Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorites From 2013

Below are some of my favorite things from 2013.

Book: Ordinary Hero: Living the Cross and Resurrection in Everyday Life
There were many excellent books that I read in 2013. The one that I enjoyed most, however, was Tim Chester's Ordinary Hero. I've written a full recommendation of it here.

The book's thesis is that our lives should be modeled after Christ's death and resurrection. We die to self in service of others and have incredible hope in the power of Christ's resurrection. The book is full of devotional theology. The best Christian authors can communicate theology in a practical way, that lifts the heart of the reader into worshiping God. Tim Chester excels in writing devotional theology. Two significant and helpful themes, at least to me, that run through Ordinary Hero are Eschatology and the Kingdom. Ordinary Hero convinced me to model my own life in the service of Christ's death and the hope of His resurrection.

 
Album: Love is Everything by George Strait
George Strait has rightly been established as the "King of Country." Rightly so, as he has sold millions of albums and holds the most #1 hit singles of any artist and any genre, ever. In 2013, he took home the highest annual award in country music, the prestigious CMA Entertainer of the Year Award.  In taking the award, he beat out  Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan,  Blake Shelton, and beauty Taylor Swift.  Strait, once again established himself as the top artist in country music against this new generation of country starts: Taylor Swift is on top of the music world, Jason Aldean sings about trains, Blake Shelton is forgettable, and Luke Bryan is beyond annoying.  

In an age of country music where the genre is losing its identity to pop-ish sound and redneck glorification, Strait stands uncompromisingly. Love is Everything features his unrelenting, iconic, country twang: pop and redneck free. Some favorite songs of mine on the new album are the cheesy, but romantic "I Got a Car," whiny "I Can't Go on Dying Like This," cheerful "I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing" and, of course epic, "Love is Everything." By far, however, my absolute favorite track on the album is "Give it All We Got Tonight." It was Strait's 60th #1 hit and should be establish itself as one of his many classics.

 

TV Show:  Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad wrapped up in the fall of 2013.  I started watching Breaking Bad because I was home sick. Breaking Bad is set and filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  What I discovered in Breaking Bad was a tragic portrayal of the destruction sin brings. Contrary to popular Christian perception, Breaking Bad does not glorify or romanticize a life of vice. In reality, it portrays the devastation the pursuit of money brings upon the main character, Walter White. The cancer stricken high school chemistry teacher begins to cook meth in his desperate attempt to meet the needs of his family. In his pursuit of money, Walt fractures his family, destroying the very thing he tried to save. As the story unfolds Walter White turns increasingly dark as he becomes less and less the awkward high school teacher and more the lethal Heisenberg. Breaking Bad is a dark drama that exposes its viewers to the tragedy of sin. 

Movie(s): Pacific Rim/ST: Into Darkness 
Being a Trekkie, how could I possibly not place Star Trek: Into Darkness in one of the best movies I've seen all year? The movie wasn't perfect, Uhura was just terrible, but I liked it. You can read my review of it here

The biggest surprise movie of the year for me was Pacific Rim. I didn't even want to watch the movie thanks to some cheesy trailers, but some friends convinced me to go and I'm glad I did. The movie is about giant alien monsters that come out of an inter-dimensional portal in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. These creatures called Kaijus are combated by man made humanoid metal giants called Jaegers. The movie consists of the Jaegers beating the blue blood out of the Kaijus. That's it. And it's awesome. 

Pacific Rim is basically just a cool combination of Power Rangers meets Cloverfield meets Godzilla.  If Pacific Rim wasn't so nostalgically awesome, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty would have taken its place. But, alas, giant war machines battling ugly monsters is going to win my heart every single time.

Trip: Dallas
In October, I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas, Texas to watch the Dallas Cowboys host the Denver Broncos. The weekend adventure was a blast. If we're Facebook friends you can see pictures from the trip here.

The trip began on a Friday afternoon. Leaving for the airport two hours before my flight took off, I thought I was going to have more than enough time to spare in the airport. An accident on I-85 made a fifteen minute drive an hour and a half one. It was total madness. Finally I reached the crowded airport and boarded the crowded plane. Friday night's dinner was a delicious steak.

Saturday was a fun trip to the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop and the mall. Saturday night we went to Cowboys Stadium (yes, I refuse to call it's lame name AT&T Stadium) to watch Notre Dame take on Arizona State. The stadium took my breath away. Only a place of this magnitude is worthy of the most prestigious team in all of sports, the Dallas Cowboys.

Sunday was the real treat of the trip. That morning I was wearily pouring myself a cup of coffee. I turned around and there stood Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle Doug Free, #68. "You're Doug Free," I said. "Ya," he replied. I asked him if I could take a picture and he agreed. I went into panic mode when I couldn't find anyone to take a picture of us. That's when two Cowboys fans walked by and I asked if they could take a picture. After the picture, Free and I talked for a little while and I told him he was playing awesome this year and to keep it up.  In my own managing of the Cowboys in Madden I had cut him. After the trip, I signed him back on the team. He was a cool guy.

The game later that afternoon was one of the most exciting games I have ever seen. Tony Romo had the best game of his career throwing for 506 yds and 5 Tds, completing 69% of his passes for a 140.0 QB rating. In every way he outplayed future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, with ridiculous plays like this: