Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

{Book Review} Christianish by Mark Steele

A Good Book, But Not That Original

In “Christianish: What If We’re Not Really Following Jesus at All?” author Mark Steele asks us to examine our lives and see if we are really living a life that imitates Christ or if we are merely living a life that is “Christianish”. To be honest this concept is nothing new and there a handful of books out there that address the same topic. What makes Steele’s effort at this topic different than others is his presentation and style. This style can be seen as either positive or negative depending on the reader. The language is simple and lacks complex theological terms. There are not many Bible verses referenced. Chapters typically begin with a funny or interesting story out of the author’s own life. Few if any other authors or books are referenced, which I suppose is to lend that to the fact that, what is being written is all of the author’s original ideas, but it also fails to add support for the authors points/ideas. And the book references modern culture often to give an up to date feel.

This would be a good book for someone who does not enjoy or like “Religious” or “Preachy” books about Christianity. It is very accessible to the lay person and it is also very easy to understand. On the other hand this book is not for one who is looking for something deep or theologically rich. The book embraces pop culture without endorsing it and I can’t say that I say I found anything I disagreed with theologically either, however I just felt that the lack of Bible verses to support points or references to other books makes me feel that this is more the just the author’s idea of “Christianity” rather than the orthodox view. Not that this is a bad thing, I just like more support in my books so I can better understand where the author is coming from in his text.

So while the book may not be a great choice for a seminary student or mature Christian it would be a great book for a pre-teen through young undergraduate or even someone who just doesn’t like preachy overtly “Christian” books. Also I feel there are many other books out on the market that take a much more comprehensive and in depth approach to this topic, but may not appeal to the audience that this book was intended for. Keep that in mind when considering the book for yourself or others.

{Music Review} Danyew [EP] by Phil Danyew

Good not Great

There is no doubt in my mind that Phil Danyew is a very talented songwriter, instrumentalist and overall musician. But I listened to this EP several times and not once did my ears perk up. The musical style of the artist is similar to much of the over-produced audio effects laden music we heard during the late 90’s and early 00’s. For me it didn’t do anything. Now don’t get me wrong the quality of the production itself is great, but I start to listen to the music and shortly after it just blends into background music. I really don’t enjoy saying this, because even when I read the lyrics to the songs on the CD insert they come off as really great God centered poetry, but set to his music they don’t resonate with me. Now I realize that this is just my opinion, I respect that musical tastes are very subjective, but Danyew just kind of left me flat, perhaps you will enjoy it more than me?

Wine for the Confused

Just an excellent little film by John Cleese about Wine. A lot of it is basic, but still some good stuff to learn and enjoy…and it has John Cleese. Enjoy.

Music Video: Laughing With by Regina Spektor

I really like Regina Spektor and I like this song too. Especially the lyrics. Excited to get the new album soon.

{Product Review} Caselogic Security Friendly Laptop Backpack

The only problem I have with this backpack is that it is a little dorky looking. Very plain looking, all black with matte silver zippers. Other then that, this is a great backpack! As someone who lugs around a decent sized widescreen laptop, this is exactly the kind of laptop you would like to have. The rear portion of the backpack contains a padded area for you to store your laptop. Padded as to not damage the computer and to not cause you any discomfort also the lining of this pocket is soft as to not scratch any of the surfaces of your laptop. The bag features a zipper that basically allows you to split the backpack in half and lay it down flat for scanning through the x-ray machine at airports. This of course is nice since you aren’t pulling out your laptop and tossing it in one of those dirty gray bins and getting it scratched, etc.. The front half of the bag contains three other pockets, a smaller one on the front, a slightly larger one behind that which contains smaller pockets for pens, business cards and other small items, then you have one larger pocket which has room for things like power adapters, Cd’s, etc.. A couple of other nice features: The bag is designed to hold it’s shape and stand up right when set down. The shoulder straps are padded and curved, making them very easy and comfortable to use. And a nice little touch the adjustable straps that normally dangle after you adjust them, these straps have nifty little Velcro pieces that allow you to roll them up and keep them from getting dirty when you have the bag on the ground or getting caught on stuff as you walk around. Suffice to say, the bag may not be the coolest looking backpack out there, but you can tell that a lot of thought was put into it design, the designers remembered the little things that annoy you about backpacks that you wished you could fix. Glad I have it!

{Book Review} The New Christians by Tony Jones

“The best primer available for the emergent movement”

If you are even interested in reading this book I guess you may be one of three people. One, you could be an “emergent” and you are just wanted to learn a little about the movement you are involved in. Two, you have heard about “Emergent’s” and the “Emerging Church” and you wanted to learn more about what it was all about. Or third, you have heard about these heretic emergent devil worshippers and you were looking for a book that could reveal all the heresies and non-orthodox practices. Well I am glad to report that this book will satisfy the needs of all three people.

A little about Tony Jones, Tony has been at the forefront of the emergence for most of its existence and until recently was the national coordinator for the emergent village. He went to seminary at Fuller Seminary and is getting his Ph.D. from Princeton, he writes like a down to earth academic. Speaking to the normal everyday Christians who have never had a class in theology class, but every now and then he likes to drop his knowledge and you will have to break out your dictionary to look up a word or you have to scribble down the name of some obscure theologian so you can look them up later. Basically I am trying to say that Tony comes across as an everyman’s theologian. A guy you could go have a beer and talk baseball just as easily as you could discuss the early church father’s views on the doctrine of atonement.

As I mentioned above I see this book as being the best primer on the book shelf to the emergent movement. In fact if you want the full treatment, get Phyllis Tickle’s book “The Great Emergence” to tell you why the emergent movement is here and then get this book to fill in the details of what the movement is.

In the book Tony starts off by giving some background on his own personal story and where he is coming from and how he got where he is now. Then Tony gives his take of the story of how the emergent movement evolved and began from a few young pastors and theologians. Then we get a description of the kind of people that are drawn to the movement and why they are attracted to this new form of Christianity. Next Tony really shines as he lays out much of the theology of the emergence, and while it is no way a doctrinal statement or comprehensive description of what the movement believes, it is more like what they don’t believe and what they are open to. He also spends a good amount of time addressing the idea of truth and dispelling the idea that this is just relativism dressed up in trendy clothing and cool haircuts. Finally we get an inside view of several church’s that Jones feels fall inside this movement, a nice cross section of what is going on in various emergent churches across the country.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. I came in as a person who has had the thoughts of an emergent for the past few years I just didn’t know it. This book helped me see the others who feel/think about Christianity the way I do and understand how others got to this place. So if you are interested in this movement, (Although I don’t think “Movement” is a good word for it) or are just looking for something new in Christianity then I think you may like this book.

{Book Review} Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

“A Bit Much for a Newbie”

To be honest I have never been much of a reader of fantasy books. I read a little bit of science fiction here and there, but typically my interests lie in other fields. I was interested to read this book because first, from what I have heard and read Sanderson is a fairly well respected new author on the fantasy scene. And secondly I was interested in this book in particular because it was being released in drafts on the web for free before its final publication. Knowing that I was reading a relatively unfinished product interested me, to see if it affected the author’s process knowing that rather than keeping his work isolated from the public until completion, instead we have more of an open progression.

In saying all that I am happy to say I was pleased with, and did enjoy reading this book, even though it got to be tough by the end. Many have called Sanderson Tolkien-esque, in that he created whole new worlds full of new physics, myths, legends and laws. I have to admit any author I see do that deserves some credit, because it takes a very creative mind to do that, and then to be able to articulate that word on the page, I have to give Sanderson credit he does his job here.

Without getting into the plot (I mean you can read the book online) Sanderson does a great job of creating this magical new world and all of the things that make an interesting canvas on to which paint his story. But there is just so much to explain that half way through the story you are taking some things for granted even though you don’t really know how or why they work. The plot is decent, and kept me interested, but it all just got to be a bit much by the end. I would think if you are a fantasy fan you could really find a lot in here to enjoy, but as for me it was just a bit too laborious to really allow me to really love it, but I did enjoy the book, and hoe you will too.

{Music Review} Ingrid Lucia, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Take Billie Holiday’s voice, add some New Orleans vocal charm, mix in a great collection of musical standards and finish with some great native New Orleans musicians and you have the latest from Ingrid Lucia, “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” Most likely you have never heard of Ingrid before, which is a shame because she has a marvelously unique voice that she knows how to use very well. The story of her growing up, is alone an amazingly interesting tale for which I don’t have time to address her, but you can research yourself online. As far as her current album,
I can say that it is a true joy to listen to.

Interestingly this album was financed by her fans. Since you will be hard pressed to find a major music label that supports vocal jazz artists who retain dedication to jazz standards and pieces from the great American songbook, I suppose this is one of the few ways an album like this could get produced.

The “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” features fourteen songs, with “Le Vie en Rose” getting a double billing as a Latin style arrangement with her full band on track six, and then a ballad arrangement with piano accompaniment on track twelve. Other songs included are “We’ll Meet Again”, “I Cover the Waterfront” and others. Despite what I am sure was a tight budget, each recording comes to life with the crisp clear vocals Ingrid is known; and as far as the band goes, not enough could be said about the quality musicianship that backs her on every track. Suffice to say if you enjoy Vocal Jazz with a New Orleans flair, you would love this album.

{Book Review} The Hole in Our Gospel

The Hole in Our Response to the Gospel

The Hole in Our Gospel By Richard Stearns

You probably will not be surprised by anything you read in this book. While it may not be a story you read in the newspaper every morning or hear every evening on the nightly news you have to admit you have some knowledge of the how poor much of the world. You know a little bit about how AIDS has reached epidemic proportions in Africa. Well, Richard Stearns knows a whole lot more about all of these subjects and more, as the president of Word Vision U.S. This book gives an account of his calling from being a CEO of a luxury goods company to president of an organization who make sit their purpose to help and reach out to the “Least of these.”

This was not an easy transition for the author; it was an internal struggle over the comfort and security of his current life and the uncertainty and discomfort that his new job would place him in. Not only does Stearns give his an account of his own story but he accounts how the world and even more the Christian church has turned its eye from “really” taking care of our fellow man. He does not champion the fact that feeding, clothing and caring for people is the same as sharing the gospel with them, but rather that feeding, clothing and caring for those less fortunate then us should be our response to the gospel we now have in us.

The last part of the book is spent by Stearns addressing the reader with what they can do. How they can get involved, contribute or help repair this hole that has developed in our gospel. Like I said before you will not really be surprised by much you read in this book. I think if you are honest with yourself you would admit you knew things like this happened, but you probably never really did anything about it. I am almost certain you will be moved by the stories in this book and be motivated to start doing something, I know I was.

{Book Review} Safe at Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic

Alyssa Milano probably knows more about baseball then you, and as much as it hurts to say it, me too. In her book “Safe at Home” Miss Milano crafts a book that is one part autobiography, one part baseball analysis, and one part baseball anecdotes, and she does it in a very readable and well informed way. Let me be clear as much as it appears to be, this is not a celebrity cashing in on a book deal, this is person who is a really big baseball nut writing about their love affair with America’s Pastime.

The unique thing being the author happens to be a popular actress who gets access that the normal fan doesn’t. However she still respects the game, understands the game, and gets goosebumps just like the rest of us when someone hits for the cycle or a pitcher flirts with a no-hitter.

The book is a fun read with some interesting stories; I did enjoy reading it, but I am just a little unsure as to who her audience is? She does try to make the book accessible to her non-baseball fans by not getting too “Inside Baseball” and including a glossary in the back for all the baseball terms she uses. She covers many a baseball topic and gives her opinion on them, but nothing earth shattering or revolutionary.

I guess the book is just for baseball fans that are curious to hear another baseball fan’s opinions and anecdotes. I agree with much of what she says in regards to baseball and some of her stories were actually quite interesting. So if that is something you think you would enjoy or maybe you would like to show your girlfriend that it is okay for them to like baseball then this may be a book for you.