Friday, December 31, 2004

Soundtrack to 2004: "Turn My World Around"

A little sample of the soundtrack of my year. Songs that meant something to me, or that I couldn't get out of my head.

"Still Fighting It", Ben Folds
Everybody knows/It sucks to grow up/But everybody does/So weird to be back here
I liked this song from the moment I heard it; but what made me love it even more this year is not just the obvious lyrical meaning, but the fact that Ben is singing it to his son; that he got through the growing up, and now can share his life with his family, including his son. And that's a really hopeful thing, in my view.

"Amazing Grace", Jars of Clay
I hitched a ride, I was a beggar/I had murder on my hands
The latest JoC album was a departure from their steady progression into radio-friendly rockdom. The album is heavily influenced by what's popularly called "roots music", and definitely has a "little-country-church" feel to it. This song is no different. It's almost a reimagining of the hymn, carrying the same concept but using vivid imagery and soulful melodies.

"When I Fall", Barenaked Ladies
I wish I could fly/From this building, from this wall/And if i should try/Would you catch me if I fall?
This song is on BNL's live album, "Rock Spectacle." I just loved the vibe of it, not to mention the fact that it's an entire song about a window washer. Does make you think about how each person you meet has thoughts, hopes, and dreams.

"I Wish I Felt Nothin", The Wallflowers
And I wish I felt nothin'/Then it might be easy for me/Like it is for you
Definitely a song for melancholy days, it's also quite a lovely song, with nice slide guitar work.

"Lover", Derek Webb
I am my beloved's and my beloved's mine/So you bring all your history, I'll bring the bread and wine
A powerful statement about the love of Christ for his Bride, the Church. Derek incorporates quite a bit of imagery from the Gospels, to illustrate that even though we are the unfaithful lover and the prodigal son, we can find forgiveness and love, and we can be set free.

"Wire", Third Day
Oh, makes me wonder/What if I slip/Will they catch me or watch me fall?
Mac Powell described this song as an image of our lives as Christians, trying to balance the "in, but not of" problem. "They", in this instance, would be other believers; the singer wonders whether his fellow believers would come to his aid or just enjoy the show. But I think that this song can be related to any difficult journey or process where each step could be disastrous. In the end, the singer decides to step out on the wire anyway, saying that he's "never looking down."

"Freedom to Feel", John Reuben
Shout for joy, little boys and girls/Your brokenness ain't welcome here
That's right, Dave's breaking out the Christian rap. This was, I think, the most honest Christian song I heard all year. The artist is upfront about his disgust with trying to put up the "happy Christian" image, when he's struggling to make sense of his life. Instead of going along with everyone else and presenting a peaches-and-cream faith, he challenges those who want to cover up their doubt and hurt. Good food for thought for the CCM crowd.

"Lover, You Should Have Come Over", Jeff Buckley
It's never over/My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
This became my favorite Jeff Buckley song this year. He knew how to hit the right chords (no pun intended) of heartache, and in this song he fleshed out the desperation and longing of love quite vividly. I ache when I hear this song, and I don't even have a particular "her" attached to it.

"Mona Lisa", Grant-Lee Phillips
It's just that burgundy smile you wore yesterday/Say you won't ever lose
The beginning of my secret love affair with music from the WB tv shows began with this lovely GLP track. The whole album is beautiful, but this is the jewel in the crown. And it's the gateway album that opened me up to a new appreciation for roots/Americana music.

"Such Great Heights", Iron and Wine
I think that it's a sign/That the freckles in our eyes are mirror images/And when we kiss/They're perfectly aligned
Yes, I've heard the original version by the Postal Service. I'm hip, too. But this exquisite acoustic version from the "Garden State" soundtrack is quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I've said it before--this song will go on the first mix CD I make for the future Mrs. Teacherdave.

"Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes", Beck
I need your lovin'/Like the sunshine
This cover song was a perfect choice for the ending credits of "Eternal Sunshine..." You get that sense of wintery blues and greys in the music. The first verse of the song is stripped bare like iced-over trees, leaving only Beck and a keyboard, until the small swell at the chorus. I don't get tired of this song. And I have to say, I almost prefer the sad emo Beck to the snarky hipster Beck.

"Everyone's Changing", Keane
I try to stay awake and remember my name/But everyone's changing and I don't feel the same
I'm trying so hard to take Keane seriously, even though the lead singer is a chubby-faced kid who's probably younger than I am. Nevertheless, this song has a fun little beat. Good times.

"Dalit Hymn", Caedmon's Call
Caste is a lie, caste is a lie/Prime minister, caste is a lie
Thank God for bands like Caedmon's Call, who are devoted to shining light on social injustice, and who seek to stir up the Church to do something about it. The album "Share the Well" is a moving and convicting collection of songs about peoples and cultures that spoiled and satiated Westerners like myself sometimes forget about. This song, along with other related tracks, serves a moving finale--though called a hymn, it's really a protest song against the type of injustice and discrimination that I had thought was abandoned by our "modern" world a long time ago.

"Changes Come", Over the Rhine
I have my father's hands, I have my mother's tongue/I look for redemption in everyone
Oh boy do they. When forced to confront the 'injustice' of time passing, and the tricky inaccuracy of memory when compared to reality, it was songs like this one that reminded me that changes aren't the end, they're the next beginning. Over the Rhine is a great band, and this song is my favorite on "Ohio."

"Yahweh", U2
Take this heart/And make it break
My prayer for the new year, you might say. Renewal. Hope. And most of all, surrender to the redemptive power of God. There's no better way to face the future.

(Hat tip: I've done a list like this before, but never in this particular format. For that, I give credit where it's due.)

The PBB 2004 Reading List

I did this last year, if you recall. Well, here we are again, at the end of another year. And I always think it's interesting to see where I've been literarily (yes, it's a word--i is now, dammit). So, the list, some analysis, and my top five recommendations from last year's reading.

(Note: These are books finished in 2004. The first one was begun last December, but counts for this year. Just as "Mere Christianity", which I'm a short ways from completing, won't count until next year. And an asterisk [*] indicates that I've read it before.)

Jan. 7--Cold Moutain, by Charles Frazier*
Jan. 17--From a Buick 8, by Stephen King
Feb.6--The Running Man, by Stephen King (get used to it, you'll see him a lot)
Feb. 14--Every Man, God's Man, by Steve Arterburn
Feb. 19--McSweeny's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales--various authors
Mar. 9--The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis*
Mar. 15--The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard*
Mar. 23--The Visitation, by Frank Peretti
Apr. 9--Letters to Malcolm, by C. S. Lewis
Apr. 22--I, Robot, by Issac Asimov
June 1--Verses that Hurt, by various poets; M. Trachtenburg (ed.)
June 20--Fight Club, by Chuch Palahniuk
June 28--The Sacred Romance, by John Eldredge
July 7--Band of Brothers, by Stephen Ambrose
July 21ish--Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland
Aug. 8--The Gunslinger, by Stephen King*
Aug. 29--Three, by Ted Dekker
Aug. 31--The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King*
Sept. 12--The Wastlands, by Stephen King*
Sept. 19--Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King*
Sept. 24--Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King
Sept. 27--Song of Susannah, by Stephen King
Oct. 4--The Dark Tower, by Stephen King
Oct. 24--Wicked, by Gregory Macguire
Oct. 31--If Chins Could Kill, by Bruce Cambell
Nov. 15--Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge
Dec. 11--Americana, by Don Delillo
Dec. 16--Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

Here's the Breakdown:

Page Count: 10,339 +/- (Interesting, considering last year's was only about 100 pages higher, and I was unemployed for most of 2003. That's right, kids; you gotta make the time.)

Most Read Author: obvious. Stephen King, with an impressive nine entries (which ends up being more than a quarter of the books I read this year). I don't know if that's cool or sad.

Most Disappointing Read: Disappointment is usually the result of high expectations, so my most disappointing read was "Three" by Ted Dekker. All the buzz in Christian fiction is about this guy, like he's the next Frank Peretti or something (don't laugh, he used to be really good). But while the premise was promising, the payoff felt short-changed. (How's that for some bad punning?) It did, though. Felt like a cop-out.

Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Reads: "The Running Man," an awesome dime-novel story that was made into a truly horrendous movie. Read the book, forget that Arnold ever was associated with the story. And: "Franny and Zooey", which made me take back some of the curses I cast upon Salinger for writing "Catcher." This was the "where has this book been all my life" moment of the year.

And finally,

Top Five Recommendations from the 2004 Reading List:

5) If Chins Could Kill, by Bruce Campbell: Celebrity autobiographies are generally boring. But if you're a fan of any of Bruce Campbell's stellar B-list filmography (the "Evil Dead" movies, Army of Darkness; his work on "Brisco County, Jr.", "Hercules", and "Xena"; or any number of the other crap roles he's had), you will love this book. It's written in typical Bruce-Campbell style, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and tongue-in-cheek. A must-read for Ash-fans, and anyone named Trevor.

4) McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales: The short story is back and better than ever. Okay, that's a cheesy tagline, so we'll try this: I really, really liked it. Almost every single entry was fascinating and well-chosen, and I can't wait to pick up the next on, which was released last month. If you're a fan of well-written short stories, you should check this out.

3) Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier: I can't say enough about this book. The movie, as beautiful as it was, cannot begin to compare to the precision and imagery of Frazier's finely crafted prose. This is the kind of book that makes me happy as a writer; it's eloquent and verbally adept. Just a well-written novel.

2) Wicked, by Gregory Macguire: What a brilliant concept. Like the famous NPR segment, Macguire tells you "the rest of the story" of the Wicked Witch of the West. This fascinating novel explores the question of what society labels as "evil," and wonders if the "evil" ones are just misunderstood. I will never think of "The Wizard of Oz" in the same way again. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

1) The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King: No brainer, right? After thirty years, King finally finishes what he called his "magnum opus." This sprawling epic is the mighty river that almost everything else he's written in the past twenty years feeds into. The story is fresh and familiar at the same time. The character of Roland, a protagonist both iconic and ambiguous, both hero and anti-hero, was originally modelled after Clint Eastwood's famous "Man with No Name" character. But throughout his journey, he changes from a terse gunslinger into something more, something that's equal parts gunslinger, King Arthur, and Odysseus. The ending of the series is shocking and bold, a daring move by King, but a fitting end to this seemingly endless journey.

The 2004 "Slackie" Award Winners

Well, friends, the fix--I mean, results are in. Without further ado, here are your winners.

The 2004 Slackie for "Movie of the Year":

You picked: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

And the Winner is: Garden State.

(Remember, I already announced this one.) Though ESOTSM is an incredibly tight second. But I think, when all else cancels out, tie goes to the soundtrack. GS wins, hands down.

The 2004 Slackie for "Album of the Year":

You Picked: "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb", U2 (since all but two of you picked separate albums!)

And the Winner is: U2.

Oh, come on, like this is a big surprise. What can I say, my favorite band, my pick. Beautiful, deep album. I'm still picking up on things in it.

The 2004 Slackie for "News Story of the Year":

You picked: A three-way tie between Abu Ghraib, the Red Sox, and Saddam's capture. Kelly could have picked the winner, and he chose the death of Dimebag Darrell. Hey, go with your heart, dude.

And the Winner is: The 2004 presidential election.

I know, I know, withhold your barrage of rotten vegetables. Look, no matter what you thought about the process or the outcome, this was the story that EVERYONE was talking about ALL YEAR LONG. And they're still talking. More ink and internet electrons were spilled over this story than any other this year. And I'll give it its due. (My second pick would have been Abu Ghraib, but it's a distant second.)

The 2004 Slackie for Condiment of the Year:

You picked: Mustard. It made a run at the end. But I counted "spicy-deli mustard" as a mustard vote; consider it a "hanging-chad" issue. You "ranch" and "ketchup" people may want to demand a recount.

And the Winner is: A1 "Bold and Spicy" Steak Sauce.

Come on, people--it's two condiments for the price of one. You got your A1, you got your Tabasco. It's tasty AND economical.

The 2004 Slackie for Newsmaker You'd Most like to Slap/Talk to sternly:

You picked: In a tight race, Martha Stewart and Jerry Fallwell tied with 3 votes each. GWB and MM each got 2.5 votes (split decisions count as half-votes). Gee, Will, if you'd have participated, we'd have a clear winner. Thanks a lot.

And the Winner is: Jerry Fallwell.

That's me side-stepping the political minefield. Come on, if anyone deserves to be b***h-slapped, it's him. Geez.

The 2004 Slackie for News Anchor/Reporter/Pundit You'd Most Like to Slap/T.t.s.:

You picked: Rush Limbaugh. No big surprise there. A strong showing for Ann Coulter and Katie Couric, as well. Oh, and one "make out" vote for Couric. Gross, dude.

And the Winner is: Ann Coulter.

Here's my process. First, I eliminated anyone recently on drugs and/or too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Which cleared the field. So I gave it to Coulter, for showing us some leg in the photo. Plus, she's so embarrassing, I almost want to self-identify as an Independent.

The 2004 Slackie for TV Show of the Year:

You picked: Lost. Everyone loves that show, it seems. Unfortunately, I have a conflict. Since it goes up against...

And the Winner is: Smallville.

Blatant favoritism triumphs again! Fine, laugh it off as another lame WB show, but not only are the story arcs consistently well-written (except for a few odd episodes this season), but the show is beautifully shot and well-acted. That, and Lois (Erica Durance) is pretty much a fox.

The 2004 Slackie for Media Circus of the Year:

You picked: Janet Jackson's "costume glitch." (I use the term, and the pervs will pull me up during google searches.) Your pick by an overwhelming margin.

And the Winner is: The Scott Peterson trial.

I think every single newscast by Greta Van Susteren (she of the odd-looking mouth) this year was about this trial. I finally started screaming at the TV, "MY GOOOOOOD!!! MAKE IT STOOOOOOOP!!!!" And that's when my parents started turning off the news every time I came over.

The 2004 Slackie for Most Bogus New Celebrity (The "Your 15 Minutes are Up" Award):

You picked: A tie between Ashlee Lip-Sync-son and Lindsay Low-cut. And one kind vote for Aristotle. He's feeling the love now, thanks.

And the Winner is: Ashlee "Wrong Song/Band Mistake/Acid Reflux" Simpson

(Avril Lavigne called--she wants her career back.) Hot or not, your sister is hella annoying. And guess what, sweetheart--you're worse. Buh-bye.

The 2004 Slackie for Most Bogus Lingering Celebrity (The "You're Still Here?!?" Award):

You picked: Paris Hilton. By a landslide.

And the Winner is: Paris.

Congratulations for being unsexy, uninteresting, untalented, and STILL capturing the attention of millions. You ARE the American Dream.

The 2004 Slackie for Lamest Athlete of the Year (The "I'm Not a Role Model" Award):

You picked: Sammy Sosa.

And the Winner is: Sammy.

We let Moises Alou go and kept YOUR sorry ass? No wonder we suck.

The 2004 Slackie for Blog of the Year:

You picked: Seven different blogs. And only one of them was mine. Sheesh. It was a softball question, people.

And the Winner is: Dooce.

Since I won't vote for myself (how desperate would that be) and it's hard to choose among you, I again went for someone who never reads the page. It may be offensive to those with weak stomachs, but it's also really, really funny. And her baby is uber-cute. Uber-cute babies sway the panel of judges pretty easily.


As for the last three categories, due to low voter turnout, the only clear winner that can be declared is The Slackie "Waambulance Award" for Whiniest PBB Post of 2004:

And the Winner (you picked) is: the "Crapiversary" post.

I didn't think it was that whiny.


Thanks to everyone who participated, and we look forward to seeing you next year for the 2005 Slackie Award voting! Maybe we'll even have actual nominations, and the votes will count, and everything. (Remind me about this in November.)

New Year's Eve Roundup

I'm about to jet, so here's wishing you a safe and happy New Year.

If you indulge in 'adult beverages', please please do so responsibly and have a designated driver on-hand.

Be safe, be kind to each other.

Everybody else, get off the road, I've got to get to Kileen.

For your entertainment:

In case you haven't checked already, posted below are the "Slackie" award winners, my end-of-the-year reading list, and my personal soundtrack for the year that was 2004.

Presented in Dolby Digital Surround Sound and THX-certified video quality.

(Okay not really. I didn't even bother to link anything, I'm so busy.)

Paz y gracia. See you next year, har har har.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Fresh like salsa when i bust rhymes

Crap poetry for your early afternoon amusement. These were all penned during lunch, on the margins and back of a Chipotle take-out menu (looks cool too; black gel ink on recycled brown cardstock). Almost-first drafts, so they're...well, crap.


when i saw her i knew
that all hope was not lost,
despite the fact that
this she will never be
my hope, my own;

the fact that she exists
compels me to believe
that somewhere
beyond the pale grey fog
is another she
that corresponds to me.


in the past year i
have fallen for two women
and revealed my affection
to neither.
the first because i learned
that she was not for me;
the second because i was
beaten to the punch
by another worthy.

in the next year i hope to
fall in love three times,
reveal my love twice,
and at least once
have my love
exchanged with


chile-corn salsa,
appearing safe and
going down
and then lighting
a fire
in my mouth.


fish-net stockings,
low-heeled black shoes, and
a khaki skirt-hem
failing to hide
your well-formed calves.
it's a shame i
could only see you
from the knees down
through this mostly-covered
i wonder if the rest of you
would have lived up to
the expectations set
by your two

"Time just hates me/That's why it made me an adult..."

Two dream recollections, then some thoughts. (Disclaimer: It's true, my dreams aren't as cool as Jenn's. I'm working on it, I guess.)

Monday night:
Dreamt it was the last week of my senior year at college. [In my dreams, there's an alternate version of the campus (one that's oddly consistent throughout each dream). One of the "new" buildings has the same lobby as the church where I used to go to middle school. Odd.] So I'm walking through this lobby, and I see my dean walking in the opposite direction, so that we pass each other--except my dean has been replaced by my current boss, who resembles her a bit, actually. I said, "Hey Dean, this year has gone by quickly, huh?" She smiled and nodded. "It seems like it's only been three weeks or so." Again, smile and nod. "Any chance we could stretch it out a little longer? I don't want to go home yet." She smiles and shakes her head, adding a little shrug and walks away. I walk on.

Tuesday night:
This one is in my old church, or rather, the old property of my current church. I'm walking through the hallways and feel the need to dart down one of the nursery classroom hallways (which involves crawling through a rounded doorway about 4 and a half feet tall). I pass rooms with workers and little kids, and then I see a restroom and realize that I need to relieve myself. (It's not going to get graphic, so no worries.) So I go in and take care of business, and as I'm washing my hands, a little boy walks up to the sink next to me and does the same, but keeps looking up at me (curiosity mixed with intimidation). I look down at the kid, who's staring up at me, and just say with a nod, "What's up." He doesn't bat an eye. Then I walk out. I make my way (instantly, like a scene change) to the parking lot of an IHOP, where I run into all my former high school classmates. Except that they're all "older"--like when sitcoms bury their young leads in make-up, and grey their hair, and add lines and wrinkles, to simulate them being "elderly"--and they're all looking at me. I still look like I do now, but they're all different. (These names will mean nothing to most of you, but humor me.) I noticed Nathan first in the center of the group, then behind him to each side I saw Sarah J., then Becky, then Phillip. I think maybe Becca L. also. Flying-V formation, I guess. [All people I've only seen once in the past five years, aside from Phillip, who joined the Air Force as a jet mechanic.] We all looked at each other silently, then I turned and walked away in a state of confusion.

[I'm no Joseph, and I ain't no Daniel, but I've got a good idea what these dreams are getting at.]

I've been thinking a lot about growing up lately. The notion of it, what it means. I mean, I'm 24. I'm technically an adult. But I don't feel like it. If anything, I still feel like I'm a college student. I'm not as "mature" as other people my age, I don't think; not to say I'm immature (rarely true, and I'll deny it if quoted), but I'm not as reserved in my behavior and expression. I don't behave very "grown-up", which is to say, closed up. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and fly my humours as my standard. I like cartoons. I blog compulsively. I play Playstation. I use words like groovy, wicked, righteous, right on, and rad, on a regular basis. I can put on the collar and tie and be professional when need be, but I hate it. I sometimes eat dessert first, green vegetables be damned. I'm not as serious as some, not as sensible as many.

I'm not saying these qualities are mutually exclusive from adulthood; but as I grew up, I always thought of adulthood as something serious and weighty, a responsibilty, a necessary burden, a sacrifice you make for your family. In my more thoughtful moments as a child, I realized that my parents hardly seemed to have fun on their own. Instead, they spent their time trying to "make fun" for their kids. This was a beautiful and wonderful thing; my parents are my heroes and dear friends. But it always made me a bit sad for them.

So as I grew up, I developed this (mis?)conception of adulthood--one of responsibility, weighty seriousness, and sacrifice. I would read Bible verses like the one in I Cor. 13 that talked about "putting away childish things" and I would envision coming to the point where I would have to give up all of the petty little things of my life that I loved so dearly, put on a drab and dreary suit, and "be an adult." All the toys, and the comic books, and the video games, and everything fun would all go into a big box that is locked against me forever. And it depressed the hell out of me. It still does.

But what I'm trying to learn now, what I'm trying to find, is a way to grow up without having to be so much of an adult. And as I'm seeking this, I am starting to see that my folks can be fun too. And they can have fun. And they enjoy being around each other and around their kids. I mean, my family actually played in the snow on Christmas Eve. My dad, coming off a gruelling shift at work (my dad has worked retail for the past 25 years), actually made a snow angel on the inch of snow that accumulated on the trampoline in the back yard. He scooped up as much as he could off the car and made an eight-inch-tall "Texas snowman".

I considered declaring 2005 to be "The Year of Growing Up," because I felt it was something I needed to do more of. But I realized that maturity isn't self-actualized by an act of will; it's the end-product of a slow and steady stream of choices made and habits built or broken. It's the destination. We call it a process when we're outside of it, but I don't think we can ever know when it's happened until after the fact. Retrospect gives us the special 3-D glasses with which to see how much we've grown.

So, instead of deciding to grow up by sheer determination, and instead of fearing growing up as the death of happiness, I've decided to stop worrying about it. When it happens, it will happen. Instead, I should focus on what I can actively control: spending less time and money on truly trivial things that don't payoff with as much satisfaction as advertised; investing those same resources in things that have actual results and useful dividends; taking each day as an opportunity to do some good in the world, and pursuing that with as much passion as anything else in my life; not sweating how far I think I've come, but focusing rather on where I want to go; taking myself neither too seriously, nor too lightly; seeking the face of my God in all things; loving everyone I can as purely and openly as I can; and being always thankful for the multitude of blessings I am given daily.

This sounds a little bit like a New Years' resolution. It's not. It's just the next step.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Post Deferred...

I'll put up some end-of-the-year nostalgia type crap tomorrow. It'll be entertaining, I promise.

(Like it matters. Half of you quit showing up anyway.)

In the meantime, please do not stop praying for and supporting rescue efforts in Asia. The death toll is quickly approaching 100,000 confirmed deaths. This tragedy will not quickly fade from the world's mind. The Church's voice is still weak.

If you haven't given something to help them pick up the pieces, do so.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quick Hits

Two things.

First: in lieu of a Christmas "round-up", I'll deliver (a la Manders) a stream-of-consciousness Christmas review.

Three-plus days in my parents' house. Taking baby sister out for the day. Princess Diaries 2--less horrible than expected. Bookstore. Taking older-younger sis to Pei Wei. Bookstore. Starbucks. Actual snow flurries on Christmas Eve. Happy family. Presents. Guitar. Video games. DVDs. Cold mornings. Family dinner. Good leftovers. "Fat Albert"--much better than expected. Family board games. Sleeping. Church. Lunch with mom/sisters. Drive home. Texans win. Sunday afternoon nap. Domestic accomplishments--dishes, laundry, clean-up done. Reading. Watching "It's a Wonderful Life" for the second time in as many days.

There it is. Thursday through Sunday. A good weekend. Peaceful.

Second: I was saddened to hear that Reggie White died. I liked him quite a lot. For those who aren't sports fans, he was the great defensive player for the Philadelphia Eagles and then the Green Bay Packers. More than that, he was an outspoken Christian, who was committed to helping kids in poor urban communities. The world is poorer for the loss of him.

Listen. Help them. (UPDATED)

I didn't know what to say when it happened.

If you've paid any attention to the news over the past three days, you know at least something about the disaster in Southern Asia. Tidal waves, tsunamis, have swept over many countries, and there are estimates of 33,000 to as much as 45,000 dead.

The suffering is great. The desolate wails of widows and orphans fill the streets of Sumatra. Mourners clog the alleys and lanes of Madras.

According to the CNN article, Sri Lanka reports more than 20,000 dead so far.

India reports at least 9,500 dead on the southern coast. So far.

Indonesia reports 4,730 dead. So far.

The tiny country of Maldives, with a population just over 300,000, reports 46 dead, and up to 70 still unaccounted for.

(Are you still enjoying your morning coffee?)

The Church must step up and come to the aide of our brothers and sisters in Asia. There is no time to wait. There is no reason to hesitate.

I was reading C. S. Lewis last night. (Have I mentioned how amazing "Mere Christianity" is? Oh, I have? Because it is.) And I came upon this passage.
In the passage where the New Testament says that every one must work, it gives as a reason 'in order that he may have something to give to those in need.' Charity--giving to the poor--is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns... I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There
ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them... For many of us, the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear--fear of insecurity. This must often be recognized as a temptation.
This is something I'm often guilty of. I do not give (and sometimes, I confess, do not tithe) because I'm afraid of not having enough. The reality, of course, is that God is faithful to supply our needs, but we must be equally faithful to be obedient with our money. And that obedience means not only tithing as we are commanded to do, but giving to the poor and desolate, as we are equally commanded to do.

Why do I bring this up? Because the crisis in India is a need, just as the AIDS crisis in Africa is a need. And these are needs that must not be ignored.

Please give what you can--no, more than you think you can spare--to help these people. Show them love.

There is a great list of charities here.

As always, I highly recommend WorldVision.

(I considered being eloquent. I thought about pushing "poignant." I was tempted to tug at your heartstrings. But I chose to be direct. There is no time even for poetry. Only action. So act.)

Update: Almost 60,000. So far. Please help them.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Argument: "It's a Wonderful Life"

I have come to the conclusion that "It's a Wonderful Life" just might be the loveliest movie ever made.

The cynical backlash to this statement is instantaneous. Many would argue convincingly that the film, along with every other work of director Frank Capra, is (to borrow Barry's phrase) "tacky, sentimental crap." They would claim that Capra's view of life is irrepressibly rosy, a Polyanna-flavored lens through which he filters his idealized Americana. And to some degree, they would be correct. Even Capra himself admitted that he wanted everything he created to be uplifting.

But the accusation of Capra having a rosy Rockwellian blindness to reality is rather unfounded. In most of his movies, there are shadows and fears. Death. Corruption. Scandal. The difference is that rather than focusing on these elements of human life, Capra's stories turned and examined how honest, good-hearted people dealt with these circumstances. And the perfect example of this is Capra's personal favorite of his legendary filmography, "It's a Wonderful Life."

For those of you who have foolishly avoided or tragically never encountered the tale, it's a story of George Bailey, a common, smalltown business owner who's at the end of his rope. When this Everyman considers suicide (so that the insurance money can pay his company's debts), an angel is sent to stop him and remind him of how blessed he really is. Through a frightening vision of a world without his life's impact, George learns that each person has the ability to affect the lives of countless others through daily acts of kindness and decency.

Perhaps this is too saccharine for you, but I believe that, outside of the story of Christ, this is the most beautiful idea ever conveyed on film.

I hear many focus on the last twenty minutes of the film, the interaction between Clarence the guardian angel and the hopeless George, as if it were the real story. My own description above does this, out of necessity. But the real tale of George Bailey is everything leading up to his desparate attempt at suicide. The story of George Bailey is one of constant sacrifice for the sake of ideals and convictions deeply held. George seems to "take up his cross daily", if you will, crucifying his own ambitions and desires for the good of his family and friends. And though there's rarely a complaint from him, until the worst of his troubles befalls him, you can always see the struggle between selfishness and sacrifice through brief moments of frustrated silence.

Jimmy Stewart is my favorite actor of all time, so I'm a bit biased. But it was only recently that I realized how complex and nuanced his portrayal of George Bailey is. There is always something going on in his face. Every tortured decision can be seen boiling behind his eyes. Stewart believably conveys both George's open goodness and his utter desperation.

"It's a Wonderful Life" was nominated for several Academy awards (including Best Picture, Director, and Actor) but didn't win a single one. (All three major awards went to 1946's other landmark film, "The Best Years of Our Lives.") It enjoyed only mediocre public response. Most audiences said it was, in fact, too depressing for a "Christmas" movie.

The fact that television stations began showing the film every Christmas since the copyright ran out is another reason why the film is (perhaps unfairly) pigeon-holed as a "Christmas movie." But it's so much more than that. The final climactic sequence takes place on Christmas Eve, but the whole story of the movie, like George's life, takes place and has meaning in many seasons.

Critics dubbed the film to be another example of "Capra-corn", a syrupy feel-good film with a heart of cotton candy. But I think even they missed the point. Any film that addresses the death of a parent/sibling, the Depression, alcoholism, theft, and attempted suicide--and is still considered senimental fluff--is, if nothing else, a remarkable feat of storytelling.

The real message of "It's a Wonderful Life" is one that I believe deeply--every life matters, and every life affects the ones around it. While George's story may be called a bit exceptional at times--rescuing his baby brother from drowning, so that he could one day grow up to be a war hero and Medal of Honor recipient--it isn't any less "true." Sometimes the smallest kindnesses are the ones which make the most impact. The love we show to the "least of these" may be the most life-changing.

That's what George Bailey taught me--a life of sacrifice and compassion is a life truly lived. And when I find myself trapped in my own despair, I must turn Heavenward and ask God for the ability to "live again."

PBB "Cool Ten" List for 12/26-12/31

10. Rediscovering fun Christmas music.
9. My unabashed appreciation of TobyMac's awesome second album.
8. Hey, someone actually voted on the third part of the Slackie Ballot!
7. The choice for "family movie outing" (Fat Albert) didn't suck. No, really.
6. Garden State. DVD. Tomorrow.
5. Getting the one thing you wanted (in natural finish) from Papa and Mama Claus.
4. It actually SNOWED in Houston on Christmas Eve.
3. Having a great (and peaceful) weekend with family.
2. Chilling with the Couri's in five days!
1. Psalm 91.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Holiday Sign-off

I just wanted to take a moment and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.

Have a good holiday. Be safe. God bless.

I'll be back on Monday morning with a slew of stories, I'm sure.

Paz y gracia a tu y tus.

Much love.


Oh, and remember to keep voting for the 2004 "Slackies." (Come on, humor me, this stuff is fun.)

"Slackie" Awards Ballot, Part the Third

"The Narcissism Edition"

-- "The People's Republic of Googlism"
-- Melodramatic "Storytime"
-- The "Big Arms" Photo Essay (sadly, only about half of the links still work)
-- "The Scam that Wasn't"
-- My favorite Bree quote (even more than "b-b-baby, please...")
-- My fake emo song (okay, so this is just an excuse to get those who missed it yesterday to read it.)

-- "Turning off the Filter"
-- "This is what you get for stirring the pot"
-- The "Disconnected" post

-- "In the Spinning Center of Sound"
-- "Strangers on a Train"
-- The infamous "bridge" analogy
-- Dave's Attempts at Poetry (Also: here)
-- The Cain Reception story
-- "A Deadhead Sticker on a Cadillac"
-- "Process: A Dialogue"

(Open Nominations.)

Thanks for voting in the 2004 Slackie Awards! Voting will remain open until 12:00 Noon CST, Monday, December 27, 2004. Results will be posted by Noon, Friday, December 31, 2004 (hopefully!). You may vote as many times as you want.

On behalf of the management and staff of PBB/ATDTT, Inc., we'd like to say thanks again for visiting "Perfect Blue Buildings."

"Perfect Blue Buildings: Entertaining Slacker Lit-Geeks and Bored Students Since 2002!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Musical Interlude: My Fake Emo Song

Here's my fake emo song. I just wrote it in about ten minutes. Imagine a Dashboard-like band, playing this while surrounded by adoring fans. Oh, and candles. Lots of candles.

"The Good Kind of Stalking"

I'm firing off a letter
To the night
To your eyes

I wrote it on black paper
So you wouldn't
See my lies

It's not worth repeating
You don't care
You don't care

But I can't help feeling
You're not there
You're not there

Just because you are confused by this song
Doesn't mean I don't feel it collide
Just because we've never actually met
Doesn't mean I'm not crying
Doesn't mean I'm not dying inside

I'm sending you a postcard
From the box
On your street

It's from that neon truckstop
Down the road
By the bank

I could have walked it over
But this way
I'm poetic and misunder--

STOOD, just like a hero
In a cinema sequel,
Your broken-heart prequel


So just stop calling me names
Stop playing your games
No really, I'm not a stalker
I'm a depressive poet,
a lovelorn reporter
Oh, why'd you insist
On a restraining ORDEEEERRRRRRRRRR *"emo wail" fading into voice cracking*


(Second Bridge)
Oh I'm. so. devoted to you
Oh I'm. so. enchanted by you
Oh I'm. so. distracted by you
It's driving me crazy
No, not "really" crazy
Just kind of obsessive
Not "scary" obsessive
The good kind of stalking
The kind that won't land me in jaaaaail...

*just a single guitar*

*after seven beats, begins swelling to a crescendo*


*music stops, last line over a single guitar; emo whisper*
Oh, I love you...


Oh yeah. Instant classic.

PBB "Slackie" Award Ballot, Part Deux

(No time for links, sorry. I got one word for you. Google.)

--CSI Vegas/Miami/N.Y.
--Survivor (or reality TV in general)
--The Sopranos

--The Scott Peterson Trial
--The Kobe Bryant Trial
--The Michael Jackson Trial
--Janet Jackson's Halftime "Show"
--The End of "Friends"
--The "Passion" controversy

--Ken Jennings
--Patriotic country songs
--Fantasia (the American Idol winner)
--Ashlee (Lip-sync) Simpson
--Lindsay Lohan
--Omarosa from "The Apprentice"

--Ashton Kutcher
--Paris Hilton
--"Jared" from Subway
--Donald Trump
--Brittney Spears (and what's his name)
--Clay Aiken

--Sammy Sosa (for not suiting up the last game of the season, you whiney baby)
--Pedro Martinez (if the Yankees were his "daddy", then the Mets are, what, a creepy uncle?)
--Ron Artest (a.k.a. Punchy the Pacer)
--Kobe Bryant
--The NHL
--Deion "Don't Call it a Comeback" Sanders


Open Nominations. (Show some love.)

More categories coming soon!!!

The First Annual PBB "Slackie" Awards

Welcome to the official ballot for the first-ever PBB "Slackie" Awards. This contest is a celebration of the year-in-review in pop culture and personal amusement.

You will be asked to vote in a number of categories over the next day and a half, so keep checking back for new categories! Cast your votes in the comment box!

Some categories will have slots where you may suggest a nominee, and each "write-in" candidate that you suggest will be summarily ignored. This way, it's like you're actually participating in the electoral process!

We'll start off with the basics.

--Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
--Kill Bill, Volume 2
--Before Sunset
--Spiderman II
--Garden State
--Shaun of the Dead

-- "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," U2
-- "Twentysomething", Jamie Cullum
-- "A Ghost is Born", Wilco
-- "Hot Fuss", The Killers
-- "Franz Ferdinand", Franz Ferdinand
-- "Good News for People who Love Bad News", Modest Mouse

--The Capture of Saddam Hussein
--The Abu Gharaib Prison Scandal
--Bush Wins the 2004 Presidential Election
--The CBS "MemoGate" Scandal
--The Boston Red Sox Win the World Series
--The 9/11 Commission Report
--The Death of Ronald Reagan

--A-1 "Bold and Spicy" Steak Sauce
--Classic Yellow Mustard
--Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning

--George W. Bush
--Michael Moore
--Michael Jackson
--Scott Peterson
--Martha Stewart
--Howard "Rebel Yell" Dean
--Jerry Falwell

--Dan Rather
--Rush Limbaugh
--Al Franken
--Bill O'Reilly
--Ann Coulter
--Katie Couric
--Maureen Dowd

Be sure to check back later for more categories!!!

Note: All voting is for entertainment value only and has no bearing on actual contest results. Contest winners are decided based on the PBB panel of expert judges, and all results will be verified by the accounting firm of Fine, Howard, and Fine. All ties will be decided by scientific methods such as a coin toss or picking a number between one and ten. Winners will be notified within three years via Pony Express. The management and staff of PBB/ATDTT, Inc. waive all responsibility of any injuries, arguments, or hurt feelings that may result from this contest or the ensuing voting in the comment box. Don't say we didn't warn you. You must be at least 5 years old in order to vote in all categories. Void in New Hampshire and Wyoming.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Linking to Celebrity Blogs is not as pathetic as it sounds...

I'm not so cocky as to post a side-bar link to Zach Braff's excellent blog as if I know him or something, but I do check it every day or so.

In case I hadn't made it clear, I have all but decided that the official PBB selection* for "Movie of the Year" is "Garden State." Why, you ask? Because Zach is so damn clever. And here's an example.

If you didn't think this was funny or interesting... I don't know what to say. But I did.

*I guess I haven't made this clear yet. Very well, tomorrow, expect the official ballot for PBB's very own award show, the "Slackies."

PBB "Cool Ten" List for 12/19-12/25

10. "A Gradual Progression of Misbegotten Incidents", otherwise known as the best "children's" movie of the year. (Take that, Harry.)
9. Talking to a good friend for a few minutes after Sunday School.
8. Only having two and a half days of actual work this week.
7. Maybe (!) getting to hang out with the uber-busy Cain on Wednesday.
6. Mere Christianity.
5. "I guess that concludes negotiations."
4. The Willy Wonka trailer.
3. The Texans actually won a game.
2. A cold Christmas eve, for a change.

1. And, you know, the birth of my Savior.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Happy Crapiversary to Me

Today is a very special day in the history of the Dave. Anyone remember why?

Anyone at all?

Well. Let's jump in the WayBack machine and take a peek.

*insert humorous time-machine-related transition here*

It was Monday of finals week. My first as a teacher. The secondary principal came up to me that afternoon and said, "Dr. Holzman and I would like to have a meeting with you at one o'clock tomorrow afternoon." I said, sure, though I felt a pang of dread in the ol' stomach.

Went through the next day. Got subway sandwiches for lunch with my good friend Ben. Ben and Nancy were sitting in my room with me, when the appointed hour came, and I said, "well, guys, I gotta go. Pray for me." And they said, "sure, dave. We'll be here when you get back. I'm sure it's nothing."

I made the long walk to the administrative building. Went into the meeting. Was told that I wasn't making progress, and that I was clearly struggling. I wasn't giving the parents, their "customers", what they wanted. (I thought, "but wait, you said that this was supposed to be a 'ministry'--when did it turn into a business?").

And then they asked for my resignation. They informed me that if any of my work was incomplete, they would withhold severance pay.

(I will admit that, during the meeting, there may have been crying involved.)

After a quick call to my folks, I went back to my room. Ben and Nancy were there. I smiled and said, "So, you guys gonna help me pack?"

Looks of shock. Ben said, "NO WAY." If Ben had been a profane man, he probably would have inserted another word.

And that was that. Resignation tendered the next day.


Two years ago. And I can say that right now, I'm at an infinitely better place in my life, praise God. So there you go. A little lesson in "all things working together" and whatnot.

(Those nostalgic among you can also check out the real-time blogging account here. At the time, I figured the less said, the better. ...Hehe. I forgot that I actually used those words. Funny. Some things don't change much, I guess.)

So tomorrow, I may drive by the school and give it a raspberry or hand gesture or something. But that's it. Because I know that I'm in a much better place.


If any of you would like to celebrate the crapiversary with me, at about 1:15 today, wherever you are, pump a fist in the air and say, "Damn the man!" I'd appreciate it.

Two-fer Post: Book Reviews and Holiday Shame

Capsule Book Reviews:

Americana, by Don Delillo: All in all, it was a Delillo book. As you read, it feels IMPORTANT and MODERN. With each page, your mind is screaming, wow, this book is so MODERN and GOOD. At least, "GOOD" like the critical establishment's opinion of what is GOOD. Delillo's the type of writer that will be forever used as an example in college lit survey classes, as the archetypical late-20th century American Novelist. So his work is inherently infused with this sense of being GOOD and IMPORTANT. But all that aside, it is clearly, as Marty indicated, Delillo's first book. You get flashes of the brilliance that is to come, but other than that, it kind of wanders (like the protagonist) before ending up...well, nowhere. It felt like it was building up to something, an epiphany, a turned corner, some kind of inspiration. And then it just withers and dies. I don't know if that's what he's getting at, but I just didn't like it.
Final Word: "Eh."

Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger: Why haven't I read this sooner? Wow. Awesome. I hated--HATED--"Catcher", and enjoyed "Nine Stories"--but F&Z, I loved. Great. I'm a little of both of them, but yes, I have to say I lean more towards being Zooey. So great. Especially the ending. "You know who that Fat Lady is, buddy? It's Christ. It's Christ Himself." Wow.
Final Word: Yeah, that pretty much says it. "Wow."

Currently reading: "The Essential Groucho Marx." About to start "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb.


A Holiday-themed Confession

Holiday shame. You betcha. Outside of two cards sent to beat out winter break's imminent exodus, I haven't sent any Christmas cards. It's a week before Christmas Eve, and I haven't sent out my cards. Holy crap I suck. For many on the list, it's the only contact I have with them. (Which is equally sad.)

So yeah, that's it. Just wanted to make a confession. Holiday shame.

The line of stone-throwers may be formed to the left. Please make sure you are *this* tall in order to participate.

Tales of Horror and Trauma...

I went to the dentist yesterday. Whew-boy. Bad news.

I had a cavity in the very back molar of my upper-right jaw. I also have a spectacularly sensitive gag reflex. So you can imagine. The filling "process" was torture.

I got four, count 'em, FOUR needles to "numb the pain" for the next part. My question is, what was supposed to numb the pain of the needles. My gums are still sore. My teeth don't hurt at all, but my gums are killing me. I think the last one, directly into the roof of my mouth, was a 20-gauge or so. I can still feel the puncture wound with my tongue.

Lastly, and least painfully, was a root extraction. Damned broken tooth. But at least it didn't hurt at all. Bled like crazy, though. For hours.

As a playful counterbalance to the agony of the dentist, I also had a physical at the doctor's office. My doc is a rather cool guy. Did the whole bit--chest-thumping, breathing, turning of the head and what-not. The best news of the day is that my blood pressure is actually...normal. I almost had them check it again. Normal? Are you kidding me? It's been high the last three times I was in there. And now it's almost normal. 120/84. Holy crap. Way to go, Dave.

My resting pulse is still high, though. And I'm sure my cholestorol, et al., is probably through the roof; I'll get the lab results back in a week or two.

And the blood draw took only one jab to get, instead of the EIGHT it took last time (two in the left arm, three in the right, two on the left hand, one on the right). So that was extremely exciting.

All in all, Dave appears to be in decent health, weight problem aside. So that's good news. And once I can start eating solid food again, I'll be in better spirits.


Okay, okay, file this one under "TMI."

OH NO! The Dreaded "Lyrics" Post!!!

Gimme a break, you animals, today's going to be a five post day, probably. Allow me one fluff post.

I've been doing theme days lately, as far as office music selection, and today's Dave Matthews (apologies to Marty).

And this is an oddly beautiful song. It's the tune more than the words, but since I don't have the technology to post the tune, here are the lyrics:

"Sleep to Dream Her"

I know I'll miss her later
Wish I could bend my love to hate her
Wish I could be her creator
To twist her arms now

She stares up at the stars when
The stars fell from her hair then
I bent down to collect them
And then she was gone

Oh, I sleep just to dream her
I beg the night just to see her
That my only love should be her
Just to lie in her arms

Oh, I came there to find out
Find out she'd made up her mind, oh
My arms are all tied up
To me she was blind

This space between us
Where wingless dreams fall earless
Will you not bear me witness
With your back to me now

It seemed so unnerving
Still somehow deserving
That she could hold my heart so tightly
And still not see me here, oh

Oh, I sleep just to dream her
Beg the night just to see her
That my only love should be her
Just to lie in her arms

I know I'll miss her later
Wish I could bend my love to hate her
Wish I could be her creator
To be the light in her eyes

The PBB Answer Man

(Not as theologically sound as the Bible Answer Man, perhaps, but hopefully more entertaining.)

Whew, boy. You kids know how to go all out. Okay, well, here we go. Commentary and answers.

Sunburned Jenn: I have had my eye on "Shattered Glass, actually. I'm thinking when it's off the "new release" rack, I'll check it out.
1) Well, part of the answer is because the last picture taken of me that looks halfway decent is from my high school senior trip, seven years and about 150 pounds ago. The other part...I don't know. Pictures of me can be found, if the searcher is foolhardy enough to look. Perhaps down the road a bit, I'll post one.
2) This is a dangerous question, indeed. Making me pick from among you. Geez. So, I'll avoid the question by recommending some bloggers that I know don't read my page. Lileks is genius, as I said, though lately he's been too busy to post at the level he's used to. Dooce makes me laugh, as does Say Anything (though the later can get a bit randy from time to time). As to the rest of you, yes, I have some regulars I check twice a day, but I'll never tell who.
3) A great deal. More than I really want to admit. Remember my whole screed on communication, with the sidebar about site traffic? I tipped my hand a bit there. I like you guys, and I like the rush I get when seeing something like 17 comments. It's an affirmation I've grown to enjoy.

Next up, ah yes. The Illustrious Marty (one of the best writers I've ever met, by the way):
I love Basquiat. And I'm going to check out that book. I nearly bought your last recommendation, The Man with the Golden Arm, the other day, but I had to save the cash.
1) You are a man of high standards and high expectations, and when you respect someone as an artist, you don't cut them any slack. U2 is one such group. You may set yourself up for disappointment in this regard, but on the other hand, without critical fans, bands would have no reason to grow.
2) 49.53 cords, roughly. (In metric measurement, I think it's about 43,068,038,427.3 kg. If my calculations are correct.)
3) Damn. Um. Well, I think the fact that the American Church still holds the needs of the world at arm's length. We'll send money "over there" or send missionaries "over there," but we never invite the people "over here" into our lives. The first part of the Great Commission's "expansion plan", if you will, is to go first to Jerusalem. And I think that principle indirectly applies to Western Christians. If we're not willing to get our hands a bit dirty in the service of our needy "neighbor" here at home, why should anyone in one of those "dark, foreign" countries listen to our testimony? (Not that I don't 100% support mission work overseas, because I do. Some of my dearest and most beloved friends are missionaries. But it has to more equal.)

Willam the Bison: I knew--KNEW!!!--it'd be a FIF-related song. Good for you.
1) I don't know, dude. I wanna come up, but being the "adult", my vacation time is hampered by responsibilities and whatnot. Hopefully sometime in the spring. By the way, you never answered my question on your LJ site. When is the wedding? I am a groomsman in a wedding in August and I'm praying yours and theirs don't overlap.
2) My favorite coaster. Hm... I have'nt ridden that many. I like the Batman ride at Six Flags Houston. I also like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the DemonDisneyTM park in Florida. Dunno. I'm not a connos-- well, "expert", so I can't say.
3) Oh, man. Might as well ask me for top five books or something. Geez. Um. Okay, quick, non-definitive list. Five plays/musicals I would recommend to someone. Go.
a) Sunday in the Park With George, preferrably original cast (Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette.)
b) Death of a Salesman.
c) Hamlet
d) Waiting for Godot.
e) arrrgghh... I'm torn between "Six Characters in Search of an Author" or "Godspell"... I need more choices. Um... UMMMMMM..... "Next Question, please!"

Bree, 'The Third Roommate' (starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton):
Garden State is my pick for movie of the year, I think. At least in my top three.
1) Right now, 9:18 a.m. I'm sitting in my cubicle at work, decidedly not working.
2) Answering a bazillion questions. You wanna know what I'm wearing too???
3) Hopefully less than two years. I had to start from scratch. And right now, I'm trying to work on some other aspects of my life, so the book may have to slide to early spring before I pick it up again in earnest. You'll be one of the first ones to know, my friend.

Darce: J'adore "obscure foreign films." (My French is limited. At least my French language skills...hehehe. Sorry.)
1) Lee. I'm the fourth in a series!
2) No pets. Well, two younger sisters, but no pets. I had a mini cactus for a died. I'm still not sure how.
3) I have one more since yesterday. (The harrowing tale will be shared later.) Several. I'm not extremely consistent with the flossing and what not. Not that I have British teeth or anything, I mean, the front set is gorgeous. It's the damn molars that give me problems.

Manders: What up, blog sister. Amelie is beauty. Annie Dillard is awesome but I haven't read that one. Phantom Planet's first album was really good (my favorite track was "Turn Smile Shift Repeat", because it sounded more...well, Radiohead).
1) My favorite holiday movie, cliche as it is, is "It's a Wonderful Life." Jimmy Stewart is perhaps my favorite actor ever, and the movie itself is so great. My favorite parts of it are pretty much everything up to the Clarence part, because the movie isn't really about George's attempted suicide, it's about the choices he made throughout his life up to that point. That's what gives the movie its power and resonance. And Donna Reed's a fox, eh? Just kidding.
2) The Lie of Getting By, that says, "You don't have a mission." Don't worry, no references to anything by Rick Warren. Just some talk about "God's plan" for each of us, in general and then in a little more specific.
3) Your shoelaces are untied. And employers don't like applications or resumes filled out in crayon.

Killer Kelly: Gonna see "Oceans" next week. "Of Mice and Men" is awesome. And Deftones are...well, Deftones.
1) Not sure yet. Don't want to deal with the drive back on Sunday, but maybe I can hang until dinner Saturday.
2) Tough call. Achtung, maybe. Joshua Tree, maybe. Call me crazy, but I still have HTDAAB on the brain, too.
3) It depends on my mood. Achtung, Baby is a darker album, I think, than the others. More world-weary, more cynical. Joshua Tree still retains some of that innocence and hope of early U2. HTDAAB is more seasoned, a balance of the two.

I totally didn't answer those questions. Heh.

Amy the bibliophile: No questions? Too bad. By the by, "the luckiest" was an important song in a past relationship, so yes, I know it well. Good choice.

Kins: Nice "cool ten." You need a blog, yo. But one question remains: Who is this "Zak", hmm? Dish, girlfriend. Oh, and it makes my heart smile that you had UHF as the movie.
1) Not a clue. He's the youth minister, and I'm no longer a youth, so I don't know. He's your cousin, you ask him. ;-)
2) My favorite to watch is Fez, because he's by far the funniest. The one I relate to most is Eric, because, frankly, he's a loser. But he's a loser you always cheer for. And that's cool.
3) Whoa! Getting all crazy with the questions. The answer is yes, I have had a crush on a married woman before. It happens. The question is, what to do with those feelings (answer: quell, quell, quell).

Trav, Cleric of Colorado: Spinal Tap! Particle Man!!! I need to buy you a drink. Holy friggin crap. Good call.
1) *shaking the Magic 8-ball* My sources say yes.
2) Whoa, man. Better ease off the mead, I don't think it's done yet.
3) How long of a range? Hmm... I'm gonna show by red-stateness here. Michael Moore? But then, probably, Jerry Falwell. And Madonna.

Krista from Rawchestah: Crime and Punishment is actually in my small to-be-read-next stack. I have about 30 books total on my "to be read" shelf, but I pulled out the next five, and it's among them (along with "A Prayer for Owen Meany", "She's Come Undone", "The Essential Groucho Marx", and "Mere Christianity"). And, I'm still a sucker for "Free Fallin."
1)Dogs, hands down. Cats are snooty. They don't show the appreciation a good owner deserves. Dogs know what's up, and they know that they gotta show the love.
2) Coffee, preferrably, but due to sensitive teeth, I don't do hot drinks. So I'm going to be lame and frou-frou and say "iced coffee type drinks."
3) Alcohol. Drugs. High levels of sugar. Bribes. Shotgun weddings. Cake. There are lots of reasons.

(Hi Kara, glad to see you're back!)

And finally, the Ben: Hey brother. Paz y gracia to the family. You are in my heavenward thoughts. I still haven't watched The Mission. I'll get on that. ...Hey, remember, I read "Omelas". I downloaded it that day, and then we talked about it. And I bought a 50 cent copy of The Great Divorce recently, and that is also on my to-be-read shelf.

1)Interesting. In the NIV, it says "he made himself nothing." In the Message (okay, not quite a scholarly translation), it says "he set aside the priveleges of deity." In the Amplified, it says he "stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity]." The King James says "he made himself of no reputation." So what we see here is Christ taking off the mantle and prestige of being God, in a sense, "emptying" himself of the visible (so to speak) hallmarks of deity. Shedding his natural glory, like a robe. Taking off, or rather covering up, his brilliant and awesome countenance as with a mask or veil. He willingly reduced himself so as not to overwhelm humanity, but took on the rags of a servant, so that prophecy may be fulfilled.

2) I'm not sure. This is the hardest question. Pure, ecstatic joy. Hmmm. I have some ideas about moments of joy, but none of them seem to measure up. Here are a couple of candidates:
--When I finally told Riss how I felt about her. We had been fighting about stupid things, and she finally asked me "what's up?" And I just let loose. After what felt like ten minutes, I stopped, and she turned to me and said, "You're a bastard, you know that? Do you know how long I've waited to hear you say that?" The next fifteen minutes were a blur, though I'm pretty sure some kissing was involved. That was a good moment.
--At the end of a three-day fast, after months of deep depression and self-doubt, I received some answers to some of my hearts deep questions. I felt like God was speaking directly to me, embracing me, and showering me with his grace and acceptance. I had never felt peace and encouragement like that before.
--After nine months of being out of full-time work, scraping by on the manna-jobs I had, I got the call from my current employer and was offered a job paying more than 50% more than what I had made as a teacher. I couldn't stop laughing all night, I felt so liberated. The burden, the fear, the worry, had been lifted off my shoulders, and i was set free.

3) Having someone who I couldn't stand profess their undying love and devotion to me. On Valentine's Day. That was pretty bad.


Thank you, one and all for participating. Again, I love you guys.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"In my mind you are singing a beautiful tune..."

General update post.

In all likelihood, no further Wednesday posting. Hella busy.

It's cold.

My new TV guilty pleasure is "The Biggest Loser." Weightloss-reality-television at its finest. Very interesting. And encouraging. It can be done.

My head is pounding. Freaking climate changes.

I'll be gone tomorrow (yay for doctor and dentist appointments), so I'll be back Friday with a fun "crapiversary" post of sorts. Other fun stuff too, I'm sure. So that's exciting.


Okay, I've got nothing else. So we'll do this.


PBB Reader Poll # 2,453,632.918 :

1) Recommend me:
a) a movie
b) a book
c) a song

2) Ask me any three questions you want and I will do my best to answer them honestly.

3) Rip this off and use it the next time you can't think of anything to post.

Okay, GO.

(Hat tip: Manders.)

Monday, December 13, 2004

I wanna paint myself in blue and red and black and grey...

"All of the beautiful colors are very, very meaningful..."

(And now, a "very special" episode of PBB.)

I've always been a little sensitive about my appearance. Doesn't mean I don't joke about it, but I'm very self-conscious about it. I am very aware of being "in the way." It's probably part of the reason I despise holiday shopping, why I despise the crowds. It brings the comparisons into high relief.

I'm an overweight American male. No big deal, right? Well, the clinical term for my current condition is actually "morbidly obese". Sounds a little troubling, no? The term conjures up images of the film "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" Someone who can't get through the doorway and wears muumuus all day long.

Well, I can get through the door, thanks (though I've had trouble with a turnstyle or two; blame my naturally wide hips on my mother's side). I don't own anything resembling a muumuu. And I don't exceed the quarter-ton mark. But clothes shopping is ever the source of self-loathing. I've come to despise the yellow and black signage of my current boutique-of-necessity. "Big and tall"--there's a gentle euphemism.

I lived in a poorly-constructed apartment complex last year. The subflooring wasn't sufficiently installed, so after about a month of living in the apartment, nearly everywhere in the apartment creaked when you walked. I had already had a run-in or two with the downstairs neighbors about "all that stomping around." Factoring in the squeaky floors, it made things a bit more stressful, and pushed my somewhat controlled self-image issues into the realm of neurosis. It took some convincing for me to stop worrying that the floor would cave in.

The cynic in me, ever attuned to anticipate sarcastic response, hears a few of you saying pragmatically, "Well then, if you're not happy with your weight, why don't you do something about it?" To which I counter, "you've never been seriously overweight, have you? Not like a few pounds, not even 10 or 20--but seriously overweight?" Because those who have, don't often take the "plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face" approach toward confronting this issue. Because it's not just about "just doing it." It is, but it isn't. People who have overcome this type of problem understand that.

It's a difficult thing, addressing this problem. Not impossible, not insurmountable. But difficult. Daunting.


Why am I even talking about this? Because this is part of my life, and since I seem to enjoy giving the world the VIP tour through my head, I figured I'd address this part of my life. I've never really confronted it here before. Notice that I never post pictures? That's why.

I don't know why this is coming up now. Maybe because I've started communicating with several of you, outside of this format. I actually will end up hanging out with some of you over the next few months whom I've never met face-to-face before, and I'm really excited about that. But it's reminding me that you're real people, and if we are going to interact in any real way, it won't be through this lovely little mask we've been wearing. What can I say, I like the mystique I've developed, but I also like being able to stand up and say, here's the real Dave.

So I don't know what this is--warning or what. Giving you a chance to brace yourselves. I know, I know, I'm kidding. It's not like I have to wear a burlap sack over my head (much).


I've been told by loving relatives and caring friends that it's not a big deal, that they just want me to be healthy, that I look fine. And I appreciate their support. But it's still there. That lingering doubt.

Someone once told me a while back, "You know, if you would just lose a little weight, you'd feel better about yourself, you'd start dating more, and, well, your whole life would change." I knew what she meant, and I appreciated her encouragement. But I failed to share her optimism that losing weight would be the panacea of my life.

I remember an episode of one of those medical shows, I forget which, about a really overweight guy (a fellow M.O., if you will) who was about to have gastric bypass surgery. At the last minute, he started having doubts, and asked the doctor, "What doesn't matter? I keep using my weight as a reason for my lack of a social life. What if I lose all the weight, and find out's just me?"

While I don't share all of the character's fears, I do understand them. Most of my life, I've been stuck in the "friend/brother" zone, with one exception (I still wonder how that happened, sometimes; for those keeping score, I was probably the "winner" in that one). And despite the admonitions of loving parents and friends that losing weight would change that, I have my doubts, too. Is it just me, after all? I don't think so, but I can't be sure.


For those concerned, health-conscious readers, yes, I am concerned about the current state-of-the-Dave, and I'm working on changing that.

(Rant)You know what irritates me? Fat people who blame their weight on genetics or hormones. The "Cortislim" crowd--"it's not your fault you're overweight." Bull. No way. It is your fault that you stuff your face. (/Rant) And I use the same measure on myself. I take responsibility for the choices I make, and I don't blame anyone else for my current health. I think this is why I refused the "surgical option" that I was offered, and stopped taking weight-reduction medication after a month. If I'm gonna slim down, I want to know that I did it myself. It's not just about the end, it's about the process. So I'm going with a radical approach to weight-loss: eat less and exercise more.

I do have a short-term goal: with enough activity and diet management, I hope to slim down to a size 48 waist by next summer. Yes, you read that right. I'm not sure why I pulled that particular number out of the air a few weeks ago, but when it occured to me, it sounded good. The long term goal is to get down to my weight in high school; while not exactly trim, I think I would feel much better about things as they stand.


There you go. The skinny on the Dave (pun intended).

[If you feel like this should be filed under "TMI", my apologies. I'll make sure to come up with something shallow and meaningless for you tomorrow. Jerk.]

PBB "Cool Ten" List for 12/12-12/18

10. My dad's 43rd birthday. I keep telling him he's a young guy, but he's not hearing me.
9. Violent vampire-hunting movies.
8. An early Christmas present.
7. A newish Christian rock band that I actually enjoy.*
6. Talking to my sister for about an hour yesterday.
5. Getting to teach one more Sunday.
4. The high temps this week staying in the mid-50s. (It's Houston, gimme a break.)
3. The Extended Edition comes out tomorrow.
2. Isaiah 52: 10.
1. Looking forward to hanging out with family and friends over the holidays.

*And they broke up after the first album. What is this? Hello? Reality Check, anyone?

Note to Christian rock bands who have just put out their first album: I may discover you in the near future, so try not to break up after one record, mm-kay?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Lit-Geek Alert

I read about this the other day, and am rather excited to read it.

Funny how this comes up after yesterday's post.


I'll say something interesting later, I'm sure. Hope springs eternal, right?

(Oh, by the way--if you're a fan of the Blade movies, go see "Blade: Trinity." Ignore the reviews. Great film. I liked it much better than the second one.)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The air outside so soft is saying everything...

Another heart-on-my-sleeve post, for your entertainment needs.

I feel adrift. Not in a cosmic, what-does-it-all-mean way, or even a smaller, where-am-I-going way. Not even in a Talking Heads how-did-I-get-here way.

I feel unmoored, pale and shivvering.

I feel disconnected. Unplugged.

I don't feel like I've truly communicated with anyone in a long time. Everything is surface level, easy, simple. I haven't bared my soul to anyone in...years, maybe. Even my closest friends are arm's-length intimate. The sense of community that I feel with the friends at church lasts only one, maybe two days a week, at most. But for the other five, I'm a lone wayfaring stranger.

My family lives close enough that I see them twice a week. I know this is more than many people my age. I know this is more than most of you get to see your folks or folk-like people. But even so, I see them for a few hours, share a meal, and then I leave. Surface. Valuable, of course. Appreciated, of course. But surface.

I think the reason "it is not good for man to be alone" has nothing to do with sharing a bed or sharing a meal. It has everything to do with sharing a heart, a soul, thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes. Because when you can't do that, you start to go a little stircrazy inside your own head. You keep wanting break outside of yourself. You need communion.

Communion. A church term. And easily follows a church answer. "Talk to God. He'll listen. He's a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He's all you need. Kumbahya." And I understand that. But I'm still trying to figure out how to approach this Person that I owe so much to.

"When the servant who had been forgiven a great debt went back to his master's house, he felt awkward, uncomfortable, and out of place, for he knew that deep down, he was still unworthy. And no matter what the Master did to assuage him, it only made me feel worse. So he went out into the field to find another servant, an equal, with whom he could abide. While he looked for someone to talk to, he came upon another servant who owed him a few coins. And we all know how that turned out."

I just want another poor, broken human to talk to. Someone I can be completely genuine with. It's not good to be alone.


I was in the breakroom a few hours ago. I had gone in to fill my cup from the water cooler. I set it down and, before recognizing the impulse, punched the refrigerator door three times. Hard. Nobody heard or noticed. Why did I do it? I have no idea. The only connection I can make to it is when a gorilla at the zoo pulls on his bars, beats his chest, and screams.

I could use a primal scream right about now. But that won't do, right now.

The contrary voice in my head is berating me, calling me weak. A whining baby who is boohooing the fact that he's succeeded enough to live on his own and have a good job downtown. Oh, no. So sad. Away from all his friends because he's BEING A FRIGGING GROWN-UP.

He's right, you know. I know it too. I shouldn't complain. I have no reason to be upset, yet upset I am.

All this talk about "truly" communicating. I have to wonder: have I ever really done that?

Maybe once. Then I stopped. And it was over.


My site traffic rate is slowing. Not as many people hitting the page as before. It looks like I'll have a down month for the first time since I started monitoring visits and pageviews. It shouldn't matter to me. But I notice.

This isn't a plea for traffic. Just an observation.


A reader recently commented how I should "try dating" (har,har) and talked about sharing things with others. I teasingly commented back that I have friends for sharing things, unless what she was referring to was sharing romantic moments and saliva.

But damned if I don't wish I could be sharing those things too.

So yeah, she's probably right. I hereby withdraw my sarcasm.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Historical Blockbusters, and my lack of anything interesting to say...

Sometime the most profound thing I can say is nothing. So much for being profound.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I saw a few tributes floating around the internet. But that was about it. Maybe I watched the wrong television programs.

3000 people die in a sneak attack, and sixty years later the most anyone knows about it, they learned from that Bruckheimer picture with Benny Trainwreck and Joshy Heartthrob.

So in the year 2058 or so, will we see a big budget blockbuster about the 9/11 attack, starring some granite-jawed superstar and a pretty-boy co-star to draw all the teenage girls to the theater? I can only imagine the cheesefest that will ensue.

*Two men running with everyone else down the stairwell of one of the towers*

"Keep going! We're almost out!" says friend.

"Wait a minute--I left the picture of my girlfriend in there!!!" says idiot friend. *runs back up the stairs*

"Noooooo!!!! Dooooooon't!!!!!" says friend. *follows idiot *

*Idiot gets himself pinned under some debris, injured, can't move; friend finds him, pulls him out, and runs down the stairs carrying idiot over his shoulder*

"We won't make it!!!!!!!" says idiot.

"We will make it!!!!!!!!! I promise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" says friend.



*Feat of heroism*


*Suspenseful almost-tripping*




*Building starts collapsing as they sprint out of lobby; impact tremor of collapsing
building throws them forward*

*As dust cloud dissipates, we find Idiot and Friend dusting themselves off, and
laughing a little, as they survived that close call*

"You want a beer?" says idiot.

"Sure" says friend.

*walk away, Friend's arm around Idiot's shoulders*



Are you visualizing this with me? Because it will happen. I'm sure of it.

Naturally the granite-jawed hero would be the friend, and the pretty-boy heartthrob would be the idiot. I can hear the squeal of the teenage girls now. "Awww, he risked his life to save his girlfriend's picture!!!! That's SOOOOO romantic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Ugh. Kids. I shake my head at them.

I don't even know if I have anything else to say today.

Hug a veteran. No need to wait until a holiday.

That's all I got. Go home, the movie's over.

Lunchtime Reading Assignment

Lileks has a great post about such quaint and antiquated ideas as public coarseness and moral responsibility. He's not a culture warrior or anything; just a regular guy who writes on of the best blogs I've ever read. Read this today.

By the way, if you're not reading "The Bleat" every day, well, then you're just missing out.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Quote of the Day

While conducting a discussion of theology via email with a dear friend from school days past, I asked several questions about the problem of sin and how this person views Satan.

The response email had the following subject line:

"On Our Own Depravity and Satan being an Evil Bastard."

For some reason (perhaps considering this person's conservative past), this struck me as incredibly funny. And yes, it's true, as well.

So quote of the day honors go to you, my friend.

Genius Productivity Enhancement

The Create Your Own Superhero page! Rockin!

I created a shirtless, scarred, grey-bearded hero with a cape, cowl, broadsword, and axe. I named him "Pissed-off Scottish Grandpa." Once I printed him out (in full color, thank to you, dear place of employment), I drew a word bubble next to his head with the quote, "Oh, aye, it's on now!"

Too much fun for a weekday.

(Hat-tip: "Culture Girl" Michele at ASV)

Monday, December 06, 2004

You'll see... you'll see...

General stream-of-consciousness rant-type-blog: Go.

I keep having U2 lyrics fly through my head. It's almost non-stop. I'll catch myself humming the same thing over and over. So I just gave in and stuck the disc in. My copy of the disc. I burned two copies of the album, one for work, one for car. The original (of the species) is safely tucked away on the CD shelf.

At the moment I'm almost glad of the ubiquitous self-song-bombing. Cleanses the palate. I just finished listening to the "High Fidelity" soundtrack. I should know better. I don't know what possessed me to pull it out for work. (But then again, I think i might.) I have stopped casually listening to it. I don't think this was an intentional choice, but rather a subconscious choice recognized in retrospect. A choice I think I will keep making. Listen to that album just makes me feel all... And who needs that? No one. So no more.

Memory flash: Sitting in Denny's listening to a borrowed copy of the High Fidelity soundtrack on a cheap walkman-type cd player. Sitting across from Carter. He grabs the player, changes the tune to track 7, the Sheila Nichols song. He says to me, exhaling his camel smoke, "this is my favorite song on the soundtrack." I listen for about a minute and a half, to be polite, as he watches me, gauging my reaction. When his attention turns to something else, I change the track back. I didn't like the song as much as the rest of the album, at that time; as it turns out, I would grow to like it later. A few minutes later, he realizes what I've done and says, with a look of shock and offense, "Dude." "What?" I reply. "It's cool, but I wanted to listen to the other one." He just shakes his head at me and takes another drag.

I want to make this exchange mean something deeper. But I don't think it does.

So yeah, I'm getting "the Rob Gordons" again. (A music/memory version of the "mean reds", if you like.) I don't think it's the soundtrack that started it.

I find that I'm abstractly jealous of strangers.

I also find that I am both happy for and unhappy with friends that are getting married. I think the "happy for them" part is slightly stronger, by a 5% margin perhaps. It's not that I don't want them to get married; it's more like I don't want me to not get married.

I've told some of you my bell-curve singleness rant. For the rest, here it is. In college, the number of single friends I had was like the center of the bell curve. Somewhere along the way, we crossed that magical center line, and since then the number of single friends has grown alarmingly shorter. People dating, people marrying. People having kids, for crap's sakes. And as time elapses, we move farther and farther toward the right end of the chart. Past the first standard deviation, past the second, deep into that high-nineties percentile. Now I always counted on a few brave souls I knew to be single forever; I expected it. It gave everything else a sense of normalcy. At least I wasn't the only one right? But now, but now. Time has passed. We have reached the third SD and I find that it's me--I'm the lone outlier of my particular circle. Huzzah.

I don't begrudge your happiness, my friends. Wait. Strike that. I do begrudge it, a little, but not because you don't deserve it. You do. You deserve all the happiness you can madly grasp. And I really am happy for you... mostly. But I reserve the right to hold back a sliver of my joy, a sliver of my heart, to envy you and maybe to hold it against you, for leaving me out here on the fringe.


(Gear shift. Grind it 'til you find it.)

Since the unfortunate coupling of my dear friend T with Miss Like-like, I have twice crossed paths with girls who elicited the mental query: "What about her?" The first, I described in a rather charming story several posts ago. The second, I spent some time with at a group lunch yesterday. Curious thing: we were at her friend's house, and both sets of parents (hers and her friend's) were there. So she (this new girl) introduced me to her parents, whom I talked to on and off throughout the afternoon. They asked me what I did for a living. We talked some Garrison Keillor (they were very pleased that I was familiar with him). At one point, they tried to make her little brother leave the couch so I could sit there (incidentally, next to their daughter), instead of on a side-chair. I demurred, insisting that he remain in his spot. Mother and daughter would mouth comments to each other across the room, on more than one occasion, and one or both would catch my eye and smile.

I could just be imagining it all, but I felt like I was being auditioned. Or ambushed.

There's nothing wrong with her, she seems nice enough. I just don't know her that well.

I don't know. Bizarro.


I have to remind myself that the flashy single life I always imagined doesn't exist. That "Friends" defied all rationale logic and possibility. That I am normal.

I have to remind myself. Because sometimes I forget.

I have to put my aches and pains to bed now. I have to dull my lost anger with the power of will alone, so I can get back to work.

Forget, forget, forget.