Movie Review: Finding Dory

by Robert Johns | June 21, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

Finding Nemo: the beloved fish tale that left heart strings all over the world being tugged when it premiered in 2003. With a high volume of emotional twists and learned life lessons, Nemo is a motion picture that sticks with its viewers far beyond their initial movie experience. Out of all the occurrences and characters that made Finding Nemo important, there is one fish that stuck out to all: Dory, the fun, spunky blue tang. And this is why the fish now has her own movie: Finding Dory, released June 17.

Although Finding Dory is the sequential movie to Nemo, it did not seem to be a sequel at all - instead, the attention was taken off of Nemo and Marlin and focused on Dory and her past. Because of this shift in character attention, the films felt separate, illuminating each for its strengths. While Nemo focused more on a father's love for and protection over his son, Dory focuses more on overcoming obstacles and facing her infamous short-term memory loss head on in order to find out more about herself and where she came from. Instead of allowing Dory’s memory issue to make her feel alienated, Dory's parents and friends work with her in order for her to live her life as "normally" as possible. Alissa Wilkinson from Christianity Today writes, "Dory's short-term memory loss isn't the result of an accident: it's just something she's born with, and something her parents need to help her live with, while figuring out how to avoid being overprotective."

Tasha Robinson from The Verge seems to pinpoint the overarching theme of the film in her Dory review when she states, “disabilities aren’t the same as limitations.” Dory's parents and friends will work with her as much as they need to in order for her to feel safe and cared for despite any challenge she may face. An example of this lies in the fact that Dory's parents do not chase her when she leaves, but instead leave a trail for her to find her own way back home despite her memory struggles. Her parents trust her intuition enough to allow her to survive on her own although they wish so badly that they could take care of her.

When it comes to the plot as a whole, the movie is a bit predictable in a Pixar/Disney "everything will work out" sort of way. Yet, having this in the back of your mind does not mean that there is not excitement happening through the journey of Finding Dory. In the case of this movie, the means to the end is exciting even if the end is already foreseen. 

Finding Dory is not “better” than Finding Nemo, but it does a great job of being everything it needs to be: adventure-packed, fun-filled, and gently instructing to all ages. Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood writes that Finding Dory is "a sequel that proved you don’t have to stint on quality", while A. O. Scott from New York Times writes, "certainly the best non-Toy Story sequel the studio has produced."

Mumford and Sons: A Celebration of Music

by Robert Johns | June 16, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

It’s a band we all know and some of us love – Mumford and Sons. The band has something new up their sleeve, and as always it finds a unique way to celebrate music.

Mumford and Sons is a band that is essential when it comes to the discussion of music being “Christian”. While it is true that Marcus Mumford is the son of a pastor, his music shows that he has internal struggles when it comes to what he believes about God. The first Mumford and Sons album, Sigh No More, was released in 2009, in it carrying lyrics full of angst, sadness and questioning while also somehow displaying a sense of acceptance and celebration. Although it is true that each song of Mumford’s holds the dichotomy of peace and confusion, he somehow finds a way to tie the two together into a piece of music that can be described with no other word than “human”.

Formed in 2007, the band has not only created interesting and attention-grabbing music, but they have also continuously provided new and exciting ways for people to experience their music live. In 2012, the band began "Gentlemen of the Road" stopovers for their album Babel, and it was such a hit that it has set the tone for all of the band's shows today. These stopovers are not always big cities and large amphitheaters - mostly, they are small towns and places with exceeding history and character. The tour also encourages local vendors to participate in order to be supported through the shows. This sort of tour is more like a festival than a typical concert, and it is the way that Mumford and Sons has changed the idea of live music for their listeners.

In accordance with the band creating unique music and experiences, lead singer Marcus Mumford and his bandmates hit the road this past January, traveling all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa. Their time there made its impression on Mumford and Sons, and it shows through the music that was created and recorded during the trip. The band features South African musicians and DJs on their new mini-album Johannesburg, which was created and recorded during two days of all-day and all-night sessions.

Johannesburg is set to release on June 17, but two singles from the mini-album are currently on Spotify: "Wona" and "There Will Be Time". Both of these released singles are a perfect combination of South African rhythm and Mumford's signature British rock sound. 

These two songs along with the rest of the album are being brought to America to be shared. If you're interested in seeing Mumford and Sons on their Johannesburg tour, take out your white blank page and write down Mumford's upcoming dates in New York City and London.

A “Lynchburgian” Summer

by Robert Johns | June 7, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

The moment after graduation caps are tossed in the air, Lynchburg seems to lose half of its inhabitants for a few months. Being one of many "college towns" across America, Lynchburg experiences a spike of residents in the fall and spring and a significant drop in residents for the summer. Yet, this does not mean that "the Burg" becomes a lackluster spot on a central Virginian map! Instead, it is easier to get around and explore without the nuisance of extra traffic and long wait lines at restaurants. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts that come along with being a year-round Lynchburgian (is that a cool term?).

  1. Do you ever have a day in Lynchburg where you have to walk into multiple coffee shops just to find a spot to sit down and start some homework? Most likely this occurred on a Monday night when online class homework was due and you were in a bit of a frenzy. One of the best parts of living in Lynchburg over the summer is the higher chance that a seat will be available at The Muse, Bean Tree, White Hart or any Starbucks around the area.
  2. Along with the higher probability of having a table for yourself at a coffee shop, food is definitely up there on the list of reasons why a summer in Lynchburg can be enjoyable. Of course, the wait times to be seated significantly decrease over the summer, but there are even more perks - one of these being Food Truck Thursday. On Thursdays around lunchtime, Lynchburg's most hip and Snapchat-able foods are served at Miller Park. If you're around, you won't want to miss T&E Catering's dirty fries and Uprooted's sweet tea. And if we're discussing food, Lynchburg Restaurant Week cannot be passed over. With participants such as RA Bistro, Main St. Eatery, Waterstone Pizza and others, Restaurant Week is always one to look forward to in the summer. This year, Restaurant Week is from June 18-25, and you can see the deals that each restaurant is putting on here.
  3. Over the summer in Lynchburg, we get to experience pretty cool "happenings" before the students return. Some of Lynchburg's newer features this summer include Aldi (a grocery store with lower priced food but higher priced shopping carts), Locked Up Lynchburg (an escape room located in Wyndhurst), and Steak and Shake (no explanation necessary). All three of these locations bring something new to Lynchburg that contributes to what people like to do around here: eat, get milkshakes late at night, and make new memories with a group of pals.
  4. Lynchburg's shopping scene is not typically one that people rave about, but it has its perks. Just think - with thousands of college students departing for the summer, how much more is there to buy at TJ Maxx and the J.Crew Clearance store? Stores around the 434 are much more enjoyable to peruse when there are less people and seemingly more items for you to choose from.
  5. Lastly, let's talk about the place where we probably feel the most judged - you guessed it! The gym. If you are able to get into the LaHaye Student Union during the summer, consider yourself blessed. During the school year, 5 pm is the time to avoid the gym the most due to no available treadmills, a small selection of weights that are undoubtedly too heavy for most, and a lack of foam rollers (which are the best part of any post-workout). Yet, during the summer 5 pm rolls around and the gym is pretty much as unoccupied as a spring or fall semester's 5 am (which is slightly busier than you would think, but still not overwhelming). Due to the lack of students in Lynchburg over the summer, one could imagine that many fitness centers in the area experience the same sort of retreat of members, just in a less dramatic fashion.

There you have it, folks! In the summer, Lynchburg becomes less "Liberty", leaving room to notice some of the pretty cool things we have goin' on that might not be given attention to with the influx of students in the fall and spring. We live in a pretty cool place, and there is no better time to discover its features than from May to early August, when the students come back and we start the excitement and bustle all over again.

Creativity and Cultural Power

by Stephanie Ward | May 6, 2016

written by Brian Shesko

I would like to expand on this previous post which looked briefly at Francis Schaeffer’s thoughts on the nature of a Christian’s art. Author Andy Crouch, in his work Culture Making, reflects on the lives of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa in order to state what seems to be the obvious: more people are drawn to the life of the celebrity princess than they are to that of the self-sacrificing saint**. This is despite the fact that hardly anyone could fill the role or have the international appeal that Princess Diana did, while nearly everyone is qualified and capable of doing what Mother Teresa did. Why is this?

His answer: Power. More specifically, he argues that the draw of “celebrity” is intoxicating because it assumes wealth, fame, and influence, which are all accompaniments to power. For American Christians, it seems that few things have been so desirable as a prominent, public figure, whether entertainer, athlete, or politician, who is willing to identify with Christianity. You only have to look at the parade of A-to-F-List celebrities of various kinds who have appeared at Liberty in the last 5 years to know that even The World’s Most Exciting University isn’t impervious to this seduction. But, he warns, pursuing power this way is futile because 1.) there’s no way to measure the amount of power one actually has and 2.) the pursuit becomes endless because no amount of power is ever enough.*

He offers an alternative. Rather than pursue power (which he defines as “the ability to successfully propose a new cultural good”*) through some form of notoriety, he suggests using power in service of the apparently powerless.*** That is, rather than seeking fame from our creativity as a means to attain power and influence, we should use our existing power, to whatever degree we have it, to serve those who appear to have less, or more rarely, none. Doing so “moves the horizons of possibility” for them, a phrase he uses throughout Culture Making; it is the opening up of opportunities, unlocking abilities, or otherwise empowering them to more fully realize their potential.

Applying this back to Francis Schaeffer, it casts the life of the artist who is a Christian in a new light. For one, it is probably the most effective way to ease the pressure to create any cultural good that is overtly “Christian”; using creativity in service to others is Christian to the core. Secondly, this type of service is a much needed, faithful witness, especially in contrast to any fame-seeking contingent that will undoubtedly persist among Christians. More often, we recoil at blatant fame-seekers, and in the current climate of growing skepticism surrounding truly evangelical Christians****, a Christian faith that serves the apparently powerless will have much more to offer than one that seeks only to impose its will on the broader culture.

Keep in mind, too, that even Mother Teresa, who was in a way both saint and celebrity, cannot escape criticism of her work, and neither did the Christian doctor who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia a couple years ago. Even fame achieved through honest, Christlike pursuits may be met with skepticism. But as Andy Crouch effectively argues, our creative efforts will produce much more lasting and powerful fruit if they are done not as a means of self-promotion or power-grabbing, but in true service to others.


*Culture Making, p. 219

**p. 222

***p. 230

****See David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ latest work for an extensive treatment of this

The Thing About Yard Sales

by Robert Johns | May 4, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

I wasn't a morning person as a young gal (sort of like today), so my alarm clock going off at 6:30 AM would immediately send me into a state of annoyance. This particular alarm clock was going off for yard sale day at my house, which meant I would have to participate in a sort of clothing catharsis. I don't really like getting rid of things, yet I have a mother who loves interacting with people and a father who enjoys nothing more than throwing things away, and that combination led me to being involved with putting on many yard sales.

A yard sale is an intriguing event - ultimately, you are selling items out of your house that you once bought for a much greater amount. Why not sell the clothes on something like eBay or through a store like Plato's Closet? That would be less effort on the seller in multiple ways.

While they could be more work, yard sales are important because aside from getting rid of things that need to be purged from your possession, you are able to interact with so many people. There is something exciting about seeing that an item you no longer have a need for is one that someone else is excited about receiving.

When it comes to buying and selling at yard sales, there is something important not only in being a seller, but also a buyer. I can remember distinct times from my middle school years when my neighborhood would have a community yard sale and I would ride my bike from house to house, finding trinkets I didn't really need and purchasing them. I still remember some of the people that I would see each year, selling their items and striking up conversations with the shoppers. This is what a yard sale is to me: interacting with people and realizing that they can pass something along to you that you never knew you needed until that moment.

With our Community Yard Sale being on May 4th, Student Activities is really excited. We aren't only excited about Mama Crockett's, Golf Park Coffee (love that cold brew), and the awesome items that will be sold. We are excited about the interactions that people will have with one another while they search through and share items. And that's the reason we do what we do - for the fostering of relationships through events, even in a busy time of the year.