Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Post Decidedly Not about Music or TV

I like to talk about silly things, unimportant things. They're fun. They're safe.

But sometimes I have to talk about important things, because it would shame me not to.

The next step down the slippery slope of legalized baby-killing has occured.

Congratulations, Netherlands. Way to take the lead.

The AP reports that a hospital in Netherlands has started euthanizing babies with terminal illnesses or who are in extreme pain.

Now, the justification is that these "services" are done in the best interest of the people involved. That they are spared pain and trauma. That this is the kindest solution.

But the question remains: Kindest for whom? The baby who has no concept of what is going on, and whose life is snuffed out--or the parents/guardians who have to watch (and pay for it)?

Please don't interpret my opposition to mean that I want little kids to suffer, because I don't. (And that's an idiotic thing to assume, so cut it out.) But the question is one as fundamental as the Hippocratic oath. Doctors swear to "do no harm." Now, harm is being spun into "greater good."

I haven't checked whether The Netherlands has socialized healthcare. If the government has been funding Dutch healthcare, that could open up a few more scary arguments as to why this might start to occur more and more often.

I don't even know what to say about this. I'm appalled. I'm angry. Because this is another step toward an ugly end.

The scary thing is the implication of this decision. They have decided that it is ethical to euthanize suffering people who are "incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives." This includes "children, the severely mentally retarded and people left in an irreversible coma after an accident." These individuals are considered to have "no free will," so the medical community in Holland has decided that they should make the decisions of life and death.

I wouldn't go to Holland and fall into a coma, if I were you.

Outside of the extreme hubris of this viewpoint, outside of the moral implications of this practice (which could be conceivably called post-birth abortion), is the even more frightening precedent that's being set.

The modern legal system is built on the concept of precedent. And each precedent is built upon by another step, another judicial decision.

So what's the next step? Pulling the plug on severely mentally handicapped people who aren't in pain, but who can't function without life support? Maybe babies with major deformities who aren't suffering or don't have terminal illnesses?

Do I think it will be legalized in America anytime soon? No. But just because it doesn't happen here doesn't mean you shouldn't care. But who on the American Left will vocally oppose this? I'm waiting to see. People so concerned for the protection of all (post-birth) life should be as outraged as the Catholic church is. Where are the cultural figures in America who will stand up against this kind of action?

I'm not holding my breath for any Hollywood activists to address this.

The most telling statement is at the end of the article, by Lance Stell, a professor of MEDICAL ETHICS (!) at Davidson College in North Carolina:
"More than half of all deaths occur under medical supervision, so it's really
about management and method of death," Stell said.

No, professor, it's really about human beings. Human beings who don't get a say as to whether they live or die.

If this practice occurs in America as much as people like the good professor believe, then we need to go ahead and rewrite the preamble to the Constitution, because all that stuff about the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" has been sold down the river.

What's left? What are now the guidelines for viable, protected life, in places like The Netherlands? Someone who is born without massive deformities or terminal illnesses, who is alert and aware and in full control of their faculties?

Next stop Gattaca, kiddies. Keep your hands and arms inside the tram at all times. And please take care not to fall off--you may not get to wake up.

As the other side of the pillow...

Because it's the hip thing to do this week, here's the first installment of a (possibly) weekly item. Yes, Manders was cool enough to do the weekly list thing first (why did you stop, yo?), but I'm cool enough to do it...here.

That made no sense.

Irregardless. Here it is. Ten things that I'm currently digging.

The PBB Cool Ten List for 11/28-12/04 [in no particular order]
(like Stinky's cousin Andera...totally hot, but totally cool, too):

10. The other side of the pillow (obvious joke, right?)
9. "A Man and a Woman", U2
8. That sleepy feeling after a hearty meal (right now, actually)
7. Guily-pleasure TV shows
6. Delillo's first novel, Americana (though not as much as I expected)
5. Psalm 15
4. "City of Blinding Lights", by U2
3. The Return of the King Extended DVD edition, coming out in exactly 2 weeks
2. Cold weather (even if it is rainy)
1. El Roi, the God who Sees me

(Hat Tip: Thinklings, via Rhesa)

Holy Crap, Yes...

Forgive my geekery, but this has to be the coolest thing I've seen in weeks:

The trailer for the Extended Version of "The Return of the King."

How freaking sweet is this...

(Hat Tip: Tainted Bill.)

Monday, November 29, 2004

Name-dropping

Names are a big deal. People in ancient times believed that names define a person's lifestyle, their characteristics, and their personality. I've talked many times in this forum about how different people in the Bible had their names changed at the point of major life changes. Names are intrinsically linked with identity.

Even "secular" texts recognize this. Think Cinderella was born with that name? Think again. How about Aragorn from LOTR? He was called Strider when he was a Ranger, but only took on his true names when he accepted his true self.

Right now, I'm reading an amazing book about the names of God. It focuses on the Old Testament, addressing each name of God as it appears in the Bible. Right now, I'm on the second name, El Roi, "the God who sees me." Last week's name was Elohim, the Creator God.

The book gives a daily devotion, Monday through Friday, followed by some more passages for weekend meditation. Each daily entry looks at a different aspect of the name and its meaning.

It reminds me of what I read recently about Hebrew understanding of the name of God. Frogtown Pastor Pat (a fellow U2 fan) writes that there came a point when the Hebrew people were so reverent of the name God gave Moses, "I AM" (Yahweh, or YHWH ), that they stopped speaking it, or even writing it, for fear of saying it.

They didn't feel worthy to speak God's name.

I don't personally think this is necessary, but it is certainly not wrong. Out of obedience, out of reverence, they refrain, lest they err. I could do with a little more of that myself.

I've noticed that how I address God depends on my (perceived) standing with Him. Or rather, on the condition of my heart when I address Him. Penitent Dave calls him simply "God." Forgiven Dave calls him "Father" or "Father-God." I don't do this intentionally. It just happens.

Divine name-dropping isn't always a positive, sadly. I still catch myself throwing God's names around as expletives, sometimes. And as I read Spangler's book, I'm becoming more and more aware of how dangerous and ugly this is. Because names are powerful, and they mean something. When someone gives you their name, they give you a level of intimacy that strangers do not have. To betray that confidence is shameful.

The One Where He Doesn't Meet Miss Right

I've gotten to know a girl recently who is not Miss Right (if such a person exists).

I've been talking to her for the past few weeks. I mentioned her to a few of you, in email correspondence.

She's not my soul-mate, or perfect match, or any such thing. I don't think I'll ask her out. But something about her keeps drawing me back. I believe I even expressed mild irritation to one of you, on this regard. I don't know what it is about her that keeps me interested.

We don't have much at all in common. Few common interests.

I don't "like like" her. She's a sweet person, and I enjoy her company. But she's not "The One," Morpheus, so don't get ideas.

I was praying for her last night, about some things she shared with me over lunch (a group lunch).

As I was praying, I stopped and asked God, "what is it about this girl that keeps her in my mind?" And the reply was, "You see Me in her, Dave. That's the difference. You're responding to her heart for Me. The woman I'm leading you to will have this very quality."

"That's it, isn't it?"

"Yeah. And you know what this means?"

"What?"

"You're a step closer."

Wow. Awesome.

I haven't met Miss Right (or "the future Mrs. Teachedave", if you prefer). But I've found another piece of the puzzle. An obvious piece, yes. But experienced in a different way, you could say. I've never been attracted to someone's soul before.

And now I'm one step closer to knowing.

Brief thoughts while listening to "Live at the New Earth" at work on a Monday mid-morning...

I miss Waterdeep.**






**Yes, I know Don and Lori still do shows. But it's not the same. And they never leave the Kansas/Mizzou area, so for all practical purposes, they are gone. And I miss them.

black beauty, i love you so...

(bonus points for title identification)

Happy Monday, friends and lovers.

As is normally the case, Monday morning is extremely busy. So no substantial posting until later.

But in the interim, just want to say that I am thankful for you all.

And a confession: I violated Buy Nothing Day, and feel pretty bad about it, but I needed clothes for work, and the slacks i normally buy were on sale for less than 40% of their normal retail price. I decided it would be better to buy some needed clothes, and just perform acts of contrition to the Buy Nothing gods later. And so I am.

One other note: The U2 album is even better on CD than it is online. Lots of fun aural nuance. "City of Blinding Lights" is creeping into the list of my top 5 favorite U2 songs ever.

That's it. Go in peace.

Monday, November 22, 2004

*poof* ...okay, not quite *poof*

It's getting to be a running gag.

Okay. Fine.

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the strife. I'm tired of being second-guessed about every post, every comment, no matter what my intention was. I'm tired of the reactionary bullshit.

You thought I was game for some lively and personal debate? You thought wrong. Does that make me a chickenshit? So be it.

Good day, all. If I don't return by Wednesday, have a good Thanksgiving.

I may be back next week. I don't know. I haven't decided.



UPDATE: What a wuss. I couldn't even last a day.

Of course I'll be back sometime next week. I can't give this up. It's pretty much my only hobby, besides the occasional good book. Plus, at the risk of sounding sugary, I really like you guys. All of you.

In the interim, I am going to think long and hard about what I'm doing here. How it should be handled. How I should respond in different situations.

If the past few days' hysterics have put you off, I'm sorry. Come back next week. We'll do better.

To those who have shown your love and support, thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Here's to finding the high road again. Happy Thanksgiving.

(In the meantime, get your U2 review on here, here, and here. And most importantly, ahem, here.)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Dismantling an Atomic Album (the "official" review)

(Starting Music: "Vertigo")

U2 has often been called the greatest rock band on earth. Of course, fans of other genres (*cough*KellyC*cough*) would vehemently disagree. I wouldn't. As much as I have and still do love the Counting Crows, I love U2 just that much more.

I've read many opinions about the band's albums from the last fifteen years. Many people, including many whose opinion I respect, argue that the quality of U2's music took a nose-dive after the seminal "Achtung Baby." And I understand those thoughts, too. Nothing will match AB in terms of sound or quality. It was a major achievement in the history of the band, just as "Joshua Tree" was.

(Now Playing: "Miracle Drug")

Some were soured by the often-hard-to-swallow "Pop." The band bathed itself in mid-nineties ironic detachment. The giant lemon-shaped disco-ball used in their concerts was perhaps emblematic of their understanding of and reaction to the world. But I think something changed. Something happened at the end of the decade. Perhaps it was Bono's involvement in world hunger and AIDS prevention and the forgiveness of Third-World debt. Maybe it was marriage, or accepting their wrinkles. Whatever the cause, somewhere along the way, U2 found their soul again.

2000's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" was in many ways a spiritual event for me. My love for the band was really based on the pre-Achtung days, when the music was less ambiguous and more clearly spiritual. In my youth, the "new" U2 of the 1990's unnerved me a bit. ATYCLB returned to the contemplative, searching soul of the band that I remembered.

(Now Playing: "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own")

I remember driving down I-35 at a pivotal point in my life, dealing with rejection and loss and perceived betrayal. Then I heard Bono's sweet promise in "Beautiful Day": "What you don't have, you don't need it now/What you don't know, you can feel somehow/It's a beautiful day..." Hope washed over me like a warm tide. It was going to be okay.

It sounds like I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not. Many tracks on the album were like that. Songs like "Stuck in a Moment" and "Peace on Earth" and especially "Grace" met me in a really personal and spiritual way.

I begin with all this to say, I'm a little predisposed to giving U2 the benefit of the doubt. It took me several listens before I really fell in love with ATYCLB. And I wanted to give "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" the same chance.

I've listened to it upwards of ten times. I love it.

There aren't any obvious reasons why I like this album. The music is par for a band of U2's experience and considerable talent. I like that The Edge's guitar is given free reign much of the time. The lyrics are just as honest and full of open emotion as ever. Bono's voice is still glorious to listen to.

This is a standard U2 album. And their standard, in my opinion, is miles above other similar (in genre, if nothing else) acts.

One reviewer referred to this album as "the respectable twin sibling of ATYCLB." And I tend to agree in some ways. But, "Vertigo" aside, this seems less radio-friendly than their last album. These songs deal with serious issues, deep emotions. The average radio listener doesn't want raw honesty and soul-searching questions. They want "Hey Ya."

(Now Playing: "Love and Peace or Else")

Track for track, this may be one of the best albums I've heard this year. I just bought Keane's first album last month, and I almost can't listen to it now, because it falls so pitifully short by comparison.

"Vertigo", you've probably heard at least part of by now. I've heard widely varying reactions to this track, but I think it's great. It was in my head for days. A great rock track, really catchy, and will be a blast in concert.

"Miracle Drug" took me by surprise, especially one of the last lines: "I've had enough of romantic love/I'd give it up, yeah, I'd give it up/For a miracle drug." This fascinated me. I read one reviewer's interpretation of this song, as a plea for those living with HIV; this added a whole new emotional dimension for me. Powerful ballad.

(Now Playing: "City of Blinding Lights")

"Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own" was written for Bono's father, who died in the last year. Bono sang this song at his father's funeral. In many interviews, Bono has said that his father is the titular "atomic bomb." He and his father always had a troubled relationship, and apparently it was only at the end that they found some sort of peace between them. Bono is rumored to have asked Michael W. Smith during an event, "How do you dismantle an atomic bomb?" Smith said he didn't know, and Bono replied, "Love. With love." This song seems to encapsulate that idea. Bono makes peace with the death of his father in this powerful tribute.

"Love and Peace or Else" starts out with several seconds of silence, and then industrial sounds, that lead into the first line, "Lay down." For some reason it took me several tries to really like this song. This song seems to connect the album to their post-1990 'reinvention' days. And now I mentally associate it with songs like "When Love Comes to Town" and other tracks that are so loosely composed they almost sound like live cuts.

(Now Playing: "All Because of You")

"City of Blinding Lights" is most reminiscent of pre-1990 U2. It almost sounds like it could have been a B-side from the "Joshua Tree" sessions. The tune has been stuck in my head on and off for days. And, as my friend Martha says, that's a good thing.

"All Because of You" is another one of these almost-live-sounding songs. The Edge really lets it rip on this one, and the song is richer for it.

(Now Playing: "A Man and a Woman"--I've caught up, finally)

"A Man and a Woman" is another 80's sounding track. It's an amazing song about fidelity in a relationship--a message all but absent from rock music. "But I can never take a chance/Of losing love to find romance..." You have to look at these lyrics. Wow. Every time I hear this song, it gets better. The type of song I would put on a mix CD for my wife, if I were married. *fingers crossed*

(Now Playing: "Crumbs From Your Table")

"Crumbs" is a little harder to decipher, at least for me. I've been looking at the lyrics online, and I'm getting the sense that this is really grounded in Bono's heart for developing countries. Lyrics back this up: "Where you live should not decide/Whether you live or whether you die/Three to a bed/Sister Ann, she said/Dignity passes by." He keeps talking about waiting for the "crumbs from your table." A call to Western countries to quit being so self-focused? We could use it.

(Now Playing: "One Step Closer")

"One Step Closer" is a really incredible meditation on what tragedy and hardship teach us. Throughout all of our troubles, even with our "finger red from the prick of an old rose," we each take a step closer to finding understanding. There's nothing truer than the line, "A heart that hurts/Is a heart that beats." This could be the hidden gem on the album.

(Now Playing: "Original of the Species")

"Original of the Species" is the favorite track of several reviewers I've read, but it's one of my least favorite on the album. That said, it's still pretty cool. It's got a good vibe. On the surface, it's a pretty straight-forward love song. I can't decide if there's more to it than that.

(Now Playing: "Yahweh")

"Yahweh" is the last track on the American album, and one of my favorites (if I can have, like, five). This song, in the tradition of "Gloria," "40," and "Grace," is a classic example of U2's spiritual side. "Yahweh" is the Hebrew name for God, and the song is simply a prayer of surrender. In the lyrics, the speaker pretty much gives up any concept of self-improvement, and surrenders to the healing and restorative power of God. The final line " Take this heart, and make it break," is a great way to end this great album (much as "Grace finds goodness in everything" was a great way to end the last one).

(UK readers will find one more track on their albums. I wasn't able to listen to "Fast Cars," but lyrically speaking, it almost seems like a step back into "Pop"-land. You'll have to fill me in on your impressions.)

Overall Assessment: Okay, okay, I'm biased. I freely admit that. But I really like this album. Maybe not the greatest album ever, maybe not the greatest U2 album ever (good luck getting a definitive answer to that question), but a beautiful, meaningful, earnest album from a band that proves once again that they're still at the top of the heap.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday Lunchtime Poetry

(I found this yesterday, while going through some old boxes. I wrote it about 18 months ago, on one of those extra-long pieces of paper towel, torn in half longways. I was at my job at the time, and it was the only paper available. Anyway. Sometimes the bug just hits me, and it did then. This is clearly an unfinished idea, and may end up being scrapped, but I liked the idea of it, and I liked that I charged into it full-force rather than being daunted by the idea of riffing this piece off of one of the most famous poems of the 20th century. Either way, here it is, for your general amusement and/or mockery.)

"Shrug"

(with apologies to ginsburg)

by d. m.

I have seen the best minds of my sad generation going numb,
wearily clutching video game pads and shrugging,


wondering if all the good causes have gone bad, and aren't worth fighting for,

shifting from foot to foot, restlessly waiting for revelation to awaken them from their soul-coma,

damning the man in their hearts, as they lie prostrate on his golden altar,

watching the world being parceled and purchased by athletic shoe and bottled beverage corporations,

telling themselves that this is the world that is, that must be,

telling themselves that this is america the beautiful, the all-inclusive, the network television premiere of democracy-in-dormancy that their founding father-mother-parents fought and died and lied and bought and sold for,

buying and selling themselves every day in cubed cages, wearing their pin-striped prison coats, with genteel nooses windsor-knotted,

fuelling their reckless hungers with chemical highs and lows and oblivions, sobering up furious to still be trapped in this world,

feeling hungover on their parents' euphoria, grasping aspirin to quell the kettle drum pounding of the galley-driver,

buying things to keep company with stuff gathering dust next to the junk that fills their stylish homes,

listening to the television box tell them yesterday's things are no good, not as good as today's, and believing it,

running, running, running, mindlessly, frantically, not "to" but "from", without ever really understanding what's pursuing them,

smiling, always smiling, hiding the fear of the lonely, the unnecessary, the used, the user, the remorseful wicked, the unrepentant righteous,

never ever Ever admitting their loss of control, no matter the situation, always putting forth personas powerfully displayed,

competing for prizes nonexistent but believed, cheating lying stealing betraying, to gain a half-step closer to the rainbow's end, knowing with faith as strong as religion that all they desire can and will and must be attained,

raving bitter, bleeding tears when they miss the mark by Just That Much,

cursing whirling crashing until they fall into the fog at the bottom of the path, until they relent, until they surrender and breathe out a final fiery gasp.

"Oh, you look so beautiful tonight..."

"...In the City of Blinding Lights..."

Late-morning greetings to all.

This is the third straight morning I've woken up singing one of the new U2 songs. This morning, it was "A Man and A Woman." Yesterday, it was "City of Blinding Lights." Wednesday, it was "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own."

A sign of how much my subconscious enjoys the album? Possibly.

I expect this will be a three-post Friday. Expect some early-afternoon poetry, and perhaps, just perhaps, the "official" review this evening. You can probably guess where I'm leaning, but I'll be fair and (wait for it) ...balanced, about it. So hopefully, it will be useful, instead of a puff piece.

So, for personal inspiration, I'll leave you with the wise words of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as Lester Bangs, in "Almost Famous":

"You CANNOT make friends with the rock stars. That's what's important. If you're a rock journalist - first, you will never get paid much. But you will get free records from the record company. And they'll buy you drinks, you'll meet girls, they'll try to fly you places for free, offer you drugs... I know. It sounds great. But they are not your friends. These are people who want you to write sanctimonious stories about the genius of the rock stars, and they will ruin rock and roll and strangle everything we love about it."

Peace out, homies.

Prayer Request

One of my coworkers named Angela needs your prayers. She's in her mid-30's, I think, and about a month ago, found out she was pregnant with her first child.

She went to the doctor today and found out that the child has miscarried. From what I heard, the heart had stopped beating, so it may have been a defect.

This is a really difficult time for her and her husband. I don't think they're believers.

Your prayers would be very much appreciated.



(Posted at 5:20 p.m. Artificial post time for top placement's sake.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I am Manilow, and I write the songs

The parents went to go see The Manilow last night. It was my gift to Pop for his birthday. The parents are hardcore Barry Manilow fans. Or, at least, my dad is. My mom confided in me recently, "Well, you know, I go for his sake. He's the real fan."

So the parents went to the show, and the rugrats stayed with me at Casa de TeacherDave. This required minor housekeeping in the two days leading up to the concert, but I got 'er dunn, as Larry the Cable Guy would say.

(Editor's Note: I'm not a huge fan of so-called "blue-collar comedy," but it amuses me from time to time. But please don't make the assumption that because I'm from Texas, I ever have or ever will "be a redneck." Homey don't play dat.)

So yes, the "sistren" came over. We ate cheese pizza. We watched "Elf," which, for all it's cheesiness and saccharine qualities, still has some really funny moments, because Will Ferrell totally commits to the character. The overflowing earnestness of his performance turns an overtly embarrassing role into a rather well turned-out one.

I tried to get the little sister to sleep for a while before we all had to go pick up the folks. (We decided against the "parking near the concert venue" plan in favor of the "Dave drives them to and from" plan. I didn't really get a vote.) But the little sister, who is a very intelligent almost-7, would have none of it.

She's the most neurotic first-grader that I've ever met. I don't remember having so many worries and insecurities when I was in first grade, and I was a year younger than everyone else, so I got the age discrimination bit, on top of it all. ("You're only 5, so you can't be on our team." Bastards...) But she worries about everything. What if this happens? What if the concert venue (she doesn't yet know the word "venue", but I'd give another year tops before her vocabulary exceeds mine at her age) explodes in a fireball and we can't get to them? What if there's a fire at the apartment? What if there's a flood?

Thank God she's not interested in politics, or she'd be popping ulcer meds along with her juice box at lunch.

Okay, I made up the fireball bit earlier. But she worries about the most random stuff.

This is how our conversation went. Almost word-for-word.

Scene: Dave's bedroom (take it easy); little sister, undercovers, looking at the ceiling; Dave, sitting bedside, consoling.

Dave: Come on, what's wrong? Why are you upset?
Sister: [choking back tears] Well, we're like an hour from my house, and my parents are far away.
Dave: They're just down the highway. Twenty minutes away, really close. {This was a bit of a fib, but I try to avoid arguing relative distance with almost-7-year-olds.}
Sister: But that's really far. {Told you she's sharp.}
Dave: No farther than if they were at the movies and you were at home.
Sister: ...
Dave: [thinking] Ha! Got you there!
Dave: So what else is going on? How's school?
Sister: We have tests all the time. About stuff that we learned all the way back at the beginning of the year.
Dave: That's kinda the way it's set up. What you learn now is based on what you learned earlier. What you will learn next year in second grade is built on what you learn this year. That's how the system works.
Sister: But we've already been in school 67 days.
Dave: That's a lot of days.
Sister: And I had to stay after school today.
Dave: Why? Oh, yeah, your "Heart Healthy" thing, right?
Sister: It's called "Healthy Hearts."
Dave: Right, sorry.
Sister: And we had to play basketball with baskets that were really high. Like, over the roof, high.
Dave: Were you in the gym?
Sister: Yeah.
Dave: So they were like regular-sized baskets?
Sister: ...Yeah.
Dave: [Thinking] Ha!
Dave: So that didn't go well?
Sister: Yeah, but then we did the over-under activity with the basketball.
Dave: Where you pass it to the person in front of you or behind you?
Sister: Yeah. And I got hit in the face.
Dave: Ouch.
Sister: That's the second time in two days.
Dave: Sorry, yo. ...What is it with my sisters and face injuries? {Teenage Sister has a long history of getting hit in the face with things, from shoes to books to brick walls. It's kinda funny actually.}

From that point, it kinda devolved into sibling goofing around. Pretending to be asleep, fake snoring, poking in the ribs, that sort of thing.

Then I got up and said that I had to get a drink. Left her in there for about five minutes, and checked back in on her. Again with the waterworks on the verge of overload. She's really insecure about staying at other people's houses. It's weird.

Anyway, I finally let her come back into the living room and lay on the couch, whilst I was instructing Teenage Sister on the heyday of Christian alternative music, compared to today's mass produced rap-core worthlessness. I think I ranted about the greatness of Dear Ephesus' "The Consolation of Pianissimo" for about five minutes. Then I dropped in Ghoti Hook's "Sumo Surprise" and revelled for a while. She was not impressed.

We listened to MxPx "Life in General" on the way to the arena later, and she still wasn't into it. I don't know how I failed her, but I did. All she wants to listen to is T-Bone, John Reuben, KJ-52, and Toby Mac. I don't know.

(Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I do own or have in the past owned music by each of these artists; but I like to think that I'm now a little more well-rounded musically, than I was in the past.)

The parents had a great time. Pop got an "Ultimate Manilow" DVD. They said the seats were great, and it was a fun night. Which made it all worthwhile.

...

I don't even know if there was a point to all this. Just file it away as "slice of life" and carry on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Thoughts for Wednesday

Lyrics for your workday. A prayer. Talk to you tomorrow.

*************

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes and make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt and make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul and make it sing, sing

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

Take these hands
Teach them how to carry
Take these hands, don’t make a fist, no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticise
Take this mouth, give it a kiss

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn
Still waiting for the dawn

The sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Why the dark before the dawn

Take this city
A city should be shining on the hill
Take this city if it be your will

What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break

"Yahweh" by U2

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

They promised... (UPDATED)

Both MTV.com and VH1.com were supposed to stream "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" for free, beginning today.

It's friggin 9:05. What the hell?!?

Being resourceful, I've found other avenues to get free (and I think legal) access to the tracks.

Expect a review in the near future.

First reaction, after two and a half tracks: Wow...

Update: Well, it's about time. Here you go kiddies. Enjoy.

My initial reaction? I really really like this album. The immense high I get from the first three tracks doesn't hold up throughout quite as well as I hoped, but it's still a solid album. I'll toss out a full review after I give it the necessary 5 or 6 listens.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Anecdote

(Betcha didn't think it'd be a four-post kind of day.)

Lunch with the SunSco class was at PeiWei, a great Asian place near church. We all ordered and grabbed our beverages of choice, snagged a heaping box of fortune cookies, and sat at our 12-seat table. Everyone started chowing down on fortune cookies until the meal arrived.

My third cookie, which I ate after I'd finished my Spicy Korean Beef, contained the following fortune:

"DO IT, with confidence."

No, seriously, that's exactly how it was printed.

I faced a moral dilemma: had I been with most of you lovely readers, or my friends back at the alma mater, I would have busted out this exhortation with all manner of ribald commentary. Yet there I sat in the restaurant, surrounded by people that I've taught Sunday School to on multiple occasions, and I had to figure out exactly what kind of pun or inference I can make without crossing the line. Something had to be said, but what?

I held it up. "This is a bit...um, ambiguous."

T read it aloud, and everyone on that side of the table started laughing politely.

I began to see realization dawn on their faces, one by one. Only one of them jumped to the obvious implication as quickly as I did. He grinned and started laughing again. I was so proud.

It was all I could do to contain myself. Five of us, two couples and myself, trying to keep a straight face, each wondering "am I the only one who's following this joke to its obvious conclusion?" And you could read it on each face. Hilarious.

The line was repeated a few more times during the meal, each time adding a little more naughty subtext.

That's right. Corrupting Christian singles, one mind at a time. What can I say.

I guess I should probably do a lesson on coarse joking during my three-week pinch-teaching gig next month. You know, to make up for it.

Not that it's really my fault. Everybody knows that it's standard practice to add two words to the end of every cookie's fortune:

"In bed."

Suggested Reading

Something to chew on. I don't know if I buy into all of it, but I said "ouch" enough to think it worthy of sharing.

It's about that deadly sin some don't take as seriously.

(Hat tip.)

Computer Over. Virus=Very yes.

No matter what's going on, something stupid always cheers me up.

"And the Compy peed my carpet."

"Did you get a virus?"
"No..."
"Did you get 400,000 viruses?"
"Yes. Very yes."

Figuring it out

(Starting Music: "One")

There are days when I want to talk about what God is teaching me. There are days when I want to tell you about all the really awesome insights I'm getting through my reading. I want to communicate the fact that I'm starting to grow again spiritually, and I'm really excited about that.

I want to give you glimpses of the future me, the better me, the person I'm working toward becoming.

Then I post what I am, like last week. I post my bilous honesty, and shame myself.

But the shame I feel is not entirely my own invention. I feel shamed by your comments, your palpable disapproval. One impulse is to delete myself, edit myself down, but another contrary drive says that doing so makes me a liar. I am what I am. If you disapprove, so be it.

Yet this is not always what I am. I am some days saint, some days sinner. Equal measures of baseness and grace. Never one thing consistently, never one temperament, just an uneven mix of humours, swirling through life, one riptide after the next.

Not to say I'm unstable, or imbalanced. Just split. Divided.

I feel like two people. I find that I am not alone in this sentiment. That gives some comfort.

And this civil war between the members of my impolitic self spills out in glorious black and white before your hungry eyes. I hate that it does. And yet I love it.

I'm ambivalent toward the concept of sharing so much of myself with you. For one thing, I crave your attentions, as craven as it sounds to say so. I thrive on your visits, your comments, even your reproach. Another--I want to be honest. Yet--I can't be honest and at the same time be without embarrassment.

To be myself is to be in turns ugly, angelic, insipid, and inspired.

That's the risk I run. To continue this experiment is to dance along the high wire, drunk and netless. I could at any moment fall from your assumed esteem.

I could show you my secret scar. I could pull off my mask and scare you with my phantom face.

Safety tells me to stay away. Self-preservation advises to censor myself. To feed you TapiocaDave, vanilla and optimistic and non-offensive. But if I have to do that, then it's not worth the attempt. Not worth the attention. Not worth the effort.

I hate this blog. I love this blog. I hate seeing my reflection, in this shallow pool. I want to drive my fists through the glassy surface of the water, splashing and spraying and dispersing the image, so that no one else will see what I see. Yet I can't do it, can't stop staring in horror and curiosity at the beast on the other side of the glass. Neither can you, apparently.

I take a step back and reread what I have so far. I wonder, why all this anguish and bleeding emotion? PBB is hobby. It doesn't matter. This insignificant little page is not real life.

But yet, this is real. And often, this is the me I refuse to see, normally. The one pool I dare not throw stones through. I sit at the water's edge and stare.

Through my reading, I've been reminded as of late that I don't have to hate myself. That I am not solely responsible for the process of regeneration, and as a result, not entirely culpable for being unfinished. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, can you say amen.

This goes against years of practice and habit. And it's difficult to embrace the ugliness of my own mind, trusting that "on that day, we shall be changed." It's difficult to accept the idea that my heart isn't evil, and that it's worth saving, worth fighting for. I want to destroy my image on the face of the water, disgraced by my own words and thoughts and deeds. I want to beat my chest in disappointment, because I'm supposed to be a leader, an example, an encouragement and inspiration to others. I feel like I should have it all together by now. But the maturity I've pursued is still so far out of reach.

Perhaps this journal is my penance. I sit here on the shore, bound by my need for interaction and community, forced to confront every facet of who I am, forced to acquiesce and accept the road ahead of me. Maybe once I do that, I can start to fully become the other me.

The redeemed one.

(Ending music: "Love is Blindness")

Friday, November 12, 2004

Something decidedly uncharitable to say... (Updated)

I'm going to say something from the visceral side of my spirit, perhaps the "old man" side, spiritually speaking, because in situations like this, righteous indignation and unrighteous contempt tread too close a line together. So, if this is offensive to you, I beg your pardon.

Arafat is being buried in Ramallah, eventually today. There are different reports of whether the mob is being controlled or is running wild.

As for Arafat himself, my only response is may he feel the full force of wrath for his unconfessed and unregretted atrocities. May his first day in Hell be a thousand years.

Am I overreacting? Read.

And it's very telling to see how the UN responds to terrorist leaders. I heard that Reagan wasn't afforded this honor, but I haven't yet verified this. If it's true, it shows where the UN's priorities are.

UPDATE: Non-dancing Will has brought up several valid points about what I should or shouldn't say about this man (or anyone, for that matter). For example, he said my particularly bilous comments above are not "walking in step with the Spirit" as it were [my quote, not his]. And he is absolutely correct. Yet there they remain.

For those of you too lazy to read the comments, I also acknowledged that I'm just as guilty as this man, in God's eyes, and just as in need of Divine mercy and grace. This is absolutely true. This ground has been covered, so no need to retread it.

But these statements aren't made as an example of what I "ought to" feel. Just what I feel. There they stand.

Manually changing gears...

Stomping on the clutch and wrenching the stick-shift.

READER POLL QUESTION #18535C (I'm hoping the random number gag is still funny) :

My boss announced at lunch that he will be spending the entire weekend playing Halo 2 (a present from his uber-cool wife). I haven't spent a whole weekend playing games in literally months, maybe a year, and thought that sounded sweet.

So here's your question--if you could spend an entire week playing video games (assuming you'd want to), what 3 games would you select? They can be on different platforms and from any era, but no arcade games--home systems only. (Though how sweet would an original Street Fighter II cabinet be, huh?)

This should clear the air...maybe.

GO.


(And yes, that's an artificial post time. I wanted this on top.)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Second Assignment

Today's Veterans' Day.

Find a veteran, and shake their hand, give them a hug, or just call them up and say, "thank you."

Whatever your opinion may be on our current conflict, veterans provide an incredible service and sacrifice for our sake. We should honor that.

That is all. Dismissed.

Today's Assignment

I'm uber -busy today, so posting may be (heh) postponed until tomorrow.

Until then, here's your assignment: Go to Pastemusic.com, click on their Free MP3's section, and download everything by Harrod and Funck, which has quickly become one of my new favorite bands.

Go. Now. Seriously.

Report back below after completion.

Monday, November 08, 2004

LateStartWriMo

I could probably attempt to argue that I'm giving everyone else a headstart, or that I wanted to really challenge myself this year. I could make up excuses about why I've yet to write word one in my yearly attempt (and failure) to accomplish the 50,000-word feat.

I could lie and say that I've already buzzed through 10,000 words and I'm only warming up.

But in all the time we've shared together, have you ever known me to do these things?

Okay, besides making excuses.

Okay, besides lying about intentions.

OKAY, okay, have I ever lied about wordcount? Huh? Have I?

Of course not. So why would I start now?

Dave is trying desperately to avoid being a NaNoWriMo drop-out. Again.

I don't know why I'm sharing this. Oh, yeah, "confessional"--that's what this is.

Those with a penchant for psychoanalysis could theorize that my recent surge of laziness is really just an attempt on the part of my sub-conscious to mask the same fear of failure that has kept me from starting something like this for years, as something less pathetic.

But that's crazy talk. Isn't it?

*****

I find myself justifying putting it off every day. I haven't worked out the timeframe. I haven't decided where the story is initially set, and where it moves to. Do I want to frame it with the fictional history of the antique book the protagonist will begin seeking halfway through the story? Do I even want to use the rare book subplot? Too many questions. Too...many...questions.

*****
(FILE UNDER "WRITER NEUROSES")

I went to some friends to find support and ego-padding. I gave them my two most recent short pieces to read, expecting to impress them and perhaps garner some praise to sooth my troubled pride. Their response was, well, luke-warm. Like the kind of answer you give your mom when she shows you her latest crafty (crappy) creation: "Gee, ma, that's...nice."

I know that's not how they meant it, and it's my own damned fault for compliment-fishing, but I used to be able to "wow" people, and I'm afraid I've lost that. And it scares me.

Stephen King wrote that it's impossible to make a bad writer into a great writer, but a bad writer can possibly one day become a good one. Only a good one can be made into a great one.

I always felt (hoped?) I was in that middle category. Now, I'm not so sure.

The "Catch-22" is, you have to write regularly to get better, but if you've convinced yourself that you're hopeless, you lose all motivation to write, period. So the trick is to overcome the self-pitying voice of the praise-hound, regain the drive to write for its own sake, and then just friggin do it.

Like Lester Bangs said, "I used to do speed...maybe chase it with a little cough syrup...then I'd stay up all night writing 25 pages of drivel... you know, on the faces of Coltrane...just to f***in' write."**

Maybe that's what I need (minus the speed and cough syrup...maybe). One night of just mad, rambling prose, to fall back in love with the process.


**Okay, I'm not sure if he really said that. But Phillip Seymour Hoffman did.

"But, if you want to be 'old-school' about it..."

"...And you know I'm all about 'old-school'..."

(Name it. Easy quote.)

As happens from time to time, I'm getting back into Christian alt-rock. Not the current stuff, no sir. All that rap-core insanity. No.

I'm taking it back to the old-school. Or, rather, high school. 1994-1998.

Which means, I'm dusting off the Model Engine, the Take Time to Listen albums, FIF's Newest Album Ever! , and various other fun items.

I was this close to buying "Thrifty Mr. Kickstar" and some old Black Eyed Sceva online this morning.

Incredible

Go see The Incredibles. It's really good.

You know what else is REALLY good? Waking the Dead by Eldredge. Put that in your list of must-reads.

Currently Listening: "Farewell to Arms", Five Iron Frenzy
Currently Eating: Chicken Tenders and Fries
Currently Feeling: Satisfied

Important Policy Announcement

First, I'm hereby imposing a moratorium on partisan political blogging for the rest of November. This will only be lifted in the case of extreme circumstances, such as terrorist attack, declarations of war, or other important news (such as the capture of UBL). Self-censorship? Yes. For the good of the group.

Secondly, I'd like to apologize for being a jerk in the comment box. I'm sorry, friends. Understand, I don't apologize or back down from the content of my arguments, because I still stand by them. But there's no need to bring sarcasm into it. My bad.

That is all.

We will now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Crass Self-promotion

Wanna read some pre-blogging Dave?

I found some stuff from my old college newspaper days here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (my first front-page lead!).

And this one is funny to read, this week. Guess some things don't change.

Sad to say, I couldn't find my Thomas editorial or my freshman-election scandal article. I guess they'll only live on in a box in my parent's garage.

(This bit of self-involvement and egotism has been brought to you by Google and Perfect Blue Buildings.)

Funny--it doesn't *feel* like the end of the world...

So. Here we are. Welcome to the Apocalypse.

Two candidates, similar in many ways. One lost, one won. It's democracy. And democracy is, in its very nature, a gamble.

That's why there are still concerns about Iraq's future, because they could elect a religious fanatic who will try to form a theocratic state. (Sidenote: Contrary to prevailing opinion, that's not what we have here at home. No, it's not.) And the risk of Iraq falling back into a form of totalitarian oppression is there, no question. But that's the nature of democracy.

The reason democracy was considered so insane by the aristocracy of Old Europe is that it trusts the people to make a decision based on who they want to represent them to the world. The blue-blooded upper classes of Europe saw this as the pinnacle of foolishness, because the lower classes, in their opinion, didn't have any idea what was in their own best interests. They "needed" their "betters" to make the important decisions for them.

American colonists decided that this was wrong. Taxation without representation was unacceptable because it assumes that those being taxed did not need to have a say in why the taxes were imposed and what the money was used for. It assumed the the masses were not able to govern themselves.

The masses thought differently.

Fast-forward about 230 years. Our national consciousness has grown under the ideals of Lincoln's government "of...by...and for the people." We the people have governed ourselves thusfar. Some leaders we've chosen have been great for the nation. Others have been disastrous. But the important point is that WE chose them. We didn't need help. We didn't need the opinion, advice, or approval of any other nation. We did it because it's our government.

And now we have the 2004 election, where an astonishingly high voter turnout showed that the American democracy is still firing on all cylinders. America wins.

Four years ago, we had a presidential "split decision." The electoral college--a system devised by the Founding Fathers to ensure that more Americans mattered to political candidates, and that they visited the less-populated rural areas as well as the densely-populated urban ones--went to Bush (barely), and the popular vote went to Gore (not-quite-barely). For years, there were cries of "selected-not-elected" and "not-our-president." For years, opponents of the Administration used their First-Ammendment rights--rights still just as strong as ever, rights that have never and will never be taken away--to protest this president, using Gore's higher number of actual votes as evidence that he wasn't chosen by "We the People."

On Tuesday, an actual 50+1 majority of American voters chose President Bush. The president also won the Electoral Vote. For the first time in 16 years, a presidential candidate won an actual popular majority (neither Bush had done it before, and Clinton couldn't do it in two elections). The American people have spoken. They have chosen for themselves.

One question I've heard several times in the past two days, from people here and abroad, from people I think are insane and others I think are quite lucid, is: How could (the American people/Southerners/those bloody Yanks/those cowboys/Middle America) be so stupid?

And I have to admit, when that word hits the floor, the echoes I hear stretch back over two hundred years. "How can they decide to elect that man to lead them? He's from a backwater rural area. He has no finesse, no nuance. He certainly has rubbed world leaders the wrong way. Who does this G. W. think he is? How could these provincial, ignorant people be so foolish?"

I believe some American Kerry supporters are still having trouble accepting that democracy is, after all, a wager. You ante up, tossing power, authority, and responsibility into the pot. You place your bets on one out of a handful of people. You win, or you lose. But those are the rules.

To put it another way: If you don't believe that the American people have the right to choose the "wrong" person to lead them, then you don't believe in democracy. Period.

Some may be quick to ask, "Gee, Dave, would you feel so magnanimous about the whole thing if GWB had lost?" And the only honest answer I can give is, I think so. I hope so. (Maybe all my years of being a Cubs fan have taught me to deal with defeat. Granted, the stakes are much higher in this particular game, but winning and losing have universal elements. Pertinent to this discussion is the axiom, "if you don't want to risk losing, don't play.") Because at the end of the day, I believe in democracy, and I'm willing to play by the rules.

I didn't like Kerry's plans and policies, by and large, and I didn't trust him to guard this nation's sovereignty. But, as I told my family several times, if Kerry is elected, then this nation has made its choice and will get the president it deserves. The same can be said just as cynically for Bush. But it was the nation's choice. And the nation chose.

To those who are mourning the death of freedom today, take heart. Democracy is freedom. And democracy--sweet American self-government--won on Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

You're the Voter in my life, you're my inspiration...

Happy Election Day!

I'm not going to try to manipulate your VOTE by amBUSHing you with rhetoric.

It's NOT like me to KERRY, um, I mean, carry water for a particular agenda.

After all, whether you all are REPUBLICANS or Democrats, you ARE Americans, which is COOL.

It's like my friends MICHAEL Norris and Becky MOORE always say:
"Apathy EATS away at national pride, leaving a generation of whiny BABIES."

Okay, they don't really say that, I just wanted a reason to use those four words... um, which are totally random and have no meaning. Heh.

All silliness aside, it's your duty as a member of this free society to get out and vote. If you don't participate in this "participatory democracy" (regardless of whether you think it has the faint smell of manure, as some have noted), you have no real basis for complaint, because it stopped being your national government and became everyone else's.

SO, GO VOTE. OR P-DIDDY WILL KILL YOU.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Something Refreshingly Apolitical

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the work of two men who are grossly underappreciated in their respective fields.

If you aren't familiar with their bodies of work, it behooves you (word-of-the-day points to me) to watch/listen to as much of their art as possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen... I give you

Mandy

and

Bruce.

Endorsement

I'm not a celebrity. Shocking, I know. I'm not a World Series pitcher or a future-Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Famer. I'm not an award-winning actor or a country-music star.

I am Everyman. I am No-man.

So my election endorsement means little in the grand scheme. I understand that. But I'm throwing it out there anyway.

It will come as little surprise to you. I haven't been clandestine with my opinions, with my leanings. With my criticisms or complaints. I'm a pretty up-front guy, politically.

But I think it needs to be officially stated, as plainly and clearly as I can state it. The capstone on my campaign-related blogging.

I am hereby declaring Perfect Blue Buildings's official endorsement of President George W. Bush.

I am officially endorsing Bush for the following reasons:

His candor. GWB speaks his mind. He's not eloquent, he's not very diplomatic--but I think he's honest. The polish and charm of career politicians is always disconcerting to me. I don't necessarily need a "great communicator" so much as I want a straight-shooter, a plain-dealer. I think that if I could ask Bush any question, I'd get an honest answer, even if that answer is "I don't know."

His mental toughness. I'll wait for the laughter to die down. Okay. Think about this. You're elected to the highest office in the land by the slimmest imaginable margin. For the next four years, you preside over the greatest domestic terror attack in US history, corporate scandals, recession, natural disasters, and general unease. On top of that, you are one of the most oft-maligned and despised people in the country. There have been myriad movies and TV shows that consistently mock and disparage you, as well as other works of art that seem to envision or even promote your attack and/or assassination. Whole forests and oceans of ink have been spent and spilled to prove that you are an idiot, liar, swindler, despot, madman, etc. Then you begin your re-election campaign. You are the universal target for half of the nation's rage and malice. You're the constant source of denigration by political pundits on all sides. National news agencies are planning for damaging exposes in the weeks and even hours leading up to the election. And all the time, you hold your head high, and fight on despite the storm.

Come on, no matter what side you're on, or whether you think he deserves it, you have to admit that GWB has dealt with the most strenuous personal onslaught of any public figure in the past several generations. And I respect that. He's a tough old bastard. Personally, I would have folded a year ago.

His commitment. The President is committed to the war, to seeing it through to the end, and setting up a democracy in the Middle East, as a buffer against theocratic rogue nations and possible terrorist harbors. He is committed to tax cuts, and not just for the wealthy. I appreciated my taxes not being as high as they could have been. I appreciate the child and marriage tax credits or reductions that my parents got. The president is committed to improving the economy by supporting business. You don't create jobs by screwing the richest 2%, whose companies help create the jobs. Come on, folks--businesses create jobs. And the KEdwards "screw the rich" policy will not have the effect they think it will. Businesses will try to offset a higher tax burden by either cutting production costs (read: JOBS) or by increasing prices. This is not good for America. GWB understands this. His tax cuts have helped.

Most importantly, the President is committed to national security. People complain that their favorite government program got its funding cut or its funding increase lowered, and that Defense spending increased. The Defense budget is ever increasing because we're at war. We're at war on two fronts (because, no, we didn't forget about Afghanistan) against a global enemy (Islamofacism) that is still crying out for our blood. Terrorism is not and won't soon be "a nuisance." It's a real threat that must be taken seriously. The administration has been often accused of fearmongering when it talks about these threats. But that's because they're there, and they're real. We can't afford to ignore them or try to pacify them. We certainly can't afford to wait until we're attacked again, before doing anything else about them. The Bush Doctrine works. And it will continue to work.

His faith. The President is a man of faith, and that means that his faith dictates his actions. There is a lot of talk about "separation of Church and State" (a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution) and about not conforming national policy to personal morality. But I don't buy that. I am all for freedom of religion or no religion, if you like. But it is my firm belief that any elected official who proclaims faith and doesn't let their faith affect their voting or their professional choices, has no real faith at all. That's like the businessman who says, "I personally believe that swindling other companies is wrong, but I don't let that affect the choices I make on behalf of the company."

My opinion has always been, "Right is right, in the churchhouse AND the statehouse. Wrong is wrong, in the home AND in the courtroom." If you believe something is important, don't play lipservice to it and then ignore it later. If you belive something is wrong, don't try to coddle by saying it may be right for someone else.

Am I promoting dogma? No. Just consistency. Has GWB been totally consistent? No, because, as I said yesterday, he's human. But I can tell he's trying to be.

*****
There it is. The official endorsement. And my final* word on this very partisan, very tiring political season.



*I, of course, reserve the right to add something tomorrow morning.