Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
SI points out what I've known for the last 20 years: Allen Field House in Lawrence, Kansas is an incredible college hoops venue.
As always, I'm proud to be a Jayhawk.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
For those of us who have discovered that sharing random slices of life with the world is mildly addicting, Ed Stetzer has some excellent advice. That's right, Twitter has become widespread enough to have its own tutorials. But I'm not complaining. Here's a good call from Stetzer:
1. "Tweet" the angles (Twitter is the service, "tweet" refers to the update/post).
It's not worth tweeting that you had lunch. But the fact that your boss stole fries off your plate while he thought you weren't looking is. Avoid the obvious and find the angle of an experience. People want you to share your life, so give them the good stuff.
Totally true. If I wanted to know unadorned facts like 1) you're eating lunch now, 2) you're leaving work now, 3) you're going to bed now, etc., I'd also paint my bathroom a couple times a week and watch the paint dry, just for fun. But with a little forethought, Twitter can be a good networking tool.
Follow me on Twitter.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Every once in awhile, this blog likes to toss out a top ten list. Here's one that will actually leave something
in your hands on your desktop, absolutely free.
Even during the dog days of August, "summer" means bright heat, azure skies, and sparkling ozone. Unfortunately, we can't spend the whole summer sipping drinks on beaches, savoring the city heat, and swimming in deep, cool lakes. Here are ten fantastic wallpapers to make the golden season last a little longer. They've all been doing duty on our computer.
Ocean and Sky on Fire 1 by *wildplaces. This shot captures the curtain call on a fiery day.
Summer by ~juxxo. We should all spend more time free-falling into lakes at dusk.
Flying Low by Nathan Grey. Some subtle special effects give this scene streamlined magic.
Celebration Brooklyn Bridge. Hot times, summer in the city.
Tropical Beach. Count on it, someone is napping in those palm trees.
Lost Coconut. Care to be a castaway on this beach?
Lonely Tree by ~sican. Grass so green you can almost believe it's bug-free.
City at Night. This photo captures the vitality of an urban summer when the sun goes down.
Golden Hills. The dark blue belly of that cloud suggests a rain storm is about to drench these dry plains.
Lake Mapourika. A running jump off that dock might send ripples all the way to the channel.
In the wake of the Olympics, that title could be misconstrued, but I'm not discussing my phenomenal kissing abilities (average score from Lindsay: 9.7)--rather, it's the song by Katy Perry I'm taking aim at. If you, like my friend Will Hicks of Commercial Real Estate in Memphis & Our Galaxy and myself, have listened to this FM-friendly monument to sensationalism with a quizzical expression on your face, then you might appreciate this perspective on The Terror of Katy Perry.
For those of you who rightly don't care, here's CliffNotes version: Perry is simply the latest diva trying to be all things to all men as she makes a grab for the millions. It's just not usually so blatant.
Monday, August 25, 2008
First, the small print: The Bourne Betrayal was my first experience of Jason Bourne in print, as opposed to the screen. I realize that I probably should have backed up and read the original books by Robert Ludlum, but, time-pressed thrill-seeker that I am, that did not happen. If you're willing to forgive the fact that I have no basis for comparing Eric Van Lustbader with the original Bourne mastermind, and that the films are my baseline Bourne experience, let's get on with this flash review.
The Bourne Betrayal is apparently the fifth book in the Jason Bourne franchise, but references to the earlier storyline revealed that the movies, which I love, absolutely wreak havoc with the original books. So much for continuity. But if you're reading the newer Bourne books, like I was, simply to get a fix, then picking up at this point works well.
In favor of this novel is the fact that the pages turn as if they've been placed directly under a high-powered ceiling fan. The action is fast and furious. The plot is as tricky as you'd expect. The characters are numerous and lethal, and frequently square off to kill each other. If you have an imagination, than the action sequences, fights, and chase scenes are every bit as explosive as their movie counterparts. In addition, you get the "world" vibe the movies maintained, since there are frequent changes of scenery. And Lustbader makes the military maneuvering and technology sound believable.
This is a good, action-packed spy novel. As such, you wouldn't expect the dialog to be deeply thought-provoking or even essential to read slowly. And it's not. Related to this, the characters are mostly quick sketches, with the obvious exception of Bourne, who by this time has been developed by both Ludlum and Lustbader in the previous four novels. However, Bourne comes across as more unusual than heroic in this book. More a paranoid hollow man, less a repentant killer making good. I wanted more insight into Bourne's character--but maybe I'm just spoiled by Matt Damon's acting.
** / *** All in all, The Bourne Betrayal was a satisfying page-turner with lots of excitement and cathartic violence as good beats the mess out of evil. Real life is not this way, but we sometimes wish it was. Missed your summer vacation? Everyone needs a book like this once in awhile.
Friday, August 22, 2008
We're headed out of town for the weekend (although not to the MOST exotic location you could probably think of in ten seconds off the top of your head). Have a good one.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Time for a review of an refreshingly atypical book that mixes themes of death, feminism, heaven, materialism, and the gospel with lots and lots of narrative flavor. Heaven Without Her by Kitty Foth-Regner is unlike any other apologetics book I've read because of its very personal first-person approach. And it's unlike any other autobiography I've read because of the prevalent threads of evidence for belief in Jesus. Think of it as a soulful, funny blow-by-blow story well-dosed with intellectual arguments.
Heaven Without Her was the rare book that Lindsay and I both read cover to cover simultaneously. Essentially, Kitty starts the book at her mother's death bed, and traces the impact that her mother's death had on her life, acting as a catalyst for serious exploration of faith(s). From page 1, you realize that this won't be a book in "clinical" apologetics that offers the arguments for belief in Jesus in their most basic and streamlined forms. Instead, Kitty chooses a lived-out approach. It works splendidly.
What I enjoyed most about Heaven Without Her was the realistic, sometimes random-seeming way Kitty traced her journey toward eventual belief in Jesus. Factors like a Packers football game, Intelligent Design, Google searches, and visions of Heaven that evoke European adventures are sketched with an eye for the moments of epiphany. The help she gained from people like C.S. Lewis and John MacArthur are thrown into the mix in a way that reflects the infinitely-varied ways that God steers people toward him. Kitty's journey toward Christ was passionately researched and studied—but at the same time, she depicts the way that God swept her up in a story that culminated at the cross.
I mentioned Kitty's imaginative moxie earlier. Her voice is unpretentious and disarmingly honest, making you feel like you know her pretty well as you put the book down. Very readable, with lots of self-deprecating humor, Heaven Without Her is an apologetic wrapped in a memoir. We recommend it for open-minded skeptics or for people who know Jesus, but could use a warm reminder of the monumental difference that the gospel makes.
*** 3 out of 3 stars, Don't Miss It.
Monday, August 18, 2008
The Olympics and a head cold have been playing havoc with my sleep and blogging patterns. However, I managed to review Is Your Lord Large Enough? by Peter Schakel. If you like C.S. Lewis, take a look. Schakel's approach to Lewis in this book is refreshingly different.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Reviewed by Aidan
My dad said I had to write this review before I ate any more fruit snacks, so here is what I think of the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
I like it. I like it a lot.
OK, I guess I have to say more than that, so here is why I like it.
Asher can't break it when he throws books off tables. This is a tough Bible.
The pictures have all the colors in them at the same time and they are funny and scary so I can look at them over and over.
The stories have lots of people and animals in them, but they always have Jesus in them too, because Jesus is the big story of the whole Bible.
That's why, out of the 23 Bible books I have, this one is my favorite. Go buy it for your kid, then you can read it too. (More screen shots here.)
Like my dad says, I highly wreck-and-bend the Jesus Storybook Bible and give it three stars, so don't miss it.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Amazon just shortchanged me again. After John B. of Blog Meridian gave me a heads-up on Bon Iver before even Pitchfork had heard of him, I grabbed his first album at full price: For Emma Forever Ago. Now, thanks to Amazon's daily music sales, you can get it for $3.
Ridiculous deal for what I'll choose to call "whispery indie folk with some similarities to Iron and Wine's Sam Beam." Just move fast--you have 24 hours before this message self-destructs.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Lindsay and I have been reading a book by Kitty Foth-Regner, Heaven Without Her, and we've ended up talking about it a lot. The book, which is thoroughly autobiographical while making a case for belief in Jesus, ends up being unique in a number of ways, and I'll be reviewing it soon. (Hint: We really like it.) For the time being, though, thought I'd throw this passage at you. Check the imaginative chutzpah:
I looked at the first animal [on the Chinese place mat]: Dragon... How is it, I wondered, that the ancient Chinese had chosen eleven real animals, and one mythological critter?
I remembered hearing, too, that all major cultures have dragon myths...and that ancient dragon images have been found all over the world, from Babylon and Egypt to China; they've been found on Viking ships, shown in relief sculpture in Aztec temples, and carved into bones by Inuits. And when I thought about all the dragon drawings I'd seen over the course of five decades, they blurred into just a few types of creatures.
But, of course, scientists have managed to explain these similarities away. Because, of course, the alternative is unthinkable: we couldn't possibly admit the possibility that dragons had actually lived with man, that they were, in fact, dinosaurs...
Not exactly a typical excerpt, I know. You won't find Challies talkin' up this page in his review. But that's why you're reading this blog, right? Because we make off-hand assertions like, "If you do not like dragons, you are lacking as a person." And because we endorse authors who write cerebral books with a strong creative ethos. Props to Kitty.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Missed the USA basketball team's victory over China? (It wasn't a nail-biter, I'll say that much.) You can catch the missing footage online from NBC. And not just basketball--NBC's making an effort to put a ton of Olympic events and highlights online, 2200 hours of it, as opposed to 100 in 2004. Not bad. You'll have to download Microsoft Silverlight to access the video--other then that, it's painless.
Friday, August 08, 2008
In July I mentioned that I'd read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. It's an amazing, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that contains McCarthy's most direct treatment of love (between a father and son--and by extension, between God (Father) and sons). At the same time, it's a post-apocalypse story that's bleak enough in book form to chill you, and there were several times that I thought while reading, "I hope that scene doesn't get reproduced on film."
Now the first production photos are available. They don't give away much, but sure enough, they're bleak. If it's done right, this will be the kind of film that you love even though it disturbs you (Saving Private Ryan, The Dark Knight...). The Road movie has a promising cast including Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, and Guy Pearce.
So I sort of got sucked into the NBA action when I watched former Jayhawk star Paul Pierce lead the Celtics to a NBA championship. Ironically, while Pierce outplayed Kobe Bryant and earned the MVP nod for the NBA finals, he's not on the US Olympic team. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to getting a hoops fix in the days ahead before I gear up for NCAA ball in a couple months.
DIME has the schedule for the US Olympic basketball games. First one is on Sunday at 10:15 in the morning Eastern time...which means I may be able to catch most of it after Aidan's early wake up call ("Daaaady, Daaaaady!) and before church. Here are game times:
Sunday August 10th, 10:15 AM EST
Team USA vs. China
Live on NBC
Tuesday August 12th, 8 AM EST
Team USA vs. Angola
Live on the USA Network at 8 AM
Thursday August 14th, 8 AM EST
Team USA vs. Greece
Live on the USA Network
Saturday August 16th, 10:15 AM EST
Team USA vs. Spain
Live on NBC
Monday August 18th, 8 AM EST
Team USA vs. Germany
Live on the USA Network
Quarterfinals will be at undetermined times on August 20. Semifinals August 22, and the championship on August 24.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
My brother Johnny and his wife, Stephanie, are expecting their first baby any day. Over the last couple years, though, Johnny and Stephanie have used our kids to get slowly acclimated to world of children, what is otherwise known as Unbridled Craziness. We always love it when Johnny visits, because he teaches Aidan and Asher safe, useful skills like How to Push a Young Baby in a Plastic Dump Truck and How to Ride a Bike When Your Feet Don't Reach the Pedals.
The boys love it when when Uncle Johnny comes over to play, and personally, I'm looking forward to the day when I'll get to hang with his new baby and help to instill skills like Cupboard Sabotage, Laundry Wrestling and Potty Diving...
Just a couple weeks ago I was talking to Lindsay about how a modern film rendition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was long overdue. (That either reveals what a geek I am, or how cultured I am, you make the call. ;) I mean, what have we got to work with? The Young Sherlock Holmes movie? Disney's Great Mouse Detective?
Then I stumbled across this news from The American Culture:
Two forthcoming films featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic character Sherlock Holmes will take very different approaches to the material. Judging by the reports, each could be either very good or very bad. Jud Apatow (The Forty Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) is producing a comedy film featuring Sacha Baron Cohen as Sherlock Holmes and Will Farrell as Dr. Watson. This obviously could be very funny if well-written, and just horrible if not...
The other forthcoming Holmes film likewise takes a somewhat unusual approach to the material.
Directed by Guy Ritchie (who made the excellent crime films Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch), Sherlock Holmes will star Robert Downey Jr. as the great detective. Ritchie's film will emphasize a side of Holmes and the stories that has too often been forgotten: his superb physical abilities and the strong doses of action in many of the stories.
These were, after all, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle titled the first volume of short stories about the character.
I'm not holding my breath for the first movie. Farrell can act, as demonstrated in Stranger Than Fiction, but the presence of his usual sidekick, Cohen, isn't a good omen for the integrity of the Holmes story. Which leaves me with middling to high expectations for the second film. After Ironman, we know what Downey, Jr. brings to his hero roles: cerebral awesomeness.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
That's the news out of ifMagazine, where director Doug Liman says the franchise will roll on, with or without Matt Damon. Personally, I'm not sure it would work. Has Jason Bourne achieved the James Bond-like status that would allow his character to continue without Damon? Not from my perspective.
Fortunately, there's got to be a good chance that Damon will succumb to the piles of money that will be offered for a 4th Bourne film.
Lindsay, Asher and I had a great weekend in Ottumwa, Iowa, a hybrid urban/suburban city that contains huge, old-school parks within the city limits, a brick & steel downtown not unlike Kansas City in miniature, and a clear demarcation between the haves and have-nots that no doubt contributes to the fact that Ottumwa is the drug capital of Iowa.
For more on why we were there and what happened, check the church planting blog.
Due to his fiercely confessional lyrics, people tend to either love Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) or hate him. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning was the first Bright Eyes album I listened to, and for awhile, it was love at first light. I've mellowed a little on Bright Eyes since then, but this continues to be my favorite CD of his, an indie folk masterpiece with some brilliantly written songs. $2.99 for the next 24 hours.
Friday, August 01, 2008
Tomorrow Lindsay, Asher and I will be driving up to Ottumwa, Iowa for the weekend. Why, you ask? (Details here.) Or maybe you didn't ask. Either way, we'll get back late Sunday, so the blog will have a quiet weekend. Drink some very cold lemonade for us while we're gone.
You can download Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie for just $5. I'm not sure whether the appropriate response here is YES! or Aargh! since I just paid full price for this album a few weeks ago. Price good through Monday.