Wednesday, May 31, 2006

One more day of a full house

It sure is nice having all four kids at home.

A Book Bonanza!

We went to the Eerdman’s book outlet in Grand Rapids today and got a bunch of new books, a number of which are by colleagues and friends from Calvin College:
  • Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism by James K. A. Smith

  • Shouts and Whispers edited by Jennifer Holberg

  • Plan B by Anne Lamott

  • Searching for God in All the Wrong Places by Donald Miller

  • Catching Light by Roy Anker

  • Let the Children Come by Bonnie Miller-McLemore

In addition, Bethany got four books on the emerging church. Lot’s of fun!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Brick Bible

Someone with apparently WAY too much time on his hands has reproduced many many many bible stories in Lego. This is just too cool. Absolutely worth the look. Go to the brick testament to see it for yourself.

Here is Moses with the Ten Commandments

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Christianity Today Book Awards 2006

The Christianity Today Book Awards 2006 were posted a few days ago and my friend Debra Rienstra's outstanding book So Much More was selected to receive an Award of Merit.

This is a wonderful honor for Deb and well deserved. As I mentioned before, this book is really great. It does a fabulous job of presenting Christianity in a way that makes sense and welcomes new believers into the faith. It is nice to see that the editors of Christianity Today agree with me on this one.

Congratulations, Debra!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Simpsons as philosophy

Thanks to Bethany for pointing me to this interesting article about the Simpsons!

The Simpsons as philosophy

I've written before regarding my enjoyment of the Simpsons. I think they do a better job of making comment about society than almost any other television show in recent memory. There is much to like in this show. I often wonder why I don't watch it when it is broadcast more faithfully - which means, really, ever. I think that because there is no conherant story line as in Alias or West Wing I am not afraid of missing an episode - that means that I have no problem missing a whole lot of episodes - I know I can always catch them on DVD. And I have a lot of them on DVD, since I've already got seven seasons worth! Ironically, the very thing that keeps many people from watching episodic television - the idea that they can't jump into the middle of the story - is what keeps me watching.

Anyway, the article makes some interesting points and uses what is perhaps my all-time favorite episode to do it, "Homer the Heretic."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Banner - Children at the Lord’s Table

I have an article in the new issue of The Banner (the denominational magazine of the Christian Reformed Church) about Children at the Lord's Table. Together with Laura and my pastor, we wrote an overture which is coming to the Christian Reformed Church's Synod this summer. This article is a very brief description of why I think it is a good idea. Read it here.

The editor talks about the issue here as well.

The actual overture can be found on line here on page 524 of the pdf file (page 526 of the book).

Friday, May 26, 2006

Lazy Blue Tunas tonight at the GRAM

In my haste to put up the picture and link the the GR Press article I failed to mention that the Tunas are playing TONIGHT at 6:30 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum! Come on by! A good time is practically guaranteed!

EDIT: Find the setlist here!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

Alias ends its run tonight

I know I have written about Alias more than a few times but tonight is the two hour finale to the series and, even though I have a meeting, I'll be taping it and ready to watch it as soon as I can.

This is a show that grabbed me right from the start. I don't think I missed a single episode when it was broadcast (I taped them when I couldn't watch - actually I taped them when I could watch too because you can never tell when someone will call.) I also bought the DVDs. I always checked the Television Without Pity forums after I watched the show. It is fun to read what other fans think about particular episodes. I'm sort of glad I didn't discover this Alias fan blog until just a few weeks ago or it would have taken more of my time.

I thought the pilot was one of the best two-hours of television I had ever seen. I enjoyed the pace, the filming and the acting. I thought Jennifer Garner was always believable in this unbelievable role and world that she lived in.

I liked almost all the characters, Sloane who's evil-one-minute-not-so-evil-the-next development has been great fun as the viewers try to figure out exactly who's side he's on. Even though we knew all along that he was only ever on his side. Jack Bristow's first moment in the pilot, when he told Danny "welcome to the family" has been a wonderful set-up for a character who has become more and more three dimensional as the series continued.

Fans generally agree that the third season was a let-down and I think they're right but I still liked it and enjoyed it a lot more on DVD, maybe because I knew the ending already. Things got better in season four and then season five hit the mark even more consistantly. I even liked the new characters this season and I hope they actually have an important role in the finale.

So it's farewell to Syd and Vaughn and the others. When does the Season Five DVD come out?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Star Wars deleted scene

Here is a scene from the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV) that I've never seen before featuring Luke and Biggs. The quality of the first thirty seconds is real rough (which even made me wonder if it was a fake) but soon it is clear that this is indeed a deleted scene from the first film.

I think it was probably deleted for length since it really doesn't add much to the development of the plot but it does show yet another scene with Biggs and it shows actress Koo Stark proving that she can kill a young guy with just one look.

(Note that this is the first video I have ever embedded on my blog. I feel so high-tech.)

EDIT: The video has apparently expired.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

West Wing finale

It has been nearly a week since I’ve posted anything but it’s been a busy week! With classes ending and exams starting I’ve been busy with making sure the year ends well but I’ve spent more time trying to make sure that next fall will happen the way it is supposed to. Between helping make decisions about registration and lining up faculty to teach courses I’ve had little opportunity to do other things.

I am in the process of reading A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren and enjoying it a lot but I’m not ready to write about that yet.

I have written, though, about how my two favorite shows are coming to a close within a week of each other. As I mentioned, Alias is doing well, ending with lots of mystery and excitement. I'm watching season one on DVD now even as Season Five comes to a close. But the other show that I will miss is The West Wing. Mary did a very nice tribute to the show in her blog and I don’t want duplicate that so you should just go and read what she wrote.

I actually dropped West Wing for a brief period at the end of season five and missed about four or five episodes. I discovered watching those episodes on DVD that I enjoyed it a lot more than I did when they were broadcast – in fact, I can't remember why I stopped watching it for a few weeks there. But then again, I seem to enjoy almost every TV show more on DVD than I do on broadcast. I just picked up the Season Six DVD and I'm excited about watching it. I'm just into disc two.

I’m still looking (as I mentioned before) for the new shows to replace Alias and West Wing. I tried a couple of shows that have not panned out –
  • Love Monkey got cancelled,
  • Commander in Chief wasn’t what I’d hoped for and then got cancelled,
  • Arrested Development got cancelled (even though I really only watched it on DVD),
  • the Gilmore Girls just isn’t as much fun as it was early on. Lynnae still watches it so I catch many of the episodes but I’m starting to get irritated that people who talk so much never talk to each other!
So, I’ll have my VCR humming Sunday night as I watch the final episode of West Wing and Wednesday night as Alias has it's second to last night.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

'McCartney' by Christopher Sandford

I’ve mentioned Beatle books on a number of occasions here in my blog. I have, for the most part, found them enjoyable. Some, like Bruce Spizt’s book (reviewed here) or Geoff Emerick’s book (reviewed here) I liked a LOT. Others, like Cynthia Lennon’s book (reviewed here) I was less excited about. Tony Bramwell gave us a nice look at the early days and I enjoyed that too. So, it was with anticipation that I got McCartney by Christopher Sandford from the library because I’m a McCartney fan and, unlike other books about McCartney this book goes beyond the Bealtes days and brings us the story up to this past year and the release of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (which I like a lot).

McCartney is one of the most disappointing books I’ve read in the past few years. Aside from the errors (which every Beatles book is bound to have – but this has its fair share to say the least) Sandford makes two other types of mistakes. The first is in the writing. In reading this I found that I went back a number of times to reread passages so I could try to figure out exactly what he meant. Sometimes I still didn’t know. He has a style that seems to assume that we already know what happened so Sandford obliquely refers to things, makes a snarky comment about it and moves on. He also has a tendency to use British slang which is often hard for us Americans to figure out and leaves us wondering if what he’s referring to is really good or really bad. The slang doesn’t give us the context. Here’s a sample in a discussion of Flaming Pie: “With the good-rockin’ intro of the album’s would-be knees-up, The World Tonight, McCartney wakes from a deep slumber and sets forth, hands clapping, voice and guitar full of resolve.” I really don’t know what that first phrase means and I'm not sure what the point of the sentence is.

In his discussion of Sgt Pepper Sandford writes positively about the album overall but suggests that “perhaps the one lapse [is]Paul’s ill-advised heavy riffing on the title track…” Huh? Does anyone really have an idea what he is referring to with "ill-advised heavy riffing"? I"m not sure I hear any in the title track to Sgt Pepper. This sort of thing just makes me think that the author seems to have a need to feel superior and make comments just because he can. Some of his one-line reviews of the albums have a sort of hipper-than-thou attitude to them which, when teamed with his love for British slang leave the reader both irritated and confused.

In addition, Sandford seems to spend the first half of the book documenting all of McCartney’s sexual dalliances and the last half of the book making sure we know every time Paul says an expletive in public. He pays undue attention to inconsequential aspects of Paul’s life and career. For example, once a woman jumped out of a crowd saying "why won't you acknowledge me" and Sandford implies that this might be another paternity situation even though there is no eividence to that effect and he doesn't even know who the woman is or what she wanted. Why even include this is the book?

As you can tell I am not impressed. I wasn’t nearly as irritated reading the last half of the book as I was the first half because I’m not as familiar with the solo McCartney story but I’m just not sure I can trust what’s in the book – even when I can figure out what he’s saying.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Alias is back

As I have mentioned before here (and here and here ) I am a fan of Alias. Like almost any show Alias has it's ups and downs and, while I've enjoyed it since it came back three weeks ago it wasn't until last night's episode that things really heated up for me again. I want to be fair to those who have not seen the episode yet but I especially like it when the major story arc moves forward in a big way and last night it did.

This is a show that it is easy to get snarky about because, let's face it - a spy who can do all the things Sydney does just isn't close to reasonable (not to mention getting from LA to DC in, like, 10 minutes) but the writers have had a couple of tricks up their sleeves as the series comes to an end and it feels like they are going to use these last few episodes to pull out all the stops. And, oh yeah, Rambaldi is back.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cream revisited

Back in this post (Bob's bloggery: Top CDs for the year) I mentioned that I was surprised that I didn't play Cream at Royal Albert Hall more than I did. Much to my surpise, I now find that over the first half of 2006 I played it quite a bit. The even more curious thing is that I tend to play that one at home instead of in my car. I'm not sure what that means but there it is.

So I now set the record straight - I actually play this CD as much as I thought I would when I gave it a positive review here.

I also should mention how much I enjoyed the Classic Albums DVD of Cream's Disreali Gears. Nicely done! This is a fine documentary about the making of their second album with new interviews with all three members of the band and some nice rare old and new performances including Eric Clapton doing a solo acoustic version of "Outside Woman Blues" and Jack Bruce performing "We're Going Wrong" solo at the piano. You also get a nice but short drum clinic from Ginger Baker. I got it for only $9.99 at Amazon and it was well worth it.

'Blue Like Jazz' by Donald Miller

I have mixed feelings about the book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. One the one hand, this guy can write. His chapters read easily. He slips in and out of conversations easily and he manages to bring seemingly meaningless ramblings around to make a point. Not only that but he’s about as cool as a person can possibly be. He’s got some ideas about faith and about living as the church that are definitely worth listening to. It’s hard to not like the way he presents his ideas too. He’s funny and intriguing. I wish I had gotten the chance to hear him speak at Calvin recently.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if, amidst all that cool and cleverness if there really is a point in there. Sure, Miller makes a number of little points along the way and the note on the book cover calling him Anne Lamott on testosterone is pretty funny and helpful but that’s exactly the comparison in which Miller comes up a little short. When I read Anne Lamott I either find myself impressed with her ability to make a point in a way that amazes me or I just laugh and enjoy the writing. I never get the feeling that I’m being set up – something I got occasionally in reading Blue Like Jazz. Of course, comparing Miller to Lamott is hardly fair – that’s a pretty tough standard to hold anyone to.

All this may be nits that I’m picking because I really did like the book. I especially enjoyed reading about the hippies he lived with one summer and how that taught him about loving people unconditionally, something we don’t do in the church very well – let’s be honest – something I don’t do very well. So I’m looking forward to picking up another one of Miller’s books. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it – he writes too well for me not to.