of her signature “folktronica” sound. Orton opts for stripped down, simplified arrangements, drawing mostly on acoustic guitars, strings, and her soft voice to propel each song. The music moves from the melancholy rich guitar sound of Nick Drake incorporating Simon and Garfunkel melodies to more upbeat, lighthearted tunes. The album, recorded in Portland, Ore., is a perfect companion for a drive through countryside of the Pacific Northwest. Highlights: “Magpie,” “Call me the Breeze,” “Mystery”Lord Huron: Lonesome DreamsThe brainchild of singer-songwriter Ben Schneider, the music on Lord Huron’s first LP Lonesome Dreams is surprisingly reflective of its album art. (A designer friend of mine once advised me to take any direction I wanted when designing an album cover because they “usually don’t have to make any sense.”) On the grainy cover is a painting of a lone horse rider under the night sky of the desert. Much like the openness of the desert, the songs are expansive and feel like they have depth. The ethereal expanses laden with reverb, sitar, and moon chimes lend themselves well to the picture of the desert sky. Lonesome Dreams feels both antique and refreshingly new. Its themes are large — love, loneliness, and that itch to explore— but it doesn’t at all feel preachy or overzealous.Highlights:  “Ends of the Earth,” “Time to Run,” “She Lit a Fire”
Posted by Brandon Hook, Sandi Villarreal 2 years 11 weeks ago
Editor's Note: Brandon Hook tells his story of why he's part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular." Find more stories (or share your own) HERE. Read about the study HERE. 
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 11 weeks ago
Babies eating lemons, the future plays out, a backpack that gives back, and a heft case of First World Problems (FWP).
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 11 weeks ago
Battlestar Galactica—not the first thing you think of while mining the vast array of influences on an indie rock record. Even more surprising might be Carl Sagan’s The Cosmos or the History Channel’s Ancient Alien Theory. But all three shows played vital parts in inspiring Freelance Whales’ newest record Diluvia.“All three of those shows have an abundance of emotional storytelling that we just found really inspiring,” said Chuck Criss, who plays banjo, bass, synthesizer, glockenspiel, harmonium, acoustic and electric guitar, and provides vocals for the band. “[But] I don't want to give the impression that we made a Bowie sci-fi record.”While they may not have set out to make another soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the sci-fi influences are definitely apparent on Diluvia, particularly in the twitchy electronic sounds that open and close most of the album’s songs as well as the ambient, spacey atmosphere permeating Diluvia. Both are a far cry from the quintet from the Queens’ opening album, Weathervanes (2009), which they described as “layered, textured pop music.”
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 11 weeks ago
OK, the @firedbigbird tweets have been hilarious.And it's almost understandable that America has given so much attention to the Big Bird comments from Tuesday's debate. (@Firedbigbird had more than 31,000 Twitter followers as of late Friday afternoon.)I mean, Romney's comment was definitely a "zinger." We get it. It's funny. But come on. On Thursday, Public Broadcasting System (PBS) CEO Paula Kerger talked to CNN about the issue, and she couldn't believe the iconic children's TV star has gotten this much attention either.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 12 weeks ago
Editor's Note: Tweet @newshour to ask the candidates to #TalkPoverty in Wednesday's debate.Marianne Williamson, a bestselling author and convener of the upcoming Sister Giant conference on women and politics, has called on President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney to address “a meaningful array of topics” – including poverty, money in politics and incarceration rates in the U.S. – tonight during the first presidential debate. Williamson talked to us earlier today about these issues, which are particularly pressing for Christians who take Matthew 25 seriously.The interview was edited for length and content.Q: What are you doing to get these issues out there?A: Having a voice and creating your own platform is not all that difficult with today’s technology. I think what’s happening now is that, firstly, people are realizing that. Secondly, people are realizing that there are certain things that need to be said that simply are not being said as loudly as other things being said. When it comes to a politics of conscience, why wouldn’t we expect that during the debates there would be a conversation about the 23.1 percent of America’s children living in poverty, or the 34 percent of poor children, or the 46 million Americans living in poverty?
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 12 weeks ago
Sufjan and Bon Iver reveal some cool projects. LEGO movies are everywhere. Disney Princesses are hipsters. People are dancing to get Cokes. And — shocker — some dogs feel the same way humans do about getting out of bed. These links are awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 12 weeks ago
It seems like the Bible is the one piece of real estate Donald Trump is unfamiliar with. Or maybe he’s just never read any of that “Jesus” stuff in the New Testament.Last Monday, the Donald told Liberty University students not to turn the other cheek but to "get even" with adversaries, particularly in business."I always say don't let people take advantage — this goes for a country, too, by the way — don't let people take advantage,” Trump said. “Get even. And you know, if nothing else, others will see that and they're going to say, 'You know, I'm going to let Jim Smith or Sarah Malone, I'm going to let them alone because they're tough customers."
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 12 weeks ago
Apparently even Tim Cook doesn't use the new maps app on iPhone 5. Shocker.Also, some Grandmas meet Star Wars, Algae gets fed by an opera singer, someone took some sweet Iceland photos, and some Portland people have created a cologne that can make hipsters with beards smell like campfires! These links are awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 13 weeks ago
Most of us know what physics is, but what in the world is metaphysics? One might first recall Meta World Peace, who currently plays for the Lakers. So, metaphysics is just another one of those guys who adopted some sort of weird name, right? Wrong.According to John Cobb, a theologian who played a crucial role in the development of process theology, metaphysics asks, "what is it in and of itself that constitutes what is truly real and actual"? In physics you don't quite get to that. Metaphysics deals with ousia, which is substance in Greek. The world is made up of substances and the questions of metaphysics are to understand what substances are.Woah. That sounds intense.You can hear more and hopefully understand a little more (via the "substance" of your brain) HERE, as Cobb talks theology during the Emergent Village Theological Conversation at Claremont School of Theology in California.  As the radio emcee at Homebrewed Christianity describes it, "It's time to nerd out with your geek out."
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 13 weeks ago
The world's most dangerous hiking trail, some underwater streets, skyscrapers cleaning our air, and having a cold brewski with President Obama. And then 2,601 people collaborated on a song. Today's links of awesomeness are pretty awesome.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 13 weeks ago
“Are Mumford & Sons as big in America as they are here?” my English friend asked me a year ago over a pint at a pub on High Street in Oxford, England.“Uh … yea,” I replied, astonished that their popularity was even in question. “They’re huge.”Turns out that English friend is Marcus Mumford’s cousin, and he eventually got to see how big they are in the states, spending this past summer in Arizona and scurrying over to Colorado for their show at Red Rocks. (I know I’m jealous.)But has that popularity and success translated into a decent sophomore album? Absolutely. One way to avoid the perilous “sophomore slump” that plagues many musicians and bands these days is to stick to your guns. And that’s exactly what English quartet Mumford & Sons did with their second album Babel. “The idea was always, ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’” producer Markus Dravs told Rolling Stone.And that’s almost exactly what audiences get on Babel. It’s as if Mumford took all the good things from their first record, Sigh No More, and channeled them into Babel.Who blames ‘em? Their foot-stomping, banjo-plucking signature folk-rock sound has sent them to the far corners of the earth and back. It also shot Sigh No More up to platinum status, selling five million copies and nominating the band for two Grammys.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 13 weeks ago
The biggest prank ever, some insects covered in dew, an iPhone that eliminates scrolling, and James Franco's latest musical endeavor. Oh yea, and this kid and his dad sent their toy train into space. Nothing like good 'ole afternoon fun with Dad.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 14 weeks ago
A cat runs for mayor and may or may not try out a new electric skateboard or a bike made out of cardboard. Some of the Pixar staff could've used some free coffee courtesy of GOOD when they studied for their graduate-level final exam in ichthyology for Finding Nemo. Oh, and the second trailer for The Hobbit came out too. 
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 14 weeks ago
Want to make a tattoo for Justin Vernon? Now you can! The Bon Iver singer-songwriter is holding a contest for fans to design a tattoo. The ink will go on his left forearm and has to be inspired by the early '90s TV series Northern Exposure. Check out some of the finalists. [via Paste]Warner Bros. released character photos from The Hobbit! Check out the photos here. [Via Paste]Bubbles are cool. Especially when they're in droplets of water hovering in outer space. Check. It. Out. [via Laughing Squid]Hungry? Need a good laugh? Like Cheetos or Takis? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you're going to like this music video.Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals. Trippy.  
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 14 weeks ago
No matter how many times we see the little advert (as the English say) before the movie telling us to silence our phones, the temptation to go for our smartphones — to look up, for instance, the name of the other films that one actor (with the butt chin and beady eyes) was in before he became a superhero — is too much to resist.Or maybe we just can't not text a friend to tell her how the ending of the Dark Knight legend picked up our expectations and pulled a Bane on them (i.e. broke their huge backs, shattering them entirely). Whatever the reason for putting down the bucket of popcorn and reaching for the squawk box, the fact remains: cell phones are a nuisance to everybody around us — in a cinema perhaps more than anywhere else.Which is why a London movie theater recently started employing ninjas to combat rogue cell phone use during screenings.Yes, ninjas.
Posted by Brandon Hook 2 years 15 weeks ago
This week's links feature a filmmaking seagull, degrees of Kevin Baconness, 137 origami pigs, and the realization that the iPhone 4S is lighter, faster, and more durable than the iPhone 4S. Wait. What?