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Showing posts from June, 2013

Guilty Pleasure Comedy — Office Space

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Today I continue my summer Guilty Pleasure series with the second comedy, "Office Space."

Office Space (1999)
Starring: Ron Livingston, Gary Cole, Jennifer Aniston, Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root, and David Herman
About: I think we've all had jobs that weren't great. In fact, we probably have days, weeks, or moments at our current jobs that aren't great. We've all had weird co-workers and frustrating bosses too. That's what makes "Office Space" so great. It taps into the downside of corporate culture. It taps into all those things that we loathe. And it finds the humor in all of it. The film will never win awards, and it's not on anybody's list of the greatest comedies ever made, but there are times when you just want to turn it on and escape a work week that looks eerily similar to the one depicted here. The performances are great. Livingston is great in the lead role, Cole is iconic as the aloof boss, and Bader brings some of the most h…

Upcoming Releases — July

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Here's a look at all the new movies coming to theaters in July. It's a very mixed bag but it could have a few diamonds in the rough...

Wednesday, July 3:
The Lone Ranger — Every year there's a major blockbuster for the Fourth of July weekend. This year the slot goes to Johnny Depp, Gore Verbinski and this attempted update of "The Lone Ranger." The trailers have been OK, and there seems to be potential here. Still, I'm not sold on this. Many have predicted this to be the flop of the summer, so we'll see.

Despicable Me 2 — The first installment of this animated franchise was pretty adorable. At least the minions were adorable. I'm oddly excited about this. "Despicable Me 2" could well be the class of animated films this summer.

Friday, July 5:
The Way Way Back — This movie is a coming of age film from writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. I loved what they did with the script for "The Descendants," and I love the trailer for this…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

The Big Wedding
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Topher Grace, Robin Williams, and Amanda Seyfried
Synopsis: Thanks to the dollar theater in our town that keeps movies in theaters that have been out for a while, I finally got to this comedy. It was dumped in late April, but features a large cast of well known performers, some of whom have struggled at the Box Office with recent releases. Based on the trailer, I didn't know what to expect with this movie. It looks fairly stock and its reshuffled release date made me think the studio didn't have much faith in it either. What I got was something more interesting and more amusing that expected. The film still followed a lot of the tropes of the genre, but the characters were fairly endearing the movie had a lot more laughs than expected. De Niro was good in the role and had good chemistry with Sarandon and Keaton. Williams added some good…

The End Begins

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"This is what it must feel like to walk in full sunlight, my darkness revealed, my shadow self embraced. Yeah, they see me. I'm one of them... In their darkest dreams." — Dexter Morgan, "Dexter"

On paper, a show where the protagonist is a serial killer is a tough sell. How do you get the audience to invest in someone who kills others, violently, in his spare time. The answer to that question for the past eight years has been "Dexter," a Showtime drama that has changed a lot of conceptions about having a serial killer as a protagonist and what a typical plot line can be.

When "Dexter" premiered, I was skeptical. I couldn't imagine watching a show where the central character was a killer. The premise was too dark and the idea too grotesque.

Somewhere during the fourth season, I caught an episode on Showtime. It wasn't what I expected. There was a social, emotional and, yes, moral depth to the show I hadn't expected. I quickly snat…

Culture Change

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At night before bed, or sometimes in the morning before we head out, my wife likes to watch reruns on Nickelodeon or TV Land. They're shows from our childhood like "Full House" and "Boy Meets World." It's sort of a reminder of a different era, but that got me thinking.

I was born in 1981. I grew up in the 1980s and the 1990s. I have some recollection of the shows I used to watch on TV. There were a lot of sitcoms and shows about family. "The Wonder Years," "Full House," "Family Matters," "The Cosby Show," "Family Ties," "Growing Pains," all these shows were in prime time on network TV, and all of them looked at families. The shows had issues that were relatable to families and family values.

When you watch re-runs of these shows — which are prevalent at night on cable — you are transported to a different era of TV. But then I think about our modern network lineups. Forget cable, where edgy and dif…

Guilty Pleasure Drama — Step Up 3D

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My look at guilty pleasure movies for the summer continues with the first drama entry.

Step Up 3D (2010)
Starring: Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Sharni Vinson, and Alyson Stoner
About: I am not a huge fan of urban dance movies. I'm also not a huge fan of the "Step Up" franchise. The first one was OK, and I never watched the second one. But somehow, when I was watching trailers, I knew I wanted to see "Step Up 3D." I am also not wild about the fad of 3D films — as almost everything gets released in 3D now. But I was curious to see this. Why? Because it was filmed in 3D, looked like nothing I'd seen before, and looked like a lot of fun. And it was. In fact, I enjoyed this movie so much I bought the ultimate 3D Blu-Ray pack when it was released. Whenever I want to demo the 3D capability of my TV, I pull out this movie. I also watch it on occasion because I love the dance moves, the way it was choreographed and shot, and the story. It's not a deep or diff…

The Greatest GO Project

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"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." — Matthew 28:19.

It was Jesus' last command to His followers, and it's the most important commandment we've been given. It's the core of the mission of the church. But how do we live that out.

At the time, Jesus gave that command to his 11 remaining disciples. From there, it spread like wildfire. Now there are millions of disciples that are living out that calling. But sometimes it doesn't come across all that well.

The question is how we can live this mission out. It's the challenge for all believers. We have to GO and make disciples of all nations, and we have to do it in love. That hasn't always been the case with the modern church, but hopefully we can work back to that place.

Guilty Pleasure Action — Bad Boys

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My look at guilty pleasure favorites continues today with our first action entry, "Bad Boys."

Bad Boys (1995)
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Tea Leoni, and Joe Pantoliano
Synopsis: This is Michael Bay's first film. All of Michael Bay's films could be eligible for a guilty pleasure list if you liked him, which I do, but I've tried to limit this list to one film per filmmaker. "Bad Boys" wasn't the most popular of Bay's films, but it has always been my favorite. I love the interplay between Smith and Lawrence, and I love the blend of comedy and action. All the normal tropes of Bay's films are there, but there is something raw about this film because it was his first. It has good action sequences, makes good use of slow motion, and has fun characters. It's not a deep film, but it's kind of a fun film. Smith and Lawrence are a great buddy cop duo in this film, and they work well together. If you're looking to kick back, enjo…

Guilty Pleasure Comedy — Pitch Perfect

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Today is the longest day of the year. What better time to kick off the summer long consideration of Guilty Pleasure films! Today is the first comedy entry, and is also the newest film on this list.

Pitch Perfect (2012)
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, and Anna Camp
About: This movie sort of became a phenomenon to the point that they're working on a sequel. My feeling is that the sequel will probably diminish what the original was, but for now I'm working from a spirit of optimism. You wouldn't think a movie about college a cappella groups dumped at the end of September/early October would be great. This one was. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the soundtrack and couldn't help but throw it in my list of the best films of last year. It didn't win any awards — outside of People's Choice and MTV Awards — but it was really enjoyable. Part of it is the draw and talent of Anna Kendrick. She's great in the lead role and great …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new releases I saw this week.

Epic
Starring: (voices of) Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Beyonce, Chris O'Dowd, Aziz Ansari, Steven Tyler, Josh Hutcherson, and Christoph Waltz
Synopsis: This is the first big animated release of the summer, and is one of the few offerings available for kids. ("Monster's University" opens tomorrow). It does a good job of laying out the story and creating an interesting world. It feels a bit long for younger viewers, but overall it's a fairly enjoyable animated feature. It has something for audiences of all ages — meaning as an adult I appreciated some of the light-hearted moments between Ansari and O'Dowd, too. It's not a deep movie, and it probably has a little New Age theology what with the forrest worship, but overall it's fairly harmless. It remains to be seen where it will stack up against the other big animated features coming in the next two months.
Rating: PG for mild ac…

Guilty Pleasures

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It's summer. TV options are slight, the days are long, and it's a bit too hot to be milling around outside. That means it's time to kick back with a great flick. And if you can't find a great flick, at least find one that's fun. Sometimes these are referred to as guilty pleasures.

Each summer I usually share some personal favorite films and shows. Two years ago I went through my personal top 25 movies of all time. Last summer I went through my favorite TV series of all time. This summer, it's time to turn our attention to movies we love to watch but we might not tell our friends about.

That's right, this blog's gonna get confessional. I will be going over my top 24 guilty pleasure films. These will be divided into three broad categories — comedies, action flicks, and dramas. Of course, this won't be the high pedigree films, but they might be kinda fun. I'll start with comedies and begin unveiling a couple each week starting Friday (June 21, the…

The Black Forest Fire

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A week ago, in the midst of the hottest day we've had since I moved here, there was the smell of smoke on the air. As we retreated to our offices, most of us learned there was a fire in Black Forest.

Those that haven't been to the area can't appreciate what Black Forest is like. It's a beautiful, wooded area with plenty of tucked away homes. As the plum of smoke rose in the north east on Tuesday afternoon, most couldn't help but wonder what the extent of the damage would be in the area.

A week later, we know that 502 homes have been lost, 17 have been partially damaged, and the fire is no 85 percent contained. The containment news is welcome, leaving the town hopeful this fire has come to an end. But the damage it has wrought is an ever-present reminder of how fragile our lives are.

Having driven through Black Forest at the beginning of May, it's hard for me to imagine what the landscape must look like now. It's also hard to imagine what those 502 families…

'The Killing' dives into a new mystery

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"It's a crime scene. I called the cops." — Sarah Linden, "The Killing"

Four episodes into its surprising third season, "The Killing" seems to be hitting a new groove. The story of the show has been oft repeated. It started life strong, disappointed at the end of the first season and limped through a pedestrian second season. The show was cancelled, and it seemed that it's life is over.

But this season, the show seems to have found a groove. It ditched the dead weight in the cast that kept the story from moving forward, brought in some interesting new pieces, and found a compelling case. The center of the show — Linden and Det. Holder — is still strong, and this installment seems to be moving forward at a strong pace.

Of course, all of that could fall apart if the case isn't resolved at the end of this season. The producers have promised it will be resolved this year, but that remains to be seen. However, here's a couple reasons this seaso…

The End of The World

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"I just can't spend the last month of my life getting to know someone. It's ridiculous." — Dodge, "Seeking a Friend For the End of the World"

What would you do if there were just 21 days left in the world? That's the question posed in the 2012 dramedy "Seeking A Friend for the End of the World." A comet is heading for the Earth, no one will survive, and there are just 21 days left until it hits.

It's a difficult premise, but one that poses plenty of questions. What would you do? What would be the most important?

Some decide to give into their deepest desires. Some tried to live out their fantasies. Some tried to give up and do what ever they felt like. Some were profoundly lost and sad. Some just continued their routine and went to work as planned.

I couldn't help but wonder what I would do. Would I go to be with family? Would I try to see something I've never seen? What would the world be like?

The film shows mass rioting and loo…

New Superman, Familiar Themes

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"My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they'd reject me... out of fear. He was convinced that the world wasn't ready. What do you think?" — Clark Kent, "Man of Steel"

Since his birth in 1936, Superman has been the most deistic superhero. It makes sense given his origin. Superman was birthed by two Jews living in Cleveland during the Great Depression. Early in his life, Superman was something of a moral paragone and a social crusader. Arguably, over time, he's come to represent much more.

Doubtless the makers of "Man of Steel" — the latest incarnation of Superman — see him as something of a Secular Messiah, as so many have since the 1960s. They certainly seem to be playing up the close association with The Savior, Jesus Christ. Consider Clark's statement quoted above. If the world found out who he really was they'd reject him. Sounds an awful lot like what happened to Jesus, who performed divine miracles, pre…

Summer TV Premiers Roundup

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Here's a look at some of the new shows that have premiered this summer.

The Fosters, Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC Family Channel
About: This show is part "The O.C." and part "Seventh Heaven" it feels like, but somehow it works. I didn't know what to expect from this show, and there are elements of the show's political and social values I don't appreciate. However, this is an entertaining show that has family at the center. The pilot showed a lot of promise, and the second episode followed that up well. It's an ABC Family show, so it certainly has that kind of sensibility, but it's not a bad little summer drama.
Pilot Grade: B
Episode 2: B

King and Maxwell, Mondays at 10 p.m. on TNT
About: This is based on a series of books about two former Secret Service Agents that become private investigators. It's not a bad premise, but the pilot was a little dry and boring. Jon Tenney and Rebecca Romijn can be charismatic performers, and they seem to w…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

After Earth
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, and Zoe Kravitz
Synopsis: M. Night Shymalan was once a hot filmmaker. He turned out interesting films with a twist. Some even compared him to Alfred Hitchcock. But it feels like a long time since then. After getting progressively worse results for his own original films, Shymalan took on a different property — "The Last Airbender" — with disastrous results. Now, he's become a critical punching bag. Something similar has happened for Will Smith, who went from the most bankable star to somewhat of a toss up. "After Earth" was bound to draw a lot of scrutiny and criticism. And it's not a great film. Will and his son, Jaden, attempt a fairly ridiculous accent that's a distraction. The film seems to have a lot of tropes that have been done better in other properties. And I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take away from the film other than that Jaden S…

Prayers for Black Forest

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"Fire is never a gentle master." — Ancient Proverb

I remember last summer hearing about a fire in Colorado Springs. I was about to move here, so I was concerned. I watched news about the Waldo Canyon Fire, but by the time we arrived in late July, the recovery effort began. We heard about what it was like during the fire, but I couldn't really connect in a tangible way.

The Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar, and the rest of the area, have remained a present shadow since that time. As part of my duties here, I wrote a story about the anniversary of the fire. It was a chance to really get a feel for the stories of the people that lived through it, and a chance to better appreciate how tense and scary that time was.

In two weeks we'll make the one year anniversary of that tragic event, but yesterday something new has served as a more chilling reminder. On Tuesday afternoon reports of a fire in Black Forest — a wooded area to the north east of downtown Colorado Springs. By the…

Tebow Lands A New Team

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Heading into the NFL draft, most people wondered about Tim Tebow. Would he be drafted? Would he go high? Could he make it in the NFL?

Then-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels liked what he saw, and he drafted Tebow in the first round. But McDaniels didn't last long enough to see how Tebow would pan out for the Broncos. By the time Tebow started his first games, McDaniels had been fired.

The following season, when Tebow led the Broncos into the playoffs and into a playoff battle with the New England Patriots, McDaniels had a front row seat — from the Patriots' bench. McDaniels returned to what he arguably did best, running the offense for the New England Patriots. Tebow and the Broncos lost that game, then Tebow lost his job.

After a year of wandering in New York with the Jets, Tebow was set adrift shortly after the NFL draft in April. And since then he's waited to catch on. Many believed he'd be out of the NFL, and more likely end up in the CFL or Arena League.

This baffled …

All Good Things...

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"Any man who must say, I am the king, is no true king." — Tywin Lannister, "Game of Thrones"

Last night was the finale of the third season of "Game of Thrones." When it was over, I was kind of bummed. It will be nine months until the world of Westeros returns to HBO, and it will be a long wait to see the next 10-episode installment.

When the show first debuted, I was cautious. I didn't know what to make of the concept and, having not read the books, I wasn't totally invested in the pilot. But something kept me coming back, and by the end of the first season I was sucked in. I guess it was really episode nine, when Ned lost his head, that full convinced me this was a fascinating, if brutal world.

Flash forward to the end of the third season and I have to say I will really miss "Game of Thrones." It's 10-episode season felt far too short, especially after the brutal turn of events in episode nine — with the Red Wedding — that really o…

The Good News Goes Home

"Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed." -- Mark 5:19-20


What does it mean to bring the Gospel back home? We probably haven't all been possessed by a demon, healed by Jesus, and commanded to share our story. But we do all have a story to share. So how do we do that? How do we live our faith when even those in our own family don't share our beliefs.

It's hard.

For a large part of my life, those that didn't share our beliefs were my grandma and grandpa. We always lived close to them and saw them often, and while grandma said she believed in God, I'd be hard pressed to call them Christians. In fact, my grandpa once called religion a "crutch for the weak minded."

But that didn't stop us from trying. When my grandpa got cancer -…

Ratings Get A New Look

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The powers that be that are in charge of rating films are trying to make people feel more excited about their ratings. There's a new tag on trailers, one which emphasizes the reasons for the rating rather than just the rating itself. Then there's the commercials before movies that encourage viewers to notice the new ratings boxes and go to the site to learn more about ratings.

But the question is, will that really change anything? Ratings for films are subjective. They always have been, but one could argue the lax ratings haven't helped matters. If you consider the breadth of films that earn PG-13 ratings, it makes you wonder.

That's also fascinating when considering the film that served as the genesis of the PG-13 rating — "Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom." Steven Spielberg, the film's director, felt the themes in the film were too intense for younger viewers, and wanted a rating that urged more caution than a PG. Thus a new rating was born, one th…

The Taste of Summer

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"Baking cookies is comforting, and cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food. They are very bite-sized and personal." — Sandra Lee

I think I've made my feelings about reality shows clear — I don't like them. They usually feature people aiming to see who can go lower to win. The shows are often frustrating to watch and play to our voyeuristic nature.

That being said, it's summer. There aren't a lot of shows on, and reality TV is cheap. And, every so often, you find a diamond in the rough. I'm not ready to call "The American Baking Competition" a diamond, but it does look appealing in all that rough... It might also be vicarious food porn. I can't be certain, but spending an hour watching people back pies and cookies does make you awful hungry. (Again, since I went on a hardcore diet this week, that could be the raw vegetables in my tummy talking).

This show premiered on May 29. It features a group of amateur bakers in a tent in Geo…

Now Playing — Summer Blockbuster Recap

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May is over, and the first wave of major summer blockbusters have descended upon us. For those who didn't get to see the big ones last month, here's a recap of the big blockbusters that marked the first month of the summer movie season. With "Man of Steel" due next week and a host of blockbusters in the weeks following, it's time to get out and see what you missed before it gets squeezed out.

Iron Man 3 — released May 3
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau, and Don Cheadle
About: This is the third installment of the "Iron Man" franchise, and it's been a smash at the Box Office. The film follows "The Avengers" in the timeline and has a lot of call backs to that film. Written and directed by Shane Black, this feels like an action film with superheroes. There is plenty of humor, some great performances, and a neat plot twist. This film got the summer started off right.
Verdict: Three Stars out …

Summer TV Reviews

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It's June now, and the summer TV season is heating up. Here's a look at some of the new shows that have debuted.

The Fosters, Mondays at 9 p.m. on ABC Family Channel
About: Clearly the people that created this show watched "The O.C." and thought, hey we could do that. It's not exactly the same, but there are similar strains. The show centers on two women — a cop and a high school administrator — that open their home to foster kids. They have three teens already (including two adopted twins), when a hard luck case falls on their doorstep. They take her in and, by the end of the pilot, have her little brother, too. They also live in an idyllic community near San Diego, which gives the new additions a fish-out-of-water experience at school. The premise seems rife with the possibility for cheese — not the least of which because it's on the ABC Family Channel — but this show was a pleasant surprise. That's not to say it won't devolve, but the story, chara…

House Stark, a requiem

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"Winter is Coming." — Stark Family Motto

From the first episode, it seemed that the Stark Family were the central heroes in the world of "Game of Thrones." Led by Ned, their patriarch, it was a family of honor. They lived quiet, noble lives in the North.

King Robert Baratheon claimed to be Ned's good friend, but from the moment he arrived in Winterfell, it seemed he doomed his friend's whole family. First Ned fell victim to his honor and nobility — losing his head in the ninth episode and opening the door to the possibility that anyone could go at any time in "Game of Thrones."

In this week's episode it was his son, Robb, and his wife, Catelyn, who saw their time in the game end. It was shocking, violent, and cruel. In that way, it was a lot like real life. While most turn to fantasy epics as a means of escape, this fantasy isn't a fantasy at all. It's cold and brutal. Life isn't fair, and neither is the state of "Game of Thr…

Another Rainy Day in Seattle

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"I don't want to do this anymore. I'm finished with this life, but I have to wrap up this case." — Det. Sarah Linden, "The Killing"

Few shows started with as much promise, and dropped due to the weight of as much criticism, as "The Killing." Two seasons ago, it's two-hour pilot foreshadowed something moody, beautiful, and engaging. Over the course of the next 24 hours, which is how long it took to solve the central mystery, that faded into obscurity.

The show built itself on the ability to deliver interest on a central question — Who Killed Rosie Larsen? That mystery was supposed to be the central conceit that would drive the show's first season. But when viewers accused that first season of stalling, and that central question wasn't answered, the masses turned on "The Killing."

The second season — which stretched the case over an unbearable 26 hours (four more than a standard network season) — wasn't much better. By the…

Healing

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“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” — John 9:3-5

Today's GO message focused on the GO of healing. Healing is one of those gifts in the Bible that can be tough to discuss and talk about. To me there are two sign gifts — spiritual gifts that manifest as miraculous signs — that have been greatly abused. The first is the gift of tongues. The second is the gift of healing.

Miraculous healing is popular in some circles, and has been historically abused by faith healers and those who've sought to manipulate people. This, of course, is what served as the basis of the film "Leap of Faith," which was a reaction of the televangelists and big tent rivals that became so popular in the 1980s and early 1990s.

We can't put limits on Go…

Man vs Boulder

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On Memorial Day weekend, thousands gathered in Boulder, CO for a race. On Friday, Lindsay and I arrived in Boulder with a different quest in mind. I'm not much for running, but I am interested in visiting the important sites on the Man vs. Food tour.

After an exciting 28 or so hours, I can say I've truly enjoyed the Boulder experience and can't wait to come back. Below are some of the highlights of my first trip to Boulder!

1. Banjo Billy's Bus Tour — It wasn't all food for us. We went on a historic bus tour too. It was great for several reasons. First, it was a great way to get to see the sights of the city of Boulder. Second, it's a lot of fun. The host tells you history stories, ghost stories, and crime stories. It was a great way to get to know Boulder, the Flatirons, and Colorado University.

2. Pearl Street Mall — It was a blast to walk through the historic downtown shopping area, which included street performers. It was kind of a blast. It reminded me of…