Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nobody Cares....

So here it is (I know you all were waiting with baited breath, or whatever)...Greg's annual post of the year's best music and books. As a bit of a change this year, primarily because I've had a lot of time on my hands, I read the exact same number of books as the musical albums I bought. In 2008 I bought 47 CDs and read 47 books! (But nobody really cares, right?)

Here are the Top 10 musical albums of 2008:

1. StoneRider – Three Legs Of Trouble

Gritty, in-your-face rock 'n roll how it was meant to be played. I have no idea why these guys aren't huge, but if you like blues influenced southern hard rock, you definitely don't want to miss this one.

2. The Famine – The Raven And The Reaping

The Famine includes three original members of the now defunct band Embodyment (back when they didn't suck), plus one member of Society's Finest on bass, playing extremely catchy, Pantera-esque, mid-paced heavy metal. There've been rumblings about this reformation of sorts throughout the internet for quite some time, and when this beast finally arrived it most definitely didn't disappoint. If you love big metal riffs this one is for you.

3. Eluveitie – Slania

So I've reviewed these eight Helvetian folk-metalers in the past, and this year's release easily tops their first two efforts. With instruments ranging from electric guitar and fiddle to hurdygurdy and bagpipes you're always in for a unique listening adventure. I'm hoping to catch a live show before we leave Europe.

4. Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue

Front woman of the band Rilo Kiley...enough said.

5. The Raconteurs – Consolers Of The Lonely

Second album by Jack White's (The White Stripes) side project. Really great record and a unique rock sound. I dig this one a lot.

6. Cold War Kids – Loyalty To Loyalty

Another exceptional sophomore effort featuring David Maust's brother on guitar. Don't know who David Maust is?! Well then let me just refer you to one of the greatest bands of all time, Havalina Rail Co.

7. Brain Drill – Apocalyptic Feasting

Best death metal release in the history of mankind. I suppose, now that I look at it, the album art is a bit ghastly. Surprisingly though, the lyrics are not the expected odious piffle that many heavy bands propagate. Recommended if you like super fast, unbelievably technical music.

8. Over The Rhine – Live From Nowhere, Vol. III

For those of you who don't know, OTR releases a special, limited edition live record every year, which is always a nice treat, especially if you weren't able to make it out to a show. Listening to this makes you feel as if you were really there, experiencing the magic

9. Anathallo – Canopy Glow

These guys are best experienced live, however their latest is a huge step forward in musicianship, and hopefully in recognition. Very experimental and very unique.

10. Sigur Ros – Me Su Eyrum Vi Spilum Endalaust

Conceivably these Icelanders don't need an introduction for most, as their shows are consistently sold out at nearly every US venue they play. In case you missed this one, I really can't compare them to any other band except maybe their kindred spirits and fellow Icelanders, Amiina who play similar experimental-minimalist-ambient-post-rock.

Here are the honorable mentions in alphabetical order:

AC/DC – Black Ice
Airbourne – Runnin’ Wild
Beneath The Massacre – Dystopia
Crowpath – One With Filth
Demon Hunter – Storm The Gates Of Hell
Demon Hunter – 45 Days
From A Second Story Window – Conversations
Good Night, States – Short Films on Self-Control
GRITS – Reiterate
Hail Of Bullets – …Of Frost And War
Kensington Prairie – Captured In Still Life
Langhorne Slim – Langhorne Slim & The War Eagles
Living Sacrifice – Death Machine EP
Lovedrug – The Sucker Punch Show
Mirror Of Dead Faces – Lamentation
Alanis Morissette – Flavors Of Entanglement
Murder By Death – Red Of Tooth And Claw
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges (With the exception of the song “Highly Suspicious”. I have no idea how that song made it past the drawing board, let alone months of touring, song-writing, rehearsals, and grueling studio production, with the band still deciding, “Wow guys, that’s a really great song!”)
Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
Old Crow Medicine Show – Tennessee Pusher
P.O.D. – When Angels And Serpents Dance
Quest Of Aidance – Fallen Man Collection
Candi Pearson Shelton – Haunted By Eden
Shot X Shot – Let Nature Square
Spitfire – Cult Fiction
Sympathy – Anagogic Tyranny
The Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost
The Innocence Mission – Street Map
The Vines – Melodia
The Von Bondies – We Are Kamikazes Aiming Straight for Your Heart
Thieves And Liars – When Dreams Become Reality
Toby Mac – Alive And Transported
Jason Truby – Finding The Quiet
Virgin Black – Requiem – Fortissimo
Joel Willoughby – Do You Have Something to Say?
Denison Witmer – Carry The Weight
Woven Hand – Ten Stones

As I said above, I accomplished a lot of reading this year. I definitely don't read out of boredom, but rather out of a genuine love of reading so it was nice to be able to focus on that this past year. I'm not much of a book reviewer because it's so hard for me to sum up all of the incalculable themes written in every book, especially trying to remember 47 different books! So I've included the subtitles to help you all further understand the topic of each book.

Top 5 books read, but not necessarily released in 2008:

1. The Untold Story of The New Testament Church – An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament by Frank Viola

I've never had the New Testament come alive like it did after reading this book. It's not very long and is an absolute must for understanding the NT like you never have before.

2. Soul Graffiti – Making A Life in the Way of Jesus by Mark Scandrette

Mark and his family are actually living out what most other books just write about. Very encouraging to read of him telling his captivating story.

3. Blow The House Down by Robert Baer

The best spy novel I've ever read, written by an actual, retired CIA operative. This tale is a frighteningly realistic, alternate story to 911.

4. A Peculiar People – The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society by Rodney Clapp

This book was actually published in 1996, so it's my second time reading it. The subtitle sums up the main themes. I highly recommend this one if you desire to better understand the post-Christian society that I believe we live in.

5. Kitchen Confidential – Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Another one from a few years back, written by the bad boy of the American kitchen, and host of the television program, No Reservations.

Here some others I read this year (also released this year):

Jesus Wants To Save Christians – A Manifesto For The Church In Exile by Rob Bell and Don Golden
The New Christians – Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier by Tony Jones
Finding Our Way Again – The Return Of The Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren
The Appeal by John Grisham
A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Pagitt
The Fidelity of Betrayal – Towards A Church Beyond Belief by Peter Rollins
The Voice of Romans – The Gospel According to Paul by Chris Seay
Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna
Rockabye – From Wild to Child by Rebecca Woolf

...and here are the rest, alphabetical by author (non 2008 releases):

See No Evil – The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War On Terrorism by Robert Baer
Postmodern Children’s Ministry by Ivy Beckwith
Dethroning Jesus – Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ by Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace
Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality – Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century by John Boswell
A Cook’s Tour – In Search of the Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain
What Would Jesus Deconstruct? – The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church by John D. Caputo
Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
Lost Christianities – The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart D. Ehrman
Lost Scriptures – Books That Did Not Make it Into the New Testament by Bart D. Ehrman
Misquoting Jesus – The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman
Playing For Pizza by John Grisham
Missional Church – A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America by Darrell L. Guder, Lois Barrett, Inagrace T. Diettrich, George R. Hunsberger, Alan J. Roxburgh, and Craig Van Gelder
What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel A. Helminiak
Slam by Nick Hornby
(Re)Understanding Prayer – A Fresh Approach to Conversation With God by Kyle Lake
Adventures in Missing the Point – How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel by Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo
The Voice of Luke – Not Even Sandals by Brian McLaren
The Blue Parakeet - Rethinking How You Read The Bible by Scot McKnight
The Children Are Free – Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels
Fugitives and Refugees – A Walk in Portland, Oregon by Chuck Palahnuik
Wide Open Spaces – Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity by Jim Palmer
Licensed to Kill – Hired Guns in the War On Terror by Robert Young Pelton
Re: Mission – Biblical Mission for a Post-Biblical Church by Andrew Perriman
Casino by Nicholas Pileggi
The Reach of A Chef – Beyond the Kitchen by Michael Ruhlman
The Elements of Cooking – Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen by Michael Ruhlman
First In – An Insider’s Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan by Gary C. Schroen
The Voice of Acts – The Dust off Their Feet: Lessons From The Early Church by Chris Seay
The Last Eyewitness – The Final Week by Chris Seay and David Capes
Homosexuality In The Church – Both Sides of The Debate by Various Authors
Dangerous Wonder – The Adventure of Childlike Faith by Michael Yaconelli

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As a Christmas gift, Keith gave the children paints (washable, thank God), and wooden boards for each of them to create an art piece on.  With Greg's supervision, they painted together a few days ago:

At some point, Lavella decided that it was just a better idea to paint herself:

This ended with a bath for everyone.

Jonah couldn't participate in the fun, but he did rock his very first band t-shirt (Demon Hunter):

Tonight, there will be firecrackers, sparklers and fire breathing on the menu.  The children are so excited!  Have a wonderful and safe New Year, everyone!
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


On Saturday, we went over a friend's house for lunch.  They have a trampoline in the backyard, and even though it was bitterly cold, the children had a great time jumping on it wildly (for a few minutes).

Nick showing the boys a belly-flop jump:

Heather and her little dude:

Jonah and I trying to stay warm (he's in a tiny gray Ralph Lauren hoodie that A. Mary Ann gave to Andrew as a baby, a blue hat, and bundled up in a sling under my hoodie and jacket):

Here's a better shot of Jonah, sporting his very first handknit:

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

All is well, all is bright

This Christmas was wonderful.  Greg came home for R&R (still has about 1 week left), Jonah was born, and Jonathan came to spend a few days with us.  Here are pictures of some of the highlights -- click here for the whole set.

At the children's request, we had a "birthday party" for Jonah the day after he was born.  Whipped cream studded with blueberries, and a candle for each of us to blow out (including Jonah).  Lavella was a little worried about her candle though and the boys had to help her blow the flame out.

Christmas Eve dinner, Jonathan's Spaghetti Bolognese -- buttery and rich with red wine.

Greg found our biggest tree yet -- this one measured just over 13 feet.

Christmas breakfast -- baked donuts

Perfect with coffee or a cold glass of milk

Sunglasses kids on Christmas morning

Jonathan had been lusting after our Wustoff knife set, so we started him out with a Chef's knife and kitchen shears.

Greg's parents gave the children a bunch of art supplies, including markers.  Thankfully, they are washable.  Lavella disappeared at some point during the day, and Greg found her like this:

Later on we discovered there was more hidden art as well:

Jonathan and Greg prepared Christmas dinner and let me take a much needed afternoon nap

They made Pana Cotta and Zabaglione for dessert

We hope that you, too, had a wonderful Christmas, and hope the best for you in the new year.

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