Making up for lost time (Reviews, Rants, Ramblings, and More)

After a month of silence the Jesusgreek speaks....

Book Reviews

"Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell (5 Stars)
When I told my friend Joel that Malcom Gladwell would be speaking at the Catalyst conference I was going to next month, he insisted I read his newest book, "Outliers". Very simply, "Outliers" poses the question: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendants of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential.

"The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University" by Kevin Roose (5 Stars)
Brown University student Roose didn’t think of himself as being particularly religious, yet he conceived the novel idea of enrolling at Liberty University, the school Jerry Falwell built, thereby transferring from a school “a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah” to the evangelical equivalent of Notre Dame or Brigham Young. His reasons were logical, though curious. To him, a semester at Liberty was like studying abroad. “Here, right in my time zone, was a culture more foreign to me than any European capital.” He tells his story entertainingly, as a matter of trying to blend in and not draw too much attention to himself. One hardened habit he had to break was cursing; he even bought a Christian self-help book to tame his tongue. Throughout his time at Liberty, he stayed level-headed, nuanced, keenly observant. He meant to find some gray in the black-and-white world of evangelicalism, and he learned a few things. His stint at Liberty hardly changed the world but did alter his way at looking at it. That’s a start.
Video Game Reviews

Batman: Arkham Asylum (9.5/10)
I read a review of the game before I bought so I expected it to be good. After playing it for several hours I have found that it is better than expected. The style, the gameplay, the exploration aspect and the plain old fun, its all there.
To start off you actually have to use your brain a little in this game. You can't just walk to your next objective you have to find your way there. You also can't just run into a room full of thugs with machine fists blazing, they will shoot you and you will die. You actually have to pick them off one at a time. Its a nice change because its not so challenging that it frustrates you but makes the game more fun as you find the ceiling vent to escape through or to the back of a thug to take down. I never had a game where the combat and movement flows so nicely. Movement is similar to the grand theft auto games but you really can go just about anywhere you can see on the island. Its a good amount of game time, it takes a lot of hours to get through it and a lot more to find everything hidden to complete the game 100%. So if you are looking for great graphics and and strategy combat this is the game to get.

Rock Band: The Beatles (9/10)
How do you take the greatest rock band in history and create a video game based on their illustrious career? Like this. Rock Band: The Beatles is everything any Beatles fan could hope for. Great song selection, terrific story mode, challenging songs and instruments, and the best graphics yet on any Rock Band game. One cool feature I have yet to tap into yet is the ability to have a bass, guitar, drums AND three vocals at once. Singing along on solo is hard enough, I can't imagine what it will be like to attempt to harmonize with two other singers. My only knock on this near perfect game is it's just not enough songs. Who knew that you could blow through the 46 songs in just a few hours. There is a promise by Rock Band that the entire Abby Road and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band albums will be out on DLC this fall.

Movie / Televison Reviews

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - I'm trying to forget this movie (1.5 Stars)
The Heartbreak Kid - Something about Mary joins Meet the Parents...just not as funny (2 Stars)
The Rocker - Rainn Wilson stars as a washed up 80"s rocker who joins his nephew's high school rock band. A surprisingly good movie. (3.5 Stars)
Cabin Fever - The only reason we watched this movie was because it was filmed in Danbury & Stokes county where my wife grew up. Danbury would be wise to distance themselves from this film as much as possible. (0 Stars)
Six Feet Under - Our newest TV addiction is this long canceled show from HBO. Needing a Michale C. Hall fix in between seasons and Dexter we decided to give this show a chance. I'm glad we did. It's brilliantly written and the acting is top notch (4 Stars)


** Note: This is basically a gripe session for me and it may or may not make sense to anyone else.

- Hardwood floors are great to have but a pain in the butt to keep looking good.

- Time Warner Cable must be run by a) the Devil b) Osoma Bin Laden or c) pre-schoolers.

- The Panthers are going to be terrible this year. They'll be lucky if they're 6-10.

- Why do my kids a two bedrooms and a play room full of toys, books, games, and more but yet they still say want more?

- Dear jerk in Subaru Outback and soccer mom in blue min-van, how hard is it to follow pick-up directions when picking up your kids from school each day?

- Wake looked worse last week then they have in the past 3 years. Hopefully today will be a bit different.

- Why can't I learn to let go and just not care? Why do I take everything so personally?

- I'm beginning to think we'll never get to park in our garage.

- How hard is it to simply be respectful? Why do people feel they deserve respect from others but they don't have to give any back?

- Am I the only person that thinks Twitter is the most narcissistic fad ever. I don't care if you're standing in line to get coffee or if your stuck in traffic. And if you frequently use facebook's status update then you are heading down the same sad narcissistic path as your twittering friends.


- We are now members of the mini van society. Beth went kicking and screaming but in the end our new/used Chevy Uplander will be much more family friendly then the Honda Accord

- Speaking of the Honda. I posted it for sale on Craigslist last Thursday and sold it within 24 hours. That's the fastest I have ever sold a car.

- We've been in the new house for 2 months now and it's finally starting to feel like home. For a while it felt like we were just staying at a really nice hotel.

- An old friend returned home last week, no not Kel but that was cool to. I'm talking about my '85 Chevy S-10. I owned it when Beth and i first got married and drove it for several years before selling it to my father-in-law. Last week he said he was going to sale it so I bought it back. I figured Jacob would need something to drive in 10 years.

- Jacob started kindergarten at the Downtown Elementary School a few weeks ago. So far so good. He loves his class and his teacher. In fact his teacher has already told us that Jacob is so far ahead that she has him working on 1st grade level math and writing. It's good to know he takes after his dad with his brains.

- We put Maria in a kindergarten readiness class this year that allows her to go 5 days a week from 8-2. She loves it! The school offers weekly electives such as dance and swimming which Maria thinks is coolest things ever.

- We had an amazing vacation at Holden Beach recently. If there is a more family-friendly, peaceful beach in NC I want to know where. The weather was perfect, the crowds were low, and for the first time in a long time, we didn't do a thing all week except hop back and forth between the ocean and the pool. It's what vacations should be - relaxing.

- ACC football predictions: Divison winners: Clemson & Georgia Tech - ACC Champ: GT

- NFL Predictions: NFC & AFC Champs: Green Bay & New England - Super Bowl Champ: NE


In case you haven't heard, my new book is coming out this month. You can order it here:
TOP STORY - Michael Gianopulos Co-Authors New Donald Miller Book, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years"


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