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Review: Prayer Our Deepest Longing

Obviously this is a book about prayer. If you are an atheist you are not likely to enjoy this book. I still recommend athiests read it to better understand why friends who are believers pray. I've read several books by well-known atheiests. I think we can always learn from each other. 

This is an incredibly deep and moving book that is surprisingly very short (only 67 pages). I'm unfamilar with this author and look forward to reading more by him. The book focuses on prayer, the different types of prayer, and how to deepen your relationship with God through prayer. I learned several things and adopted some new habits for my own personal prayer practice. I read this book with my girlfriend and we both found it to be extremely moving and a wonderful tool to help us grow in our relatinoship with God and each other. Highly recommended.  

Review: Surprised By Joy: A Book Worth Reading

I recently finished reading Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is a wonderful Christian author who is perhaps best known for his Narnia series of books. He's also written some wonderful Christian books such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. Surprised By Joy is mostly an autobiography of his young life but focuses more on his adoption of Christianity towards the end. Lewis was fascinated by the concept of joy. The book comes to the conclusion that you can't seek out or make joy happen because when you try to focus on joy itself you stop focusing on what causes joy, thereby causing your feelings of joy to diminish. In other words, joy is a byproduct of the experience of contemplation. Joy is a longing for that which the world can't contain, joy is a signpost pointing to God.

This is a wonderful book well worth reading.

The book was apparently made into a film called Shadowlands which I have yet to see.

Other Review: First new album from The Ziggens in 19 years is all killer, no filler

Oregon

Oregon is the first new record from The Ziggens in 19 years. This album is filled with rocking tunes, hilarious songs, and incredibly fun surf music.

The CD gets off to a flying start with "Rev It Up" - a driving surf instrumental guaranteed to get your blood pumping. This is a song that the Ventures or Dick Dale would have loved to write and perform. Bert is a master at writing catchy riffs that stick in your head and this song is no exception. Tarantino might want to consider this tune on the soundtrack for his final film. It took me a while to listen to the rest of the CD because I kept replaying this song. It's just that good. 

"The Goys Are Back in Town" starts with a wonderfully punk sound that recalls Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and similar bands. This is a high energy punk-sounding song proudly announcing the Zigs are back after a 19 year absence. This song should be very popular at live shows - I wanted start a mosh pit in my living room while listening to it. The lyrics are quite funny and poke fun at the members of the band. This meshuggeneh song made me kvell. Two killer tunes in a row. Oy vey!  

The Zigs next demonstrate their musical range with "Macon". It's a bit jarring to come into such a mellow tune but it's a nice wind down after the insanity of the previous tune. The song tells a somewhat sad story of a woman who marries for money and prestige instead of love. Money can't buy happiness here. The music and lyrics are quite touching, especially the ending. Another catchy tune with some wonderful riffs with some great drumming from Brad. Yet another winner.

"Dickie Ziggen" is a fun little theme song for the Zig's incredibly talented lead guitarist (aka Dickie Little). Catchy tune with fun lyrics. It's impossible to listen to this song without smiling or laughing. This should also be a blast to see them perform it live. Yet another winner. I think I see a pattern emerging here.

Time for another great surf tune in the wonderfully named "I Blow My Nose On My T-Shirt". An extremely catchy surf instrumental that shows off how tight and talented this band is. I got stuck replaying this one a few times before moving onto the next track. We're 5 songs in already and it's all killer, no filler.

"Ride the Storm (Drain)" starts out with an impressive sounding fuzzy guitar. The lyrics are fun and feel a bit like a heavy metal parody (as do some of the solos and screams that sound off during the song). The chorus will provide a great crowd singalong when performed live. Yet another tune that slapped a big smile on my face as I listened to it. The bridge of this song is also catchy as hell.  Another winner.

Surprise - it's a country song! And a damn good one at that. "Jesus I Trust in You" provides some lovely uplifting and lightly humorous lyrics over a surprisingly beautiful yet simple tune that features some great guitar (traditional and slide). This is a surprisingly beautiful song. The banter at the end is a nice touch.

"It's Rough Being Heavy Set" is another fun Ziggens song that reminded me a bit of "The Cheese in Wisconsin" from the Zigs' Rusty Never Sleeps album.  I laughed out loud several times while listening to this song - you will too.

"You Were Gone" starts out sounding a bit like a Vegas lounge song with some interesting lyrics about love and loss. The song even features a lonely sounding sax solo. This is quite a change in sound for a band that already plays a wide variety of music. The guitar, piano, and sax provide a bit of a jazzy feel to a song filled with sad lyrics. "Tonight a cigarette is all I will hold" indeed. The song changes tempo towards the end for an upbeat finish. I never thought I'd hear the Ziggens play jazz but I think they just did. And it was great.

"Pulling Muscles From Michelle" immediately caught my attention because I'm an old Squeeze fan (as Burt and the band obviously are based on this song title). This is not a song that sounds even remotely like Squeeze. It's another wonderful surf instrumental with some great riffs and wonderful drums by Brad. This is another song that I listened to several times before moving onto the next track. The sax on this tune is insanely great. There is a short break in this song that sounds a bit like a Dick Dale riff with some great drumming by Brad. I think this song might be one of my favorite songs on the entire album. It's hard to pick just one. We still have nine songs left! Still all killer, no filler.

"48" is a bit of a surprise, starting off like an old school R&B tune before shifting to a mellow tribute to Arizona (48th state of the US). This song features some lovely female guest vocals (unfortunately I couldn't find the woman's name when I wrote this). A wonderfully mellow tune with some creative lyrics. I re-listened to this one a few times before moving on.

"Riot on the Beach" is another high energy punk-like song with some hilarious lyrics. This is another song guaranteed to generate a mosh pit when played live.  The song has a bit of a Dead Kennedys feel to it with its blending of humor, driving music, and some social commentary. Great fun!

"Fun" is the perfect title for this traditional sounding country gospel song. The song features more creative and fun lyrics ("dinner with Solomon and Elvis Presley"). This song slapped a big old smile on my face while my foot tapped along.  

"The People On My Street" starts out with a catchy riff before dropping into a hilarious rap with a shockingly funny chorus. This song has to be heard to be believed - it's catchy yet experimental. Really hard to describe but I loved it. I especially loved how it made me laugh out loud several times. This is another song I listened to a couple of times because I was laughing so hard the first time that I missed most of the song.

"Theme To A Future Surf Movie" is exactly what it sounds like. The song starts slow with an extremely catchy acoustic riff, sounding a bit like a Smiths song before a beautiful melodica is layered in along with some additional guitars. This is a wonderfully mellow and relaxing tune. You can almost smell the surf as you listen to the music. This is another song that I repeated a few times before moving on. We still have four songs left and the songs have all been great fun.

"500 Miles" immediately grabbed my attention with a lovely riff and catchy lyrics over a beautifully played mandolin. This song will be a definite sing-along when performed live. This song is a great example of why The Ziggens are so great: catchy music coupled with funny/surprising lyrics: "It's Ok that you are very bland. You were dropped on your head as a baby, so I understand". 

"Oregon" is the title track of the album and it's rapidly apparent why it was chosen. This is another great surf instrumental with some lovely riffs over a driving beat. This is the finest song on the album with all of the guys absolutely killing it. Several additional riffs are introduced as the song progresses, hooking you even deeper into the song. I must have listed to this one 4 or 5 times before moving on. Absolutely wonderful!!! 

"This Roger Fella" is another humorous song that features a spoken word performance by a vaguely Jimmy Stewart sounding guy. The music underlying the performance is quite beautiful. The song is very abstract but I found it to be very relaxing. Yet another song that put a smile on my face.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any stranger, here comes "Miguel Happolot's Diablo Dentista" to close out the album. There are some great riffs punctuated by what seems to be people being tortured by a dentist. It's a bit of a disturbing listen due to all of the screams but the guitar riffs are great. Just when you think it's getting a bit too dark we're treated to someone gargling and rinsing, reminding you of the dentist's office. I really love the Zigs but this song is a bit of an endurance test, especially when the dentist's drill kicks in at the end. The band obviously had fun recording this one because we can hear Burt laughing and commenting at the end.

Oregon is a wonderful reminder of how talented and fun The Ziggens are. The album is filled with catchy, fun, thought-provoking lyrics and incredibly well-done surf music. You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy - your ears will love you for it.

You can get Oregon from the Official Ziggens Shop or any other place where you traditionally get your music (Amazon, Spotify, etc).

Movie Review: What If...MCU Phase Bore was as Good as Phase 3?

2 out of 5 stars

What If? used to be a fun comic book series that focused on alternate realities in the Marvel Universe. The stories tended to focus on major events and tweaked them to result in different outcomes. 

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The first episode of the new animated What If? series was a bit of a letdown. The animation was interesting but the story itself was not. The episode recreated several scenes from the first Captain America film using SHIELD agent Peggy Carter as "Captain Carter".  I can only assume they used "Captain Carter" as a bland hero name because Marvel already has a Captain Britain. 

The story itself was almost identical to the film except for an unexpected appearance by a Cthulu-like monster.  Captain Carter single handedly defeats the monster and gets sucked into a time vortex, enabling her to show up in modern times much like Cap did in his first film (potentially enabling future shows or films with Captain Carter). 

Captain Carter is incredibly overpowered in the show, performing feats of strength far beyond anything we ever saw the real Cap do. The writing on the show is also quite bad, featuring a character who only exists to demean Captain Carter and behave like a sterotypical male chauvenist. 

The next episode will be "what if T’Challa (Black Panther) was abducted by Yondu and became Starlord instead of Peter Quill?".  Perhaps episode 3 will be what if Steve Rogers (Captain America) became Black Panther or Bruce Banner became Power Man? (Don't hold your breath.) 

I'll be skipping most of this series but I will tune back in to see the Howard the Duck episode.  

UPDATE: Howard only appears in the second episode for a few minutes. Bummer.

As a former member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society it makes me a bit sad to see how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken several steps backwards after Avengers Endgame. Perhaps that film truly was the endgame.