Mixed Media

Swept Up by Swoopo

Something for nothing? We all know that’s unlikely.

But something for a little, now that’s what we call a deal, a fair game where the best shopper wins. The online auction site Swoopo offers a deal-lover’s dream, displaying items such as a flat-panel TV, won by a bidder for only $250! Or a Sony PlayStation 3 for $40! Prices stay low because bidding goes up by as little as a penny.

Too good to be true? Indeed, the first catch is that you need to buy your bids, at 60 cents a bid. A TV may end up costing only $250 at auction, but might require 1,000 bids. The total cost is then $600 in bids, plus the $250 auction price, plus shipping and handling. The attraction is that maybe, just maybe, you may “swoop” in just before the auction ends and place only one bid (the TV would then cost only $250.60).

But here is the second catch—with every new bid the clock moves back another 15 seconds and bidding resumes. Auctions can go on for days.

Before Christmas I tried out Swoopo with the hope of finding some presents for my kids. I bought a pack of 40 bids for $24. I quickly learned to stick to unpopular items or auctions that ended very late at night. But each time, someone else swooped in and got the deal.

One of several recent “penny auction” sites, Swoopo.com began in Germany in 2005 and expanded across Europe to the United States in 2009. The company bills itself as “Entertainment Shopping.” And I’ll admit I felt an adrenaline rush when I nearly won a nifty Eiffel Tower Lego set. Who would guess that clicking a mouse could be so exciting?

But when I became $24 poorer and wiser, I realized Swoopo is a variation on gambling. In the hope and thrill of finding a deal, auction losers end up paying Swoopo for the cost of the merchandise—and probably a healthy return to its investors.

As a business model, Swoopo is extremely clever. But in the end, it’s a case where a deal is truly a steal.


WOW Gospel 2010

reviewed by Ron DeBoer

Looking for a praise CD that’s bursting with energy and emotion? WOW Gospel 2010 will help you praise God and make your spirit soar. Since WOW Gospel began putting out its compilation CDs in 1998, they’ve grown in popularity, with seven platinum and four gold-certified releases. From Kirk Franklin’s earnest cry in “Help Me Believe” to Maurette Brown Clark’s hopeful “It Ain’t Over” to Whitney Houston’s prayer “I Look to You,” WOW Gospel 2010 will have you both bouncing in your seat and contemplatively dwelling on the Lord. (Verity)

Downtown Church

by Patty Griffin
reviewed by Robert N. Hosack

Griffin’s first gospel album, Downtown Church, was recorded at a Presbyterian church in Nashville, released on a Christian label, and produced by the legendary Buddy Miller. Two original compositions from Griffin, who was brought up in the Catholic Church, are presented with gospel standards, including “Wade in the Water.” The record draws on a wide variety of inspirations, mixing together a potpourri of genres, cultures, and centuries. Along with Miller, luminaries such as Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin join the gospel celebration. A haunting “All Creatures of Our God and King” offers a blessed benediction. (Credential Recordings)

Tea with Hezbollah

by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In this thought-provoking travelogue, the authors share what they learned on their trip through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel to meet with “America’s perceived enemies, primarily Muslims, whom Jesus suggested we love.” Interviews with muftis, ayatollahs, sheiks, and the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah reveal that people in the Middle East, as well as in the West, often fail to follow Jesus’ commandment. However, glimmers of hope persist as some groups embrace nonviolence. By turns humorous and tragic, Tea with Hezbollah opens a window to a fascinating, complex world. (Doubleday

Priceless

by William Poundstone
reviewed by Otto Selles

“Buyer beware” goes the old saying. According to Poundstone, we should be wary of the way businesses, with the help of “price consultants,” manipulate our idea of what is a fair deal. The book first presents an anecdotal history of price psychology before turning to concrete examples of how things like menus, minibars, texting plans, and product bundles aim at both confusing and directing the consumer’s attention. Short chapters and a colloquial style make for an easy read that still leaves much food for thought on the value we give to money. (Hill and Wang)

Sunday Is for God

by Michael McGowan
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Sitting in church wearing his starchy collar and uncomfortable suit, a young boy imagines wading in a river as the congregation sings, “We’ll gather at the river.” Though restless, he notices that most of the people are happy to be praying, reading the Bible, and singing praises to God. In his childlike way, he participates. In this picture book, McGowan’s lyrical text interspersed with Scripture and songs is enhanced by profound collage illustrations. (Schwartz & Wade)

Growing Up Christian

by John P. Bowen
reviewed by Sophie Vandenberg

John Bowen, a longtime campus outreach worker, surveyed hundreds of young people who “grew up Christian.” Retelling their stories, he explores how growing up and leaving home affected their faith. Bowen considers those who remained active in their faith and church, the path of those who left, and “absent believers” who left the church but not the faith. Growing Up Christian will be helpful to parents, teachers, youth workers, pastors, and anyone who has a heart for the next generation of the faithful. (Regent College)

The Lowdown

Stick to It: Larry Osborne’s book Sticky Teams offers guidance on working together as church leaders and staff members. (Zondervan)Pest Control: Little sisters, unite! Ramona, of Ramona the Pest and other Beverly Cleary books, makes her big-screen debut in theaters this month with Ramona and Beezus. (Fox 2000)Summer Slump: Have your children uttered the “b” word yet? Banish boredom with a good book. Check out the Children’s Choices Book Lists at www.reading.org under Resources. Spill It: Stay up to date on the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by checking www.DeepwaterHorizonResponse.com or use an interactive map for current data and images at www.geoplatform.gov/gulfresponse.

About the Author

Otto Selles teaches French at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., and attends Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.

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