Monday, January 31, 2005

oh, bother...

Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!

(tip o' the cap: stepharoo)

Signs that I serve a Just God (Post-Weekend Edition)

There were about 35-40 copies of "Left Behind" stacked up on top of the Clearance section shelf at Half-Price Books, marked down to fifty cents each.


I probably shouldn't have, but I derived a lot of satisfaction from that sight.

Iraqi Election Post

I can't say anything that hasn't been said better elsewhere.

It's a great day in the history of humanity.

I didn't put the election, or the incredible courage of the voters, on the "Cool Ten" list. But the fact is, they don't belong there.

They belong on their own "FREAKING AWESOME" list.

I leave you with this link. The last picture, in my opinion, says it all.

I'd like to have this weekend back, please.

I had trouble coming up with a Cool Ten this week, as I mentioned. The fact of it is, this weekend downright sucked at times. Allow me to illuminate:

--My sisters are sick. The older has strep. The younger has strep AND bronchitis. I got to babysit for the better part of Saturday, whilst the parents were running errands and enjoying an evening out. I did my best to entertain and take care of the sistren, but there's only so much you can do for sick kids. After a while, I just felt crap because I couldn't do anymore to help them until they went to the doctor the next day.

--Someone I love and respect made an incredibly racist remark on Saturday. I was shocked. Despite being raised by a man who didn't see Archie Bunker as satire, she still turned out okay. She's been a Christian for the majority of her life, and would consider herself rather devout. Then she comes up with a bitterly racist remark, and got angry when I called her on it. It just hurt me so much to have someone that i care so much about say something awful like that. A reminder that at our very best, we're all still broken human beings.

--And the finale: I went to the movies with a group of people, including my current crush. She brought three friends: one girl I'd met before and her cool boyfriend, and another guy, whom we shall name "Buck." Buck is a country fella from New Waverly (small town, about an hour away). I mean, jeans, plaid-ish shirt unbuttoned to the third button or so (boasting some serious chest hair), goatee and sideburns barely distinguishable from the week's growth of facial hair, a ball cap with a frayed bill and the word "Hick" emblazoned on the front. Said crush (whom we shall henceforth refer to as "NewGirl") and Buck knew each other from her last church home. Well, it became rather apparent that NewGirl and Buck were rather comfortable with each other. She teased him. She playfully pulled at the tuft of chest hair peeking out from his shirt. She would touch his arm from time to time. As he was telling a story, I watched her look at him, look him up and down a bit. *That* look. She sat next to him during the movie.

Am I imagining this? Making too much of it? Possibly. But as my good friend Bob says, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

So yes, coming up with ten cool things was tough today.

PBB Cool Ten for 1/30-2/5

10. Holy crap, it's almost February!
9. I finally saw another of the Best Picture nominees. Good times.
8. Next weekend is the Super Bowl.
7. Dylan Thomas.
6. Being able to talk respectfully with friends about politics.
5. Having four different emails to respond to, in my inbox.
4. Being alive and in relatively good health.

(at this point, I was struggling to find anything else cool, so i stopped for a while. Having come back to it now, I think I can finish.)

3. Kelly Couri. The man deserves a name-drop.
2. No matter what happens, I know my God has a plan for me.
1. Let's face it, there's nothing on earth better than red beans and rice with beef sausage. And that's just what I'm cooking up tonight, before curling up with a good book and then watching me some "24".

Friday, January 28, 2005

"what will it take" (a rough and ugly piece)

Not a challenge, an insult, or a mockery. Just an overlong rumination, humbly submitted.


so fill me in.
what do i have to do
to achieve your level of untainted
moral clarity? what will it take to
free me from the bonds of country,
tradition, and ideology?

will i have to repent of my past choices,
votes cast for lumbering candidates with backwards
glances and country voices?

very well. bless me, and help me find absolution.

will i have to renounce the values i learned
from my youth? the ideology of my parents and my
teachers and my old time religion?

and what will i replace it with? what's my alternative?
it can't be the philosophy of discontent, of pettiness, of
bitter opposition, that so many of your compatriots espouse?
(is the word "compatriot" offensive?)

of course i shouldn't count you in with that lot--with
those who besmirch your label as badly as others besmirch mine.
it's not fair to nitpick. i apologize.

shall i be a pacifist? then who will show me
what that means and what it does not?

very well. i recant.
i shall turn the other cheek,
and the other town,
and the other country,
and the other ally.
and when the wicked man comes to rape me with his
ideology, and remove my infidel head from my neck,
i will not resist him.

what is left for me to do? what penance, to complete my
transformation? to change me from a glutton, a consumer,
a fascist hellbent on oil-tainted bloodlust and destruction,
to an enlightened, non-violent, socially-conscious, responsible,
environmentally-friendly soul?

what must i give up? my apartment? my job? my material goods?
shall i sell all, and give to the poor? (will others sell all and
give to me? or is it impolite to ask such questions?)
i always thought "enlightenment" was a mental transformation,
not a specific reference to the weight of my goods.
clearly, i was mistaken.

i'm trying to understand. really, i am. (forgive my denseness.)
but on whose backs will utopia be built? granted, clearly,
it's not working in this current system. this I see. so we shall
punish the merchants for buying and selling,
and the rich for their riches, and the powerful for their power.
but who then will dare to buy or sell, to be rich or powerful?
(or is that the point?)

i'm trying not to be facetious. i'm trying to understand.
what have you to offer me? why is your way better than mine?
in your perfect world, the successful will be punished for being
too successful, the mighty must give up their might,
all must work for a harvest they will never enjoy, and those of us
who have (forgive me) been blessed with living in a free society
must constantly bear the shame of having opportunities that
less fortunate others do not.

if you don't mind, there is still something that i can't quite fit
into your doctrine, that i'd like to discuss.

what you never seem to acknowledge is that there are people,
both within our borders and without, who do not value
this kind of "enlightenment;" who see pacifism as a weakness
to crush beneath iron boots.
(perhaps i am still victim of my own people's propaganda.)

but do you really think that you can force your "enlightenment" onto
the peoples of the world, even if some have declared you
to be their enemy based on your birthplace,
or your language, or your fair skin?
and if they will not accept your moral clarity,
will you let them slay you, as they have promised to do?
will you allow them to destroy your perfect
society, with their opposing worldview and suicide missionaries?
(or is that the point?)

this is a mystery too great for me to understand.
i am too corrupted by a love of my life, of my culture,
of my country. i fear i will never find peace
in your progressive nirvana.
what it would take is for me to undo myself
and become you.

(or is that the point?)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

So... what's new.

I keep thinking I need to post something today, but I can't think of any pressing matters.

How's it going.

I'm fine, thanks.

When's Chapter 4 coming out? I don't know. I want to pick that up again, but I'm at a loss for what to say. I have a few ideas, but overall, I'm a little lost as to what the next step is.

I want to write more than i do. But I'm finding it's hard to make time for it, without feeling like I should be doing something else.

I recently finished two books. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb. And, About a Boy, by Nick Hornby. I'd recommend the latter. Avoid the former.

I've listened to "Hot Fuss" at least twice through after arriving home, every night this week. Definitely a keeper.

Do any of you even watch "Smallville"? Or am I the only one? If so, I'll stop blabbing on about it. Figure you're sick of hearing about it.

Yesterday I finished off the dirty dishes in my sink, and folded the pile of clean laundry on my kitchen table. My living room/dining room/kitchen area actually looks presentable. I'm rather pleased with myself.

We won't discuss the disarray behind my bedroom door.

Also yesterday, I left work promptly at five, got home not long thereafter, and took advantage of the dying daylight by going for a very light jog. Which nearly killed me.

I had forgotten about the shin-splints that plagued me in high school. We were re-introduced.

If I get out of here during daylight, I'll go for another jog. After stretching more thoroughly.

But that's unlikely because I'm utterly swamped with work, and because I'm supposed to be eating with the family tonight.

I'm currently reading Everything is Illuminated. It was written by a 25-year-old. I'm beginning to hate young writers. They all make me feel lazy.

At the moment, I'm listening to Elvis Costello. I like him.

Today's happy moment occured when I saw that someone whom I've never met face-to-face left me a message that she prayed for me last night. I thought that was beautiful.

I have nothing else to share. I love you all. Paz y gracia.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pulling up above the cloudbank

Yesterday was rough. There are these days that just hit me out of the blue, and being the mercurial melancholic that I am, I rolled with it. I've realized by now that when your disposition, your humours, whatever, decide that you're going to have a depressive day, it's better just to let it happen, let it roll through like a stormfront, rather than trying to fight it back with some silly sense of propriety.

When my Crows days come around (note: these are different from the 'rob gordons', you understand), the important thing is to be honest with myself and with God, and to listen to both.

I needed to vent. I needed to wallow a little, just to let it out, pop off the valve a bit. In the calm after my raging, when i'm deflated and hollowed, that's when I listen best.

I had written my post, and a few emails, then I went home. On the train platform, i heard the familiar Voice saying, "You're so angry about your routine. Your schedule. You want excitement. But dude, what you see as iron-bar routine, others see as security. Look at your life: your family, your friends, your job, your apartment. For the first time in your life, everything's really starting to come together. You aren't facing any serious problems or crises. And your 'boring' routines are trauma-free. So you aren't dating, right now. That's a small thing. You are in good health, surrounded by people who love you. You are growing. Life is good. Pull out of the cloudbank and look at the sky."

I went home, made dinner, watched a little TV, and read for about two hours (something I probably couldn't have done if I were in a serious relationship). At the end of my restful evening, I went to bed.

This morning, as I ate my Cheerios, I saw on the news a report of a three-car accident last night. A drunk driver hit two other cars. Seven people went to the hospital.

I got dressed, left the apartment, and got on the train. And I thanked God for my 'boring' train ride. My 'predictable' schedule. And his mercy on my lack of perspective.


When I got to work, I had four emails from friends. Each one ministered to me in a different way. Thank you all. (I'll answer them tomorrow.)

As for today, it's an incredibly busy day. A good day (and not just for the busy-ness, steph).

I'm not "all better." I still feel the way I feel. But the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness is starting to change back to hope. Change is gonna come, like the song says. I don't have to make it happen. I don't have to force God's hand. I just have to respond. To keep juggling. To pull above my own pettiness and take in the view from above.

I'll be okay. My God is good. And that is enough.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Yeah, it's a lyrics post. Deal with it.

As an addendum to the last post.

I never go to New York City these days
Something about the buildings in Chelsea just kills me
Maybe in a month or two,
Maybe when things are different for me,
Maybe when things are different for you
You know all of this shit just sticks in my head

Is there anything different these days?
The light in her eyes goes out
I never had light in my eyes anyway
Maybe things are different these days

It's good for everybody to hurt somebody once in a while
The things I do to people I love shouldn't be allowed
Something about the buildings in Chelsea just kills me
Something about the buildings in Chelsea just kills meI

s there anything different these days?
The light in her eyes goes out,
I never had light in my eyes anyway
Maybe things are different these days

I dream I'm in New York City some nights.
Angels flow down from all the buildings
Something about an angel just kills me
I keep hoping something will

Is there anything different these days?
The light in her eyes goes out,
I never had light in my eyes anyway
Maybe things are, maybe maybe maybe
Maybe things are,
Maybe maybe maybe maybe things are different,
Maybe things are different these days
The light goes out
I never had light in my eyes anyway
Maybe things are different ......these days.

("Chelsea" by Counting Crows)

Talking like lions... sacrificing like lambs...

(It's a blue album kind of day.)

I'm going to ramble for a while here; don't expect a clear thread.


I'm impatient with progress. I'm impatient with the necessity of personal change. My attitude is the childish "now or never" instead of the mature "eventually."

I hate "eventually." It's a misty word, foggy, half-seen and elusive. It's not a solid word.

I like the certainty of "now." I like the definitive nature of "never."

I despise waiting.

I don't even know what I'm supposed to be waiting for. For years, I've felt that I'm nearing this magical corner that I will turn, and in my turning "become." Become whatever it is I'm supposed to be. Become better than myself. Grow up. Mature.

Years have passed, and no such magical corner has been found. I've turned ordinary corners, walked down common paths, made decisions, stuck with some and gave up on others.

I feel like my life is slipping away while I'm waiting for a mythical sense of completion. Not "completeness" in any kind of spiritual way. I mean more, a sense of self-satisfied and peaceful achievement, whether it be a healthy romantic relationship or a new level of personal awareness. I've taken steps (more to the latter than the former). I've pulled a few things together. But I still feel like a half-finished jigsaw puzzle. The borders are done, and a few floating patches of color are there, but everything else is a blank jumble.

How can I invite anyone else into my jumble? It's unthinkable and unfair, but I want to. One of my strongest desires at this point in my life is to return to that point of emotional intimacy with another person, that feeling of loving and being loved that only the one-on-one of romantic love can provide. Perhaps I'm wrong for wanting it so much. But the Christian rhetoric of "contenting yourself wholly in the Lord" isn't going far with me right now. I'm still following Christ and I'm still learning, but the way I'm feeling, I believe one of the truest statements of God is one of the first ones recorded. "It's not good for [Dave] to be alone."

Somewhere in my mind, there's the thought that I am alone because I'm not ready. That somehow I haven't learned my lesson. That I have to turn another corner in my personal growth before I'll be "ready" to date again. I don't know where this idea is coming from, but it feels like I'm having to work out some sort of unspecified penance for my previous faults. And I'm tired of penance. At the end of my last relationship, I was a crappy boyfriend. I've admitted this, I've accepted it, and I'm learned from it. And in my next relationship, I'll make plenty of mistakes; some old, some new. There's no way to avoid that. But it's idiocy to think that by cloistering myself, I'll attain some sort of zen-like perfection in the relationship department. I don't know where this idea is coming from, but there it is.

I'm ready to start making some stupid mistakes. I'm tired, so damned tired of calculating my risks. I'll take some ugly rejections, a whole hatful, just for the opportunity to break up this friggin monotony. I'm so incredibly sick that NOTHING IS GOING ON with me. My personal life has been stuck in a self-imposed doldrum. My sails are hanging limp; a symbolic joke on me. The seas are deadly still. There is no motion. There is no regress, yes; but no progress either. I'm getting nowhere.

I wrapped up my hesitation to ask out a cool, sweet, cute girl, in the spin of "waiting on God's will" and "not feeling like the right time." I was trying to be honest. But was I being honest with myself? Is God waiting for me to meet him halfway? To buy a ticket, so to speak? I'm so petrified of moving on my own, of making a choice, that I pray, "God, move me, so I don't have to take responsibility for moving"? Because that could be the answer. God could be waiting for me to actually step into a Jordan river. If the waters don't recede, then it wasn't my Jordan. Or maybe it was. Maybe God is waiting for me to crap out in a couple more relationships before taking me where he wants me to go. Maybe I'm just full of crap.

I'm almost at the point where I want to step out of God's will, just to feel his disciplining hand as he moves me back. Just to know he's there. Like the rebellious child who disobeys, who reaps the punishment, to get any attention. It's blasphemous to imply that the Lord God doesn't pay attention, doesn't speak, because I know He does. His mercies are everlasting. But there are times, there are moments, when I start breathing psalm 22 through clenched jaws.

so this is me, God. crying out from a dead calm sea. asking for a little more direction, even in the form of discipline.

that prayer should scare me more than it does. but turmoil is movement. bring on the rain.

Oh, yeah, those *other* Awards...

Academy Award Nominations were announced this morning. You can find the full ballot here.

As is my practice, I'll post my predictions of who will win, and who I think should win. I may add a snarky comment or two. Who knows.


Best Actor: A predictable list. Some are surprised that Paul Giamatti wasn't nominated. I, for one, am disappointed that Jim Carrey is still getting no respect from the Academy, despite a fantastic performance in "Eternal Sunshine..."

Should Win: Johnny Depp (sentimental choice) or Don Cheadle

Will Win: Jamie Foxx

Best Supporting Actor: A few more surprises here. Some were predicting Peter Sarsgaard would get some love for "Kinsey"--and while I didn't see him in that film, I liked his work in "Garden State" (a movie unfortunately ignored by the Academy this year). And I would have personally nominated David Carradine for being kickass as Bill in "Kill Bill v.2"

Should Win: Hard to say. I like Morgan Freeman. He deserves to win an Oscar sometime.

Will Win: Thomas Hayden "Lowell" Church. He's come far.

Best Actor (Female): Apparently, despite NO ONE having seen it, Annette Bening's performance in "Being Julia" is getting her attention. I knew it was a pipe dream, but some part of me hoped that Uma Thurman would get a nod for the physically demanding role of The Bride in "Kill Bill v.2."

Should Win: Kate Winslet, for creating such a complex and fascinating character.

Will Win: Annette Bening, because hubby Warren paid off the voters.

Best Supporting Actor (Female): Themes of performances nominated--emotional extremes and sexual freedom. A trend in women's roles in the year 2004?

Should Win: Cate Blanchett's spot-on performance of Kate Hepburn.

Will Win: Virginia Madsen, whose movie should be called Horizontal, instead of Sideways, since that's how most of the characters spent the movie.

Best Animated Film: Kind of a shallow field, but that didn't stop a few good ones from sneaking in. Shark Tale was awful, though. That got my vote for worst animated movie. A soulless enterprise.

Should and Will Win: The Incredibles. A genius movie.

Art Direction: Some good entries. I have two favorites, though.

Should and Will Win: Phantom of the Opera. (But Lemony Snicket is a close second.)

Cinematography: Some think Aviator.

Should Win: I say Phantom.

Will Win: They'll pick Aviator.

Costume Design: Surprised Phantom didn't get the nod. The film was all about spectacle and surface appeal, and the costumes were incredible.

Should Win: Lemony Snicket...

Will Win: The Aviator (probably).

Make-up: Short field.

Should and Will Win: The Passion of the Christ. Love it or hate it, they made it look as real as it possibly could have.

Best Score: Several good choices here. I recently watched The Village, and was impressed with how his use of color and music really really carried the mood. That said, it doesn't have a prayer.

Should and Will Win: The Academy loves John Williams, and without a "Lord of the Rings" to contend with, "Harry Potter" should easily get this award.

Best Song: Didn't some song by Mick Jagger get the Golden Globe? Where did he go? How did the Polar Express track get on this list? I'm so confused.

Should Win: I'm partial to "Accidentally in Love" but I think the public is sick of the song by now.

Will Win: Not a clue. My pick would be something from the Garden State Soundtrack, but that's not "original." There should be an award for best soundtrack compilation though. It think that idea is long overdue. Then Zach can get some kind of love.

Foreign Language Film: Not a clue about this category. I'm going on what I've heard.

Will Win: The Sea Inside. (Some actually thought Javier Bardem should have gotten an acting nod also.)

Short Film (Live Action and Animated): Don't care.

Sound Mixing/Sound Editing: "Spiderman 2." Enough said.

Visual Effects: "I, Robot" was impressive, but the fight on top of the train was wicked cool. Spidey gets this one too.

Documentary: "Supersize Me" is the only one with a shot. (There is a noticable gap in the ballot, since a certain filmmaker was so concerned with political outcomes that he broke the 'documentary' award rules and showed his film on television before a certain date, pulling himself out of contention for this award. Bet he wishes he could have that one back.)

Documentary (Short Subject): Don't care. The one with the Russian kids will likely get it. Russian kids are a safe bet for these types of awards.

Best Editing: Nothing to say.

Should Win: Finding Neverland blended fantasy and reality almost seamlessly. So cool.

Will Win: Ray. It hasn't won enough yet.

Best Original Screenplay: So many good ones this year. Too bad they missed an obvious choice (ahem, Garden State).

Should Win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was absolutely brilliant. An incredible story.

Will Win: The Aviator, though Hotel Rwanda deserves it more.

Best Adapted Screenplay: I don't have a clue how "Before Sunset" got on this ballot, when it was an original screenplay. Maybe it was adapted from an idea Linklater wrote on a napkin or something ten years ago. Glad it got the nom, but still, it doesn't stand a chance.

Should Win: Before Sunset or Finding Neverland

Will Win: Sideways.

Best Director: No big shocks here. I still think Michele Gondry should have been nominated, but what do I know.

Should Win: Hollywood loves 'em some Clint Eastwood. But it won't be enough...

Will Win: Scorcese will make them an offer they can't refuse.

Best Picture: None of these were in my top five. Eternal Sunshine should have been nominated for sure. Garden State just wouldn't have gotten the love. Before Sunset was too small-market. Kill Bill was too urbane. No, the Academy are, at the heart, a bunch of film snobs, so this is to be expected.

Should Win: Of this lot? I'd prefer Finding Neverland.

Will Win: Ray may pull out the upset victory here, but the safe bet is on The Aviator.

Monday, January 24, 2005

PBB Cool Ten 1/23-1/29

10. Finally jumping on the bandwagon.
9. A great "new" TV series to watch. Fortunately it's only on DVD.
8. U2 finally announced the first leg of the concert tour.
7. The Phantom of the Opera. Good production overall.
6. My family is cool. I like them.
5. New Smallville this week! (Shut up.)
4. Getting my copy of Gospel* in the mail. Awesome, Jeremy.
3. Getting a raise last week. A good raise.
2. Good friends.
1. Going against your impulses, and not making a fool of yourself.

BONUS--UNcool Three:
--Because of the tour delay, the first leg of the U2 tour is nothing like the rumored schedule (and there's no Houston date). This means that I have NO IDEA when they're coming to Houston, and there's again the chance they may play Toyota Center while I'm in Pittsburgh on business. Definitely UNCOOL.
--We're hella busy at work. Ratchets the stress up. And since getting the raise, I've been working doubly hard to justify that I deserved it, but I'm still barely keeping up with the workload. Very UNCOOL.
--Despite the recent announcement that I'm, you know, 'money,' I decided to forego the romantic pursuit of a lovely new friend, at least at the moment. I don't know why, but as I considered and prayed, I decided it didn't feel right. I'm probably guilty of overthinking things again. You could chalk this one up to Dave's usual fallback of "calculated risk." But as the afternoon progressed, it just didn't feel like this was the right time to bring the issue up. Still doesn't. I'm seriously crushing on the girl. But something's holding me back. And I don't understand it. Decidedly UNCOOL.

Award Prognostication

It's award season again, and people all over the world (like me) will make their selections for this year's award winners.

So, since the ballot has been announced, I'll now give my predictions for these prestigous and important awards.


Here are my picks for the winners of the 2005 Razzie Awards for Cinematic Ineptitude.

Worst Picture: Talk about a year of strong contenders. What other year could boast the Razzie caliber of such horrific films as Catwoman, Alexander, AND SuperBabies 2? But, sadly, there must only be one winner.

My pick: Catwoman. Oh, you betcha.

Worst Actor: Haha, cheap shot at the Prez, cuz THAT's never been done before. But who will take home the Razzie? Tough call. Vin shouldn't be on the list, though.

My pick: Who can overcome the quint-fecta of Ben Stiller ? (Though the vote is for Polly, Envy, and Fockers. He wasn't *that* awful in the other two.)

Worst Actress: Wow. This ballot just gets tougher. But ultimately, the best choice is the most controversial.

My Pick: The gender-bending Wayans sis--I mean, Brothers. Makes "Scary Movie" look like "Lawrence of frickin' Arabia."

Worst Screen Couple: My first impulse is to say Bennifer, but that would also implicate Liv Tyler, to whom I have long ago bestowed eternal cinematic absolution. So, that leaves...

My Pick: Those crazy Wayans. You go, girls.

Worst Supporting Actress: Time to take my cheap shot.

My Pick: J-lo.

Worst Supporting Actor: Interesting how some of these categories have formerly good actors who've gone bad, while other nominees are "lifers."

My Pick: Jon Voight. Should've burned out, dude, because you're not fading away well.

Worst Director: Also often known as the "Who???" award.

My Pick: With a name like "Pitof," it HAS to be bad.

Worst Remake or Sequel: Also known as the "WHY???? DEAR GOD, WHY????" Award.

My Pick: Anacondas (2): Hunt for the Blood Orchid. Did anyone even watch the first one, or did they just assume there'd be an audience and start production on this bomb as soon as "Anaconda" wrapped?

Worst Screenplay: One thing all bad movies have in common--bad writing. REALLY, REALLY bad writing.

My Pick: White Chicks. Whenever you have SIX writers (and three of them have the surname Wayans), you know the movie is doomed.


I'm not going to give my picks for the bonus awards, but you're welcome to do so below.

Oh, and by the way, the nominations for that other awards show are being released tomorrow. Expect my picks tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday Fiction: "Papa's Letter" (Chapter 3)

Louis held the hand-written pages gently, as if fearing they were as fragile as their author had been. He glanced up at his parents, then at his aunts and uncles, and finally at Salvador, whose placid expression made him smile.

"Well--go ahead," Linus Jr. stammered.

Louis hesitated. "Should I read it out loud, Mr. Salvador?"

Salvador shook his head. "Not if you don't want to. It's your choice. If you'd prefer to keep it to yourself, I can explain the conditions of the letter to your family later."

Louis looked back at his grandfather's children. Linus Jr., whose face was growing redder. Janet, whose severe posture threatened to snap her back from the strain. Howard, whose fingernails were chewed almost to the quick.

"I'll read it myself. You can tell them."

"Oh, for God's sake!" growled Linus Jr. "Just read the damn letter, so we know what the hell's going on!"

Stacey grabbed her husband's arm. "Linus, please, you're making a scene."

He shook off her hand. "If anyone's making a scene, it's him. Dramatic little punk."

Daniel spoke up. "Now, hold on, Linus, that's entirely uncalled-for--"

"Shut up, Dan. This is family business."

"My son is my family. So get off his case."

Salvador's placid expression had disappeared. It was replaced by pursed lips and narrowed eyes. He picked up the paperweight and began smashing it against the desktop, over and over, until the yelling stopped. When he let go, he saw that the stone had split in half. "That's enough! I see now why Mr. Taylor made the decision that he did."

"I'll read it."

All heads turned. Louis felt the heat from every person's glare and immediately wanted to take it back; but it had already escaped his lips.

Salvador took a deep breath and smoothed back his hair. "Are you sure, boy?"


"Then go ahead and begin, when you are ready."

December 18th, 2004

Dear Louis,

If you are reading this, then I've finally kicked off. I wish I could say I was sorry to go, but that's not the case. The last few years have been hell.

No doubt you're shocked that I've left you the house. I will admit I wish I could see the look on everyone else's faces when Salvador read them the bad news. But, at least this way, I won't have to listen to Linus Jr. bitch and moan about it, so it's an even swap.

You must be asking yourself, why would the old man do something so nice? It seems so out of character. Well, I'll tell you--it feels out of character. But, at the risk of sounding like some kind of dribbling, sentimental jackass, I realized that I ought to do something decent for someone who deserved it, here at the end of my life. And the only person I could think of doing it for, aside from your sweet mother, was you.

Why you? Why the hell not. I'm proud of how you've done over the years. I don't think I've ever told you that before. But I am. Your mother sent me every newspaper article you wrote up at Northwestern. She even mailed me a copy of your commencement program. In her letters, she kept me up to date with your academic progress over your years there, as she had when you were in high school. You're the light of her life, boy. Don't take that for granted.

But I'm a little pissed off at you too. Since graduation, you seemed to have crapped out. No full-time job, no initiative. Living off your folks. That's shameful. You should be creating a life for yourself by now, not moping around your mother's house. I know all about Eva, too. But shutting your life down over some damn broken engagement is idiocy. You're from better stock than that.

I was trying to think if there's anything I could do to help you out, give you a boost into adulthood. But I realized that giving you money or property would only choke out your desire to make something of yourself. Any form of welfare would give you more reason to do nothing.

Then I figured it out. The best thing I could give you is motivation.

I instructed Salvador to tell you that the house was yours, but under certain conditions. Here they are.

One: Your mother has often told me of your desire to make it as a writer. I always thought it was a fool's dream, but a fool's dream is better than none. Hopefully, that English degree they gave you is actually worth something. Your first requirement is that you must write your first book, submit it, and have it accepted by a reputable publisher, within one year of taking up residence at Taylor House. Salvador has compiled a list of publishers that he will provide you with, when the time comes.

Two: While living at Taylor House, you must also hold down a full-time job. The wages from this job will be used to pay for your food and sundry needs. I won't foot the bill for your life, boy. I have made provisions for a small monthly stipend, which will cover the costs of maintenance and utilities for the house and grounds, as well as the salary of the caretaker, Mr. Cross. All else, your food, clothing, personal frivolities, and other lifestyle expenses, will fall squarely on your own shoulders.

Three: You must refrain from illegal activities or drug use, and you must not keep company with those that engage in such habits. Breaking this rule voids our agreement and relinquishes your rights to occupy the house.

Four: Though I am well aware of the supposed 'needs' a young man has, I am also requiring that, for the year of your writing, you do not invite any members of the fairer sex to 'play house,' no matter if for one night, or for many. This may sound like a ridiculous hardship, but you will thank me in the long run.

Five: You (and your heirs) must maintain sole ownership of Taylor House, while you live. You must resist the pull of those meddlesome Historical Society matrons with their insulting offers to buy. This is my house. I'm passing down to you, my blood relative. I expect you to follow suit.

If you fail to fulfill any of these requirements, you will forfeit any right or claim to Taylor House or anything found therein. I have taken care to make sure these requirements are followed. Salvador will be the sole and final arbiter in all charges or disputes regarding your adherence to these regulations.

If you abide by and fulfill these five requirements, Taylor House, its goods, and its property will be wholly yours. Take care of them. They are my legacy, given to you.

You will have thirty days, from the reading of this letter, to accept my offer, under my conditions. Once you accept them, your residence at Taylor House will begin. Salvador will answer any other questions you have.

Good luck. I am fully confident that you will rise to the challenge I have given you.

Tell your mother I love her. Though I'd never admit it in life, I can say now, she turned out to be my favorite.

Papa Taylor


"This is ridiculous!" Linus Jr. growled, breaking the moment of silence that followed his father's final words. "This can't be true! He's a child!"

Salvador smirked, "He is 21 years old, and of legal age for such a contract."

"I'm challenging this in court! There has to be a judge that can see the idiocy of Father's wishes. He was clearly going senile!"

Salvador gestured for Linus Jr. to go ahead. "Feel free. But I can guarantee you that you will lose. Mr. Taylor went to great lengths to ensure that his decision could not be overruled."

"What if he doesn't want to do it?" Howard asked. "I mean, some of that stuff is fine, but giving up women for a year is torture." He turned to Louis. "No one should have to put themselves through that."

Salvador replied, "If Louis chooses to decline Mr. Taylor's proposition, the house and its contents is to be auctioned off, and the money will be divided evenly among Mr. Taylor's children."

Linus Jr. and Howard both turned toward Louis. "Come on, pal," Linus Jr. said, fake smile firmly in place. "You don't want to move down here. Your home is in Chicago. This is just too much hassle. Just let this one pass you by, and your folks will get a nice slice of the pie. You want to help them out, don't you?"

Marie fumed. "Don't you dare use us against our own son, Linus! That's low, even for you. Louis, honey, it's completely your decision. None of us--none of us--should enter into it. Your grandfather is making you an offer. You should weigh the decision carefully, and whatever you choose, your father and I will support you."

The room seemed to draw tighter around Louis. Everyone was looking. The sunlight felt like the heatlamp used in those noir crime dramas--the one the detectives put in the face of the perp they wanted to break. Louis' mouth went dry. He couldn't swallow. His throat constricted. Everyone looking. Sweat poured off his face. He couldn't breathe.

"I need time to think about. To decide."

Salvador nodded. "Very good. I'll expect an answer within thirty days. Well. That concludes our business. My office will be in touch with you all, to work out disbursment of your monetary inheritances. Mr. Cross, if you would be so kind as to show everyone to the door." Louis looked back at the older man in the brown suit, who nodded and opened up the door to the main hall.

Louis bolted out the door and into the roomy hall. He took a seat on one of last stairs of the long staircase. Everyone started filing out. His aunt ignored him. Stacey was doing her best to rush Linus Jr. to the car before he could speak again. Howard took a step toward the door, stopped to look back at Louis, and said, "Just think it through, kiddo. Think it over carefully." Louis nodded, and Howard smirked and walked out.

Louis' parents and Salvador walked out of the study together. Salvador handed Marie his business card and a few papers, then walked over to Louis. "I would like to say again, congratulations, young man. This is an interesting opportunity for you."

"Do you think I should take it?"

"Oh, that is not for me to say. Just make sure that once you decide, you are willing to follow through. Whatever your decision, I am at your disposal. Good day." Salvador stuck out his tan hand, which Louis timidly shook.

As Salvador walked away, Daniel passed him, pausing for a handshake and a goodbye. He walked over and sat down on the step next to his son.

"Some house, huh, Lou?"

"I just don't know what to do."

"There's time, kiddo. Don't worry about it now. Let's just start with the next small choice."

"What's that?"

"Lunch. Then we'll go home."


The two stood up, joined Marie, and walked out together. As they passed Mr. Cross at the door, Louis looked at him, and said, "Thank you, Mr. Cross. Nice meeting you."

The old man's perpetual scowl softened, and the faintest hint of a smile creased his mouth. "And you, Mr. Fielder. I hope to see you again." Louis again noticed the roll of Cross's spoken "r".

"We'll see," Louis replied.

The Fielders walked away from Taylor House. The mansion loomed over the street, tall and austere, impervious to the blinding sunlight, casting its own long, cold shadow that blanketed the grass like a shroud. When Louis looked back through the retreating car windshield, the house appeared to be mourning its lost master.

Arm's length theo-political ranting

A few less-than-fun things. Fun posts later.


Issue #1: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Apparently, a threat to your children's morality.

James Dobson and others have come out (no pun intended) against a new animated short video that will be sent to schools to promote "tolerance and acceptance." The film, which includes other children's icons and animated favorites such as Barney, Winnie the Pooh, and Bob the Builder, will contain an updated version of the song, "We Are Family" a la LiveAid or the recent collaboration for Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On." At the end of the performance, the characters will encourage the kids to sign an online pledge to "respect the sexual identity of others, along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race." Christian "leaders" (ahem) have said that this is an implicit endorsement of the so-called alternative sexualities, and that agreeing to respect sexual choice is "unnecessary" and "crossing a moral line."

Hmm. My first response when I heard this is "great, here's another protest." It will be the Jerry Falwell/"Tinky-winky" thing all over again. The Church (and her self-appointed mouthpieces) cowering in fear of the influence of a cartoon character. While I think I understand Dobson's concern (the specificity of respecting 'sexual identity' elicited a raised eyebrow from yours truly), the question comes back to: is this the battle you really want to fight? Apparently, the folks in Colorado Springs say yes.

It's interesting to note the headline in CNN's article. "Christians." Not "Christian groups." Time to get out the wide paintbrush, eh, fellas?

I wonder if the headline on 9/12/01 said, "Muslims attack U.S."

Probably not.


Issue #2: Peggy "Eeyore" Noonan's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today is a sad example of myopic naysaying. In the piece, she discusses the Inauguration events. However, when she gets to the President's speech, she called it "startling." She describes foreign policy makers as being in two starkly different camps: moralists and realists. She places the President squarely in the first camp. Here's this passage:

The administration's approach to history is at odds with what has been described by a communications adviser to the president as the "reality-based community." A dumb phrase, but not a dumb thought: He meant that the administration sees history as dynamic and changeable, not static and impervious to redirection or improvement. That is the Bush administration way, and it happens to be realistic: History is dynamic and changeable. On the other hand, some things are constant, such as human imperfection, injustice, misery and bad government.

This world is not heaven.

Noonan repeats this last line a few more times throughout the piece. While doing so, she seems to set the President's desire to change the world at odds with the "static and impervious" reality of a broken world. Fair enough.

But as I read this article, I started hearing other voices. Voices that said integration was a pipe dream. Voices that said the abolition of slavery would destroy the country. Voices that laughed when an Italian explorer claimed he could sail all the way around the world. The cautious voices of pundits and policy-makers more concerned about the safe bet than the risky dream. People more comfortable with the status quo, with accepting that injustice and oppression are "the way it is."

Noonan said that Bush's "God-drenched speech" of ambitious calls to end worldwide tyranny, in her view, "fell somewhere between dreamy and disturbing." Noonan goes on to say, " Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth."

Certainly not possible, with that attitude.

The President's final statement was that we are "ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." A rousing finale. A eager look into a future that could bring new hope to many people.

Noonan's assessment: it was "over the top."

Her conclusion? The President is suffering from "mission inebriation"--"A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts."
One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not.

Notice how Noonan put words in Bush's mouth. His plea for justice and freedom became, in her mind, a demand for "perfection in the life of man on earth."

Funny, earlier this week, we celebrated another man who had an "impossible" dream, a dream that "all God's children" could come together in harmony. Impossible as it sounded at the time, it hasn't stopped us from pursuing it, even to this day. Maybe the only reason some dreams are impossible is that people with the power to bring change listen to voices too bound by doubt and resignation to see beyond what is, to what might be.


Thanks for reading. As a reward for your patience, here's a link to video of Napoleon Dynamite reading Dave Letterman's Top Ten. (NOTE: This is in no way an endorsement of CollegeHumor, which can have some pretty raunchy stuff on it. You've been warned.)

(Video Hat-tip: USA Today Blog.)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"He thought he was the king of somewhere-not-America..."

Patriotic mini-rant: NOW.

Why? Why do you hip kids think it's necessary to rag on my country? Snorting about the excesses and selfishness of 'those yahoos' in your best faux-Continental accent? Secretly thinking how you're so privileged to have such a Blue-state mentality and joking (over and over and over and over) how you're going to move to Canada.

Ah yes, lovely Canada, with their non-existent foreign policy, useless socialized medicine, and porous border. Good choice, eh?

I mean, you've got reasons, sure. I get that. You'd NEVER make fun of a group of people for no reason--that would be bigotry, and that's completely removed from your progressive worldview. ahem.

So you hate Bush? Great. Good for you. Make fun of the Administration--not my America.

You hate Bush voters? Bring it on. But that means you hate 51% of the electorate--not my America.

You hate our foreign policy? Righteous. Protest. Picket. Write letters and petitions. But address them to the people who make the policy decisions--not to my America.

You hate rednecks, "cowboys," "inbreds," backwards (non-liberal) thinkers, Southern red-staters, and Southern Baptists? Kudos to you and your tolerant lifestyle. Aim your venom at everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line--not at my America.

You hate evil corporations who crush the small businessman and the common joe scraping to get by? Awesome! Hand me a picket sign! Let's go protest those shiny buildings over there, or those corporate estates--not my America.

Please hear me, my beautiful, progressive, anti-establishment, coffee-swilling, anti-corporate, blue-minded, bleeding-heart brothers and sisters!!! I love you and value your opinion. I revel in your right to free speech! I applaud your commitment to a value-based worldview (even if I don't always share those values)!

But when you take aim with your Weapons of Mass Denigration, make sure to aim them at your actual targets.

And not at my America.

America is not just Bush. America is not just Conservatives. America is not just Southern Baptists.

America is everyone. Every political belief. Every social cause. Every religious practice. Every sexual orientation. Every race. Every creed. They are America. We are America.

So back the hell off.

Lunchtime Diversion

I'm having troubling catching the muse by the hand; Thursday fiction will have to wait.

In the meantime, I'm shamelessly stealing Michele's idea, and starting this fun little game.

Describe your favorite movie(s) in only seven words. Don't give the title. The rest of us will guess.

(Hint: Avoiding proper names makes it more challenging.)

I'll start it off.

1) Depressed music lover loses girlfriend, contacts ex's.

2) Teen goes on tour with rock band.

3) Couple meets, breaks up, meets, in reverse. (This one may be too obtuse.)

4) Pianist goes home, talks to neighboring "lolita."

5) Graduate makes movie, dates yuppie, loves roomie.

Start guessing (and giving your own).

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

One-post Wednesday (Update and Rant)

As opposed to the five posts yesterday. (Did you read my movie review? mm-hmm.) So let's make this one count.

Tomorrow, expect Thursday Fiction. Chapter Three of the blog-novel. Louis reads the letter. What does it say? (Damned if I know.) How will the Taylor children react? And what's under the black velvet cover in Papa Taylor's library? Hmmmm. Lots of questions. Intrigue and mystery abounds. Or not.

Other less-notable events tomorrow include President Bush's inauguration. I'll be listening via my little office radio, as I'm sure someone will be broadcasting the festivities. (Yeah, yeah, you're upset, you think it's rigged, you want a recount, the country's going to hell. I know, I know.)

But today, I wanted to mini-rant for a bit.


The Secret Service has included large crosses on the list of banned items at the Inauguration. The Secret Service has also banned "coffins and papier-mache puppets" for the same reason: too much of a risk of concealed weapons. This, of course, has sent reactionary Christian groups into a frenzy, decrying this decision (and the singling out of the Christian icon) as a direct attack upon their freedom of religious expression.

Some of you might wonder where I stand on this issue. This may shock some of you, but hopefully not those who know me well:

Dave rules in favor of... the Secret Service.

I mean, come on, folks. Think reasonably. Allowing people to carry around large objects made of wood/plastic/metal opens up the dangerous possibility that one of these may be hollowed out and filled with C4 or something. An extremist (of any stripe) can take one of these hollowed out symbols (or, as I've decided to call them, "chocolate bunnies"), detonate it, and the vocal Christian far-right will be blamed. Radical right-wingers (and eventually the rest of us) will be forever associated with exploding "chocolate bunnies," as Islamofascists (and eventually all Muslims--at least in the eyes of some) are associated with... well, crashing planes and car-bombs. Something like this would do more harm to the cause of Christ than doing nothing at all. (And I'm not even talking about what these types of protesters are doing to that cause themselves.)

The Secret Service has reaffirmed that people may (of course) wear crosses, hold rosaries, and have cross images on banners and signs. But the groups protesting aren't talking about small displays.

These days, the populace should try respond to the added security measures taken by the government, especially during high-profile events, with an added measure of patience. Too bad that overly sensitive religious groups such as this one seem "hell-bent" (pardon the pun) on trying to use it as some sort of attention-grab. I never thought I'd agree with the AUSCS on anything, but I have to say that I, too, smell a publicity stunt.

But I think this is symptomatic of a larger issue.

What is becoming more and more prevalent in certain segments of the American church (and I will admit, I've been guilty of this, too) is the kind of hypersensitivity that we've sneeringly painted "the left" as having.

Take, for example, this comment (from WorldNetDaily, so, a grain of salt added) from Rev. Mahoney (of the "Christian Defense Coalition"):
"Simply put, it is religious bigotry and censorship," he said. "It is even more troubling when one realizes that it is only Christian symbols that have been
excluded from the inauguration parade."

Okay. So let's break this down. Religious bigotry at an event where Christian ministers will be offering prayers and where the President will place his hand on the Bible to swear his oath. Censorship of Christian symbols, when the Secret Service has already said that in the proper physical format these symbols are welcomed.

Rev. Mahoney, take a seat. Your bombast is giving me a headache.

The fact that crosses were mentioned in the memo, along with a list of other bulky items potentially brought to a demonstration, only proves that Christian expression is not under attack, because the assumption of potential crosses means it's happened many times before. Right? See that, Rev? Religious expression lives!

NewsMax (add two grains of salt, please) is now reporting that the Secret Service has apologized for any unintended offense, but will not lift the ban.

Unfazed, the Christian Defense Coalition is (according to some reports) planning on bringing crosses anyway, and fully intends on filing a speech-infringement lawsuit if they are confiscated.

Way to go, Rev. Break the law and then sue when you're punished. Sounds like the tactics you've accused those crazy Leftists of doing.

Sidenote: Is anyone else a bit puzzled by the name "Christian Defense Coalition"? I mean, Christianity survived for two thousand years, despite oppression and countless martyrdoms under Roman rule, watering-down and irrelevance under Roman acceptance, holy wars both started and received, a Reformation that split the global Church, and the splintering off of countless denominations, groups, and fickle flavors--yet now, we need a "Defense Coalition" in America because they won't let us lug around twelve-foot crosses?

Whew. I bet God's relieved to have you guys around. You know, to watch His back.

In case there's anything He can't, you know, handle Himself.


So there it is. Reactionary Christians who live by the old verse: "They will know you are My disciples by your picket signs and lawsuits." Sweet.


Anyways, have yourselves a merry little Wednesday.

And watch out for chocolate bunnies.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

In Memoriam

Being the Classic Hollywood Trivia Goddess that she is, I'm kinda surprised Sheila has nothing to say about this. Hmm.

For the maybe one of you who would care, Virginia Mayo died yesterday at the age of 84 of pneumonia and heart failure.

I just thought this should get a mention. She was in many of my favorite classic movies growing up. Whenever I think of Danny Kaye or Bob Hope, I think of Virginia.

And she was hot. Like "hott" hot. I mean... well, look at her. Geez. You can keep your Monroe's and whatnot. For me, the epitome of "classic Hollywood beauty" is Virginia.

More than just being eye candy, she was a talented and prolific actress, appearing in more than fifty films in her 50+ year career.

But I remember her best in "The Princess and the Pirate," "A Song is Born," and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

So long, Virginia.

New Movie Review

My review of "In Good Company" is up on "Better Than Critics." Check it out.

No martinis were harmed during the creation of this post.

While watching a movie this weekend, I came to a realization/decision.

I should have arrived at this conclusion long ago, but at least I'm reaching it now.

You know what?

I'm friggin money. Though I may look more like a bag of coins than a stack of bills right now, that's okay, I'm working on that. And in the meantime, I just need to find a girl who doesn't mind a little jingle.

I've pulled myself out of the game for too long. For no good reason either.

I've got to let go of the past, because when I do, the future is beautiful.

PBB Cool Ten List for 1/16-1-22

10. Getting MLK day off (even if I am just a silly, selfish white guy)
9. Jack Bauer is going into the terrorist compound by himself, despite the imminent missile strike... have I mentioned how hooked I am on this show yet?
8. Getting in touch with Jerry Joule last week. Righteous.
7. Watching "In Good Company" yesterday. (Review forthcoming.)
6. Going to the movie with four girls.
5. On Sunday, one of the girls came over and sat with me during the worship service. happy dave.
4. Parents who buy their children 'maintenance groceries' to get them through to payday.
3. The expression on your boss's face when he realizes you got to work before him...for once.
2. Inspiration that comes from unexpected sources. (next post)
1. The name of God--YHWH--that He gave Himself. The name that is to remind us of His protection and care for His people. Every time we see it in Scripture ("LORD" in all caps), it's not indicating some far off deity, but a very personal, very present God with a proven track record of faithfulness and provision. When you understand the magnitude and history of the name "Yahweh", you can't read passages like this the same way.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Dedication: To the Third Roomie

Here's a little musical tribute to a good friend of mine.


if it's all true
the only time you fail
is the last time you try
if I concede defeat
will i be complete
in my failure
am i incomplete
and a complete failure
disconcerted after the
last of the great you and i disasters
i'm spent
i'm done being broken
tossing in the towel

washed my hands and cut my teeth
penned an ode to my belle dame sans merci
and i'm so scarred

and it's all true
the flesh was weak and the spirit was too
you should know
the wool you pulled down on your faithful martyr
was blazoned "scarred but smarter"
the oft-fooled prince is losing sleep

at the thought of being the jester
for the court of the queen of double-speak
eight years is a long, long time to seek

and never find what you want
you don't know and you don't want me
and i'm so scarred

count your losses
and cast off your ashes and sackcloth
resigned to be idle for a while
me and sherine bridges the gap

between the one you think you can live with
and the one you know you can't live without
it's not that i feel good

it's that i still can feel that's good
and that's all that's good for now
i'm too scarred
i'm too scarred
i'm too scarred

("Scarred but Smarter" by Model Engine)

731, pt. 2

[pardon our dust.]



Thursday, January 13, 2005

Who's that Spartan with 10,000 visits?

It's me, it's me!

As of 3:59 CST, Perfect Blue Buildings hit 10,000 visits, since I started tracking back in May.

I don't know who the 10,000th visitor was (it doesn't say)--but Visitors 9999 and 10,001 were referred from Mander's and Lady M's pages, respectively. So you two get shared honors for the 10,000th visitor.

I'm very happy about this. Thank you all for your continued reading and support.

Hopefully, it'll still be as interesting at 100,000.


That's all I have to say today. Tomorrow's posting should be interesting though, so stick around.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Wednesday Fiction: "Taylor House" (Chapter 2)

Asher House was made of brick and cast iron, and had seen more than a century of sun and wind and rain. It was one of the few houses to survive the 1900 hurricane with minimal damage. Though the buildings and streets around it changed with the times, Asher House remained unmoved, appearing just as it did when it was first constructed. This sense of stubborn antiquity had appealed to Linus Taylor, so he purchased Asher House in 1947, and moved in with his young bride. Asher House became Taylor House, but over the years few people in Galveston could tell any difference.

Though it didn't look very large from the street, Taylor House was cavernous and dim. The main entrance hall had a high ceiling and unlit candle chandeliers. The tiled floor was checkered, the doors were mahogany. The only light in the main hall came from open doors on the east side of the building.

In the first of these sunlit rooms, Mr. Salvador, Linus Taylor's attorney, held the reading of the will. Taylor's four children were in attendance. Linus Jr. sat to Salvador's left, accompanied by his wife Stacey. Howard Taylor stood behind his older brother, leaning against a bookshelf and chewing his fingernails. Linus' older daughter Janet sat to Salvador's right, straight as a board, hands folded properly in her lap. Marie, Daniel, and Louis sat on folding chairs behind Janet. A tall man with a wrinkled face stood near the door, wearing a brown suit and a scowl.

"You know why we are here," began Salvador, with a Colombian accent. "I was Mr. Taylor's legal counsel and personal estate attorney. I was also privileged to be his friend. My own loss at this time is great enough; I can only imagine yours. Allow me to offer you my condolences." Linus Jr. nodded. Janet stiffened and narrowed her eyes. Marie sighed, and looked to the floor.

"As per Mr. Taylor's instructions, I will read the document in its entirety, and then answer any questions you may have. Please save all discussion until the end."

Salvador removed a manilla folder from his briefcase, and from it, a small stack of paper. He read, "I, Linus Richard Taylor, a resident of Galveston, Texas, being of sound and disposing mind and memory and over the age of eighteen (18) years, and not being actuated by any duress, menace, fraud, mistake, or undue influence, do make, publish, and declare this to be my last Will, hereby expressly revoking all Wills and Codicils previously made by me."

Louis didn't want to stick around for the entire ordeal, so he quietly rose and turned to excuse himself. When he reached the door, he made eye contact with the man in the brown suit. The man's look was inquisitive and dismissive at the same time. Louis felt like this strange man had instantly sized him up, and found him lacking. Though his initial impulse was to look away immediately, Louis returned the man's stare for several seconds. Finally, as if coming to a decision, the man nodded once, and turned to face the lawyer. Louis took the opportunity and slipped out the door into the great hall.

The quiet of the hall seemed to echo. The few rays of sunlight sliced across the grim, shadowy room, highlighting a million particles of dust that waltzed between the ceiling and the tile. Each soft step Louis took resounded off the walls. He walked over to the staircase and ran his hand along the smooth, worn banister. When it ended with a flourish, he tapped it with his palm and walked past to the wall opposite the room he just left. There were two dark doors with brass handles. He quietly tried the first one. It gave, and the door opened.

The curtains were drawn across the three picture windows, but they were of light material and allowed the day to enter, to some degree. What the light revealed made Louis gasp a little. Thousands, tens of thousands of books lined more than a dozen floor-to-ceiling shelves. Some appeared ancient, others were brand-new. There were tables with stacks of books. There were all sorts of papers, stacked and scattered, covering a large wooden desk at the far end of the room. There were stacks of newspapers along the wall, the farthest of them yellowed with time.

Directly across from the door was what appeared to be some sore of case, with a black velvet drape over it. It was rectangular at the base, but the covered top of the box was slanted downward toward the front. It reminded Louis of a pulpit. It was the first object in this creaky, old house that was covered or kept hidden. Louis walked over and placed a hand on the inky drape. It was soft and cold. He closed his fingers, gathering up a handful of material, and began to pull, when he heard the distinct sound of a throat being cleared. Loudly.

He dropped the drape and spun around. The man in the brown suit was glaring at him. "Sorry," stammered Louis, "I was just looking around and was curious about what's under the cover."

The man's look softened a trace. "And you are?" The "r" rolled slightly.

"Louis. Louis Fielder. Papa--I mean, Linus--Taylor was my grandfather. My mom's dad."

"Ah, right." A more pronounced rolled-"r".

Enboldened by the fact that the man wasn't yelling or dragging him away, Louis asked, "And who are you, sir?"

"I'm sent to bid you return to the study. Your presence is required for the next section of the will."

"Why? Am I getting something?"

The man looked past Louis. "I can't say, sir. Please come at once."

"Okay. Thank you." Louis walked toward the door, side-stepping a small table in the middle of the room. The man entered also, passing on the opposite side of the table. Louis paused, and said, "Sorry about sneaking around. It's just been so long since I've been here. I don't remember the library being so...full."

"His great love at the end of his life was his books." The man hesitated. "He was a good man, your grandfather."

"Thank you," Louis replied. As he left the room, he turned to close the door, and saw the man realigning the velvet cover as it was before, smoothing away any small wrinkles.

Louis walked across the great hall to the door of the study, opened it quietly, and entered. Uncle Howard was the first to notice. "He's back," Howard said, and spit a pinky nail fragment to the floor at his feet. Louis felt himself flushing as he took his seat next to his mother.

She leaned over and whispered, "Where did you go, sweetie? We've been waiting."

"Just looking around. I don't know why you need me."

His mother said, "I'm not sure, but Mister Salazar here insisted."

The lawyer interrupted, "Salvador, madame, if you please. Mr. Taylor's instructions were that all family members would be present for the last part of the will."

Linus Jr. coughed and said, "Okay, well, we're all here, so let's get on with it."

"Very well, Mr. Taylor. For this last portion of the will, the late Mr. Taylor added a handwritten note to be read before officially reading the will. I will read this aloud at this time." From underneath the stack of papers, Salvador pulled a sheet of notebook paper and an envelope. He adjusted his glasses, and read from the sheet.

" 'Dear Children and Grandson: As you have just been informed, I have divided up my stock holdings and other financial assets into four shares. I tried my best to give each of my children what I thought would do you the most good in your lives. For this last bit of business, I am trying to do the same. I have tried to be fair to each of you, to give you what you needed. Please honor my memory by allowing this to stand, with no squabbling or infighting.

" 'But because I know you, and I'm pretty sure that at least two of you won't let this alone, I've instructed Salvador to legally render void the share of any of my heirs who attempt to undermine my wishes. That person's share will be divided equally among the others. So don't try to screw me on this. I have you covered.' "

Janet turned pale, her pink pursed lips offering the only color on her face. Linus Jr. rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh. "He never changed. I can't believe he'd do this. He never trusted any of us."

Howard chuckled. "Uh-oh, look's like Daddy's little man had his feelings hurt. Being the favorite just isn't good enough, is it?"

"Shut up, Howie! You're lucky to be getting anything at all, the way you treated him."

"What, because I didn't kiss his ass like you did, I'm now the bad son?"

Salvador grabbed a nearby paperweight and slammed it three times into the desk, scarring its polished finish. "Gentlemen, this is neither the time nor the place. Mr. Taylor has made his wishes clear, and these wishes will be honored. Now. To continue."

" 'I'm sure you're all anxious to hear the rest, to hear who I'm leaving all of my worldly possessions to. I hope you're not disappointed. I, Linus Taylor, hereby will, bequeath, and leave Taylor House, its land, and its contents, to my grandson, Louis G. Fielder, if he will have them. There are terms and conditions to this arrangement, which are detailed in a letter to be given to Louis, and may be explained or clarified by Salvador, at his behest. May you enjoy it, boy.' "

There was ten seconds of stunned silence. It slowly dawned on each of Linus Taylor's children that they wouldn't get any of his material goods. Linus Jr. nostrils flared, as his grip on the arms of his chair tightened. Stacey swooned a bit, and laid her head on Linus Jr.'s shoulder. Howard glared at Louis, and began gnawing on his thumbnail. Janet continued to face Salvador, but her posture became even more rigid, and she began to shake a bit, as if flexing ever muscle in her body. Daniel and Marie were stunned, and looked at each other and their son with disbelief mixed with joy.

Louis stared at Salvador. He kept expecting the lawyer to laugh and cry out, "Just kidding!" But he did not. He smiled back at Louis, then rose, walked over to him, and held out the envelope. "For you. From your grandfather. Congratulations, Louis."

Louis held the envelope in his hand for what felt like a lifetime. His eyes glanced over the shaky script that defined his grandfather's last years. He had seen that delicate handwriting in his last birthday card. Below the printed greeting, Linus had written, "May your dreams become your history, boy. Do not dare settle for the fate of ordinary men. Happy Birthday. Papa Taylor." The same shaky hand had now written him a letter from beyond the grave, had given him a mansion with a giant library. Louis couldn't begin to comprehend it. The envelope grew heavy in his hand.

"Well, open it, son," prodded his father. Louis blinked, as if coming out of a daydream, and then sat up, and opened the envelope, removing the three pages inside.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


I want an email. A real, honest-to-goodness, communicative email.


If I were a heartless Onion writer...

...then my headline for this story would be:

"Defied for entire Broadway season, 'Gravity' finally retaliates."

Poor taste? Perhaps. But I thought it was funny.

Funnier than the Post's lame title, anyway:

"Ding Dong, a Witch Is Hurt..."

(For those still confused, check here.)


"Tuesday Fiction" coming around lunchtime.

That's it. Happy Tuesday.

Read A.P's post today. Really good.

UPDATE: Okay, maybe not lunchtime. But either this evening or tomorrow. Hopefully.

Monday, January 10, 2005

It Could Have Been a Brilliant Post Title

Weekend round-up and other things.

1) I've had an epiphany: At the risk of losing a large chunk of my indie cred, I have come to the decision today that I just don't like Belle and Sebastian. I was listening to 'the album with the obscurely perverse title' for the fifteenth time or so, and I got about halfway through it before I just turned it off. I was bored to tears. Why did I ever get this album? Oh. Right.

But yeah, it was like holding a bite of rice in your mouth and chewing for about two hours without swallowing, until it's so mushy that it's all but a paste, and then chewing on it some more. Ugh. No thanks. Put that little indie gem on the "to be sold to CDW" pile. The only song I like on it is the first one. I can rip that one before I drop the album.

2) Reasons to not let your goof-off friends pick the movie: At the video store with B and M, my friends from high school, who are both home on break from Year 7 of the college experience. I almost picked Darko, because neither of them had seen it, but instead insisted on Shaun, since it was a genius movie. (If you haven't seen it, you must, because it's freakin hilarious.) M pulls out his choice and hands it to me grinning. The best of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Are you kidding me, dude? Apparently not. Well, for those familiar with the rental establishment, they have the empty case with the original cover of the movie, then behind it, a stack of movie cases with their corporate logo. So I agreed to the movie, and M grabbed the case.

We tromped up to the counter, where I laid down my choice, and M laid down his. I looked at the typed title on the front cover. "Triumph of Love?" I asked. "You sure this isn't one of those cheesy 80's movies?" M laughed. "Nope. It's the right one." I shrugged. The title must be meant to be ironic.

We get back to my flat (aren't I continental) and M says, "Let's watch Triumph first." Fine by me. He puts it in.

Were we greeted with the obscene dog puppet's antics? No.

We were greeted by Mira Sorvino in a 18th century wig. Apparently, "Triumph of Love" is a mediocre-looking period piece. Thanks, M. Your rights to handle any rental transactions are hereby revoked.

I should have known. Last time we went to the movies and I let him choose, we ended up going to see "Bad Company."

3) S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!: Watched football with K from SunSco. Good times (for the Jets, anyway--jerks). K's an all right guy. Definitely the stereotypical guy. All sports and war movies, all the time. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Oh, and computer games. He showed me Half-life 2, and I turned positively emerald.

4) Lunchbox warning: Word to the wise: Don't ever order the "Chicken Parmesan" from Fazoli's. Apparently, they make it about four years earlier and keep it under a heat lamp in the interim. Of course, I was with a group from SunSco, including the two visitors, so instead of taking it back, I tried to play cool. Stupid. There's nothing cool about being hungry.

5) My primary directive: I tried so hard to cut out my TV addictions, but they pulled me back in. Damn you, Jack Bauer, and your heroics in fighting terrorist cells! Why do you entice me so?

That's what I go so far. Later.

(Personal Note: "Katie-80, thanks for bringing back my pocketwatch. Tell the other Katies that I will see them later. Signed, Chester Elegante.")

PBB "Cool Ten" List for 1/09-1/15

10. "I Radio Heaven" by Over the Rhine
9. Positive feedback on the website: thanks, y'all.
8. A renewed addiction to "24". Okay, that's not so cool.
7. Two new (cute) visitors at church.
6. Peanut butter and blackberry jam.
5. My first taste of "Half-Life 2." Holy. freaking. crap.
4. Playoff football. Even if the Pack crapped out.
4a. The Astros lost Beltran to the Mets. Finally some good news for the Cubs franchise.
3. Finishing "Mere Christianity." So good.
2. Redemption isn't a dream. It's a reality.
1. I'm really looking forward to the future. I haven't been this hopeful for a while.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Of course

remember when
we were friends
and we used to spend hours
talking to each other
almost every day
when we were close

of course
that was before she
and before he
and before we
got caught up in
living our
separate lives.
of course, these things happen

but i miss your voice
and your joyful laugh
and while i know
you're happier now
of course
i wish i could somehow
share a part of
your life again
even on the fringes
instead of being
just another face
in the crowd waving
as your train pulls away
(smoke and steam and fog)

your letters stopped coming
it was expected
of course
these things happen
it's only natural
but i miss you.

every thought i have
of you is buried deep
in memory
of course
and all the hours shared
over coffee are
long gone
of course
and i know
i know
it's only natural
that once you've found
your white knight
you have no need for
your quixote, for just
another silly old bear,
of course
it is as it must be

but it's only natural that
i still feel sad
to lose so dear a friend,
a love i almost loved,
to the tyranny of
calendars and distance

i have to tell myself
'of course
it is as it must be'
and you are gone for good
for best
for happy ever after's sake,
but i don't want to believe.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


Jeremy (of the truly awesome "Junkmail for Blankets") started a blogger-project a few months ago. He asked bloggers to take a verse or phrase from the Gospels and write something about it, be it personal essay or even poetry. He compiled 40 responses (including one from yours truly) and is publishing them in book(let) form for less than $5 each.

This is a very cool thing, and I'm very excited to get a copy for myself.

All the profits will go to churches in Washington.

Check it out. Pick one up.

Thursday Fiction: "Papa Taylor" (Chapter 1 of "Lucky Man")

Louis Fielder shifted his weight from one side to the other, trying to find a comfortable sitting position in the ancient folding chair. He tried to make small, imperceptible movements, so as not to distract from the proceedings. Though he wasn't particularly engaged in what went on around him, the last thing he wanted was to deal with an irritated mourner. Or his mother, who was weeping quietly to his left.

This was the first funeral he'd ever attended. He'd seen funerals on television and movies, and from this dim reflection, he formed his assumptions on the proper tone and emotional state of attendees. But even though he was related to the deceased, he felt nothing. Not even ambivalence. Not quite disinterest, but close.

His mother had begged him to come. His mother had learned the long-standing maternal technique of asking in a way that threatened dire repercussions if denied. Passive-aggressiveness was a genetically-passed trait on the Taylor side of the family, and Marie Fielder (nee Taylor) was no exception to the tradition. She entreated Louis, saying that "Papa Taylor would have wanted it that way." Though he did not reply at the time, Louis thought, "Papa Taylor couldn't remember my name half of the time. He called me Larry for a whole summer when I was 10."

Louis' father, Daniel, had originally told Louis that he could stay home while his parents went down to Houston for the funeral, but Marie insisted that "the whole family" should be in attendance. "It's important," she argued. Rather than question the vague importance and to whom this importance belonged, Daniel acquiesced. Daniel Fielder was a strong man, a decisive leader, but he knew when not to argue. When his beloved wife was dead-set on something, her cause became his. In Daniel's mind, that was a pretty good definition of marriage.

So there Louis sat, at the end of the row of folding chairs beside the grave site. It was oddly cold for a Houston morning, even if it was early January. Not that the Fielder clan wasn't used to cold weather--it wouldn't get this warm back in Chicago until late spring--but Louis hadn't brought any cold-weather clothes. He pulled his arms close to his chest to try to conserve warmth. His suit-coat was thin and useless against the steady north winds.

Louis watched the minister. He was tall, bald, and looked like he was used to officiating funerals. His dour expression had the air of a practiced veteran. Louis wondered how many funerals he's performed in his career. Quite a few, Louis considered. Maybe as many as half the stiffs in this cemetary were buried by this guy.

Louis felt a tiny pang of guilt for not paying attention to the services at hand. Since it was the first emotion he'd felt all day, he went along with it, and turned his attention back to the gentleman in the box.

His grandfather, Linus Taylor, was a Texas oilman in his youth, though as time progressed, his luck in the fields declined. Wisely, Linus left the oil business and began investing in local businesses. By his sixties, he had amassed a small but comfortable fortune. He spent the next twenty-three years of his life in Houston, spending little of his money, reading, and watching the news.

Louis never got to know his maternal grandfather. This was a pity, as Linus was the only living grandparent Louis had since he was seven. His paternal grandfather, Joseph Fielder, died shortly before he was born; Joseph's wife Gladys, a few years later. When Louis was seven, Mary Taylor, his beloved grandmother, succumbed to multiple cancers. When that happened, Linus closed up. He became brittle, gruff. He was never cruel--that can be said in his favor. But any warmness the old man had was buried with Mary, in the very plot next to the one he now occupied.

One can assume that Louis did in some way love his grandfather; he would likely attest to the fact. But that love was not the fondness that one idealizes a grandchild to have for his aged grandsire. Rather, it was an love based out of obligation, or--if you prefer a kinder term--out of volition. Louis loved his grandfather because he wanted to. He knew that love for your parent's parents is "the way things should be," at the very least. Anything less would sadden his mother. So Louis was careful to be respectful and solemn, creating the artifice of sorrow as an act of will.

(Do not judge Louis to be a hypocrite, dear readers, for he is not. But at this moment, when he felt nothing for the man in the casket, he put on a show of sadness, to comfort his grieving mother, whom he dearly loved.)

At last, the service ended, and the small group of mourners formed a line to convey their condolences to the family. After the first few almost-strangers gave Louis a hug, he excused himself and went for a short walk. His mother didn't notice, and his father assumed he "needed some time."

Louis went down the hill and up the next, walking down a row of stones garnished by the occasional flower arrangement. He saw a young boy nearby, sitting on a stone two rows over. He stopped and said, "Hello."

"Hi," said the boy.

"What's your name?" asked Louis.


"My dad's named Danny, too. I'm Louis."


"What are you doing out here, Danny?"

"Visiting my daddy."

Louis felt a pang of sadness in his chest. "I'm sorry, Danny."

"Why are you here?"

"My grandpa died."

The very composed child asked, "Do you miss him?"

After a moment, Louis said, "I didn't know him that well. So, just a little, I guess."

"That's good."

"Yeah." Louis looked up and saw who he assumed to be Danny's mother hurrying up the hill. When she saw him, her eyes narrowed, so he waved and said, "Gotta go, Danny."

Danny saw his mother's expression, too. "Yeah. Bye."


Louis walked back to his grandfather's grave site. It felt strange to contemplate that concept--Papa Taylor's grave. He started to feel something like sadness in his gut, at last, and welcomed the feeling.

His mother turned to him and asked if he was all right. He nodded, and she gave him a hug. His father walked over and helped Marie to the nearby car.

Louis wanted to go home. His mother had told him that they had to stay an extra day to be present for the reading of the will, "just as a formality." He wanted to leave all the same. The city was foreign to him, strange. He wanted to return to the familiar.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

"What would you change if you could?"

Funny how even the lamest things can make you think.

I recently did the unthinkable and rented (at a friend's behest) "The Butterfly Effect" with Ashton "I'm So Annoying Dave Wants to Bash My Face In" Kutcher.

For those who haven't seen/heard of it, it's the story of a boy who grows up suffering from severe black-outs, which create gaps in his memory at critical points. This, coupled with his family's history of mental illness, causes him to study up on brain function, and in college he stumbles upon a way to recover his lost traumatic memories. Not only that, but as he does this, he finds he can actually go back to these moments and change the past. What he doesn't realize is that each change has unforeseen (and often terrible) ramifications on his present. Each time he tries to improve his life and the lives of those he cares about, he ends up making things worse.

The name comes from a term coined by a professor in Chaos Theory. Chaos Theory, for the uniniated, purports that in a system where everything else is constant, a small change of circumstances at the beginning of a reaction could create a drastically different (or almost unrecognizable) result. (Read "Jurassic Park," it's explained there.) Anyway, this professor gave the example of a butterfly flapping its wings, which stirs up pollen, which causes another animal to sneeze, which starts a stampede, etc., etc., until finally it results in changing the weather patterns in an entire geographic region. In the movie, this effect is demonstrated throughout the various permutations of Evan's reality. The farther back he goes and makes a change, the larger the impact of his actions.

The movie itself is a bit mediocre. The dialogue is pretty cheesy at points, but the plot is interesting, and the idea the directors were trying to convey was ambitious enough to earn my begrudging respect. It's the type of movie that, with a few changes, could have been genius.

But, as the movie might ask, what cost would come with those changes? What would be lost?

(There are also a few minor thematic similarities to "Donnie Darko", for those of you who are fans of that film. Not that "TBE" is anywhere near as good as "DD," but there are moments of similar choices and crises.)

The main premise of the movie is that each choice, each circumstance, each event, can have unforeseen, long-reaching consequences. Change one thing, and the dominoes start falling until your whole life is different.

For those of us plagued with compulsive introspection, this idea is nothing new. The question of "what if" is one that constantly follows us. Each time we make a choice, we alter our destiny just a little (or a lot). Sometimes, we think back on these choices and think, "What if I had taken the other job, or gone to the other school, or asked out the other girl? Would my life be better?"

Invariably, our assumed answer of the second question depends on how we feel about our current circumstances. If you hate your job, it's easy to think that "if only I had taken the other job, my life would be so much better." Nevermind that the other job would have just as many difficulties or just as annoying people. But humans are short-sighted... linear. We can't really imagine any other path than the path we've chosen, without imagining that other path to be far nicer (or far worse) than our own. This is why in Ecclesiasties 7:10, the Teacher says, "Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions."

A very dear friend of mine, whom I miss very much, has a tattoo on her back of the Counting Crows line I used as this post's title. "What would you change if you could?" it asks. I would imagine that she, like anyone else, sometimes wishes she could change things. Yet, if she had made different choices early on, her life would have been much different, and I likely would have never had the joy of growing to love and respect her as my friend. Not only would I and others miss out on her, but I think she'd say that there are things and people in her life now that she wouldn't give up for the opportunity to start over. And I feel the same way about my life.

What I've said before, and I still believe, is that the past is context, and context is everything. I am who I am, because of the choices I've made, the circumstances I've encountered, and the relationships I've had and lost. Each of these things, good and bad, has shaped who I am. Not to say I'm perfect (far from it) or that I'm done growing (farther from it), but anyone who says "if only i had done this thing or gone there or met/dated/married that person" is inviting misery, and a blind, foolish misery at that. Especially if you serve a God that says "See, I am doing a new thing!"

I have been blessed to not have lived through the traumas that the characters in that movie have, or that many people in this real and ugly world have. I have been spared major cataclysmic suffering. But despite my comfortable and easy life, there were still moments that I wish I could have back, small things, things that I regret. Yet, I know that redoing mistakes, trying to erase my brokenness, may be as much an attempt to do away with the necessity of grace, as trying to fix what I've broken. But each mistake, and each consequence, has served as a constant reminder of my brokenness, and it's only when I accept it, that I can surrender to the redemption I've been given.

I'm rambling at this point, but I have a few more ideas to touch on.

One important thing the movie demonstrates, as I mentioned, is the impact of small choices and their large consequences. One would think that this is an intimidating or even downright frightening idea; it would be easy to be petrified of doing the wrong thing and fouling up the rest of your life. But I think it really serves as a reminder that every choice matters. Like in "It's a Wonderful Life", the way you treat others, the sacrifices you make small or great, the decisions you arrive upon, all have impact--not only on your life but the lives of others as well. So stories like "The Butterfly Effect"--for me, anyway--always drive home the importance of walking in the Spirit, as a believer. Each opportunity to do good that God has laid out for us (Eph. 2:10) is an opportunity to have an impact in someone's life, who in turn may minister to someone else.

In all of this nonsense, I also haven't even touched on the notion of God's will (predestination vs. free will), in regards to living in the real world. Partly because I'm not clever enough to discuss it well. However, I want to make a small comment.

Other clever readers who have specific opinions on such things might say, "But Dave, it's all about the undeniable will of God in your life." And I believe this is true. But in my reading of C.S. Lewis, I came to what I think is a better understanding of the so-called "free will vs. predestination" debate.

I think part of the problem a lot of people have with this concept of God predestining our actions, as opposed to giving us autonomy to make our own choices, is really a problem with our understanding of time. Or rather, our place vs. God's place, within time. (If I had the book with me, I'd pull out a quote that helped me see this. Oh well.) Because God is El Olam--the God before, after, and outside of time--He sees the end from the beginning. He sees every permutation of every choice we can make. He knows the outcome of every flapped butterfly wing. And he has worked all of these choices together as part of his grand master plan, orchestrating every momentary drama of the human race into one prolonged symphony.

So, in reality, predestination and free will actually work in concert. God gives us free will, yet knows the choices we will make, and works through those choices and their results to accomplish His will--thus predestining our actions as part of his plan. We see it as predestination because we think in terms of progression. What we forget is that there is no "pre"-anything with God. Nothing is before; nothing is after. God lives in the eternal "now." And in this "now," he sees my first step, my typing of this post, and my last breath, all at once.

Because He sees all things, and all possibilities, what we often label as "God's will" may simply be the best set of choices, which we seek to make through Christ's ennabling power. Yet if we don't make all those best choices, by walking with Him day by day we can remain "in His will" in a general sense.

(The concepts, however crude, make sense to me. I'd like to thank my reformed readers in advance for showing me grace in the comment box.)

I don't know. I'm still working on it.

But there it is. Psychological and theological analysis, all thanks to a very-R-rated Ashton Krapper movie.