I saw ParaNorman yesterday at the Mayfield Drive-In (the plans for the evening were "go to the drive in" without regard to what was playing), and I was quite pleasantly surprised by it. It's scary, or at least it's "scary," but none of the kids I could see seemed terribly spooked. I feel like anyone over 7 would likely enjoy it, and it's worth noting that the many zombies are seen mostly as bumbling, rather than as menacing. 
As a childless, adult viewer, though I thought it was pretty great for a few reasons.
1. The most important single theme of any zombie story was firmly set into place: The real monsters are the other humans.
2. The score. I checked iTunes for a copy before the credits had finished rolling, composer Jon Brion did a phenomenal job.
3. The visuals. There were areas obviously helped by CGI, but most of the film is obviously actually stop motion animation and it's astounding to behold.
If you're a fan of horror films, and especially those of the zombie variety, I very highly recommend this kid-friendly love letter to the genre. If you've got kids who you're already subjecting to scary fare like Doctor Who or the like, by all means take them along.
If you aren't interested in this film and somebody invites you to it, GO!
But I'm not going to tell you you've got to go out of your way to see it.
Um, I haven't come up with a rating system for movies yet, so... how about 3.75 stars out of a possible 5?


The Operators

I just finished Michael Hastings (@mmhastings) fantastic book The Operators. Below I've reprinted the brief review I wrote about it on goodreads.

There's a somewhat meta moment early in The Operators when author Michael Hastings references Cameron Crowe's 'Almost Famous' and its fabled story of a Rolling Stone reporter swept along on a whirlwind tour with a band that quickly forgets that as a reporter he is "the enemy."

The Operators is very much that story, but instead of the Allman Brothers/Led Zeppelin stand-in of Stillwater, we get the very real 4-star General Stanley McChrystal and his team of strategists and PR people. The book is all but unbelievable save for the fact that you're well aware that it's all true. It's an unblinking look at a war that is not so much spinning out of control as it is just as out of control as it has always been. It's a profile of a man, General McChrystal who is not only selling America spiked Kool-Aid in the form of the highly touted Counterinsergency Doctrine, but is also drinking far too much of that Kool-Aid himself.

The book is an extremely brisk read (it took me less than a week), and its structure of alternating between Hastings' time with McCrystal and a wider look at the American war in Afghanistan keeps you paying attention and helps you pick out all the myriad ways in which this conflict has gone wrong.

I often rate books on goodreads too highly, probably because if a book is bad I usually do not bother to finish it or rate it, but I assure you that The Operators is worth every last one of the five stars I gave it.

Check it out.


"We Went To The Moon, And We Discovered Earth."

I got into a bit of a back and forth with a buddy today with regards to the space program.  Why is it important? Aren't we wasting our money?

I'd argue that the space program is tremendously important and that we're absolutely getting our money's worth.  The entirety of the current Mars rover program cost less than the most recent Olympic Games to pull off, and the US Department of Defense will spend in a year what NASA has spent in its entire 50+ years of existence. It's not cheap, but it isn't going to break the bank.

So much of modern life comes as a result of the advances of the "Space Age." From scratch-resistent lenses and telecommunications to modern computing, NASA and its push towards the limits of human achievement is responsible for much of the greatness of this country.

Here's a video, that makes this point better than I can. It's a trailer for the forthcoming documentary "The Fight For Space." Check it out, and if you feel so inclined go support it.

For further reading, check Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Chairman of the Hayden Planetarium's essay on Why America Needs To Explore Space.
And another, maybe BETTER video entitled "We Stopped Dreaming":

Part 2: "We went to the moon, and we discovered Earth."


Because the Chick-Fil-A Story Won't Die...

I recently had a comment thread on my Facebook blow up into a discussion that saw seventy-some responses. That thread was on the topic of gay marriage, the Christian faith's supposed banning of it, and the hows and ifs surrounding its legality in America.

It all started with a chicken sandwich.

Recently Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-Fil-A restaurants gave an interview in which he was probed on his company's support of traditional marriage. "Guilty as charged." He replied. Then he said the following:

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
"We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that," Cathy emphasized.
"We intend to stay the course," he said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

This appeared in an article circulated by Baptist Press.  He has also said that our country's efforts to "redefine" traditional marriage are tantamount to "shaking our fist at God" and that doing so is "inviting his judgment."

Let me be clear, Dan Cathy is entitled to his opinion and within the law he is allowed to operate his restaurants however he'd like.  

Chick-Fil-A, though, gives money to a variety of anti-Gay organizations through its charitable arm, Winshape. These include the Marriage and Family Foundation, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the National Christian Fund, Exodus International, the Family Research Council, and Georgia Family Council.  Many of these organizations, though perhaps innocently named, have condemned gays, made efforts to "deprogram" or "pray the gay out of" gays (and have made claims of succeeding) and one (the Family Research Council) has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I think it's important before we go any further to say, flat out, that the organizations that CFA has donated to have done tremendous harm to the gay community through concerted efforts to make life miserable for this group. They've succeeded in this endeavor and depression and suicide rates among gay teens is at tragic levels. Where's the LOVE?

Now, Chick-Fil-A, and for the most part all of the aforementioned organizations are still well within their rights to act the way they do. Like-minded individuals are also well within their rights to support Chic-Fil-A or even to support some (or all) of these organizations directly. Fine. But I think it's fair to ask at this point, in what way is doing so communicating the love of Christ to the gay community?

The situation, though, devolved even further when former Arkansas governor and current Fox News television personality Mike Huckabee told his audience that August 1, 2012 would be National Chick-Fil-A day.  It was time for good traditional-marriage-loving citizens to put their money where their mouths were and go buy a chicken sandwich.  People did so in droves, and CFA experienced a record sales day.

I could explain why I think this was misguided, at best, and hateful, at worst, but instead I'll just quote a tremendous blog post by Matthew Paul Turner entitled "5 Reasons Why the Church Failed Yesterday."

Call yesterday what you want, freedom of speech, a rally behind “family values,” a sincere fascination with CFA’s brand of fried poultry… but it cannot be called love. It was not love.People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated.By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people. And it’s impossible to follow Jesus when issues trump people. Jesus never said “love God, love causes.” Once in a while, our culture needs to be surprised by how much we love people–all people. Once in a while, our culture needs to be overwhelmed with joy that we are involved in the greater story. Once in a while, our culture needs to see us being a part of the solution and not the problem. But yesterday? There were no surprises.Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!”But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?

In closing this post I'm expanding a bit my "closing statement" from the Facebook thread I mentioned at the beginning of this post because I think it's the best job I've done of summarizing my feelings on this matter, thanks for reading:

I think we've got differing views on the degree to which our faith should inform our political opinions, or, rather the extent to which our faith should actually be POLICY. And I think legislating Christian morals serves only to be divisive, to alienate, and to oppress and I don't think it is AT ALL the intention of the Biblical authors that their standards of conduct be applied to non-believers.
I've had several friends in this thread say things like I am their "favorite Christian" or the example they hold up when trying to think of a "good one." It is meant as praise, but it makes me a little sick because it means SO MANY of my brethren are doing the faith a disservice through their politics. THEIR POLITICS. Ugh.
Any Christian will tell you that the most important three things (to the faith) that Jesus said were, in this order, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." (he said those two back to back). Followed by the Great Commission, "Go and make disciples of all nations." They'll also all argue that the third thing is pretty obviously impossible without the first two. Additionally a Christian will argue (though an atheist would surely disagree) that the second thing isn't possible without the first.Christians as a group and especially "the church" as the public entity that exists in the world is TERRIBLE at that second thing. Terrible to the point of absurdity. Terrible to the point that the vast majority of Non-Christian humans would be forgiven for believing the church's stated goal was the OPPOSITE of that second thing.And that is, to me, pretty depressing.I can debate semantics and textual interpretation all day, but at the end of that day we really just need to suck a LOT less at the basic tenets of our faith.


Rebooting GeekChicOhio

When I was a freshman in college I decided to come up with a clever aim handle I could use in forums and around the internet that would be uniquely mine.  Thinking on my nerdier pursuits and my love of both "cool" and "uncool" things, I settled on GeekChicOhio.  Today I'm redefining that name.

To me, today, GeekChicOhio is a handle that should represent the nerdy and the accessible things I love as well as the attitudes with which I approach them.
I'm a nerd/geek about much more than just "nerd things," though:
I'm passionate about politics, policy, social discourse and the idea of the fourth estate. I find good journalism to be of the utmost importance, and I seek it out. I see the importance of things like ProPublica, #muckreads and #longform / #longreads and I would like to, as I felt like I did in high school and college, contribute meaningfully to the conversation.  The "Ohio" portion of my name is also, perhaps, noteworthy because Ohio is a swing state and so electoral politics are not something that can be taken lightly here. Elections in Ohio matter.
I'm passionate also about theology and what it means to be a true follower of Christ in 21st Century America.  I am fed up with the fact that identifying myself as a Christian at the beginning of a faith-based conversation seems to immediately put me at a disadvantage as I have to insert a thousand caveats and excuses and rationalizations at the way in which some highly visible members of this faith are destroying its good name.
I'm passionate about good art. Television, literature, film, and music play a huge role in shaping today's culture and I'm a consumer of all of them. I care about how these things are made, how they can be analyzed, improved, and I love discussing them.  I appreciate snark, but I'm not unsympathetic to the "snark backlash" that exists out there, either.
I'm passionate about football. By football, I mostly mean soccer. I love 'The Beautiful Game,' especially the way it is played in Europe, though I'm proud of the strides being taken in the sport in the States and I'm an unrepentant cheerleader for MLS and US Soccer. Briefly, the clubs I pay the most attention to (and I know a couple of these are RIVALS): Tottenham Hotspur, FC Barcelona, AS Roma, Columbus Crew, AFC Cleveland, Chelsea FC, NY Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders, USMNT, La Roja (Spain), and occasionally Manchester City.
I think the "geek" part of this dichotomy should be representative of a desire to take things seriously, to dig deeply into them, and to care earnestly about them. I think that's the essence of what a "geek" is, and I think it's as true of creatures of political science, economic policy wonks, and trekkies.
The "chic" part of this dichotomy is going to be the humor, the snark, the interest in things that are more widely considered to be cool."

This blog, should I ever update it again, will tackle all of these topics and more, and I hope you'll stick around.