Planes

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Love ‘em. Dad flew them. Brother-in-law flies them. My sister works in them. And my boys have a pile of toy versions of them.

I almost think we males have something built into our DNA that’s attracted to defying gravity. Something that longs to go aloft. And I won’t just relegate that to men; women clearly have a similar tendency, though maybe it gets lost a little with all the engines and props and aircraft fuel and wires. (Though, as Dottie proves, flight mechanic chicks are pretty cute).

Still, perhaps in it’s in all of us to fly. To do the thing we can not do intrinsically without assistance.

So to watch a full-length feature film on planes that are inanimate-objects-animate is pretty spectacular. In fact, Disney’s ability to capture the sensations, sights and sounds of flight was exceptionally enjoyable. Even Joe, my bro-in-law, who—along with every other professional pilot—is quick to note when Hollywood butchers the mechanics of aviation.

“It was surprisingly accurate,” he told me as we walked out of the theatre with my kids. “Laws of aerodynamics and all. That was so refreshing.”

If I hadn’t seen Cars and Cars 2, the character arcs would have been less predictable. But the obvious (and intentional) references to the world’s genesis were clever. And certainly the Kilmer/Edwards tip of the hat to Top Gun was classy, and thoroughly fun to anyone who grew up with that movie in the 80′s. (So glad Goose never really died. That marker dye in the water haunted me until last night).

While not my favorite animated movie, Planes certainly has first place in capturing the boyhood dream of flight, and will be played and replayed no less than fourteen million times in my house.

By my boys, of course.

ch:

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Review Athera’s Dawn


Would you mind reviewing Athera’s Dawn on Amazon?

Yes, reviews help sell books. Because people take them seriously.

So I’m asking for those who’ve read the book to take five minutes and write a simple review of your impressions.

Sure, if you hated it, please abstain from writing a review, though I can’t stop you. That’s the beauty of capitalism in a free-market. However I’d sure appreciate positive reviews.

Thanks in advance!

ch:

Review of The Hungers Games Movie

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I finally went out to see The Hunger Games with my Dad yesterday. After reading the books by Suzanne Collins right when they came out, I was excited to hear the manuscripts would be hitting the silver screen.

As a fan of such works as Brave New World, 1984, and Lord of the Flies, I’ve thought THG’s off-beat premise is one of the more compelling in the last few years. I admire stories that seem to have their own gravitational pull, not just because of their characters, but their absurdly outlandish yet dangerously plausible scenarios. It’s fiction enough that you feel safe for the time being, but inwardly you’re thinking, “Dang, I sure hope this never happens to me.”

Given that Collins wrote THG in first-person present – not only the hardest point of view to write from, but also the most grueling tense – I had even higher hopes for the film. Yet how often have we all been disappointed by the on-screen adaptation?

Early screen shots released on the Internet last year had me worried. It looked like it was shaping up to be a made-for-TV movie, not a piece of cinema. But fortunately that was the marketing firm’s fault. Within the first thirty seconds I knew I was in for a good show.

If anything, my only complaint was that the film employed too many close ups, not enough wide shots, and the Director of Photography and his crew had IV’s of Jolt as the camera shaking was a little over the top. Granted, I got they were trying to build intensity and probably capture Collins’ first-person present POV; but when things are distracting and not complimentary, the art is missing the point. It could have been toned down and still gotten the same message across. Hungry? I was starving for the steady, wide shots when they finally came.

Having Collins on as one of the Producers ensured the story stayed true to the book – an absolute must for a piece like this. It also made sure the casting was impeccable.

Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) was feminine enough that she was beautiful, yet not so dainty that you didn’t fully believe she could hold her own and survive in the woods. Peta was exactly as I pictured him, as we’re Rue, Kato, Glimmer and others. And I thought bringing in Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks were all great touches.

My dad poignantly commented that the score (James Newton Howard, T-Bone Burnett) was understated, a welcomed change to many hyped-up flicks, and exuded the naturally tendencies of the tribal, the hunt, and the melancholy. Strings, drums, and Celtic-folk undercurrents were extremely complimentary.

Obviously the movie had to cut out a lot. But on our ride home, hearing my father bring up a lot of the exact emotions I’d experienced while reading the first book lead me to know Collins had helped invoke her same intensity into the film versions of her story as well.

For those concerned about the content or premise: yes, THG aren’t for everyone. But I found the themes of self-sacrifice, overcoming tyranny, confronting personal demons, and the mob-lust of a pleasure-saturated and flamboyant elite society all strikingly relevant. Not just entertaining, these are reminders that our culture needs to hear.

ch:

For When the Real Bullets Start Flying

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[Screen shot of Act of Valor.]

Some people shouldn’t be allowed to write.

I know that goes against our Amendment on the freedom of speech; and if it were just about that, I get it.

But some people write such utterly base commentaries it degrades the entire human species.

I’m not even sure who reads the New York Times anymore, but their review of the movie Act of Valor boiled down to them not liking it because they had no real actors as Navy SEALS.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t that the point of the film when they promoted the trailer with “Filmed with active duty Navy SEALS”? To a generation that craves the authentic and the genuine, isn’t that a selling point? Tragic that the reviewer missed the point.

Granted, watching some of the SEALS carry on dialog was a bit like watching some of the acting from a Sherwood Pictures movie, but it didn’t diminish the film. Put them in an action sequence and no actor could do it better! And the whole thing was well balanced with the remarkable performances of sinister bad guys Jason Cottle and Alex Veadov.

My father and I had a movie date yesterday, something we did all through my childhood. I love movies today because my dad loved movies back then. And when my good friend Mike Kim said it was one of the best movies he’d seen, I knew it was going to be brilliant.

And it was.

Daddy and I walked out of the theatre astonished, grateful and humble. And I couldn’t help but think about our own flag raising incident two years ago at the US National Cemetery in Normandy, and how seeing this film made that privilege all the more overwhelming.

It’s not for young viewers, nor those that have a hard time with intense battle sequences or f-bombs. But it is for patriots. For those who still believe we live in an incredible country. For those who want reminding about just how valiant all the members within our service branches are.

Magnificent heros. And as they say in the film, damn few.

My grandfather would have loved this movie were he alive. My dad agreed.

Here’s to all the men and women that give their lives everyday in service to our nation, and to my family. I admire and honor you all.

And here’s to the nearsighted self-proclaimed pundits who still don’t get why they used real US Navy SEALS. May God grant you protection for when you’re asking where the actors are if real bullets ever start flying. ch:

The Bone House

A CSFF BOOK REVIEW: I received a free ebook of The Bone House from the publisher for review through the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. Yes, I would love to have the hardback edition (and will most likely buy it), but I’m doing 100% of my reading on my iPad these days.

If Lawhead writes it, I read it.

Why? I haven’t completely figured that out yet, at least form a technical standpoint. And trust me, I’m trying. As a writer, you’re always “reading to write,” and glean what you can form the masters. But my hunch is simply this: Because Steve takes me somewhere.

Another reason is that while the markets are focused on authors who’re writing in publishing’s flavor of the month, Steve comes out and writes in something altogether un-trendy. And hits a home run. So add to the mystic equation his allure of “the other” and perhaps I’m a few steps closer to defining why I appreciate Lawhead.

The Bone House – picking up where The Skin Map left off in the Bright Empires pentalogy – is a unique sell. Not high fantasy, not modern sci-fi, it’s better termed – as son Ross Lawhead deemed itScience Fantasy.

TBH (and TSM) reads more like classic literature than candy-written pop. Pacing is slower – and sometimes disjointed – and the main characters are not always the focus (or the point). Likewise, they’re surprisingly normal, which adds to the intrigue: what would I do in a situation where I’m flung across time and space simply because I walked a particular side-street in London at just the right meter?

Which adds to Lawhead’s great genius of answering my fundamental question as a creator: Is it plausible?

If I can’t see myself responding the way the characters are responding, I grow disconnected as a reader. And ultimately unconcerned – the worst possible state as a watcher. More fascinating is Lawhead’s ability to help me identify with both someone born in the 2oth century and someone born in the 16th century, all while having a conversation among themselves that makes perfect sense, due in part to the awkwardness of it all. Needless to say, a great deal of thought was put into character and historical development.

In TBH, ley-line travel is becoming more of a learned science – albeit fledgling – and the reader feels slightly more comfortable in the multiverse. I find Lawhead’s use of theoretical science of great value, much the way Michael Crichton implemented it (Timeline still being one of my all-time favorite novels).

And what Lawhead tome would be complete without some real life historical references, like famed multi-genius Thomas Young? Because the lines are greyed between what Lawhead has made up and what he’s incorporated from history, I always find myself saying, “Wait, this isn’t legit…is it?”

Definitely worth buying, reading, and pondering. But then again, I’m biased. ch:

TOUR PARTICIPANTS:
Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Alien Ears

I have not been paid for or received compensation of any kind for this review; it is unsolicited and completely of my own volition as a performing artist.

Product reviews of items you “can not live without” should not take this long to post. But life is busy, and the desire to do justice to a truly exceptional product demands more than just a passing comment. While the months since June faded the details and timelines, passion for my Alien Ears in-ear-monitors (IEMs) has not.

I’ve always wanted a pair of custom molded IEMs – going on the first time they appeared in the 90′s on TV. The thought of having complete stage-noise isolation, all the while enjoying a perfect headphone mix, is just about the greatest listening and therefore performing experience a musician could enjoy. But high costs made custom IEMs an elitist’s luxury, and a working-musician’s fantasy.

I first bought generic-fit IEMs in 2001 – a decent pair of Shures. I even experimented with MAudios through the years. But in all cases, generic-fits are a pain to shove into the ear canal, uncomfortable, and have a nasty habit of popping out in the most inopportune times. Let’s face it, losing monitoring at any point while performing is an inopportune time.

What’s a guy to do?

Enter Alien Ears out of Clearwater, FL.

First off, let me say I’ve researched every company that produces custom IEMs. And when I say “researched,” I mean I’ve looked at their materials and parts, sought out customer reviews and compared experiences, and contacted management on an individual basis; the only thing I haven’t done is a complete listening experience, only because custom IEMs require just that: a custom fit to your ear to work properly.

Suffice it to say, I went with Alien Ears.

Here’s why:

1.) Their customer service is #1. I got to talk to Andre Belloise, GM, right off the bat. He took my numerous (and probably obnoxious) emails and phone calls during the months leading up to my purchase, even when I had to delay my order. No money in hand, he still treated me as if I’d bought 10 sets. His wife, Yolanda, was equally patient; their techs were knowledgable and sought to help out even when the boss was away.

2.) Their product is excellent. In fact they use the same exact plastics and drivers as companies that charge 3-4 times as much. I love what Andre says: “When people ask us how we can charge so little, we ask how other companies can charge so much.” But with a smaller staff, smaller overhead, and “volunteer” endorsements, they don’t pass frivolous expenditures on to their customers – just great IEMs.

3.) Their turnaround time and followthrough care is fabulous. I had some delays in production as I decided against having an audiologist create my molds, thus using their free impressions kit and instructions. It took me 3 times to get it right (as they insist each impression passes strict quality-control testing). They knew I needed my IEMs for an upcoming tour, and I had them in the mail within a week (as opposed to their normal 4-week turnaround). Pretty outstanding.

I went with their FR-C3 Full Range Triples for $395.00 with detachable cables (for easy replacement); each pair of Alien Ears comes with a zippered pouch and cleaning tool. (I even had them put my “ch:” logo on the inside). For those with smaller budgets, or less demanding audio needs, they offer single and dual driver models starting at just $189.00; their hi-end would be the quads ($650.00). But the triples seemed my best option, both budget wise and for what I was looking for in sound definition. That’s a driver for the hi’s, one for the mid’s, and one for the low’s – namely because I’m a guitarist and a vocalist. Drummers and bassists should opt for the dual low’s and single hi’s if going with the triples.

And the sound is awesome.

The first time slipping them takes a little finagling. They actually “twist” into your ear. But once you get it down, it’s a motion easily memorized. And for good reason: they never “accidentally” come out. Because they’re a negative of your own ear, they’re as comfortable as anything you’ll ever wear. I couldn’t wait to try them out when they arrived, so I decided to watch a movie on my MacBook Pro in bed. Twisted them in, plugged into the 1/8″ mini-plug jack, and turned up the volume.

Wow.

Incredible tone, frequency response, and clarity. The seal formed against your head actually increases the bass response, which is pretty astounding considering how small the drivers are. Within minutes I had completely forgotten they were in!

On stage they perform the same way. I’m guessing I experience a -30db cut of stage volume, and providing I have a good sound engineer or access to an Aviom personal mixer, it feels like I’m sitting in the studio. And I have yet to unseat them while performing; with the amount I sweat, that’s pretty impressive.

They’re not only my preferred stage monitors – utterly replacing all floor wedges (and reducing stage noise of my FOH engineers) – but they’re my listening headphones of choice, going with me on every flight, and every trip into the office.

So when you’re ready, leave the overpriced, over marketed “big names” to their high-overhead operations, and give Andre a call (727-346-6483 – andre@alienears.com). Tell him I sent you. ch:

UPDATE – 4:15pm EST: Thanks to my friend Dave Bode for asking me what I don’t like about them. My only real negative is that, when singing, if I open my mouth too wide, the seal will break; the extreme shape of my ear will actually budge the IEM slightly. Granted, it’s only temporary, and not that noticeable. The instructions even guide you through an “open mouth” function while the impressions are forming; this certainly helps, but I don’t think any IEM takes care of the singing-budge completely; no material except flesh can move like that.

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What I’m Reading

I’ve always believed that leaders are readers. I also believe that it’s important to read because what I currently know isn’t enough. Plus, every leader that I admire in my life is constantly suggesting books for me to read, which tells me if I want to be like them, I need to know what they’re reading. Better still, I need to read what they’re reading.

For the record, I always have fiction and non-fiction on my bedside table (physical or iPad). I like to dream, imagine, and be taken on an adventure. Likewise, I serve and lead people in a very nonfictional world. Both platforms have immense value to me.

Two non-fiction books were recently given to me by two different influential church leaders.

Lasting Impressions by Mark Waltz has not only been a thought provoking journey of how we incorporate people into the environment of church-life, but how we view them as individuals.

A pair of quotes from Mark that have really affected me:

We extend grace when our acceptance comes without requirements.

We must meet people where they are, not where we wish they were.

By far the most refreshing book I’ve read all year is Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. While books like Divine Nobodies, Quitting Church, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, and Frank Viola’s divisive Pagan Christianity - which, in my view, have only succeeded in splitting churches and emboldening already-disgruntled complainers who just needed confirmation why their complaining was “theologically sound” – DeYoung and Kluck urge readers to fall in love with the “betrothed of Christ” again, and renew their vigor for seeing her as beautiful like Jesus does.

Fiction-wise, I just finished The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. While there are handfuls of worldly-truth or witty anecdotes, I read it because I found her study on post-war adolescent behavior fascinating, and not that far emotionally from many of the situations I counsel young people through on a weekly basis. As a writer, it has a gripping premise, is a fantastic example of character development, and all three books are written in first-person, present tense. That deserves an award right there.

What are you reading? And why? ch:

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It’s Wayne. Need I Say More?

I left the Eric Peters post up for a week now in the hopes that it would get a lot of prime face time on my site. If you haven’t read about his project, or taken the opportunity to invest in it, please do so right now.

As a post-Fantasy Fiction Tour followup idea we had–no one wanting the festivities of tour-life to end–we decided to take the next eight Mondays and feature each author on our websites. It is of course a little redundant, thinking that if you don’t know every one’s names by now then you must be a newbie to my site; but then again that’s the reason why I’m doing this. If you haven’t heard of Wayne, then allow me to introduce you.

Short of being an outstanding author with well over 100,000 books in print, Wayne Thomas Batson is also a husband, father, school teacher…and a devoted friend. I really can’t say enough about the guy without risking the error of flattery. But one thing is for sure–something I can say about each and every author on the Tour–that he’s the real deal. That’s important. Because if I could know for sure the quality of individual that pens the pages of the books my children read, that I would be much quicker to invest in them.

Authors, musicians, painters, poets and the like all create out of themselves. We are moved by our own life-experiences and allow them to breathe into our work. In the end, you are getting “life as interpreted by the artist.” So when you read Rise of The Dibor, you are getting a little bit of Christopher Hopper. When you read The Door Within, you are getting a little bit of Wayne Thomas Batson. I think that is one reason why people are so enamored with celebrities, especially actors. As film most dynamically connects an audience to the media (sight and sound), people feel as if they actually know the actors. Of course it’s very limited and superficial in most cases, but I believe their is still an impartation, if even on a spiritual level.

As personal practice, I always tend to consciously keep my guard up whenever I see a movie, aware of scenes and songs that try and compromise my integrity. Granted, I try and get as much foreknowledge as possible, but there are elements that even the sharpest critics won’t pick up because they are incidents that know one else would ever think of; they are proprietary to my life experiences.

So being able to actually know where an artist is coming from, what moves them, and what they think life should be like, is of paramount importance if you want to move beyond the shallowest of compliments, “I think it’s cool.” What are their core beliefs and what are you receiving when you receive their art into your life?

This, of course, is the long way around of telling you by what measure I judge art: not on the art alone, but on the artist as an individual. And Wayne would not be my friend if he did not have full marks. He is one of the most caring and kind souls I have ever met (despite his ferocity with a long sword), and that translates into love for his wife, his children, and the students he pours his life out for everyday. He truly has a tender heart and huge dose of creativity, two things I admire greatly.

Lastly, his devotion to the Lord is humbling. Quick to say he doesn’t “get it all,” and easy with sharing his faults, Wayne is 24 carat in his faith. No pretenses. No guile. He is a broken man in need of a Mighty God, something that the Lord obviously cherishes. For when we are weak, He is strong, and a broken and contrite spirit God will not despise.

If nothing else, you have to at least love his pirate costume!

Thanks for being my friend, Sir Wayne. Never alone…

CH