Sunday, November 23, 2008
Two very different Christian artists but who are both favorites of mine were at Mountain Christian Fellowship in Medford last night (11/21).
Logan Martin from Salem has the songs, the voice and the stage presence to keep an audience captivated for as long as he chooses.
His amazing voice which swoops and caresses by turn reminds me of a cross between Phil Wickham and the late great Jeff Buckley. Logan is one of those rare artists who sound just as good with only a guitar for accompaniment as they do with a band.
His humor, his engaging way with an audience and his heart as he shared about the Mocha Club cannot help but draw you in, and he deservedly received a standing ovation as he left the stage.
Francesca Battistelli, on the other hand, is a developing talent who really is learning as she goes. On her side is her powerhouse of a voice, along with a fantastic major label debut in "My Paper Heart".
The voice was there in spadeloads last night, but we saw a different side to Francesca than some might have expected.
Any fears that the major label connection might seek to water down her sharing her faith were totally blown away as Francesca shared not just stripped-down acoustic versions of songs from "My Paper Heart", but also an inspired selection of worship songs including Starfield's "Hallelujah", Tim Hughes' "Happy Day" and a heartfelt "How Great Thou Art".
While Francesca is, as I say, still learning her business, learning the art of stagecraft, and would never claim to be the greatest guitar player in the world, what did come over clearly was the sheer authenticity of the girl, her willingness to share her heart, and her joy in serving her God.
That, no-one can take away from her, and my prayer is that she will continue to develop as an artist, continue to minister from whatever platform God chooses to give her, and that her light will burn on for many years to come.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"By Perry Atkinson and Bob Just
Dear President Bush
As you near the time of your presidential farewell, we want to take this moment to thank you for all you have done for this country. We also want you to know that you are in our prayers not only for the remainder of your term of office, but also for what we hope will be a many wonderful years ahead for you and Mrs. Bush. We know you will both continue to serve the country you love, and we thank you for that in advance.
As you prepare your farewell address, and reflect on the last eight years, we would like to thank you specifically for several things, beginning with your bold leadership in the War on Terror.
Many have now forgotten, but we remember the shock and confusion that descended on this country, not only due to the sudden and terrible loss of innocent American lives, but because none of us understood this new kind of war, or how to fight it, or what catastrophic dangers might lay ahead.
You galvanized the nation not only with stirring and true words before Congress but because you backed those words with decisive action, sending an immediate message to our enemies that while America's free and open society remained vulnerable to attack, the United States had the power and the will to deliver a devastating counterattack.
Totalitarian bullies have always respected power, and we thank you for not shrinking from your duty to use the power given to you in trust by the American people. Coupled with your aggressive leadership in securing the homeland, the actions you took abroad have led to many years of safety, which no American could have predicted on that fateful September morning over seven years ago.
You warned us many times that this asymmetric, terrorist form of total war could go on for years – and yes, we know that despite your success, our enemies will one day find the moment they seek to deliver the next blow. Nevertheless, a standard of presidential action has been set: No accommodation for terrorists or, ultimately, for the nations that support and encourage them.
Many have forgotten, but we remember that millions upon millions of human beings were liberated during your presidency, freed from a tyranny full of horrors few of us can even imagine. You waged war not only against terrorism, but also for a higher ground – for freedom. In this, you gave the world a choice. For truly, as you said, all people, no matter what their race or religion, are created with a longing for liberty.
Americans died in these foreign lands that others might live – and live free. Let this continued sacrifice of life and limb always remind us of the true nature of the American heart. Thank you for knowing and appreciating that true heart, and for always honoring our troops who so perfectly represent the best of who we are as a people.
Most importantly, we thank you also for honoring God, not only as you rallied this country in time of war, but as you called us to our better selves by honoring the sanctity of life – for what is liberty without that? Thank you for reminding us that life, including that of unborn children, must be protected and nourished in a just society. Thank you too for defending marriage and family and through them, for protecting our children and our national future. Your leadership in these areas will not be forgotten.
Finally, as Christians, we are grateful for how you represented Christ in office, often under temptation to mirror the mean-spiritedness of current politics.
Your continual civility under great pressure, and sometimes in the face of genuine hatred from fellow citizens, has set a good example for us all – and especially for those who will occupy that office in the future. For these things especially, you will be remembered and greatly missed.
Perry Atkinson - Republican
Robert Just - Democrat"
Monday, November 17, 2008
These mindless thugs did everything they could to prevent Phyllis from giving tv interviews (again, something she has a perfect right to do), and eventually succeeded in drowning her out and intimidating her to the extent that she was forced to give up.
Had this not been broadcast live on CBS in Florida, one shudders to think of the fate that might have befallen this elderly lady, but sadly it only goes to show that although the people of California, and a number of other states voted entirely democratically, and by a fairly significant margin, to uphold marriage as between a man and a woman, because it did not fit in with what they wanted, these louts decided to go on a spree of destruction, mindless vandalism and personal intimidation.
Very grown up.
If these people really think that they are going to wring an ounce of sympathy for themselves as a result of their actions, they are even stupider than they make themselves appear.
And to make matters worse, the local news anchor had the gall to comment at the end of the report: "There's a lot of anger and a lot of hate, obviously, on both sides". Clearly a laughable commentary on what had just transpired, but probably a good indication of how scared the media is of angering the gay lobby in our modern world.
Unfortunately, the President-elect is on their side, so I hate to think what we could be facing up to, especially as this is one issue where the will of a huge number of people who showed their feelings in a democratic vote is in direct opposition to the President-to-be.
If that isn't frightening, I don't know what is.
My only hope is that while we still have the freedom to speak out for what we believe is right, as set out in the Constitution, we will make the most of it, and people just like Phyllis Burgess will be able to protest and make their point in peace.
Just imagine the outcry if gay rights protestors had been treated the way Phyllis Burgess was.
We'd never hear the last of it
Thursday, November 6, 2008
guy with a sign that read 'Vote Obama, I need the money.'
Once in the restaurant my server had on an 'Obama 08' pin; again I
laughed as she had given away her political preference--just imagine the coincidence.
When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to her that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept.
She stood there in disbelief while I told her that I was going to redistribute her tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside.
The server angrily stormed from my sight. I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I'd decided he could use the money more.
The homeless guy was grateful.
At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waitress was very angry that I gave away the money she did earn even though the actual recipient apparently needed the money more.
I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application."
Saturday, October 25, 2008
It's not often that I get REALLY excited about a cd, but since September, two have come along that I can barely keep off my iPod. The first was Lincoln Brewster's fabulous "Today Is The Day" album, and now the debut from major label hotshot Francesca Battistelli.
What makes this album doubly exciting is that Battistelli is a committed, and very open Christian, a fact which comes over loud and clear on this Warner Brothers/Curb release.
Aside from a very cute paper heart shaped lyric booklet, you first notice just how mature a songwriter this 23 year old from New York City really is.
Immediate reference points I guess (although I really don't like having to do that) would be Sara Bareilles with a possible hint of Nichole Nordeman, but musically Francesca sails a lot closer to Bareilles, as the more up-tempo songs have some real guts and groove without being musically overbearing.
It's not often you can say, hand on heart, that there is not one poor song, or filler on a record, but I can honestly say this applies here.
There are three types of song really on display here; the uptempo rockers (opener "Free To Be Me", "Unpredictable"), the songs with a groove (the excellent funky title track along with "Blue Sky") and then the ballads, which on this album are not just used as quiet interludes, but which are quality songs in themselves.
Recent single "Beautiful Beautiful" is a sensitive worship song in which Francesca sings
"Now there's a joy inside I can't contain/But even perfect days can end in rain/And though it's pouring down/I see you through the clouds/Shining on my face"
The brilliantly simple worship song "Forever Love" which I could easily see being sung in churches accross the land, and closer "Time In Between", which is again very cleverly written.
The playing is at all times sympathetic and never overshadows Battistelli's work, and her voice itself is a tour de force; at times a powerful growl, at other times a soft purr, but always mesmerising.
This album will easily sit in my top 3 for 2008. Francesca is coming to Medford in November, and I for one cannot wait to hear her in person.
Monday, October 6, 2008
It would appear that they have decided that they are unable to win the argument in a rational and calm fashion, so they have taken - almost without exception - to attempting to shout and bully as loud and as stridently as possible.
Time after time on TV I see Democrats trying to yell and bully their way to what they appear to see as some kind of victory.
What they do not appear to realize is that apart from making them look increasingly uncouth, irrational and dismissive of any contrary opinion, far more importantly they are shown up as desperate and childish in their crazed mission for power at all costs.
The American nation will not be fooled.
Friday, October 3, 2008
So this is the third - and eagerly anticpiated - production from Sherwood Baptist Church and the Kendrick brothers, following the lead of their first movie "Flywheel" by focusing in on husband/wife relationships, but this time in the context of a firefighter, played by former child TV star Kirk Cameron.
The story concentrates on the story of a marriage gone bad and how divorce proceedings are put on hold while the husband is challenged to a 40-day dare.
Let's be frank; Fireproof isn't going to win any Oscars, but I'm sure that is not anywhere on the list of priorities of the film makers. What's important to them, and what is by far the most striking thing about the movie is the pro-marriage, pro-family message, and that shines out loud and clear, although sometimes at the expense of smooth narrative.
There are some weaknesses, and it would be remiss of me not to point them out.
In my opinion, the opening set-up of why Caleb and Catherine are so bitter towards one another isn't really established, with the result that Caleb flies off the handle frequently at his wife without there seeming to be any real reason. Several times his rage seems totally disproportionate to his wife's behavior. Now to married people, this may make perfect sense, but singles may not get that.
Whilst the main body of the movie is fine, I also had problems with the ending, or rather, endings. The Kendricks just don't seem to know when to stop the movie. Two or three times we reach melodramatic climaxes and expect credits to roll, only to be propelled into yet another emotional scene.
Whilst I could also gripe about some really cheesy moments and a few rather cheesy acting performances, let's be fair, a lot of the actors are first-timers, and there are some really strong performances, underpinned by Cameron, who is powerful and authentic as Caleb. There are also some very deft comic touches (although some are a bit less subtle than they need be, as if the director wants to make sure the audience knows what's happening when they already will),
The music throughout is well chosen and very well positioned. Particularly noteworthy are Casting Crowns' "Slow Fade" and John Waller's "While I'm Waiting". Look out also for songs by Third Day and Leeland.
Overall, as I've said, this movie is important mainly for it's message and not it's production values (although it is definitely streets ahead of its two predecessors in that area), and I'm sure it will be an important ministry resource along with the "Love Dare" book that's already been published along with a number of other products.
My only concern I guess would be getting non-believers to see the movie, especially when those in the secular field who don't understand it's mission have already started panning it for it's low budget deficiencies.
But I pray that God will use it, as there is no doubt that this is one of the more important movies of the year.
Monday, September 29, 2008
So thanks Nancy. All we need to do next time we need a break is get you to open your trap!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
As far as I am aware, this is Lincoln Brewster's first full album of original material since around 2002, and as such it is long overdue, but believe me, it is well, WELL worth the wait.
In the intervening years since his last full studio effort, a lot has changed in Lincoln World. Perhaps the most significant fact as it affects this album is that he has his own fully functioning studio which allows for more creativity and less time pressure, and it could be this that has resulted in Lincoln's most liberated-sounding recording of his career.
Originally, this project was to be another live one, but lucky for us that Lincoln and band are able to give full rein to their endless creativity and musical sensibility.
Finally Brewster sounds like he is really able to be himself, firing off a series of brilliantly unfeasible riffs and solos, and in the process creating a funky, rocking, but ultimately worshiping wonderland.
Highlights are many, from the ridiculously catchy title track, co-penned with Paul Baloche, through the equally infectious shuffle groove of "Everywhere I Go", the joyous Black Gospel romp of "Give Him Praise", which features the silken vocal cords of Israel Houghton, the gorgeous "God You Reign" which features the voices of Lincoln's wife and 2 young sons.
But maybe the two best moments are saved until last, the definitive version of Joel Houston's "Salvation Is Here" which is longer than the previously available Lincoln version of this song, with the addition of an extra rocking middle section. And then there's closer "Let Your Glory Shine", which is the sound of Eddie Van Halen finding Christ.
There are few words that can adequately express just how good this song is. From a musician's point of view it has everything; a ludicrous opening guitar salvo, a wickedly funky groove with a humungus drum sound and a massive singalong chorus. And then just when you're settling into expecting a funky solo halfway through the song, Lincoln pulls a master stroke. Off we head into a totally different tempo and rock groove a la Van Halen before returning to the funk groove for a delicious ending. Genius.
All in all, the best album by far that Lincoln Brewster has made, and one which finds him acknowledging his rock, gospel and funk tastes whilst also musically namechecking the likes of John Mayer, whose influence on the record seems clear.
Any musician will eat this album up, while any worshiper will find encouragement and inspiration.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
According to many in the media, we truly have discovered someone worse than Hitler — and it's Sarah Palin.
Head to any left-wing blog or even CNN for that matter and you'll find the zaniest of conspiracies -- froth that even a dude with rabies would find unseemly.
So how can one person create so much bile among folks who claim to be the most tolerant in the universe? I mean, liberals are the good people: They're open-minded, caring and of course, fair.
But somehow, a Republican lady in her 40s is exempt from this treatment. Perhaps, she truly is the devil in a dress, a ghoul that eats children and pollutes the planet and possibly beats Barack Obama, the patron saint of every customer buying wheat germ in bulk at GNC.
But I know the real reason why every single elitist media type is terrified of her. They've never met her. And by "her," I don't mean Sarah Palin. I mean "her", an actual normal woman with a bunch of kids, an average husband and no desire to watch "The L Word."
She's scary to these folks the way Wal-Mart is scary to them: Both are alien to someone who blogs about their chakras. They won't go there, because they've never been there.
To them, hating Sarah Palin is a symptom of larger bigotry against the rest of us, the normal. If they saw her at a party, they would wonder how she got in. She's the anti-Obama, the anti-New York Times, the anti-everything that Tim Robbins loves, which is why I love her — and you should too.
And if you disagree with me, then you sir are worse than Hitler.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
BUT, in the 17 months I've been living here, it's not been hard to assimilate just what's going on on each side of the political pond here, and I for one would be extremely concerned for the future safety and well being of this country if Barack Obama got into power.
For starters, here's a guy - like so many Democrats before him - that wants power for the sake of it. You only have to look at what he wants to do on day 1 to see that. Raise taxes, pull out of a war in Iraq that - despite what he might think - is all but won, stop drilling here for oil, relying instead on other nations to drain our dollars. So paranoid about political correctness and not upsetting anyone that he weakens the rights of EVERYONE. He also wants to potentially kill innumerable unborn babies in the name of choice. What choice does the unborn fetus get Barack?
Here is a man who has virtually NO relevant experience, and yet criticizes the opposing RUNNING MATE for the same thing, only it turns out she has more actual executive experience than HE has.
Here is a man who seems to think that the cult of celebrity is enough to win him the White House, and yet whose foreign policy shortcomings were ably demonstrated only a few weeks back when he asserted that the United Nations could end the Georgia conflict, blissfully unaware that one of the protagonists has a permanent veto in the UN.
Here is a man who, if criticized, plays the race card at the drop of a hat, and we KNOW if he loses the election (which I pray he will) will do just that.
John McCain knows what it's like to serve his country, and that's what he'll do, putting country first, not his own interests. He will be consistent and will use his huge experience to benefit the country.
In Sarah Palin, the US will have a VP who understands people, families and industry. Someone who values the sanctity of life and understands that children in any circumstances, whether you like it or not, are a GIFT not a MILLSTONE.
In short, McCain/Palin truly are the only hope for the United States. God help us all if Obama gets in. God help us all.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Some recent musical discoveries Some exciting bands I've discovered recently. Some have been around for a while; some are new. Here's my guide to what's hot.
MGMT, formerly known as The Management, are from New York, and their second single "Electric Feel" is getting a lot of airplay right now. Think World Party for the 21st century and check out their MySpace. Good stuff.
Now from the wild wastelands of Iceland, 3 excellent but totally different bands for you. If you like ambient music that doesn't even attempt to copy what's on the radio these days, check out Amiina (basically a string quartet of Icelandic ladies who are gradually adding more and more instruments to their arsenal)
Parachutes - a duo not to be confused with New Zealand's Parachute Band and an inferior rock band also called Parachutes. You'll find this band listed on Sigur Ros' MySpace in their top friends. These guys are touring the States now and are due to have their first album out later this year, which I'm very excited about as their music is fragile, winsome and totally compelling. Look out again for their MySpace to hear what they can do.
And then finally, after way too long a wait, there's Sigur Ros themselves. They'll be a more familiar name, and although I've been aware of them for a few years, I'd never listened to any of their stuff til about 2 weeks ago, and I completely fell in love with their Icelandic influenced soundscapes. Like pretty much nothing you hear on the radio these days, and all the better for it.
Of course, all these are just my personal opinions, but if you're feeling brave, check them out. Tell them Kipper sent you!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
At a time when it seems that the world and his wife are releasing Hymns albums - with varying levels of success - it's great to see Bart Millard from MercyMe put out his second record of superior "down south" versions of old classics.
Bart REALLY gets it, and with the possible exception of Amy Grant's 2 excellent Hymns records, his are the only ones I really have any interest in. This latest collection of 11 golden oldies will easily explain why.
Among the selections included are "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus", given the banjo and clarinet treatment, Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light", "Jesus Cares For Me" featuring the silky voice of Vince Gill, "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" and "Grace That Is Greater".
Put simply, this is a quality album, lovingly arranged and skilfully played, which ably demonstrates just how good some of the old hymns can be if they are put into the right hands.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I'm really having trouble figuring out what beach volleyball is doing in the Olympics.
Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with "regular" volleyball, even though it's hardly played in the UK and therefore I don't know a lot about it, but the beach variety seems to me to be little more than a thinly veiled excuse for dirty old men to stare at women in bikinis.
Let's examine the evidence.
Male players wear singlet and shorts (even in a torrential rainstorm like the other night)
Female players wear...bikinis.
Surely if there was any reason behind the whole thing the guys would be wearing skimpy speedos, but oh no!
If anyone can convince me why this huge difference in attire is valid, I'd be happy to hear from them, but until then, my only thought is that if they want recognition for beach volleyball, then why not go all the way and introduce sandcastle building and throwing a frisbee deliberately just over your partner's head into the freezing ocean?
Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.
And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: ''Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?''
And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.
And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.
And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?
And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let's see . . ...February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.
And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.
And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they'd better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.
And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.
And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumballs.
And Elaine is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of myself-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.
And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a goddamn warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their ...''Roger,'' Elaine says aloud. ''What?'' says Roger, startled.
''Please don't torture yourself like this,'' she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. ''Maybe I should never have . . Oh, I feel so ...'' (She breaks down, sobbing.) ''What?'' says Roger.
''I'm such a fool,'' Elaine sobs. ''I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse.''''There's no horse?'' says Roger. ''You think I'm a fool, don't you?'' Elaine says. ''No!'' says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer. ''It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some time,'' Elaine says.
(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)"Yes,'' he says. (Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.) ''Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?'' she says. ''What way?'' says Roger. ''That way about time,'' says Elaine.
''Oh,'' says Roger. ''Yes.'' (Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse.(At last she speaks.) ''Thank you, Roger,'' she says. ''Thank you,'' says Roger.
Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of chips, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it. (This is also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.
Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: ''Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?''
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Having just seen Mamma Mia - finally - several thoughts are buzzing around in my mind.....
1 It was a great movie
2 Julie Walters is truly wonderful
3 James Bond doesn't sing. I'm sorry, he just doesn't.
4 Greek Islands look really nice and I want one.
5 Abba's music is truly timeless and there are very few songs better than Dancing Queen.
6 Mr Darcy is GAY??????
I need a lie down.....
Monday, July 21, 2008
I really wasn't going to go see this movie.
The trailers looked too dark and I convinced myself that it wasn't a film I wanted to check out - but then my curiosity got the better of me.
Fueled by my respect for Christian Bale and my enjoyment of anything Heath Ledger had done in the past, along with the rave reviews he got for his swansong performance as The Joker, it had to be done. So did it disappoint?
Let's get something straight here; this IS a DARK movie - no doubt about it, but even in the midst of the darkness, themes of redemption and human decency do shine through. Look in most movies and you'll find it somewhere.
But what really impresses here are several key performances. In truth, Christian Bale in the title role is a little peripheral at times here, dominated as he was by his Australian counterpart (more on him in a minute). But whether it's in the role of wisecracking playboy Bruce Wayne, whose idea of fun is to take an entire boatload of Russian ballerinas out for a cruise, or the often tormented and obsessed superhero, Bale delivers, and gets the tone just right in both roles.
Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Aaron Eckhart put in solid performances, but you have to admit that the movie is stolen completely by an unbelievable and virtually unrecognizable tour de force from Heath Ledger.
On the one hand it makes me so very sad that we lost Ledger directly after this movie, but on the other hand, there's a certain irony, in that I doubt that Ledger, brilliant as he is, could ever have topped that performance. Ask any actor how he/she would like to go, and they will say "at the top", and Ledger's signature role will be The Joker.
And Ledger's Joker is a truly frightening, disturbing, grotesque, malevolent monster, played with such brilliance that at times you just have to chuckle.
This movie truly belongs to Heath Ledger, and make no mistake, he WILL get an Oscar nomination and could even win the gong.
SPOILER ALERT - READ PAST THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE YET, AND WANT TO!!
Also noteworthy in The Dark Knight is Aaron Eckhart's transformation into Two Face, with some quite breathtaking special effects which left me baffled.
Okay this is most definitely NOT a family movie, but despite it's violence and dark nature, there are so many wonderful performances that it'l take a lot to top this for movie of the year.
Go see the Bat!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton has just provided one of the most thrilling exhibitions in sports that I have ever seen, as he powered and battered his way to a record 1st round 28 in the first and only Home Run Derby to grace the House That Ruth Built.
Many of these awesome hits were around and over 500 feet, and the breathless Yankees fans quite rightly chanted his name and gave him a standing O.
Hamilton is quick to credit and glorify God for turning his life around after some years as a heroin addict which have left him with tattoos, and requires a self-imposed minder to keep him on the straight and narrow.
God has clearly made a huge impact on Josh's life and provided hope for countless others still caught up in addiction.
To be honest, it doesn't really matter who wins now, and it certainly doesn't matter that A-Rod couldn't be bothered to show up.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Winner of multiple awards, including those at the Toronto and Heartland Film Festivals, the movie is directed by Mexican Alejandro Monteverdi, and stars Eduardo Verastegui (who is also one of the producers) and Tammy Blanchard, who is maybe better known for her past TV work.
The story follows Jose (Verastegui) a soccer player about to sign a lucrative contract, but who is prevented from doing so by a tragic accident that causes him to leave soccer and work in New York as a chef at his brother's restaurant. Here he meets and befriends waitress Nina (Blanchard) who has just been fired through circumstances not entirely beyond her control.
The bulk of the movie takes place on just one day, a day in which Nina discovers that maybe there is hope after all, and that there is more to the mysterious bearded chef than at first meets the eye, and that maybe he has something to hide too.
Monteverdi has said that he really wanted to dispel the myth that Hispanics are either dishonest cheaters or dangerous lotharios, and he succeeds admirably by portraying a normal Mexican family, with it's warmth, loyalty and humor.
Through selective use of flashbacks and sections where the dialogue is purposely hidden, the viewer is made to do some of the work in figuring out what is going on, which I really like.
There are pretty much guarenteed to be tears at point in the movie, particularly at the end, but you never get the impression that the film-makers are out to deliberately cause emotion. It's simply a story which they passionately believe in, being well-told.
In an age where questionable moral standards are the norm, Bella is a beautifully shot breath of fresh air, with a soundtrack to die for (if it ever gets released), and is the kind of movie that Christians should definitely encourage, as it is badly needed for a whole host of reasons.
If you haven't seen it you are missing out big time, so please check it out, and lewt me know what you think!
Monday, July 7, 2008
This guy may be familiar to some as worship leader Dave Lubben, who had a cd out a while back on Vertical called "A Place Called Surrender". Well this is one in the same guy who goes by the name of David Martin for his mainstream career. He is a talented singer/songwriter/instrumentalist/producer who for this, his first solo mainstream release (on the Astonish label) has managed the heroic feat of writing all ten songs about his wife.
Martin has a pretty high register voice, which reminds you of people like Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze, or even Maroon 5's Adam Levine. The songs however are superb. Written from a strongly Christian perspective, even if the lyrics might not appear that way, they deal with such subjects as separation, going through rough patches, to downright adoration and gratitude to God for bringing them together.
The title track is probably the strongest song, a heartfelt look back to what first attracted the singer to his spouse ("What I saw still holds me in awe"), but each song is lovingly crafted and beautifully performed. Look out for Sting and Peter Gabriel drummer Manu Katche throughout.
I really couldn't recommend this album highly enough, and I'm so excited that David Martin is to produce the next album by my friend and talented local artist Michael Bahn. What a great combination.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
"When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, Who made an end of all my sin."
This tells me two things. First that no matter how we might feel about our guilt - with or without perceived justification - God is unequivocal; guilt has been wiped away and our sin put to an end...daily.
Second, our instinct when we want to beat up on ourselves is to look DOWN, isn't it? But we need to train ourselves to look UP first, into the face of our Redeemer who longs to comfort us and tell us that our sins are washed away. We are justified.
So, remember that you need to go against your instinct to look down toward the ground when you mess up - because you will. Try and make sure the first direction you look is upwards.
Friday, June 27, 2008
At present I am considered a legal alien here in the States, which means that certain rights afforded to US citizens are not available to me. For example, I can't own or carry a gun, which is a bit of a shame, and I also cannot vote.
Now this causes me less of a problem since the country is careering helter skelter towards one of the most difficult presidential elections - for Christians - that there has ever been.
It's not like it was an easy choice. Instead of a good candidate and a bad candidate, voters are faced with a bad one, and an even worse one.
I'm going to attempt not to name names here, in case I get put on a list of troublemakers or something, but on the one hand we have a guy who has a clear advantage when it comes to the war in Iraq etc. in terms of being an army vet, but against that has a questionable temper, is pretty old, and whilst claiming to be against same-sex marriage has actually voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Then we have a candidate who, if criticized in even the smallest way, turns the critic into a racist, has views on morality and religion that are contrary to his stated religious beliefs (although when you look at the caliber of pastors who have apparently mentored him over the years, you have to wonder just what he does believe).
American Christian voters have to pray like never before. To me it's a case of the lesser of two evils, but it seems to be a straight choice between a vague status quo and a future of unimaginable restriction of free speech, religious expression, and so much of what this nation stands for and holds dear: a nation which was still - when I last checked - One Nation Under God.
But for how long?
Friday, May 30, 2008
Some people may, I suppose, still not "get" The Beatles, but love them or hate them, you have to concede that they irrevocably shaped modern pop music for good. I've just been watching the ten dvd "Beatles Anthology" set for the first time, and a number of thoughts struck me as I watched this beautifully made series.
It is interesting to note that from the start, The Beatles were a rock and roll band, brought up on a diet of pre-Elvis and Chuck Berry standards, which were the first songs they learned to play. These songs also formed the backbone of their formidable Hamburg era sets, along - strangely - with a few Motown standards, most notably "Please Mr Postman" but also including love songs such as "You've Really Got A Hold On Me". When the band returned to the UK to blitz the pop charts, the self-penned pop they were dealing in was a lot tamer than the rock and roll they were playing out in Germany, a fact backed up by the necessity to cut their hair and invest in suits. All this was at the behest of manager Brian Epstein, and it strikes me that they must have trusted him a lot, to dilute their sound and their look the way they had to, which must have been frustrating in a way.
Another thing that emerges from the documentary is the absolute rightness of the decision to stop touring. It's easy to forget that back in the early to mid 60s, large scale concerts were an innovation, and as such, adequate provision for the band to be able to hear themselves was non-existent. Monitoring had not been invented at that point, and when you think that the guitarists were operating out of 30 watt amps, which were their only source of monitoring (stadium concerts utilized the stadium sound system, which back then was woeful), and poor Ringo had no way of hearing himself over the screams, the decision to come off the road not only made complete sense, but was totally understandable. After all, as Ringo himself says, he needed to look at the guitarists backs and body movements most of the time to figure out how to keep time, and as a result of not being able to hear what they were doing, the playing of all band members suffered, not to mention the frustration that audiences were coming to SEE the band, and not LISTEN to them. Artistically very unsatisfying.
Coming off the road allowed the band to really flourish in the studio and just a cursory listen to the period from "Rubber Soul" onwards (my favorite period) shows a wealth of arranging styles and the sympathetic and masterful production of George Martin.
One final - and sadly, hypothetical - question came to me as I watched the break-up of the band. I wonder how much longer they would have gone on if manager Brian Epstein had not committed suicide when he did, because it seems to me that the band lost a lot of its business direction when Epstein died, and a lot of energy had to be diverted away from the creative process into thinking about and dealing with that, and as a result came the disastrous Apple Boutique venture. Would Epstein have allowed that? Would the band have been less likely to squabble if their energies and attention were solely on the music, as it would undoubtedly have been had Epstein been there?
I guess we'll never know, but at least we have a legacy of wonderful songs to enjoy for ever.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What really struck me was the truth in the words of the famous John Newton hymn which brought home to me my own sinfulness.
I really felt that God used that movie to convict me of things in my life which I needed to straighten up, and as soon as I'd finished watching it I set about doing just that.
Of course, Amazing Grace also happens to be a very well made movie which clearly portrays the struggle Wilberforce experienced to pass his Abolition bill, and it was beautifully acted and sensitively directed by Michael Apted who will be helming the 3rd narnia movie due out in 2010.
But it was some simple words written by a former slave ship captain who saw the light, that really impacted me powerfully...
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, But now am found
Was blind but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come.
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace!
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God who called me here below
Shall be forever mine!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
There's been a lot of attention given to William P. Young's novel "The Shack". I've heard some people say that it changed their life and their attitudes to God and people.
When I read it I found it interesting, if not life changing, but it left a bad taste in my mouth since it appeared to cheapen God and almost make fun of both Him and the Bible.
I couldn't quite put my finger on what disturbed me about it and so I have kept quiet until now.
Today's Breakpoint commentary by Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship - on the subject of "The Shack" - puts it better than I ever could, and so I will post his comments below.
"When the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John caught glimpses of God, they were overcome with despair at their own unworthiness in the light of His glory. The same could be said of Daniel or Paul, or any number of figures from Scripture.
But when the protagonist of a new book called The Shack is introduced to the Father of heaven, he is greeted by a "large, beaming, African-American woman" who goes by the name of Papa.
If you have not heard about The Shack, there is a good chance you will soon. A novel self-published about a year ago by William P. Young, the book has gained quite a following in Christian circles. It is still among the top 10 sellers at Amazon.com. And when it receives a glowing endorsement from a scholar whom I respect, like Eugene Peterson, it is not a phenomenon that discerning Christians can ignore.
The story is about a man named Mack, who is struggling in the aftermath of the brutal murder of his young daughter. One day he finds a note in his mailbox—apparently from God. God wants Mack to meet Him at "the shack," the place where his daughter was killed.
When he arrives, the shack and the winter scene around it transform, Narnia-like, into a mystical mountain paradise, perhaps meant to be heaven itself. Now dwelling in the shack are three mysterious figures—the African-American woman, a Middle Eastern workman, and an Asian girl—who reveal themselves as God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The rest of the book is basically a discussion between Mack and the three persons of the Trinity. While the discussion is mostly on the deep topics of creation, the fall, freedom, and forgiveness, too often the author slips in silly lines that, frankly, seem ridiculous in the mouth of the Godhead. Jesus, looking at Papa, says, "Isn't she great?" At one point, Papa warns Mack that eating too many of the greens in front of him will "give him the trots." And when Jesus spills batter on the floor and on Papa, Jesus then washes Her—or is it His?—feet. Papa coos, "Oh, that feels sooooo good." Ugh.
Okay, it is only an allegory. But like Pilgrim's Progress, allegories contain deep truths. That is my problem. It is the author's low view of Scripture. For example, Mack is tied to a tree by his drunken, abusive father, who "beats Mack with a belt and Bible verses." The author reflects derisively in another spot that "nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that 'guilt' edges."
The Bible, it seems, is just one among many equally valid ways in which God reveals Himself. And, we are told, the Bible is not about rules and principles; it is about relationship. Sadly, the author fails to show that the relationship with God must be built on the truth of who He really is, not on our reaction to a sunset or a painting.
That is not to say The Shack is without merit. The centrality of Christ and God's breathtaking, costly love come through loud and clear. But these truths are available everywhere in Scripture, everywhere in Christian literature. You do not have to visit The Shack to find them.
As Papa warns Mack, God is not who Mack expects He is. But He is also not what our creative imaginations make Him to be, either.
He Is, after all, Who He Is."
Friday, May 2, 2008
I recently had the opportunity to see Newsboys live with their full US show. I'd seen the band once before 2 or 3 years ago in Scotland, but that was a scaled-down performance. The full thing is quite something to behold.
I've long been a fan of Newsboys' music, but they also have great visuals and manage to make the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable.
Of course, the highpoint is the dual drum solo where both Peter's mini riser at the end of the catwalk and Duncan's riser climb to around ten feet off the ground, and then Duncan's tips forward and starts to rotate, but the whole show was inspiring, uplifting and musically brilliant.
A word too for one of the three support bands, Canada's "Newworldson", who are a kind of jazz/soul/surf pop combo, and who were absolutely wonderful. I got their CD and it is just as good as they were that night.
My late fathe
Rest in peace
Monday, March 17, 2008
As I was co-MC’ing the night I had to meet with Lincoln before the show - oh the hardship! - and I actually arrived in time to catch the sound checks. Lincoln and the band were all very friendly, fun guys and we managed to get some pictures done for the Dove website.
The show itself must rank for me as one of the best I have ever been to - and I’ve been to dozens of concerts over the years. The reasons for this are threefold. First the amazing musicianship (Norm Stockton is no slouch either); second the humor of Lincoln and the fact the whole evening was so enjoyable (there was a 25 minute acoustic camp fire session where Lincoln told stories about his kids - very funny). Most importantly, the whole night was 100% God centered, which is what sets the concert apart from so many of the others I’ve been to.
The band played all the "hits", they played them superbly, the audience sand til their lungs burst, and God was lifted up.
What more could you ask for from a concert? We hope to get them back this way real soon...
My interest had been piqued by the presence of Freddie Highmore, the British kid who’s been in everything (seemingly) since his appearance in Finding Neverland alongside Johnny Depp.
In August Rush Highmore has a pretty convincing American accent as he plays an orphaned musical prodigy who is convinced his parents are alive and out there, and that one day they’ll all be together again.
The movie also stars Robin Williams, pretty much as a baddie, who looks much like I’d imagine Bono to look in ten years time. Dublin born actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers also features as a singer songwriter.
While it is true that you have to suspend your disbelief at a few points in the movie, the musical elements (of which there are many) are brilliantly done. Some great songs and a really uplifting musical theme to the whole thing.
If you are a weeper, you WILL bawl your eyes out, but overall this is a quality movie which deserves being seen over and over.
Freddie Highmore is excellent, but my only quibbles would be some of the cello playing sequences (as a former cellist I didn’t find them convincing) and also the dvd extras are really disappointing. Would have liked more of those.
If you haven’t seen it though, you really should.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
"Mary Ann Andree was drying her hair in the Rio Sport and Health Club in Gaithersburg, Maryland, last month when the door to the women's locker room suddenly opened. In came a man, wearing a blue ruffled skirt and make-up.
As Andree later told reporters, "I was very upset. There is a lot he could have seen." Andree is far from alone. A lot of other women in Montgomery County, Maryland, are upset over a new law that demands co-ed locker rooms and bathrooms in all public accommodations.
Montgomery County, adjacent to Washington, D.C., passed the law last November to accommodate "transgendered people"—that is, men who perceive themselves to be women, and women who perceive themselves to be men. The law adds gender identity to the list of protected classes to the Montgomery County Code banning discrimination.
In effect, it means men will have full access to a woman's restroom and locker room. A woman taking a shower after her aerobics class might look up to find a man turning on the shower next to hers. A little girl using a movie theater restroom will now have to worry that a strange man might walk in.
Michelle Turner, who leads a citizens group opposing the law, says, "Any biological male who is willing to wear a dress and who is feeling transgendered at that particular moment can enter the ladies room or locker room."
And what is to stop non-transgendered men from entering the ladies' room? Nothing. A child molester or rapist could put on a dress and go right in. So could pornographists. It is an appalling, shocking law. And get this: There is no exemption for religious schools, book stores, churches, and daycares. As Turner notes, "The act will use the force of law to make these organizations accept transgenders, transvestites, and cross-dressers as employees."
The American Psychiatric Association classifies gender identity disorder as a mental disorder. Supporters of the Montgomery County law refuse to accept this, and they have decided that you and I are not going to be allowed to accept it, either. Dana Beyer, a "transgendered" person employed by the Montgomery County Council, says that if you believe that XY chromosomes and male genitalia make someone male, you are a bigot.
In effect, transgendered persons are demanding that Montgomery County erase the distinctions between males and females. Make no mistake: This is not about the need for co-ed bathrooms. This law is simply being used to normalize gender identity disorder—much in the same way the gay lobby uses laws to normalize homosexuality.
Montgomery County officials passed this law despite the fact that citizens opposed it by an eight-to-one margin. The good news is that concerned citizens have gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.
But Montgomery County is not the only jurisdiction passing laws like these. Check out what your own local leaders are doing to protect your privacy rights. And parents, make sure your kids know the difference between the Christian view of sexuality and that being propagated by those who think they ought to be allowed to choose their gender and their bathroom."
Monday, February 25, 2008
There are an estimated 1.6 million Muslims in Great Britain. By some estimates, more people attend mosque than go to Anglican churches every week. Judging by recent comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is easy to see why.
As most of you by now know, Archbishop Rowan William said in a recent interview that the “UK has to ‘face up to the fact’ that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.” He left no doubt who those “citizens” are: British Muslims.
So according to Williams, British Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty.” Instead, in the tradition of having your cake and eating it too, he proposes finding “a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law”—in other words, sharia.
British Muslims could choose to have “marital” or “financial” disputes resolved in sharia courts. Sharia courts in Britain? At first I thought the Archbishop misspoke.
But it turns out, no. He calls this “supplementary jurisdiction” unavoidable. He compared it to accommodating Christians in areas like abortion or gay adoption.
With all due respect to the Archbishop, there is no such parallel. The only thing that is unavoidable here is his failure to see sharia as it is practiced in the real world, as opposed to in seminars. As the Asia Times columnist “Spengler” put it, Williams is conceding “a permanent role to extralegal violence in the political life of England.”
In real-world Muslim communities throughout Europe, coercion is so commonplace “that duly-constituted governments there” no longer wield justice among its citizens. The imams do. And where would the Archbishop draw the line? At husbands beating their wives for wearing Western clothes or maybe stoning a woman accused of adultery?
Nor will, as Williams hopes, permitting sharia on British soil aid social cohesion. On the contrary, Williams’s fellow bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali, recently spoke about what he calls “no-go zones” in Muslim communities where Christians dare not enter. As a result of death threats, bishop Nazir-Ali and his family require police protection.
Nazir-Ali, whose father had to leave Pakistan after converting to Christianity, told the UK Telegraph that sharia is “in tension” with “fundamental aspects” of Anglo-American law. That is because our “legal tradition” is “rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible.” This crucial difference seems to have escaped the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The West’s greatest contribution to civilization has been the rule of law, the bulwark of freedom, captured in Anglo-American jurisprudence. Now a ranking religious official proposes compromising that with a theocratic church rule? Please.
Williams’s comments are a tragic sign of the Church’s weakness. We fawningly respond to Islamic overtures for dialogue, even as we see Christians being persecuted in Muslim nations—and sharia law being imposed on others right in our own backyards.
This weakness is the stuff that empty churches are made of."
Friday, February 15, 2008
So the latest concert to hit Medford was last night, the Boomin' Beyond Measure tour featuring Matthew West, Jeremy Camp & TobyMac.
The crowd was a sell-out and got straight to their feet as Matthew West took the stage to open things up, armed with only an acoustic guitar. He was really surprised and delighted when I gave him a tub of his favorite mint-chocolate-chip ice cream before the show.
The audience warmed to him at once as he played 4 or 5 songs with a mixture of humor, challenge, worship and thought provoking points.
Jeremy Camp had to miss the pre-show meet-and-greet as he was suffering from the flu, but he really pulled it together in a powerful and inspiring worship set which was a really pleasant surprise to me. Starting with the awesome "Give You Glory" he was carried along by the encouragement of the crowd and the presence of God in the building, and really seemed to be enjoying himself, despite his illness.
TobyMac took to the stage with a ten piece band which included his DJ buddy Dj Maj, dancers and backup singers. It was high octane all the way with God squarely in the center. Non stop oral and aural treat with plenty of stuff from Portable Sounds along with (for me) the highlight of the night, the old-school 70s medley which included snippets of Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music", Sugarhill Gang's "Rappers Delight", Chic's "Good Times" and "La Freak" and KC & The Sunshine Band's "That's The Way I Like It", and ending with Sister Sledge's "We Are Family".
The show closed with a blistering "Jesus Freak" and they were gone, leaving a breathless and danced-out crowd.