Thursday, April 29, 2004

General Hoo-ah

I've been badgered a bit about being more...diligent (couldn't think of another "b" word) about posting.

And since my lunch break is waning, I can only provide a minor post.

News in brief:

--Apparently, the Intelligence Department has started to investigate blogs, in their hunt for homegrown terrorists. I have to confess, I'm not really comfortable with that. I understand it, but I don't have to like it. And yes, it's true, if you're not doing wrong, then you have no reason to be worried. But I am all the same. This may be the ultimate victory for the forces of violence who plot evil against us: to leave us no option but to embody Orwell's worst nightmare. Or we could turn into China.

--A question asked on the local talk radio station got me thinking: what is a citizen? What is the proper behavior of a citizen? I am going to look into this idea further, and report to you what I find. Lots of references to Greek philosophers and American revolutionaries, on the way I'm sure. But this concept, the proper behavior and attitude of a loyal citizen, is an important one. Both sides of the American political spectrum hurl bombs at each other about not being a "real" American. Well, let's look at that, shall we? Another good discussion would be great. (Please save all vitriol until then.)

--I've added a few more links from friends. As always, don't blame me for others' occasional foul language. Really, I'm just putting them up so I don't have to drag down my favorites menu. But anyway. Oh, and I fixed Lucas' link too. (Okay, he just changed to a new bloghost... a *cool* one.) So that's fun.

So yeah, that's it. Expect more meat later. Right now, I have to get back to being yelled at by my superiors.
I know Kate Keller, and she's no Kate Keller...

Just kidding. She's better.

Happy 24th birthday to Kinsey Dickey. Many happy returns.

Since she's apparently withering from lack of attention, please post birthday messages below. Hopefully this will tide her over for a while.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

New Song of the Day

Call it busyness, call it lazyness; either way, I'm too swamped to post anything useful. I need to do some email today, instead of posting, anyway. So hopefully a little more of the Dylan family will tide you over (This time from mr. jakob dylan.) I'll have something interesting to say by the end of the week, I'm sure.


Say when you're alone
It's better 'cause nobody knows you
When no one's your friend
It's better 'cause nobody leaves you
So you turned your back
On a world that you could never have
'Cause your heart's been cracked
And everyone else's is going mad

But I hear voices
And I see colors
But I wish I felt nothing
Then it might be easy for me
Like it is for you

Now all of these people
Come up from deep holes
Pulling you down
And it's just no use
When all the abuse follows you 'round
By the morning you've gone
Leaving me here all alone
Saying it's no mystery
I know that nobody here needs me

But I hear voices
And I see colors
But I wish I felt nothing
Then it might be easy for me
Like it is for you

And I know you believe
That you and me don't belong here
And the worst we could do
Is keep trying to pretend we care

But I hear voices
And I see colors
But I wish I felt nothing
Then it might be easy for me
Like it is for you

"I Wish I Felt Nothing" by The Wallflowers, from one of my favorite albums ever, Bringing Down the Horse.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Song of the Day

Wasn't sure what brought this song to mind, exactly. But there it is, for what it's worth. Some bittersweet Bob Dylan to accompany your weekend.

Most of the time
I’m clear focused all around
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground
I can follow the path
I can read the signs
Stay right with it when the road unwinds
I can handle whatever I stumble upon
I don’t even notice she’s gone
Most of the time.

Most of the time
It’s well understood
Most of the time
I wouldn’t change it if I could
I can’t make it all match up
I can hold my own
I can deal with the situation right down to the bone
I can survive
I can endure
And I don’t even think about her
Most of the time.

Most of the time
My head is on straight
Most of the time
I’m strong enough not to hate
I don’t build up illusion ’till it makes me sick
I ain’t afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind.
Don’t even remember what her lips felt like on mine
Most of the time.

Most of the time
She ain’t even in my mind
I wouldn’t know her if I saw her
She’s that far behind.
Most of the time
I can’t even be sure
If she was ever with me
Or if I was with her.

Most of the time
I’m halfway content
Most of the time
I know exactly where I went
I don’t cheat on myself
I don’t run and hide
Hide from the feelings that are buried inside
I don’t compromise and I don’t pretend
I don’t even care if I ever see her again
Most of the time.

"Most of the Time" by Mr. Bob Dylan

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"When it's my moment in the beautiful I'll be..."

Still waiting for that moment.

Bilous whining aside, I'm doing decently well. I'm not hungry. I'm not cold. I'm not orphaned. I'm not afraid of bombs being dropped on me. I don't fear for my life because of the faith I aspire to profess. I'm not John Stevens, who appears to be the most (undeservedly) hated American Idol contender.

Why am I so upset? Why do I feel like sulking, and have felt like sulking for three days?

Damned if I know.

There are some ideas bouncing around in my head, but I don't think they're correct guesses at the problem.

Here's a technicolor irony: I am the worst email responder in the world, waiting weeks (months!) to respond to emails, telling myself I'll "get around to it eventually." But I wrote four emails in the past two days and only heard back from one person so far. And for a moment, for one moment, I was upset that the other three are taking so long to reply. After that lapse of memory, I summarily smacked myself in the head. I think I mumbled something about karma and female canines. But I'm not sure. The allergy drugs have left my head swimming and *still* congested. I would have had better results from actually sticking the "Tylenol Cold and..." caplets into my "sinuses." At least it would have been congestion without runniness.

Yes, that's right, Dave's discussing sinus fluids on the ol' blog-o-rama.

The illustrious Marty Peercy, whose wisdom I highly esteem (perhaps unduely), made a good point in a recent post response on another (more attractive) writer's page, that calling this brain-slop a "blog" is a misnomer. Weblogs being more like Dave Barry's than like mine. My page could technically be better classified as an online diary or journal (which elicits comparisons to the websites created by fifteen-year-olds posting about "whoo R the cutest bois in clas???" and "Blink is like the gr8test band. Blink 4ever!!!!!!").

That, as you know, is not the calibre of material found here, gentle readers. But I do see Mr. Peercy's point, and, as I try to ignore the shudder creeping up my spine, I must concede the argument. However, I will continue to erroneously refer to this experiment in public psychotherapy as a "blog", "blog-o-rama", "bloggadelphia", etc. Because I'm stubborn. And the stubborn stay the course... wait... nevermind.

Did I have a point? Where has my agenda gone? Was there a reason for posting today?

To borrow a copyrighted (not "copywritten" as my first impulse indicated) phrase, "...the reason is you."

Explanation: Due in totality to the urging of my dear friend and eternal diva KD, I'm reading "Walking on Water" by Madeleine L'Engle. Which is (thusfar) an amazing book that all writers should read. In one section (in chapter two, as I've started the book recently), Maddie (as I like to call her) describes writing as communication sent from author to audience, and that the author wants to meet the reader "on a bridge of words." She writes, "Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work had been still-born."

And, though I cringe to associate this mess with the loftiness of the word "art," I do admit that it is communication. In this sense, this webpage is not diary, it's not journal. It's personal, yes, but it is also public. My dirty laundry on the line. For you. There was never any pretense that no one else would see this page. From Day One, way back in September of 2002, it has been about communcation. Me to you. The original "you" was a readership of one, only one, and though that reader and I have had some hard times in the interim, we still read each other's pages, infrequently at least. But that readership grew. I started drawing back the curtain a bit more and more, so that I even let my students at the time peek in at my mind. And then it grew more. And more.

Now I'm pleased at the idea of conversing with readers on other continents, in other places in life. I'll admit that there's a little flush of pride that accompanies that statement. And I think that's okay.

But the point is... what is the point... The point is... and try not to get lost in the metaphor...

This is my bridge of words to you. I'm here, standing beneath this weatherbeaten wrought-iron lamppost. I'm looking out over the river, watching the moon dance on the watertop. I'm bracing against the wind, I'm blowing into my folded hands to keep warm, and I'm waiting. I'm leaning against the rail, and looking back and forth. I'm waiting for you to walk up, and shake my hand, hug my neck. I'm wating for you to sit on the bench with me and hang out. This is why I come to this bridge everyday.

But when I stand on this bridge every day, I find it harder to stand on others. This bridge gets foot traffic, while my other bridges, the ones with wide stone bases and tall arches that I am still building, get none. And while I love this bridge, and love meeting you here, the question that keeps bugging me, the question that won't be suppressed, is, "At this point in my life, is this the right bridge to stand on?"

I built this bridge because I craved company. I build the other bridge because I know that is what I was born to do. And that's why it becomes so gravely urgent that I finish that other bridge, and others like it.

Because I think that only when I get the other bridge built will I finally get that moment in the sun. And I want to be beautiful.

Even in a normal sort of way.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Tell me something I don't know

According to this quiz, I'm a(n)

--linguistic thinker (tends to use language to express complex ideas; are sensitive to the sounds and rhythms of words as well as their meanings)

--interpersonal thinker (likes to think about other people, and try to understand them; recognises differences between individuals and appreciate that different people have different perspectives; makes an effort to cultivate effective relationships with family, friends and colleagues)

--musical thinker (tends to think in sounds, and may also think in rhythms and melodies; is sensitive to the sounds and rhythms of words as well as their meanings; feels a strong connection between music and emotions).

Hmmm... I probably could have given you most of these.

So does this mean that I really know myself deep down, or that I'm just really easy to peg with simplistic internet personality tests? Like the guy who reads everyone's horoscope and says, "geez, these are all me!!!"


(Q: Dave, do you seriously think that after a four-day absence, this stupidity qualifies as a legitmate post? A: Why, yes. Yes I do.)

(Props to Laura for finding this.)

Friday, April 16, 2004

Understand the Dream is Over...

We all knew it couldn't last forever. My glorious dream of empire has been crushed by a combination of rebellious insurgents and a weak-willed military. All my allies deserted me, leaving me alone on the field of combat.


I guess I will have to be satisfied with being the king of this fair little realm.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Obligatory Reference to Important National Days

Although I had mine done in mid-February, most folks waited until today. So in honor of them, and their stupid stupid procrastination:

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

If you drive a car-car I'll tax the street
If you try to sit-sit I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk I'll tax your feet
Tax man

Well I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

Don't ask me what I want it for
If you don't want to pay some more

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

Now my advice for those who die (tax man)
Declare the pennies on your eyes (tax man)

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

And you're working for no one but me
(Tax man)

"Taxman" by The Beatles
Time for a "Way Big Shout-out"

Much love going out to one of PBB's newest readers: the lovely and talented Kinsey. Drama queen extraordinaire and owner of the world's most famous groovy green dress, Kinsey currently hails from Arkansas (right?).

But her new employer said that Maryland's the place she ought to be, so she's loading up the truck and moving there in May.

The end that is... Theatre, touring shows...

Congrats, Kins. Welcome to the PBB family.

(You know I was going to make a joke about her last name, and a story involving a turtleneck, but I'm letting it go, because I want to keep her as a reader.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

You Kids Don't Seem to be Paying Attention...

On April 2, I posted Volume 1 of my "desert-island" ultimate movie/series list. But there were only 13 of the promised 25 entries. But nobody noticed. The last line was a specific movie-related reference. I didn't make it obvious that I wanted you to guess, but I was hoping someone--anyone--would mention the reference in response or comment in some way about it. I was waiting for this to occur before posting the second half of the list. But no one seems to be paying attention. Or it was too obtuse of a reference to be interesting.

My impatience has overwhelmed my need to be understood/appreciated. Here then, with little fanfare, is the finale.

Twenty-five Movies or Series That I Can Watch Forever (Volume 2)

The Indiana Jones Trilogy: I was missing a Harrison Ford entry, and nearly put The Empire Strikes Back, but really, Harrison Ford will always be Indiana Jones. "Doctor Jones" is the best modern example of a Saturday matinee hero. The whip swinging is still cool, and the rolling boulder sequence from "Raiders..." is one of the most famous action sequences of the past twenty years. How can you deny a hero who always gets the girl, always comes *this* close to getting killed, and still walks away with that devilish grin on his face? Classic.
"You're named after the dog???"

Saving Private Ryan: The first half-hour alone makes this one of the greatest movies of all time. Some will argue (negatively) that it does for war what "The Passion..." did for religious art, but Spielburg really redeemed for a lot of his cinematic sins with this gritty, harrowing film. The psalm-quoting sniper is still my favorite of them all. Or Giovanni Ribisi as that unfortunate medic.
"Hey, pal... *points to self* Juden. Juden."

Braveheart: See, I'm getting out all my action movies before I start listing the romantic ones. Gosh, what can you say about Braveheart? Thrilling story, epic themes, great music, awesomely bloody battles. Stephen of Ireland is a riot. Big ups to Angus McFadyen as Robert the Bruce. But really, what makes it work is the star. Mel Gibson is one terrific actor. And what man among you can truthfully claim that he doesn't get teary-eyed at the end of the movie, when Wallace screams out "Freedom" as his last word on earth? Come on, that's good cinema.
"I could crush you, like a worm." "Do it then."

Say Anything: The tagline of this movie starts out, "To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him..." Couldn't be more true. Cameron Crowe's film seems to resonate so well. Much of that goes to the performance of John Cusack, who is, undisputably, the man. My favorite scenes are the three with Jeremy Piven, and the one with Lloyd's nephew and the punching bag. Any praise I can give this movie wouldn't do it justice. Predictable--maybe. Sincere--indeed so.
"I have hidden your keys! Chill... I love you too. Go to sleep."

Notting Hill: What's with the sentimentality, Dave? Well, I'll tell you. The typical romantic comedy formula (as you know) is: boy meets girl, boy does something stupid to drive away girl, boy breaks his back trying to win back girl, boy wins girl back with his self-effacement and lack of shame. And I'm sick of the formula. So I fell in love with this movie, in which the guy (played to embarrased perfection by Hugh Grant) does absolutely nothing wrong in the relationship (at least nothing in the context of the plot). Unfortunately, his romance with a movie star is thrown for a loop by her actions/inactions. Oh, yeah, and the movie star? Julia Roberts. Great story, nicely shot, fantastic supporting cast, and a nice feel-good experience.
"Do you know what happens when mortals get mixed up with gods?" "Buggered, is it?"

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Oh no, Dave didn't just drop a movie on the list that he's only seen recently... why yes. Yes I did. This is Charlie Kaufman's best work as a writer, a haunted, sentimental mindtrip that gives Jim Carrey the best material he's ever performed in his career. Carrey is flawless, Kate Winslet seems to wear her part like a tailored suit. The supporting cast is great, and the music is perfectly fit to the story (much like the soundtrack to Lost in Translation). I will buy this movie, the day it comes to DVD. Awesome.
"My journal is empty."

The Usual Suspects: Probably my favorite (unspoiled) shocker ending ever. Great story, nicely edited. Kevin Spacey is mesmerizing. I love movies that really challenge the viewer intellectually. Maybe I'm dense, but this one really did me in, the first time.
"You know, back when I was in a barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois..."

Hamlet (2000) : Before you purists start heaving chairs, let me explain. This production of the Bard's masterpiece is the most inventive and daring I've ever seen. The most well-known scenes in Hamlet seem to be played the exact same way in every production. This version throws out the traditional readings by completly altering the setting and dynamics, while keeping the dialogue exact. (Some complain that this is distracting; I think it's a perfect example of the flexibility of Shakespeare's words, because the lines seem to flow almost naturally, so that you stop questioning them once the movie gets going.) Ethan Hawke is the moodiest (and youngest) film Hamlet, and though he's no Brannaugh, his performance is well worth noting. Julia Stiles (how I love thee, lady!) plays the best Ophelia I've ever seen. Bill Murray as Polonius (no, really, he's Polonius) was a perfect casting decision, because Murray captures how ridiculously self-important the character seems. While the director sacrifices the weight of the Fortinbras plotline (one minor defect) in the film, the "nunnery" scene between Hamlet and Ophelia is the best I've ever seen. The only major digression was the ending, but the value of the film as a whole almost redeems that choice too. Awesome.
"If you do marry, I'll give you this plague for your dowry: may you be cold as ice, as pure as snow..."

Ten Things I Hate About You: Again with the Shakespeare adaptions. Yes, this is a cheesy teen movie. But it's a hilarious teen movie. One of my cinematic guilty pleasures, I guess. Good dialogue. And the lovely Julia Stiles. Though its ending is drastically different than that of its inspiration (political correctness and women's lib and all that) and though it follows the above-mentioned formula (when will these male leads stop making bets? it only leads to trouble...), I really enjoy this movie.
"Tell me something about yourself, something no one else knows." "...I hate peas."

The Emperor's New Groove: The only Disney film on the list. (The only one bearing the Disney name, anyway. You know, since they own everything.) I don't know why this movie makes me laugh as hard as it does. But it does. If you haven't seen it, I dare you to sit through it without at least chuckling a few times. The gags are smart, the voice actors are great, and the traditional animation is easy on the eyes.
"Kronk, the emperor needs his...drink." "What? Oh--riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight... *knowing nod/wink*"

Rushmore: You know, I knew a guy in college who made it to the final round of auditions for the Schwartzman role in Rushmore. Yeah, he didn't make it. Good thing, too. The kid didn't have the chops. Filmed right here in lovely, tropical Houston (I pass the parking lot from the model airplane scene everyday on my way to work), this is my favorite Wes Anderson movie. A great dark comedy which includes another spot-on Murray performance. (Okay, tell me how he didn't win Best Actor this year???) The school production of Serpico was awesome. Feels in some ways like the anti-"Graduate." But I can't explain to you how I make that connection. Could be arbitrary, who knows.
"I saved Latin. What'd you ever do?"

and the finale...

Kill Bill: Unless the second act pulls a "Reloaded" on me, this will be my favorite QT film of all time. I just rented Volume 1 last night, and holy crap, is that a great flick. Profanely beautiful. Amazing fight choreography. Ridiculously violent. Brilliant soundtrack. This is the best action movie I've seen in years, probably ever. And the lovely Uma in a wicked rad role, as a woman so tough she makes Ellen Ripley look like a pushover.
"To get even? Even-steven? I'd have to kill you, go upstairs, kill little Nikki, and then wait for the good Doctor Bell to come home, and kill him. That'd be about square."
He Who Rides alone Rides with Sansbury!!!

Keep checking here for daily updates on the colonial exploits of the brave and well-adjusted subjects of Dave-onia.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Something Sweet and Somber

Most of you probably haven't heard, but Weird Al Yankovic's parents died this week of carbon monoxide poisoning. Al posted this message on his website. I thought it was touching, and felt the need to link to it.

You'd think that Weird Al would be the type to live on emotional extremes. But I was moved by the strength and grace he's showing. I don't know, I'm an old softie, I guess.
Bald-faced Begging

If you love me, you'll buy me this.

Money can't buy you love, but it can buy you demonstrations of love. And it can also buy you cake. Which is almost the same thing as love, in my estimation.
On a More Serious Note

You know, I may get loud and sarcastic, but I'm generally an easy-going sort of guy. I have beliefs that are sometimes unpopular with the mainstream, and that are mocked by celebrities and media figures. I can deal with that. Shrug my shoulders, and like Hyde, respond with a Zen-like "whatever."

But sometimes, there are issues or events that make my guts churn with rage. I get upset with things that I find unjust. Two small examples: while four American contractors were killed, burned, mutilated, and hung from a bridge, as the wolves from Iraq danced around them, the main focus of American news media was on that stupid college girl who faked her own kidnapping. We gave hours, literally hours of coverage to this alleged kidnapping case, and only a few minutes to the death and desecration of four people in Iraq, trying to make the place better. And nobody thought anything of it. Probably because "American Idol" was on TV that night. Second example: there was an investigative report about the appalling mistreatment of our elderly vets at VA hospitals. The mistreatment and lack of care of the elderly is a shameful thing; their being our ancient warriors only adds to that shame. I was literally sick to my stomach from the intro the the program, and couldn't watch the rest of it.

But neither of these recent events sent my ulcers into overdrive like yesterday's outrage. But then again, you probably haven't heard about it either. The media by-and-large isn't interested. Especially when it concerns the appalling ramblings of one of its darlings.

In a time of war, when our soldiers are getting killed defending the peace in foreign countries, how can any American in good conscience say that these soldiers are not heroic, for the risks they face willingly every day?

I'm not sure, but Andy Rooney of CBS' "60 Minutes" found a way.

This...person (can we call such vileness a man?) claims that our soldiers aren't heroes. He instead claims that they are victims. That we are responsible for their undeserved and unwilling deaths.

...Let that sink in. Our soldiers are victims, not heroes.

When, O God, will this attitude of victimization be put to rest?

Rooney paints the portrait of poor, uninformed, uneducated young people who bumbled into the military like Pauly Shore in "In the Army Now", hoping to get some cash for college, or some job training. They didn't think that they'd actually have to fight, says Rooney.

What foolishness. In a post-9/11 world, when our country is pursuing military action against terrorists and their cohorts, there is no such thing as military service without the risk of combat involvement, in some capacity. And certainly not for new recruits.

Rooney seems to have gotten his timeframes mixed up. See, it's not the 1960's. It's not the 70's. The soldiers in Iraq weren't drafted. They volunteered. And when they did, they were told EXACTLY what they might have to face.

You aren't a victim if you accept the possibility of hardship, and still choose to pursue that course of action.

Rooney writes that 40% are National Guardsmen or Army reservists who "never thought they'd be called upon to fight. They want to come home."

Of course they want to go home. They're away from their family. Furthermore, you don't have to have a dangerous job to want to go home. I want to go home right now, but I stay, because this is the job I've committed to do.

And as to the first statement, this is another example of insulting the so-called "weekend warriors" who have been unfairly given this kind of "second-class soldier" distinction.

The other argument Rooney makes is the fact that 23 soldiers have committed suicide since the war began. And yes, Andy, that is sad. Tragic for the families. But let's look at this in terms of American population statistics. This is what I found after about two minutes of research.

According to the Center for Disease Control's 2001 National Vital Statistics Report listing the Final Data for all deaths in 2001, 30,622 people died from suicide. That's an average of 10.8 out of every 100,000 people in America that year (age-adjusted average: 10.7).

According to this AP article dated March 25, the rate of soldiers in the Army alone is 17.3, compared to 12.8 for the entire Army in 2003, and an average of 11.9 suicides per 100,000 soldiers in the eight years prior to that. Yes, Andy, more soldiers are cracking under the stress of combat.

But what Andy doesn't tell you is what the Army is doing in response. The above-linked article goes on to explain how the Army is working to provide more counselling and resources for the soldiers. How of the 2008 soldiers treated by the Army's 2nd Medical Brigade, 1,919 soldiers were able to return to active duty. (And I can hear the great inhale of breath as you all start saying that it doesn't mean they were psychologically ready to return. All I can say is that if they all were not, we'd have 1,942 suicides instead of 23. Hmmm...)

The article goes on to discuss that the common element in each of these suicides could have been the soldier's "personal financial problems, failed personal relationships and legal problems." The stress of war just widened the cracks that were already present.

Rooney melodramatically writes, "If 22 young men and one woman killed themselves because they couldn't take it, think how many more are desperately unhappy but unwilling to die." Andy, that's called life. As someone who has dealt with serious depression, I can testify that, yes, it happens. If 30,622 people in the United States killed themselves in 2001, think of how many more thought about it, and didn't go through with it. What will we do to help them, Andy?

I don't mean to downgrade the seriousness of depression and suicide, please don't misunderstand, readers. But it happens. We need to accept this. Being happy all the time isn't average. Struggling to be happy some of the time is average. But as a people, we've bought into this deceitful mindset that if we're not happy every waking hour, there's something unnatural at work, and we need to rectify it, like a medical disorder. This mindset is why we are on our way to becoming one of the most medicated nations in the world.

The old addage, "war is hell", is no exaggeration. But steps are being taken to make sure our brave soldiers don't lose hope. But Andy doesn't tell you any of this, because it doesn't play well. See, it's an easy story to say that the soldiers are victims who are being forced against their will to fight. He doesn't believe that every soldier who puts his or her life on the line is being heroic. Should this suprise us? Not really. He doesn't believe that our grandparents were the "Greatest Generation" either.

I'm not surprised. But I am angry. Because Rooney's article attempts to hurl shame on every soldier coming home with scars and memories they'd rather forget. To every soldier stepping off the plane, Rooney whispers, "You're not special. You're not appreciated. You're just some stupid kid who got involved with a business that we all despise. You should be ashamed of yourself."

There is a lot of shame to be placed, in this world. Andy Rooney just earned some.
Through the Cunning Use of Flags

Big news here in the PBB neighborhood: we have our first official imperial colony.

Feel free to click on Will's comment section, and post your pledge of devotion to the newly-named colony of Dave-onia.

I love the smell of empire in the morning.

Monday, April 12, 2004

We all knew it was true...
Big ups to all my English geeks.

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Thanks to Jen for helping to confirm the truth.)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Thought for the Weekend

"Does not every movement in the Passion write large some common element in the sufferings of our race? First, the prayer of anguish; not granted. Then He turns to His friends. They are asleep--as ours, or we are so often, or busy, or away, or preoccupied. Then He faces the Church; the very Church that He brought into existence. It condemns Him. This also is characteristic. In every Church, in every institution, there is something which sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. But there seems to be another chance. There is the State; in this case, the Roman state. Its pretensions are far lower than those of the Jewish church, but for that very reason it may be free from local fanaticisms. It claims to be just on a rough, worldly level. Yes, but only so far as is consistent with political expediency and raison d'etat. One becomes a counter in a complicated game. But even now, all is not lost. There is still an appeal to the People--the poor and simple whom He had blessed, whom He had healed and fed and taught, to whom He Himself belongs. But they have become overnight (it is nothing unusual) a murderous rabble shouting for His blood. There is, then, nothing left but God. And to God, God's last words are 'Why hast thou forsaken me?'

"You see how characteristic, how representative, it all is. The human situation writ large. These are among the things it means to be a man. Every rope breaks when you seize it. Every door is slammed shut as you reach it. To be like the fox at the end of the run; the earths all staked."

--C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Day Every Teacher Looks Forward To...

When one of his students gets recognized for their work.

Congratulations. Well done, Mr. Shook. I'll expect much greater feats in the near future. Because this only raises my expectations.

(I know, I owe you "a line". Forthcoming. Eventually.)

It's funny. When I was his "teacher" in the Creative Writing class, I was always a bit self-conscious. I recognized immediately that I could actually teach this young man little. The best I could do is try to amuse him. I think I did so. He seemed to indicate as much. And I'm thankful for that.
Happy Birthday, William Wordsworth.

William, were you still alive, you'd be 234. An impressive age, by any estimation. And college students would travel from the distant corners of the earth to your doorstep, just for the opportunity to beat the crap out of you.


On a more reflective note, here are some lines to savor, in honor of the man who helped launch Romanticism in British poetry.

---Excerpt from "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey..."

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:--feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

(In case you're curious, I don't remember what this means either. Coleridge was cooler anyway. "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan\ A stately pleasure dome decree...")

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Song of the Day

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cos I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very
Mad World

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen
Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cos I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very
Mad World

(Performed by Michael Andrews, from the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Originally by Tears for Fears...oddly enough.)

[Check out the video here. The music's lovely.]

Monday, April 05, 2004

this is what happens when you stir the pot.

Faded Memory #1

We were sitting in the restaurant. The booth next to what would ultimately be "our" booth. We talked about how unhinged our parents seemed to be. We both had homework we were ignoring. She and her coffee--she never took cream, mind you-- and me and my large DP. We talked for hours and accomplished no homework. We accomplished what we really meant to. We were together.

I don't remember who thought it up, but somehow we decided that we were Hamlet and Ophelia. "Does this mean I'll end up killing myself?" she asked. "Geez, I hope not," I said.

We both sat silently for a moment, contemplating that Hamlet and Ophelia were lovers--an idea up-to-that-point unspoken between us. Uncomfortable laugh. Averted eyes. I'll pick up the check. (Should we have based our identity as a couple on tragic lovers?)

Faded Memory #2

The booth across from ours, unfortunately occupied by others before we arrived. She and I and her roommates. I was working on something else, but stopped to help her friends. They were reading Hamlet. I rambled on for several minutes about major themes and symbolism. I answered their questions. I helped them study for specific essay topics concerning the play. They said I helped. We all got up to leave. She let her friends pass and hung back a step, leaned up to me and half-whispered, "Back there, when you were reviewing with them--I've never found you so attractive." I smile, speechless. Who knew test review could be an aphrodesiac? (But how long can that last?)

Faded Memory #3

I wish I could have taken it back. But in a sudden fit of unprefaced honesty, I had said something in the vein of, "I can't promise for sure that I would never cheat on you. I don't think I would, I don't plan on it by any means, but it's just not something you can guarantee, you know?" Apparently she didn't. Or she knew too well.

Later. She's crying, sitting beside the fountain. She says that we had been going out for as long as it took her last boyfriend to start cheating on her. That he played mind games. Really messed with her head. I hated him for that. She was worried that I would turn into him. I promised her that I wouldn't. She was afraid our relationship would end up like the last one she had. I promised her it wouldn't. (Back then, we believed in forever.) I swore to her on earth below and stars above that I wouldn't end up like him, that I wouldn't treat her like he did. (I'd like to believe that I kept my word, but I'm not sure that I did.) Finally, finally, she calmed down. She believed me. She seemed to trust me a bit more after that. (But was that wise?)

Faded Memory #4

The plans discussed and dreamed upon for months all fall apart in the space of five minutes. I'm driving 85 miles and hour on a four lane highway bracketed by cement walls. My eyes are blurring, and I blink, sending burning tears down my cheeks that I don't wipe away. Why would I? I've earned them. My throat's constricted, and I'm choking. And all I can think of, all that's going through my mind, is "what did I do wrong? what should I have done better?" Lucky for me, I have plenty of time to figure that out. (I'm still compiling.)

Fresh Memory #1

I finally watch a movie I'd been looking forward to for months. I expect it to be brilliant and beautiful. It is both. But what I fail to see coming is the impending wave, like the witch's spoon, stirring the pot, raising the eyes of newts and tails of dogs up to the surface, as the brew swirls swirls swirls. In the middle of the stew I swim, overwhelmed, drowning again, cursing myself. And I can't help but wonder what she thought of the film, and who she thought of. Did she feel anything approaching nostalgia? Did she think of me fondly? Did she curse my memory, and hold her lover tighter? Or am I but a footnote in the glorious parade of characters in her pageant?

Read me the bones, magic man. Throw them down, pick them up, throw them down. Tell me, magic man, tell me what they say.
"And I swear, no I don't have a gun, no I don't have a gun, no I don't have a gun..."

Ten years, kids. And I have to admit, because of my upbringing, that when it happened I was barely aware of it. Barely phased. I care more now than I did then.

It's sad. It's tragic. Imagine what music would have been if Kurt had made just three or four more albums. Would we be overrun with boy bands and bubble gum pop? Doubtful. Would American youth culture be a whole lot more depressed? Probably. But top 40 radio wouldn't have turned into utter crap.

So all you grunge kids, wear your ashes and rags. I'll be spinning the Unplugged album all day here in the office. We'll remember, and then we'll keep moving on.


We passed upon the stair we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone a long long time ago

Oh no not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazley stare at all the millions here
We must have died along, a long long time ago

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

Friday, April 02, 2004

Twenty-five Movies (or Series) that I Can Watch Forever (Volume 1)

A "desert island" list, in no particular order (you didn't think I'd rate them, did you?) and with less-predictable (but still fun) quotes.

The Godfather Trilogy: The quintessential mobster movie. Also, some of the best storytelling in cinema. I'll even forgive the massive quality gap between 2 and 3, since future auteur extraordinaire Sofia gets offed. (Didn't spoil it for you, did I? You should have known that already, you bum.)
"I'm German-Irish, actually."

Fellowship, Towers, Return: Excellence in story, ensemble, visual technique, and kicka** battle sequences. And the lovely Liv Tyler. I stand by my assertion that this is the greatest trilogy ever. Ever. Take that, George Lucas, you hack.
"There dwells Theodyn, king of Rohan, whose mind is overthrown."

Almost Famous ("Untitled--The Director's Cut"): The first Cam Crowe selection on this list. Rarely does a film come along where even the "bad guys" (Jimmy Fallon should give up music and stick to acting) have some kindness in them. This is a loving tribute to all that is cool about music and the fans that love it. And it stars two of my favorite non-'superstar' actors (P.S. Hoffman and Billy Crudup) and the lovely Kate Hudson.
"Where do you get off? Where do you get "cute"? I'm dark and mysterious and pissed off!"

Shrek: The first of two animated films on the list. Makes me laugh every single time. Seriously. It has a surprisingly witty script, that rips every cartoon, fairytale, and, um, *cough*Disney*cough* cliche in animation history. I can't wait to add Shrek 2 to this list next month.
"And in the morning, I'm making waffles!"

High Fidelity: Awesome book becomes beloved movie. Rarely happens, but it did in this case. Hornby's brilliant novel is fleshed out by John Cusack (one of my favorites), Todd Louiso, and Jack Black (Young Nasty Man!). And several great cameos. I've memorized most of this film.
"Thanks, Boss."

Empire Records: Okay, this movie is total fluff. Predictable story. But holy crap is it funny. One of the most quotable movies I've ever seen. Includes three actors that would go on to star in primetime TV cop dramas. And the lovely Liv Tyler. (Coincidence? Of course not.)
"I don't have to explain my art to you, Warren."

Ferris Beuller's Day Off: The best movie of 1985. I think so, anyway. Will forever be Matthew Broderick's career-defining performance. And he shouldn't see that as a bad thing. A staple in any movie-lover's catalogue.
"This next song goes out to a friend of mine... Cameron, this one's for you."

Casablanca: May be the greatest movie ever. I know, I know, Kane Kane Kane. But as far as total package, this one is it. The ultimate "tough guy" (apologies to Steve McQueen), Humphrey Bogart, and the ultimate beautiful damsel-in-distress, the teary-eyed Ingrid Berman, plus Claude Raines and some Nazis. Clever script and great ending. Perfect.
"I'm shocked, shocked that there's gambling going on here!"

The Philadelphia Story: I won't belabor this one. If you been a PBB reader for any length of time, you've heard me drone on and on. If you haven't, I'll say this much: my three favorite actors of Hollywood past, in a story that's romantic, sad, and hilarious. Everytime this is on TV, I ignore what I was watching before, and watch it instead.
"I promise I'll be 'yar', Dex, really I will."

The first four movies in the Thin Man Series: Not to malign the last two, by any means. But these are my favorites. Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) are the greatest movie couple ever. This movie defines the ultimate in witty banter between lovers/coworkers. The script pops, and Nick Charles could drink W.C. Fields under the table.
"Come along, Asta."

Pulp Fiction: One of the most profanely brilliant scripts ever. And the lovely Uma. Outside of the Zed sequence (which I can't watch because it makes my skin crawl), this is one I could pop in and watch at any time (except when the fam is visiting). QT is an evil genius, but one you want to work for someday.
"Be cool, Honeybunny."

12 Monkeys: My second favorite Brad Pitt performance, and one of the only reasons I still respect him. Terry Gilliam (another evil genius) directed this gem, which is trippy and cool. Bruce Willis' perennially confused expression actually fits the character in this case. Great flick. (The original "Riddler" has a cameo as a psychologist! How cool is that??)
"And when my father gets angry, the earth shakes! My father is god! I worship my father!"

Fight Club: My favorite Brad Pitt role, and another profanely brilliant script. And Ed Norton rocks my everloving face clean off. Incredible. And Meat Loaf has boobs. Which is fun.

There's Volume One. Expect Volume Two next,, June... okay, so I'm not finished editing.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I can't pass up a well-argued essay

Check out Will's essay on brokenness and sexuality. It's really wonderful.

And once you're there, stick around. He has some good thoughts on other topics.
Ain't That Interesting...

Turns out Mandy Moore is a rabid Crows fan (who posts on their fan forum as "MandyMoo"). So much so that she said she was thinking about going to NYC and breaking into Adam's house, cuz she's...obsessed, I guess.

You'd think that her being *such* a huge fan of the band would have more of an impact on her music...
Incredibly Elaborate April Fool's Joke
Shocking Announcement for the Blogging World?

You be the judge.
Hysterical Self-blindness... and Grace

I have a confession to make: I'm a crosswalk snob.

Explanation: I have to use the new, spiffy Houston Lightrail System to get from my parking lot to my building. It's one stop away. The train platforms sit between the northbound and southbound lanes. The only legal way to access said platforms is "the world's slowest crosswalk signal system."

Understand that there have been 31 (at latest count) accidents involving the train and cars/pedestrians since January. And every single one has had to do with people making illegal turns across the tracks or (in one case) a person not crossing when the "walking man" was illuminated.

Understand further that the penalty for jaywalking (crossing illegally) to/from said platforms is $200 dollars. Which I don't have.

So I am of the very small minority that actually waits for the light to turn, before crossing. (Of the hundreds that have crossed when I was watching, only a handful have actually waited for the light. Normally, it's just me.)

And my normally casual live-and-let-live attitude toward mundane daily activity has been subverted by self-righteousness. I wait for the light to turn. I am correct. The rest of you are lawbreakers and fools.

Now, I do have a point. It's stupid to ignore rules like this, for the simple fact that they are in place for the protection of pedestrians. And especially considering the fact that I'm no Olympic sprinter, this is a very good thing. Cuz folks down here drive crazy fast.

But this crosswalk snobbery also breeds a heinous hypocrisy, for one very clear reason.

I speed.

Not savagely, like one of my best friends from high school, who drove 95 in a 45 mph commercial district, just to see if he could. But I will go five to ten miles over the speed limit. Some will argue that this is not speeding. But yes, kids, it is. And it's a transgression of the traffic laws. I'm a lawbreaker.

The first impulse is to defend the speeding. To say, "come on, dave, don't be serious. this small *bending* of the so-called speed limit is no big deal. Really. With all the evil in the world, a little speeding is no big deal." And on some levels that's understandable.

But when we're talking about assuming the moral high ground, when we're talking about actual right and wrong instead of comparison among shades of grey, the answer is clear. I can't be a crosswalk snob and a speeder, without having a severe case of hysterical self-blindness. Because the law is the law.

I had a government prof in college, who believed that speeding is actually a sin in the eyes of God. Here's the logic: the speed limits are the law. God tells us to submit to authority, in all areas where that submission doesn't directly conflict with the His Word/Will. To break the law by speeding is to be rebellious and disobedient to authority, and is therefore a transgression of God's clear command to do otherwise.

I thought he was crazy. But I have to admit that, now, I agree with him. As I understand it, you cannot be a Christian, who claims to live by the command of Scripture and follow its principles, and speed in good conscience. You either have to be hysterically self-blind, or a liar, or you have to acknowledge that you are willfully sinning when you exceed the limits. I don't know, if there's another honest way to approach this conflict, I haven't found it.

What the point of this little story? The idea of lawbreaking is not one of degrees. Especially when it comes to spiritual laws. The Bible says that when you break the smallest of God's commands, you break the whole law. There is no second- or third-degree guilt in God's eyes. You are totally guilty or totally innocent. And if your human, there's no option of being totally innocent. Sorry kids. Innocent Jane has an innocent name, but she'll confess to you, everybody's guilty.

That's why grace is so incredible. Christ doesn't save us from our minor sins. He saves us from our breaking of the entire law. It doesn't take more grace for God to forgive mass murderers than it does to forgive kids who steal candy from convenience stores. They are both guilty in His eyes, and both require the same grace.

What this means is that no matter what you've done, whether small or great, you can be forgiven.

Even if it's from being a crosswalk snob, or going 75 in a 65 mph zone.