Top Gear Rolls On

Top Gear is one of those shows only the British could make. It’s about cars, ostensibly, but it’s more about the camaraderie and one-up-manship of its three hosts, which is really what makes it so enjoyable to me.

After being introduced to this wonder last year at SXSW by the ravings of Kevin and Porter, I begin to watch it. But I was horrified by the news that in September of last year, host Richard Hammond was almost killed while driving a jet-powered dragster. Happily, he’s made a remarkable recovery and the show, despite my fears, has not been cancelled.

Top Gear also publishes a very popular magazine and in the February issue, they’re actually publishing photos of the crash. The first episode of the next series will air on January 28 in the UK, and they’ll be showing footage. I’m not sure if I feel this is in poor taste or not. I suppose that as long as Richard is there hosting the programme, then it doesn’t really matter. Welcome back, Hamster!

NOTE: The BBC News web site has posted the pictures, for the truly morbid among you.

One Punk Under God

One Punk Under God

Beginning December 13, the Sundance Channel (unfortunately, unavailable here in Canada) will be airing a new 6-part series called One Punk Under God. It’s a documentary that follows Jay Bakker, the only son of former PTL Club founders Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, as he tries to deal with the pressures of pastoring his own “alternative” Revolution Church.

Jay certainly didn’t intend to enter the ministry. After his parents’ ministry collapsed in the late 1980s after charges of financial impropriety and his father’s affair, Jay abandoned the church and the faith and plunged into a lifestyle of substance abuse, punk rock, and tattoos. He’s left the drugs and alcohol behind, but the do-it-yourself ethic of punk (and more than 60 tattoos) remain at the heart of his ministry. He calls Revolution a church “for people who have given up on church” and “those who feel rejected by religion.” Part of the revolution plays out in front of the camera and involves his embrace of the gay and lesbian communities, which causes rifts with some of his original backers.

Jay is a tremendously likeable character trying to escape the lengthy shadow of his parents’ legacy, and though there are still a few moments that make me cringe, I find myself rooting for him. In the first episode (available free at the iTunes store), he revisits Heritage U.S.A., the “Christian retreat center” (theme park) founded by his parents. Now abandoned and overgrown, the site seems like a metaphor for the ministry of Jim and Tammy Faye, who, despite their obvious faults, come across as basically decent people. Jay is trying to follow Christ as authentically as possible, with the added burden of feeling somehow responsible for his parents’ many sins.

The show is extremely compelling to me personally. As someone who has had a rocky relationship with the (admittedly milder Canadian version of) evangelical subculture, this speaks to me deeply about wanting to keep Christ while ditching so much of what passes for organized religion today. Sure, the appeal of Jay Bakker’s church to younger people might appear trendy and shallow. But it might just be an expression of the sort of unconditional love that the gospel is all about.

Unfortunately, the screener DVD I was sent only contained the first four episodes, and by some horrible twist of fate, episode 2 was repeated twice while episode 3 was missing entirely. So, until I can download these for myself, I’ll just have to assume that the rest of the series is as interesting as the first hour.

Good article about Jay Bakker from Radar Magazine

One from the New Yorker and another from New York magazine.

P.S. Make sure you click the Heritage U.S.A. link. There are some really great photos of what the park looks like now, and no matter how you might feel about Christian theme parks, there is something sort of sad in these pictures.

P.P.S. How annoying that the Apple Store in Canada doesn’t have the free episode, and any attempt to set up an account at the U.S. Apple Store fails because my credit card has a billing address in Canada. I can’t even download free stuff. Bad Apple!!

Cleaning Up After Borat

Recently, the press secretary for the Embassy of Kazakhstan sat down with a writer from The New Yorker to clear up some misconceptions about his country. Misconceptions that have been spread by the popular Borat character on Da Ali G Show. It’s good to know, for instance, that in Kazakhstan, wine is not made from fermented horse’s urine, nor are women kept in cages.

I guess tourism was taking a hit.

(via gnumatt)

I [heart] Pedro

From a song called Foregone Conclusions, by Pedro the Lion:

“You were too busy steering the conversation toward the Lord,
to hear the voice of the Spirit saying shut the fuck up.”

I’ve spent the last few weeks/months/years trying to listen instead of speak about these things. It’s very hard not to become completely discouraged. Silly but telling example: Last night, I watched the first episode of the new series of reality show The Amazing Race. One couple, noted by their onscreen graphic as “Models/Dating”, also made a big deal of declaring they were “committed Christians” and the guy is making an ass of himself already, talking about “trusting the Lord” with their decisions. Buddy, you’re on a GAME SHOW! His whole attitude reminds me of a quote that’s on my “Faith” page:

“I’ve often wondered if being a Christian was something we could, or should, claim for ourselves; that if being a Christian meant incarnating the love of Christ in my own life, then maybe it would be best to let others tell me how well, or how badly, I’m doing”

—Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

I’m almost afraid to watch the rest of the series…

And, oh yeah, this, too.

I’m Alan Partridge

I’m Alan Partidge is bloody great. It’s hilarious. It’s also no longer available in this country. The VHS dub I rented from my local indie video store contained episodes 4-6, and I don’t think I’ll ever see 1-3. Crap.

Best line: “Dere’s more to Oireland den dis!” (Alan’s suggested slogan for the Irish Tourist Board, referring to the fact that Ireland isn’t just “leprechauns, Guinness, guys in platform shoes being arrested for bombings…”)