Monday, February 28, 2005

Monday Fiction: Serial Chapter Five, "Memoria"

Louis sat on his bed, staring at the stacked boxes and full duffel bags that clogged the floor around him. The things in his room didn't seem to fill as many boxes as he had expected. That's the thing about memory; makes things bigger, fuller.

Louis had been pulling the last of his clothes out of his closet and folding them, placing each folded item in a large green Army duffel his grandfather (Fielder, not Taylor) had given him. In the back of the closet hung his commencement robe. He pulled out the wrinkled, silky garment, pulled it off the hanger, and began folding it. While he struggled to fold it properly, the texture of it, the coolness of it, the smell of it triggered something familiar in his mind. Without thinking, he sat down on the edge of his bed, holding the bundle in his hands, running his fingers along each soft fold.



He remembered how light it felt. The full-length robe was feather-light. And, as un-masculine as it would have sounded to admit it, Louis liked the way it swished around him. The way it billowed and moved as he walked. For a moment, he could understand the appeal that similar vestments have for some of the fairer sex.

He sweated through the commencement address, barely paying attention. The speaker went on and on about "the future," something about which Louis had thought neither too often nor too deeply. He had a rough outline, the barest of sketches, but nothing concrete. Certainly nothing planned or prepared for. All that mattered to him was that he had graduated and that he was marrying the most beautiful girl in the world.

Anna sat a few rows behind him. He wanted to turn and catch her eye, but the flock of mortar-boards obscured his view. He smiled, knowing that she was there, knowing that very soon, they could begin their future together.

What that future held was still up in the air. Every time Anna tried to talk seriously with him about the logistics of their shared life, he kept getting distracted by the very pleasure of the thought. Louis was of the belief that "all you need is love;" his intended, clearly the more level-headed of the two, understood and tried to make him understand that his love "wouldn't pay her bills." Louis would dismiss her concerns with "we'll be fine as long as we're together" and a kiss. Against her better judgment, more often than not, Anna would let her love for her fiance overwhelm her worries. Or her misgivings.

If pressed, Louis would say, "Oh, I'll get a teaching job, or a newspaper job, and write on the side. Once the books start selling, we'll be great. Maybe we'll start a family then." Noble goals, all. However, he didn't have any concrete knowledge of how to accomplish any of them. This didn't concern him as much as it should have.

All his life, Louis was skilled at improvisation. Whenever he was unprepared for a class assignment, he would bluff his way through. His charm and his quick thinking saved him in many situations (though, toward the end of college, the guise wore a bit thin). And whether he admitted it or not (likely not), deep down, Louis knew that each new challenge in his life could be faced the same way. Charm, cleverness, sincerity. And he would be golden.

The problem with Louis, if you haven't gathered it thus far, gentle reader, is that he was in the habit of being reactive, never proactive. Certainly, when faced with a problem, Louis could deftly address it, or sidestep it. But when given the opportunity to prepare for something, he wasted his chance, turning his attention to activities more interesting, more entertaining. He prided himself on being the king of the last-second comeback, the all-night cram session. He had begun writing term papers at eight hours before they were due, and still getting high marks.

He'd done it before; he could do it again.

The commencement speaker finished his interminable address, and the conferring of degrees took place. It felt speedier than it actually was. It seemed like Louis blinked twice, and he was back in his seat, holding his diploma. And that was that.

After commencement, as families hugged and expressed their pride, as friends cried and hugged and exchanged addresses, as former students shook the hands and hugged the necks of their former professors, Louis hugged his parents and talked to them for a moment, and then turned to find his betrothed. He scanned the crowd back and forth, and finally saw her standing with her parents, at the outskirts of the crowd. He told his parents he would meet them at the apartment a little later, and then darted across the football field, weaving through the crowd, patting backs and hugging necks as he passed, until he caught up with Anna and her parents.

"Hello, Mr. Brooks, Mrs. Brooks. How are you?"

"We're fine, Louis," Mr. Brooks said. "Congratulations. You did it."

"Thank you very much. Congratulations to you, too! For Anna, I mean! Magna cum laude, Honor Society! She makes me look like an absolute slacker!" Louis was breathing hard and beaming. He turned to Anna. "Congratulations, baby!" He leaned in to kiss her. She turned her face at the last minute, deflecting his kiss to the very corner of her mouth.

She grabbed his arm. "Let's go for a walk, Louis. Mom, Daddy, I'll be right back."

Mr. Brooks nodded. "We'll be here, sweetie. Good to see you again, Louis."

Louis eagerly shook his hand. "You too, sir. Very much. Good to see you, ma'm."

Mrs. Brooks smiled, "And you, Louis. Take care."

Louis was about to reply, but Anna cut short the pleasantries by non-too-gently jerking his arm away. They walked away from the crowd, down a sidewalk. Louis put his arm around her waist. "Are you as happy as I am?"

She moved away from him as they continued to walk.

"Anna, what's wrong? Did I make you mad? Was it about the kissing thing? I mean, they know we're engaged, it shouldn't be that--"

"Louis."

"Yeah?"

"Just...give it a rest for a minute."

"Sorry."

They walked silently for a few more minutes, until she led him to small park. He sat down on one of the benches. She didn't join him. She stood a few feet away, looking out over the fields nearby.

"Anna, what's the matter?"

"I got accepted to Columbia, Louis."

"What? You didn't apply to Columbia. Accepted for what?"

"Graduate school. I applied a few months ago. I told you about it. You weren't listening."

"Oh, right, yeah, grad school. But... I didn't think you were serious."

She turned to face him. The tears on her cheeks tracked back to glaring eyes. "Why wouldn't you think I was serious?"

"Well, for one thing, we never discussed it. It wasn't part of the plan. I thought you wanted to get married."

"You wanted to get married, Louis!"

"And you didn't?"

Anna shrugged and turned away again. "I did. Maybe I still do. But not now. Maybe not for a while."

Louis folded his arms. "Or maybe just not to me."

"That's not fair, Louis. And that's not true. Necessarily."

"'Necessarily,' she says! It's true enough. We were going to get married. We were talking about it, planning it out, and now out of the blue you want to go to grad school in New York, and leave me here with, what? A 'maybe'?"

Anna laugh angrily and spun around toward him. "Oh, 'we' were planning? That's a laugh. 'We' never plan anything. You come up with some idea, some grand scheme, but when I try to talk about the details, you zone out. You're not interested. I could have given you a two-hour presentation on why I wanted to go to grad school, and none of it would have sunken in. You just don't get it. I want more, Louis. I want to push myself, stretch myself in a hundred directions. I want to have a family one day, but before I do that, I want to see the world. And it's not wrong of me to want these things! I have the ability, the skills, to make this happen. If you loved me at all, you would have wanted this for me, too! But it was never about what I wanted, what I needed, was it? It was about what Louis wanted... I'm willing to sacrifice a lot for you, but I will not give up my entire life. Especially not if I know that you wouldn't even notice."

Louis sat, arms folded, glaring out over the green field, gritting his teeth. "So that's it? I don't pay attention to you? I don't care about your needs?"

"Those are symptoms, Louis. The real problem's deeper. Our relationship has always been about you. And I'm not willing to spend my life dealing with that. I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry, too."

She pulled the engagement band off her finger and set it down next to him. "You'll want this back, I guess."

"I don't want it."

"Take it, Louis, come on."

"I don't want it, Anna. Pawn it. Trash it. I don't care what the hell you do with it. I don't want to touch it."

"Fine," she responded, but she made no move to retrieve the ring. Finally, she said, "I have to go. My folks are waiting."

"Do they know? Did you tell them?"

"Yeah."

"Great. And I just made that scene. I must have looked like a real jackass."

Anna started laughing. Louis said, "I don't think it's funny."

"No, Louis. It's not. But that's exactly what I'm talking about."

They were silent for a moment more. Anna, standing, facing Louis. Louis, sitting, facing nothing.

"I've got to go."

"You said that."

"Right. Well then." Anna started walking back down the sidewalk. She stopped and turned back toward him. "So that's how we're ending this? No goodbyes, no nothing? You pouting and me walking away?"

A moment. "Looks that way."

"It's fitting." With that, Anna was gone.

Louis sat with arms folded, staring out over the grasses. Fuming. Hurt. Confused. Finally, he stood, and picked up the gold band on the bench next to him. Swimming his hand through the folds of the robe until he found his side pocket, he deposited the ring there, and began the long walk back to his apartment.

The next morning, after packing up his truck and locking up his on-campus abode, he began the short drive home. As he set out, he immediately drove across campus to a parking lot on Lake Michigan. He got out of his car, pulled the ring out of his pocket, and hurled it as far and high as he could over the water. He could just see it splash when it hit. And that was that.



Louis was holding his folded robe when there was a knock at his door. He jolted out of his thoughts, and spoke up, clearing his throat. "Yeah?"

The door opened, and his mom poked her head through. "Dylan's here."

"Aw, man, I've been dreading this."

"You gotta do it, baby."

"Yeah. Tell him to come up."

"Okay."

He tossed the robe into the duffel, as his mom disappeared. A few seconds later, Louis heard the familiar clomp of his best friend's size 16 shoes running up the stairs. There was a tentative knock at the cracked-open door. Dylan had never done that before, Louis thought.

"Yeah, man, come on in."

Dylan opened the door and took a step in. At six foot six, his head always seemed to barely clear the doorframe. He took a look around the bare room and let out a low-whistle. "So this is it? You're really doing it."

Louis stood and faced his friend. "Yeah, man. I gotta give it a try. It's the next adventure, right?"

"Right. You'd be a fool not to go."

"Yeah."

"Yeah."

There was an uncomfortable silent moment. Then Dylan sniffled and walked over and wrapped up Louis in his big, dark arms, squeezing him tight. Louis laughed, trying not to cry. "Geez, man, it's not like I'm dying or something."

"Yeah, I know. But I'm still gonna miss not having you around to beat in one-on-one."

Louis returned his friend's embrace. "Guess that means you'll have to find some real competition."

Dylan laughed. "Yeah. Not likely."

Louis slapped his friend's back, hard. "Okay, okay. Come on, now, I can't breathe. Besides, we gotta finish packing this crap up. Then, I'm taking you to dinner."

Dylan let go and pulled away. "Yeah, you better, Mr. Moneybags."

"You bet... Dylan? Thanks for coming by, dude."

Dylan laughed. "Where else would I be, Louis?"

"Right."

Dylan nodded. "Damn right."

Never satisfied with mere embarrassment...

...our hero followed up his scintillating audio-post (unlike Bono, our hero hates the sound of his own voice), with another call to NewGirl.

She couldn't find anyone else who wanted to go. Our hero said that he was having the same problem. He offered to call it off. She said she just didn't know anything about it. The hero called it off. She asked if the hero was going to go anyway. The hero wavered.

Then, instead of gracefully ending the conversation, our dauntless hero continued.

"Look, when I originally came up with this, it was just gonna be you and me. And when I asked you and you were hesitant, I wasn't sure if it was the movie, or if it was the "with me" that you weren't sure about. So I panicked and told you to invite other people. But... i don't know. The point of it was, I wanted to spend time with you. So... take that for what you will. Look, forget about the movie, no problem. But if you want to do something tomorrow, or find some people who want to do something, gimme a call. Otherwise, I'll see you on Sunday, okay?"

NewGirl said "see you later" and our witless hero hung up.

In retrospect, our hero realized he probably sounded more frustrated during the conversation than anything else, and he wasn't sure if NewGirl made any sound during his monologue.

So did NewGirl call our dim-witted hero back? Did she respond to his ass-backward revelation?

In a word, no. Not only that, but she didn't really interact with him at church, either. And she chose not to eat lunch with the group afterwards.

So, that's that. A classic performance by our asinine hero.

PBB Cool Ten List for 2/27-3/5 (UPDATED)

10. Getting to see the Crows on the TV (even if they struggled. and got robbed.)
9. Jamie Foxx's acceptance speech.
8. Jamie Cullum's great album.
7. At least I've got a car.
6. Still breathing.
5. Notice how I'm struggling here?
4. Any guesses as to how the weekend was?
3. I finally talked to my all but invisible friend Josh on Saturday.
2. "Be Cool" opens this Friday.
1. Trevor will be staying conmigo all week. Take that, punks.

("Louis" coming this afternoon.)



Update: Many thanks to Trav for reminding me of this.

I think the funniest thing on the web right now is the video of lip-synching (possibly) Dutch kid.

You can find it here with just the kid. Or here, with funny images (of, I'm guessing, his friends) juxtaposed.

If you're not at work, turn the sound up LOUD. You won't be disappointed. If you are at work, turn the sound up at your own risk. (Nothing bad, just distracting and odd.)

What's sad is, five years ago, that might have been me. Okay, more like five weeks ago. Shut up.

Friday, February 25, 2005

"Mouthful of cavities, your soul's a bowl of jokes..."

"...and every day you remind me that I'm desperately in need."

Happy Friday, kiddies.

Sorry for the lack of postage today.

Here's the dilly-o:

I'm getting the heat put on at work. My productivity has taken a bit of a drop as of late. (Not because I've been talking to all you beautiful babies online, really; I don't talk to you that often, or for that long, for the most part.) So today I had to put 'er in gear and get some things done. Not that they're all completed, but I wanted to say hi. You know how it is.

So, as such, for the next week or so, my posting may be a bit more scarce (golly, maybe even as little as one post a day!), so bear with me.

As such, that means that the three substantive things I promised on Monday will likely not come to pass this week. I know, I know. I suck. But hopefully that brief dip into the waters of personal frustration during mid-week helped. (Shoot, man, it garnered my highest hit-count ever, I think.)

Speaking of hit-count, I saw that my average daily visits have been climbing in the last few weeks. Clearly, you people have nothing to do, if you keep coming back to my silly old page. But for your continued patronage (and occasional patronism), I thank you. As always, it's for you I do this.

A special greeting to the new readers. You are most welcome, friends. Thank you for stopping by.

I'll tell you what. As a treat to you, I'll whip up something nice at home and bring it in on Monday. It'll be my homework for the weekend. And unlike my practice in college, this assignment will be brilliant AND on time! So there you go. Your boost of hope for the weekend.

(Sidenote: Speaking of "beautiful babies," at a recent VHS tape sale at Blockbuster, I picked up three used flicks: Swingers, Singing in the Rain, and a little classic gem I like to call "MST3K: Pod People." Yeah, I'm that cool.)

Krista, you need to email me sometime. I know, I know, no internet access. Still.

So hey, this is fun: Barring the chance that my major vertebrae suddenly vanish, I'm planning on asking NewGirl to accompany me to a showing of "Hotel Rwanda." I'll let you know how that plays out.

I think that's all I have right now. In closing, I'd like to share with you the playlist for a recent mix CD I made for someone. (I think I may have already discussed this; if not, here you go.) The only thematic structure was songs that I enjoy at the moment (and "not a lot of U2, Dave"). I'm proud of it, and think it is most righteous. (Trav, if it's embarrassingly bad, please be kind.)

1) "Mouthful of Cavities," Blind Melon
2) "All I Want," Toad the Wet Sprocket
3) "Another Horsedreamer's Blues," Counting Crows
4) "This is the Place," Red Hot Chili Peppers
5) "Love is Blindness," (covered by) Sixpence None the Richer
6) "Diamond Dogs," (covered by) Beck
7) "If I Fall," Barenaked Ladies (live)
8) "Paranoid Android," Radiohead
9) "Chelsea," Counting Crows (live)
10) "Smoke," Ben Folds Five
11) "What a Good Boy," Barenaked Ladies (live)
12) "City of Blinding Lights," U2
13) "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" Nirvana (unplugged)
14) "What You Don't Know," Don Chaffer
15) "Linger," Cranberries
16) "Do You Realize?" The Flaming Lips
17) "Somebody Told Me," The Killers

Have a good weekend, my dear friends. Stay safe. Go to church on Sunday. Read the Psalms.

Paz y gracia.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fluff Post #65973: Upcoming Album Releases

Way to go, Dave, promoting more rampant commercialism.

Ahh, get over it, ya hippie.

Here are a few upcoming albums that I am eagerly anticipating. Feel free to comment or leave your own entries in the comment section below:

Ben Folds, "Songs for Silverman" (4/26)

Jars of Clay, "Redemption Songs" (3/22)

Jack Johnson, "In Between Dreams" (3/1)

Beck, "Guero" (3/25)

Over the Rhine, "Drunkard's Prayer" (3/29)

Family Update

Dad's doing better than I expected. He's not terribly upset (as if he hadn't expected to get the job for some reason; or had psyched himself out).

He told me yesterday he feels more ashamed than anything else, as if he did something wrong that kept him from getting the job. Which is nonsense.

He could still use your prayers. While he didn't get as emotional as a few of you saw me get about it yesterday, he's still not doing great. I think he's at the point where he assumes the worst will happen, so disappointment doesn't phase him as much. While not as volatile as some responses, that's still not a healthy one.

Thanks for all of you who've supported him (and me) through this. Much appreciated.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Familiar Story Retold

So this is how it went down.

One day the Snake slithered and slimed his way into the presence of the Big Man. And the Big Man said, "what are you doing in my presence? where you been keeping yourself?"

"Around, man," said the Snake.

The Man pointed out the window and says, "Did you see my boy down there? He's a righteous man. I like him an awful lot."

The Snake said, "Of course he's on your side; you've got his back. I bet if things fell apart, he'd spit in your eye, Big Man."

"What are you saying?"

"Lemme f**k around with him a while. I'll show you what I mean."

The Big Man said, "Go ahead." Because the Big Man knew what was going to happen; he's the type that doesn't need to peek at the last page to know how things turn out.

So the Snake slid his way down to the town of the fella that the Big Man bragged on. The Snake struck at the fella's family, at his cash, at his house, and it all came tumbling down. After getting further permission from the Man, the Snake struck at the fella himself, until he was sick almost to the point of death.

So the fella suffered day and night. He didn't understand why this had happened (he wasn't party to the earlier conversation), and the Big Man did nothing to explain to the fella what was happening. The Big Man isn't always too big on answering questions; especially not from people who have no right to ask them. He's big on trust, on obedience--not so much on explanation.

So the Snake eases back from the fella and sends in his "B" team, because when you're not allowed to run up the score, you have to use the substitute players. The Big Man wouldn't let the Snake run up the score, wouldn't let him take that knockout punch, no matter how much the fella begged and pleaded for it. The Snake sent in his practice squad, a trio of church folk, to mop up, to maintain the lead.

These church folk came after the fella, accusing, prodding, insulting. Never directly, heavens no, that wouldn't be proper. That wouldn't be nice. And everyone knows that church folk are nice. So they made back-handed comments. They made implications. The Snake teaches his people to be passive-aggressive, don't you know.

The fella put up with all of this for as long as he could. Then he lost it. He told them they were all wrong. That he was a righteous dude, that his paths were straight. He then turned his accusations to the Big Man. He questioned the Big Man's fairness. He questioned the Big Man's love. He never questioned the Big Man's power. He never cursed his name. But the fella was hurt. The fella was confused.

What most folks forget, what most folks don't understand, is that while the fella was hurting, the Big Man was hurting too. The Big Man knew the end of the fight from the beginning, but it didn't make it any easier to watch His boy suffer, even if He knew he would go the distance. But when the fella started blaming the Big Man for the evil that the Snake started, the Big Man had heard enough.

About this time, another friend of the fella stepped up. The only true friend of the bunch. The friend told the fella to get a grip and quit being a whiny-ass baby. The friend said, "who do you think you are, fella? do you think you're the Big Man? do you think you can take Him on? He owns you, dude. The sooner you get that, the easier it will be." But the fella still didn't listen.

Then a storm came. A foundation-rocker, full of fury. And in the middle of the storm, the fella heard the voice of the Big Man.

"Who do you think you are, fella? Did you create this world? Can you control the wild things? Can you ride the storms and walk on the raging seas? Can you master the monsters of the deep dark, the monsters that I formed by my powerful hand? Can you come close to that?"

The fella said, "I'm a fool. I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm gonna shut up."

The Big Man, however, was on a roll. "Can you take care of yourself? Can you be your own protector? If you can, then you can question my decisions. If you can control your circumstances, go ahead, and I'll leave you alone. Are you wiser than I am? Are you more powerful? Can you comprehend my perspective? No? Then where do you get off, questioning my justice? Questioning my motives?"

The fella, now petrified of the Big Man (who was in full "rant" mode), said, "I can't answer your questions. I am nothing compared to you. And I'm sorry for doubting you."

The Big Man took a breath, calmed down a bit, and turned to the Snake's "B" team, who had hoped they could sneak out of the room without being noticed. The Big Man said to them, "And you people--you people piss me off. You disrespect me, you lie about me. So go and make a sacrifice to me for the sake of your sorry, pathetic asses, and ask this fella to beg me to forgive you. If you do that and he comes to me on your behalf, I'll let you slide."

So the "B" team did as they were told, and the fella asked the Big Man to forgive them, which He did, because He's true to his word. Then the Big Man opened up his billfold and showered the fella with resources to replace his loss. He gave him more children to fill the emptied seats at his table. And He gave him a big, long life to enjoy his renewed favor.

=====

Job learned not to question God, because he wasn't owed anything. He never questioned God when things were going well, never accused Him of being too kind when his family was successful and his flocks were large.

Folks tend to hold it against God, when the rain comes. Yet when the sunshine hits them, they feel entitled to it. That's the problem of Job: when you feel like you deserve the good things you've been given, you demand answers when they're taken away (or when they're withheld). Because you misunderstand the system. God sends his rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. Sometimes you feel like wicked men are stealing your sunshine. But it just ain't so.

Life isn't like the Plagues in Egypt, where those big, bad sinners suffer, while all of God's sweet children are perfectly happy, free of harm and distress.

This is a hard thing for me to accept these days: Rain isn't judgment, like frogs or locusts.

Rain is just rain.

Rain is natural. Rain is growth. Even rain is blessing, when understood correctly. This is why James says to consider it pure joy when you suffer, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

I hate the rainy times. I despise them. And the temptation, so strong these days, is to blame God for the rain. What I'm beginning to learn, oh so slowly, is to pray: "Help me wait patiently for the sunshine."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why, oh Lord, are you so far off?

My dad got turned down for the job he desperately wanted.

His current work situation is all but unbearable. He'll likely be downsized within a year, because of the way the company is being run. He's treated like utter garbage by his employers, who constantly take advantage of him. He's disrespected by those who work under him. And there's nothing he can do to fix it, as it stands now.

This potential new job would have meant a raise, travel, a shiny new company car, and a way out of the dead-end hellhole he currently works at.

But no. After setting him up, telling him how great he was, and stringing him along, the company he was interviewing with slammed the door on him.

I'm worried about my dad. Every time this happens, he gets worse. Each time, he's gotten more and more worried during the interview process, and each time, he sank deeper and deeper into depression afterward. Sometimes I worry (unnecessarily, i'm sure) that my dad will take the Willy Loman/George Bailey approach, and I don't know if there are enough Clarences to stand in his way. (If my dad read this, he'd tell me it's never that bad. But the way he gets, you have to wonder. I come by my depressive mood swings honestly.)

So, the "new man" in me asks for you all to pray for my dad's mental and spiritual well-being, that he will somehow, someway find peace and comfort from a God who he's convinced has turned His holy back to him. Please, please, please lift him up. All my words of encouragement seem to have no effect now.

The "old man" in me asks you to boycott the bastards that broke my father's heart. I have one of these machines in my apartment complex, and I'm never ever using it again. If you care about me at all, you'd do the same. And tell your friends and relatives.

"Oooooh, bad chemistry..." (Updated)

Tuesday Survey Question, primarily for all you coupled readers:

When you and your significant other met, was there an immediate 'connection,' did it occur soon after, or was it a while afterward that the 'spark' suddenly happened?

I was reading an article about interpersonal chemistry yesterday, and wanted to hear the voice of practical experience as a corroborator/counterweight.

(At the risk of being discriminatory against my much-beloved single brethren/sistren, I'm focusing my query on those currently dating/engaged/married. Far be it from me to dare insult the rest of you, but let's face it--in questions of studying long-term success, our insights may not be as helpful as our coupled counterparts.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

One-Post Monday: Catch-all Edition

Coming up this week: a new movie review on Better Than Critics; Chapter 4 of the Louis story; a rant about the new culture of cool in Christianity; and other various and sundry things.

Hunter S. Thompson killed himself yesterday. I don't really feel one way or the other about this. I liked some of his writing. I don't know. It should be mentioned. So there's that.

Hope everyone's Lent is moving along swimmingly.

I finished "Blue Like Jazz." I'll post about it this week.

My dad's still waiting to hear about a job he interviewed for. Please pray that God's will is done, that our family may find contentment whatever the outcome, and that if possible, my dad can get this great new job.

And now, without further ado:

PBB Cool Ten (2/20-2/27): President's Day Edition

(no links; sorry, I'm busy--google it yourself.)

10) New CDs to replace old ones.
9) Spring Training is in full swing. (Get it, 'swing'? wakka wakka wakka)
8) I *do* like "sad, emo Beck" better.
7) "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"
6) You know what's a good movie? "Hitch."
5) As it turns out, "Buck" is not currently involved with "NewGirl". They dated in the past but are no longer an item. You hear that sound? That's the sound of the field of competition being cleared.
4) Two actors I enjoy: John Corbett and Ryan Reynolds.
3) My sisters love me.
2) My folks love me.
1) The strength to take small steps every day. Progress is tiny, consistent steps.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Your witness, Counsellor...

In an effort to reduce some clutter and recycle some of my old things, I've decided to trim the fat in my CD collection and trade in some of the CDs I have stopped liking or just don't care enough about to listen to on a regular basis. This can be a difficult and gruelling process, but I am resolved to do it.

I realize that, in my eagerness to sell off some old stuff (and hopefully replace it with a few new things I'll appreciate more), I may be giving a bad shake to albums that deserve more respect. So I will put it to you, dear readers. Posted below is the list of those thusfar condemned, or nearly condemned, to certain resale. If you think any of these should be acquitted from such a fate, I ask you to make your case in the comment box below. I shall take your well-argued pleadings under advisement.

(And if you instead want to make a snarky comment about how I should never have bought a certain album [i'm looking at you, jess], please keep such comments to yourself.)

The Condemned:
The Velvet Underground, "Loaded" (Special Edition)
Belle and Sebastian, "The Boy with the Arab Strap"
Bob Marley, "Legend"
Duncan Sheik, "Daylight"

The Accused:
Pete Yorn, "Day I Forgot"
Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me"
Vertical Horizon, "Live Stages"

Your witness.

It's pretty much my favorite animal...

Zoologists and animal experts have reported the birth and growth of an actual liger--half lion, half tiger. This is not a mock-up; this is an actual animal. I saw live footage on Good Morning America. It's the real deal.

No reports yet on the animal's rumored magical abilities.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

one tiny step forward (non-fiction)

after my class at church last night, i sat in my car in the starbuck's parking lot for about five minutes staring at my phone. i searched through the numbers, highlighted the right one, hesitated, hesitated, hesitated.

pressed 'call.' (gulp.)

ring.
ring.
ring.
ring.
answering machine. hung up the phone.

'dammit.'

stared at my phone. watched traffic. stared at my phone.

got out of my car. walked up to the door of the coffee shop. stopped. watched traffic.

walked a few steps away. stared at my phone.

scanned through numbers. scrolled past the first number. highlighted the 'cell' listing.

stared at my phone.

watched traffic.

stared at my phone.

held my breath.

called.

ring.

ring.

'hey there!' recognition in her voice. maybe pleasant surprise?

'hey C, it's dave.'

'yeah, i know! what's up?'

'what are you doing right now?'

'playing games at K's house with her and a friend.'

'fun times. well, i'm over here at starbucks. i was gonna ask if you wanted to have some coffee with me, but clearly you have better plans.' trying to sound playful and light.

'well, now, wait a second--' talking away from the phone. 'You wanna come over here with us?'

'sure.'

'great! here's K, she'll give you directions.'

got directions from K, drove 15 minutes in the opposite direction of home.

spent just over an hour with C, K, and their friend M.

(when i arrived, M and C were wrestling a bit in the floor, before he pinned her down. i didn't know how to interpret this, until it hit me--she grew up with a bunch of brothers. she's a tomboy. this is how she relates to guys--punching in the arm, shoving, tactile ways. which doesn't explain why she doesn't do so with me. probably because we don't know each other well enough. i think that's it. the only other reason why she'd treat me differently than other guys is entirely too hopeful [that "we sometimes don't do the thing we want to do"].)

no real progress made. i was planning on taking the Will Approach (TM) , had she met me for coffee. in the group environment, i couldn't do that.

but i called. i was invited. and i went.

this is something approaching progress.

Inept

That's how I've been feeling for the past two weeks. Brief flashes of life and joy, followed by several days of feeling utterly useless. Feeling like I'm so far behind where I should be. Feeling like I can't get anything right. Feeling...well, inept.

You have this idea in mind, this image of how a functioning young adult's life should be. How their apartment/house should look, how they conduct themselves. The nuts and bolts of life at (almost) 25 years of age. But when you compare yourself to this "standard," you find yourself lacking.

I know, I know, "don't compare yourself to others," etc, etc. But you can't shake the question, "Am I where I need to be?" How do you know that? How can you tell?

I'm not talking about spiritual matters here. Not exclusively. Tangentially. I'm talking about physical life. Relationships. How much dirty laundry I should tolerate at any time. Balancing work, writing, personal health, family, ministry, fun, and relaxation.

I have to ask myself, am I conducting myself like an responsible adult? And the answer is, not as often as I'd like. Not as often as I feel I should.

It's the "should" that's killing me. And I can't find any easy answers for it.

I want to change. I really want to improve. But each time I try, I fail. And the failing gets more depressing. This doesn't mean I stop trying; it just means I hate my inability all the more afterwards.

I've hit the wall, in the realm of personal growth. I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. And I wonder if there's something I'm missing, something I'm doing wrong, somewhere I'm broken, that is keeping me from reaching the next level. From "being an adult."

My mother is a Type A personality. Driven, determined, and completely self-motivated. As she relates the story, she couldn't wait to get a job when she was 16, so she could be more self-sufficient. She bought her own clothes, took care of most of her own needs. She married my dad a little more than a year later.

When my mother was my age, she had a husband, a household, and a seven year old son.

I can't even take care of a miniature cactus, without killing it.

It's not like this kind of comparison is a bad thing; we do it all the time. I remember when I was growing up, doctors would have these charts. When you're this old, you should be this tall and weigh this much. (I never fit those charts.)

My baby sister is in first grade. When my parents meet with her teachers, they are told what the typical first-grader should be able to do, both academically and developmentally. (She's ahead of her grade in reading; I'm so proud.)

There are books for expectant mothers. At 8 weeks, your unborn baby is this big and can do these things.

Growth, development, abilities--this things are measured all our lives. We're compared to charts, and shown where we accel, where we lack.

I feel like I've misplaced my manual. My personalized version of "Things You Should Know By Now." With chapters detailing what should come naturally at this point in my life, and what's still okay for me to have yet to master. "You're on level in relationships and work, but you're slipping in household management." Some kind of clear-cut plan. A goal. A standard. So I know what to focus on.

Like I said, this issue isn't really one of spirituality for me, not on the surface. I mean, I have a better grasp on my relationship with God than I do on any other area of my life right now (which is not saying that much). And it's only in this area that I know the answer to such a pseudo-crisis. "In my weakness, He is strong."

Can this be taken out of the spiritual and translated into the physical world, too?

Can He be strong through my poor housekeeping? My bad diet? My pathetic money management? My sketchy relationships? Or am I on my own in those areas?

I think I know the answer to that question. But that doesn't make me feel any better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Tuesday (Unrelated) Mini-Fiction: The Warrior

Sweat poured down the back of his neck as he stood in the tunnel, preparing for the contest. His short-cropped hair and beard were beaded with perspiration. His heart was pounding in time with the stomping feet of the crowd in the grandstand above and around him. His time had come.

He pulled at the leather straps holding his breastplate in place. He checked the ties on the steel segmentata, which were heavy and warm against his forearms. His shoulderplate. His leg greaves, buckled tightly on his shins.

Cato stood behind him, checking the buckles and straps he couldn't reach. "Are you sure you want to do this, Marcus?"

"I must."

"No, you don't. You can walk away."

"I can't, Cato. It's my nature. It's what I've trained for. And I'm ready to face it."

Cato pulled at Marcus' shoulder, and turned him until they were eye-to-eye. "You're not ready. There's too much you have yet to master."

Marcus narrowed his eyes. "Readiness is of no importance now. Only the choice to proceed or to run. And I don't run."

"It's not running. It's stepping back. Taking time. Being prepared."

"I've missed it too many times, waiting to be prepared. I'm ready."

Cato took a deep breath, and as he exhaled, he nodded once, holding out his hand. "Very well. Fortune upon you."

Marcus grabbed his friend's wrist with his right hand and his shoulder with his left. "Goodbye."

"Fare well, Marcus. Fare very well."

Marcus bent down and grasped his helmet. He pulled it over his head, plunging into darkness for a second before finding light again through the two small eyeholes. Inside his helmet, the sounds of the arena faded away, and the sound of his own quick breathing became a gale wind in his ears. His pulse seemed to echo inside his iron skull. His ears pounded. His eyes focused, pupils growing wide to take in as much light as possible in the dim subterranian cell.

He reached out his left hand, and felt the shield grip being placed in his palm. Then Cato pounded his fist into the shield once. Twice. Three times. This was a ritual they had walked through many times in practice, but never in truth. Now these last few movements became sacred, sanctified by the sound and the heat and the fear that they tried to block out.

Marcus reached out his right hand, and the hilt of the short sword was placed in it. Its familiar grip was almost comforting. Marcus lifted the sword, tapping the flat of the blade against his helmet, between his eyes. He then tapped the blade against his shield once. Twice. Three times.

He felt a hand on his back. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Each time the strike became harder. Smack, smack, smack, smack, smack. Marcus stomped his foot in time with the tapping.

There was a flourish of trumpets, above, beyond, and the doors of the tunnel swung wide. Marcus charged forward.

The arena was bathed in sunlight. The sun hung directly before him, piercing his weakened eyes. He stopped after three steps in, and held up his shield before his face, until his eyes could adjust to the brightness. The crowd jeered, but Marcus ignored them. None of them had the courage to stand in the sand of the arena floor. They were nothing to him.

When his eyes adjusted a little more, he lowered his shield and looked across the burning sands of the arena at his opponent. He blinked. He didn't understand. He staggered forward, sword in hand, looking to the right and the left, expecting a surprise attack. But no attack came. He was alone in the arena, save for the figure before him. He walked toward the figure and stopped, a few feet away.

The white-robed figure cast away its cloak.

Marcus gasped. Inside his helmet, the gasp sounded like the crashing of many waters.

He dropped his sword. Pulled off his helmet. Dropped his shield.

She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her features were soft, her eyes deep. Her hair cascaded down her shoulders and back, dark and thick. She was the image of perfection. She stood, completely self-possessed and without a hint of fear. The crowd hushed at the sight of her. A light surrounded her, and she appeared godlike in her easy grace.

She smiled at him. His knees buckled. He stumbled forward. He lost himself in her eyes. He reached out his hand to touch her face, her hair. Her smile surrounded him.

A flash of steel.

The crowd erupted in cheers.

Marcus look down to see her bloody hand withdrawing the blade from his side. He looked back at her face. He didn't understand.

She never stopped smiling. But the smile he mistook for kindness was, in fact, contempt.

He fell backward into a sitting position on the sand. This pleased the crowd.

Marcus weakly grabbed his side, but the wound was too deep.

He turned to look back over his shoulder. Cato stood in the doorway of the tunnel. His head was down.

Marcus became dizzy, and lay back in the sand, looking up at the clouds.

When he was young, he and his brothers would play at being warriors, fighting in the games. When fighting was done, they would lay on their backs in the cool grasses of home, and stare up at the clouds, trying to decipher signs and portents from their shapes. "That one looks like a hare; it means I shall be fast." "That looks like a chariot; I shall be victorious in battle." "That looks like a banner; my name shall be famous." There they would lay, seeking their fortunes, waiting for their mother to call them in for the evening meal.

Marcus lay on the sand, his life seeping out in a pool around his back. A cloud passed overhead. "That looks like a serpent," he thought. "I should have been wise. And that, there, is a bird; I should have been swift in fleeing danger." He looked for more clouds to interpret, but there were none. The blue of the sky that he had loved so much before now seemed too cold as it hung over him. At that moment, he heard a sound, strange and small, but familiar.

He heard his mother calling.

Monday, February 14, 2005

How Not to Do Things: Holiday Edition

I'd like to take a few moments (putting down my new copy of "Blue Like Jazz") to share a little story on this day of days, if you don't mind.

I made a comment on another website about how important this day can be, if a relationship is on shaky ground, and how I managed to bungle the only V-day I had a reason to celebrate. I was asked to explain this further, and I decided it would be a charming little anecdote to share.

=====

(Historical Note: This may not be entirely accurate, in the details. I had tried to scrub this from my memory before, so what I'm relaying is not an exact account, but I think it captures the essence of the event. That said, I beg pardon of the person involved, if I didn't get it exactly right in the telling.)

It was the late winter of 2002. I had been dating my girlfriend for about three and a half months. The dawn of February brought the possibility of a great V-day, and I looked forward to it. I came up with ideas for romantic dinners, moonlit walks, all manner of sentimental things. I formed plans. This year's would be great.

Unfortunately, one of my major character flaws is my difficulty turning plans into action. I'm a thinker more than a doer. Coupled with a February flurry of homework and school projects, I lost track of the days. Every spare moment seemed to be taken up (though this was likely not true).

The fateful day arrived. I had no plans. I had no reservations. I had nothing prepared. I could only wing it. That'd worked for other things, right? It might work this time too.

heh.

I picked my girlfriend up (empty-handed) at her dorm. "Where do you want to eat?" "I don't know." "Pick." "You pick." We finally decided on Garfields. As we drove there, I secretly wished, Please don't be busy.

It was packed. The wait was about 45 minutes. We waited impatiently for about 15. The more we waited, the more frustrated at myself I became. I kept thinking, "I am such an idiot! How could I have screwed this up?" I let my frustration seep through. She asked a few questions, and I gave terse responses. Finally, we left.

I tried to think of other places to have dinner, but my attitude and my lack of preparation had already done their damage. My girlfriend said, "You know what? Take me back. I have some stuff to do."

"But we haven't eaten."

"Just take me back, Dave. I'll eat something in my room."

"Come on, I'm trying to--"

"Dave. Just take me back."

"Fine." I couldn't fix it, and that made me angry.

We drove back in silence. When we reached the dorm's back door, she grabbed her bag and got out of the car. There was a vinyl record on the floor, without a case. "What's that?" I asked.

"Nothing" said she, and slammed the door.

I watched her storm off down the steps and into the dorm. I reached down and picked up the record. An opera. The story of Faust. Curious. I flipped it over.

It was beautiful. She had painted the words to our song in red, set against a swirling background of reds, oranges, and yellows. I knew how careful, how methodical she was, when she painted. It had to have taken hours.

I set it down, sat there for a few moments, and said (in the words of Rob Gordon), "Wow. I am a f***ing a**h***."

We eventually reconciled. I confessed my callousness, my ineptness at being a boyfriend. I begged forgiveness. It was granted.

It wouldn't be the last time I begged her forgiveness. But it was one of the worst.

=====

So cheer up, all you wonderful single (or practically single) women.

You could have been dating me.

PBB Cool Ten: Valentine's Edition

Ten Cool Things I'm Loving:

10) Cake. (It's a running joke; you knew it would be back eventually.)
9) Technology. But not as much as Lafawnduh.
8) I have next Monday off. Holidays rule.
7) Good music (right now, "Lay it Down" by Benjamin Gate)
6) My church family.
5) Friends that are newly engaged (Miss A and the very lucky T)
4) Each and every one of you readers. No foolin.
3) My family.
2)
1) "The LORD, the LORD, the good and gracious God." (He gets two slots.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

"I'm a dime-a-dozen, pop, and so are you!"

Well, crap.

The greatest American playwright died today.

Arthur Miller, dead of heart failure, at the age of 89.

This really depresses me.

I'm getting old and I need something to rely on...

Happy Friday, friends and lovers.

Two quick things this morning, then back to work.

First, as promised, I'd like to brag on my man K and his funny D-film. It concerns two musical legends and a missing "stash." A word to the wise: if you have a stash, don't tell Jimi Hendrix about it.

Secondly, believe it or not, I've found a music video that's even weirder than "Float On." Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Beck's newest video, found here on MSN. (Hat tip: Relevant.)

Well, that's all I got. Have a good morning. I'll post something entertaining later, I'm sure.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Find out what they're paying her and offer her DOUBLE...

Manders never fails to impress. This week's Thursday Thirteen is even better than the last.

(I would post mine over there, but I know some of you silly children don't check out her page regularly. Geez. What does she have to do? Go read.)

SO... without any further ado:

THIRTEEN FAVORITE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS (any medium):

(I can't guarentee these are the 'top thirteen' but they're the thirteen that come to mind.)

1. Rob Gordon, High Fidelity (both film and book version)--gotta start the list off with a killer. And that's DJ Rob Gordon. Pathetic loser, slacker, music snob, hopeless and helpless romantic. Rob Gordon is the clarion call to the lovelorn and pathetic: you are not alone...but quit being a jerk.

2. Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings--Sam's the best example I can imagine of love and loyalty between friends. Sam's not very spectacular to look at, and he makes mistakes, but the courage and devotion found within him is inspiring. I've said it before and I still believe it: without Sam, Frodo would have shared Gollum's fate. Sam was the true hero of the story. Without him, all would have failed.

3. Biff Loman, Death of a Salesman--A frustrated young man who sees a life spent in sales as a death sentence (and rightly so), Biff finally tells the father he once worshipped the truth about his opinion of his father's "success" and his dread of following suit. I connected to a lot of this character.

4. Inspector Javert, Les Miserables--In this epic story of the struggle between law and grace, Javert was the living embodiment of "the law that brings death." He is so bound by rules that not only can he not accept the grace that is offered him, but he cannot live in a world where such grace exists.

5. Cyrano De Bergerac--Such a story. A hero whose physical imperfections loom so large in his mind, he cannot accept that the object of his love could possibly love him back. His story of self-sacrifice and devotion is one of my favorites. And in the end, panache.

6. Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities--You're never really sure about Sydney. There is always some doubt about his loyalties, his opportunism. But in the end, all doubts are dispelled, as he literally sticks his neck out for the person he cares for most.

7. Lucas, Empire Records--Lucas is the epitome of cool, on the surface. But over the course of the film, you get to peek behind the curtain a bit, and you find that he's just as screwed up as anyone else. He finds something close to family, in the friends and coworkers around him.

8. Ash, Army of Darkness--Hail to the king, baby. Granted, over the course of the movies, Ash is a pretty uneven character. But come on, Bruce Campbell is just fun to watch.

9. Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman--You know, for years, I would have picked Batman over Superman, for the sheer fact that Superman has the "unfair advantage" of having powers, while Batman just has to go on gadgets and brute force. But the more I look at the comics, the movies, and, yes, the TV shows, the more I see that the story of Kal-El is one that's fundamental to human existence: the search for identity, for family, for a calling. That's why this character has been mined for stories since its creation in the 1930's. These questions remain through each generation. Why do I feel so different? Where do I belong? What should I do with my life?

10. Roland Deschain, The Dark Tower--the epic hero of Steven King's magnum opus. Roland is knight, gunslinger, hero, antihero, lover, brutal fighter. Ultimately, he is but the pawn of fate, of ka, and his quest is both satisfying and sad. King said he began with the image of Leone's The Man with No Name, but from that point, Roland bloomed into something much more complex and interesting. And that's why we kept reading about him, right to the end.

11. Mulder and Scully, The X-Files--If you weren't convinced I was a geek up to this point, this should send me over. (At least it's not Captain Kirk or something.) I loved watching these two characters interact. Mulder, the wild-eyed "believer" whose crazy theories often turned out to be frighteningly true. Scully, the steely cynic, who slowly learned that some mysteries could not be explained away. A perfectly matched set, these two. And come on, Gillian Anderson is just hot.

12. Bill, Kill Bill--He's a cold-hearted, blood-thirsty assassin. And a loving father. And a wounded lover. Bill is as incongruent a character as you can find, and that's what makes him so interesting. We don't know much about Bill, other than that he loves just as deeply as he hates, and man like this, with no moral restraint, is a dangerous one indeed.

13. Cory Matthews, Boy Meets World--I grew up watching this silly little sitcom, and it became one of my favorites. And the "boy" who grows into a man will always be one of my favorites. As funny as it sounds, I feel like I know him personally. I can't explain it any better than that.

=====

Funny, almost all of my entries were male. Sorry, ladies. I guess when thinking about favorite characters, I thought about characters I related to in some way or another.

Here, as a consolation, a Bonus Five.

FIVE GREAT FEMALE MOVIE CHARACTERS:

1) Marty, Beautiful Girls--She was right, you know; she did grow up to be hot.
2) Arwen, LOTR--Liv Tyler speaking Elvish. Yowsa.
3) Penny Lane, Almost Famous--"She was your biggest fan! And you threw her away!"
4) The Bride, Kill Bill--"Hell hath no fury like..." Well, you know.
5) Kat, Ten Things I Hate About You--Attitude and intelligence. That works for me.

A Day Later...

I wanted to post something more about Ash Wednesday. More of a reflection. But, as I've told some of you, I haven't been doing a great deal of reflecting these days.

I had the opportunity last night (the same one I do every night) to unplug from the world around me, to reflect, to meditate, to find my center in the stillness of the presence of God. I had another opportunity to read the burning words, to swallow them up like Ezekiel's scroll. But I did not. I had a peanut butter sandwich. I watched more television. I don't even remember what.

I had a chance to talk for hours to my Creator, to glory in his presence, to worship at his feet. I fell asleep after a minute or two of ho-hum prayer.

My words have no meaning these days. At least, when it comes to my relationship with God, everything I say is trite. Even my worship is shallow. I mean what I'm saying, but still it feels completely empty. My prayers echo off the bedroom ceiling, bounce off the far wall, and collect in the corner next to the dirty laundry.

I tried to confess. I did. I tried to think of everything I have been doing wrong. Every subtle sin, I named. But each time I said the word "sorry," it was weakened, like a teabag brewed too often, each product looking lighter and lighter and lighter.

I'm trying to clutch a faded forgiveness. Or at least, trying to find forgiveness for my faded heart. I'm still coming up empty.

I need to give things up, not because they're bad, but because they're in the way. But I haven't the courage to try. I feel like I'm realizing this too late, that the Lenten bus has already left the station, and I'm standing with ticket in hand watching it go.

This is a stupid analogy, I know, but it's the one I have. I feel like I've missed out, that I'll have to wait until next year to try to catch this falling star again. I know it's not true. I know I can begin anew. Leave my rationalization alone, it never did you harm.

I want to make a change, not because I've hit bottom, but because I've become numb again. I've cut off some spiritual circulation, and my soul's fallen asleep.

I don't know.

Anything I write after this point feels kind of lame, considering the really awesome thoughts that some have posted.

So, I'll simply ask that you read Jeremy's post.

Then read it again.

Then read it again.

Then read it again.

Grind it straight in.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Blogging for Sanity Preservation (Vol. 357)

I feel hollow again, soul-thin and worn. I'm too busy. I do too much for too many. I do too much for myself.

I don't do nothing often enough.

I've been gorging myself on entertainments these days. Always consuming stories and pictures. I haven't taken the time to simply be still and acknowledge Divine Supremacy. I haven't taken the time to simply be.

I haven't really read my Bible in five days. I haven't really prayed in four.

I need to sleep more. I need to be more diligent. I need to be more.

I need. I need. I need.

God of all mercy, meet my need.

Help me feel full again, full of life, full of joy. Full of love for others.

I felt it last weekend. I want to feel that again.

Replace my hollow with your whole. Be my peace.

Forgive my selfishness and be my spirit of sacrifice.

Pry open my grimy, clenched fingers. Pull away my rag-doll desires.

I don't know what else to pray. I'm not happy today, and I don't know why.

Take my confusion, and my lingering unease.

Take my knotted stomach and heavy heart.

Make me a doorkeeper in your house, so that I may find contentment in Your proximity.

I need something, Father. Be my Something.

Ash Wednesday Redux

If only I were rich, and didn't have to work; then I could post all day.

Alas, the Lord giveth what He giveth for his purposeth.

All this to say, ultra-super-busy day. Which means, no Chapter 4, no bad poetry, and possibly no other posts.

I really wanted to write something fresh for today (being Ash Wednesday and all). But the fact is, I haven't given myself a quiet moment of reflection in the past two or three weeks, to think about much of anything. And I can feel my soul choking on the fumes of my busy routine.

If you really want a moderately insightful Ash Wednesday post, feel free to check out what I wrote last year. I hope that will suffice.

Again, gentle reader, thanks for your longsuffering and patience.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bonus List: Top Five Super Bowl Commercials of 2005

(If you want to see the commercials, go here, and click on the titles.)

Honorable Mention: Pepsi's "Music Under the Cap" ad. Just for the part where the guy's in the bathroom singing, "I'm a hustler, baby!" when his boss walks in. That was pretty good.

Best TV show ad: "24"--"It is costing us $2.4 million dollars to tell you about the best show on television...and it's worth every penny." Dang straight.

5. Diet Pepsi's "Staying Alive": When the guy walked, the women followed. When he stopped, the women stopped. Kinda funny. Bonus points for Cindy Crawford and the song. Some ask me where I get my strut. It's because sometimes when I walk into a room, I hear "Staying Alive" in my head. You think I'm joking.

4. FedEx/Kinko's "Top Ten": Juvenile? Yes. Silly? Yes. But come on, Burt Reynolds being kicked in the crotch by a talking bear? Inspired. Maybe insipid, too. But it worked for me.

3. The Careerbuilder.com "Monkey" ads: I've got nothing but love for CareerBuilder, since that was the site that listed my current job. And, as juvenile as it was, watching the guy shrug and roll his eyes and put up with the fart jokes and other stuff that the monkeys were doing, because he's their employee... that's funny stuff.

2. Ameriquest, "Bad Kitty": The look on the guy's face, when she comes in and he realizes he's holding a huge knife...and the girlfriend's cat... covered in red stuff. Holy crap, that's funny.

And the number one...

1. Anheuser Busch, "Honoring Our Troops": Holy. freaking. crap. So good. I saw it again yesterday, and teared up just like I did the first time. These people are heroes. Let's treat them like it. I don't drink, but if I did, this commercial would have stolen my business from anyone else. Because that's class.


Okay, okay--your turn. Let's hear your choices.

PBB Cool Ten List for 2/6-2/12

10. I slept in until 10:45 yesterday, HA!
9. Days off are good.
8. So is Get Shorty. And Boomtown.
7. The Super Bowl was pretty exciting (even if McNabb is an imbecile).
6. Yesterday was Eddie's birthday--cake or death?
5. There were some decent commercials during the Big Game.
4. Tierce Green is a great speaker. And a really cool guy to chat with.
3. Cubs fans can breathe easier these days.
3a. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for Spring Training next week.
2. Possible OK trip at the end of the month. Maybe.
1. This will be a good week. I really think it will.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Random Notes (Linky linky)

1) It seems like a good time for new beginnings. A couple of you great folks are experiencing exciting transition. Prayers and good thoughts with you. These are exciting times. Don't blink; soak it all in.

2) On a totally less-serious note: HOLY. FREAKING. CRAP. I had to read it twice before I could let my eager little heart jump for joy. Yes, ladies, gentlemen, and Deadites--there WILL be a FOURTH EVIL DEAD MOVIE!!!! I agree with Michele, who posted this glorious news: say what you will, but I'm practically peeing myself with excitement. (Okay, not quite, but darn near close.)

3) Awkward transition: A while back, Trav paid me a bit of a compliment, saying a poem I wrote reminded him of David Lehman's style. I looked Lehman up. Wow. Good stuff. Check out this one that I particularly like: "Shake the Superflux!"

4) It's Jeremy's first blogiversary over at "Junkmail for Blankets." If you haven't checked his blog out, SHAME ON YOU. Because it's quite premium and most excellent like famous discotheques. (Sorry, I'm still reading "Everything is Illuminated," and Alex is rubbing off.)

5) The newest thing in time-wasting technology: DFilms! You must. You know you can't fight it. If you come up with one you're proud of, send it to me. I'll brag on your work, blog-style.

6) At this moment, 308 days until the release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. Check out NarniaWeb for the latest news.

Faith

Each night as I lay curled up in my bed,
Warm and snug in blankets black
And red, I try to read one piece at least
Or two, of poetry, especially when the
February wind comes with dead fingers,
Clawing at the window ledge.

Dylan Thomas is making little sense to me.

I can almost understand his imagery,
I can follow a few of the logical threads
(though often I would rather simply
Read it out loud for the pure pleasure of its
Sounds, and leave understanding to others).
Sometimes I spot similies
Streaking across the page like deer
And disappearing behind the next
Elephantine metaphor.
I enjoy his repetition, and his
Recurring themes, threaded through his
Work, streaking through his imagery, giving
The illusion of continuity.

Still, I understand little of what Dylan Thomas writes.

I keep seeing the same objects floating
To the surface like jetsam from
The poet's shipwrecked mind:
Bones and suns and wombs and tombs
And hair and man and pain and many deaths.
Each meaning something different each time,
Yet all meaning the same thing: abaddon.

Dylan Thomas was afraid of death, I think; I could be wrong.

I'm still not quite grasping his meaning,
It keeps wriggling free, flapping its finned tail,
Leaping from my knowing hands into the deep blue sea.
That doesn't stop me from chasing down
His elusive imagery, his recurring metaphors,
His streaking, lightning-flash continuity.
I keep reading, hoping that one day,
I'll stop seeing through his half-empty glass
Darkly, that I will stop going gentle into
His dark and incomprehensible night,
That I will rage against his dimly dying light.

Sometimes I just don't get Dylan Thomas,
But I still read his poems hoping that I will, one day.
(Sometimes I read the Bible the same way.)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Reeling in the Years (College Edition)

Kins has been making lists of her favorite memories from her college years (both at PCC and OBU), and I thought it would be rad to do similar. This will mean little to most of you, and quite a bit to maybe two of you. But it's my blog, isn't it. So indulge me.

(By the way, I would invite all current and former Bison and/or spouses of Bison to leave some love at Kins' page. Let 'er know ya care.)

Here's my list. Maybe not some of my favorite memories, but definitely some that are the most indelibly writ on my mind and heart. Presented with little or no editing to save face (or, offered "straight-up," as the drunk kids would say).

--many, many nights at the Rainbow
--the first time it snowed while i was there
--when i got pneumonia during my first finals week and nearly passed out outside the GC after Midnight Breakfast
--watching The Matrix for about the fifteenth time on the steps of Raley, in 30 degree weather
--my first role: "Second president." Six lines. Most notably, "But what *is* it?"
--Chief yelling at me repeatedly during rehearsals for that show. "Can you yell, Dave?" "Yes, Chief!" "Then DO IT!"
--Standing on the steps of Shawnee Hall during CP initiation, in the cold, imagining all the ones who had gone before standing there too.
--when Trevor told us his parents were splitting up...i think we were all sitting around in the gazebo that night.
--when Trevor told me that he and Tiffany were together. at Denny's.
--when a group of us nearly got thrown out of Denny's by some anal-retentive OK state troopers.
--Trev's no-speak-week, and my irritation with social clubs.
--when I was hauled up to the Dean's office for writing an expose in the student paper that was (unbeknownst to me) based on inaccurate information
--Shannon's hairy arms (unfair but true)
--playing "Mafia" in the Kerr lobby for weeks, until no one was speaking to each other
--losing to Matt Romoser in Spades. over and over and over.
--Shauna Donahoo, and the many people who had a crush on her at one time or another (Currier, me, and her eventual husband)
--falling asleep during finals week, while four guys (including my RA) were in my room screaming at the TV while playing a wrestling video game
--Chris Currier (my next RA) convincing me to ditch so many Civ classes, i nearly FX'd.
--Driving to Wichita one Saturday to visit Renetta, a girl Currier may have had a thing for, when she had knee surgery
--my first good role, and the first (only?) time I got to work with the great Marty Peercy
--my best role (as a drunk Irishman, naturally)
--my first kiss, at a theatre-related function
--making out with two girls at the same time, to the utter shock of Michael Clack, who bore witness to this event
--the first time I told Riss how I felt about her, and her response
--screwing up our first (and only) Valentine's together
--the first time it was made public that we were together (at a Halloween party)
--meeting "Drunk Laura" and being sad when she had to leave
--Ira Wilson and Marty Peercy, performing "Round Here" at Oregano's
--the painting of the "Italian scenery" on the walls of Oregano's
--Marty the waiter, at Oregano's
--those cool tables at the coffee shop that used to be Oregano's
--Waterdeep concerts
--Aaron Willis singing "Beautiful Disaster" at a campus-wide BBQ
--Aaron Willis singing "What's Up" at a "coffee shop" event
--playing air hockey every day with Jerry Joule
--seeing Dr. Litherland play chess every day with the gameroom guy
--Dr. Litherland, in general
--Dr. Cole, the coolest woman ever
--Dr. Kelly
--Dr. Byland's "Science Fiction as a Television Genre" was actually a legit class.
--Dr. Joe Hall (who I hated before I respected)
--Dr. Doug Watson
--spending something like 12 hours on my Scene Design project, only to get a D+ on it.
--directing Matt Packer and David Steele in a scene from "True West"
--Holly telling me she liked me, and my desparate attempts to escape that situation.
--the most excellent Chris Jones, and his most excellent wife, Elissa (I always misspell her name)
--when Liz Jones revealed her feelings for me after Jerry's wedding rehearsal, and how I almost reciprocated.
--living with Joey Brewster in Shawnee for half of a summer.
--having to climb in through a window one day, because Dave Steele locked the door and I didn't have a key to the house.
--making out with...someone...in Joey's house, after watching Traffic and Taxi Driver, of all things.
--having to leave my idiot car at the park on four separate occasions, because it would start up after I'd been...parked there, with someone, for a few hours.
--finding out that everybody made jokes about my car being stuck there, behind my back.
--how embarrassed my girlfriend was, when she learned this.
--making the infamous "Life at OBU" video that I keep hidden away and show to only a select few.
--the Kerr "lobby rats" (i still have my membership card!)
--helping (too much) a girl I had a crush on do her Civ homework, including all but writing her papers for her, while i was a freshman.
--Daryl, the hairiest Brittney Spears fan I ever met.
--making fun of Daryl's being a fan of Smallville. (I'll take that one back, now.)
--Daryl's ridiculous Pez collection.
--Josh.
--getting an average of two hours of sleep a night, during my entire senior year
--my last performance at OBU... I was the constable in "Our Town."
--almost getting the lead in "All My Sons."
--being told by my favorite professor that I was "the brightest person to ever come through here" and knowing she meant it.
--my first roommate, Jerrod Waggerman, who flaked out and left school in March of his freshman year, so he could be with his high-school sweetheart.
--living with the walking whirlwind that is Trevor Taylor.
--getting to know awesome people like Jess, Heather, Kara, Toni, Trav, Brandi, Lucas, Michael, Kelli, Will Ledesma, Kins, Marty, the Couri's, Bree, A.P., and countless more I could name, and how each of them impacted my life in a unique and awesome way.
--about a million other things i wish i could remember and name.

Blatant Shameless Robbery

Manders, the Queen of the "Thursday Thirteen," has come up with a genius list this week. So much so, that I am compelled--COMPELLED--to bring it over here. (I will do my best not to steal too many of hers, but she picked some great ones.)

Thirteen Favorite Movie Scenes/Sequences

1) Michael's fateful dinner with Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in The Godfather.

2) Wesley and Inigo's duel in The Princess Bride.

3) The twist contest in Pulp Fiction.

4) Large's last speech to his father in Garden State.

5) Corky tells off the city council, in Waiting for Guffman.

6) The printer beatdown from Office Space.

7) Bill's truth serum/superhero speech in Kill Bill.

8) James Stewart's drunken visit to Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story.

9) Willie plays "Sweet Caroline", in Beautiful Girls.

10) Aragorn's speech before the Black Gates, in Return of the King.
10a) "For Frodo."
10b) "I can't carry the ring for you...but I can carry you."

11) "El Tango de Roxanne" in Moulin Rouge. (absolutely, Manders)

12) When Paul tells off Holly at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

13) The entire performance sequence in Cradle Will Rock.


Oh, that's it? Crap. I could keep going.

Many thanks to Manders for the inspiration. If you haven't yet, go check her page out. Good times.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"I wanna bite the hand that feeds me..."

"...I wanna bite that hand so badly."

Hey there, folks.

57 visits without even a new post? I love you kids.

Some thoughts.

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I rented "Lost in Translation" and watched it for the second time, last night. Some of you may remember what I thought of it the first time. If not, here's a good place to start. I appreciated the film overall, but had some problems with issues brought up (or not brought up) in the movie. The question of emotional infidelity, as the review states. But thinking back, I knew this was because of my last relationship, and what I thought did or did not occur.

So I wanted to watch the film again, now that more time has passed. And while I still enjoyed it, I have to admit I felt even less about it than I did the first time. I couldn't really connect to it, emotionally, the way I do with Eternal Sunshine or Garden State. I mean, I could recognize the "weighty, emotional" scenes, and where those feelings were being communicated. But it didn't stick with me. There was no gut reaction. I was pretty much cold to it.

The only reaction I had (and maybe this is still a good one) is that the movie, as a whole, is very sad. Even the ending, ultimately, is sad. The hope of renewal, given birth by this brief relationship, seems more fleeting to me now.

The movie is still pretty. I would still recommend it to some folks. But it's not one I would watch for fun, or for any kind of catharsis. I'm just at a different place in my life. Maybe in twenty years or so, I'll feel differently.

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Speaking of movies, I highly recommend (though blindly) that you find a theater near you that is screening "Beyond the Gates of Splendor." I read the original book, "Through Gates of Splendor," and I get the feeling this goes through and beyond the material there. The movie is a documentary about five missionaries (and their families) whose lives are changed during their ministry to native tribes in South America. It's a really amazing story of courage, forgiveness, grace, and hope. I can't wait to see it myself, and I'd encourage you to do the same. Everything I've heard about it from friends has been positive. Check it out.

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If I owe you an email, I promise I'll write you back. Eventually.

I hope to have Chapter 4 of the blog-serial done and posted by the middle of next week. I'm only going to do one or two more, then take it offline for a while. I'm hoping that an actual workable narrative will grow out of this, because I'd like to start actually publishing books, instead of just talking about it.

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There is a very interesting and thought-provoking article by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross about the dangers that formerly Islamic Christian converts face. Check it out. And remember to be in prayer for our brothers and sisters in the Muslim world, who face daily dangers and persecution for the Cross of Christ. We have it too easy in the West.

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Peace to you. Peace to you who are dealing with loss and grief. Peace to you who are worried about the future, about jobs, about money. Peace to you who long for a love like no other. Peace to you.

The Peace of Christ to you.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The devil is in loving the details...

(WARNING: Pathetic fan prattling ahead. Potential boredom ensuing.)

I love the DVD format. Not just for picture/sound quality, or any kind of deleted scenes (althought those are all groovy).

I love the DVD format for the director/cast/creative-directors' commentaries. I like the "making-of" documentaries. I love the how's of the filmmaking process. (Dozens of hours of Lord of the Rings making-of footage? Bring it on!)

This goes back to Dr. Hagen's Film Genre class. Each chapter discussed different aspects of filmmaking: mise-en-scene, cinematography, lighting, sound. I learned how movies (especially the best ones) aren't just actors reciting lines; everything is designed, carefully and purposefully. I know this is the same way in theatre, but in movies and TV, this design is much more apparent, because the director decides what the viewer focuses on, what they see, what they don't. They set the subconscious mood, based on something as simple as at what angle the camera is shooting.

So the DVD revolution has been a boon for me. If I have a film on VHS, I won't usually buy it on DVD unless I get commentaries and behind the scenes stuff. Simple film-quality improvement doesn't sell me.

So, grown out of this near-obsessive appreciation of the cinematic arts, I love reading reviews and analysis of television and film. The in-depth technical stuff, not just the "gee, i like this actor, he/she is so pretty" stuff. Yes, I know, I write those kind of reviews (have you been to Better than Critics yet?), but if I really went into detail, that stuff would go for pages, and no one (besides obsessives like myself) wants to read that.

And in my continuing search for good reviews, I've found one reviewer on Kryptonsite that makes me quite happy. She does a technical review and recap of my favorite television show, and does so not only by analyzing plot development, but looking at all of the unspoken techniques to communicate story.

I'm happy to find this.

That's it. Just wanted to put it on the record.

I can't resist crap like this

The name of the rose
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a
mystery novel dealing with theology, especially
with catholic vs liberal issues. You search
wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that
learning is essential in life.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Guess I should read this now, huh?

(I'm kinda disappointed I'm not LotR or Wasteland. I know, I know, only a lit-geek would care anyway. But still.)

(Hat-tip: Krista "Gray")

Lunchtime Discussion Topic

I think a rather underappreciated and most excellent album that deserves some serious love is "Emotion is Dead" by The Juliana Theory. I think this is a fabulous album from a really, really great band.

Your assignment is to comment on the following:

--whether you've even heard of this band/album
--your thoughts on both
--if you've ever seen them in concert, and your thoughts
--if you liked their follow-up, "Love", and why (not)

My answers to the above will be posted later.

Discuss.

Required Reading

Before you read anything else on my page, I insist, implore, beg, and beseech you to read Darce's insightful and inspired post about the difficult triangle of man, woman, and God.

Holy crap, they're kidnapping our action figures!

Honestly, can anyone take these people* seriously now?

A few hours ago, the major news services were running a story that a website run by Iraqi terrorists was reporting that they had captured an American soldier and were threatening to execute him.

Biff, do we have that picture? Thanks.

Right-click and open the link in a new window.

Take a good look at it. The facial features (esp. the eyes), the position of the legs. The weapon pointed at his head.

My first reaction? It's a frickin' G.I.Joe doll--excuse me, "action figure."

I didn't say anything about it at first. I'd feel bad if it turned out to be an actual human being.

As things are developing now, looks like my first guess was right.

The DoD has denied reports of any soldiers missing.

Holy crap, this is funny.

Read more here, here, here, and here.



* "These people" can be interpreted as the MSM and/or the terrorists in Iraq.

(Posted 3:36 p.m.--time changed for top billing)