Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why "Cloverfield" is Great and You Haters are Idiots.

(That should get some attention.)

I just got back from an afternoon viewing of the much-publicized monster movie "Cloverfield."

As you see from the title, I thought it was great.

Here's the PBB premise recap and then my attempt at justifying the title-statement.

The Premise/Format: The entire film is made up of hand-held camera footage, shot by a handful of people. The earliest footage is Rob and his girlfriend Beth, and then it cuts to a month or two later (after they'd broken up). Most of the movie's "footage" is taped over the "Rob and Beth" home video of a trip to Coney Island, so you get brief cuts back to the original during the movie.

Rob is a young up-and-comer who just got hired as a VP in a Japanese company. His friends throw him a going-away party at their downtown apartment, and his best friend Hud is given the camera to record everyone's goodbye wishes to Rob. Suddenly, in the middle of the party, stuff starts happening several blocks away. Explosions, blackouts, screaming, destruction...and then the movie kicks into high gear and stays in it for the last hour. Hud hangs on to the camera as Rob, his brother, his brother's girlfriend, and an acquaintance from the party named Marlena all try to survive a monster attack they don't understand and can't seem to avoid.

And that's all I'm gonna say about that, in case (like me) you haven't seen it yet.

Okay, actually, I'm going to say a lot more, but I'm "red-texting" it, for those of you who don't want to be spoiled, so FEAR THE RED TEXT!!!!

Why It Was Great: Let me count the many, many ways.

1) The whole "shaky-cam" thing didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, so unless you're really susceptible to that, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. (If it is, I'd bet watching it at home would be a little easier on the stomach.) Plus, if you watch any amateur vacation videos you've seen that sort of thing before. On the plus-side, it gave the movie a sense of reality that the omniscient "god-cam" wouldn't. I actually felt the tension of each scene.

2) Hud was a great cameraman/narrator. I laughed several times throughout the movie at the throwaway comments that Hud would make, because I could see myself saying some of the same things...if I was a dopey fratboy, anyway. But it made him a more sympathetic character.

3) The characterization and especially the dialogue were realistic-sounding. I've heard some argue that this is bad; that the dialogue of movies should sound smarter than actual people talk (see: "Juno"). I can see that point of view, but what we're watching isn't as "staged" as regular movies. It was like watching homemade videos of horrific events. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the dialogue was improvised, instead of scripted, because it sounded a lot like people talk. And guess what? People aren't necessarily eloquent when in stressful situations. There was no stirring "hero speech" here. Just a lot of panicking, screaming, and struggling to grasp what was going on.

4) The subway tunnel attack freaked me out. Seriously.

5) Marlena frigging exploded. Holy cow.

6) The monster itself was unexpectedly unique. Especially structurally. And bravo on the film crew for keeping the monster design secret. And the little bug things were a great touch that really ratcheted up the tension. As a coworker said (Hi Sara), the big monster wasn't as bad because you could hear it coming. It was the little ones that really freak you out.

7) Even though I knew that something bad had happened, since the footage was "found" at Central Park, it still didn't stop the dread in the pit of my stomach near the end of the movie.

8) The auto-focus issues when Hud died. Perfect touch.

9) No music throughout the entire movie, except during the party scene. I love soundtracks, but having one here would have taken you totally out of the film.

10) Everyone dies. Call me cynical, but that never seems to happen. (Okay, except in "The Host." They all died from the chemical weapon in that one, didn't they, Will?) But it was a more logical and effective ending.

11) The whole complaint about evoking 9/11 imagery is understandable, but still overblown. New York was getting attacked in movies long before the terrorists figured out how to do it. However, as a person who only experienced the horror of that day via TV, I guess I'm not the best person to ask, because I didn't find it as "offensive" as some did. In many ways, it actually helped me better understand the panic and confusion that folks felt on that day.

12) I loved the party scene, and the fact that, though you never see Hud for most of it, you still "get" that he's got a crush on Marlena. I connected with that really well.

13) The military didn't create the monster, and they were portrayed in a generally positive light. I appreciate that.

14) The movie didn't overstay its welcome. It was a tight 84 minutes or so. No more was needed.

That's all for now.

I don't know if I really proved my case there. But as far as gut reactions to the film, I had a great time, it met all of my expectations, and probably exceeded them in a few ways.

PBB recommends this movie. It was a great monster movie, as long as you're not expecting deep characterization, probing themes, or social subtext. In other words, as long as you let it "just be" a monster movie. Just sit toward the back, and go easy on the pre-show snacks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Covered in dust.

I was watching a Rob Bell "Nooma" video called "Dust" at a Bible study last night. I had seen the video before, and had enjoyed it. But as I watched it last night, I started to question some of its conclusions.

I should stop here and state: I used to be a huge fan of Bell's. I read (or heard on CD) both of his books, and I've seen all but the newest Nooma. But in the past few months, as I've read some of Bell's other statements, and really dug into what he was saying in a lot of these videos, I started having reservations. So now, I approach Bell with a lot more caution. He's very educated on historical Biblical culture, but some of his interpretations of Scripture worry me. Case in point last night.

In "Dust," Bell talks about the relationship between rabbis and disciples in the first century, and how this relationship transferred over to Jesus and his disciples. He mentions that rabbis chose disciples who they though could carry out their work. So Bell continues that Jesus chose as disciples guys who failed to make the cut with any other rabbi, and gave them the mission to do what He did. Bell talks about an old saying from the time, a blessing on disciples, that they'd be covered in the dust of their rabbi, because they follow him so closely.

I'm on board with that. That's right.

Then Bell takes this idea and starts talking about faith, in the context of Peter's walking-on-the-water experience. He says that one possible explanation for Peter's willingness to jump out of the boat is that, like any true-blue disciple, he wants to do what his rabbi does. And I can go along with that explanation.

Yet Bell says that when Peter sinks, and Jesus says Peter has little faith, Jesus wasn't talking about Peter's little faith in Him, but his little faith in himself. Bell goes on to say that not only did the disciples have faith in Jesus, but also Jesus had faith in His disciples, that they were able to do the work of His church. Bell then exclaims, "And they did it! They were able to do this amazing work, these rejects." Then Bell issues his usual "May you..." challenge at the end of the video, and in this case, it was an exhortation to have faith in ourselves, as Jesus does, and to be covered in His dust.

The rabbi/disciple thing, I get. The dust thing, I like. But here's where I think this concept breaks down.

The disciples didn't do the work of the Church by themselves. They were incapable, by themselves. It was the power of the Holy Spirit within them, which enabled them to preach and teach the Gospel, and lead multitudes to repentance and life in Jesus. Jesus didn't choose these men based on their inherent qualities. He didn't choose great orators or leaders of men; he chose men who would be obedient vessels, willing servants to work and strive and suffer and die for His kingdom.

I'm not saying God doesn't believe you or I can do what He's commanded of us. But He knows, and you and I should understand, that it's not "us" that makes the work of God happen in our lives. It's the Spirit of God living in us, giving us life and enabling us to be like Jesus.

It's not like God lucked out in some free-agent draft when he picked you and I for His team. He takes us, failed scrub players with no prospects or chance of success, and teaches us, trains us, molds us, and fills us with Himself, so that the success we have is not because of who we are, but because of what He has done for us, what He has filled us with, and who He is in us.

So, I agree, be covered in your rabbi Jesus's dust, and follow Him closely. But remember that He didn't choose you because you were the best and most capable disciple He could find. He chose you and I because He wanted to show His goodness, grace, and power through us (even in spite of us!), by making us into better disciples than we could have ever been on our own.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Stuff I've collected over the past few weeks. Enjoy.

  • This little piece on the latest bit of government intrusion is creepy to me. What's next? Installing chips in TVs to shut them off when I've watched for too long? My thermostat is my business, pal.
  • This series of photos is incredibly moving. Anyone who disrespects the sacrifice of the troops needs to be punched in the mouth repeatedly.
  • If you're not reading Prodigal Jon, you should give him a look. In this post, he describes several inherent dangers in children's TV programming.
  • If you're into the Christian rap scene, or even if you're not, check out the music of an old school chum of mine. He's a good guy who deserves some support. Hopefully, if he ever makes it down here to the southland, I can see him perform.
  • "Lost" returns on Thursday (yay!). Catch up on the spoilers that have already been revealed during the interim, thanks to sites like Doc Arzt's blog. If you're dying for a sneak peek, here you go. Oh, and in case you need to learn anything from Lost, I've got you covered.
  • Fans of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics will appreciate this art exhibition.
  • Oh, and a crossover of Marvel and "Lost" is also a pretty cool concept.
  • Speaking of superheroes, my current favorite super-site is The Superest. The concept is that two cartoonists take turns creating "superheroes," each one being able to vanquish the previous one. They start off small, and work their way up. The drawings are great, but the comments by the artists and the readers really sell it. Definitely check this site out. Click on the "Defeated by" link above the drawing to cycle through each new challenger. Hilarious.
  • The WGA strike may be ending soon, but it has produced some interesting video and textual tributes. Check out (the PBB-delinked) Zach Braff's "Speechless" video, and don't miss Damon Lindelof's awesome post "Why We Write."
  • This is late arriving, but when you're talking about web writers, the best (in PBB's opinion) is Jeremy Huggins. Check out this piece of his from last fall about faith and music.
  • Apparently, their 525,600 minutes are just about up.
  • Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the world is ready for another X-Files movie. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go dust off my VHS episode tapes and "I want to believe" UFO poster.
  • Stephen King's got a new novel out. ...Well, obviously, I'm going to read it.
  • Office Timewaster Alert: 3D Tetris. It's rather addictive. Not quite as much as Virus 2, but still addictive.
  • If you've seen "Rambo," you're only allowed to tell me it was awesome, okay?
  • Call me crazy ("You're crazy."), but I kinda want to see "Diary of the Dead." I like zombies, whaddaya want me to say?
  • Still haven't seen "Cloverfield," but it's good to know I can make the party mix CD from the case I want to listen to it in the future.
  • Bill Clinton has a dream, too.
  • Example of a moving tribute to the late Heath Ledger: Ellen Degeneres.
  • Example of a classless and obscene response: Fred Phelps and his "flock" of blood-thirsty wool-covered wolves. I say to you in all honesty that if I were ever to meet this man in person, I'd do things I'd have to seek forgiveness for later. Few people on this planet would be able to prove my unfinished sanctification better than scum like this. This wretch tarnishes my Father's name.
  • Speaking of embarrassing "believers":

  • Lastly, something to cleanse the palate:

    Have a good week.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More than 48 Million Dead

Wake-up call time.

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Since then, more than 48 million abortions have taken place in the United States.

48 million.

If you believe that unborn fetuses are honest-to-goodness children, then that's 48 million children murdered in the womb.

That number staggers me a little. More people than the entire population of South Korea. Spain. Canada. Iraq. Saudi Arabia. The entire continent of Austrailia.

Not clear enough? How about this. It amounts to more deaths than the entire population of California. Or the population of Texas and New York combined.

I just posted about the death (and possible suicide) of Heath Ledger, an actor I have rather enjoyed watching.

One must wonder, in light of these statistics: how many great actors could have come out of this group of 48 million? How many lawyers? Statesmen? Research doctors who carried the capacity to find cures?

I know all the arguments for and against. If you want to rail against me in the comments, do so, and I won't stop you (though I may moderate if you overdo it.)

But I, Dave Mitchell, am unapologetically pro-life and against abortion. It is murder and morally reprehensible. A barbaric practice that is a blight on our society.

The answer to this situation is not violence to end violence. The clinic-bombers and assassins of abortion practioners are violent and deranged criminals who should be stopped by all means necessary. And law, much as we'd like to think otherwise, is not going to end abortion.

The only way to stop this slaughter is one person at a time, one heart at a time, one mind at a time.

And I'm on the side of those who take up the intellectual battle and defend the voiceless.

You want tragic? This is the real tragedy.

Unbelievable: Heath Ledger, dead at 28

This is just breaking across the entertainment news sites.

Ledger was found dead today by his housekeeper. Early reports say he was found with a bottle of pills.

For some reason, I feel really affected by this. I'm sorry to say I didn't respond nearly as much when I saw that Brad Renfro died a week ago. I think part of the shock is that Ledger never seemed to be in trouble. Never got into drugs or alcohol, as far as I knew. He just made good movies.

Does it seem to anyone else like this is happening a lot lately? Actors and performers dying young, or attempting suicide?

[UPDATE: Ginge brings up the point that it's not been ruled suicide, and we shouldn't speculate until we know for sure. I think she's right. Though I'm getting the feeling it was an intentional overdose, I will be relieved to be proven wrong in the next couple weeks when the toxicology reports come back. However, I still want to make the point about depression below, so I ask that you just read the rest of the post with the understanding that, in the case of Ledger, we still just don't know.]

I suppose I should get really theological, and start quoting verses. The verse about gaining the whole world and losing your soul. Stuff like that. And that would be a right and good response. I'm sure there are blogs that will do that, and that's good.

[There are other blogs who will use this to get all preachy and smug and self-righteous about "wicked Hollywood." Those people are jerks and dirtbags, and need to be smacked in the grill.]

I'm not going to get preachy or self-righteous; there's no call for it. I've known depression a little bit, and I'm not going to cast stones at anyone.

I'm just saddened by this. He had so much going for him, and so many opportunities. This is such a waste.

People probably throw around the word "tragic" too much, so that it has become too common and means little. And I know there are greater injustices and tragedies around the world; but I think it's okay to call this loss tragic in its own small way.

Listen to me, reader: if you feel hopeless, if you feel depressed, if you feel like it will be better to end it all than go on another day, don't. Email me at slackerlitgeek-at-gmail-dot-com if you need someone to talk to. Talk to God, because He does care and He does love you. Seek out friends to confide in. Just hang on a little longer, yeah?


I'll post more substantial later in the day, some thoughts about recent developments in the presidential race. But first, I want to add a little more silliness in, to lighten the mood before things get heavy.

Courtesy of Ed Driscoll.

Friday, January 18, 2008

With Apologies to My Left-wing Readers

Just trying to inject a little humor into the political season. [If you're interested, there's one on the JibJab site about Repubs, too. But I don't think that one is as funny.]

Don't send a lame Starring You! eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

We've Got Meme-Sign!

(I dare ya to name the title reference.)

Stolen from Manders. Whaddaya gonna do.

AFI’s top 100 movies. Bold the ones you’ve seen. And I'm adding an asterisk to the ones you oughta see, if you haven't yet for some crazy reason.
  1. Citizen Kane (1941) *
  2. The Godfather (1972) *
  3. Casablanca (1942) *
  4. Raging Bull (1980)
  5. Singin’ In The Rain (1952) *
  6. Gone With The Wind (1939)
  7. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
  8. Schindler’s list (1993)
  9. Vertigo (1958) *
  10. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
  11. City Lights (1931)
  12. The Searchers (1956)
  13. Star Wars (1977)*
  14. Psycho (1960)
  15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  16. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  17. The Graduate (1967)
  18. The General (1927)
  19. On The Waterfront (1954)
  20. It’s A Wonderful life (1946) *
  21. Chinatown (1974)
  22. Some like It Hot (1959)
  23. The Grapes Of Wrath (1940)
  24. E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (1982)
  25. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)*
  26. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) *
  27. High Noon (1952)
  28. All About Eve (1950)
  29. Double Indemnity (1944)
  30. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  31. The Maltese Falcon (1941)*
  32. The Godfather Part Ii (1974) *
  33. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  34. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  35. Annie Hall (1977)
  36. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
  37. The Best Years Of Our lives (1946) *
  38. The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)
  39. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  40. The Sound Of Music (1965)
  41. King Kong (1933)
  42. Bonnie And Clyde (1967)
  43. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  44. The Philadelphia Story (1940)*
  45. Shane (1953)
  46. It Happened One Night (1934) *
  47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  48. Rear Window (1954) *
  49. Intolerance (1916)
  50. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)*
  51. West Side Story (1961)
  52. Taxi Driver (1976)
  53. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  54. M*a*s*h (1970)
  55. North By Northwest (1959)
  56. Jaws (1975)
  57. Rocky (1976) *
  58. The Gold Rush (1925)
  59. Nashville (1975)
  60. Duck Soup (1933)
  61. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
  62. American Graffiti (1973)
  63. Cabaret (1972)
  64. Network (1976)
  65. The African Queen (1951)
  66. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)*
  67. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
  68. Unforgiven (1992)
  69. Tootsie (1982)
  70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  71. Saving Private Ryan (1998) *
  72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) *
  73. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)
  74. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
  75. In The Heat Of The Night (1967)
  76. Forrest Gump (1994)
  77. All The President’s Men (1976)
  78. Modern Times (1936)
  79. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  80. The Apartment (1960)
  81. Spartacus (1960)*
  82. Sunrise (1927)
  83. Titanic (1997)
  84. Easy Rider (1969)
  85. A Night At The Opera (1935)
  86. Platoon (1986)
  87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
  88. Bringing Up Baby (1938) *
  89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  90. Swing Time (1936)
  91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
  92. Goodfellas (1990)
  93. The French Connection (1971)
  94. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  95. The Last Picture Show (1971)
  96. Do The Right Thing (1989)
  97. Blade Runner (1982)
  98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  99. Toy Story (1995)
  100. Ben-hur (1959)

Monday, January 14, 2008

I must confess the performance isn't that profound.

It gets this way sometimes. I get all keyed up about writing a lot of blog posts, and keeping all you lovely people entertained, and then something more substantial asserts itself on my schedule and I'm left with nothing but apologies for my patient electronic friends.

Welcome here my friends to the show that never ends.

You wanna hear something true? I kinda don't want to blog anymore. Well, that's not exactly accurate. What I mean is, I feel like I've lost the tether on this blogging thing. It's become something else, something still fun, something I still enjoy, but something I can't quite control, like a too-big dog leaping around and almost knocking me over from time to time.

And I have to remind myself too often that this is the least real thing in my life. The least substantial.

I want to give you a good blog to read. Something worth your time. But my sporadic posting seems to be usually silly and trivial. Maybe that's what you dig. If so, cool. But that's not what I dig. Blogging, for all its ephemeral quality, is still writing, and as a writer, I lose self-respect for creating nothing but silly and trivial material. Maybe I have an overinflated understanding of my importance. Most writers do.

A few weeks ago, one blogger I read from time to time was defending another blogger's reasoning for writing a theological book. (Apparently, if you're a blogger, most folks assume you have no business writing something so serious.) And the first guy said of himself and the second guy, "If you take blogging seriously, it's probably because you still harbor ambitions of being a writer." (I butchered that quote, so please don't chase it down.) But that stuck with me. Do I harbor such ambitions? Of course I do. Underneath all the cynicism and laziness, I want to write. And not just write, but REALLY write. I want to write good work. Work people can respect. Stories that make people want to write stories, just like the authors I read during my teenage years did for me.

I used to play sports competitively, back when I was in fightin' shape. And we'd practice for hours and hours. But we didn't half-heartedly run our sprints, or lazily walk through our drills. We were disciplined. We were serious. We were scared of the half-crazed Kentuckian with the whistle who'd scream at us if we slacked off, and would talk about how much he despised "lack-a-daisical" play.

Right now, I feel like whatever form of "writing" I'm doing here is a half-hearted sprint and a walked-through drill. And I can feel myself getting sloppier as a writer.

So for a while, I'm not going to post. I'll try to take care of the things I promised you, because I like sharing fun things. I have a slew of links I'll be dropping soon too. But I can't promise you a time frame because work has become a beyond-full-time headache, and my first duty is to the folks paying the bills.

But once I post the things I've been talking about, I may not post for a little while until I actually have something to say, and can say it well. So just put/leave me on your RSS feed or whatever you kids use.

I'm not going to give up on blogging for a little while yet. I like having people care what I say. It's an ego boost. But it's dawning me that i'm not going to do this forever. And I don't know how I feel about that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nothing to say.

Too busy to say it.

I'm just posting to try to reset my wonky template. I'll say something interesting later.

Either something about comic books or politics.

And the Slackies are coming tonight.

The pictures, probably tomorrow.

I've also been kicking around an REM parody. It'll be crappy, but no worse than my sounds-nothing-like-Dylan Dylanish folk song trainwreck a few posts ago.

So see? I think about this stuff.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I don't think Patsy Cline meant it like that.

Overheard at Starbucks, as a trio of med-student types playing a game had to assign song lyrics (from a list provided) that fit each player.

Girl 1: I think that first one is you.
Girl 2: Hold on, so you think the line, "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman, giving all your love to just one man" fits me? So what, like I'm easy or something, like I'm giving it up for a bunch of dudes?

Gimme the song and I'll sing it like I mean it.

Sitting in the coffeeshop, sipping my peppermint mocha and listening to music, I hear tunes I faintly recognize and like. I know the music is from a CD the mega-chain is currently featuring, a mix of tracks from the hip and upcoming British musical sensations.

I think to myself, "Maybe I should walk over and purchase the album." Then I reproach myself immediately. I have literally hundreds of CDs. I was just thinking earlier about an album I haven't heard in months that I wanted to spin again this evening. I have no business spending money to add more stuff to the pile, when I have other expenses that need attention.

What was it that brought about the urgency to purchase this music at the exorbitant coffee-house prices? I have an idea about this. What I wanted to procure was not really the CD itself, but the feeling that the music gave me. I wanted to own and control that emotional experience, that vibe.

It's like being a new-car addict. What you crave is the fresh feeling of excitement and discovery. However, after you've had the item, whether a car or a CD or whatever gizmo or gadget you crave, it loses its inherent newness, its mystery. It becomes just another CD or car.

So when I had the impulse to buy the 17-dollar disc (plus tax), what I really wanted was to carry the sensation of hearing and enjoying this music home with me. But if I had given in to the impulse, eventually it would just become another CD on the pile.

Being content, among other things, may mean learning to let small joys and pleasures pass through your fingers like water, like air. To enjoy them and release them. To thank God for the song on the radio, and the excitement of driving a new car, or the brief warm or cold front that brings a little weather-related relief. Maybe what I need to learn is to relish the good gifts that are constantly sent my way, and then allow the ones I don't need to keep to slip away, relying on the Giver to be my fulfillment, instead of the gift itself.

So thank you, God, for music and coffee and cold breezes. Help me learn to steward what I own, and give up my need to own everything I want to experience. Help me appreciate the transient gifts You graciously provide, knowing that their briefness only emphasizes and glorifies Your permanence. And teach me to trust that I don't have to hoard life to enjoy it.

Songs for Unmusical Bloggers

(Or, "This is What I Get for Reading Too Much Bob Dylan")

Want a poor imitation of a Dylan-inspired folk-gospel song? Sure, we all do.

(kinda along the lines of "I Want You," tune-wise; i'm no musician, so if you musical folks want to put this to some kinda music, be my guest)


I stumbled through my lifetime
Always thirty seconds late
And I’ve worn the scars and stains of
Every purple sin I ate.
I’ve been beaten by bad choices
And I’ve wasted all my time
Spending too much of my money
Losing too much of my mind

Then a man with living eyes
Grabbed me by my ink-colored sleeve
Said, “Get up out of this pigpen, boy,
It’s time you oughta leave.”
And he pointed down the road with
His arms out open wide
Said “if you follow me from here on out,
You’ll get a better ride.”

I told him I was poison,
And he said I could be well.
All I needed was his mercy
And all I gave up was my hell.
Then he told me that the whole deal
Was as plain as my own face:
Give up trying to be perfect
And then grab ahold of perfect grace.

Cuz what I am
What I am
What I am, it ain’t who I’ll be.
What I am
What I am
What I am, it ain’t who I’ll be.

I’d never realized before
That I'd always been a slave
Thinking I could get to Heaven
If I’d just learn to behave.
But behaving is like flying
Man can’t do it on his own
He needs bigger wings to carry him
Up to the heav’nly throne.

Well, Son of Man, I know you are
Exactly who you said.
You lived a life of righteousness,
You raised up from the dead.
You sit enthroned in glory
The King of every King
You offer me redemption
A song that I was born to sing.

Sometimes I still feel broken
Even though you said I’m healed
And I wrestle with my demons
Though your vic’try’s been revealed
But each time that I’ve abandoned hope
You answered, "Simply look,
Lift your eyes up to the hills, my boy,
And read the words of my red-stained book."

Cuz who you are
Who you are
Who you are isn’t who you’ll be
Who you are
Who you are
Who you are isn’t who you’ll be.

Cuz what I am
What I am
What I am, it ain’t who I’ll be.
What I am
What I am
What I am, it ain’t who I’ll be.

He ain’t through
He ain’t through
He aint through, God ain’t through with me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The PBB 2007 Reading List

The original plan, if you remember, was to read the books on my to-be-read shelf from left to right, with only additions--no skips. That lasted about 5 books long. But I did have a good mix of titles this year, even if they're fewer than I'd like.

These are books I completed in 2007, listed by date of completion, title, author, and length. Please keep in mind that I usually have a few books going at the same time, so don't interpret the gaps between each title as the time it took me to read it. FYI. At the end of the list, I'll do a little analysis and recommending for the geeky among you. Us. Whatever.

And for the record, I was totally schooled in the reading department by Manders, so I tip my hat to her monster list.


Jan. 2--Infinite Crisis, by Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez (261)
Jan. 10--All Families are Psychotic, by Douglas Coupland (281)
Jan. 23--The Children of Men, by P.D. James (241)
Feb. 7--Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (288)
Feb. 22--Beatitude, by Matthew Paul Turner (213)
Mar. 3--The Unguide to Dating, by Camerin Courtney and Todd Hertz (204)
Mar. 7--Ms. Wyoming, by Douglas Coupland (311)
Mar. 17--For Men Only, by Jeff and Shanti Feldham (196)
Mar. 20--Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by J. S. Foer (326)
May 4--Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susannah Clarke (1006)
May 11--Already Dead, by Charlie Huston (268)
May 25--The Difference Maker, by John Maxwell (178)
June 13--Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gould (483)
June 28--Real Sex, by Lauren Winner (175)
July 23--Lisey's Story, by Stephen King (664)
July 28--Marvel Civil War, by Mark Millar (208)
July 28--Marvel Civil War: Captain America, by ____ (___)
July 31--Batman: The Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (375)
July 31--Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson (350)
Aug. 3--Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by JK Rowling (341)
Aug. 5--HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling (435)
Aug. 13--HP and the Goblet of Fire, by JK Rowling (734)
Aug. 21--HP and the Order of the Phoenix (870)
Aug. 24--HP and the Half-Blood Prince, by JK Rowling (652)
Aug. 27--HP and the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling (759)
Oct. 10--Love Me, by Garrison Keillor (270)
Oct. 13--Urinetown, by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis (135)
Oct. 17--Death and Return of Superman, by Mike Corlin, ed. (780)
Oct. 31--Leaving Home, by Garrison Keillor (258)
Nov. 3--Food and Love, by Gary Smalley (233)
Nov. 15--Next, by Michael Crichton (431)
Nov. 18--The Truth War, by John MacArthur (223)
Nov. 30--The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell (272)
Dec. 3--Love is a Mixtape, by Rob Sheffield (224)
Dec. 5--Office Superman, by Alan Axelrod (239)
Dec. 28--Desiring God, by John Piper (369)

Total Books Finished: 36--Ten fewer than last year, actually.

Total Pages of completed books (not accounting for carry-overs on either end): 13,253. Almost 2,000 fewer than last year.
Pages per Day: 36.31 (I blame not having an hour on the train each night.)

Average Pages per Book: 368.1
Average Pages per Book, Not Counting Harry Potters: 315.4. Those 700-pagers sure boost the average.

Most Read Author: JK Rowling (6), then a tie between Garrison Keillor, Douglas Coupland, and John Maxwell (2 each)

Percentage of Comics/Graphic Novels: 11.1%
Percentage of Nonfiction: 25%
Percentage of Harry Potter novels: 17%

Most Disappointing Read: The Difference Maker. That was the first book I've read by "inspirational" author Maxwell, and I guess I expected more content from a spiritual perspective. It was pretty much standard self-help stuff, and it didn't make any real difference to me. And as short as it was, it still took me forever and a day to slog my way through it. The temptation to quit halfway was strong, believe me.

Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Read: The Tipping Point. I started reading it because I had heard so much about the book and author, and I wanted to find out what all the buzz was about. What I found was that the slim white tome was actually a fascinating book about social trends and reasons why some things become hugely popular while others fizzle out. The topics Gladwell covers are very wide-ranging and intriguing, and provide anecdotes I've already starting passing along to others. Good stuff, and worth your time.

Top Five Recommendations from the 2007 PBB List:

I was worried there'd be slim pickin's for the top five list. Turns out, it was another bumper year for good books.

Honorable Mentions: The Tipping Point; Batman: The Long Halloween; Children of Men.

5) "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Jonathon Safran Foer. Foer's first novel, "Everything is Illuminated," was a stunning and lyrical debut from someone so young. His sophomore effort is equally impressive. This novel, mostly told from the perspective of a gifted and intelligent child making sense of the loss of a parent, touches on the pain and confusion of people recovering from a sudden loss. It captures the soul and motion of New York City after the towers fell, and in the end, left me "wearing heavy boots" indeed. Great read, but pack a hankie, because you may get a little choked up.

4) "Carter Beats the Devil," Glen David Gould. This is a fantastic period piece about the entertainment world in the early part of the 20th century. Carter is a grand stage magician in the tradition of Houdini, and this novel tells the story of his rise to prominence (including his brush with the grand master himself), and a shocking crime that could possibly bring his entire life and career crashing down. The prose is crisp and entrancing, and the characters are fascinating. I enjoyed this book immensely and wish I could read it again for the first time. You'll have to do that for me.

3) "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," JK Rowling. If I were giving the nod to the entire series, it may well be number one. Believe the hype, folks. If you haven't read these books yet, believe me when I say they are just as good as your friends and neighbors have been telling you. If you're still concerned about moral issues in the books, and the use of magic as described in the books, email me and I can give you my take on it. (Wait--didn't I say at one point I'd do a post on that? Probably could still do so.) But this final volume is easily the best. The book made me laugh outloud and outright cry on four separate occasions. No, seriously. It's the fiction book that touched my heart the most this year, and for a fantasy novel, that's quite a feat.

2) "Love is a Mixtape," Rob Sheffield. This Rolling Stone writer tells his personal story of life, love, and loss through the lens of mixtapes he made and received throughout his short life thusfar. I was shocked to see a picture of Sheffield recently--he's so young-looking. It only makes his story that much more compelling and beautifully sad. This book made me laugh out loud in public and try to hide my tears on airplanes. Find it and read it immediately.

1) "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," Susannah Clarke. I can't be more thankful to those of you who suggested this book. Holy cow, what a great read. It's a Victorian fantasy drama, in which dueling egos pit two magicians against each other. The prose is as sharp as Jane Austen's, and the enchanting plot is clever enough to turn Rowling green with envy. It's a very long book, but for good reason--there's a whole lot of story to tell. Read every word, including every hilariously-detailed footnote. I know recommending this book is like recommending three or four books, due to the length, but believe me--it will be the best three or four books you'll have read in a good long time.

Coming Attractions

No, seriously. This week, you'll see these fun items:

  • The 2007 Slackie Award Blogcast
  • The 2007 PBB Reading List
  • The 2007 PBB Year-in-Review Awesomeness List
  • Pictures from Boston and Oklahoma
  • Something interesting and/or insightful, if I have time
  • Resolution-making
  • Tomfoolery

Today, however, I have mucho mucho to do. Talk to you later.