Saturday, October 20, 2007

Book Review: Forgotten Founding Father - The Heroic Legacy of George Whitefield

I don't read much fiction these days mostly because non-fiction, especially historical biographies, are far more interesting. I recently came across Forgotten Founding Father - The Heroic Legacy of George Whitefield (Cumberland House) which was written by one of my favorite authors, Stephen Mansfield. I knew very little about George Whitefield before I read the book and was certainly glad by the end that I had taken the time to get to know this remarkable individual from the early days of American history.

Published as part of the Leaders in Action series, the book is designed not simply to be a biography recalling the important events of the subject's life but also as a study of that person's character. In this case, the biographical sketch of Whitefield seemed a little rushed in order to get to the character study which takes up the remaining two-thirds of the book.

However, it is the second part of the book that is the stongest portion of the text. Mr. Mansfield takes the key events of Mr. Whitefield's life and explores how he exhibited (or, in some cases, failed to exhibit) key character traits that we should look to emulate. In fact, I believe Mr. Mansfield has done a great service by approaching his subject in this fashion as it is a person's character that is far more interesting that what necessarily happened to them.

Although it's not a comprehensive biography of George Whitefield (nor is it meant to be), this book serves as a great introduction to one of the forgotten heroes of the Christian faith. His influence was profound on our Founding Fathers. His ministry began the Great Awakening in the United States and no doubt had a profound influence on many other evangelists that would follow in his footsteps. I recommend checking out this book as well as many of the other selections in this series.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Joe Says No

Joe Torre has shown what a truly classy guy he is by turning down a one-year contract extension offer to manage the New York Yankees:
NEW YORK -- After all he had accomplished -- four World Series titles, 12 straight years in the playoffs, almost certain entry into the Hall of Fame -- and after all the indignities, this was one Joe Torre wasn't going to stand for.

He wasn't going to take a pay cut from the New York Yankees, no matter that he still would have been the highest-paid manager in baseball, and he certainly wasn't going to prove himself all over again.

Torre walked away Thursday, turning down a $5 million, one-year contract --
$2.5 million less than he made this season, when the Yankees failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had publicly stated before the final game of their divisional series with the Cleveland Indians that if Torre didn't take the team to the World Series this year that they would have to seriously consider whether Torre should continue to be their manager. Obviously, four World Series titles and 12 straight playoff appearances (including overcoming a horrible 21-29 start this year to make it to the postseason) was not enough for the Yankees. Their offer was nothing less than a slap in Torre's face and Joe wasn't going to stand for it.

Joe Torre is by far one of the best managers in baseball and a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. He doesn't need the aggravation associated with managing the Yankees. He'll no doubt end up managing somewhere else next year. Wherever it is, they'll be much better off for having Joe Torre as their manager.

As for the Yankees, their dominance in the American League is over. They will certainly go downhill from here. It may take a while but they'll eventually realize what a hugh mistake they have made.

Friday, October 12, 2007

DVD Review - Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective

With all of our road trips this summer, our family checked out numerous audio books for the many hours we spent in the car. On a whim, we tried out a dramatization of Sherlock Holmes stories and were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed them. So it's only natural that we would want to find out more about the world's most famous detective. The best resource we have found is from A&E Network's Biography series, entitled Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective.

At first it may seem strange that a television series that has focused on important figures in history and entertainment would devote an episode to a fictional character. But it's not an understatement to say that Sherlock Holmes, the first great detective in fiction, is also the most influential character to appear in literature. As the film shows, all fictional detectives in television, movies and books can trace their roots back to Sherlock Holmes.

The film takes us inside the razor-sharp mind of Holmes to reveal his crime-solving methods. The story is told through the eyes of Dr. John Watson, Holmes' loyal sidekick and chronicler of the detective's exploits. Watson addresses a dinner meeting of the Sherlock Holmes Appreciation Society and through the course of the meal reveals the secrets of the great detective.

The film also shows how Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, came to create the characters that became so intergral to Holmes' cases. In fact, Doyle can be credited with not only creating the super sleuth but opening the door for numerous other great writers to have their own stories published.

We love teaching history through use of biographies and as this DVD shows, even a biography of a fictional character can be a useful tool in teaching literature. Yes, I would call the Holmes canon (as devotees of the detective stories refer to the collected works) literature. Holmes gave birth to the modern crime novel and can easily be approached as a literary genre.

Be sure to check out Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective and find out more about the most amazing detective that never lived. The DVD is available from the A&E Shop.

Business Travel With Family

Okay, the title may seem a little contradictory, but stay with me and it will all make sense.

I travel a lot for my job. About 99% of my travel involves taking trips where I can drive where I need to go within a day. In fact, because I live too far from a large airport, it makes as much if not more sense to drive places than to fly. Mileage reimbursement is not bad and helps the budget. But the best part of being able to do most of my business travel by car is that my wife and daughters tag along with me on my trips. It should be noted that we homeschool our kids which makes the family travel possible.

Now, there are some obvious disadvantages to trying to travel together. But for the most part, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Frankly, I like having my family with me when I have to go somewhere. It's much nicer coming back to a hotel with my family waiting for me than to a hotel room that is empty. It's depressing having to travel alone away from family. I've known many people that have had to travel 4-5 days a week and see their families on weekends if at all. I admire folks that can do that and still maintain a healthy family life. I just don't know how you do it.

Another advantage of travelling together is that we try to tie in educational ventures into our trips. For example, we were in Washington, D.C. earlier in the summer which of course opens up ample opportunities for educational trips. My kids have had the opportunity to not only read about history in books but to experience it by visiting museums and historic homes.

Our girls have learned how to behave like proper young women, in part, from having to travel and behave in restaurants. They've also become closer through being forced to amuse each other at the hotels (when they're not working on schoolwork).

It's not always easy for us to travel together but it is preferable. When you have to travel for work, could you take your family if you wanted to? It's not only possible, it's very rewarding. Next time you have to travel for your job, consider whether it could also be an opportunity for your family to go with you and experience things your destination has to offer that you might not otherwise get to experience.

This post originally appeared at DadBloggers.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

DVD Review: The Jungle Book

My review of the new Disney DVD The Jungle Book is now up at Blogcritics. Please stop by and let me know what you think!