The 2008 International Christian Retailers Show has been what’s the haps this week in Orlando, Florida, at the Orange County Convention Center.
I admit that I slapped on my media badge and attended with a little fear and trepidation. And not just because of what the humidity can do to one’s coiffure. I was downright scared about what I might see and experience. But I just got back and in hindsight, I think I found that it was actually interesting.
Perhaps it was even very interesting. Mostly for the people. I am fascinated by how many different types of Christians there are: Loud. Quiet. Demonstrative. Reserved. Pale. Too tan. Lots of hair. Not enough for a comb-over. Quirky. Non-descript. Fresh. And stale. All kinds, you see.
I am also intrigued by the types of products that are promoted to Christian retailers, so that they will sell them in their brick-and-mortar or online establishments. I won’t go into a list of the latest—and most curious—options, but suffice it to say that some warrant a little head-scratching. And by that I mean, Who buys this stuff????
But beyond the "stuff," what I enjoyed the most was meeting various authors and musicians in the publishing and entertainment arenas who were pumped up about their latest books, CDs, events, etc. And some of these, I was able to shake hands with at the Christy Awards dinner (the Christy Awards honor the best in Christian fiction and you can check out this year’s winners here).
You see, before you meet you see the publicity shots, the back-cover photos and the promotional materials, and you have some expectations about what these individuals will be like. But then you spend time together in person, and your preconceptions can often turn into misconceptions. For the most part. And that’s a pleasant surprise! So over the coming weeks and months, you’ll be able to access some of the conversations we had right here on Crosswalk.com (and in a new and improved kind of way, too … and that’s all I’ll say about that). So be looking for those very soon.
And speaking of conversations, I enjoyed chatting with (or rather being thoroughly amused by) Mark Steele—comedian, author, filmmaker and co-host of The Steelehouse Podcast. If you’re an avid reader of my blog, then you’ll remember that I dished about it a couple of months ago. It’s the podcast where they “discuss God in pop culture, because God reveals himself continually to us in art, and we are constantly looking for him.”
If you still haven’t given it a listen, then you really should. It’ll make you think, it’ll make you chuckle and—depending on your emotional state of being—it might even make you cry. Mark and co-host Jeff Huston (filmmaker and critic) discuss books, movies, music, television and more on a new podcast each week, which is available every Friday afternoon. In this Friday’s edition (July 18, 2008 – Podcast No. 18), Mark promised to detail some of the most unusual sights and sounds that he observed while at ICRS. And I, for one, cannot wait for that. Go here to access or you can subscribe to it through iTunes (type in “Steelehouse Podcast” in the search window).
Mark also graciously gave me copies of his two books: Flashbang: How I Got Over Myself and Half-Life/Die Already: How I Died & Lived to Tell About It. And I say, "give me a Scooby snack!" 'cause I have already read through them both. That’s not to say that the material wasn’t meaty or substantive. I just happen to read quickly (especially that which is compelling) and had some extra time to do so when not sleeping well in a noisy, touristy hotel and while killing time during air travel.
Now, I must say that I’ve never read anything like these two memoirs and can only describe them as an amusement park ride through the mind of Mark Steele. But not a loop-dee-loop rollercoaster or a tilt-a-whirl, mind you. More like the “It’s a Small World” boat ride at Disney World, where there are colorful sights and sounds and happenings going on all around you, and you are constantly looking over here and then over there and then back over here because there’s just so much going on simultaneously. That’s the best way I can describe the reading experiences of both books.
I laughed out loud many times (even while reading in public, and I didn’t care). But I also was deeply touched by the honesty and vulnerability Mark brings, as he shares from his fantastical personal experiences in the course of his life (If I remember correctly, Flashbang chronicles the first 36 years of his life and Half-Life/Die Already covers an 18-mos. period that immediately followed), and how he and his family have survived and made it through some pretty unbelievable scenarios and an inordinate amount of pain and loss.
If you’re up for some witty literary stimulation, a whole lot of soul-searching and probably some “hey, I’m not the only one who feels like this!” connections, then you need to read both of these. I highly recommend them.
And now, in ICRS conclusion—and in trying to wrap up this seemingly never-ending blog—yes, I Considered ‘Righteous’ Stuff this week. And I hope to do it again next year. Thankfully, in Denver, Colo. Where the air is higher and dryer.
So I guess instead of “the higher the hair, the closer to God,” that would make it “the higher the altitude, the closer to God.” One would think. But I’ll let you know. …
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