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Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015
Letters Welcome
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Why does Jesus cry on Palm Sunday? (03/26/15)
In Luke Chapter 19, just after Jesus enters the city riding on a donkey triumphantly on Palm Sunday, Luke records in Chapter 19:41-44, "And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. ...
Volunteer Network of Clay County (03/25/15)
Some exciting new volunteer opportunities are in the works for Clay County groups and individuals of all ages, skills and time constraints. Volunteer Opportunities Available through the Volunteer Network of Clay County: Volunteer today to help with a Mobile Food Pantry to be held on Tuesday, May 19, Volunteers needed for a morning shift 11 a.m. to noon for unloading and food distribution from 4-6 p.m. that same day. Call 580-IVOL to help with this great community give back...
Spencer makes its TV debut ... sort of (03/25/15)
As I was catching up on my favorite show of all time, "Supernatural," I found out Spencer, Iowa, was the setting of one of its more recent episodes. How crazy is that? If you have never watched "Supernatural," or don't have a clue what it is about, let me provide a quick synopsis. ...
Let the light shine in (03/23/15)
We just wrapped up a week which is pretty darn important to those of us in the news media, and should also be vitally important to every citizen. National Sunshine Week, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, seeks to highlight the importance of transparency and open government. From local boards to federal officials, all benefit from light shed on the mechanisms that power the machine of government...
Ask a Trooper (03/23/15)
A: I don't want to become too optimistic, but questions like this tell me that spring and warmer weather may be here to stay. Biking enthusiasts are itching to get out on the roads and school children are already two wheeling it to school. Before long you will start to see the vacation traffic picking up on the road. The only illness that everyone wants to get has set in ... spring fever...
Nobody ever sees it coming (03/20/15)
Imagine it's Wednesday evening. You're watching what will likely be meaningless in the grand scheme of things First Four game, and I look at you and say, "Ya know? I've seen the future, and two of Iowa's three teams in the tournament are going to Hulk smash their opening games of the tournament. And the other is going to get clipped by one point after they shoot 37 percent from the floor and forget how to rebound."...
Coming out of hibernation (03/20/15)
For some reason, this winter just took forever to get through. I understand that the timeline of this winter isn't all that different from the past three winters I've lived through since moving to Spencer. And it seems that, in talking with people, it's a shared sentiment around the community...
A new beginning? (03/20/15)
Is it time to update the preamble to the Constitution? Perhaps, according to some. As I've mentioned before I receive a great many emails on a daily basis. My inbox fills with some newsworthy info, some interesting and some entertaining pieces, and some junk submittals. They are sent by friends, strangers, peers and associates...
The Johnson Report (03/20/15)
Crunch. That's the sound I heard when the Revenue Estimating Conference announced its revised "forecast" on Thursday. Whether your interest is school spending, the cost of health care or funding water-quality programs, next fiscal year's state budget needs to tighten a notch...
CommStock Report (03/20/15)
I wrote my last column about disappointment over Democrats skipping the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit. There was an op-ed in the Register from USDA Undersecretary Lisa Mensah touting the USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program investment of $765 million as the administration's support for ethanol. ...
Pastor's Column (03/19/15)
Love makes us do crazy things. A few years ago, I came down with malaria after spending a few weeks in East Africa. Although it was a hot midwest summer, I found myself with a high fever and with near constant chills. For about a week, I had three to four layers of clothes on, with blankets and the furnace running in our apartment. My thoughtful, caring wife, did all that she could to keep me warm in spite of how uncomfortable it was for her...
Don't forget the sunscreen (03/18/15)
Emmetsburg was a sea of green and orange this past weekend as the town conducted its annual St. Patrick's Day celebration. One could say things came full circle for me as I now have enjoyed a pint of beer in both Dublin, Ireland, and its sister city...
Back to the game board (03/16/15)
In this age of gaming systems, smartphones loaded with personal games and computer gaming groups with memberships in the hundreds of thousands, you would think old-fashioned board games are a relic of the past. You would be wrong. The world is in a board game renaissance. ...
Sunshine Week (03/16/15)
This is Sunshine Week, a week when many news organizations and First Amendment advocates will talk and write about open government. But this week is really about you: the people who are directly affected by the decisions of state and local government. ...
The CommStock Report (03/13/15)
Today we will start off with what will be the prologue to comments on the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit held in Des Moines March 6. The Ag Summit was a tremendous success in many ways. Politicians attend debates and cattle calls but rarely are they given a forum where they are asked direct questions and return direct answers as was done in this forum on the topic of agriculture...
Mad yet? (03/13/15)
March Madness is officially upon us with conference tournaments in full swing, meaning my next three columns have roughly a 115 percent chance of being about college basketball which is pretty amazing, considering the free agent bonanza going on in the NFL...
The solution to childhood obesity (03/13/15)
I received a story suggestion last week regarding the ongoing battle -- and a joining of forces -- to fight childhood obesity. The piece out of Des Moines -- from which apparently all good ideas and genius flows in the state of Iowa -- suggests an effort is underway to "make the healthy choice the easy choice."...
Legislative Update (03/13/15)
In the Judiciary Committee last week, we took up HJR 8 a resolution requesting the proposal of an amendment to the United States Constitution with a constitutional convention, under Article V of the Constitution. Pursuant to Article V, there are two ways to amend the Constitution: 1) Congress proposes amendments with two-thirds majority in each house 2) upon application by two-thirds of the states to call a convention. ...
The stories that converge (03/13/15)
It always excites me when reading becomes a puzzle to put together. It's one of the reasons I love "S," by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst so much -- the book requires four consecutive read-throughs before the entire story is unfolded. It's a story-within-a-story, and it's fantastic...
Miracle baby (03/12/15)
There is life after death. That is what I believe, and a story from Utah this weekend reinforced that belief for me. A fisherman in Spanish Fork, Utah, was the first one to discover a partially submerged upside-down car in the river on Saturday. He immediately called 911 for help...
50 years on (03/09/15)
Fifty years. It's been 50 years since the March on Selma. "Bloody Sunday," it came to be called. That day a group of civil rights activists in a planned march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, were set upon by police. The 600 peaceful activists were clubbed, bloodied and battered as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the outskirts of town, at the beginning of their planned journey...
Legislative Update (03/09/15)
It is funnel week in the Iowa Legislature -- the week where bills meet their fate. By Friday (March 6), a bill must have been assigned a subcommittee, passed out of subcommittee and passed out of a full committee in order to be eligible. Bills that do not make the cut no longer move and are considered dead. The exception is for bills with a fiscal impact or bills within the jurisdiction of the Government Oversight Committee...
Playing along when you're being played (03/06/15)
A few months ago we received an interesting visit from the vacuum salesman (excuse me: air filtration system representative) who spent the better part of two hours in our home demonstrating two products for us: an air filter and a vacuum. While we did call the number on the back of the card we got in the mail (we could have earned anything from a digital camera to roadside assistance to $10,000 in a relatively short visit, so why not?), I don't know what we were truly expecting to happen. ...
A lesson in sportsmanship and love (03/06/15)
In the aftermath of the news regarding arrests stemming from a bunch of out-of-control adults at a Storm Lake Youth Basketball Tournament, you begin to wonder if all hope for sportsmanship is lost. I should clarify that although the tournament itself was conducted in Storm Lake, those arrested were from Le Mars and Sioux City. ...
McCoy the new Monta? (03/06/15)
After this week's (first) blockbuster NFL trade (Brandon Marshall got traded about 30 minutes before I started writing this.), sending the at-times electrifying LeSean McCoy from the Philadelphia Eagles to Buffalo for Oregon product and potentially Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker Kiko Alonso, I turned to (in my opinion) one of the more level-headed NFL analysts employed by Disney, Bill Barnwell over at Grantland.com (which is owned by ESPN which is owned by Disney in case you were confused)...
Randy's Review: 'Insurgent' (03/26/15)
The second piece in the "Divergent" trilogy, "Insurgent," picks up where its predecessor left off -- with our two main characters, Dauntless faction members Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) on the run after helping stop a hostile takeover by the ruling Erudite faction and its leader, Jeanine (Kate Winslet). During the battle, Tris' Divergent status is discovered by Jeanine and her forces. Joining Tris and Four are obnoxious Peter and Tris' brother Caleb...
Randy's Review: 'Do You Believe?' (03/26/15)
Can Brian "The Boz" Bosworth bring a tear to your eye? If you were an opponent of the Oklahoma Sooners when he was a roaming, punishing, two-time All-American linebacker on the football field in the '80s, the answer is probably yes. If you're a moviegoer, attending the latest Jonathan Gunn Christian drama release, "Do You Believe?" the answer may well be yes once again...
Randy's Review: 'Run All Night' (03/19/15)
When a mob enforcer is forced to kill the son of his boss and best friend -- their relationship is quickly transformed into a test of vengeance and survival in "Run All Night." Liam Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon opposite Ed Harris' Shawn Maguire in this clash of families. ...
Randy's Review: 'Chappie' (03/13/15)
Set in a gang, drug and crime infested Johannesburg, South Africa, "Chappie" is the latest take on the idea of a mechanized police force used to take back the streets, but the story offers a little more than your standardized guns, explosions and bullet-impacting violence. Don't get me wrong, if that's your sort of thing, there's plenty of it, but there's a good amount of humor along the way...
Randy's Review: 'Focus' (03/05/15)
The con is on in "Focus" and it isn't just a game for gentlemen anymore. Will Smith is Nicky, a smooth con man who's on to everyone else's game and makes his money playing others around him, and eliciting the help of a small army of talented associates who pick pockets, run scams and set up unsuspecting marks...
Book Review: 'The Stranger' (03/26/15)
I read Harlan Coben's "Missing You" last year, and I really enjoyed it. Coben is a good writer, and I liked the development of the characters and storyline in that novel. When I saw "The Stranger" was coming, I thought I'd give it a shot as well. On the plus side, Coben is a very reader-friendly writer. ...
Book Review: 'Mademoiselle Chanel' (03/19/15)
If you like Paula McLain's "The Paris Wife" or Therese Anne Fowler's "Z," then you'll love C.W. Gortner's "Mademoiselle Chanel." This book came at (what I believe is) the end of a series of books all somewhat connected to each other. As recognizable as Coco Chanel is, she was further introduced to me in reading Tilar J. Mazzel's "Hotel on the Place Vendome." And then I looked on my schedule to see what I would be reading this week, and I found this book...
Book Review: 'The Discreet Hero' (03/13/15)
In the literary world, there are few forces as powerful as that of Mario Vargas Llosa. He earned the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010, and has written novels, including "The Feast of the Goat," "Conversation in the Cathedral," "The Storyteller" and "Captain Pantoja and the Special Service."...
Book Review: 'Heartbreak Hotel' (03/05/15)
Deborah Moggach is perhaps best known for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," which was made into a film starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith. Though I've never read that book (or seen the film), I understand from "Heartbreak Hotel" what makes Moggach so endearing as a writer...
Book Review: 'Finding Jake' (02/26/15)
In the same vein as "We Need To Talk About Kevin," Bryan Reardon's "Finding Jake" revolves around a school shooting. Simon Connolly is a stay-at-home dad who is called to a local church with the other parents at the school after a shooter came into the school and killed 13 students. ...
Music Review: 'To Pimp a Butterfly' (03/19/15)
In an effort to expand my tastes musically, I decided to venture into rap today. It's not that I don't ever listen to the genre, but most of my rap experience comes from Top 40, and I'm not sure that counts, at least to someone who actually listens to rap...
Music Review: 'Never been better' (03/13/15)
Several years ago I reviewed Olly Murs' debut, self-titled album after he was released from UK's "The X Factor." Since then, Murs has released two more albums, leading to his fourth and most recent, "Never Been Better." It's really interesting to hear the growth between Murs' first and fourth albums. The former is a great pop album and showcases his charisma perfectly, and, while there are elements of this in "Never Been Better," Murs has also shown he's maturing...
Music Review: 'Piece by Piece' (03/05/15)
Kelly Clarkson has certainly left her "American Idol" days behind her and moved on to bigger and better things. "Piece by Piece," is both bigger and better. Those who turn up the volume when "Heartbreak Song," the first single off the album, comes on the radio will love this album. Most of the songs follow the same musical thread...
Music Review: 'Just Kids' (02/26/15)
Mat Kearney fits in many categories of music. His latest album, "Just Kids," contains some spoken word poetry, and would belong in some smoke-filled underground coffee shop/bar with a dimly lit stage and a cajon. I get this feeling especialy from "Heartbreak Drummer" and "Just Kids."...
Music Review: 'Smoke + Mirrors' (02/19/15)
The great thing about Imagine Dragons is that they're a talented pop-rock band with a signature lead vocal tone. The not-so-great thing about them is that, at least in the case of their first album, they're better at creating singles than they are creating a cohesive album...