Culture

Rebecca Cusey 03-21-2012
Photo by Heather Kennedy/WireImage

Director Steve Taylor and actors Don Miller and Marshall Allman speak at screening. Photo by Heather Kennedy/WireImage

Do not confuse the upcoming film Blue Like Jazz with Christian market movies like "Fireproof" or "Courageous."

"A Christian movie genre has formed. Our first goal with this movie is that we didn't fit into this genre," said director Steve Taylor.

Author Donald Miller, who wrote the 2003 best-selling book Blue Like Jazz, from which the movie was adapted, agrees.

"We wanted to show that movies about the faith struggle that millions of Americans deal with don't have to be cheesy," he said. "They don't have to have bad actors. They don't have to be low budget production. They can compete with other films at the box office."

Joshua Witchger 03-21-2012

James "Sugar Boots" Franklin is remembered for bringing boombox roller-skating to Congress. Time names 140 Best Twitter Feeds. LEGOS initiate simple design. More notable Banksy street art found. Videogame theme songs set to tune of piano and violin. And with Tim Tebow's recent trade, Jimmy Fallon performs another hit from Tebowie.


+ Warning: May contain coarse language

Before he caught up with them in Colorado Springs this week, Christian Piatt interviewed Blue Like Jazz's director Steve Taylor and star, Marshall Allman, via Skype while they were in Austin, Texas for the premiere of the film at SXSW.

We give you, BONUS BLUE: THE LOST CYBER INTERVIEW:

http://youtu.be/8pXsLSbxEK0

And there's even more bonus 'Blue' goodness inside the blog...

Joshua Witchger 03-21-2012
Danny Seim of Menomena. Image via Creative Commons/Wylio

Danny Seim of Menomena. Image via Creative Commons/Wylio

Blue Like Jazz has got a leg-up in the alternative world. Two years back Paste ranked it #18 in its “20 Best Books of the Decade.” The film just finished up its debut run at SXSW and it features a soundtrack that’s largely the brainchild of the Portland indie rock outfit Menomena.

Steve Taylor, director of Blue Like Jazz, tells Sojourners that the music of Menomena served as the muse for the storytelling, and that he was “trying to find a soundtrack of what a Reed student might be listening to.”

the Web Editors 03-20-2012
'Blue Like Jazz' filmmakers. Photo by Christian Piatt.

Actor Marshall Allman (who plays "Don" in the film), Donald Miller and director Steve Taylor. Photo by Christian Piatt.

"There are people who struggle with not being understood; God is not one of them."

~ Donald Miller to Christian Piatt
in 'Blue Like Jazz' - The Sojourners Interview
coming Wednesday on God's Politics

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Earlier this week, our intrepid blogger/reporter/resident-God-Nerd Christian Piatt sat down with the makers of the highly-anticipated film Blue Like Jazz —  Donald Miller, director Steve Taylor and Marshall Allman, the actor who portrays protagonist "Don" in the screen adaptation of Miller's best-selling memoir — to talk about faith, film and ... fate. The far-ranging interview covers everything from John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and what Miller calls "dangerous theological ideas" to the astounding grace of God and peanut butter cups. Fascinating and funny, the conversation with the hearts and minds behind Blue Like Jazz is a humdinger you won't want to miss.

But because we like you a whole lot , we've prepared a wee taste of what's to come ... inside the blog.

Joshua Witchger 03-20-2012

The Spring Equinox ushers in World Storytelling Day. Listen to Portlandia stars discuss some of their most cherrished music. OK Go experiments with a new online dating service. Arcade Fire delivers guest lecture at University of Texas at Austin. Pictures of sharks, crazy sool ice-cream shops, and more...

Karla Vasquez 03-20-2012
Child in art class, Poznyakov, Shutterstock.com

Child in art class, Poznyakov, Shutterstock.com

Unfortunately, celebrating the arts isn’t a priority today. This is especially apparent when ongoing budget cuts threaten robust art programs.

When looking for places to cut, art and music school programs are the first to go in schools. Recently in Los Angeles, the Board of Education approved a preliminary $6 billion budget, a plan that would eliminate employment by the thousands, close school districts’ adult schools, cut after-school programs and cut art programs.

These cuts continue, even when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan insists dance, music, theater, and visual arts "are essential to preparing our nation's young people for a global economy fueled by innovation and creativity,” according to GOOD.

the Web Editors 03-20-2012
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Rush Limbaugh Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Rush Limbaugh’s verbal attack against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke last month hasn’t fared too well for his program; his advertisers have pulled out left and right since the now infamous comments. Everyone from McDonalds to Radio Shack to Ace Hardware--a total of 140 advertisers--specifically asked that their advertising not be aired during Limbaugh’s show. Some are going so far as to create "buffer zones," ensuring their ads don't air within a one- to two-hour window before and after Limbaugh's show.

Limbaugh doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the loss. As Hatewatch reports, he said it’s like “losing a couple of French fries in the container when it’s delivered to you in the drive-thru. You don’t even notice it.”

Enter the people of Westboro Baptist Church--the Topeka, Kan.-based church probably best-known for picketing at U.S. soldiers' funerals. Westboro leadership sees Limbaugh's comments as an opportune time to advertise on the show.

Lisa Sharon Harper 03-20-2012
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Occupy LA Health Fair, Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Christianity Today’s film This is Our City is provocative because of its gritty, grounded honesty. This is not a film about political pundits who banter back and forth exchanging policy talking points. No. This short film reveals the lives and thinking of two very ordinary people, their deep faith in Jesus, and how that faith is leading them to engage two of the most consequential grassroots movements of our time. These two movements share one beautiful thing in common; they are groundswells of ordinary citizens reengaging their democratic civic duty—to let their messages by heard and considered in the public square.

D.C. Innes rightly points out in his reflections that the film’s title, “Liberty or Justice for All,” and its structure seem to pit the virtues of liberty and justice against one another. Within the first minute of this nearly seven-minute film, liberty is clearly the motivation for Emmett Bailey’s Virginia Tea Party involvement, while the motivation for Pam Hogeweide’s Occupy Portland involvement is clearly “justice.” And both subjects say their involvement is an outworking of their faith.

Joshua Witchger 03-19-2012

A few links on some creative outdoor sculptures, the etymology of the name Spider-Man, Disney's Bible theme-park that was never made, a new form of mashups, President Obama and Entourage, and cover of Adele played on the Chinese zither.   

Larisa Friesen Hall 03-19-2012
Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Wes Moore, Author, appears on 'Meet the Press' March 18. Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Last summer at the Aspen Ideas Festival I had the opportunity to hear Wes Moore speak. Moore is an investment banker, a former Rhodes Scholar, and a former aide to Condoleezza Rice. He is a young black man from Baltimore who rose above the drugs, crime, and poverty that so often lead others in his demographic down another path.

In the same year that Moore was named a Rhodes Scholar, he saw an article in the Baltimore Sun about a man who was convicted of armed robbery and murder of an off duty police officer and sentenced to life in prison without parole. This man not only had the same name, Wes Moore, but was also about the same age and grew up in the same area of Baltimore in a single-parent household.

Wes reached out to this other young man in prison and eventually they came to know one another. Moore wrote a book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, about their stories.

I read the book shortly after hearing Wes speak. What makes it remarkable is the parallel examination of both of their narratives, giving the reader an opportunity to identify the points when their lives begin to diverge.

Judy Keen 03-16-2012
Bowling alley photo, fonats, Shutterstock.com

Bowling alley photo, fonats, Shutterstock.com

PEORIA, Ill. — When Max and Nancy Carson got married at St. Ann Catholic Church in 1974, the organ music was accompanied by the unmistakable sound of balls crashing into bowling pins.

"I said 'I do' and bowling balls were flying," said Max Carson, 62, who didn't know then that the St. Boniface Bowling Alley, built in 1945, was housed in the church basement. Now he plays in the Has-Beens League every Wednesday morning in the four-lane alley.

"I always joke that if I preach too long, people go downstairs and start bowling," said St. Ann's pastor, the Rev. Terry Cassidy.

St. Ann's little bowling alley is almost as popular now as it was after parishioners created the hideaway, which has a bar and dining room. It was rebuilt after a fire in the 1960s. Two leagues, one for men and another for women, play on Wednesdays, and parties are booked for almost every Friday and Saturday night, manager Jim Seppelt said.

Church bowling alleys are disappearing fast. There are probably fewer than 200 left, said Neil Stremmel, of the U.S. Bowling Congress.

Joshua Witchger 03-16-2012

Get ready for St. Patrick's Day with some laughs, crafts, and a look at some green musicians. Plus, a look at the impressive "Magic Mushroom House," an express book-printing machine, portraits made from words, John Oliver's latest quest, and Americana musicians Megafaun. 

Alessandro Speciale 03-16-2012
Catholic seminary players during their first 'Clericus Cup' in Rome. Getty Image

Catholic seminary players during their first 'Clericus Cup' at St. Peter Oratory in Rome, 24 February 2007. Via Getty Images.

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican department has withdrawn its support from a soccer tournament that pits teams from Rome's seminaries against each other because it has lost its "educational" value.
   
Sixteen teams from Rome's seminaries and religious orders compete against each other in the Clericus Cup tournament, including the "Martyrs" from the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, which placed fourth in 2011.

Joshua Witchger 03-15-2012

Mad Men meets Sesame Street, the documentary film Mister Rogers & Me, electric bicycles, a new Ben & Jerry's flavor, and an impressive glowing Japanese dance team.

Carrie Adams 03-15-2012
Game Change movie still, via HBO.com

Game Change movie still, via HBO.com

First, let me say that this is about a movie based on real people, and I’m critiquing the movie as a piece of entertainment. This is a movie review, not a political analysis. We can do that later.

Reading Game Change was a thrill for me- it was inside baseball at its best. John Heilemann and Mark Halperin are favorite authors of mine, and not only did I read this book right when it came out, I read it again when it was assigned for a class. It was that good. So to say I was excited about the movie version of this book is putting it lightly. The bar was high.

Is it my fault then that Game Change didn’t clear the hurdle for me? Nope. This happens every time you see a movie that had a book first--the book is always better.

For those of you who don’t know, Game Change follows Senator John McCain’s presidential run in 2008 during the tumultuous weeks of general election after adding Governor Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket. The movie focuses in on this facet, whereas the book branches out into the election as a whole, primary season and all.

Christian Piatt 03-15-2012
Photo by Courtneyperry.com/WildGooseFestival.org.

Sojo blogger Nadia Bolz-Weber speaks at the '11 Wild Goose Festival. Photo by Courtneyperry.com/WildGooseFestival.org.

My friend, Travis Mamone, did a short video about all the stuff emergent Christians are prone to pop off about. Yeah, he pretty much nails me in it.

Check out Travis’ blog at the link above on his name, and, dig the Something Beautiful Podcast where he’s a co-host.

Love wins.

Timothy King 03-14-2012
Tim King with his youth group's worship band. Photo courtesy Tim King

Tim King (middle on guitar with the 'fro) with his youth group's worship band. Photo courtesy Tim King

Last Friday, on his weekly show Real Time with Bill Maher, the not-so friendly atheist, Mr. Maher took issue with the Santorum families decision to homeschool their children. Here’s what he said:

"But I bring up the old tale of the poisoned apple — no, not "Snow White," that's a fairy tale — because the Adam and Eve story is taken literally by half the country and it's no coincidence that the type of tree which god forbade Adam and Eve eating from was the Tree of Knowledge. Rick Santorum homeschools his children because he does not want them eating that f--king apple. He wants them locked up in the Christian madrassa that is the family living room not out in public where they could be infected by the virus of reason. If you're a kid and the only adults you've ever met are mom and dad, and then they're also the smartest adults you've met, why not keep it that way? Why mess up paradise with a lot knowledge? After all, a mind is a terrible thing to open."

Santorum took exception to these comments. For good reason.

My parents made the decision to homeschool three out of four of their children at some point during our K-12 years. They invested both time and resources because they believed it was the best thing they could do for our development and education at that time.

Joshua Witchger 03-14-2012

A few links for this afternoon: Explore the mystery of Pi on 3/14, read Darth Vader's letter on why he's leaving the Empire, see the many things a T-Rex cannot do, and check out Andrew Bird's visit with Stephen Colbert.

Piet Levy 03-14-2012
Photo by Karen Neal/ABC via Getty Images

Still from upcoming 'GCB' episode. Photo by Karen Neal/ABC via Getty Images

Many TV network executives, advertisers and producers would sell their souls to get the kind of audience God has. But giving religion a starring role in prime time? Not so much.

Religion, God and spirituality have made cameos across the dial from "The Sopranos" to "The Simpsons" -- though usually as a prop or walk-on role. But shows where religion is a central part of the premise are rare, and the ratings are generally far from heavenly.

Short of touchy-feely shows like "Touched By an Angel" or "Highway to Heaven," why is religion so radioactive in Hollywood?

This month, cable network TLC canceled "All-American Muslim" after only about 700,000 viewers watched the season finale of the reality show featuring Muslims in Dearborn, Mich.

Meanwhile, ABC's saucy new drama "GCB" -- think "Desperate Housewives" in choir robes -- that's based on Kim Gatlin's novel "Good Christian Bitches" has been panned by critics and called "anti-Christian" by Newt Gingrich. The "GCB" premiere on March 4 lost the coveted 18-49 demographic, but climbed back during its sophomore episode.

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