intraspace: the review lounge

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Giuliani Leadership - First things first

I first read Rudolph Giuliani's book on leadership a few years ago and since then it has been a book that I never tire of. Giuliani was a two time mayor of New York and was mayor during the September 11 terror attacks. The book will not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you have an interest in politics (and leadership) then I am sure you will find the book very interesting. While I do not agree with Giuliani on some political and moral issues, I have come to admire him tremendously as a leader. The book is jam packed with fantastic leadership principles and examples of how these principles worked in changing New York City. So for the next few days I will discuss a different chapter of the book.

#1 First things first

"Every morning at exactly eight o'clock, I make my mother very happy. Throughout my childhood, she would lecture me on the virtues of finishing my schoolwork before I went outside to play ... That's why I've begun every single morning since 1981 with a meeting of my top staff"

Giuliani goes on to explain throughout the chapter that as mayor of New York City the task could be completely overwhelming. So to ensure he dealt with the vital things first he met with his key leaders first thing every morning. This would give the opportunity for key issues to be dealt with in a timely manner. He credits this meeting as one of the keys to his success as mayor.

While this may be leadership 101, in rereading the book it has challenged me afresh. Often I find myself getting drawn to what appears to be urgent rather then what is truly important. The other challenge is to avoid tasks that while important are not exciting and instead rush to tasks that are exciting regardless of importance.

As a Christian leader (or even just as a follower of Christ) the first things first principle means that time with God needs to be the first part of your day. One of the things I have discovered is that you never know who you are going to encounter on any particular day. As a Pastor, people will ask you for advice and they are hoping for more then just your opinion – they are looking for Godly wisdom. If I am regularly connecting with God and putting him first, there is a much greater chance that I will be able to have an informed perspective on a situation rather then just regurgitating cliché answers.

The first things first principle is all about living life according to priorities and doing the right thing at the right time. Jesus constantly lived by this principle – His life was driven by his mission, not the agendas of other people. In Luke chapter 2, Jesus as a 12-year-old boy goes missing and when his parents eventually find him he is in the temple. When they question him about where he has been he replies, "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"

Later in John Chapter 4, prior to Jesus meeting the woman at the well, the Bible says that "Jesus had to go to Samaria". The interesting thing is that he was taking a journey to Galilee, which would not usually necessitate going through Samaria. The reason he had to go to Samaria was that he had to visit the woman at the well. His life was ordered by his mission not convenience, and he knew the principle of completing everything at its appointed time.

In John Chapter 11 Jesus finds out his friend Lazarus is sick, this seemed to be an urgent situation. It would appear that the first things first principle would dictate that you would go and visit your friend. However as Jesus knew what he was going to do, he knew that this was not the time to visit Lazarus. Instead he waited until Lazarus died and then visited. When Jesus arrives, Lazarus’s sisters say, "Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died". In other words, “If you had just put first things first then we would not be in this situation”. But Jesus was looking at a bigger picture than their agenda. Jesus wanted to raise Lazarus from the dead but to perform this great miracle he had to delay what other people deemed to be urgent. I am not suggesting we leave our friends to die! But the first things first principles does mean not being ruled by others’ opinions and agendas but always acting out of true priorities

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Friday, July 27, 2007

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

A Tale of Two Kingdoms is a point and click adventure game for PC computers. At one stage adventure games were one of the most popular genres for PC gaming however as computers got more wide spread the market for adventure games decreased and software companies began producing games aimed at a more mainstream market. After being snubbed by commercial companies many adventure game fans have started up their own projects either remaking old games with enhanced graphics or as in the case of Crystal Shards (the makers of ATOTK) releasing their own original adventure games. While most fan team start with great intentions and ambition they never end up completing their projects as it takes literally thousands of hours of work to make an adventure game. That is why it is so nice to see a project that has been followed through to completion.

I downloaded ATOTK (for free!) on Sunday night and was instantly impressed at the level of detail put into the game. It is amazing that people would put so much effort into making something simply for the enjoyment of others and for no monetary gain.

Graphics 7.5/10
The Graphics in ATOTK are fantastic! So much detail has been put into the background art and it is quite amazing how many extra animations they added into the project. They have settled for the classic adventure graphic style, which is VGA and is a retro 1995 feel to the graphics. While they may not be cutting edge technology they are still very easy on the eye and a great example of VGA background and sprites

Story 7/10
All adventure games need a solid story and ATOTK does not disappoint. The game is set in a fantasy land called Theylinn and you play the part of a mercenary solider who has come from another land to help save the kingdom from a goblin invasion. However things don't turn out quite as intended as the king is murdered and you are framed for the murder. One thing that makes many adventure games unplayable for Christians is occultic references and participation in dark magic. While ATOTK does have some magic it is played out like a fairytale and is far more tame then something like Lord of the Rings. So unlike many games that I either pass over or begin to play and then have to stop due to questionable material it was great to find a game that I was able to play and enjoy.

Gameplay 6.5/10
ATOTK has the classic adventure interface and it seems to work very well. The only negatives is that it opened up too much of the game at once rather then revealing piece by piece as the story progressed. It also had far to much dialogue, it can be frustrating for a player to read through so many different replies to questions. On the positive side it has several side quests and also some alternate endings which do add value to the production

Overall 7/10
Overall ATOTK is a good quality adventure game. It is amazing to find a full game that is completely free and so should be downloaded by anyone with an interest in storybased gaming.

Anyone who is interested in the project should check out

And for all those who didn't know I was a computer nerd .... now you do!!!

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velvet elvis

velvet elvis, by rob bell

i got this book along with 'blue like jazz' from mal and hazel for my birthday. i liked both books, but in a battle between 'blue like jazz' and 'velvet elvis', i appoint 'velvet elvis' the victor.

both books have a similar aim: the subtitle of 'blue like jazz' is "nonreligious thoughts on christian spirituality", 'velvet elvis' is subtitled "repainting the christian faith". in a world where 'christianity' seems to be becoming less popular as it is besmirched by parting ways with the culture of the day and the actions and words of unwise spokespeople, along with a healthy smattering of prejudice and media spin, books like these that try to get back to the essential core of christianity become increasingly important.

rob bell does an excellent, if not slightly controversial, job of refiguring christianity. he expects, and invites, controversy as a way of engaging with the big issues. i found that i warmed to his book more as it went along.

the man has a gift for communicating his ideas and it is easy to see why his 'mars hill' church has grown so quickly. he says things which at first seem controversial, but underneath this surface there emerges a brand of christianity that is actually quite orthodox. i guess i am going to cop out a little and not discuss any of his ideas in detail - it would be difficult to pinpoint one example in particular because the book is so wide ranging.

'velvet elvis' is nicely presented - interesting design, with ideas delivered in short paragraphs and one-liners.

so i recommend it as a way of looking at christianity that avoids a lot of negative baggage. by the end, i found 'velvet elvis' to be one of those books that you feel disappointed about finishing.

highly recommended.

warandpeace-o-meter: 785/981 (volIII, bookXII, chapXIV)

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

meanwhile, on the other side of the tasman...

This is a review / overview of the journey taken so far by a little concept called 'The Everyday Beautiful'.

THE BACKGROUND: Over 540 days, two pals obsessed with the idea of capturing beautiful moments from everyday scenes have logged countless hours of digicam footage, watched small blue progress lines advance, and skillfully manipulated only 3 iMovie filters to create - 7 short films.

What all this means is that Jonathan Nalder and Nicholas Landbeck put on a party (finally) to launch this little project to a wider world. The Everyday Beautiful began as a concept among friends in early 2006 - flickr was making image sharing and collaboration possible and amidst constant terror warnings followed by tv ads to make you feel better, the idea of stopping at various moments thru-out the day to seek out the world's unnoticed beauty had a certain appeal.

A flickr group was started with certain rules - everyday beautiful images must not be photoshopped or adjusted beyond some brightness, contrast and slight colour correction. They must not feature people as their main focus. And the group grew - today it has over 90 members and 1000 images creating an amazing online gallery.

Taking the concept to a new dimension (the third actually!) the boys began using short videos to capture these moments also - be it weird shadows or clouds, or the striking movement of people thru a train station.

THE EVENT: So on 20th July, 30 friends gathered to watch some of the short films, eat, drink and catch up. The night featured 7 screens displaying films and slideshows - one even showing all 1000 online flickr pictures. Another screen featured the 'other beautiful' - a collection of images/videos that we have been inspired by that follow a similar theme (including works by Intraspace founder Andrew Killick).

NOW: Check out the group website at for a timelapse recording of one room from the party, or order a DVD if you dare...

by jnxyz

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

break-dancing, pop punk and the word of God: saturday night at church

adolescent pop-punksters with all the right moves - 'a kiss goodbye' took to the stage under coloured lights. whose idea was it to bring back skinny jeans? but you have to admire the abilities of a guy who can high kick in those suckers.

our converted warehouse church building had the chairs pushed back to create a mosh pit and a space for the O2 dance crew up next. the lino floor is much more suitable for breakin' than the carpet on stage.

nathan, the sound guy, had come straight to the event from fishing, and allegedly smelt like fish. i never allowed myself to get close enough to find out. we did, however, share a moment of hilarity when i joked that he had spent the afternoon as a fisher of fish, but this evening he was a fisher of men (matt 4:19). hahaha! christian humour - priceless.

teenagers are hard to please, and pete the mc for the night gave a talk about crowd participation - "you only get out what you put in" he said.

the youth worship band invited people to come closer to the stage for a praise song and they moved quite quickly after pete's talk.

then, as promised, O2 busted the moves, unleashing a mash-up of street styles, and even staging a battle. youth pastor aaron was obliged to bring the moves himself and later confessed to me that dancing in front of people is his worst nightmare. which made me think, "mate that's a pretty easy worst nightmare". comparatively speaking, he obviously isn't phased by the thought of finding himself naked in front of an auditorium of people (a more popular worst nightmare).

with a punk band and a hip hop dance crew on the same billing there was always the potential for the event to turn into a brawl - how can you have guys with their pants so tight and guys with their pants so loose in the same room without creating ill feeling? however, that clash never eventuated. to be fair, the church setting and christian principles probably helped defuse that explosion. also this the 21st century - we are much more accepting these days...

after the youth band played some worship, aaron again stepped forward. this time he was ready to battle under his own rules, he was back in his element - he was preaching. his sermon was all about not letting your up-bringing (good or bad) be an excuse for where you are at now. it was replete with amusing asides and stories about punching his brother in the windpipe (and vice versa).

afterwards, everyone went out to the lounge and bought hotdogs and other nutritious snacks from the cafe, and pete put a hole in the wall by demonstrating his kick-flip abilities.

stephen tetley-jones, who is famous in nz church circles for a show he used to host on radio rhema, came to pick up his kids. he was rockin' navy-blue nike and wearing one of those head-stockings a la 50cent. he asked me what i was doing at a youth event and asked if i was trying to relive my youth. i pointed out to him that the event was in fact a combined event for the youth and the 18-30 group (but failed to mention that i only fit into the 18-30 group based on a technicality, i.e. that 18-30 means "up to and including 30").

and thus, the night wound up a great success. quietly, in the days that followed, aaron discovered that he had overcome his fear of dancing, and i was surprised the next time i saw him to find he was dressed like this:

[not actual photo of aaron and sarah]

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Sunday, July 22, 2007


this is honestly one of the best action/special fx movies i've seen. lance and i headed out to see it a week ago. lance was making a last-minute pre-natal social foray - translated: he's expecting the birth of his second child any day now.

'transformers' is full of action, with very convincing special fx. as you'd expect it has a few cheesy lines, but what surprised me was how amusing parts of it were as well.

lance totally loved this movie, being an original transformers fan and something of a petrol head (car chases and robots!). here's what he had to say about the film:

i thoroughly enjoyed the movie.very good casting, with the two young leads holding their own for the length of the film, with other more experienced actors seemingly playing support roles.

i thought this was a good "re-make" even though it was nothing like the original animated Transformers film, and few key characters did not resemble their original vehicles.

The effects and fight scenes were very entertaining, and the dialogue retained the essence of the 80s Transformers, Good prevails over Evil, and the Transformers are (for some reason) eager to preserve humanity.

I personally LOVED the cars, the old Camaro seemed a great casting for 'BumbleBee' and Optimus Prime's Big Rig featured a stylie modern paint job. Chevy USA obviously threw a bit of weight into the film which gave a bit of 'bling' (for lack of a better word) with a number of Black & Chrome SUV's, trucks, and I even spied a yellow Holden Monaro (badged a Pontiac GTO in USA).

So in summary I loved it, great cars, great cast, fun action film that you actually can take your kids to.

on the headphones: 'never' by terranova, from the album 'b-sides and remixes'.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

amazing grace

a couple of weeks ago, aaron arranged a preview screening of the film 'amazing grace' for our church. this is a film about william wilberforce, who helped abolish slavery in england. it is a high-quality production with brilliant english actors. it stays true to the historical culture of the film by remaining british when the temptation could have been to make it more american for a wider audience.

i was particularly affected by the relationship between former slave-ship captain john newton (played by albert finney), who wrote the hymn 'amazing grace', and wilberforce (played by ioan gruffudd - 'hornblower' and 'the fantastic four').

here are aaron's comments on the film:

I turned up at the Amazing Grace movie and was so busy ensuring that our group of 80 knew where they were going and the process of tickets that I had given little thought to the fact that I was actually there to see the movie. Once everyone was seated I shuffled in and found my seat and was surprised to find myself stirred by emotion. The movie was just starting but I could already sense it was going to be a very inspiring story and so it proved to be.

The story of William Wilberforce’s battle to abolish the slave trade was very well told and it managed to capture the type of emotion and passion that drove Wilberforce. As the movie was telling such an intense story it needed a completely believable cast and in this case they exceeded expectation. Each actor seemed perfect for the role they were playing and you would be hard pressed to find a better example of character casting.

The only thing the movie did not really show was just how horrific the slave trade was. While it did make allusions to the type of treatment slave were subjected to I think it could have been even more impacting had there been just one scene that showed what the slaves had to go through.*

Overall was a most enjoyable movie, it is inspiring what change one person can make if totally committed to a cause.

* watch the film 'amistad' for this

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

the book thief

the book thief, by markus zusak

i can't remember when or where this book first caught my eye, but i always thought i would like it. it is the story of a german girl living near munich during WW2. as the title suggests, she has a knack for stealing books.

finally i got hold of a copy when anna found it in the library at the school where she teaches. when i got it in my hands, it immediately disrupted my reading schedule and pushed other books that were more established in my reading queue further down the line.

i don't know why i thought i would like it, but i was right. i compare it to the book by andrei makine that i read earlier this year ('the earth and sky of jacques dorme'). both books have an alternative view of WW2 and are told in beautifully poetic ways with children in the foreground.

i find it hard to review fiction, because you always seem to have to give away part of the plot in the process. i don't want to do that, because it would be much better to let other people discover it for themselves.

the story unfolds in a wonderful way, making use of asides, definitions, and even some cartoons (you have to see it to really understand what i'm talking about). it's tragic, with moments of humour - the tragedy never overpowers the book or the reader but it never loses its significance either. surprisingly, markus zusak is an australian - so i guess that makes this book australian fiction but it is very european. the copy i read is beautifully designed inside and out - i think this is the australian and new zealand edition. it has been released with a different cover now (see below) which is nowhere near as good - i wonder if they have changed the inside as well. it would be a shame if they have.

i recommend this book very highly and wish everyone would read it. and i will return this copy to the library, but i really want to keep it.

warandpeace-o-meter: 669/981 (volIII, bookXI, chapI)

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