Friday, October 29, 2004
Hallelujah, grace like rain...
I wrote a scathing, angry, profane screed against the denigration of our allies by the Kerry campaign. I was furious with how the 138 people who were killed or injured, along with their families, seem to be irrelevant in Kerry's eyes. You know, since they're not a "real" coalition.
Anyway, I just finished this justified but scathing critique of his attitude toward countries who, just a generation after shaking off their own shackles of oppression, are sending their own sons and daughters to aid us in this cause.
And when I tried to publish, the message I got back was that Blogger was down for routine maintenance. When I tried to go back, I lost the post.
And God, in his wisdom, leaned down and said, "Dave, that post didn't help anything."
I replied, "I hate it when you're right. Sorry."
"Hey, no harm done. Just guard your words. Words are tools. Use them to build."
"Instead of tearing down?"
So no profanity-laced rant about how little regard Kerry has for the non-Western-European countries. Just a lesson in when to hold the tongue.
Have a peaceful weekend, all. Instead of praying that God puts your man in office, just pray God puts the right man in office, no matter who it is. I will be doing the same.
On Monday, my official endorsement and the logic behind it (probably no big surprise, but you'll get the more comprehensive 'why' of it). And some fun stuff too.
"You're making a mess, something you can't hide..."
I promised political punditry, but I'm too tired and unmotivated to give it. Part of me feels that it's somehow my duty to address these important issues, but the other part wonders what good it does. The few of you that I considered swing voters have already made up your minds, so what can I do? Nevertheless, I will press on with a brief political wrap-up to carry you into the weekend. As for links, you're on your own. Like I said, I'm too tired of all this.
(WARNING: May contain explicit language. Depends on my mood.)
Bombs--what bombs?: Of course there is the "missing explosives" story that has been appropriated by the Kerry campaign as the latest Reason Why JFKerry is Better, Faster, Smarter, More. However, in the past 24 hours, there have been some developments. First, a DOD source told the Washington Times that he was almost certain that Russian special forces helped to move unknown "materials" out of Iraq and into Syria. However, Moscow (predictably) denies this story and the Pentagon won't touch it. Then, this afternoon, a military spokesperson has come forward and said that our own military moved the vast majority of these weapons to a safer location, as soon as we got there. That, combined with the allegations that the IAEA numbers are inaccurate, would account for the explosives "missing."
I don't know what to think about all this. I was worried that the WaTimes story was true, because if that were the case, we were looking at the advent of another Cold War. I hope the new account of us moving the weapons ourselves is true, for two reasons. Obviously, I hope it's true because losing over 300 tons of explosives is clear evidence of incompetence, and honestly, I don't like the idea of the president I support being incompetent. (I know, I know, "too late" and all that. Stow it.) And secondly, MORE IMPORTANTLY, I hope these latest stories are true, because that means that this newest threat against our warriors in fatigues doesn't exist.
(The question I pose to my dear left-leaning readers is, in your heart of hearts, do you hope the military has the explosives, after all? Don't answer here, but consider it. Which is more important, us having the explosives, or Bush losing? Think about your answer and its implications. I don't think these are unfair questions to ask. Even Christopher Hutchins of Slate magazine has noted that anything bad in Iraq is good for political opponents of the Administration, so the question of priorities is, I think, a valid one.)
There's something happening here: The examples of violence that have occured during this campaign cycle are staggering. Vandalism, threats, destruction, assault, arguably attempted manslaughter. All in the name of a political candidate. Am I exaggerating? No. ABC News has a rather comprehensive list of the reported attacks in the last few months. This, of course, doesn't count all of the minor property defacements to cars of people with political bumper stickers, or to yard signs, that have occured by the thousands across the country. (I could ask you to figure the ratio of violence against Bush supporters versus violence against Kerry supporters, based on the ABC News list, but that would probably be petty, wouldn't it.)
The question is, why all the hate? Why is there so much bile being spilled for this particular election? What makes these two men so special?
The atmosphere of rage that has pervaded the political process boggles my mind. It's not just about issues. It's a personal war. Each side has taken dead aim at the other candidate and their supporters (sometimes literally).
It's not even both candidates. Why does one candidate deserve so much allegiance from some, and so much hate from others? He's not that bad, is he? According to some, yes. He's BusHitler. To others, he's a gift from on High, God's way to save the nation. Both extremes are ridiculous.
Listen up, kids. GWB is just a man. Just like JFKerry is just a man. Just like Barak Obama is just a man. Just. A. Man. These men are imperfect, they screw up, sometimes they have ulterior motives or hidden agendas. It happens. That's what we get for electing humans to the post of President. We must accept this.
I don't know. I'm rambling. I just can understand why so much anger is being hurled at one fallible man, as if he were the Devil incarnate. He's being called a terrorist, a murderer, an oil-addicted liar and cheat. People are writing novels and plays about assassinating him. Newspaper reporters overseas are making statements like "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, where are you when we need you?"
How is this hysteria happening? He isn't suppressing free speech. (Go ahead, claim that he does. Wait, nevermind, I pre-emptively cry "bullshit.") There are no state-led book burnings. Dissent is freely practiced.
In other words, GWB may be stupid, deceitful, or rude. But he's no Fascist. So get the hell off it.
In a world where terrorists are threatening global jihad and a bloodbath on our shores, Teddy Kennedy says that the only thing we have to fear is "four more years of George W. Bush." And the crowd ate it up. I think it leaves little doubt what Kennedy's priorities are.
This is insanity. This is hysteria. Listen to me, my beautiful liberal and Democrat friends:
George W. Bush is not worth this much bloodlust.
Sorry. I'm just at a loss with all of this.
I know there are many who have reasonable, well-thought-out justifications for voting Kerry. But most--MOST--of what I've seen is this kind of radical hatred. Thus, the "Anyone-but-Bush" crowd is born.
Anyone. But. Bush.
Are we really so glib that we'll take anyone over GWB? Michael Moore said once, "Most people would rather vote for their left sock than for George W. Bush." Is that really true? If so, how sad. How very sad.
Two centuries of patriots fighting impossible wars and impossible odds, bleeding their lives out on domestic and foreign shores, so we can have the opportunity to choose who leads us. And we'll take anyone but Bush. We're soooo selective.
Come on, admit it. You who are voting for Kerry--you wish you were voting for someone else, right? Dean? Nader or Badnarik, if they had a chance? But you'll settle for Kerry, because...say it with me--"at least he's not Bush." Of course, some conservatives are doing the same thing, so I can't throw stones.
It just seems like Kerry can't even run on his own merits anymore. The best he can come up with, as I've said before, is that he's the "anti-Bush." And for some, that's enough. But really, think about it, what will he do if he's elected? He's gonna have to make some decisions. He's gonna have to take some steps. And most--not all, to be fair, but most--of what I've seen and heard is, "This President does X. But I have a plan to do X better." Kerry's approach to the war is to do exactly what the President is doing, but better. Not differently, just better. Better alliances. Better training. Better security. Better democracy-building. Newer. Cleaner. Better.
As you might have guessed, I'm not convinced.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
"Gold Teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth..."
Well, I've decided to keep this day fairly pleasant, so I'm reserving all political discussion for tomorrow. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I'll do the final election dance, talk about the violence among supporters of each candidate, and opine on the general hysteria that has surrounded this over-long campaign season. Lofty goals, hitting all these points. Yes, well. We do what we can.
In the meantime, today has a few key goals of its own. Here we go.
Chronicles of Riddick: I tried to keep my expectations reasonably low. I mean, it's the sequel to the truly awesome Pitch Black, so no matter how well it did, it would suffer by comparison. But, on its own, it's a pretty decent movie. Don't expect to see the logical backbone of everything involved. Just take it for what it is--a chance for Vin Diesel to be a badass as the greatest character he has or will ever play. Good times. The action effects are cool too.
Verdict: No prize-winner, but worth your two hours and five bucks.
13 Going on 30/Raising Helen: I'm doing these together, because it's just so embarrassing to do each separately. Yes, I'm a guy who likes romantic comedies. Nothing wrong with that. Move along. Both of these movies had the benefit of great casts. I adore Kate Hudson and Jennifer Garner. I really enjoy watching John Corbett and Mark Ruffalo work. The scripts are predictable but enjoyable. "13" is worth watching just for the "Thriller" dance scene, and seeing Andy Serkis as something other than Gollum. "Helen" has a better-than-average "cute kid" factor, and Joan Cusack as a neurotic soccer mom.
Verdict: Both are predictable and saccharine, but still worthwhile. Come on, you know you want to.
Wicked, by Gregory Macguire: This novel questions our assumptions about the nature of good and evil, by retelling the story of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz from the "wicked" witch's point of view. Macguire raises the questions: is evil born or made? How are the good and the wicked judged? Do motives make a difference in these judgements? This is a beautifully written book, full of detail and rich description. The author takes us behind the curtain, and shows us that Oz was a land of social injustice and civil strife, and that those deemed "good" and "evil" are hardly so. (Sensitive readers should note that there are a few scandalous scenes in the book. FYI.)
Verdict: Brilliant and beautifully conceived. Highly recommended.
If Chins Could Kill, by Bruce Campbell: Hail to the king, baby. I'm about 3/4 of the way through this book. Hilarious. Bruce "Don't Call Me Ash" Campbell gives us an inside look at the life and struggles of a "B" movie actor. Great read, interesting detail, very much written in Campbell's self-deprecating, smart-assed style.
Verdict: Any BC/Evil-Dead/Army-of-Darkness fan must read this. Awesome.
If you aren't familiar with NaNoWriMo, go here. The goal is 50,000 words in a month. The trick is to not edit or over think. Just write like mad. I signed up for this in the past, but never followed through (there was that whole "teaching" thing I was doing at the time). But now that I have some semblance of a normal schedule, I'm ready to take a whack at it.
I won't be writing "the" book under these conditions. Instead, I'll be tackling another idea that I've kicked around for a while. And it all begins with a funeral. But that's all I'm saying about it. Any more would be stamping out my own fire. On Monday, we dive in. 1700 words a day. Bring it on.
I'll be updating the ol' links bar in the next day or so, so keep an eye out. Folks like Ginge and Trav (not to mention the illustrious Marty) will get some love. Others may get less love. So we'll see.
That's all I've got at the moment. Like I said, lots of one-sided political punditry tomorrow. Bring your sparring gloves.
Why I Watch GMA
- I've gotten in the habit of getting up late for work, so I'm usually out the door at 8:10 instead of 7:45.
- The only palatable alternative is local news (yawn) or Joyce Meyer (who reminds me of Sherri Lucas for some reason).
- It's the channel with the best reception on my cable-less TV.
But this morning, I nearly choked on my glass of water (it can be done, stop laughing) while watching the end of an interview with Curt Schilling, the Red Sox pitcher who pitched with a screwed-up ankle that was bleeding through his sock. Nice. Here are my two favorite moments (transcribed from memory, so not exactly verbatim):
Charlie Gibson: So you were really a warrior in this series.
Curt Schilling: I... That word means so much more these days. The real warriors are the men and women in the Middle East protecting this country. I'm just...well...
Charlie Gibson: Well, you've really given us a great story, in a Series that may be one of the greatest stories in sport...
Charlie Gibson: Well, Curt, [Curt's wife's name that I
just forgot], thanks for talking to us.
Curt Schilling: Thanks, Charlie. And I'd just like to encourage everyone to get out there and vote on Tuesday, and... uh.... vote Bush!
The look on Charlie Gibson's face was absolutely priceless. He sat there stunned for at least three seconds, with a stiff smile on his face. The kind of smile you see on the subject of a Friar's Club roast. As if Schilling as talking about Gibson's mother, and Gibson was trying to stay polite and affable.
I laughed for a good five minutes.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Brief Discussion of the Fall Classic
Speaking of the Yankees...
Ow, BURN. Yeah, they suck. Thank God the Sox didn't suck more. Down with the Empire.
The Astros. They got farther than anyone expected. I had all but counted them out through mid-August. I'm impressed. Too bad their pitching staff is suffering and their bats went cold. It would have been cool to see them in the Series. When my heart-broken (and slightly hungover) friend turned to me for sympathy on Friday, I just laughed and said, "Welcome to my world. Repeat after me: 'There's. Always. Next. Year.' "
So now we have the Cards and the Sox. And as much as I am a National League loyalist, I have cheered for the Red Sox because they're pretty much the Cubs of the AL. So rock on, Boston. The Cards suck.
(A final note: Someone raised the question recently as to whether Boston winning the World Series would affect the Presidential race. "If Boston wins, and Kerry supports Boston, does it help Kerry?" My response: "If anyone decides who to vote for based on a freakin baseball game, then we deserve whatever we get, because democracy is dead. It's all over.")
"Don't tell me the lights are shining..."
Business Trip Round-up: A Cautionary Hypertext Tale
After a supremely stressful day at work on Wednesday, we left for the airport. We got there early enough to watch the Astros tie up Game 6 4-4 in the ninth (they lost while we were airborne). We sat in a mini-Chili's, in the loser terminal of the airport. IAH has a terminal that can only be reached by tram. As soon as we got there, I dubbed it, "the loser terminal." So we sat in the loser terminal and watched some baseball. I had Southwestern Eggrolls. He had a bacon cheeseburger. It was dinner.
Flight was smooth. Except that it was on a Continental "ExpressJet," which, if you aren't aware, is roughly the size of an Altoids tin. So small that there are three seats per row, one on the left of the aisle and two on the right. So small that only the seats on the right get an overhead bin. So small that the only lavatory was in the back of the aircraft.
So small that we had to walk out onto the tarmac, braving winds and 300 decibel noise, and walk up some stairs to board the aircraft. I half-expected the pilot to ask everyone's weight so he could balance out the plane.
We landed after a cramped two-hour flight. Baggage claim. My first taxi ride. That's right, until last Wednesday, I'd never ridden in a taxi. My thoughts--eh.
Hotel accomodations: The lovely Adam's Mark Hotel, the poshest hotel in my limited hotel experience. Nice place. Fancy fancy. The doorman carried our two bags on a pushcart for thirty feet, then made a face when I only gave him a couple of bucks. So sorry, Mr. Doorman, I know how much those TEN YARDS took their toll. Geez. People. I didn't let anyone carry my bags anywhere after that.
Nice room. 17th floor--the "business class" floor, you could say. Continental breakfast on that floor every morning. "Horse-doovers" and desserts at night. Poshy poshy.
The conference: Somewhat informative. Some parts were slow--as one can expect from 3-hour seminars on punctuation. But the lunches weren't too terrible. And there were a few cute girls. Not a total loss.
St. Louis dining: Not bad, but nothing as good as can be found here in my hometown. We ate at an over-priced faux-sporty steakhouse owned by a former baseball star. No good. We had some local Italian. Better. We grabbed some burgers across the street from the hotel--tasty. The only place I ate twice was a restaurant/sports bar two blocks down. That was where we watched the crucial (and for some, painful) NLCS Game 7. More on that momentarily.
St. Louis attractions: Obviously the Arch. 630 feet tall, made of steel and concrete. You can ride up to the very top in a claustrophobic, egg-shaped tram that's five feet tall and about three feet across on the inside. The doors to get in the damned thing were only about four feet tall. And yet there were five metal seats in each egg. Yeah, right. Five people. But the view from the top of the Arch is quite impressive. Underneath the Arch, built underground, are two gift shops, a few theaters showing the "making of the Arch" film, and a "Westward Expansion" museum. Good times. I'll post pictures sometime. As a national landmark, I'd give the Gateway Arch a B+. Not super-flashy, but definitely interesting and worthwhile.
Other attractions: There's an old "historic" courthouse that was converted into a Jeffersonian museum of the expansion through and "taming" of Missouri. Specifically, the Mississippi River and the St. Louis area. (Yes, I sang "Big River" at every possible opportunity.) The rotunda was pretty cool, though. I conducted my own museum "tour" for my co-worker and I, making up stories to go along with each painting and sculpture, spoken in my best "gold-rush prospecter/trailhand/grizzled ranch-cook" voice. He was amused.
There was also an enormous riverboat casino discovered at one point on the trip. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
The Agony of Defeat, the Thrill of Local Girls: My co-worker and I went to Caleco's to watch that tragic Game 7. Standing room only, a sea of red shirts and Cardinals jerseys. We sat down at 5 p.m. to secure a table for the game at 7. We had barbecued chicken pizza for dinner--or, rather, I had. He had something else. Eight somethings else. The game went as it did. The mildly confrontational Cardinal fans became more relaxed and hospitable as their team steamrolled to victory. The only bright spot of the evening was when the most beautiful girl in St. Louis came over to rub the victory in our faces. Her name was Gretchen. Gretchen with long blonde hair down her back, wearing a Cardinals jersey and jeans, and a ball cap. Hot Gretchen. She put an arm around my co-worker and talked to us, and kept bumping into me as she stood. (She'd been having a liquid dinner as well, it seems.) But she was absolutly gorgeous, and she had come over to give us a good-natured teasing. (I'm mentally blocking out the fact that she talked to the co-worker the whole time she was at our table, and all but totally ignored me. Allow me my delusions, if you please.) As the co-worker and I walked back to the hotel, Cardinals fans were hanging out of car windows, driving up and down the road, screaming and honking. My co-worker turns to the crowd and utters a Shakespearan cry of "Feel my pain, you bastards!" He was passed out in his room ten minutes later.
Celebrity Sightings: As we sat sipping Frappachino in downtown STL, a man came in that my co-worker was convinced was Elliot. You know, that Elliot. I'm still not convinced, but hey, you never know.
The Best Part of Staying in a Hotel: Is not having to go to Blockbuster. Garden State? Check. Chronicles of Riddick? Check. Anchorman? Check. Manchurian Candidate? Check. If we'd been there one more day, I could have added Before Sunset to that list. Good times.
Flight back on Sunday morning. Freaking express jet. Taxi. Family dinner. Home. Bed.
Lessons learned from this experience:
- If you have to get up for a seminar, don't stay up until 2 watching Adult Swim and Sportscenter.
- Pork tenderloin tastes like it's barely been heated to room temperature.
- I can even suck at punctuation homework.
- Don't get tipsy (or let your friends/coworkers get tipsy) at a sports bar, in an opposing team's city during the playoffs. If you do, hope that your team loses, so the patrons will be in a good mood, and will decide not to kill you.
- If you win more than $40 in slots, DO NOT KEEP PLAYING. Cash out and walk away, so you won't hate yourself for losing it all later.
- Gambling is bad.
- Gretchen was freaking hot. Okay, not a lesson learned, but an important plot point.
Monday, October 25, 2004
Meet me in St. Louis, Louie
St. Louis was fun, thanks. More stories to come.
Just wanted to check in, and say thanks for commenting.
Unfortunately, right now I'm drowning in new work and old projects. I'm also preparing for continued visits from federal auditors. So, no new brilliance yet.
Here are my post-related goals for the next week or so:
- Discussion of the election-related violence of the past month
- Some baseball discussion
- Movie/book/CD reviews
- My final thoughts on the presidential election
- UPDATED Links
- NaNoWriMo preview
- Searching for blog brilliance
- My work-vacation round-up, including some funny stories
NOTICE: Everyone who's waiting on an email from me--give me two more days. Thanks.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
"All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go..."
I hate to bug out again after such a short time...
Okay, enough bad parody.
Yes, it's true, I'm going to be in Communicado (is that near Cancun?) for the next several days. I'm going out of town on business (my first business trip! ha!) to a conference in the exotic and incredibly sexy city of...
Eh. I'll get to see the Arch. That'll be cool.
Your prayers for safety and endurance will be greatly appreciated.
So entertain yourselves while I'm gone. Push the comment box limits. I'll give you a topic that is sure to get you talking:
DISCUSSION QUESTION: I saw a report today on Good Morning America about a drug that is being developed that will reduce the intensity and painfulness of memories if taken right after a traumatic event. The capsule lowers the amount of "stress hormone" released, since that is what makes our memories of tragic incidents so painful and long-lasting.
Should doctors be developing a drug that, in effect, removes or reduces bad memories? What are the benefits of such treatments? What are the dangers? Would you take advantage of such a medicine, if it became available?
(I'd really like to hear what you think about this. And hey, I could have asked you about politics, so be grateful.)
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
If you haven't seen it yet, you need to go here, and check out the short IPod commercial featuring the Greatest Band in the World That Isn't the Counting Crows.
How long until the new U2 album debuts? I don't know, let's find out.
Who's got two thumbs and is psyched about the new album?
Every friggin one of you, if you have any sense at all.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Lemme make this simple for you, kiddo:
Grilled Chicken Salad: Good for you, but kinda bland.
County Killdare (fried) chicken salad: Not quite as good for you, but really tasty.
Monte Cristo: Congestive heart failure on an oval platter, but so friggin good it makes your toes curl and your eyes roll back in your head.
Guinness: Always good for you--or at least, makes you feel better.*
Perfect Blue Buildings--for all your Nutritional Information needs!
*Based on what I've been told. As you may know, I'm not a drinker. Not due to any religious or sociological reason--I just don't care for the obvious taste of alcohol. What can I say, it's a character flaw.
More Personality Analysis
ENFPs generally have the following traits:
Bright and capable (gee, thanks!)
Warmly, genuinely interested in people; great people skills
Extremely intuitive and perceptive about people (i knew you were gonna say that)
Able to relate to people on their own level
Service-oriented; likely to put the needs of others above their own (sometimes)
Dislike performing routine tasks (hehe, yeah)
Need approval and appreciation from others (yes)
Cooperative and friendly
Creative and energetic
Well-developed verbal and written communication skills
Natural leaders, but do not like to control people
Resist being controlled by others
Can work logically and rationally - use their intuition to understand the goal and work backwards towards it (this is an interesting view; hmm...)
Usually able to grasp difficult concepts and theories
(So far, really accurate.)
ENFPs are lucky in that they're good a quite a lot of different things (Thanks!). An ENFP can generally achieve a good degree of success at anything which has interested them. However, ENFPs get bored rather easily and are not naturally good at following things through to completion. (Sadly, this is really accurate.) Accordingly, they should avoid jobs which require performing a lot of detailed, routine-oriented tasks. They will do best in professions which allow them to creatively generate new ideas and deal closely with people. They will not be happy in positions which are confining and regimented.
The following list of professions is built on our impressions of careers which would be especially suitable for an ENFP. It is meant to be a starting place, rather than an exhaustive list. There are no guarantees that any or all of the careers listed here would be appropriate for you, or that your best career match is among those listed.
Possible Career Paths for the ENFP:
Politician / Diplomat
Writer / Journalist
Computer Programmer, Systems Analyst, or Computer Specialist (Um, hello, redundant and/or detailed, routine-oriented activity!)
Engineer (Double Ha!)
(There you go. Pretty dead-on.)
(Hat-tip: Sunburned Jenn.)
It was a great weekend, thanks. Good times had by all. I took Friday off from work (hence the lack of posting) and spent the entire weekend with friends and family.
Here's the short version (because I'm hungry):
Thursday: Work (crappy). Home. Family. Dinner. A gynormous Chicken-Fried Steak, with sides--and free birthday cheesecake. Home. Presents. CAKE! Boardgame with family. Family leaves. Phone call. Trevor! Plans for tomorrow.
Friday: 10:30 wake-up. Leftover CFS for lunch. TV. Playstation. Family. Trevor and my sis at sis's Homecoming Game (go Ridge!). Visiting Amanda at St. Luke's--and their 24-hour McDonalds--until 2 a.m.
Saturday: 10:00 wake-up. Hanging out at Borders for two hours. Making a few purchases. Grocery shopping. Whipping up a tasty dinner for three (steaks, green beans, steamed carrots, salad, CAKE). Trev, Amanda, and I check out a great movie at the Edwards. Bed at 4 a.m.
Sunday: 8:00 wake-up. Hang with Trev, until he leaves. Sunday School (with presents!). Catch a great show thanks to my dear friends Josh and Tiff. "Ate me some" Goode Barbeque. More exciting shopping. Home. TV. Sleep.
So yes. A great weekend, thanks.
On a childish and materialistic note, wanna know why else it was a good weekend?
Here's a really good reason. Here's another. Here's another, thanks to Trev. And the giftcard from the kids at Sunday School resulted in this very exciting reason.
I'm a happy panda.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Ben and Julena, for the other great e-card and the much appreciated encouragement. (I pray for you daily.)
Parents and grandparents, who will never read this blog (thank God), for love, acceptance, and support.
Blog readers, for reading the ramblings of a lumpy, crazed Texan.
God, for everything.
Now, to the relevant business at hand.
First, some song lyrics (apologies to mike) and then some thoughts.
Twenty four oceans
Twenty four skies
Twenty four failures
Twenty four tries
Twenty four finds me
In twenty-fourth place
Twenty four drop outs
At the end of the day
Life is not what I thought it was
Twenty four hours ago
Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And I'm not who I thought I was
twenty four hours ago
Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
Twenty four reasons to admit that I'm wrong
With all my excuses still twenty-four strong
See, I'm not copping out, not copping out, not copping out
When You're raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You're raising these twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts
But I want to be one today
Centered and true
I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
You're raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You're raising the dead in me
I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And You're raising the dead in me
Twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts.
I'm not copping out.
Not copping out.
Not copping out.
("24" by Switchfoot)
Last night, I was thinking about growing up. I remember, as a child, I would always look forward to birthdays with this sense of barely-contained anticipation. Birthdays means parties, friends, cake (CAKE!), presents, fun. Birthdays were times of acceptance and love, times when I wasn't in trouble or grounded or disappointing to my parents. When it was my birthday, everyone was proud of me, and liked me, and wanted to be my friend.As this birthday approached, the sense of anticipation was gone. I've noticed that I would always bring up that my birthday was coming. It's next month. It's next week. It's in three days. It's tomorrow. It's today.
I've noticed that no one else seems to get excited about their birthday. None of my friends do. It's like, they've all reached that age threshold where being excited about your own birthday is a childish thing.
But I do that. I act childish sometimes (though I call it "childlike" because it sounds better). I get excited about small things like cartoons and cake (CAKE!) and new clothes. I actually pointed out to the people at SunSco that I got a new tire on my truck, as a practical present from the fam. They were unimpressed. I'm embarrassed to admit now that I even did this, but I did.
But as I sat last night, I wondered what would have happened if I hadn't been so verbal about my upcoming day. Some people would have known, surely. People outside my family. But I started second-guessing myself, wondering if I made it a bigger deal than it would have been.
(This is not a guilt-trip or compliment-fishing post, don't worry. It gets better.)
And this led to a re-evaluation of my life to this point. I felt let down, to be honest, though there was no reason to feel that way. And the Spirit began reminding me to count my blessings. And I named them, one by one. Family. Friends. Internet friends. Church family. Good job. Living on my own. Good health. Education. Opportunity. And then he brought out the big one.
Yes indeed. If nothing else was right or fair in my life, I have been redeemed from the destruction of my body and soul by the blood of a Savior I had turned my back on by my sin. Though I was a sinner, Christ died for me. And now, I have communion with the Creator of the Universe, the Giver of all good gifts.
I had to repent my dissatisfaction. And then I prayed for contentment, because "all these things" had been added unto me.
I'm 24 years old today. It's true that the childlike joy of birthdays is slipping away. I had to come in to work today, and it's been one of the most hectic, stressful days of the past several weeks. But my friends here at work took me to lunch, which was really nice.
And I have realized that God replaces the boundless joy and eager anticipation of the birthdays in our youth, with a sense of appreciation and circumspection as we mature. As we get a little older, we realize on our birthday that our lives have been blessed, if for no other reason than because the Father of lights chose to become Our Father Who Art in Heaven (hallowed be His name).
"I'm the second man now." Redemption, renewal, and hope are the presents I unwrap day by day.
Happy birthday to me, indeed.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Half-hearted Mix CD
This is pulled from my paltry MP3 collection, and doesn't take into account the hundreds of better choices I could have gleaned from the CD cases. I'll whip out a better one when I have more time.
Last night, as I was working on another short story (go me!), I got the idea to burn a little tribute album to the late Chris Reeve. But because I was in the middle of working on something, and because the hour was late, I couldn't give my normally meticulous attention to song selection, and just pulled what I could from my (admittedly weak) MP3 library downloaded during my college years. Not a lot there, trust me. So, some of the selections are kinda lame and predictable, and should in no way be taken as indicative of my mix-tape abilities (I'm looking at you, Trav).
"Tribute to the Man of Steel"
1) "Superman's Dead", Our Lady Peace: I know the tone is wrong, and some of you diehard fans may balk or take offense at placing this as the opening track. The fact of the matter is, this was the song going through my head all day Monday. It captures the frustrations of being mortal, of not being able to fly away from or easily fight off the problems we face on a daily basis.
2) "Wherever I May Roam," Metallica: The Man of Tomorrow always struck me as an incredibly lonely character. I chose this song because it seemed to really connect to the Superman mythology--"And the earth becomes my throne/I adapt to the unknown/under wandering stars I've grown/by myself but not alone/I ask no one."
3) "Princes of the Universe," Queen: "I am immortal, I have inside me blood of kings/I have no rival, no man can be my equal." Cheesy 70's rock? Yes. Forever known as the theme from Highlander? Of course. But I still think it kinda fits. Kinda.
4) "Superman (It's Not Easy)," Five for Fighting: Okay, blatantly cheesy, and kind of embarrassing. But come on, it's a song literally about Superman. I can't deny it because of its crass commercial appeal.
5) "Dream On," Aerosmith: I thought this was a good Reeve anthem. It carries both a mythic quality (the chorus always reminds me of Greek drama, for some reason) and a bittersweet tone of recalled memory. Fitting for a tribute album, especially one for a man who helped to inspire so many.
6) "Wonderboy," Tenacious D: Purposefully placed to lighten the mood of the album. It fit the superhero motif, and it made me laugh. What do you want?
7) "Heroes," Wallflowers: One of the few Bowie covers that I like as much as or better than the original (another is Beck's version of "Diamond Dogs"). This song seemed like a perfect track for Reeve, a hero both onscreen and off.
8) "Yellow," Coldplay: Kal-El was the original "star child." The mood of this song was perfect. And I like how he repeats the line "look at the stars, look how they shine for you."
9) "Knocking on Heaven's Door," Guns-N-Roses: One of the predictable "death" tracks. Still, it's a good cover. And the whole idea of turning in your badge and gun (or hanging up your cape) seems to connect to the end of a crimefighter's reign. I know, it's a stretch. Humor me. I wanted to show GNR some love.
10) "My Back Pages", Bob Dylan: No idea why I picked this one. I guess it was the refrain, "But I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now." Something about it jumped out at me, though I can't place it now.
11) "I'll Fly Away," Gillian Welch and Allison Krauss: This song, from the "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, seemed like another perfect choice. "Some bright morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away." A song of deliverance from hardship and suffering.
12) "Is This the End?" Creed: Before you rise up in protest, allow me to defend this choice. For one thing, it's more like "My Own Prison" than "Human Clay," and if you pay any attention at all, you know there's a distinct difference. The first album was rather good, the rest were overproduced crap. (Scott Stapp is a preening crap-master, perhaps?) Anyway, this track comes from the Scream 3 soundtrack, and I really like the brooding tone of the verses. Of course, there's always the interpretation of Superman as a "christ figure" (came from the heavens to save the world?), and Stapp's christological emphasis in the lyrics can help make that connection. Make of that what you will.
13) "Forever Young," Bob Dylan: I'm really proud of this transition. The loud rock sound of Creed, followed by the unpolished acoustic of Bob Dylan and his guitar. My final blessing to Reeve's memory: may you stay forever young.
So there you go. Begin criticism...wait for it...wait for it...NOW!!!
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Word of the Day Assignment
You must use the following word in conversation during the next 24 hours:
You can use the word while insulting anyone you like, famous or not, to their face or behind their back. Bonus points if you can attach a clever adjective (e.g. "what an inglorious crap-master").
Report to the comments below with your entry and the circumstances surrounding its usage, including who heard you and any responses.
(Future PBB subtitle: "Never has infantile behavior been taken so seriously.")
personality tests by similarminds.com
Here are some fun ENFP links.
I know, like you care, right? But since I'm all about the self-discovery, according to the test, I figured I'd throw it out there.
Monday, October 11, 2004
Monday Post Madness: Odds and Ends
--Pop quiz: what's Thursday?
--I failed to mention it when it occured, but it's not to late for me to bring up the fact that "Perfect Blue Buildings" has recently passed the 5,000 visits mark. That's really really cool, actually. (Granted, I've been blogging for over two years and have only been counting for the last five months, but still, it's cool.) So, on the occasion of this recent milestone, I'd like to say a few words of thanks.
- Thanks to the hundreds--literally HUNDREDS--of you who have found my site by searching for "Perfect Blue" (an apparently popular anime film) and "Perfect Blue Buildings meaning/lyrics/chords/tabs/interpretations." Each time one of you has found my page, you've stayed here for such a short time that Sitetracker lists you as 0 seconds. Thanks for running up my visit tally artificially. While I have no information on the film, please find the answers to all of your Counting Crows queries at annabegins.com. And stop coming here.
- Thanks also to the searchers who have stumbled across my page somehow while searching for items like "cheerleader striptease" and "girls undressing in slow motion." While I can't fathom how you ended up here, and I apologize for not fulfilling your self-gratification needs, thanks for stopping by. You perverted bastards.
- Thanks must also go out to all my "unknown" friends. I don't know who you are, where you're from, or why you pulled my page up. I have no way of contacting you back to say, "hey, thanks for checking in." So I hope this meager greeting will suffice. On a related note, WHO ARE YOU? THIS STALKER-LIKE BEHAVIOR IS HELLA CREEPY.
- And finally--most importantly--thank you, actual readers. I like you guys. I enjoy hearing from you, and I love reading your comments. Especially when you sign in to disagree with me completely. Really. No, seriously--all kidding aside, thanks. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it, because it's true--you guys are why I do this.
All right, enough sweetness.
--I got a raise on Friday. Go me, for kicking ass. Goes into effect next week, so I just want to let you know, the next round's on me.
--I also got a new tire for the truck. So I am happy to report that as of right now, a solid 50% of my tires present no risk to me in the event of hazardous road conditions. Your tax dollars at work, folks.
--My awesome Sunday School class bought me two books, as a thank you for filling in as teacher a few weeks ago. Just the love and encouragement I needed.
--I procured a used VHS copy of "Beautiful Girls" from Halfprice for four bucks yesterday. Go me. I watched it last night. I'll likely watch it tonight. And maybe tomorrow.
--I'm going to St. Louis in nine days. That's vaguely exciting. It's work-related, but it will still be fun.
--I can't believe I'm going to say this, and I'll probably repent of it tomorrow--but go Astros, and beat those lousy Braves. (My Cubbies took a dive this year, so I can't hold it against the 'Stros. And the only teams I hate more than the Astros are the Braves, Cardinals, and Yankees. Pretty clear who I'm rooting for, this post-season.)
--Football notes: The Texans came back from a 21-0 deficit halfway through the third quarter, to tie the game at 28 in the final minutes and force an overtime against the Vikings. And then they lost. Unlike hockey, you don't get a point for the overtime loss. Stupid Texans. Carr's still a hoss QB though. And the announcers used the word "Favre-like" four or five times, when describing him. That's gotta be a good sign for the future.
--Speaking of hockey, Aeros hockey starts this Friday. Who's got two thumbs and is ready for the AHL [minor league] hockey season to start? This guy! (Who's got two thumbs and is grumbling about the NHL lockout? That guy.)
--Snippet movie review: "The Forgotten" is a wacky movie that poses briefly as a government-conspiracy flick before drifting way out into X-Files country. That being said, it's a good flick with several good "jump" moments. Enjoyable, and worth (at least) your rental fee down the road.
That's all, folks. Have a good night.
"All's quiet in Grover's Corners. Everyone's resting in Grover's Corners. You get some rest, too. Good night."
Monday Post Madness: Issue 2
In light of the current political season, I found it curious (and a bit confusing) to read this summary, my book-of-the-day last Friday:
"Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos" by Robert D.
(Random House, 2002)
Why was Neville Chamberlain willing to live with Hitler, and Bill Clinton ready to make nice with Communist China? Robert D. Kaplan blames it on a combination of Christian forbearance and liberal democratic principles that has made most Western leaders unwilling to recognize tyrants and despots for what they are. To replace the warm, fuzzy policies of today, he urges a return to the hard-nosed practices of Thucydides, Sun-Tzu, Machiavelli, and Hobbes. Kaplan argues that it is delusional to think we can get along with megalomaniacs, and insists that it is best to face them down now rather than later (by which time they are likely to have grown stronger).
[There's no author credited for this synopsis, so assume I'm crediting him or her here. --d.]
Wow. That's really interesting. I'm curious to know how Kaplan views the present administration's amalgam of Christian rhetoric and "pagan" diplomatic pragmatism. But more than that, I'm curious to hear what you think about this.
Based simply on this synopsis of what I think would be a fascinating book, do you agree that the actions of Chamberlain and Clinton (among others) are, as Kaplan is credited to imply, "a mix of Christian forbearance and liberal democratic principles"? Do you think that a pro-active, often ostenisbly "warlike" foreign policy is an abandonment of Christian principles in favor of a "pagan" kill-or-be-killed mentality? Does your position on the Iraq war (and the larger War on Terror) conflict in any way with your understanding of your religious beliefs?
Come on, guys, humor me and answer. This is something I've considered for a while. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
Monday Post Madness: Issue 1
As most of you have probably heard by now, Christopher Reeve has died from heart failure, after lapsing into a coma in the last week. His long battle is over. A few thoughts on his passing:
--As I've mentioned before, I was never much into comics growing up. My interest in the mythology of comics is a recent thing. Thanks to my recent Smallville compulsion, I now consider myself something of a Superman fan, after years of being a diehard fan (admittedly superficially) of Batman.
I do remember with the historic "Death of Superman" issue came out. My friend JD's dad was searching high and low for the issue, and my dad finally found one and grabbed it for him. I was entrusted with the keeping of the book until JD's dad picked it up. I looked through it only once. I looked at the cover with curiosity and awe. I flipped through it reverentially. The first time I'd ever really looked at a comic book (except for a brief and uneventful run-in with an "autographed" Spiderman issue). It was so...heightened. I was a book nerd from birth, but this was a wholly new medium for me. Frankly, I'm surprised that I didn't dive into comics right there. I guess basketball and Nintendo overwhelmed and crushed that small seedling of comic fanboyhood. But I always remembered that first issue.
--I remember hearing on the radio when Christopher Reeve had his accident. It was in eighth or ninth grade. I was being picked up from school, and as the car left the carpool area, it passed the family-owned stables nextdoor. I don't remember what I felt, but I remembered trying to picture what happened. I couldn't quite see it mentally. So I looked at the chocolate colored horses munching grass in the sun-and-shadow-dappled afternoon.
--I collected keyrings before I had reason to buy them. I still have about thirty. For a while, I used a metal Batman insignia, about three inches across, on a metal chain. That was my first actually functional keyring, until one of the links broke. When I went to buy its replacement (this was sometime during high school), I actually put back the Batman and bought the Superman shield. Though the red and yellow plastic pieces inset in the metal base have come out (leaving a rad "steel" look), the Superman key chain remains to this day. I know it doesn't mean anything, but I like to think it might.
--The first Smallville episode I ever saw was the first episode guest-starring Christopher Reeve. That was the only reason I watched--until that point, the series held no interest for me (as I said, Batman fan). That episode was so interesting, it planted the seed that would later grow into my current viewing habit. I felt the same sense of heightened story, of a mythology larger than I could grasp in the moment. Reeve would star in another episode the following season, and his character became a major catalyst in the series. I'm curious how/if the writers will address Reeve's passing.
--I know he was a proponent of neurological injury research, and like Michael J. Fox, encouraged the use of embryonic stem cell lines for that research. In a way, I almost understand his position. But I don't agree with it, even now. If that makes me a bad guy, so be it.
--My favorite Christopher Reeve performance wasn't in the cape and tights. He was a brilliant little movie called "Noises Off", the film adaption of a hilarious play. The film also stars the truly funny John Ritter and Carol Burnett. If you find this movie in your local video store, it would be a crime not to rent it.
That's all I have to say now. I'm sorry for his passing. He was and will always be a legend and an inspiration of courage and the power of the human spirit.
In the meantime, talk among yourselves. Here's your topic: who would win in a barfight, Aerosmith or Oasis? Discuss.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
I sat down at the keys. As the computer warmed up and kicked into gear, I felt myself start to tense up. My stomach tightened into a knot. The fear came flooding back. The thoughts of "can't" and "why bother." I closed my eyes and prayed, "Father, help me not to overthink this. Help me to just relax and do it." And my Father reminded me of a verse in Psalms He gave me the other night. Ps. 45:1--"My heart is stirred by a noble theme, as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer."
So as soon as I pulled the program up (I had forgotten that I renamed the icon on my desktop, so that it said, "Word, yo..."), I closed my eyes and listened. I didn't try to come up with an idea, or formulate some brilliant plot. I listened.
And in my mind, I heard a front door slam, and the sound of letters fluttering to the floor. A man walked over and picked them up. Then he started clearing the dishes from dinner. There had been a fight, but I didn't yet know why. I wondered what had happened, as he conducted a few mundane chores. Then, as I listened to the rattle of the dishwasher, I began to find out what was the matter.
I listened to the conversation. A few times, I caught myself trying to direct it down one path or another, but I went back and deleted my unwelcome interdictions. It's rude to interrupt.
After two hours and 2200 words, it was finished. I completed a story.
This doesn't sound like a big deal to some, I'm sure. But understand that I have at least two dozen incomplete short stories in my computer and my paper files, and scores of undeveloped ideas and fragments. The very fact that I found the ending and stopped is exciting to me.
I went over it in red pen during my lunch break, catching inconsistencies, cutting hollow verbiage. I'm debating whether or not to cut the last ten lines off the story, because they're starting to ring false. I'm gonna show it to my friend Josh, and ask for some advice about how realistic certain parts of it are.
I know it's probably crap. This isn't self-deprecation; this is realism. I know it's crap, but I'm really okay with that. Because the very fact that it exists means that the writer within has not shuffled off his immortal coil or gone quietly into that dark night. It means that it's not too late to try this again.
It means that there's still a chance to be what I think I was made to be.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
"[W]hen we make our struggles huge and let them consume us with self-pity, we make His sacrifice small."If you can't say amen, you gotta say ouch.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
There are few words in English as beautiful when strung together as "used...book...sale."
Not just any old sale, either. A bargain, to be sure. Hardcovers for a buck. Paperbacks for 50 cents.
Wanna see my pretties?
*laying out books like trophies*
[I tried to link to the exact edition I purchased, but this was harder than I expected. Mismatches are noted below.]
Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem (hardcover)--first edition, but library-abused
She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb (paper)--a recommendation from the boss, but non-Oprah.
Driving Blind, by Ray Bradbury (hardcover)
Still Life with Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins (paper)--Different edition; Full Camel-box cover.
The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis (paper)--1976 edition, different cover.
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess (paper)--water-damaged, but otherwise readable; 1972 edition, Ballantine Press, New York, orange cover, diagonal title; apparently a movie tie-in, though no images from the film.
Total cost? Four bucks. You betcha.
While investigating the Robbins, I found some fascinating things. Written beneath the Kafka quote before the Prologue were the following insights.
"It's not what we do in life that matters... but who we are."I have no idea who these sages are, but they say true (I say thankya).
"All things in moderation, except for ice cream." --B.L.
However the most interesting part of it was two pages down. On the blank page across from the prologue, in a dark blue pen and all-caps (clearly male) lettering, was the following dedication, dated 1-25-93:
The "Love, Sam" has large, looping initial letters.
LOOK CLOSELY, CURIOUS KAREN,
RED IS THE REFLECTION OF THE
LUSTFUL ANTICIPATION TORMENTS
HIS THOUGHTS.. HE CRAVES YOUR
PASSION WITH HIS OWN.
AH, BUT BEWARE CURIOUS KAREN,
BEING SURE OF HEART AND SLIGHT
OF HAND.. HE'S CERTAIN TO
TASTE YOU AGAIN.
The rest of the book is lined and starred. There is a short, makeshift index on the last page, listing favorite quotes by subject.
Curious Karen seems to have heeded Sam's advice to "look closely." And so shall I.
A Final Update: The Dark Tower
The bitterest of bittersweet endings...though not in the way you'd normally anticipate, so I'm not really giving you anything.
King has really outdone himself. He created a mythology that was both familiar and yet compelling in his originality. If you'll allow me to drift a bit toward overstatement, one could try to argue that King reinvents the quest epic with this series. This is admittedly a bit of a leap, since the quest epic defies reinvention--it is what it is. And similarly, the old adage still applies: the joy is in the journey.
But, as King shows in this story, the pain's in the journey, too. And the pain of this journey is just as definitive.
The way it ends... again, don't worry, I won't spoil it for you. To do so would be a great disservice, worthy of bitter curses from those brave (foolhardy?) enough to undertake the 3800 page journey. But the way it ends seems like the only way you can really end this story. It is at the same time unjust and appropriate. Satisfying and disappointing.
This ambivalence is not really because of the ending itself, I think. A lot of what I am (still) feeling comes from the fact that this story, a story I have enjoyed on and off for years, is really over. Really. Over. And I don't want it to be. I want to beg sai King to spin another tale of Roland's youth, or Eddie's, or Susannah's, or Jake's. Hell, I'll even take a story about Oy the brave billy-bumbler. I want to plead with the Wordslinger to take another turn as New England's Scheherezade. But at the same time, I know he can't do that without taking away a lot of the magic of the tale.
I finished it and went to bed. I lay there for a while, thinking about it. I think the gunslinger's tale even crept into my dreams last night, though I can't remember more than a foggy image of men like trees walking. I tried to pick up another book this morning, and immediately dive into it, as is my practice. But I couldn't. I'm tired, but I don't think that's it.
Those who have read me for a while, or those who have read Amanda's page, are familiar with the idea of "post-novel depression." For those who aren't familiar, PND is the little bit of sadness you feel after finishing a good book and closing the pages. Knowing that it's the last "first time" to read the story. It probably sounds silly to those of you who aren't book lovers, but the rest of you are nodding your heads, keenly understanding what I mean.
Then imagine this, ye bibliophiles: all of your PND wrapped up in one single moment, when one of the best stories you've ever read is over. The elven boat chases the sunset toward the Grey Havens, and Sam lives the rest of his life in peace. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy rejoice as they step into Aslan's Country. The Lomans stand over Willy's grave. Sidney's gone to his far, far better place. All is quiet in Grover's Corners.
And you're left with the sadness of losing something akin to a friend, flown away on night wings.
Maybe this is too serious of an attitude to take toward some "stupid book." But it's how I feel, I say thankya.
The story's dead and done.
The Wordslinger's a-resting
In the setting of the sun.
The vision's all been seen
There's no more story left to tell
Or sorrow left to keen.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Reagan, he ain't.
To prevent this from happening, I've avoided all potentially political blog posts (be grateful, because that's hard for me).
So here's my take on the debate, influenced only by talking with my dad during the debate, and watching a few minutes of wrap-up afterwards on a couple of networks.
In a word: Ugh.
The partisan in me wants to say, "oh yeah man, the Prez was rockin, he told it like it is, total victory!!!" The pessimist in me would say, "Oh man, we needed a slam dunk, and we got a missed free throw." The realist in me is somewhere in the middle.
Presentation: First to the Senator: He did very well. There were some areas that needed more detailed explanation (for example, where he was going to get all these extra troops, or how he was going to convince countries to participate who have said as lately as last week that even if he is elected they will have nothing to do with Iraq). But he kept his head. Another thing I noticed: he took lots of notes, which was good.
We see the college debater come out, someone clearly skilled and practiced in public speaking. Personally, when you're thinking about qualities of a president, I believe this is important, but not that important. It's a polish issue. Kerry seemed to be more polished.
Kerry was not without stumbles. The "global test" line was a gaff that will come back on him. He was clearly trying to shake off some of the "internationalist" criticism he's gotten (often by parroting several ideas and arguments the President has made in the past), but that one will be the soundbite conservatives will hold up as the "big reveal" moment. He's still a globalist, they say, and will sacrifice our national interests for the sake of global appeal.
Kerry also didn't say anything new. He needed more detailed answers, more nuts-and-bolts discussion. Not that he didn't know an awful lot, but it was all very general.
As to the President: He's no great communicator. That much is clear, and it is not disputed. He even admits to that. There were several times where he would burn a few seconds trying to formulate his thoughts, and often those thoughts weren't very deftly delivered. This will be interpreted two ways: some will see this as indecisiveness and unpreparedness; others will see this as circumspection and forethought. Depending on what your opinion of him is already, you will interpret him as idiotic or cautious.
The other complaint I have with the President's performance is that he really hammered home his talking points, but again, there wasn't enough detail. He repeated several phrases and quotes, but didn't stretch beyond that.
To describe this in an academic setting: if the two candidates were college students in my AmNatGov class, where Dr. Litherland would give six possible essay questions to study from, Senator Kerry would study a little bit from each question, and when the essay came, he would try to tie in his other knowledge as filler for the question being asked (the "kitchen sink" approach), while President Bush would really focus his studying on one or two of the questions, but when that question was given, he had trouble ordering his thoughts in the moment.
So for the two candidates, was the problem knowledge or test prep? I think the latter, especially for the President.
Presence: Another issue to consider is the body language and expressions of the candidate. Senator Kerry was a tall and impressive figure, with an admittedly noble presence, though very inexpressive eyes. He listened carefully, made notes on what President Bush said, sometimes smirking to himself while doing so. Again, polished, practiced performance.
President Bush was very composed and mellow for the first half of the debate, but started showing signs of fatigue after that. One of which was during some of the Senator's statements, the President would grimace and sigh a bit, shifting from foot to foot. He had a lot to say, evidenced by the way he would always ask for the one-minute discussion period. His expression reminded me quite a bit of my mother, when she'd get tired of having to tell me the same thing over and over. I'd imagine that he felt that way, that he had to answer the same types of comments over and over again. This was a man who was clearly struggling to keep from interrupting, and really taking his time to speak, so as not to say something negative. But this can and will be perceived another way, probably described like a child getting bored at church, kicking his feet, playing with things, getting frustrated. I don't think it's a fair analogy, but that doesn't mean it won't be made.
The single-word descriptors for me would be "control" vs. "candor." Senator Kerry was very measured and thorough, but I don't know if that helped his "regular-guy" credibility. He may have sounded too much like a politician. On the other hand, President Bush seemed very straightforward and not very "nuanced", which will either play positively to people who want their President to be a regular guy or negatively to those who want their president to be a much loftier figure. And I think that's the issue, when it comes to presence and presentation: Kennedy or Clinton? Reagan or...well, GWB?
Questions: I thought the questions seemed fair, but a bit shallow. In the future, the questions need to provoke more than talking points from either candidate, because in that setting will you see the "real" men emerge.
Final Analysis: Senator Kerry did better than I expected, because clearly Senator Kerry loves debates. He's an educated, refined brahmin with a flair for rhetoric and debate. His experience from college and 20 years of (albeit undistinguished) Congressional service helped him maintain poise and confidence in this setting. On the other side, President Bush clearly doesn't like debates. Not because he's afraid of the issues, as I think he demonstrated by always challenging for more time to discuss them. I think it comes down to President Bush not being a career politician, not having a massive amount of public speaking experience, and being well-aware that he isn't the most eloquent man in the room. To rip off Eliot, "No! he is not Reagan, nor was meant to be..." I vehemently disagree that President Bush is stupid (he graduated from the Ivy League--not just went, but graduated), and I think that anyone who truly believes that he is that ignorant is just fooling themselves. He just doesn't have as much skill at communicating what he knows and believes. But when he started talking about real people, like the dead soldier's family, and issues of honor and courage, he was much more comfortable, because (I feel) he's more familiar with dealing in these concepts. He should have taken more notes, he should have prepared a bit better, but he did a good job of staying on message and really selling his forthrightness.
Decision: Slight victory for Kerry. Bush could have ended the election with a slam dunk performance last night, but he couldn't close. However, Kerry needed to really distinguish himself with a detailed, coherent platform, and I don't think he did that. He's still the "anti-Bush", and that's not going to be enough for swing voters.