Thursday, July 31, 2008

Revelation by Third Day (Music Review)

Over the last several days I've been listening to Revelation, the new album from Third Day. I was a fan of some of Third Day's older stuff, including their first Offerings album, which I thought bucked the trend of overly-produced, overly-clich├ęd "worship" music back in the '90s. Since then I haven't been tracking with the group. Turns out this is a good time to tune back in.

When I got a review copy of Revelation, I was flattered enough to give it a spin. It didn't hurt that all of Third Day's current members signed the CD liner. OK, not really. But here's what I liked about this one.

Third Day worked with producer Howard Benson on this effort (Daughtry, My Chemical Romance, P.O.D.) and the collaboration pays off with an edgy, aggressive album that slides between classic rock and Southern rock with some ballads thrown in. I like the focused energy of Mac Powell's vocals—he's got a muscley voice—that's showcased by stripped-down guitar riffs and some catchy melodies.

Based on what I know about Third Day's discography, I'm guessing the band is pretty true to form on this one. No real musical evolution here, no crazy experimentation. However, it would be a mistake to judge these guys by the indie rock standard. They set out to make straightforward rock (you know, with some nice distortion), and after two decades of making albums, they've developed a full package.

If I'm any judge, Revelation shows Third Day at the top of its game. Brooding questions and passionate appeals, enunciated in Powell's growling voice, have the hooks to stick with you. This is a tough rock album that hits you right in the chest and knocks you back a few steps.



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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Green Ninja Strikes Again


Beneath his innocent green headband lies an insatiable desire to control. The will to power emerges early.



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Aidan at the Lake

Poised to take the helm of his craft, the young captain spotted a weather formation that gave him pause: Drat, another sou'wester!

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Marketing Lessons from the Joker

My friend Will is a real estate agent living in Memphis who roots for UCLA. Fortunately, he has some redeeming traits, like a great eye for lessons in pop culture and a wicked sense of humor. Check out his recent post on Marketing Yourself as a Supervillain. Excerpt:

Supervillains work on 100% Commission. As a real estate agent, if I don’t make a sale, I don’t get paid. As a Supervillain, if Joker doesn’t rob the bank, he doesn’t get paid.

Supervillains must be masters of marketing. You must stand out from the crowd. If every other mobster is wearing a plain gray suit, wear a purple one so your clients won’t forget you.

Nice.



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Free Kings of Leon MP3


You can download a track from the upcoming Kings of Leon album (September 23), "Crawl." In my amateur music-appreciation jargon, I'd describe this as "tough indie rock with nice guitar riffs."



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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kansas Jayhawks Are #2 NCAA Team in the World

Blogging will be light this week, because we'll be heading out of town this weekend and I have a bunch of stuff to get done first. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the Kansas Jayhawks rank #2 in ESPN's "Prestige Rankings." This is where they attempt to quantify the greatness of the NCAA hoops programs since the 1984-1985 season.

So in other words, KU is currently the #2 greatest NCAA basketball program in the world.

Of course, by now KU fans are getting used to thinking of the Jayhawks as the universe's #1 team. So why am I celebrating this head nod from ESPN? Largely because the future is bright, Bill Self is chasing down high profile recruits, and KU's arch-nemisis, North Carolina, was handed the #3 spot.

Being stuck behind Duke isn't exciting, but I'd sure as heck be behind the Blue Devils than the Tarheels. Eat your heart out, Roy Williams.



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Friday, July 25, 2008

Kansas Jayhawks 2008-2009 Schedule

The Jayhawks have released the schedule for the upcoming basketball season. As the KC Star notes:

The defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks will be young, but they won’t be untested entering Big 12 play.

Not after a nonconference slate that will feature seven teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last season — a list that doesn’t include CBE Classic participants Washington, Syracuse and Florida, which are likely to join KU Nov. 24-25 at the Sprint Center.

The highlights of KU’s nonconference schedule, announced Thursday, are trips to Arizona (Dec. 23) and Michigan State (Jan. 10) and a visit from Tennessee (Jan. 3). KU also will play host to tournament teams Coppin State, Kent State, Temple and Siena at Allen Fieldhouse.



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Philosophy & Theology in The Dark Knight

S.T. Karnick teases out some more reasons The Dark Knight deserves its unprecedented box office success, including one aspect I loved in the film:

[The Dark Knight] powerfully brings out an important philosophical and theological idea about the nature of evil: that it is the absence of good. Evil is parasitic in not having any true nature of its own but simply functioning as the negation and destruction of what is good.

That is vividly evident in the Joker's lack of interest in obtaining anything good. Criminals, after all, typically commit their crimes in order to get things that we all consider good, such as money, power, gratification, etc. The Joker will have none of that. His every impulse is simply a nihilistic desire to destroy things, create disorder, and spread unhappiness.

Yet he does not appear to derive any real joy from it. In this the character differs strongly from other modern film villains: he is not a sadist, for he apparently does not derive pleasure from his actions. There is a certain powerful melancholy at the heart of the character which Ledger establishes brilliantly. (Note the photo at the top of this article.)

The Joker's wish regarding Batman, notably, is to bring him down to his level, to make the hero into the villan the Joker is sure the Batman really is in his heart of hearts.

Even his calling card, used several times in the film, adds to this meaning. It's a joker, of course, the card with no fixed value. Everything about the character suggests a deliberate and detailed personification of nihilism in its most sadistic form.

In this joyless impulse toward destruction, the Joker strongly evokes the Judeo-Christian conception of Satan. The Devil, after all, is an accuser, an adversary to humans, who wants to harm them both in this world and in the next. He is not a creator, however, but exclusively a destroyer.

The Joker's passion for destruction, his insistence that others are just as corrupt as he but not honest about it, and his clear lack of joy in anything he does all make the character much more than just a cartoonish movie villain. For that, both Ledger and the Nolans deserve much credit.



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Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise for $5

Had to mention that for a few days you can download Sufjan Stevens' classic for just $5. Not only was Illinoise the best album of2005, in my opinion--it's also my favorite Stevens release ever, with one of my favorite songs of all time, "Casimir Pulaski Day." If you're new to the indie music genius of Sufjan, this would be a great introduction.



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Thursday, July 24, 2008

NCAA Basketball Summer Recruiting Scene

The Las Vegas Sun has an in-depth look at the NCAA basketball summer recruiting scene from the perspective of Bill Self:

"To be honest, I'm nervous," Self said of recruiting as a defending champ. "I'm nervous because we lost some great guys, and we've got to recruit just as good of guys as we lost. I feel like last year's recruiting class that we got is a very sound recruiting class, deep. But there's not the five-star prospect coming in, at least according to the so-called experts, so we've gotta go get us a couple of difference-makers (in the class of '09)."



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Lindsay Tackles R&R

The big news around here is that Lindsay has decided to start reading books (again) and running (for the first time). In case you're wondering, preserving one's sanity in the midst of kids that bounce off the walls and floors like atoms in an accelerator is an active pursuit.

Aidan and Asher are in shock and I'm cheering, especially since Lindsay's reading Michael Frost's Exiles, a book I'm looking forward to discussing. I'm twisting her arm for a review, but that may not happen, even with the added leverage of this post.

On the running front, Lindsay covered a mile on her first time out, and said she felt good. All the more impressive, yesterday she told me that she was looking forward to running today. I'm just amazed that she can run at all while carrying Aidan and Asher in a backpack. No, not really.

But Lindsay is tearing it up around here, and as Aidan told her, after reading Calvin and Hobbes, "Your approval ratings are taking an upward turn this week, Mom." Nice work.



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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Best iPod Case Ever

When I sat down and cranked out my post on the best earbuds for ipods, I had no idea that it would end up being one of the most popular pieces on this blog, ever. The fact that a bunch of people found that review useful made me wonder what else I could review…you know, other than the books that I personally find interesting and would post about even if no one else read them. (Ha Ha.) How about an iPod case?

It was last summer that I put my 30 GB iPod Video through a brutal regimen of long, sweaty workdays. I wasn't sure I would survive, let alone a miniscule music box with no defenses against the natural world. Visualize buckets of sweat like you see in the Gatorade commercials (only normal-colored). Add to that an unholy amount of mud, clouds of airborne dust, flying pebbles, and wet, splattering plant innards. All in a day's work for a lawn care professional. But not exactly the conditions an iPod is designed for.

I rejected the surprisingly large percentage of cases looked like they were made out of discarded curtain materials. Immediately after that I rejected models that had screen protectors that had apparently been made hastily out of plastic wrap, and might be torn by a rough finger nail.

So heading into my summer with the mowing crew (my brother owns the biz), I carefully weighed how to give my iPod the best fighting chances of survival. After all, working long, muggy days in the Midwestern heat without the benefit of podcasts and music was NOT an option.

So I scanned the available iPod cases and immediately rejected the surprisingly large percentage that looked like they were made out of porous, discarded curtain materials. Immediately after that I rejected models that had screen protectors that had apparently been made hastily out of plastic wrap, and might be torn by a rough finger nail. Finally, I rejected models that were simply rigid, transparent boxes (function but no style).

At that point I was looking at the more quality iPod cases made with materials like thick rubber, hard plastic, and silicone. That was more like it. The downside was that now the cutesy cases you see stockpiled in department stores were out of the running. So much for that floral tattoo pattern.

In the end, I found myself looking at three options.
  1. iFrogz, nice for their degree of customization, though kind of bulky.
  2. XtremeMac, a different approach, since it's more of a sportwrap than a case.
  3. iSkins, which won points for the one-piece shell design and clip-on ease of use.
I was kind of torn. So, as often happens in these cases, I ended up with two models, one of which I would virtually never use. iFrogz and iSkins are similar concepts, but I chose the iSkin case because the reviews I read praised its durability. With fewer moving pieces, there would be less chance of moisture working its way inside. Also, the translucent, one-color approach had a mod sensibility to it.

I also decided to give the sportwrap a try because it was totally different, wouldn't have to hang off my waist, and I still had this unrealistic dream of getting back into running at some point. So, the XtremeMac wrap and iSkin case arrived. I tested them both. And the iSkin won out hands down.

Have you ever worn a ski mask made of neoprene? Or put on a knee brace? If so, you've experienced that clammy, over-heated sensation…ok for an hour or two, but not all day. With all the wetness, it seemed like the iPod would get flooded, not to mention that the neoprene wasn't much defense against hard objects. After thinking about it, I also didn't relish the idea of having a wide, untanned swathe on my upper arm.

So the iSkin case became the protective hardware of choice. And after nearly four months of hard core exertion in dirty, wet, rainy conditions, and eight more months of "normal" use, I'm impressed enough to write this very glowing review. Why? Because…
  • My iPod is immaculate. I own the 30 GB iPod Video in the very chip-able black finish—and the case kept it in perfect shape through dust, rain, sweat, and minor concussions.
  • The iSkin case looks good. I took it off for awhile a few weeks ago to "check on" my iPod. Then I put it back on because the 'pod looks almost naked without it. I like the style. If you like streamlined design, you will too. I chose the blue case, but it also comes in black, red, pink, white, and green.
  • All iPod functions are intact when the case is on—including the lock switch, wheel, and jacks. The case has seal-able flaps that cover the dock connector when it's not in use, so the system stays watertight. The only criticism I can level is that the click wheel scrolls a little more slowly because of the plastic membrane covering it.
  • I like the case's tactile feel. iSkin says their case is "precision molded," the "first silicone protector to feature an ultra-clear, scratch resistant screen and face protector." Whatever that means exactly, it translates into a slim package that's very grippy.In addition, the hard plastic waist clip is tough.
  • The iSkin case was affordable at under $25.
If you're looking for an iPod case that effectively fuses style and function, this is it.



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Philip Yancey on C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is typically much more present on this blog than he has been lately, something I plan to fix. I'm currently reading, Is Your Lord Large Enough? by Peter Schakel, an atypical Lewis book in that Schakel focuses on the devotional, or lived-out dimension of Lewis's writing and thought, as opposed to his apologetics. The book has been pushing and prodding at the way I read the Bible, think, and pray, and I'll definitely review it.

In the meantime, take a look at Philip Yancey's article on his interactions with C.S. Lewis: Yancey, one of my favorite living authors, gives a lot of credit to Lewis, one of my favorite dead authors:

I wrestled with [Lewis's books] as with a debate opponent and reluctantly felt myself drawn, as Lewis himself had, kicking and screaming all the way into the kingdom of God. Since then Lewis has been a constant companion, a kind of shadow mentor who sits beside me, urging me to improve my writing style, my thinking, and my vision...

Lewis's background of atheism and doubt gave him a lifelong understanding of and compassion for readers who would not accept his words. He had engaged in a gallant tug of war with God, only to find that the God on the other end of the rope was entirely different from what he had imagined. Likewise, I had to overcome an image of God marred by an angry and legalistic church. I fought hard against a cosmic bully only to discover a God of grace and mercy...



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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

People as Ripped-Off Immortals

I had this picture the other day of us humans as immortal creatures, who had maybe once had wings, who are having our faces rubbed in the dirt. In this instance, the dirt was time—or mortality, the count-down stopwatch of chronos time—notching off the seconds of our one day in the sun.

In my mind's eye, we were these strong, happy beings intended to live forever, steadily growing more at home in eternity, a world without loss. Instead, we're gasping for breath on this earth, a Dust Bowl that chokes out the immortality our DNA still remembers. As if Earth is our kryptonite.

As I was thinking about how this concept was fantastic enough to belong in a sci fi novel, I was also thinking that it's a fairly accurate account of where we find ourselves today. Which goes to show you that this world is simultaneously stranger and more beautiful than we typically realize.

This picture of us would-be immortals languishing under the weight of an alien landscape would be very pitiful, in a poetically tragic sense, except for one fact: We made our world the killing field it is. We're not suffering under the whims of a cruel Dictator. Rather, we're suffering the consequences of defying a kind Creator. And this changes the whole picture.

Rather than appearing as tragic heroes, we emerge as people who simply need to turn around and go make up with our Father. We can keep choking on the dirt of fallen Earth, or we can turn to Jesus and receive again the eternity we were intended to enjoy.

The picture is still epic, but the spotlight shifts from us, the confused and wounding immortals, to Jesus, the origin of our immortality, and the One who still stands at the gate of the Garden, offering to give it back.



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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight Unseats the Godfather as #1 Film of All Time

This is on the Internet Movie Database, where The Dark Knight, with an average score of 9.7 out of 10, has shoved the Godfather down to second place. Big deal? Kind of, since The Godfather has ruled this list since 1996.

We saw the movie last night, with a couple friends, and were pretty much blown away. I'd say our reactions were shared by the theater as a whole, based on the way the audience interacted with the film: groans, exclamations, occasional laughter.

Huge themes of good and evil, "free will," and sacrificial service are right there on the surface of the story. The Dark Knight absolutely transcends the comic book genre, and I've got to think that this is likely the best film Chris Nolan will ever write and direct.

HT: /Film



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Saturday, July 19, 2008

WORLD Mag Reviews the Dark Knight

We're hoping to see the Dark Knight in the next few days, sans kids, obviously. I thought this review from WORLD was eye-opening. Excerpt:

The film's early reviews have been gently quizzical about the late, lamented Heath Ledger's magnetic performance as the Joker. It's obvious that he's doing a superb job, but nobody seems to know what he's doing. Let me clear things up: He's playing Satan. Ledger flicks his tongue like a snake, tempts people to kill one another, and is gleefully sloppy with bullets, bombs, and knives. Everyone else plays gangland archetypes; Ledger's Joker has escaped to the movies from Milton, or C.S. Lewis' Perelandra.

It's hard to know what this character did to someone like Ledger, who flung himself into every role. What it does to the film, though, is create a character entirely opposite to Batman. He's a terrorist in the most basic sense of the word: Terror is not his means, it's his end. "Everything burns," he observes happily.

The performance turns the grim movie into something more than a thriller—The Dark Knight ends up being a morality play on a titanic level.



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Friday, July 18, 2008

Yeah, you know you dig my shoes




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This is pretty funny


From XKCD.



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Spoon for $5

Thanks to Amazon, you can grab Spoon's fantastic album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga for $5. That's a mere dollar per Ga, if you were counting.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Greatest Hits and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon are also on the table, but since Spoon's album made my top ten list last year, just missing the #1 spot, I have to give them the nod as most deserving of your five bucks. I think this deal is good for 3-4 days.



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Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008-2009 Big 12 Basketball Rankings

Nice to see some speculation starting to make the rounds regarding the upcoming Big 12 basketball season. KUSports.com has Oklahoma and Texas at the top, and I agree. Baylor will also be a very dangerous team, albeit not overly strong inside. The Jayhawks, who have the #2 recruiting class in the nation, will start the season with a boatload of unproven talent. They could still make a run at the title, though.



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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Taking Coffee Too Seriously?

I know exactly how I like my coffee and espresso, but I have yet to reach this extreme. The Washington Post reports:

...Simmermon, 32, said that he interrupted the barista with an angry blast about how he would have his coffee any way he pleased, thank you very much, and that he told the barista he had his own policy about doing what he wants with the products he pays for. He mixed in a couple of expletives, but that was the essence of it...

But that was just the beginning of the story!



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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Aidan Spots a Rainbow

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Update on What We're Doing

I've been promising to write an update about my family's plans for awhile--here's a quick get-you-up-to-speed post: Downtown Kansas City Church Plant (Update 1). If you want to see these updates on a regular basic, you can subscribe via email or rss over at the other blog.

Feel free to let me know if you have questions about what we want to do in KC.



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Monday, July 14, 2008

Running Update # 1

On Saturday I went running for the first time in at least 5 years. I used to run several times a week, but back in 2000 I started having shooting pains in my knees, and I decided to quit running rather than go in for surgery. But on Saturday I was home alone, doing writing work all day, and when the skies cleared after hours of rain, I decided, What the heck, I need to get out of here anyway...

So I pulled on my Adidas running shoes, which obviously haven't been actually used much, walked over to our city park, and took off down the winding running track. One loop did it for me. Probably about a mile, but I could feel the muscles in my upper legs stiffening up, so I called it quits. Best part: my knees felt fine, maybe because of the rubberized track surface?

On Sunday I played some half-court basketball, so today my legs feel like wooden sticks that I'm operating with ropes and levers. But there's an inner smugness that I suspect is occasionally appearing on my face. Ha, I went running. Ha ha!



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Music Downloads: Is "Name Your Price" a Dying Fad?

From the Kansas City Star's music blog:

Nothing lasts; we know that. But these days nothing lasts even less than it used to.

I tend to think that the "pay what you want" scheme only works for groups with name-recognition and a loyal fan base. If I have no idea exactly what I'm downloading, why would I ante up and pay cash for it?



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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jim Caviezel in Outlander Movie

The international trailer for this film was just released. As a lover of medieval/epic films, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that Outlander, starring Jim Caviezel as an alien (he looks human) who crash lands on earth in the year 709, and a vicious dragon-like creature, looks pretty promising. (Especially in light of last year's disappointing attempt at bringing Beowulf to the screen.) Barrie Osborne, the producer of the Lord of the Rings movies, also produced this "sci fi Viking epic." Before you dismiss it as too weird, take a look.

HT: FilmChat



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Friday, July 11, 2008

Mark Driscoll - On the Old Testament (Book Review)

Sometime last year I commented that with a reported 7 books being published in 2008, Mark Driscoll had his work cut out for him. That seemed all the more true after I reviewed Vintage Jesus, a substantial book on Christ and the cross. However, the situation clarified itself when Driscoll's four latest books showed up in the mail, I eagerly ripped the package open, and then watched Aidan effortlessly balance them in the palm of his hand.

With the slogan, "A book you'll actually read," these are more along the lines of thick pamphlets than books. Not that that's a bad thing. But you should know going in. At 96 pages, On the Old Testament can be read in around an hour, which is probably about right for people who don't get excited when words like "covenant theology" and "substitutionary atonement" are mentioned.

Here's what I liked about On the Old Testament:

Driscoll doesn't have time for his usual comedy shtick, but he does a great job outlining the big picture in direct, simple language. This is a book I'd feel comfortable giving to someone with no theological background at all (which is why I'm reviewing it here). So Driscoll succeeds in writing a very accessible, "popular theology" book about the Old Testament.

The book hits obvious issues that aren't strictly "biblical," such as professors sneering at the OT in their classrooms as Christian students cringe in embarrassment. Driscoll is highly aware of our cultural landscape, which isn't friendly to the Old Testament God at all--and he addresses it.

Jesus is very much present--which may seem like a misnomer in a book about the pre-Christ Hebrew scriptures. Of course it's not, though, and Driscoll probably does his best writing as he explains how Jesus is omnipresent in the Old Testament.

**1/2 On the Old Testament is a short book (warranting a short review) - but I really like what Driscoll is doing to make crucial knowledge of the Bible very easy to digest. This book would be great for a newcomer to Christianity, trying to figure out the basics, or for believers who want to get a firm grasp on some basic theology. I'm going to break with tradition and give it two and a half stars, since it's almost too pamphlet-like to qualify as a real book. But highly recommended. Yeah, it's on the Master Book List.



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The earliest togas were simply a strip of toilet paper draped over the shoulder



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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mario Chalmers Earns Contract with Miami

Jayhawk star Mario Chalmers has impressed the Heat enough that they signed him to a three-year deal worth a couple million. This makes 5 KU players from the championship team who will be playing for substantial money (Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun-Russian team). In addition, Chalmers is apparently playing his way into the starting point guard role. From the Miami Herald:


Hours after signing his rookie contact, second-round pick Mario Chalmers showed why the Heat invested in his services.

Chalmers added a third consecutive impressive game to his week of work at the Orlando Pro Summer League, leading the Heat with 23 points and six assists in a 95-84 loss to Indiana.

Playing through an off shooting night, seven turnovers and foul problems, Chalmers made up for his struggles by attacking the basket and converting all 17 of his free-throw attempts.



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Is the Book Groove Back?

It might be.

One of the unadvertised side effects of going to seminary was an unexpected decrease in my untempered enthusiasm for all things bookish. What caused the ennui? Hard to say for sure. Mountains of assigned reading, some of it lousy? No doubt that played a part. No doubt research papers, and the necessity of utilitarian reading for footnotes, also was a factor. Long story short:

I stopped diving into books like they were deep lakes on a hot day.

But a couple nights ago, Lindsay was working on a lengthy "ministry assessment" thing online (having to do with downtown Kansas City church planting) and I sat down next to her with The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Two hours and 400 questions later, Lindsay was done with her assessment and I was done with The Road. (Incredibly written, heart-wrenching, post-apocalyptic novel.)

Folks, my reading verve might just have returned! I'm seriously excited about this, because having loads of books on my shelves that I don't have the wherewithal to read makes me feel something similar to what a young Michael Jordan would have felt if his ankles had suddenly lost their rigidity.

So the book groove might be back. Supporting evidence: Three nights ago I sat down and read Mark Driscoll's On the Old Testament cover to cover (succinct, effective intro re: the place of the OT in our lives). Impressive, eh? Well, the caveat is that this book is intended to be read in about an hour--it's only about five inches square and a quarter inch thick--which is why this is exhibit B.

Still, as an indicator, it's a good one.

My hypothesis will be put to the test in the days ahead, as I continue to tackle my current reading list. Don't want to jump the gun, but the prospect of my former Powers of Book returning has me happy.



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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mario Chalmers is the Thorn in Derrick Rose's Side*

The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls have started a series of NBA summer games. So far, Mario Chalmers, the star of KU's dramatic NCAA victory over Memphis, is getting the better of #1 draft pick Derrick Rose. (Much like he did in the NCAA championship game.) Chalmers fell to the second round of the draft, but he appears to have a very good shot at securing playing time with the Heat. From the Miami Herald:

Heat rookie guard Mario Chalmers, a second-round pick, was responsible for making matters difficult for Rose. Chalmers had 11 points, a game-high six assists, one turnover and six steals in 26 minutes. His shot was off -- he was just 2 of 8 from the field -- but his suffocating defense was not.

''I think I did a pretty good job,'' Chalmers said. ``But it was about the Bulls and the Heat, and the Heat came out the better team.''

Heat assistant Keith Askins, who is coaching the summer league team, said much of game plan involved running the offense through Beasley and Chalmers.

The two accounted for 10 of the Heat's first 12 points and led Miami to a 48-34 halftime lead. But Beasley picked up his third foul in the second quarter and played just eight minutes in the first half.

Way to go, Mario!

* Pardon the pun. Photo is property of KUSports.com.



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Monday, July 07, 2008

Lori Chaffer in Pitch, Waterdeep on NoiseTrade

The Pitch, one of Kansas City's news-mags, features an article about Lori Chaffer. Good insight into her songwriting and the "Christian" music industry.

Lori released a solo album a couple years ago (1beginning), but if you know her name, it's likely because of Waterdeep, the indie band that she and husband Don Chaffer founded. Waterdeep is a local favorite with a pretty storied history, and they achieved some national recognition a few years back.

In addition, Heart Attack Time Machine, the latest Waterdeep album, is available for "whatever you want to pay" on NoiseTrade. This one is a folky album highlighted by Lori's vocals, and I put it on my Top Albums of 2007 list. You should grab it.

HT: Cawleyblog.



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Sunday, July 06, 2008

God Intervenes at the KC Shakespeare Festival

Last night Lindsay and I went to the Kansas City Shakespeare Festival, sans kids, and saw one of the bard's great depressing plays, Othello. I've been thinking that one of these days I need to compile a Top Ten Summer Attractions in KC list--the Shakespeare Festival would definitely make it...

Anyway, we arrived at the park pretty late, and managed to get decent seats only because of the kindness of some folks who let us sandwich our collapsible chair right between them (the concept of personal space evaporates at these events). As we were sitting there eating, drinking, and making merry, people were still streaming by looking for seats. About five feet away on our right, a couple in their 40s were kicked back in lawn chairs. A gaggle of teenagers came over and started putting their blanket down in a patch of turf in front of them--but the man, who apparently wanted about eight feet to stretch his legs, made a rude comment: a pompous, condescending, "Do you mind?" type statement.

Several people sitting around us noticed, and looked up to see the teenagers straggle away with bewildered looks on their faces. The dude who had sent them packing leaned back, stuck out his gut, and extended his legs as far into the open area as he could, with a smug expression on his face. Lindsay was so indignant she was still muttering five minutes later.

I was ticked off too. I mean, you come to a park for "free Shakespeare," knowing it will be a communal experience, and then as soon as you arrive, you have the audacity to act like you own a large patch of real estate? (All kinds of parallels about grace and arrogance and the church are begging to be made here, but...)

So after fuming out loud for a little while, I prayed, "God, would you send a couple people with chairs--not a blanket, chairs, preferably tall chairs--to sit directly in front of that dude?" I mean, God is concerned about justice everywhere, even at a Shakespeare Festival in Kansas City. Right?

Of course right. So I'm typing this to tell you that about ten minutes later, as I glanced to our right, my face absolutely lit up when I saw two people in tall chairs sitting directly in front of our real estate tycoon. Apparently he hadn't been able to protect his little plot of land after all. Ha ha ha.

I can't say this happens all the time, but when you see someone get justice handed to them in a way that's fitting and immediate--in a way that makes you laugh out loud, like we did yesterday--it does serve notice that final and ultimate justice will not be evaded. God gives us a ton of freedom, and we can personalize that freedom with our own petty preferences and selfish obsessions, or we can bank on the grace of Jesus and use our freedom for others.

On the 4th of July weekend, here's hoping we learn to use our freedom in ways that will earn God's happy endorsement.



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Friday, July 04, 2008

Feist for $5: The Reminder

We just got back from picking blueberries with the kiddos and we're about to head back out for fireworks and maybe some volleyball. But quick heads up: You can download Feist's highly regarded album (made my Top Ten list in 2007), The Reminder, for $5 at Amazon. This is a "$5 Friday" deal, so grab it fast--the discounted prices are usually good for a couple days.



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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Free Derek Webb - The Ringing Bell


Derek Webb gained considerable notoriety for giving away Mockingbird a couple years ago. Now he's playing a reprise of that theme by making The Ringing Bell (2007) available via NoiseTrade, another new-mode approach to music distribution.

At the NoiseTrade site you can pay whatever you want for The Ringing Bell, or download his album without charge by referring three friends. The upshot: Another avenue to free Derek Webb music. A handful of other musicians (including Derek's wife, Sandra McCracken) are featured as well. It'll be interesting to see if NoiseTrade catches on and others come on board.



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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'd have to double-check my world history--

--but I'm pretty sure several civil wars began exactly like this, including a couple that lasted for several decades, long after the original plastic toy had been destroyed.

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife