Here it is--first glimpse of the cover (not finalized) for my next book.   What do you think?  Does it draw you in?  Intrigue you?  I definitely value your feedback and comments.Thanks to the book, I've fallen silent on this site recently.  It is tough to generate blog posts when you're already pouring so many words into a new project.    So I've taken the long view--investing in my upcoming book for Brazos Press rather than the shifts of Oscar season.I have been quite energized by the re … [Read more...]

ZERO DARK THIRTY is the Best Film of 2012

1.  Zero Dark Thirty—A brilliant distillation of the costs, compromises, resolve, and results of a manhunt.   Screenwriter Mark Boal grafts news reports we heard and ignored alongside intelligence gathering techniques we’d rather not acknowledge into the best part for any actress this year.  Heroism has many faces, but none more meticulous than the lead investigator, Maya.   Jessica Chastain evolves from innocence to insistence, navigating two intransigent systems. The Oscars may have snubbed dir … [Read more...]

OSCARS 2013: Lincoln Leads but Beasts and Amour Surprise

With the Oscars just announced, many were shocked to see Benh Zeitlin, young director of Beasts of the Southern Wild get nominated over Ben Affleck, director of Argo.   The Academy can be mercurial.   The sheer joy pouring from Zeitlin’s take on a Bayou Bathtub somehow exceeded the respect for a Hollywood insider’s homage to the power of movie magic to befuddle Iranian authorities.    I enjoyed the craft of Argo more than Beasts, but kudos to Zeitlin for his burst of independent originality.   Wh … [Read more...]

LES MISERABLES: A Truly Moving Picture

Adapting a beloved novel to the big screen is a dicey undertaking.   Bringing a rapturously remembered musical to the movies is even more risky.   Following up an Oscar winning film is also fraught with danger.   And yet, Tom Hooper expands his remarkably assured direction of The King’s Speech in the epic, poetic, and nearly overwrought Les Miserables.   Opening on Christmas Day, Les Miserables embodies the Easter narrative—sacrifice, death and resurrection.   It is about the eternal tension betw … [Read more...]

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2012: Year of the Musical Comeback

So much of pop music is meant to be disposable.  Dance now, forget later.   But the finest songwriters connect our current context to the larger questions that cut across eras.   The best music is timely and timeless.    2012 was the year of the musical comeback.   From Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” to Sinead O’Connor’s “How About I Be Me (and You Be You),” the best of the 80s and 90s came roaring back.    If anything, the righteous anger that flows from our most resonant artists resurfaced … [Read more...]

The Best Music of 2012: If you can find it…

Having purchased several thousand albums, cassettes, and compact discs in my lifetime, my switch to digital downloads has taken AWHILE.   I still prefer a physical rendition of the music (probably because I expect Apple iTunes to change their user terms someday; I don't want to repurchase MP3s.)    But I can't argue with the convenience that comes with digital.   It is so fast, so easy, so simple to download.   And it is amazing how many songs can be crammed onto an iPod.     I'd still rather buy … [Read more...]


As we head into the thick of winter, the comforts of home are more appealing than ever.   A favorite sweater, comfortable couch, and a hot cup of coffee comprise some of the most profound and simple pleasures in life.   So it is understandable why Bilbo Baggins might slam the door on a wizard offering an adventure.   If thirteen rowdy dwarves barged into your kitchen pantry, you’d probably be as miffed as our hobbit.Director Peter Jackson takes his time, immersing us within Bilbo’s comfor … [Read more...]


You may have missed The Odd Life of Timothy Green.   It slipped into theaters at the end of the summer just as we were heading back to school.   It is a lovely autumn movie, filled with golden leaves and burnished tones.   The Odd Life of Timothy Green arrives on DVD as that rare film that works for parents and kids, giving all of us a deeper appreciation of the gift and challenge of family.   It is also a compelling portrait of adoption, how waiting and longing can turn into redemption for all. … [Read more...]


It was tough to read James K. Wellman’s astute assessment of Rob Bell and a New American Christianity.   His research is thorough, rigorous and insightful.    The writing is smart and on point.   It offers a great window into Bell’s conservative upbringing and his first forays into punk rock.  It chronicles the remarkable rise of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.   I learned about the origins of Rob Bell’s Nooma videos.  But more importantly, I learned why the successful series ended so … [Read more...]

LIFE OF PI: Visual Splendor and Spiritual Hunger

Life of Pi begins in a magical, animal kingdom in Pondicherry, India.    Birds and monkeys flight through the trees is especially vivid in 3D.   The seamless blend of real animals and digital replicas makes us sit back and relax, confident we are in the hands of a masterful storyteller.  Director Ang Lee staged magical moments in his Academy Award winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  The crouching tiger in Life of Pi is also Oscar worthy.   He commands our attention, a tribute to the visual e … [Read more...]

Blessed Are the Peacemakers–Amongst the Taliban

Veteran’s Day is an important time to pause, remember, and honor our fallen soldiers.   We are all the beneficiaries of their blood, shed on battlefields far and wide.   But what about those who fought for peace without the use of guns or ammo?   How do we honor fallen peacemakers?  Jonathan P. Larson celebrates the legacy of his lifelong friend, Dan Terry, in Making Friends Among the Taliban:  A Peacemaker’s Journey in Afghanistan and in the companion documentary, Weaving Life.  (Free copies of … [Read more...]