You just gotta see Mary and Max

Friday night Bec and I went to see Mary and Max with friends. Little did I realise I’d see probably the best animated film I’ve ever seen, and certainly the most emotionally captivating one. I think the real key is that it’s ultimately just a beautiful story, and the storytelling doesn’t get compromised at any stage. But I can blah blah blah all day – the point is that we need as many people as possible to fork out their hard earned cash on this movie so that these kind of movies continue to get made. Adam Elliot is a genius.

Trailer below.


Re-Jesus: The Book “Shaping” Could Have Been

ReJesus

ReJesus

One of my all time favourite books is “The Shaping Of Things To Come” by Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost. It was my introduction to the emerging-missional church conversation/movement (like a bunch of Aussies, and quite a few non-Aussies), and it is a really good read. It’s quite heavy, but at the same time quite inspiring. The revolution had begun, no longer was it OK for a church to be attractional, the Christendom model was to be rejected out of hand and we were all going to have churches that genuinely engaged with their communities.

The beauty of “Shaping” was also it’s biggest problem. This was a revolutionary text, a veritable Communist Manifesto, and like most revolutionary texts, there appeared little concern for anyone left behind. Out with the old wineskins, in with the new, the old wine can go jump,  just worry about those new wineskins. That sort of deal. It was written with the best of intentions, and with a genuine love for old-church. But because it was so passionate, so revolutionary, so angry that love was overshadowed. So a number of people were hurt, and even more were able to write off “Shaping” as being a pipe dream, and an angry reaction to bad experiences of Christendom model church, rather than the freeing invitation to shape your ecclesiology by the missional context you find yourself within. It took no effort to ignore as being a case of hurt Christians lashing out at the church.

Fast forward at least 5 years (I don’t have my copy of Shaping of Things To Come with me) and the terrible twosome have come out with another book together. And in my (very humble) opinion, this is the book that Shaping might have been. It’s not as heavy, and it’s not as angry, but in my opinion it’s equally as challenging and revolutionary. Whereas it could be argued that parts of Shaping came across as an attack ad on the Christendom model church, Re-Jesus comes across as instead being a positively re-inforced call back to centre our entire lives (including our church and church structure) around the person of Jesus. And that has as many harsh implications for how the emerging-missional crowd “be the church” as it does for the mainstream attractional crew.

I really believe that this is a book with an incredible potential to be a powerful prophetic voice in calling the church back to a truly Jesus-centred Christianity. I could describe it more, but I’m instead just going to encourage you all to read it.


Geoff’s 25 word book reviews – Part 1

Over the last few months, I’ve been spending the vast majority of my train trips reading books, and as a result I’ve eaten through a great deal of literature. Some non-fiction, some fiction, some I’d recommend, others not so much.  So, in the interests of not letting that experience go to waste, here’s my 25 words (or less) book reviews.

Everything is IlluminatedJonathan Safran Foer

Everything Is Illuminated
Image via Wikipedia

A  really great,  freaky read. The movie was weird, but this was something else. Not for the easily offended, but a beautifully composed piece of literature.

The Irresistable Revolution – Shane Claibourne

This book took my life to pieces. Shane Claibourne lives out the gospel with an authenticity and radicalism few can match. Absolute must read.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Dickens Great Expectations

Dickens' "Great Expectations"

Pip’s story has so many disarming parables, and is my favourite Dickens novel. The twists make a fun read, as well as beautiful linguistics.

The Lost Message of Jesus – Steve Chalke

Cannot comprehend how this book caused so much controversy – had to go back and look for the passage. Beautiful interpretation of Jesus’ life and message.

A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Powered through this book, it’s impossible to stop reading. Found out how we found out just about everything in science, all while being ridiculously readable.

The Quantam of Solace – Ian Fleming

Bond short stories, which I thought I’d love after enjoying Casino Royale (the book). Fleming needs the longer format to build excitement. Disappointing read.

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New Feature: IntenseDebate

Intense Debate

Intense Debate

I’ve just added in a new feature here on TheGeoffRe(y)port, called “IntenseDebate“. It’s a plugin from Automattic (the main WordPress guys), that is designed to improve the commenting functionality of the blog. The main features I can see are that if you want to reply directly to a comment, you can hit the reply button, making it clear who your comment is directed at (play nicely children). Also, you can signify that you agree, or disagree with someone’s comment by giving them a thumbs up or thumbs down, and so comments will end up with a score.

So, have a visit (if you’re an RSS reader), and let me know what you think – I’m not 100% sold on it yet, and I’m not certain that I like having to rely on an external service for my comments to come up. But it’s kinda cool, so I’d love to know what you think.

If you even care.


Coffeehouse Theology – An Enticing Introduction

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

When theology blogger and author, Ed Cyzewski was about to release his book “Coffeehouse Theology”, he sent out copies of aforementioned book to a heap of christian bloggers, if they would participate in a “blog tour” (meaning people review the book, each posting on a different day). Due to Rebecca having a really well written and widely read blog, Ed asked if my beloved would mind joining the tour.

Unfortunately, a combination of a really slow postal system, and Rebecca being flat-chat with assignments in the lead up to the end of semester, she has not (yet) read “Coffehouse Theology”, and being the inquisitive, literate person that I am, I pinched the free copy myself (which becomes legal now that we’re married), and had a read. So there’s your disclaimers – I didn’t pay for this book.

Despite a title that a friend called a little bit “touchy-feely-emergenty”, this book is a really worthwhile read. Up until now I’d have described Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind Of Christian” series as the best introduction to post-modernism and the ramifications for the church, but (with a completely different approach), Ed Cyzewski provides a very gentle, very thorough and balanced understanding of what post-modernism really is and how it effects how we think about God. Ed has a way of writing that makes him almost impossible to disagree with: you feel like he’s articulating the way you already felt, even as he takes you to places you’ve never been before.

“Coffeehouse Theology” provides a compelling case for contextual theology, and a clear and conscise methodology for theological contemplation. Ed doesn’t turn theological thinking into an academic exercise, but instead invites his readers to think about their Christianity, and to recognise that we follow Jesus in a time and place. “Coffehouse Theology” was great to read for myself, but in many ways it feels like I’ve only got about a quarter of the value out of this book, because this is a book that I will, without doubt, hand to someone else to have a read (and if you’re reading Ed, I’ll then encourage them to get out there and buy a copy themself! :)).

Coffeehouse Theology is the sort of bridge-building book that provides a real chance for the mainstream church to see that in so many ways, they are on the same side as “emerging” type thinkers. Because the road to syncretism and heresy doesn’t come from looking seriously at the culture we find ourselves immersed in, and recognise the benefits as well as the dangers of our culture, but rather it starts when we pretend that culture does not and has not effected us. Ed (it’s much easier to type than “Cyzewski”) is certainly pushing the church in a direction it needs to go, and is doing with an approach that doesn’t throw away the wider church tradition as we consider the words of Scripture.

Basically guys, it’s a really good book. If you get a chance – pick it up!

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Google Chrome – Shiny, but not there yet

Googles new browser - Chrome

Google's new browser - "Chrome"

Google have released a new internet browser out into the wild : “Google Chrome” – to compete with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. There’s a little bit of confusion around exactly why Google would want to do that given that they are deeply involved with Mozilla Firefox: both in developers and cash, but it starts making sense once you use it. This browser is fast. And it’s especially fast for applications with a lot of Javascript – GMail, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc. It has a shiny new Javascript virtual machine running under the hood, and it works a treat. Beautiful.

So, here’s the Geoff wrap up in a few short points:

Why You Would Use It

  • Makes fantastic use of screen real estate – barely takes up any room at all which means you’ve got tons of room on the screen for the stuff you actually care about.  More stuff fits on your screen, which means you have to scroll less, which makes the world a happier place
  • Freaking fast – I’ve said it already but this canes the buttocks off either of the big two browsers just in terms of speed.
  • Default Home Page – Every time you open a new tab in Chrome, instead of a blank screen, the page shows a grid of your most visited sites that are accessible with the click of a mouse. Because this is driven completely locally, you’re not waiting for the homepage to load up over a slow connection – it just works. Sure it’s probably stolen from Opera, but it’s a good idea
  • It’s Google – and they make good stuff. The big positive about Google is that they have a philosophy of “release early then iterate”, meaning that the failures of today will likely not be there tomorrow.

Why You Wouldn’t Use It (at least all the time)

  • No RSS Support – now I realise that this might not mean a lot for some of you, but there are a bunch of us that this will raise alarm bells for. Not only do you not get the cute little feed icon showing up in the address bar of a relevant site, but if you click on an RSS feed link, you just get garbled junk.
  • Missing features – because it’s early days, there are a few features that are easy to get used to in Firefox that feel missing in Chrome. Ironically for a Google product, Chrome doesn’t have a search bar, but instead has you typing search queries into the address bar, which seems to me to be a little counter-intuitive. Maybe I just need to get over it
  • No extensions – For a long time Firefox user, this is a bit of a sad one. Extensions are pluggable bits of code that magically do fun (or useful) things to your browser to add functionality. At this stage there’s nothing like that for Chrome, and while I think that’ll change, for the moment that’s a deal killer.
  • It’s only on Windows at the moment, which means people who have a choice about their OS are unlikely to be able to use it yet.
  • You might still be stuck in the Internet Explorer world where you didn’t realise you had a “web browser” other than the big blue e.
So for the moment, it won’t be my primary browser of choice. Although I could actually imagine that if I was doing anything significant in Google Docs for example, I’d be a fair chance to fire this one up. The real key will be seeing how Google continue to develop this one, and whether the reasons not to use it really do disappear overnight.
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My Beautiful iPod touch

I must admit that I do feel like a bit of a sell-out having bought an iPod touch, aka: the phone planless man’s iPhone. But a combination of seeing a shiny new iPhone in the wild and having already decided that I didn’t have enough justification for getting an iPhone, plus apple having a good deal going on refurbished iPod touches led to a moment of weakness that I’m having a hard time trying to regret.

The ongoing wait for home Internet has meant that I’ve had this little beauty since Monday but haven’t had it all updated until last night. And with all the funky apps that you can pick up that’s when she really comes alive. Apart from anything else this post will have been completely written in the wordpress app, which has been remarkably well designed. Like a massive chunk of the iPhone apps, it just does what you expect it to, in the way you expect it to work.

Suffice to say my train trips just got a whole lot more bearable.


Brought to you by the letter “V”

VEver since I saw the movie with Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving (possibly the most underrated Australian actor in the business, I’ve had a bit of a “thing” about “V for Vendetta”. So after I made some noises about the graphic novel when we saw it at Borders on our honeymoon, the lovely Rebecca duly took note and made sure that a copy came my way when it came to birthday time. It hasn’t taken long for me to devour the book, and it’s rekindled my intrigue.

At it’s heart “V” strikes at a number of things that resonate with me, as well as draws attention to a few things that I’m not as sure about. For starters, there is the revolution against a fascist totalitarian state. And it strikes at something deep inside (likely put there by WWII movies and computer games) that makes is just fantastic for someone to be beating up the fascists. There’s just something deep down that wants to barrack for the guy who is starting the revolution. I came out of the movie the first time ready to bust some heads.

But it poses some big questions, particularly around justice. V kills – not indiscriminately but with the moral self-certainty of a vigilante. The ethics of “just-war” type thinking, mixed in with the problem of cheering for a terrorist (particularly in today’s climate) give a great opportunity to re-evaluate exactly what you believe in these situations.

The graphic novel is noticeably different from the film (partly out of necessity: the novel was written in the early 80s and set in the late 90s) but the film certainly stayed true to the heart of the comic. It’s a really fun read, but I must admit I couldn’t read “V” talking without hearing Hugo Weaving’s voiceover ringing through my head.


My Top 5 Favourite WordPress Blogging Tools

As a result of a) having Virtually Paul tell me that he only finds out about cool blogging tools from me; b) realising that I haven’t actually written a Tech post in a long, long time and c) seeing that Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger Group Writing Project is up and happening, I thought it only fitting that I make a top 5 of my favourite tools for blogging with WordPress.

1. Akismet. That counter on my sidebar doesn’t lie: I really have had more than 5 and a half thousand spam comments blocked. In the time I’ve been running the blog, I’ve only had 3 or 4 comments incorrectly blocked (and Jaclyn, if you’re reading, you were one of them: Sorry!) and it’s remarkably rare that a comment spam will get through the spam blocking wonder that is Akismet. I love it

2. Mint. Sure it actually costs money (practically nothing), and it might not quite cover all my stats-nerd needs, but Mint is quickly becoming my tool of choice for statistical analysis. Mint specialises in giving a really nice quick look at how things are travelling – there’s a nice overview of everything I’m interested in all on the front page. It makes me happy. And any gaps in my statistical nerdy needs are met by my love of……

3. FeedBurner. FeedBurner are a perfect example of what is quickly becoming a Web 2.0 dictum: do one thing and do it the best. Feedburner look after RSS feeds. They do all sorts of cool things with it, optimising it for browsers, putting helpful links at the bottom of the feed, and importantly for my aforementioned statistic addiction – tracking subscribers and hits on the blog. FeedBurner is only really made useful because they have a ripper little plugin which automagically forwards all the hits to my regular feed addresses (http://www.geoffreport.com/wp/feed/ or a derivative of that) to my FeedBurner feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/geoffreport ) without me needing to touch anything. Gotta love that!

4 . Google Reader. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it really does make my blogging world a happier place. I’m currently monitoring 138 feeds, and that can only happen because it all goes in centrally to the Google Reader interface. It’s also a source for what I think is probably my most under-utilised feature: the starred post feed and sidebar widget where I link through to interesting things I’ve come across in the blogosphere. If I don’t find it in my Google Reader, it doesn’t go in there.

5. Google Analytics. I know, I know, I’ve now got three places that I’m listing statistic services, but it’s MY favourite top 5 after all, so you can all just put up with it. Analytics is cruddy at trying to pick up the here and now stuff, which Mint is much, much better at, but Google Analytics is an absolute wonder at looking over historical data – particularly now that I’ve almost got a year’s worth of data in there. So I can have a look at how the traffic spike for one Problogger writing project versus another, or how many people read the “going out” announcement versus how many read the “engagement” announcement. It gives a stats junkie way too much to do.

Others that came close to making the list are Adsense, but I haven’t made a penny off that yet (although it’s getting there), or ScribeFire except that I’m still getting used to using it, and not that sure that I love it as much as I’d hoped that I would.


The Greatest Show I’ve Ever Seen

Not a hint of exaggeration. I might not have seen that many, but those Irish boys certainly do know how to put on a show. I was going to wait until I had my photos ready to put up, but it’s late and I can’t be bothered doing all that when I could be sleeping. Should get them up sometime tomorrow. Might even just make a Flickr category for them or something. I’ll let you know.

Now – onto the concert. For those of you who are a little bit slow, or not from Melbourne, U2 came to town on Saturday and Sunday night, and I was one of the people who were online for four hours, about a year ago when the tickets went on sale, and so I had General Admission tickets (aka – standing room out on the arena). Which meant that it was going to be worthwhile getting there early.

So I rocked up at about 4:15 (having had to drive to Box Hill, because they were running buses from Ringwood to Box Hill, grumble grumble) and got sat in a glorified pig pen with about 200 other people to demarcate our place in the queue. It was about the most sensible way I’ve ever seen of setting out a queue, you didn’t feel like you needed to watch your place like a hawk: the whole thing was very well organised. So after about an hour and a half we got moving, and 15 minutes later I was inside. I found a decent spot – about 35 metres from the stage – they had a barricade to stop us going any closer (I think you had to be there before lunch to get those spots, so had about as sweet a spot as I could hope for and then just sat around for another hour and a half.

Kanye West came on and he was alright without being inspiring. I’m not really a hip-hop fan, but I’d decided that I was ready to be converted, but it didn’t happen. I don’t think Kanye’s sound is quite big enough for Telstra Dome with the roof open. He did have plenty of bass though. Could feel my shirt flapping with every “doof”, so that’s a win! Then there was another big wait – about 45 minutes, and the show was on!

While I was about 35 metres from the main stage, I was much, much closer to the U-shaped catwalk stage they had set out. So when the lights had gone dim, and Bono emerged out of nowhere to suddenly be about 10 metres in front of me wrapped in an Australian flag (yes, I know, cheesy and cheap, but it somehow seemed to work) – everyone just went absolutely mental! And the show had begun!

Did I mention that they know how to put on a show? “City of Blinding Lights” was their first, and from that moment on I was in musical paradise. There was a pretty good mix of new stuff along with the songs that you desperately want to hear them play were there (see the set list at the bottom of the post), and it just hit the spot. There were plenty of really pumping songs, as well as a few of the slower, swaying songs. I almost cried when they played “One” – it’s been my favourite for years and I almost thought they weren’t going to play it for a little bit.

I might have mentioned that they know how to put on a good show. It amazes me just how conscious Bono is of the images he makes. He understands symbolism better than any performer I know of, whether it’s crawling blind for the microphone, wrapping himself in the Australian flag, the iconic “CoeXisT” headband, or even just the deliberate decision to always wear sunglasses.

And I felt so close to them – at one stage or another I was within under-arm gumboot chucking distance of each of them, often more than one at a time (band members, not gumboots, I didn’t actually throw any gumboots). The set was just unbelievable, they had a massive, low-res screeen, with two pretty big screens off to either side, and as big a freaking speaker tower as you are ever likely to see.

I can’t come close to describing how much fun I had – it was certainly one of the most entertaining nights I’ve ever had, and as worth the money as any night’s entertainment can ever be. There might even be a “The Greatest Show I’ve Ever Seen Part Two” – we’ll see how assignments go. But it was SO GOOD! (and I may have got two T-Shirts and a poster as mementos). I don’t care what anyone says – I LOVE BONO!

Set List

City Of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
Elevation
I Will Follow
New Year’s Day
Beautiful Day / Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (snippet) / Here Comes The Sun(snippet)
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
Angel Of Harlem
Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
Love And Peace Or Else
Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (snippet)
Bullet The Blue Sky / When Johnny Comes Marching Home (snippet) / The Hands That Built America (snippet)
Miss Sarajevo
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Where The Streets Have No Name
One

Encore(s):The Fly
Mysterious Ways
With Or Without You / Never Tear Us Apart (snippet) / Love Will Tear Us Apart (snippet)
The Saints Are Coming
Desire
Kite

(Set list stolen verbatim from Analise, mostly because I’m lazy)