Reviews

Re·view: a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation. Posts in this category pertain to reviews of books, food/wine/coffee, restaurants, movies, etc.

REVIEW: Texas Roast Organic Mexican Chiapas (Revisited)

Filed in ReviewsTags: Coffee

texas roast

Roast
Dark
Aroma
9
Acidity
8
Body
8
Flavor
9
Finish
8

Roaster's Description:

This is a simple and bright coffee with a rustic aroma. You can almost hear the Mexican music playing in the background for a Cinqo de Mayo clebration as you enjoy this lively cup. It's a perfect coffee to start the day!

I previously reviewed the Organic Mexican Chiapas beans from Texas Roast, but I would like to revisit the offering. I recently received another order of the Chiapas, and based on my previous review, these beans were roasted slightly darker.

Roast

 
Dark

Slightly darker than the beans in the original review.

Aroma

 
9

Aroma clearly indicates distinct Mexican flavor of these beans. Vibrant. Nice complexity.

Acidity

 
8

Well-balanced acidity; lively without being to bright.

Body

 
8

Nice, medium to full body; average mouthfeel, hint of chewiness.

Flavor

 
9

Very well-balanced, distinctive, bucolic, earthy Mexican flavor. Nice acidity and a touch of spice.

Finish

 
8

Very pleasant finish. Nice aftertaste. Leaves you wanting more.

Overall

 
42

Mexican varietals remain among my favorite. The Organic Mexican Chiapas from Texas Roast remain a fine representative - nicely roasted, well-balanced, and an overall enjoyable cup of coffee.

Mark D. Roberts on the DaVinci Code

Filed in Religion, ReviewsTags: Books, Christianity, Movies

With the upcoming theatrical release of the movie adaptation of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code has come a whole host of discussion of the book, its merits, and its claims.

I've not really gotten into it. Personally, I enjoyed reading the book; of course, I was taught from a young age to understand the concept of fiction, and the ability to differentiate between fiction and reality. So, I was in no way offended by the book.

However, for those with questions about the truth versus The Code, take a look at this FAQ put together by Mark D. Roberts.

Via Rhett Smith.

REVIEW: Texas Roast Organic Mexican Chiapas

Filed in ReviewsTags: Coffee

The FedEx delivery man brought me a very good package over the weekend: the Organic Mexican Chiapas beans I ordered from Texas Roast, which the company describes as follows:

This is a simple and bright coffee with a rustic aroma. You can almost hear the Mexican music playing in the background for a Cinqo de Mayo clebration as you enjoy this lively cup. It's a perfect coffee to start the day!

That description is pretty accurate. Upon opening the bag, the aroma almost immediately sent me south of the border. (I already have a fondness for Mexican varietal beans, and this one does not disappoint!) The brew tasted darker than the roast appears, but for my tastes I found it to be well-balanced - and I lean more toward darker roasts in general, so I've enjoyed every cup brewed so far from this bag. Nice, medium body, with a hint of brightness in the acidity.

So far, based on this bag, I am impressed with what Texas Roast has to offer!

Sinner on the End of the Spear

Filed in Religion, ReviewsTags: Christianity, Movies

I went to see End Of The Spear Sunday night. I intend to post a review of the movie, but first I have to get something off of my chest. It is not often that I feel compelled to call fellow Christians on the carpet, but in this case, I must.

The supposed "controversy" - generated by my fellow Christians, no less - regarding actor Chad Allen being a gay rights activist disturbs me to no end. The same people who are beating the anti-Allen drum are at the same time complaining that the actor is getting more publicity than the story itself; I wonder why?

I am absolutely disgusted that anyone would be so hypocritical as to speak ill of a movie telling such a compelling and God-honoring story because one of the lead actors is homosexual. You know, it's a good thing for tax-collector Matthew, prostitute Mary Magdalene, murderer-aldulterer David, and countless others that Jesus took a different view of sinners than we, in our own self-righteousness, do. What was that Jesus said to us, about a speck, and a plank? Sin is sin. ALL men have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. God sees all sin equally, yet God loves all sinners equally. How utterly hypocritical of us Christians to make this an issue. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. If we intend only to see movies starring those without sin, we're going to be waiting a VERY long time...

What a fantastic story - and the story itself exemplifies the gospel. How sad it is that Christians would actively work against this story being told. Who cares if whats-his-name is homosexual, or even a gay-rights activist? He doesn't stand up in the middle of the movie and say, "hey, this is a great story and all, but about that gay marriage thing..." If you can't sit through the movie without being distracted by the sexual preference of the lead actor, then it is your own heart you need to examine before you question the motives of the movie's producers.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one who feels this way...

UPDATE:

Fellow One Year Bible blogger Dwayne's World and Christian Carnival blogger Allthings2all have great posts on the issue, as well.

REVIEW: Gratitude (Eli)

Filed in ReviewsTags: Music

gratitude

Album Title: Gratitude - website
Album Artist: Eli
Release Date:2004, Independent (Cool Flame Shoes Music)

Gratitude marks the first new studio release for Eli since leaving Forefront records. Eli has chosen to go the route of the independent artist, and this release suffers none for that decision. Gratitude retains Eli's acoustic pop/coffeehouse sound, yet represents growth in sound, lyrics, and style. The album has no major deviations from previous releases, yet is different enough not to sound "cookie-cutter".

Eli's songwriting has always been notable for his openness, honesty, and lack of inhibition from discussing real issues with which he has struggled. The songwriting on Gratitude retains this honesty, the lyrics have evolved much as has the life of the songwriter. Eli's music still appeals to the everyday struggles of the common man trying to live a life of Christ. The change with Gratitude seems to be that, while the raw honesty remains, the edginess appears to have been smoothed somewhat.

The first track, I Am Your Fire, is an appeal to those who would seek fulfillment everywhere but in God. The song opens with a gospel-esque keyboard riff, but transitions into Eli's acoustic-guitar style. The second track, Strong, comes across almost as a response to the previous track - that strength is found in God. Heavier bass and layered electric/acoustic guitar introduce Hallelujah, which offers praise in the midst of the contradictory nature of our world.

Hide and Seek juxtaposes faith in the innocence of a childhood game and the burdens of doubt and perseverance. Sing It Out challenges those who would allow their unique voice to be influenced or silenced by others. Norway/New Song is an anthem to making a choice to trust God despite our circumstances, in acknowledgement that His ways are higher than our own. One of the most painfully difficult questions Christians face is that of why bad things happen to good people, and the apparent lack of justice in the world. Only Heaven Knows honestly admits that some questions we cannot answer to our complete satisfaction, yet recognizes that the only truly Good One took the worst the world has to offer upon Himself.

Perhaps the best two songs on the album follow. What We Don't Talk About questions why we keep trying to deal with our struggles alone, rather than accept the help of those who love us and would reach out to us. A quasi-Mediterranean hook reminiscent of Burlap to Cashmere underlies Stuck In The Middle, a repudiation of a compromising attitude and a call to take a stand for right.

The title track, Gratitude, includes some great lyrical composition: "I could have used a friend, I'm sure I used a few / The worst in every man will get the best of you..." The final track, I worship, is a Davidic-style psalm celebrating the faithfulness of God.

Other reviews:
Christianity Today
Alpha Omega News

REVIEW: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Filed in ReviewsTags: Movies

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe Movie Poster
Put me in the camp of those who have been fans of The Chronicles of Narnia since childhood, in which time I have read the series several times. Even reading the books as an elementary schooler, I couldn't miss the obvious allegorical thread of Christianity running throughout. As I grew older, I was amazed that such a brilliant writer of this children's book series also penned much weightier Christian classics as Mere Christianity. When I first heard that Narnia would make its way to the silver screen, I was esctatic. Several fan sites followed the filming and production. Once I heard that the film adaptation would stay true to the book, I was even more excited. So off I went to see the film, an adult fan of the works and personhood of C.S. Lewis, yet with the memory of the fantastic journey the Chronicles were as a child.

A side note here: as is well-known, C.S. Lewis was a contemporary and friend of an author of another recently adapted book, The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien. The two men shared their faith as well as their ability to write amazing works of fictional fantasy; however, Lewis' works of fantasy were written with children as the clearly intended audience. Tolkien's was not. Reading Chronicles as an adult, I still enjoy every bit of the fantastic journey, allegory, and imagery; but the series lacks the plot development and character development of adult literature. Anyone expecting the Chronicles books to read with the literary depth and intelligence of Rings is likely to be disappointed; the same is true with the film adaptations of each. Do not expect to find Rings in the Chronicles, and you won't be disappointed when it does not deliver.

The movie begins with a CG opening of WWII-era German airstrikes over London, and Mrs. Pevensie sending the children off to live with Professor Kirke in the English countryside. The opening does a fine job of setting the period and emotion of the story. When originally written, the war themes of the book would have resonated even with children, who lived through the realities of World War II. We are reminded that this story is intended for children, when the war-time emotions are repeated throughout the movie - usually in the form of Peter or Susan reiterating, "mother sent us away to avoid war", "we didn't come to fight in a war", or some similar variant. As an adult, the reiteration seemed to be overkill; I would be curious to discuss the issue with a younger viewer, to ascertain whether or not the war-time emotion theme resonated.

The Lord of the Rings was not the only book-to-movie adaptation of which I was reminded when watching The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW). The train station scene in which Mrs. Pevensie sends off the four children, and the train rolling through the countryside, reminded me of similar opening scenes in the Harry Potter movies. I'm faily certain that the similarities were unintended and completely coincidental, however.

The next scene finds the four children arriving at the Professor's house, and the story takes off from there. I was impressed with how closely the movie followed the book from this point forward. A few things were changed, but nothing terribly detrimental to the telling or underlying intent of the book. For instance, in the book, Lucy first encounters the wardrobe when the siblings are exploring the house to pass the time during a rainy day. The other three leave the spare room while Lucy enters the wardrobe. After her hours of adventure, she emerges from the wardrobe, shouting, "It's okay; I'm back!" only to find the other three outside the door, having just left the room. Lucy encounters Narnia a second time while playing hide-and-seek, and it is during this encounter that Edmund follows her into the wardrobe. However, in the movie, Lucy's first encounter with the wardrobe, and with Narnia, is during a game of hide-and-seek. and she emerges from the wardrobe, shouting, "It's okay; I'm back!" only to find the game right where she left it. Lucy enters Narnia a second time through the wardrobe late at night, while everyone else is asleep; Edmund sees her going upstairs as he is leaving the bathroom, and follows her. I'm not sure why the writers made this change, but it didn't appear to detract from the story.

The only other scene I wish the movie has held more closely to the book was the conversation between the children and the beavers in the Beaver's Dam. Their discussion of Aslan is one of the most compelling in the entire book. The movie maintained the plot points, but lost some of the awe. The exchange in which Mr. Beaver reveals that Aslan is a lion, and the children ask, "Is he safe?" and the Beaver replies, "Safe? Of course he's not safe... but he's good" still sends chills down my spine when I read it. The "no, but he's good" line is maintained at the end of the story in an exchange between Lucy and Mr. Tumnus, but doesn't have quite the same effect.

Otherwise, the movie stays very close with the book. As the plot progresses, one cannot help but be impressed with how visually stunning this movie is. The fantastic CGI blends in well with the live action; the scenery is grandiose; and most importantly, Aslan is every bit as awesome as any Chronicles fan would expect. The "reveal" scene at the Stone Table is perhaps one of the best secenes in the movie.

Refreshingly, the obvious Christian allegory in the book is maintained in the movie. From the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" conversation in the Professor's study, to Aslan's recognition of the "deep magic" that "defines right from wrong and governs all our destinies", the Christian themes remain integral to the story. In fact, whether inadvertently, or as a blatant pander to the largely Christian audience (or somewhere in between), the script even adds the line, "It is finished," spoken by Aslan to Peter at the end of the Last Battle, right after he kills the White Witch. The one point that stood out to me as having missed the intended tone occurs in the scene in which the White Witch comes to Aslan demanding Edmund's traitor blood, and then renounces her claim after her conversation with Aslan. The White Witch asks Aslan, "How can I be sure the promise will be kept?" to which Aslan responds with a ferocious and righteously indignant roar. The crowd laughs when the Queen stumbles in fright at this roar. Aslan's reaction here represents the same righteous anger of Christ should one dare question the integrity of His Word. I liken it to Christ's cleansing of the temple, or the reverent fear each of us will experience at the foot of the Judgement Seat of Christ. In my opinion, a more appropriate response to such a situation would not have been laughter, but reverent fear and awe at the demonstration of raw power and righteous indignation of the King of Kings. Aside from this one disagreement, the movie does a wonderful job of preserving the allegorical thread and Christian undertones of the story.

Most pleasantly surprising, the acting in the film is top-notch. Ten-year-old Georgia Henley is absolutely fantastic in her major-film debut as Lucy Pevensie. In fact, Henley most completely fleshes out her character of any of the four siblings, and superbly portrays the subtleties and spiritual undertones of her character. In the book, Aslan and Lucy have a special relationship; Henley's acting demonstrates the nature and reasons for that relationship. Tilda Swinton (community leader Sal in The Beach, among several roles) embodies the cold and imposing character of the White Witch. Skandar Keynes, also in his movie-debut performance, ably portrays Edmund Pevensie's initial character flaws, as well as his changed, contrite nature.

Overall, I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of the Chronicles series, or anyone interested in a very well-done children's movie. (And while the battle scenes are marginally graphic, Disney stays true to its intended audience; no killing is portrayed, including Aslan's death scene. Even Peter's sword - used to kill Maugrim, and again in the battle, remains gleaming and unbloodied.) As well-produced as this installment was, I cannot wait to see what Disney has in store for the rest of the series.

REVIEW: Liberalism is a Mental Disorder

Filed in Politics, ReviewsTags: Books



In classic Savage Style, Liberalism is a Mental Disorder brings to a conclusion the author's trilogy concerning defending America from Liberal assault.

Dr. Savage poses several problems facing America, and from his unique perspective presents "Savage Solutions" for each. Savage takes on such hot-bed issues as Iraq, Islamofascism, illegal immigration, assault-by-litigation on American businesses, revisionist history, the ACLU, and current American political shifts.

Savage holds no punches from either the Democrat or Republican parties, and reserves none of his disdain for lack of true political debate from the "Demicans" and "Republicrats" that run Washington. While the rhetoric is occasionally over-the-top, the underlying truths are undeniable for most of the issues covered in the book.

I am disappointed, however, that Dr. Savage has apparently bought into the liberal media's propagandist views on Iraq, and takes a decidedly negative outlook on the eventual outcome - an outlook with which I wholeheartedly disagree.

That issue aside, I consider Savage's views to be the far-right boundary, without being too extreme for reasonable debate - practical solutions to the issues addressed may or may not include his Savage Solutions.

In the final tally, Savage is right more often than he is wrong (in fact, his take on Iraq is the only one with which I take major issue). The book is a fun read - especially for the reaction it ilicits from Liberals who might happen to catch you reading it.

REVIEW: Michael Moore is a Big, Fat, Stupid White Man

Filed in Politics, ReviewsTags: Books



Tired of the hypocritical lifestyle and propogandistic, out-of-context, mis-informing, mis-directing, and outright-lying work of Michael Moore, authors David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke penned Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man to expose and refute this Liberal poster-child.

The book is painstakingly researched, tirelessly footnoted, pointedly critical, and brutally revealing; the book exposes the truth of Michael Moore's life, lifestyle, beliefs, and work history; and most importantly for those taken in by the filmmaker and author's work, the book uncovers the truth about Moore's works, from Roger and Me, to Stupid White Men, Bowling for Columbine, Dude, Where's My Country, and the pinnacle: Fahrenheit 9/11.

The book is a damning revelation of Moore's complete lack of scruples, loyalty, or integrity in his life and work. From deceptive camera angles, to taking quotes and speeches out of context and chronology, to manipulation of sequence, to subjectively choosing facts, to intentional deception, and outright lies, the book unfolds the truth behind Moore's manipulation and lies.

For anyone tired of defending the liberal non-arguments posed by Moore's propogandist works, this book brings much-needed context and firepower to disarm Moore's blind followers on the Left.

REVIEW: Letters To A Young Conservative

Filed in Politics, ReviewsTags: Books



Letters To A Young Conservative, by Dinesh D'Souza, is, as the title implies, a collection of letters from the author's correspondence with a fictional Conservative college student. The letters touch most of the major issues.

Since each chapter is a letter, the result is episodic with a logical progression from one topic to the next. The content can be consumed in chunks, or read easily in a few sittings - or even in a single sitting.

This book was my first exposure to D'Souza, but assuming it is indicative of his other writing, it will certainly not be my last. D'Souza has a firm, foundational, and eloquent grasp on the issues he addresses. His wit is nearly as acerbic as Ann Coulter's, but his style, paradoxically, is disarming.

As part of the Art of Mentoring series, the book is comprised of 31 short chapters (ranging from 4-16 pages, with most less than 10), written as letters addressed to a fictional college student named Chris. Each "letter" addresses a different issue, beginning with modern definitions of Conservativatism and Liberalism, and continuing with Libertarianism, how D'Souza - from an Indian immigrant family - became a Conservative, political correctness, multiculturalism, classical literature, Ronald Reagan, government as a societal problem, class warfare, affirmative action, feminism, post-modernism, liberal academia, media bias, judicial activism, gun rights, debating liberals, liberal mis-education, Abraham Lincoln, self-esteem, environmentalism, gay marriage, family values, abortion, anti-globalism, immigration, anti-Americanism, the Republican party, and why Conservatives should be cheerful; and ends with an exhaustive book list for Conservatives.

Given the short, letter-style chapters, and D'Souza's eloquence, this book is an easy and enjoyable read. While certainly geard toward 18-30 year olds, I would recommend this book to anyone as a primer on modern Conservatism from the mind of a young Conservative leader. To understand What modern Conservatism is, where it is, and where today's generation of young Conservatives is taking it, you need look no farther than D'Souza's Letters to a Young Conservative.

Vacuvin Concerto

Filed in ReviewsTags: Food/Wine

Being single and living alone does not go well with wine - especially since a full glass with dinner is almost more than enough for my tastes. I have turned more bottles of cab and zin into expensive vinegar than I care to admit. Well, along came this post from the Corktease blog, introducing me to vacuum wine stoppers, particularly those from Vacuvin.

I recently bought the Vacuvin Concerto vacuum pump, and so far it has worked great and is worth its weight in gold - or, at least, worth its cost in wine.