23 December 2009
22 December 2009
21 December 2009
Michael Connelly is my favorite contemporary author, and I was taken aback when I saw one of his newest novels in Phnom Penh. I bought it, of course, and a few days later, the deed was done... the book had been read.
This is his 19th novel, and it is just as good, if not better than the preceding ones. 'The Brass Verdict' brings back defense lawyer Mickey Haller for the second time. He has taken a year or so off after being involved in a near fatal case (read: The Lincoln Lawyer). As the novel starts, Haller is planning a return to law practice. However, he is surprised to hear that a fairly close colleague of his has been murdered, and as a result, Haller has inherited his case load. At the top of the pile is a high profile case involving the head of a Hollywood movie company that has been accused of killing his wife and her lover.
As Haller is getting started with taking over the cases, he is quickly confronted by Connelly's classic character, Detective Harry Bosch. Bosch has been in over a dozen of Connelly's, but never in the same book with Haller. Bosch is investigating the death of the other lawyer, as well as trying to get Haller to help.
I give 'The Brass Verdict' 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
A few weeks ago, a friend gave me a copy of Elizabeth George's book 'Careless in Red'. I had never heard of her, but apparently, she is a very popular English police/mystery writer. I had not read a novel in a while, so I decided to give it a shot.
It was a good story, but I will say that I am not sure that I ever got used to her writing style. I know that in many ways it reflects English culture… and there were a number of words and idioms that I was not immediately familiar with. That being said, it was very well written.
Similar to the Queen of Mystery Fiction, Agatha Christie, George includes numerous characters that all could be guilty of the crime; in this case, the murder of an 18 year old boy. The body is discovered by a man that has been wandering the coast line of England. The man, we find, is Elizabeth George's main character, Superintendent Thomas Linley. Linley has been wandering aimlessly along the coast after the homicide of his wife by a twelve year old boy. Lost in grief, he decides that he must escape his pain by getting away from any remnant of his past life. However, as he finds the body of the boy, he is eventually cast back into a life of police work. There are a number of intriguing characters in the story; many that seem to have more than enough motive for wanting Santo Kerne (the boy) to meet his end.
I have had this problem with other books, but the title just didn't work for me. I can think of a number of reasons for it, but none that really make it come home to me… but that is why she is making millions writing books, and I don't.
I give it 3 ½ stars out of 5.
I did want to include one of the most interesting sections of the book for me. (It gives nothing away at all about the plot.) It is merely the ponderings of an old man in the book. It goes like this…
"Things change, Selevan thought. That had proved the case in his life, even when it had seemed to him that nothing was ever going to change at all. He'd wanted a career in the Royal Navy to escape what he'd seen as a life of unfaltering drudgery, but the fact of the matter was that the details of that life had altered in minute ways, which led to big ways, which led to life not being drudgery at all if one just paid attention. His kids grew; he and the wife turned older; a bull was brought by to service the cows; calves were born; the sky was bright one day and threatening the next; David moved off to join the army; Nan ran off to marry… One could call it good or bad or one could just call it life. And life continued. A bloke didn't get what he wanted all the time, and that's just how it was. One could thrash about and hate that fact or one could cope. He'd seen that daft poster in the library one time and he'd scoffed at it: When life gives your lemons, make lemonade. Bloody stupid, he'd thought. But not really, he saw now. Not altogether." (pg. 598)
16 December 2009
15 December 2009
03 December 2009
02 December 2009
Last week, we had a party with Dr. John and his wife Bobbi here in Phnom Penh. It was not so much a party as just an excuse to get together with good friends that we had not seen in a long time... those friends, Cambodians that had been college students when we first started coming to Cambodia, and have continued to walk faithfully with the Lord in the places that
27 November 2009
I had never watched American Idol before last year. One reason was that I did not have a television. The other reason was I just wasn't very interested. But strangely enough, when I moved to Cambodia, my wife got me interested in it. She had been a fan for a few years. She got me to start watching it about the time that they were at 'The Final 13'.
It was obvious that Adam Lambert was a vocal powerhouse. As much as some people thought his 'Ring of Fire' performance was tasteless, I thought that it was amazing. It showed me that he had unbelievable voice control and range. I was impressed by his singing, as were most Americans who watched.
That being said, I began to get intrigued with Kris Allen. I loved his acoustic version of 'She Works Hard for the Money', the simple keyboard/strings version of 'Ain't No Sunshine', and I really thought that his version of The Beatles 'Come Together' was much more respectable than Simon's comment about it tasting like 'crushed ice.'
Even though I became more of a Kris fan with each passing week, when he won American Idol, I thought… nope, that isn't right. Lambert is so much more of a vocal giant, but Kris got the votes, and that is how the show works… as many others have said, Kris needed to win much more than Adam did. Adam will obviously be able to sustain a career based on sheer vocal ability more easily than Kris will without winning.
Nevertheless, I looked forward to when his first CD 'dropped'. When I heard the first single 'Live Like We're Dying' on iTunes, I thought it was catchy, and I even liked the rap-like chorus. It was a distinctly 'Kris' song, which I thought was good. So… I bought the whole album. Here are some pros and cons…
Call it naiveté, but I was disappointed at how 'pop' sounding the whole album is. I know, I know… connect the dots… American Idol, winner, American music, 19 Productions, a young star… adds up to pop. The thing that endeared me to Kris's music to me during American Idol was the acoustic/indie flavor. That is sorely missing on this album. Nevertheless, there are some good songs for a first album. The highlight songs for me are 'Live Like We're Dying', 'Can't Stay Away', 'Red Guitar' (a song written for his wife that he has solo writing credit for), and the fun 'Alright With Me.' For a first album, these are some songs that he can use in concert for many years, and fans will always be glad to hear.
It is obvious that Kris's voice is much stronger than it was during American Idol. He got some voice lessons, and I am sure that the summer concerts helped as well. Actually there is one moment in the album version of 'Heartless' that I was taken aback by. It showed more vocal agility than he had during the show. Kris's voice is very distinct, and that will really help him as he pursues his career. There may not be any greater gift to an artist than when people listen to his music, and someone says, "Yep, that's Bob Dylan. Yep, that's Adam Lambert. 'Yep, that is Kris Allen.'
On the con side… Honestly, the rest of the album just lacks some punch. Maybe it is my inability to suck down lots and lots of pop songs and not come out feeling sugary. But I think that for a first album, it is a great start. My major criticisms are that 1) it was not acoustic enough for my expectations. 2) some of the songs just don't ring true with the Kris Allen that many of us were drawn to during the show. I never thought of him as a teen pop star, and I am not sure that is his ambition, but I guess that you have to start somewhere. Sometimes the songs come across as someone singing to teenagers, which may be what it is. I assume that the target audience for his music is teenagers and early twenties young adults… a few of the songs are about boys and girls and love relationships, and we all know that he is married… it just doesn't work for me.
One last note... As many other others have said, his performance of Kanye West's 'Heartless' was the turning point for Kris during the season, and maybe the highlight performance of the year for the show. After listening to the album version, I am glad that I bought the video of Kris's live acoustic version. The album version is supposed to be a version reminiscent of Phil Collin's 'In the Air Tonight'. Even though I have been able to listen to it many times, it just doesn't really work for me. (Kris says he doesn't like it much either.) Frankly, I am a little surprised that the producers have not had problems with Collins over this, because it sounds almost TOO much like Phil's classic.
So, even though my gut gives this album 2 ½ stars out of 5, I am going to round up to 3 because this is his first stab at a music world that I know nothing about. And yes, I will be wiser when it comes to buying his next album, but I do hope that it bends back toward the styles that made us all like him so much during the season.
26 November 2009
1. Glasses were invented in Mexico.
2. Louis Armstrong was the first man on the moon.
3. The glass was crapped, so I cut my mouth.
4. The telephone was invented in Japan.
5. I would prefer to visit Malaysia, so that I can see the Twin Towels.
6. I don't want to visit my friend because I hate him.
7. My brother's leg was ill.
8. She may have thrunk a lot of wine. (I think that this one is trying to say that she thought about being drunk...not sure... )
02 November 2009
08 October 2009
- We are finally legal! It took nearly seven months to complete the paperwork due to red tape, corruption payments, and the like, but it is finally done. Seda and I got our marriage certificate a few days short of being married seven months. Unfortunately, they will not post-date our license to show that our ceremony was in February without some additional bribe, but right now, we will take what we can get.
- Last week, with a little help from our friends around the world, I submitted the first round of paperwork for Seda to be given an immigration visa to the United States. There are two more steps that could go very slowly or quickly depending on the unseen forces involved with the United States Embassy... we will see. After, God willing, she is approved, we would begin the process of moving to the US. Not sure what we will be doing after that, but we are just taking it one step at a time.
- Why are we applying to come back to the US? Well, there are basically two reasons. The first is that it is impossible for Seda to get a tourist visa to the US, and I want her to be able to know my family. The second is that I am finding that my plan for coming to Cambodia, while good in the short run, has some serious flaws in regard to the long run. We are praying and considering what will happen with us, Cambodia, the future, etc... but right now we do not know.
- A week and a half ago, I was privileged to accompany about 100+ of the Asia's Hope orphans to go to Sihanoukville ('The Beach') in Cambodia. Most of the children had never seen the ocean before, and they had a great time! I did some swimming when we first got there, but then backed off to take some pictures (and a nap!).
- It is hard to explain how this works, but Seda finished her course work in 2006 at the (RULE), yet just received her degree this past August (see picture #1). Family and friends were not allowed to attend, so I did not get any pictures of the speaker, Prime Minister
. She is the first person in her family to graduate from a university...- Some of you may have seen us in the Columbus Dispatch... if not the picture is attached. It will eventually be in the Mansfield News Journal, but I had my information wrong about when that would happen.
At the end of the school year, Seda and her staff took their best students to '
'. It was a really big deal, since many of the children had never even stepped into a restaurant before... hard to believe I know, but true. In the posed picture, Seda is the one on the left.
I think that is about it for now... as always there are a few more pictures on my blog... have a great week... please keep us, our church, and our work in your prayers as we keep stitching our tents...
Love, Graham and Seda