Wednesday, December 31, 2003

One more End-of-the-Year list

This one, on a more personal level.

I told you before, I was keeping a list of the books I've read this year. I think it's a very useful thing for self-reflection, and it's fun to talk about, to boot. (What kind of sentence ending is "to boot"?)

So here's my list, of books I've finished since last New Year's Eve. I'm not going to mess with proper italicization and what not. Just date finished, title, author.

Dave's 2003 Reading List

Dec. 31--An Underachiever's Diary, by Benjamin Anastas
Jan. 10--The Immortal Class, by Travis Hugh Culley
Feb. 2--Songbook, by Nick Hornby
Feb. 5--A Year at the Movies, by Kevin Murphy
Feb. 6--The Hottest State, by Ethan Hawke
Feb. 20--Black House, by Steven King
Mar. 15--The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien
Mar. 28--Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
Apr. 4--Freddy's Book, by John Gardener
Apr. 16--If on a Winter's Night A Traveller, by Italo Calvino
Apr. 28--Breakfast at Tiffany's, by Truman Capote
May 9--The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger*
May 21--Wild at Heart, by John Eldridge
May 22--Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
May 28--Everything's Eventual, by Steven King
June 16--The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
June 24--Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
June 24--Ash Wednesday, by Ethan Hawke
July 2--Generation X, by Douglas Coupland*
July 15--The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
(July 8--half of The Republic, by Plato)
July 28--The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon, by Steven King
Aug. 13--The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner
Aug. 19--Things You Should Know By Now, by Jason Boyett
Sept. 11--Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Oct. 12--Don't Waste Your Life, by John Piper
Oct. 29--House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
Nov. 2--The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
Nov. 7--How to be Alone, by Jonathon Franzen
Nov. 12--High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby*
Nov. 28--You Shall Know Our Velocity!, by Dave Eggers
(Dec. 7--half of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, by David Foster Wallace)
Dec. 11--Not Even a Hint, by Joshua Harris

[ * indicates the second time I've read the book]

And if I could have spent all day reading, I may have been able to tack on Cold Mountain to the end of that list.

So there you are. Dave's year in letters. A total in excess of 10,400 pages, not counting the 230 or so in my current read.

And now for analysis:

Most Read Author: Steven King (3 entries)

Most Disappointing Read: a three-way tie between Catcher (I'm sorry, I just didn't like it), Turn of the Screw (the only time a movie adaption is better than the book itself), and Brief Interviews (the most soulless book I can remember reading)

Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Read: either the Calvino or Nine Stories (coming off Catcher, my expectations were low)

Most Surprising Statistic: 10 (the number of non-fiction and spiritual life books I read; until now, I've been a "fiction only" kinda guy)

And (you knew it was coming) the Top Five Recommendations (besides LOTR and books I've read before) from my 2003 reading list:

This is really hard, I want you to know that.

5) A Year at the Movies--though not high literature, this was a funny and enjoyable read. Kevin Murphy (more widely known as the voice of Tom Servo on MST3K) went to a movie a day for the entire year of 2001. His book chronicles the movie-watching experience as he visits unusual and fascinating movie theaters of all kinds on his trip around the world. The chapter about 9/11 was really cool (he was in New Zealand when it happened, I believe.).

4) The Things They Carried--a profound and moving look at the life of a soldier, described often through the things they carried in their packs that reminded them of home or of their current experiences during the Vietnam War. Really really well written.

3) Wild at Heart--this book changed the life of a friend of mine, and just by talking to him and hearing him describe it, I knew I needed to read it. While it didn't effect as dynamic a life-change in me, it deeply affected my thinking and understanding of myself, which, frankly, is rare for even Christian walk books to do.

2) Kavalier and Clay--this is an outstanding book. Even though I had problems with certain plot points, the lifestyle choices of some characters, etc., I found this to be a fascinating and engaging read, and worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it earned. Highly recommended.

So how can I top that?

1) By breaking my own rule--Generation X, High Fidelity, Lord of the Rings. But the greatest of these is LOTR. Read them all kids. Geez. Beauty.

Okay that's it. I've been goofing off for almost an hour and a half. Geez, I'm such a bad employee.

Happy New Year to all. Be safe. If you engage in adult beverages, do so in moderation, and be prudent. Love to all (especially the new readers!)

Meaningless, says the Teacher(dave)

I had a guy recently talk to me about the key to amassing wealth. It wasn't a get-rich-quick scheme, it was a careful, informed, patient way to build up your assets over time, so that you will one day not have to work, and can live the lifestyle you want. Building an empire, some call it.

And there's nothing wrong with wanting to be financially secure. This is sound advice. But the more he talked about it, the more troubled I became. This guy (who is a Christian, by the way) going on and on about how he wants to get to the point where he never has to work again. He kept using comparisions between "the rich" and "the poor", and kept speaking with great disdain for the "rat race", intimating that only fools would want to stay in the middle class.

I asked him, "So what's the point of all this?"

"Well, to not have to work again, for one thing."

"So you work for thirty or so years at this method, stocks and all, and then you're rich?"

"The guy who wrote the book was a millionaire by 46!"

"So what if he had died when he was 43?"

My friend looked like a puppy who'd just been flicked in the nose. He blinked for a second. "What do you mean?"

"He works with this solid plan in mind to be rich by this age, and after that to live a life doing what he wants, but dies before he reaches it. Then what does he have?"

"I don't think you understand, Dave."

"No, I understand, and all these techniques sound solid. Like you said, it's common sense. What I'm getting at is, if you can't use any of this money, what's the point?"

"I must not be explaining it right. You see..."

And round and round we went. For about 30 minutes. Ugh. In the end, I promised to read the book and give it back to him. Which I will this weekend. But all the time, in my mind I heard a voice. The voice of the Teacher. (Not the really big "T" kids, not the Divine Teacher, just the uppercase Old Testament "Teacher".) And the Teacher said one word: "Meaningless."

After talking with my friend, I went back that night and read Ecclesiastes. All of it. Have you ever sat down and read all of Ecclesiastes in one sitting? Do so. It'll blow your mind. Because first of all, it doesn't really seem like it's a Bible book. It seems so pessimistic from the outside. But that's why you have to read it all the way through. And when you do, you'll see a few themes:

1) Everything we're taught to value by society, school, even family, is meaningless. A chasing after the wind. Riches, fame, pleasure, power, laughter, comfort, entertainment. Nothing. Dust. Meaningless. Because we'll all die.
2) There is no justice in this life. Good people suffer, evil people reign. Fools succeed, wise people fail. No justice *in this life*. Justice is after death.
3) There is only one way to be happy. One. Eat, drink, find pleasure in a good day's work. Then you call sleep satisfied. If you are married, enjoy life with your mate, all the meaningless days of your life. This is your lot in life.
4) In the end, there is only one course for a man to find true fulfillment: Fear God, keep his commands. That's it.

There you go, the Cliff's Notes for Ecclesiastes. But like I tell all my students, if you only use Cliff's Notes to study, the best you can hope for is a 70. You have to read the book to do better.

So read the book, kids. Read all the book, really. But I like Ecclesiastes. It's a trip.

I'll read the money book, because I promised to do so. And I'm sure there will be ideas in there that I will find useful, and will incorporate. But really kids, and some days I would deny saying this, I know that i can live my entire life making less that six figures, and still be totally satisfied and happy. Riches are a burden (that's also in the Book). I just want to find something fulfilling that I can make a difference in the world by doing. And I don't think that being rich is necessarily part of that. I guess that's why I was an English major.
Oh, what a Beautiful Morning...

Wow, did Dave just throw out the Rodgers and Hammerstein at 8:25 in the a.m.?

Yes he did. Cuz I feel good. (Refrain, kids, James Brown would appreciate it.)

No, really, I'm okay. Like all Counting Crows days, I felt it coming on, and let it pass through like a storm front. Now I'm okay. (But most of you already know this about me.)

But part of my unexplainable good cheer (I guess it's not really unexplainable) is that we have TWO, count 'em, TWO new readers this week. Neither of whom I know well. And I am thrilled to have them, because I respect both of their sites, and have linked them a la derecha. If you haven't visited Gennesaret and This Beautiful Mess, go now. No, seriously, GO. NOW. I'll wait.


*rolling a pen back and forth on the desk*

*leaning back and staring at the spotted ceiling tiles*


Okay, time's up, pencils down. Cool, no? Yeah, I enjoy them too.

So welcome, welcome.

Another reason that I feel okay is that...well... I'll explain in a bit.

Let's see. Happy New Year's Eve, kids. 2003 is over. Crazy. So tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999. And in 1999, I usually stayed home and watched a video. Hoo-ah. No, seriously, Dave is gonna have a cozy little celebration, with some pizza and movie madness. And cake. Oh yes.

OH OH, that's news--I made cake yesterday! My first cake, ladies and gents, and it is FAN-tastic. And I even had a second opinion, who concurred that my creation was moist and delicious. Fun in the Kitchen with Dave, eh?

Um... I got tickets for my dad and I to go see the greatest living American storyteller, Garrison Keillor, on Sunday, where he will be performing the full Prarie Home Companion show with the Houston Symphony. That will be awesome. I'll let you know the going's on.

On a heavier note, in the "Sad but Anticipated" news category, my boss's mom has been seriously ill for several months, and it now doesn't look like she'll make it through to see the new year. Your prayers for their family are appreciated. I don't know if his mom is a believer. I don't think so. So that's sad.

Hate to end the update on a downer, but that is how it is. And is appropriate in light of my recent Bible readings. More on that in a bit.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Pleased to Meet You

In a fit of blog-fueled narcissism (aren't all blogs in some way narcissistic?), a Google search led me to find a kindly soul who gave me a link from her site. I was surprised and honored.

Should I return the favor? Absolutely.

Jennifer, for your kindness, I thank you. Welcome to the PBB neighborhood. Hope you stay awhile.
You wish that you could tell her it'll be okay, but you feel a little shy these days, cuz everybody goes away...

You just want to have a good time, just like everybody else... you don't wanna fall apart this time.


To she who is waiting another week...

You are in my thoughts. I wish I could be nearby these days.

I'm starting to feel transparent and paperthin, rolling down the street like old ticker-tape. You made me feel needed once in a while, which was nice.

You will be okay, my dear. This is another bend in the road, right? But we're still walking, aren't we? We're still walking.

All my love.

"It's a dangerous time, for a heart on a wire..."

Greetings and salutations, friends. Hope your generic non-offensive holiday went off without a hitch. Unless you asked for a hitch, in which case, I hope you got your hitch.

Mine was great, thanks for asking. Lots of time with the family. Enjoyment of Mom's holiday goodies, yes quite. And wallowing in materialism like any good little child should on Christmas day. Just kidding. Somewhat.

Now, almost all the way through the in-between week, I feel...ill at ease. I missed something. Things left undone. But I don't know what.

I'm tired of living with this feeling that I've forgotten a step or two, and that the model I'm building will not come out like the picture on the box.

Is it some sort of self-doubt? Things are going great, so let's give that gift horse a thorough dental exam? Am I expecting an army of angry Greeks to crash through my gates?

I don't know. I've been here at work for over four hours now, and have gotten...well, little done. I'm just distracted, as if I'm supposed to... (fill in the appropriate simile here)

I thought perhaps, if I blogged for a while, whatever my urgent need was would come to me. So far, I'm only left with unfocused urgency.

It's weird, I got to see both of the friends from high school that still care enough to keep in touch, and hung out with them a lot this weekend, and yet now I feel more lonely than before. What is my problem?

I don't know. I'm too self-involved. I've got dear friends all around, some of whom are going through some tough times, and I'm wallowing in imaginary trouble I've created because I don't trust how nicely my life seems to be coming together. Dave the basketcase, ladies and gentlemen.

I'm sorry about this disjointed mess, guys. Dave's in a funk. It was about time for a Crows day. Here it is, black as midnight and just as cold.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Thursday Thirteen

Cuz I'm a greedy little jerk, I'll fall in step behind Manders. (Just kidding, Manders.)

"Thirteen Things I want for Christmas, Realistic or Not"

I suppose I should say something like, "I already have everything I want, and am grateful for everything I've been blessed with." Which is mostly true. But on a purely materialistic level, I do want a few things...which I will enumerate below.

1) An acoustic guitar--it's time I gave into the fact that I should learn to play it. And I think it'd be a cool skill to have. It'd help me get a date sometimes, at least.

2) A social life--while we're on the subject, I'd like to go on some dates sometime. I've decided that 2004 should be "The Year of Dave's Revived Social Life". More on that to come, I'm sure.

3) "Sink or Swim", Waterdeep (CD)

4) A chance to see one of the Counting Crows' shows in CA next week.

5) "The Return of the King" PS2 game

6) A two bedroom house with a reasonable mortgage that is near enough to downtown that I won't have to drive two hours to hear live music (or to drive to/from work).

7) A week in Shawnee with my dear friends.

8) More hours in the day to enjoy using #1, 3, and 5.

9) A lovely 54" (or so) TV with Surround Sound speakers

10) Everyone to stop attacking the best president our country has had in years.

11) Inspiration--something my writing has been lacking these days.

12) The love of a godly woman.

13) See #12.
"Oh, I've seen Fire and I've seen Rain..."

No specific reason for the James Taylor reference. Just what's on the (internet) radio.

Another week done, eh? Guess what? It's six (five and a half?) days until Christmas. So, in case I don't get to it (I'm sure I will), Merry Christmas, or whatever particular holiday you choose to acknowledge. Hannuakah. Kwaanza. Boxing Day. Whatever. Happy general non-offensive holiday.

Oh, oh, and for my friends in Loveland, Colorado, "Happy Jesus-palooza".

Um... general announcements: You only have six (five and a half) days left to vote in the "What should Dave's new facial hair "look" be?" contest. It's somewhere in the last few weeks. The official post, that is. So you can still vote there. Or you can just vote here. Also good.

Greetings to the new readers (a.k.a. the people I didn't realize popped in from time to time). Many thanks to Ryan, who corrected my misinformed musical references. For the record, "Down with the Sickness" is Disturbed, not Tool. Greetings as well to Lindsay E and any other former students who are checking out the site still. I'm happy you have stuck around. Feel free to sign in below, leave a "shout out", as the kids say.

Um. Plans for the weekend: Babysitting tonight (watching "Freaky Friday"--fun times). Going to the dollar theater tomorrow to see "School of Rock" or "Radio" with my sis. Hanging out with His Eminence, The Mike, tomorrow night. Church and chores on Sunday.

I only have two days of work next week. Hoo-ah!

New CD of the Month: "Welcome Interstate Managers" by Fountains of Wayne.
Okay okay, so I'm a trend-hopper. But not even counting the ever-funny "Stacy's Mom", this is a great album. Very catchy pop-rock, hook-filled and fun. Good driving music. "Hackensack" and "Halley's Waitress" are really good. And Stacy's Mom has got it going on. So there.


I hope for your sake that the previous scolding doesn't apply to you. If it does, see above.

Cold Mountain is a great book. You should read it.

Okay, that's it. I'm going home. It's almost five. I've done my time.

Have a good weekend, kids.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Did Somebody Say Oscar-worthy???

Um, yeah, Return of the King was beyond amazing.

Peter Jackson, thank you for a brilliant trilogy. I forgive you for your bad call on leaving out the Scouring of the Shire. I personally would have included it, but then again, I was too spent at the end of "Return" to sit through any more.

Overall, your work was amazing. Welcome to the ranks of Legendary Film Directors. Your place among the greats is well-deserved.

Just don't screw it up like Lucas.
Happy Anniversary to Me

If any of you are close readers of this site, and have been for some time, you'll know what today is.

However, since none of you have been with us here at "Anything to Disrupt the Tedium/Perfect Blue Buildings, Inc." for that long, a friendly reminder is in order.

One year ago today, I stopped being Teacher Dave.

In some ways, it doesn't seem like that long ago. On the other hand, it seems longer than just a year. It's like my college memories; some are closer than others, in my mind, and others shift back and forth.

I don't know what to say really. The only reason I bring it up is because, as one person said, I'm the type of guy to remember important days. I'm a compulsive commemorator. Always have been.

I lost my first job ever on this day. That includes the myriad jobs I had growing up. It was the only time I was ever fired...excuse me, I mean it's the only time I ever "resigned" for no reason. I was always leaving jobs for school or moving, and I always gave plenty of notice to my employer, who was sad to see me go. But the loss of the first adult job post-graduation was an intense blow to my self-confidence (really, to my self-importance). And it was a lesson I needed to learn, about identity, about attitude, about circumstances.

It was also a major catalyst in several chains-of-events in the past year. And though it was difficult, I'm glad it happened. Glad they all happened. Best thing for me.

But all that is beside the point. Here I am, one year later, in a great job that I can see myself doing for a while. And I'm happy.

Happy Anniversary indeed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

"The Battle of Helm's Deep is over..."

The battle for Middle-Earth will begin in twelve hours and fifteen or so minutes. I've got my tickets. How about you?
"The local rock group down the street /Is trying hard to learn the song..."

...They seranade the weakened squire
Who just came out to mow his lawn.

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Rows of houses that are all the same
And no one seems to care

So Mrs. Grey, she's proud today
Because her roses are in bloom
And Mr. Green, he's so serene
He's got a TV in every room

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Here in Status-Symbol Land
Mothers complain about how hard life is
And the kids just don't understand.

So creature comfortable
We hardly know our souls
It makes it hard for me to see
My thoughts they always stray
To places far away
I need a change of scenery

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday...

("Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees)


I don't know what possessed me to write all that out (by memory, no less).

It was written in the early sixties, and still applies to Americana today, I think.

Take what meaning from it you will, I guess.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Stranger in a Strange Land Bookstore

Part Three: "Are you familiar with Robbie's music"

The Accordians came back, and they played some more of Seth's songs, and a few others. I started talking to a guy next to me on the pew, about where I worked/lived, how I found out about Ecclesia, and how I know Seth's music. It was cool. Nice guy. Then, after a few songs, Seth looks over the crowd and says, "Hey Robbie, you wanna sing?"

And Robbie makes his way from the back of the crowd and comes on stage.

The guy I talked to, two or three times tonight. The guy who said he sometimes plays music with Seth.


As in, the Robbie Seay Band.

Man, I feel dumb.

Robbie sang a couple songs. The guy next to me asks, "Are you familiar with Robbie's music?" "No," I reply. "Actually, I've talked to him a couple times tonight, but never put it together who he was." The guy grins. "That's funny. Yeah, Robbie's music is AWESOME."

And it was. Robbie's got some pipes.

Finally, the set ended and everyone left satisfied.

There were more events, like how three people's cars almost got towed, and I was paranoid for about twenty minutes that mine would be too, until I went out into the pouring rain, and walked around the building to make sure it was there.

Overall, a good night. Five people came up and talked to me, asked about my job and where I live. That's more than any of the Baptist churches I've ever visited in my life, combined. The people seemed to really care and want to get to know anyone visiting. And I was really impressed by that.
Stranger in a Strange Land Bookstore

Part Two: "Can you play 'October', it's my favorite"

The performance space is about the size of half a gymnasium. Forty foot high ceiling with exposed steel beams. The street-side wall, where the stage is, is cinderblock. There are a few more of the tall tables and pairs of chairs. There's a table made out of a glass basketball backboard. On the table is a group of large white cylinder candles burning on their stands, and a few small stacks of papers and pamphlets. On the walls around the room are paintings and framed photographs. On pedestals between some of the hung paintings are sculptures, most of them crosses made out of many items. One such cross was made entirely of handles from doors, oars, gates, and other places.

More than a quarter of the large space is taken up by a large walled structure in the back-left corner, which I find out is the sound booth, and behind that, the rest of the second story rooms. The sound booth area only sits about twenty feet high, like a balcony, and is open above that. There, the sound crew sits working on the board, balancing speakers, setting up a video camera. The short hallway I entered through was actually under this structure. I take a seat on an old pew against the front wall of the booth. There's a Persian rug on the floor in front of the stage, where some of the audience members sit cross-legged with their toddlers, who are playing together. One crawled over to me to say hi during the show.

I sit for a while longer reading, and a few more people talk to me. I don't remember their names, sadly. I've never been good about that. But they were nice and were happy I was there. Then Robbie came over and talked to me again, before leaving to take some pictures of the show.

A guy sits down in a chair six feet in front of me. Thick, shoulder-length, curly dark brown hair, that seems on the verge of exploding in a million directions. A full beard ("full" being completely unshaven, covering the entire jaw down to the neck, connected mustache, completely impenetrable by light) and a faded second-hand t-shirt proclaiming "Florida!" in cracked letters, and faded frayed jeans that sagged just enough for plaid boxers to peek out (these kids and their not using belts, huh?). He sits down, and pulls out a notebook. A girl and her parents whom he had just been talking to at a nearby table ask what he's doing. "Oh, I gotta whip up a set list." A spikey haired girl walking by stops and says, "Hey, Seth, can you play 'October', it's my favorite." He laughs and says that he'll try to remember.

Of course it's Seth. I should have recognized him immediately. Then finally he gets up and goes to the stage. There are various speakers. A drum set, four or five guitars on stands, an organ in the back that is currently being used to hold all the guitar cases. Above the stage, on the cinderblock wall, is mounted an old Celtic-looking metal cross, lit from the floor with a red spotlight. The rest of the stage is lit from above by stage lights. There are (thankfully) no flourescent lights in this space. Lots of candles, and some soft lamps pointed at the pictures on the walls. Very mellow, very warm. Inviting.

Seth and the band (collectively, The Sad Accordians) play for about twenty minutes, running through some of Seth's stuff, as well as some new things. I loved one song called "Automatic". He played the "piratey song" that he did at Metro called "Buried Treasure": "Baby, you're my buried treasure/And I'm your Captain Hook/I'd give that crocodile my other hand/If I could write you in my book." They played an upbeat version of "Boston" and Seth turned "October" into a sort of sad waltz, which was very cool. Then the Accordians took a break, and Seth played some songs by himself. My favorite part of this set was an acoustic version of the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star". He played the first verse softly and slowly, singing the lyrics normally instead of trying to imitate the original. Half the crowd didn't even realize what it was until he reached the chorus. By that time, everyone started singing along, and Seth's playing got louder and louder until he was singing it all-out, top of his lungs. Awesome. Good times. He sang a song that he wrote about some of the people he lived with in Houston, most of whom were in the room. That was nice. Then the Accordians came back to finish the set.
Stranger in a Strange Land Bookstore

Part One: "I didn't even know it was a book first"

What a great evening. Lots of fun.

So I left here (I'm at work, by the way) at about 6 p.m. yesterday, grabbed a Burger King double cheeseburger and a DP (you'd think that reading Fast Food Nation would prevent me from frequenting these places), and drove semi-aimlessly around Houston, until I found Ecclesia and Taft St. Coffee.

As it turns out, the Taft St. building houses several aspects of Ecclesia's ministry. There is a mini-gallery of local artwork (paintings, sculpture, and photography) which was also used as the music venue. More on that later.

I walk into Taft St. Coffee/Strange Land Bookstore and check the place out. Nice, dry, warmly lit. A handful of the high circular tables popular in similar establishments. Several bookshelves full of books on sale. Some couches, armchairs, coffee tables. I look around for a minute then proceed to the counter and purchase an IBC rootbeer (partly because I had forgotten to get money for coffee before coming.)

I'm reading Cold Mountain for the second time (the first time being in my naive freshman year for Honors 101 English at OBU), and had just started the second chapter when a gentleman approaches me. He has longish blonde hair past his ears and into his eyes, wearing a faded t-shirt and jeans combo. He sticks his hand out to shake. "Hey, I'm Robbie." We talk for a bit, where I'm from, where he's from (he used to live in the area but has recently moved out to my part of town). He notices what I'm reading. "Is it good?" I proceed to tell him that it is beautifully written, very descriptive, and that while I didn't appreciate it the first time through, I do now. "That's really cool," says Robbie. "I saw the advertisement for the picture, but hadn't heard anything about it. I didn't even know it was a book first, but that's cool." He asks me if I prefered reading the book first or seeing the picture first (he never used the word "movie" or "film", just "picture"). We get into that a little.

He asks what brings me to Taft this evening. I tell him I am here to see Seth play, that I heard him at Metro and liked his stuff. Robbie says, "Yeah, Seth and I play together in a band sometimes." I respond that I think that's cool, which I do actually. He says it was nice talking to me, I respond in kind, and he leaves. Nice guy. I continue reading.

The music is supposed to start at 7:30. In my fear of being late, I had left too early and arrived on-site at just before seven. At 7:45 p.m. it hadn't started yet, so I get up from my comfortable armchair, grab my coat, half-full lukewarm bottle of IBC, and my book, and head down the short hallway into the venue.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Obscure CD Review of the Week: "Satellite Soul"

I was in my local neighborhood CD Warehouse franchise, when I came across a mini clearance section in the "Religious" music rack. I found Satellite Soul's self-titled debut from way back in 1997 ("ah, that was a good year"). I wasn't familiar with their music offhand, but I figured, for four bucks, I can give it a spin.

I was truly impressed. First of all, I recognized three of the first four songs from listening to Lightforce Radio here in Houston (for you OK kids, it's like 91 FM, but only for three hours a week on our local "contemporary" Christian station). And the rest of the album is excellent as well.

I have always had this notion that Christian music, stylistically, is about 3 or 4 years behind mainstream music. Not to be a (total) slam on the dulcet tones piped out of Christendom, but it's as though the Christian artists listen to the radio and think "that's neat, I'll try that on the next album." Which for some bands (I'm talking to you, DC Talk) takes about five years to do anyway.

So yeah. Satellite Soul's 1997 debut catapulted me back to the early-to-mid-nineties. The closest approximation I can make is that they sound A LOT like Gin Blossoms, although the lead singer's vocals sometimes take on a Flaming Lips quality. But yeah, they are channeling a lot of Gin Blossoms (and I'm pretty sure they totally ripped off the riff from "Allison Road"). But it's a lot of fun, with some really nice sounds. They break out the harmonica regularly, and even incorporate a hammer dulcimer on a few tracks.

Satellite Soul's debut album is solid, with a comfortable, easygoing sound, reminiscent of Gin Blossoms, Smalltown Poets, and Big Tent Revival. It is worth buying, especially if you can get it for four bucks.
Way to go, California police...

I'm sorry if this article offends you in any way. But it's too freakin funny to pass up.
I got in trouble...

Sorry for the truncated news report. The lack of closure is due to my boss saying, "So are you gonna do any actual work today or what?" Which is interesting, considering how much time he spends playing Yahoo! Pool.

I'm letting you know, since he's out of the room. I'll have to come back later on, and finish up. Briefly, though, all Houston-based or Houston-proximate readers, go see Seth Woods and the Sad Accordians at Taft St. Coffee tonight at 7:30 p.m. Guaranteed to be awesome. Details are on Seth's site, under "Upcoming Shows".
Weekly Whirled News

Now, for your news briefs (or boxers, if you prefer...).

The Dow broke ten thousand this week. In response to economists predicting the the upcoming fiscal year will be the best in the last two decades, the nine Democratic candidates stuck their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes, and shook there heads, saying "Nyuh-uh, nyuh-uh, nyuh-uh..."

More bombings, more killings, more destruction in Iraq. You'd think these people would be more grateful that we had the, um, guts, to show up to overthrow the mass-murder's regime. (For those of you who insist that it was the wrong thing, and that Saddam should have been left in power, go ask the families of the thousands of people in almost three hundred mass graves that have been discovered so far. )

In related news, France, Russia, Germany, and China, among others, are miffed that they won't be first in line to receive reconstruction contracts. One report quoted French president Chirac as saying, "C'mon, man, we called "dibbs", like, two years ago."

Former VP and disputed presidential runner-up Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean for the Democratic nod this week, to the surprise of everyone, including former Gore running-mate Joe Lieberman. Lieberman response: "Hey man, that's not kosher." (Cheap joke, I apologize.)

Dean's an interesting character. It seems like he's trying to be everything to everyone. At one rally of mostly Af-Am voters, Dean's reported to have said, "Hey, I've got soul." Sources are unclear, but some reports indicate that his next words were, "And I'm super-bad."

In sports, the Houston Astros signed Yankees ace Andy Petite. Doesn't matter, the Cubs will still beat them. And then lose in the playoffs. Ugh.

Several Major League baseball players are being questioned about their use of a new kind of "enhancement drug" which is reported to be an until-now untraceable analog of steriods. When questioned about his use of the drug, San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds said, "What? My arms have *always* been the size of VW Beetles. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go get a...protein shake."

The Houston Texans football team is still struggling to get their franchise-high sixth win. When you have more injured players than healthy ones, that will happen. The Texans had to start their third-string quarterback last week. I think his name was Bob, the peanut vendor. At least we'll host the Super Bowl.

"...Get up, c'mon, get down with the Sickness..."

What would possess me to quote Tool (I think that's the band) in my subject line? Cuz I am one sick mother. And not in the hip, slang-like way.

I missed three days of work this week (hence no posts or responses to email), and probably could have gotten out of coming today, but today's the "pre-holiday" goof-off/party day. We're going out to eat, on the hospital's tab. Fun times.

I got some kinda nasty in my lungs, my throat's swollen, sore, and raggedy, and I've been feverish. Ugh.

At least, I know it's not the flu. Cuz I got my shot. That makes me safe...right...

Monday, December 08, 2003

Promises Made, Promises Kept

We do indeed have a winner in the impromptu poll question: in which Counting Crows song do you find the lyric, "If dreams are like movies/then memories are films about ghosts"?

The answer is, "Mrs. Potter's Lullabye" on the album This Desert Life.

The winner is, Ms. Jesika Moore.

Lemme tell ya a little story about a girl named Jess.

Born in the frozen tundra of Siberia, Jess survived until she was two by suckling a she-wolf whose youngest cub died falling off a cliff. It was at this time that Jess was discovered shivvering in a cave by a roving troupe of circus performers, whose train had nearly derailed while circumventing the nearby mountain. These circus performers took little Jess in, taught her to speak three languages, and used her in their act, as the newest member of the Tightrope Act. For ten years, Jesika walked the tightrope, astounding the frozen, starved audiences of the Eastern Bloc. Until finally, the Iron Curtain fell, and Jesika caught her first glimpse of the Free World. Okay, it was Austria, but it was free, and freedom was fine. When she was fourteen, she ran away from her circus performer community and fell in with a troupe of travelling minstrels who played at every dive up and down the blue Danube, for gas money. Eventually, at the tender age of sixteen, Jesika made it to France, then England, then on the big plane to America, where she ended up going to school at OBU when I met her. She had scored a 1580 on her SAT's before entering college and was on scholarship, studying molecular biology, until I talked her into being an English major. She was in a couple of my classes, and we had several mutual friends, especially among the Theatre Department which she fell in with also ("falling in with groups of artists" being the general theme of her adventures). Finally, the yearning for frozen wasteland overwhelmed her, and she left school to travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she has staked her claim on the tundra, and makes her way, through hardwork, determination, and the paychecks from Marshall Fields that pay the rent.

What drama! What intrigue!

What b.s. Okay, here's the real post. Jess is a cool chick who, while she hasn't made the best choices in guys (sorry, girlie, but it's true), still has great taste in the things that really matter (music, books, friends). And her getting the question of the week right is proof of this. The true elements to the previous paragraph: She lives in Sioux Falls, although she promises to finish college and get her oh-so-useful English degree. And soon, she'll meet a nice boy who doesn't suck and things will settle themselves out.

So props to you, Jess, for the correct answer, and you're awesome.

So there you go, tribute post to contest winner--done.

Postscript: We (the management) would like to also thank Kara Deann ("the ruling diva of Oklahoma") for not participating, as it wouldn't have been fair to anyone else. Thank you.
Another Generalized Sort of Post

Here we are, at the end of another business day. Coming at you Live, with "Dave--After Hours." Sounds a bit suspect, doesn't it?

My weekend was okay. I made spaghetti. First solo-production of the spaghetti. Turned out very well, in case you're curious (as I know so many are). Matter of fact, I am gonna polish off the leftovers for supper tonight. So that's entertaining.

What else, what else... Oh, for those of you who are in the Houston area, or are close enough to drive here from say, College Station, or Waco (*cough* ahem, hint hint *cough*), need to get your ever-loving selves down here on Friday to see my man Seth Woods perform. Details are sketchy at this point, but what I've pieced together is that he's playing at Ecclesia's Taft Rd. arts building. I'll keep you posted when I find out more. But yeah, if you are in the area or can hop in a car and be here in a couple of hours, you need to check this guy out because he is awesome.

Saw A Christmas Carol at Alley Theatre this weekend. It was fun. A mixed bag, as far as production values goes. Josh and I would have probably picked it apart. But I tried to restrain my critical/directorial mind and just enjoy the show. Which i was finally able to do, and it wasn't that bad. Proof is playing there in January. If I weren't saving my pennies for Jekyll and Hyde, I'd probably go.

Voting is still going on for the "Walking on the Razor's Edge" poll question. If you haven't made your voice heard, be sure to do so while there's still time.

The impromptu trivia question contest is closed. The winner will be announced.

We here at "Perfect Blue Buildings" would like to welcome visitors from the CCCS Class of 1998 for stopping by, and we hope you will be regular readers here at "PBB." Thank you, and enjoy your stay.


For those who may not have heard, HBO has produced and is airing a film based on Tony Kushner's controversial and award-winning play "Angels In America: Millenium Approaches." If you are unfamiliar or unaware of this work, here's your primer: this play is about being gay in America in the eighties. And all that it entails. It is unflinching, it is raw, it is in some ways perverse. I'm bringing this up--even though part of me is saying to delete this paragraph and move on--because this piece is representative of a major cultural shift that the church has chosen to ignore by-and-large.

I believe that art has many roles. Art can imitate life. Art can expose life. Art can transcend life. It can make us sad, ashamed, inspired, elated. God is the ultimate Artist, the Creator, Sculptor, Writer whose work is the world, whose canvas is reality, and whose masterpiece is not the fallen earth, but the redeemed soul. As an artist, I see art as an opportunity to both worship God and elicit emotion from man. So when major cultural/artistic events occur, I take notice. Because, as Dr. Cole would say, art saves lives. But art also can also debase lives.

I feel I have to choose my words judiciously at this point. Not because I'm afraid of what you'd think. More because I'm afraid of what I'd write. You see, I have spent several years breaking the habit of making snap judgements about things, especially artistic things. I hesitate (as I have mentioned many times) to label something as morally good or bad, because often this is based on personal conviction. (Do not misread me to mean that I employ situational ethics, but as in many cases, such as R-rated movies and the like, it's really between the viewer and God.) So in a situation like this, concerning this film/play, I find myself being very hesitant to speak out. But I think I should.

My feeling about it is that Kushner was writing from a place and time (early-to-mid-eighties) where he felt that his group was ignored by media and marginalized. Out of this feeling came "Angels in America" (which I believe is part of a trilogy) that viciously attacks the viewer with the playwright's point-of-view/ideology/agenda. This play, like many modern works, tries to shock the viewer into thinking about life from the other perspective--in this case, from the perspective of the gay community. Often, Kushner seems heavy-handed in his approach. "Heavy-handed" may be too politik a term. But this is where he's coming from.

I don't agree with him. I don't agree with homosexuality; I think it is a sinful lifestyle and is a wrong choice with sometimes dangerous consequences. I could hit you with the "love the sinner, hate the sin" jive, but the fact is, most churches don't put feet on this cliche. Which is why it has become cliche. Five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to love the sinner at all, thinking that some sinners who commit certain sins are just unlovable. But I see that differently now. I understand grace better, I think.

Anyway, when I encounter a creative work like "Angels in America", I try to stifle my immediate repulsion. And this play can be extremely repellant. But I try to understand why it is, what it comes from. And this is my makeshift understanding.

Kushner tries to shock the viewer into submission, with his message that gay people are unfairly treated, oppressed, tortured souls who just want to be accepted like everyone else. Kushner seems to say that all who don't think homosexuality is okay are nothing more than hateful neanderthals akin to Nazis and all the other horrible wicked murderous tribes who've been around. You don't dare disagree with the gay heroes, because that means you side with the bigots and oppressors. And no one wants to be linked to the bad guys.

And Kushner does this because, like many people trying to promote homosexuality, he doesn't seem to allow for any disagreement. For many like this, it's all or nothing. You must accept everything they do, approve of it, endorse it if need be, because you don't want to be considered a horrible mean person, do you? We shouldn't be surprised by this. This has been happening more and more. People are trying to justify their choices through cultural acceptance, and if the culture doesn't accept, by golly we'll MAKE them accept it.

The reason I bring all this up (I've been meandering toward a point, I promise you) is not because I think we should boycott HBO and Al Pacino and everyone else involved. Christians do too many boycotts, and that's not what Jesus was about (the one human thing he was mainly enraged about was the self-righteousness and interpersonal "boycotts" of the church, but that's a whole 'nother deal). And I don't think we should all watch the film. I am choosing not to, because I feel it's just too debasing for me. I wouldn't recommend anyone watching the film version, though I admit I haven't seen it. But what I think we as Christians should do is try to understand why it exists, what it really means for this culture.

Our culture is growing sickly, overgorged on its own decadence and lack of limits. We see it every day. And Christians have two choices: be repulsed and withdraw, or recognize it and engage it. We cannot abandon our participation in the Great Debate, over a little queasiness. Instead, we need to understand what the state of things is in this country, in this culture, in this present generation, and be ready with answers. I've seen and heard too many Christians jump all over people for what they watch, listen to, read. "I can't believe you'd participate in *that*--that's just awful!" Maybe we should start providing some answers instead of dishing out indignation. Just a thought.

So there it is. This movie is on HBO, and is being called the biggest television event in years, by some critics. And it is an event, to be sure. It is the latest example of a culture that is diseased buy knows no cure, because no one is willing to go near it and provide an alternative.

(This should have been a post by itself, I think.)

Friday, December 05, 2003

Walking on the Razor's Edge

According to GQ Magazine (which, I admit, I occasionally pick up from time to time... don't look at me like that, it's not like it's Maxim or anything), the goatee is offically out. They described it as the craze from 1998 that just wouldn't die. They even pinpointed me with their descriptions of guys whose faces are "filling out" and are wearing goatees, in part, to give their faces more definition (i.e. "a chin"). They tell me that the people around me see through that technique.

I've gone back and forth on this. I've been wearing goatees since around the middle of my sophomore year at OBU. We're talking five years of goateed Dave. I have volutarily shaved it twice, and involuntarily shaved it twice as well (for plays...the sacrifices we make for our art, you know). But for a while now, the Dave "look" has been sideburns, goatee, and black-rimmed Elvis Costello glasses.

So now the question arises: Is it time for a change? At least as far as my facial hair choice?

This is the reader-participation portion of the blog. I'm going to let you guys vote on what I should do about the look.

Should I:
A) Leave the goatee and sideburns alone, Dave--why mess with what works for you?
B) Kiss the goatee bye-bye, but leave the sideburns
C) Goatee, no sideburns
D) Chop it all off, Dave, let your face breathe!

I'm keeping the glasses. You don't get to change that.

Here's the deal. I'll accept votes (maybe even alternate suggestions and grooming styles) until say Christmas, and whatever choice wins, I will do that for at least a month.

I know, it'd be more exciting if it included, you know, dyeing my hair green or shaving my head or something. But I've already been told that I'll be fired for green hair, and my head is too large and my scalp is too pale to make anyone look at it. Plus since I'm working at a cancer hospital, it'd feel kinda funny.

So vote. Really. It'll be fun. Okay, not fun, but not boring. Okay fine, boring--just vote, man.
"This is how it goes..."

A little Aimee Mann, anyone?

Hey kids. It's Friday, and I've successfully done practically nothing today, which is very very bad. I have a bunch of things I could do right now, but I figured I'd squeeze in one more post before the weekend.

Speaking of Aimee Mann, those of you who clicked on the link above might have noticed that she is rereleasing her stellar (bad pun) album "Lost in Space" which I recommend vehemently to anyone who asks me about good music. I'd certainly put it in my top five best records of the past two or three years.

Let's try that now.

Top Five Records of the Past Two or Three Years

(I do need to include a minor caviat here. I will have to limit this to albums *actually released* in the previously-stated time period. I have others that I'd put on this list, that I have discovered within said timeframe but are actually older.)

--in no order YOU can decipher--

1. Films about Ghosts, Counting Crows--I believe we've covered this.
2. Lost in Space, Aimee Mann--she's...beyond awesome.
3. Ben Folds Live, Ben Folds--as concert albums go, this one's my favorite.
4. Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001, Barenaked Ladies--there's nothing like goofy Canadien folk-rock.
5. Hard Candy, Counting Crows--unfairly panned by critics, this album is (granted) not their best, but even "mediocre" for them is still infinitely better than anyone else.

[Editor's Note: The preceding list was calculated based on airplay in Dave's apartment and truck, combined with songs going through Dave's head, and (in the case of the top entry) albums he is about to buy that are almost completely composed of songs he loves. This list cannot reflect all albums that may fit into the afore-mentioned categories, and this list (while strongly supported by the author) is (admittedly) whipped up spur-of-the-moment, for the sake of instant self-definition and music recommendation.) Thank you.]

What was I saying? I dunno.

I'm trying to decide what to do today. I may go see "The Last Samurai" with the Tom Cruise and all. But then again, I can probably wait to see it at the cheap theatre and save myself six bucks. It may verywell be a Blockbuster night for me... alone... again...

I rented John Carpenter's "The Thing" the other night. For all its dated Eighties goodness, it's still a pretty good flick. Especially when the severed alien/human head grows spidery legs and crawls away. (Totally not making this up.)

Oh oh oh, I rented a copy of "Simpsons Hit and Run" for the ol' Playstation. The game is a blast. If you have the resources and hardware available, go rent it. Good times for even casual Simpsons fans, great times for those of us who have seen most of the episodes.

I am continuing along in "Brief Interviews..." which is getting better, although I'm still a little distrustful of the author's role in all this. But he is a clever fellow, no doubt.

My boss returns on Monday. And the peasants rejoiced... "yay..."

I'm sad to see that no one is participating in my song lyrics quiz. You slackers. Guess, at least.

I'm about to crack open a frosty (actually, by now, luke-warm, IBC root beer, then finish a stack of work, and leave early to deposit my paycheck and pick up a prize I won in a radio contest a couple of weeks back. It's a three-pack of David Bowie CDs, including (I believe) a remastered version of "Ziggy Stardust..." If I'm not really excited about the albums, I'll take them over to Circuit City and trade them in for something. Maybe a copy of the Kill Bill soundtrack. Then I'll rent a movie, grab some Chinese, and head home for another night of single revelry. Which sounds really good, actually.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

"If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts..."

In keeping with the theme, I wanted to make a blatant plug on behalf of my favorite band.

You may not be aware, but Counting Crows has just released their first "Best of" album, entitled "Films About Ghosts." I has some of my favorite Crows songs (but how can it have all of them, when they are all your favorite?).

If you are not a "fan", if you've never purchased one of their albums, if you have never even heard one of their songs, I highly urge you to pick this one up. I personally guarantee that there will be at least one track on there that you will love. Probably more, but at least one.

I'm the type of fan that owns all four studio albums and the two-disc live album, and will still go out and buy this one, just for the three new tracks on it that I don't have. And I've never done that for any band before.

In my estimation, the Crows are the greatest band to come out of the nineties, and one of the best ever. Not because they're "ground-breaking" or "highly influential" but because you get a glimpse of their heart and soul in every single song. And that is what music is about.

(BONUS GAME: The first one to name the song where the lyrics in the subject line above are found, will get an entire post dedicated to how cool they are, as well as a link to their personal (or favorite) website at the top of my snazzy List 'O Links.)
"It's been so long since I've seen the ocean..."

I guess I should.

Wow folks. It's already been quite a long december. Now that the worst of it is behind me, and I passed my vocational "trial by fire" with 3/4 flying colors, I can take a breath and take stock of things.

I feel like there's a lot I need to be saying right now. My heart is heavy with something untold. But I can't for the life of me figure out what that is.

I guess I can just let my dear friend Adam speak for me. He's a better poet than I am.


A long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin'
Now the days go by so fast

And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven...I wish you would

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California...I think you should

Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
It's been so long since I've seen the ocean...I guess I should.

--Adam Duritz

Monday, December 01, 2003

"My name is Morris Ronald; you can call me Mo-Ron for short..."

Which would still be better than the choice this guy made. If I hadn't read it, I would have never believed it.