Friday, April 29, 2005

At the Movies

this is an audio post - click to play

Quote of the Day/Pocket Review

Quote of the Day:

Comes from Lilek's column today. You should read it (every day!). It's good, in a Lileks sort of way--meandering and interesting. But the end of the column critiques the subtext of a movie review in Entertainment Weekly. The film in question contrasts opposing views of the abortion debate and shows that people on both sides of the issue are equally wrong--rendering both opinions equally flawed. Lileks doesn't quite buy it, and says the following:
It’s the sort of argument that marks the Modern Mind in its most facile and aggravating: the presence of hypocrisy on both sides renders both equally suspect; wisdom is best manifested by posing trick questions; people who believe stuff are all alike, in a way, inasmuch as they believe stuff, and what’s most dangerous is not what you believe, but how much you believe it. Conviction is good if the last word in your credo is “but.” Otherwise you’re a fundamentalist.

Something to ponder. Feel free to discuss below.

Pocket Review:

Finished Still Life. Two key observations:

--It was very deftly written, and Collins has a fantastic ability for description and wordplay.

--It's also often gleefully profane.

Due to the graphic nature of certain scenes, I can't give it an official "PBB Gold-plated Recommendation."

Chalk it up in that list with "House of Leaves"--cool for those that don't mind getting their hands dirty, but I can't recommend it to the general audiences in good conscience. I'm not sorry I read it, but I wouldn't pass it along to all my friends.

On the plus side, however, it did inspire me to work harder on my descriptions in my own writing. So that's useful.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

ETL MP3 Playlist

Last night, I decided to take the ETL to the next level. So I decided to do something I've never done before: I'm letting you plumb the dregs of my MP3 collection.

Understand, these are all songs that I downloaded during college--the last time I had a decent internet connection at home. Yet, I've never been able to get rid of them. Either I still like them, or they have some sort of memory association that keeps them hanging around.

These are all songs that I downloaded on my own accord--not for any CD projects for others. (I still have a couple awful MP3's from one such project, and you don't have to be the New Kid on the Block to know that You Can't Touch This kind of thing with a ten-foot-pole.)

So here you go. The shameful admission. The worst of my MP3 collection.

Embrace the Lame Playlist:

1) Gettin Jiggy Wit It, Will Smith: Yes, I, too, had a brief Will-Smith phase. I blame Matt Romoser. Those of you who know him are nodding your heads. The sad thing is, I have about six songs from Big Willie Style on my compy. Yeah, I know.

2) Never Ever, All Saints: Whatever happened to these girls, they were so talented! Heh. Okay, not really. They were like a sad-eyed ballad version of Spice Girls. But this song was big while I was crushing hard my freshman year. I even went shopping with my crush and her friend, and in Foleys or wherever, the music video was playing on one of the TVs in the store. So yeah, connection there.

3) Secret Garden, Bruce Springsteen: Breaking out the sappy movie soundtrack songs, you betcha. This was the theme for my utter infatuation with Andria Smith, a girl from high school who has come to represent The One Who Got Away for me. She's like my "Maria," Mr. Duritz. And this song captured that.

4) Hard for Me to Say I'm Sorry, Chicago: Hells yeah. Cheesy? Check. But they are a legitimately talented band, so I have to give them credit. And they're a good part of the reason I exist today. My pop got the school band to play "Color My World" and he serenaded my mom at a high school basketball game, early in their dating relationship. That pretty much sealed the deal.

5) Easy Tonight, Five for Fighting: While "it's not easy to be" Five for Fighting, this was the first song that I heard by him/them. I actually really like this song, but liking a Five for Fighting song is tantamount to admitting liking a Creed song (Creed's first album rocked, so you chut-up!).

6) Iris, Goo Goo Dolls: The epitome of lame balladeering. Yet I still have the track. Wow. I would love to excuse this by connecting it to a girl or a certain memory, but I just really liked the song when it came out. Had that nice "unrequited love" vibe to it that I connected to so well.

7) It's My Life, Bon Jovi: Oh yeah. Dig that crazy smell of a stale career being warmed over. Really, it's the guitar I appreciate. And the fact that they're trying to do a modern "My Way" (which they even mention in the chorus. But the song is so overblown. C'mon, Jon, like anyone is trying to tell you how to live your life. With your big house and arena football team ownership and whatnot. That's right, haters; let the man "live while [he's] alive."

8) Now I Know Why You Wanna Hate Me (M:I2 Theme), Limp Bizkit: Okay, okay, FIRST of all, I really like the Mission:Impossible theme. And the best part of the song is the instrumental, "pure theme" part in the bridge (DUM DUM duh duh DUM DUM duh duh). That, and Fred saying, "I'm an idiot, a loser, microphone abuser." Cuz that's pretty much true. You know why we want to hate you, Fred? Because you're an abrasive, juvenile, no-talent thug, right? Oh, that wasn't the reason? Sorry, pal.

9) Come On, Eileen, Save Ferris: As fun as ska bands are, this song was lame when it was originally done. I like this version, however. Especially the hot lead vocals. Mmmm, band girls. *Homer-like drooling noise*

10) Big Rock Candy Mountain, Harry McClintock: I have the entire "O Brother..." soundtrack downloaded. That began my love for roots music. I don't know why, it just really appeals to me.

11) Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison: I have to take back the comment about "Iris." This song is the ultimate sappy lame ballad. Yet we all still know the song. Admit it; you know the words, and you catch yourself singing along. If I had "More than Words" downloaded still (I did, at one point), I would have packaged them together on this disc as a one-two-punch of cheesiness.

12) Take On Me, Reel Big Fish: I'm all about the 80's ska covers, it seems. I don't know--I like this song a lot, both the original version and the cover. If you don't like 80's music, I pity you.

13) When Doves Cry, "R+J" Soundtrack: I'm starting to appreciate Baz Luhrman's work on "R+J", despite the DiCrappines. This moment in the film, with the young choir, was a really nice touch. And come on, who doesn't love a Prince cover?

14) Little Miss Can't Be Wrong, Spin Doctors: I can already hear the protests out of Colorado. I know, dude, I enjoy them too. But by popular standards, the Spin Doctors are lame, lame, lame. At least today, they get some love.

15) I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You, Marc Antony and Tina Arena: The Mask of Zorro was a great movie, and this song fit it perfectly. I'm often a sucker for sappy ballads... in the right context, I guess.

16) Over My Head, Lit: From the "Titan A.E." soundtrack (a lot of soundtrack songs on here, it seems.) I... I don't know. I just don't know. A peppy tune, I guess. No other explanation.

17) Teenage Dirtbag, Wheatus: Retarded lyrics, retarded music. But yay for loser teenage dirtbags getting rocker chicks. That's fun.

18) Freakin It, Will Smith: Closing out with more from Big Willie. So careful to "lay one verse without a curse", Smith gives us the lamest song title in years. Like I said, blame the Marine that made me listen to this guy so much I downloaded it on my own.

There you go, friends. Enjoy the rest of ETL Day!

National Embrace the Lame Day!!! (UPDATED)

Happy ETL Day, friends. I'm very excited to see so many people participating. It's cool that something I came up with a few days ago is already spreading to people I've never had contact with. That's why I love the Internet.

For the uninitiated, the following:

What are you talking about?
If you don't know what i'm talking about, my original post (with my first fifteen ETL entries) is here. Yesterday I added ten more items to the list. I'm sure I'll whip up a few more today.

Why Embrace the Lame?
It started out because I caught myself posturing a bit on Sheila's website. Trying to be "cool" by distancing myself from a movie I actually enjoyed because it may be perceived as lame. As soon as I did it, I felt stupid. So I decided to do the opposite; to step out and say, this is what I like. This is what I'm into. Cool or not. Hip or not. Here you go.

So that's how it began. I didn't expect many people to pay attention, but I wanted to do it. I haven't done it before, not to the extent I was attempting. So on Tuesday, I declared that today, Thursday the 28th, would be "National" Embrace the Lame Day. Then a few others picked it up, and a few more after that.

But what I've discovered is that, as people start making these lists, others keep popping up and commenting, "Yeah, I like that too!" or "That's not lame at all." It seems that most of the time, what we're afraid others think is lame, they're just as into. Or they like something geekier. It reaffirms the idea from The Breakfast Club: we're all "the geek" sometimes. And that's cool, too.

So there you go. For today, let your inner geek breathe. Or even your outer geek. Just accept that you are not as "indie" as you want people to believe, and that's okay, because neither are they. I'd be willing to bet that the hippest among us, the indie icons of pop culture, still watch silly cartoons or quote the Simpsons or like uncool music.

Who's in on it?
Who's participating so far in the first-ever celebration of admitted geekiness? Let's take a look:

Trav (v. 2.0)
Jane (who's been doing this for a while, actually)

If you have a list up, leave a link in the comment box below.

More ETL listings!

26. I have three Smallville fansites bookmarked, and I check them regularly.

27. My musical fantasy involves being the lead singer in a kickass cover band. Some people want to sing their own music; I want to sing other peoples' music. Needless to say, I'm a lot of fun on Karaoke Night.

28. I became absolutely giddy when other people started participating in this thing.

29. Cowboy Bebop (the series and the movie). Admit it, you like it too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Embrace the Lame! (UPDATED)

Remember, kiddies, tomorrow is the first ever National "Embrace the Lame" Day!!!!

This isn't just for me to make my list and you to comment. I want each of you to make your own lists. Post them on your blogs. Email them to me. Share them with your co-workers.

So start compiling these lists. Leave a comment below if you've posted yours.

Let's do this. It'll be fun, I promise.

Addendum's to Dave's ETL List:

16. I compulsively stamp my hand with any rubber stamp I find. Even if it's from somebody's desk at work. And I have a meeting in an hour.
17. The "Hank the Cowdog" series is a work of genius.
18. I think sometimes that I jinx my favorite sports teams. They seem to win when I'm not watching, but whenever I switch over to watch them, they start losing again. When that happens, I hurriedly change the channel and hope WHOMEVER didn't notice, so the team could start winning again. I have killed three no-hitters and two leads of two touchdowns or more.
19. I have an inexplicable love for the music of Huey Lewis and the News. Especially the song "If This is It."
20. I cannot--CANNOT--talk to attractive women I don't know. I could be 18 inches away from them, on the train, we could even make eye contact, and I am completely unable to say a word. That, my friends, is lame.

More to come--start writing yours!


Sheila's embracing the lame! Woohoo! She's got almost sixty comments. I've got...four, over two posts. Must be nice having readers who participate (HINT, HINT, EVIL GLARE).

Come on, folks. Get with the program!

Musical ETL items.

21. Whenever I think of the phrase "Embrace the Lame," I start singing it to the tune of the Bob Seger song "Against the Wind."
22. I have owned at least six Weird Al Yankovic cds/videos/DVDs in my lifetime. I currently own one of each.
23. I want to own a copy of the song "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants.
24. One of the albums I listen to most regularly is my Barenaked Ladies "best-of."
25. I know the lyrics to more Eminem songs than I'd like to admit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Embrace the Lame"

I find myself cautiously posturing while commenting on other people's websites. Keeping up that front of cool detachment. Describing things as "quaint", "predictable", and "trite." I mentioned a movie I really enjoyed in the comments of another blogger's post, and described it as "fluffy" and "somewhat enjoyable (albeit predictable)."

Why do we do this? Are we so afraid of what some blogger who we think is "cool" will think of us, even though we couldn't pick each other out of a line-up?

That's why I'm declaring Thursday, April 28, to be "Embrace the Lame" Day! That's where you confess, either here or on your own, things that you enjoy but that others may consider "lame." I don't care what it is: certain activities, entertainments, pieces of clothing, whatever.

Stand up tall, stand up proud, swallow your self-consciousness, and embrace it.

Because odds are, what you think is lame, others will likely see as wicked rad.

Here's the beginning of my "Embrace the Lame" list:

1) Romantic comedies like "Alex and Emma", "Kate and Leopold", "Blast from the Past", and "Return to Me"
2) Certain "teen comedies": "10 Things I Hate About You", "Can't Hardly Wait", and "Empire Records" especially
3) the cartoon "Animaniacs"
4) eating meals with family
5) funny hats
6) the best sitcom ever, "Boy Meets World"
7) old-school Blues Clues (with Steve, instead of that poser Joe)
8) singing along to the car radio. loudly.
9) "roots" music
10) "The Muppet Show"
11) walking around in sandals, even in the winter
12) wearing sweaters with denim shorts; maybe a fashion faux pas, but sometimes my legs aren't cold, okay?
13) "The Monkees" (both on TV and the radio)
14) the earnestness of DC Talk's first two albums
15) crying during EVERY SINGLE episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

more to follow...

"People tell me 'Ben, just make up stuff and turn it in'..."

I've been reassessing what I'm doing this for. Not in a petulant, "taking my ball and going home" way, though inevitably such considerations are viewed as such. Maybe a better way of describing it is, I'm taking a look at the blog content--taking stock of where I fit in the current state of blogs, and who my intended audience is. Because, like Ben Folds, "I never was all right with turning in a bunch of s***." I want to provide the best blog I can for you guys.

Lately, this blog has been reduced, really, to Cool Tens, Brown-bag Poetry, and semi-regular Friday Fiction, with the occasional personal anecdote. I link things from time to time, though I'm not quite convinced that more than a handful of you actually look at these. And I understand that--you don't have much time to look at stuff, sometimes. S'cool.

When I consider the blogs I most admire (for various reasons), I find that I enjoy them for their often literary quality, their interesting and entertaining personal anecdotes, or their useful links and/or humor.

Where do I fit in this spectrum? What do I contribute? A little bit of mediocre poetry and prose, a few media reviews, the occasional personal anecdote, and a link every now and again.

What I'm starting to see is that, while the traffic to this site has been steadily rising, the number of return visitors seems to be falling. I've gotten more site hits for the JPEG of the ketchup bottle from the Slackie Award Ballot, than from anything else in the past two or three months.

The consistent readership is shrinking. And I think it's doing so because I'm more and more providing a blog that only I would like. Academics call that "coming full circle."

But I recently had a reaffirmation of a liberating realization I discovered in the past:

I'll never be a Dooce, or a Lileks, or a Protein Wisdom, or a Sheila. I'll never have the traffic numbers of a Michele or a Rob. And really? I'm okay with that.

With all due respect to my favorite high-traffic blogs, they can all kiss my lily-white, low-traffic-blogging ass.

Why? Because I'm ________* TeacherDave, dammit. This is my blog, and if I want to blather like a fanboy about whether or not Smallville has jumped the shark, or the theme of spiritual warfare on Joan, or if I want to obsess about being single or talk about how weird it will be taking a married woman to a U2 concert, then by golly, I'm gonna freaking do that.

I'm not ever gonna be a Top 100 blogger, and I'm never gonna be one of the movers and shakers of the Internet, but I'm more content occupying my cozy little corner of the blogging world, spinning out lists and poetry and short stories, and throwing in the occasional amateur review. (Can you imagine how stressed out I'd be if I did become that popular? Geez.)

So even if I drop to a consistent readership of 6, I'll keep it coming, five(-ish) days a week.

I'm ________* TeacherDave, punks! I'm not going anywhere.

(*Insert typical Sam-Jackson-ism here.)

Monday, April 25, 2005

PBB Cool Ten (4/24-4/30)

10. 9-9. Got to beat the division rivals, man. Can't go the distance if you don't.
10b. First series against the Astros is this weekend.
9. Riding around in a Navigator-limo is fun.
8. Free catered food is good, whether Saturday at birthday parties or today at work.
7. The book of Judges was pretty interesting.
6. Giving a friend a giftcard to HPB was my excuse to go shopping. Looking forward to reading this book after Still Life.
5. Milling over the direction of the current fiction project resulted in some good ideas for the next one.
4. People reading and commenting on the Ezekiel story. Appreciated that.
3. This song is encouraging to me.
2. The Joan finale was most awesome. Turns out "Ryan Hunter" is not the devil; he seems to be human, the yang to Joan's yin--someone with a connection to the spiritual world. However, he also seems to have some sort of supernatural power at his disposal. The question is, is Joan capable of similar gifts? Also interesting to see that Joan's mom learning she may have the spiritual gift of discernment, though it didn't help her much when she met and shook hands with Hunter. I really hope CBS picks this show up for another season or two. Lots of interesting stuff there.
1. I really love my family. It hit me this weekend how much I appreciate them. And that's always a good thing.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bible Redux: Dry Bones

This is how it went down.

The overwhelming hand of the Unfathomable, Unchanging One was upon me.

I stood before him. He spoke my name. Then, He lifted me up, and carried me instantly away from my home to a far valley, where He placed me in the middle of the valley floor. My home vanished from me, and the sight of my village faded into a view of the valley. It was like waking up from a dream, except it was the dream I was waking into. It was like waking down.

I stood on the only empty spot in the valley floor. Everywhere around me, in front of me, behind me, to my left hand, and to my right, lay countless bones. The bones of fallen men, women, and children, covering the ground as far as the eye could see, from my clear perch, to the very feet of the great mountains that surrounded. The ground was blanketed; the only grasses visible were the tall weeds growing up between bare ribs and open jaws. The bones were scattered in the postures of death, as if the flesh melted off them like wax and left them bare and unchanged, to whiten in the unforgiving sun. It surely was a massacre. An entire people slaughtered. Some had weapons, broken and rusted, half-buried among the bones of their owners.

The air was still, unmoving, as if the death that reigned over this cursed valley stole the life of the wind also.

I couldn't speak. I trembled as I stared at the open grave around me.

Then, from the mountaintops, from the earth below, from within my chest, rumbled the voice of the Ever-Present One, the Warrior-King and Jealous Redeemer of men.

"Speak truth over these dead bones. Say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Unchanging One! This is His word to you: I will bend down from my cosmic throne, and breathe into you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to your bare joints, and make muscle and tissue, vein and artery and skin, to grow over your naked frames. When I breathe in your dead nostrils, you will live. Then you will know that I AM, I alone, the Great and Gracious Covenant-Maker!'"

I cowered. I have no great fear of dead men's bones, but the pronouncements of the Earth-Builder remind me of how frail I am.

I took a breath and looked out over the valley.

"Dry bones--"

In the far end of the valley, I heard it. A rattle, like bare branches blown together by a coming storm. Then I saw it, just barely: a ripple. Movement. Shifting. Settling.

"Dry bones, hear the word of the Unchanging One! This is His word to you: I will bend down from my cosmic throne, and breathe into you, and you will come to life."

I could see the ripple clearly, starting at the edges of the valley floor and moving inward. When you drop a stone into a pool, the ripples are born at the place you drop the stone, and spread outward. But in this valley, the ripples began at the shore of this dead sea, and moved inward. Toward me.

"I will attach tendons to your bare joints, and make muscle and tissue, vein and artery and skin, to grow over your naked frames."

An arm shot up, not far away. It's fingers were still white and bare like birch branches, but from the shoulder grew a tan trunk, unmistakable in composition. I could see the white cords wrap around the elbow before the flesh rose up to cover them. When the hand was fully clothed, I looked around to see the rest of the bodies so adorned. They remained piled, but now were clearly whole bodies. They seemed to sleep in piles, laying beside and atop each other, legs askew, arms draped over stones and nearby limbs.

"When I breathe in your dead nostrils, you will live. Then you will know that I AM, I alone, the Great and Gracious Covenant-Maker!"

They were perfect. Yet their eyes were closed. They didn't breath. It was a felled forest of corpses.

I was terrified. I couldn't move my arms or legs. Then I heard the Voice again.

"Speak my truth to the breath. Say, "This is what the Most High says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and flow into the lungs of these massacred, into the mouths of these struck down, so that they may taste of life."

I cleared my throat. I opened my mouth to speak, and I felt it. The slightest breeze, teasing the hair on my arms. I hesitated. The breeze died.

I began. "This is what the Most High says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and--"

The howl began in the mountaintops, and swept down with the fury of a hurricane. I know I said the words, just as the Eternal One commanded, but I could not hear myself say them. The winds screamed in my ears, their force nearly knocking me to the ground. Yet I could almost feel a pair of hands steady me in the storm. The grasses laid down against the earth, under the force of the maelstrom that descended from the peaks. The bodies began moving. I thought the wind had become so strong that they were being rolled around by its terrible hands. Yet, they didn't roll blindly or move weakly. Each body stood up, just as easily as if they were getting out of bed. Then the winds died instantly--the very breath of the world stolen away.

There they stood. A multitude of silent, fierce figures. Eyes burning. Hands clenched in fists. The sound of their breathing filled my ears. An army. They rose in unison, so quickly, so silently, that I reacted the only way I knew how:

I screamed.

I was surrounded. The closest of them were close enough for me to touch. Or for them to touch me. There they stood, very real. Very alive.

Then the Voice spoke once more.

"These bones are like My People. They say, 'Our life has withered away; we are alone; our hope is gone. We have been abandoned by our Creator. He Who Sees sees us no longer.' Therefore, go to My despairing people, and say to them, 'This is what the Faithful Ancient of Days says: O My people, I am going to open your graves and resurrect you from them. I will bring you back to your own good land. Then you, My wayward people, will know that I am the Keeper of the Great Covenant, when I lift you up from the Kingdom of Death. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own good land, the inheritance I promised to your ancestors. Then you will know that I, the Almighty Protector, have spoken, and I have fulfilled My own word,' says He Who Brings It To Pass."

One moment I stood amongst the resurrected; then, just as easily as breathing out and breathing in, I found myself standing in my own house, weeping and trembling.

I praised my Maker for his grace, then I dried my tears and walked out the door. I had a word to deliver.

See, you don't have to be dead to be dead. And even when you feel dead, you can be made alive again. For the Righteous One is good, and His promises endure forever. In Him is my hope resurrected; in Him is my joy restored.



Recommendations (UPDATED)

Just finished A Prayer for Owen Meany. Wowsa. Great book. Incredibly well-written. If you can put up with the occasional off-color reference and frequent rants against America in general and the Reagan administration in particular (i know, shouldn't be a problem for some of you), then I highly highly recommend this one. Just for the sheer beauty of Irving's style. His use of description, of repetition, of foreshadowing. Holy crap, this guy's a master at foreshadowing. I've never seen it used so deftly as it is used in this book.

It's one of those books that reminds me how far I have to go as a writer. Everything I write seems so...shallow. There's no depth to it, no resonance. But I continue on.

Also, just read the first 5 pages of Tom Robbins' Still Life with Woodpecker. After five pages, I'm recommending this (at least, the first five pages). Robbins' prose has a palpable kinetic energy. His descriptions move. He juggles and spins. If the rest of the book is as good as the first five pages, this one may be the best book I've read in years. And you know I read a lot.

So there's that.

More posts later. Maybe.

UPDATE: So i'm a bit further than page 5 now.

"Still Life with Woodpecker" is like this incredibly perverse acrobat. Shocking and offensive, yet mesmerizing. You shake your head at such profane posturing, yet you cannot pull your eyes away.

So let me revise. Robbins' skill at fashioning imagery, at clever wordplay, is impressive. However, so early in the book, it becomes, shall we say?

So, reader beware; if you are trying to avoid consuming any kind of "impure" entertainment, you'd better let this one pass. Don't say I didn't warn you.

What am I going to do now, you may ask? Well, I guess I'll keep reading. It's probably to my shame that I'm more desensitized to some of the 'bluer' elements. But it takes a lot for me to put a book down halfway.

Reading is like agreeing to take a roadtrip with the author. You let him (or her; in this case, him) drive, with some degree of trust that you'll reach the destination safely. You hesitate from jumping out of the moving vehicle in the middle of nowhere. Granted, some drivers may risk your well-being more than others. But if you find one you can trust, you'll be content to hang on through the rough spots.

Robbins' driving is so controlled and slick, I'm thusfar overlooking the muddy patches he's splashing through.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Brown Bag Poetry (4/21)


my sister turns 16
years old next week.
she is no longer the
little pip-squeak,
squealing about Barney
and Barbie and having
to eat her vegetables.
she is practically a

she is definitely
a teenager. i've had to
tell her several times
that our parents are not
the enemy. she doesn't
buy it, but at least she
still talks to me.

last week, she
told me about two boys
who are vying for her
attention. i freaked out.
it's not just the parents who
worry for their daughter's
well-being. i'm terrified
for her, because i know the
sick, perverted twists and
turns the mind of a
teenage boy takes;
after all, i was one.

soon she will be driving,
and like her parents, i will
worry about her safety.
soon she will start dating,
and like her parents, i will
fulfill my fraternal responsibility
to scare the hell out of any boy
that dares consider touching her.
soon she will be graduating,
and like her parents, i will
wonder if i did everything i could
to be a good example, to give her
good counsel, to be her protector
when she needed one, and her
motivator when she needed one.

my sister turns 16 next week.
and i realize now that i
don't have too long left
to be the brother that she
needs me to be.


if belief in the Son of God
is an anti-intellectual choice,
and the powers and rulers of
this present age demand
i choose between "reason" and faith,
then i renounce the cool chic
and smug self-satisfaction
of intellect,
for the icy embrace of
knowledge cannot approach
the warmth of the
love of the most high God.
does this negate my right
to debate the big questions
with the big brains of
my generation? it shouldn't.
but if your bias against the
Unseen clouds your view of my
worthy participation in the
Grand Discourse, so be it.
but understand that it is you
who will be the poorer for it.


do you still know me?
did you hear me screaming out
your name in the wasteland?
did you see my tears drop
into the ashes at my feet?
did you watch me
mix them to make paste,
smear it across my blind eyes,
and wash it off in the dark river,
praying, pleading, for new sight?
will you be my vision now?
it's hard to take your hand and
trust you, when you've lead me
right into sharp edges before.
yes, they made me stronger,
but they also made me more
hesitant. if doubt is sin, then
i am unclean, but i have come
by it honestly.

despite my grave misgivings,
i stretch my trembling hand
out to you again.

Review: "Songs for Silverman," Ben Folds (UPDATED)

Ben Folds has been a favorite of mine for a few years, thanks in large part to an old friend. I admire his ability to turn the "piano-man" genre on its head with his irreverence and wit. Even in the most serious of songs was that thread of humor and irony. Whether alone or with the "Five," Ben Folds is capable of genius.

His first solo album, "Rockin the Suburbs," was yet another step in the rich tradition of clever songwriting and catchy melody that the musician had developed. Every song has its own charm, its own special quality. Every track is a fantastic song.

His live album, "Ben Folds Live," was a mix of his solo work and solo variations of his group catalogue. It's a fantastic album that I would recommend to anyone who even remotely enjoys his work.

So when the news of his newest album, "Songs for Silverman," came out, I was elated. More Ben Folds!

I found out this morning (thanks Relevant) that is streaming his new album for free. You can check it out here.

I've listened to it three times so far. I stopped for lunch, and am currently listening to his previous opus (which I just happened to bring with me today).

So what is my opinion of "Songs for Silverman."

In short: hmm. yeah. it's ben folds. so that's cool, i guess.

"Suburbs" had an energy, even in its melancholy moments, that "Silverman" just can't quite reach. I don't know what it is. Ben just sounds...tired. Jaded. A little bored.

Ben's still as incredibly talented as he always has been. Each song is still well-crafted, and his vocal work is still top-notch. Ben's an incredible musician, and if he would ever work his way down here to the Southland, I'd go to his show in a heartbeat.

I don't know. The whole tone of the album is just...kinda down. He wears his cynicism on his sleeve in songs like "Bastard" and "Jesusland", and there's just no humor in it. Not to say that all songs must be funny ("Brick" certainly wasn't) or clever, but Ben Folds' songs are usually a little more balanced.

Granted, I'm probably letting my personal biases color my reactions to these particular songs. But it seems like he's turning into just another anti-evangelical/conservative musician. His critiques are completely valid, yes; but I've heard all this before. I'm kinda bored with it.

As for the rest of the album: like I said, it's all incredibly well-done. Ben is a truly gifted and incredible pianist, vocalist, and songwriter. It just doesn't seem quite as inspired as "Suburbs" was. Ben seems to be going through the motions.

"Landed", the first single from the album, is certainly a stand-out track. "Gracie," an ode to his baby daughter, is just as beautiful and touching as "Still Fighting It," Ben's song to his son. "Trusted" is another great track, with the lines "It seems if you can't trust/You can't be trusted." "Late" is a great tribute to the late Elliot Smith. "Sentimental Guy" is another melancholy "aftermath" track in the lyrical vein of "Smoke" and "Evaporated," yet it has a deceptively jaunty melody.

I'm conflicted, as you can tell. The individual elements of the album are great overall; but the album as a whole just left a bit to be desired. "Suburbs" was a great album; "Silverman" has several great songs. The difference, however subtle, is still noticeable.

I don't know. I'm listening to it online. Maybe in the car, on a roadtrip, I could find more to appreciate here. This is most likely the case. And I'm sure I'll end up buying this album, so I'll have the chance to do so.

I'm willing to concede that my personal biases with some of the themes early on in the album may affect my perception of it as a whole. But that's the way it goes. You want another kind of review? Find another reviewer.

Final Judgement: 7.5 out of 10. Not "Suburbs" but solid. Another album from a superb songwriter.


I'm listening to it again. I sold it a bit short. The energy, though not blatant, is there inside. If nothing else, the piano solo on "You to Thank" gives it an extra point. So there you go. 8.5 out of ten. Not half-bad, my young son.

So much to say...

Man, the post topics have been piling up. If I wasn't so completely swamped at work, I'd be flooding you guys. So, that said, be sure to check back throughout the day today and tomorrow for new things. Remember: each day post chronologically; so just because you see the same top post doesn't mean there's nothing new below it.

What will (hopefully) be posted in the next two days, here at PBB?

--My preview of the new Ben Folds album!
--A discussion of one WB show's particularly aggressive anti-evangelical rhetoric.
--Why "Left Behind"'s Tim Lahaye has his panties in a twist!
--This generation's reported shift away from traditional religion.
--A discussion of the 100 greatest Americans, according to one website.
--Brown-bag poetry this afternoon.
--New links to fun blogs.
--Generally inspiring blather.
--maybe Chapter 8 of Taylor House.

So stick around. It could be interesting.

Expect new content at around 1 p.m. CST.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus papam

Check that sweet action out. There's a new pope.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Pope Benedict XVI--a.k.a. the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from Germany.

He's so cool he's got his own fan club.

Here's some background on the new guy. Word on the street is, he's a very conservative traditionalist.

I don't even know why I'm so interested in this, being a wicked Protestant and all. I guess, since this is the first time this has happened in my lifetime, I'm intrigued.

Owen Meany Quote of the Day


(for the rebel linguist)

Well, ain't that somethin'!

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English
25% Dixie
10% Yankee
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern

(Hat-tip: Michele)

Ten years...

It's not that I'm ignoring it. It's just that I have nothing useful to say.

I was in ninth grade. I was a clueless ninth grader. I had a vague understanding of the event, but nothing concrete or lasting. Even on American soil, it was too far away for me to pay it much attention. I'm sure if it were in a major city nearby (or my own), I would have cared more. I'm sorry I didn't. I was a kid. I knew nothing of the world.

168 innocent victims. 1 insane murderer. And five hundred miles away, I was in Geography class (if I remember correctly), learning about...Europe, maybe. Or it was English class, and we were trudging through Robinson Crusoe. The events of the castaway on that imaginary island were almost as real to me as the bombing of the Murrow building. That is to say, the bombing was almost as unreal to me.

I have nothing to add. I wish I had cared more then. I'm sorry I didn't. I do now.

I have to confess, even in my years in Oklahoma, I still haven't visited the memorial. I've never seen the site of the attack. When I'm up there in the next few weeks, I'll try to fix that.

In the meantime, grace and peace to the survivors--those directly affected by the deeds of the wicked, and those who grieve for victims they don't know.

If you have any personal thoughts or memories, even if they're like mine, feel free to share them below.

Travis has one. So does the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones. So does Educat. So does Michele.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"Taylor House" Bonus: Author's Journal Entry

I was mentally working through some motivation issues with Louis this weekend, and so I started free-writing the following. I even toyed with the idea of including it in the book, after the fourth chapter ("Memoria"). Thought I'd share it with you. Give you an idea of the process I'm trying to work through. I find it interesting that a lot of Louis' personality is based, well, a little close to home.


The thing you need to understand about Louis Fielder is that he is capable of great things. He has the intelligence, the charisma, tha ability to adapt to new challenges. The one thing Louis Fielder lacks, the thing he always lacked, is consistent motivation. Louis is one of those particular personalities that exasperate those who love them best. This type of person suffers from a fatal lack of driving, specific ambition. If something holds their interest, they may pursue it briefly, but never consistently.

This was Louis Fielder's curse--that his great skill and ability was partnered with a crippling lack of direction.

(Where are you going, Louis?)

Louis was a "reactor." He never took the initiative. He didn't "pursue" an English degree in college; he ended up with one, by a process of elimination. After graduation, he returned to his parents' house, his old job, his old friends. He was comfortable. He didn't take risks. So when he moved south, it was the first real risk he'd taken since his last one--that ill-fated engagement.

It should be noted that even the engagement wasn't that risky--he didn't make a move until he was sure of the outcome. (Anna had to almost beg him to pop the question.) But when the relationship ended, Louis subconsciously labelled it the end-result of risky behavior. It was a mistake he didn't want to make again.

Because of this, the decision to accept Linus' offer seemed almost out-of-character to Louis' parents, but they were still thrilled to see the "change." The reason they were surprised by this, however, was that they really didn't understand their son.

It's not that Louis was lazy, or shiftless, or afraid. Certainly it would appear that way from the outside. But the character trait in Louis Fielder that defined his life was a constant sense of being in the present. Louis never looked to the future, not more than a few days or weeks. (His ability to perform miracles under the crush of impending deadlines was a learned skill, a form of self-preservation, in a world of planners and plodders.) And though his memory for personal anecdotes was encyclopedic, any grasp of past chronology failed him. Events occuring two months prior seemed to Louis to be placed in the recent past--"a few weeks ago, at most." In short, Louis had a child's sense of time.

This gave many reason to think him unmotivated, undependable, scared, lazy, weak. These opinions, though grounded in justifiable frustration, were nevertheless unfair and incomplete.

Why did Louis Fielder move south? What could have convinced the chronic procrastinator and daydreamer to make such a bold, proactive, future-focused decision?

Louis understood a great deal about himself. He was very circumspect. He understood his character flaws better than most people gave him credit for. But since the solutions to such things belonged to the realm of "process," they evaded his grasp. Any problem faced once could be easily addressed; but the challenges that required daily vigilance were his constant undoing.

Since Louis understood and acknowledged his own lack of direction, Linus' letter was a gift from above, a shining signpost, a golden ticket; and Louis hoped against hope that this move would be the first step in a process of continued forward motion and personal initiative.

The problem was, even when Louis moved into Taylor House, it was still simply a reaction. Had Linus left his estate to his firstborn (an honor Linus Jr. undoubtedly felt he deserved), it is possible--likely--that Louis would have continued to live in his parents' basement--at least, until they kicked him out and he reacted by finding new accomodations. It's not guaranteed that this would have been the case, but as I said, it's likely.

I don't mean to diminish the act of moving across country or trying to start a new life, by calling it a "reaction." However, it should be clearly understood that nothing Louis has done so far, including taking up residence in Taylor House, has been born our of an inner determination or decree; every move he's made has been orchestrated or prompted by outside forces. Whether he will be content to remain Fate's puppet is up to him.

"Pleased to meet you/Hope you guess my name"

Joan of Arcadia has taken an interesting theological turn. If you haven't been following the show, there have been some highly-dramatic and borderline-WB-like storylines, including Joan's sweet-natured artist boyfriend Adam's infidelity, and their messy break-up. Well, in a fit of...something, Adam goes hiking, gets lost in the woods in a nasty rainstorm, and everyone, including an angry-but-still-concerned Joan, looks for him. At the end of the ep, Joan is talking to "God"-in-park-ranger-form, when Adam comes out of the woods, accompanied by a guy in a red hoodie. Everyone is relieved to see Adam, and the guy with him says something like "I knew there was a reason he wanted me to go hiking today!" Then Red-Hoodie exchanges a surprised and untrusting/uncomfortable/bristling look with G-i-p-r-f. Joan notices the exchanged of unkind glances, herself surprised since (up to this point) she's the only one who can see "God"'s various avatars. (I think, though I may be remembering wrong, she asks 'God' who the guy is, and he says "Another connection." But that may be from another scene.)

But when Red Hoodie shows up, you start hearing the unmistakeable intro to--that's right--"Sympathy for the Devil" by the Stones. And when he's referenced at the end of the ep, the song plays over the credits. So what's going on?

Earlier in the ep, "God" tells Joan that all of the trials and struggles she's suffered up to this point, sometimes as a consequence of pursuing His directions, have been preparation to make her stronger for the next set of difficulties. He's been using small problems as a training ground for larger ones.

Looks like Red-Hoodie is the one to usher in the larger ones. CBS lists this as the description for next week's season-finale, entitled "Something Wicked This Way Comes": "God tells Joan that the last two years were a spiritual boot camp for her greatest challenge yet, pitting her against a man with a sinister agenda."

So, Red-Hoodie is to be her nemesis. An agent of evil pitted against her, to foil her attempts at doing God's work.

This is a big step for the religiously-themed series. Up to this point, the show has dealt with issues of personal responsibility, choice, and living and functioning in a broken and sinful world. Aside from a few scattered "inclusive" comments, the theology of the show has been pretty much sound. Yet it still looked at "evil" as part of human nature, a byproduct of being imperfect and human.

Now, it appears that spiritual warfare may be addressed on the show, to some degree. The concept that evil isn't just something that comes from within man, but it can also be prompted from without.

If the show carries over into another season (something not entirely certain yet), and it addresses these issues in the same way it has dealt with tough spiritual questions up to this point, this could be the show to watch next year, in terms of finding nuggets of spiritual truth. (Granted, it could also crap out into New-Agey mysticism or modernist white-wash, but I think it's highly unlikely, given the show's track-record.)

So. Just a heads' up. You should check out the season finale Friday night. Lemme know what you think.

Running to stand still...

(General greeting and commentary.)


Day 7 of the Plague: Lingering chest-tightness and non-runny sinus congestion.

Things are going well. Had a good weekend, spent with family and friends.

Confession: A female friend from church whom I've commented upon before--the one who has a really good heart, but who I haven't been otherwise attracted to at all--was at a group event on Saturday. And I was caught off-guard by a certain degree of, well, hotness on this girl's part. The first time I've noticed it. Oddly, I found that to be rather disconcerting, since I'm still not interested in her for anything beyond friendship. I don't know why I was so bothered by this. I guess it's easier to see someone of the opposite gender as "just a friend" when you're not physically attracted to them.

Unusual and awkward news of the weekend: The Italian's November wedding to Miss A is being moved up to mid-June. I am doing my absolute best NOT TO ASSUME THE REASON. Or, at least, to force myself to believe that it MUST BE BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID OF GIVING IN TO TEMPTATION and want to hasten the next phase of their relationship. I'm REALLY REALLY hoping that's the ONLY reason for the five-month jump in the wedding plans.

Of course, this will make the U2 concert situation in October even more unusual: I won't be escorting an engaged woman; I'll be accompanying a married, possibly pregnant woman (you know, from the honeymoon in June...yeah).

Coming Up: Another post or two today. And yes, I know that six of you are still waiting on emails. I'm getting to it.

PBB Cool Ten (4/17-4/23)

10. The Cubs are back to a .500 record [6-6]. For now.
9. Bad Lex is cooler than Good Lex.
8. Fever Pitch was okay. Nothing spectaculo. But okay.
7. Spending time with the family all weekend. By the way, my kid sister turns 16 next Sunday. Gulp.
6. 2/3 of the way through Owen Meany. Aside from Irving's obsessive political commentary that completely distracts from the story, it's a really good book.
5. I finally re-bought "Joshua Tree." I'm never loaning it to anyone again.
4. Straylight Run is not bad, either. You emo (or post-emo) kids would like it.
3. I started reading Judges last night. Fun times.
2. Apples to Apples is a fantastic group card game. Highly recommended.
1. Pastor O. Damon Shook--thanks for 27 years of faithful service.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Taylor House" Chapter 7: Borokov

On Monday morning, Louis rose early and dressed for his interview. After a few minutes’ deliberation, he decided to wear a tie; always better to look professional, he reasoned. When he came downstairs and went to the kitchen, he found Mr. Cross washing what appeared to be his breakfast dishes.

“Mr. Louis, good morning. Can I fix you something?”

“No, Mr. Cross, I can get it. Are you always up this early?”

“Oh, no, Mr. Louis. Usually earlier. Late morning for me.”

Louis looked up at the clock on the wall. “It’s a few minutes after seven.”

“Aye, so ‘tis. That means I’m already behind. Are you sure I can’t whip you up something?”

“No, that’s okay, Mr. Cross. Thanks. I’m eating light this morning. I have an interview.”

“Well, good luck, sir.” Cross gave a quick knock to the butcher-block countertop, and exited through the back door. Louis made himself a small breakfast, which he ate quickly. Then, resume in hand, he left for his interview.

He parked in the same lot he had the week before, and walked down to the coffee shop. There were a few patrons seated around tables, the attire ranging from Hawaiian shirts and sandals to navy powersuits. Louis stepped up to the counter. It was the cute girl from the other day. The one who ignored him before. Her dark hair was pulled back in simple pigtails, that drifted over her shoulders as she read an issue of Rolling Stone.

Louis cleared his throat. “Double mocha, please.”

The barista looked up at him from her magazine. “I’m sorry, what was that?”

“Double mocha.”

She rung up his order. “Three seventy-three.”

“Really? Wow. Kinda steep, don’t you think?” Louis tried his “charming” smile as he handed her a five.

The barista rolled her eyes and handed back his change. “Something tells me you don’t visit many coffee shops.” She turned her back to him and prepared his drink.

Louis looked down. “Not often.”

“Heh. No kidding. Hey, look, if you want, there’s a chain shop two blocks over who’ll charge you a buck more. But if you go there, you’ll miss out on our biggest selling point.”

“What’s that?” Louis asked.

She turned back toward him, mocha in hand, and deadpanned, “A winning personality.”

Louis smiled. “I see the difference already. I’d be crazy to go elsewhere.”

She nodded and handed him the coffee. “Right. Have a good one.” She walked back toward the door behind the counter.

Louis figured today was a good day for taking risks. “Hey, wait! What’s your name?”

The barista stopped and turned back to him, puzzled. “Why?”

“Come on.”

She tapped the nametag on her shirt. “Maria.”

“Maria, I’m Louis.”

“Right. Bye now.” She turned back and disappeared behind the swinging door.

Wow, Louis thought. Not quite service with a smile, was it? He shrugged and walked outside and sat on a bench, enjoying the cool of the early morning and drinking his coffee. He did his best to drink the steaming beverage carefully, but somehow still managed to spill a few drops on his tie. He dabbed at them with a napkin, but to no avail. Hopefully, the bookstore owner wouldn’t notice.

A few minutes after eight, Louis saw an old man in a brown suit walk out of the bookstore, leaning on a cane. He had a pale, gaunt face with a neatly trimmed white beard. His hair, what was left of it, was short-cropped around his temples like an Olympian’s wreath. He may have been tall in his youth, but he was stooped a bit at the shoulders now in his latter years, giving him the look of a vulture. He glared up and down the street, then went back inside, flipping the sign hung in the window from “Closed” to “Open.” Louis finished his coffee, and crossed the street to the shop.

Louis came through the doorway just as the man was making his way behind the counter. The man turned to him, gave him a quick surmising glance, and then turned to move a stack of books on the countertop. “Can I help you?” the man muttered. His Russian accent was so thick that Louis almost didn’t understand him at first.

“Are you the owner, sir?”

“Yes. Borokov.”

“Mr. Borkov, I’m Louis Fielder. I was told you have a position open during the week. I was wondering if I could talk to you about that.”

The old man continued to move stacks around on the countertop, sorting books into various piles. “First, my name is Bor-o-kov, young man. Second, I do have a position open, but I am not taking applications at this time. Thank you for stopping by.”

Louis remembered his embarrassment from a few days before, and remained where he was. Borokov looked up. “Did you hear me, young man? I will not hire you. Now, if you are not buying or selling, please leave. I’m very busy.”

“Mr. Borokov, I would like to talk to you about a position in your store…sir. I could be of great help.”

Borokov sighed loudly, and slammed down the Clive Cussler hardback he was holding. Louis tried not to look startled, and failed. Borokov folded his arms and faced Louis. “Very well. You won’t leave. What do you have to say?”

Louis wasn’t having much luck with interviews lately, it seemed. He took a breath and sputtered, “Well, I graduated from Northwestern with an English degree, so I have a good working knowledge of literature. I love reading, and would be able to recommend any number of books to customers. I’m looking for a good job, and I’m not afraid of hard work. I already met your staff a few days ago, and I think I would be a great part of your team…sir.”

Borokov chewed on his lower lip for a moment, then cocked his head to the side. “Northwestern? What brings you to our little island?”

“My grandfather just passed away recently. He left me his house, so I moved down here.”

“And your name is, again?”

“Louis Fielder.”

Borokov shrugged, disinterested. “Of course.”

“But my grandfather’s name was Linus Taylor.”

Louis saw a spark of recognition in the old man’s eye, and for a moment, took some hope in that. But as the old man grew redder in the face with each moment, Louis’ hope was smothered by a vague sense of impending danger. The veins in Borokov’s neck began to bulge.

The old man grabbed the handle of his cane in his left hand. Louis noticed his knuckles going white. Borokov took a deep breath and growled, “Linus…Taylor. You are the one who claimed the house. You claimed his book collection. That…that would have been the greatest acquisition of my career. I could have retired after moving that lot. And now—and now!--you walk into my store, asking me for a job stocking shelves!” With every statement, Borokov’s voice grew louder, until he was yelling.

Louis did his best not to panic. As it had happened many times before, his quick-thinking and smooth-talking side came to the rescue. “I understand your frustration, Mr. Borokov, I do. Let me make it up to you. If you give me a job, I will be the best employee you’ve ever had, and I promise you, you won’t regret it.”


Louis ducked a thrown paperback, and turned to make a quick escape. After a few steps, he reached the door. As he turned the handle, he heard Borokov say, “Fielder, wait!”

Louis stopped and looked back at the Russian. His hands were on the counter, and his eyes were closed. He breathed in and out a few times and said, “Please, Fielder, come back. I apologize for my outburst.” The Russian seemed to shake off his tension, from his shoulders out to his fingers. He looked up at Louis, and his glacier-blue eyes seemed to smile a bit, even as his mouth continued to scowl. “Please.” He gestured toward the counter.

Louis slowly returned to the counter. Borokov bowed his head a bit. “Thank you. I do apologize. That was entirely out of character.”

Still tempted to bolt for the door, Louis nodded. “I can appreciate your frustration, Mr. Borokov.”

Borokov met Louis’ eye and held it for an interminable second. “Thank you. If you are willing to overlook my…outburst, I do have a position available. Since all of my clerks are students or have other jobs, I need someone to work weekdays. Eight to five. One hour lunch. Minimum wage.”

“That sounds fine, Mr. Borokov.”

“You must understand, Fielder, that this job is not simply sorting and selling. This shop thrives on acquisition. Estates--such as your grandfather’s—are our life’s blood here. But these things must be pursued, and we are not alone in this pursuit, so we must be skilled. I have also built a reputation in the region for being able to find anything. Any printing, any version. If it was printed on this continent, I can find it. So, if you are to work for me, you must be willing to pursue and procure such items. You will be busy every hour of every day you work here. You said you weren’t afraid of hard work; this is a good thing. A rare thing, for one so young. I trust you weren’t embellishing.”

Louis shook his head. “No, sir.”

Borokov nodded. “Good. If these terms are acceptable, you may begin next week.”

Louis took a step forward. “I was hoping to start sooner, if that’s possible, sir.”

Borokov nodded. “Very well. It will take me a few days to pull paperwork together. Come back Thursday. You can take care of paperwork and then begin training.”

Louis smiled, “Thank you, Mr. Borokov.” He held out his hand, and the old man shook it, still without smiling.

“Thank you for coming in, Mr. Fielder.”

“Call me Louis, sir.”
Borokov turned away and began sorting the books again. “Perhaps.”

PBB Brown-Bag Poetry (4/14)


two snakes,
eating each other
by the tail,
hard to tell
which one to
and which to


i'm tired of my own
bullshit and vaguery.
i'm tired of trying to
sound more intelligent
or poetic or inspired
than i am. it's f**king
thursday, i'm swamped
with work, and all i can
think about is whether
or not the doctor will
tell me tomorrow
that i have cancer.
now is not the time for
flowery prose, or deft
allusion. now is the time
to think, and to pray.


do i disappoint you?
do my slips and trips
into R-rated language
cause your serpent's
tongue to snap with
disappointment and
reproach? (do you
really want to know
my response?)
pardon please
that troublesome mote
in my eye and, if you would
be so kind, extend your
sainted graces to me,
a poor, perverse sinner
scratching and clawing
his way through a world
that is turning out a bit
differently than he
expected. by the way,
while you're prescribing
solutions to my
"mote" problem, why
not take some time and
look at your "beam" issues--
or is that too tricky? your
meddling in my life is
'ministry', after all. taking
care of your beam would
imply responsibility, or
worse yet, imperfection.


i watched Paul watch
the white men leave in
droves, the foreigners who
paid him lip service for his
good service then left him
to die with his wife and
screaming babies. i watched
his boy cry, covered in blood
not his own. i watched the
bodies pile in the gutters.
when Paul told his friends
to shame the West into action,
i felt shamed.

i was only 13
when the madness turned
neighbors into enemies, and
the innocent were hacked at
the root like bamboo or summer
wheat. i did not consider the
very existence of genocide,
not even when reduced
to more easily digestible, explainable,
ignorable "acts of." i was a boy,
and had no power to define
foreign policy, to change how
one nation treated another
(like a dark-alley stranger).
i was just 13, and i still feel
i was guilty. the blood of a million
dark-skinned Abels cried out
from the ground, and
the LORD heard, even when
I did not, when my Uncle Sam
would not, when the greatest coalition
in the world stood shackled in
their powder blue chains.

i say again,
how you must weep, El Roi,
how you must weep.

"We're Luthors, Lex. We're Luthors."

One more thing: I know I promised to quit devolving into fanboy gushing on this blog, but I feel compelled to comment.

Last night's new Smallville?


Holy crap, that was awesome.

Lex is a bad mother-- [shut your mouth!]

Damn right.

"Oooh, AH-AH-AH-AH!!!"

"Come on, get down with the sickness."

(You knew it was coming.)

Day 3 of the Plague:

The word of the day is "*cough* *hack* *gasp* *hack* *spit* Oww..."

Of course I'm at work. Because being TeacherDave sucks ass these days.

A few quick notes, before I have to get back to bweezness:

--I watched Hotel Rwanda last night. Wow. Of course, highly recommended. Expect a full review at Better Than Critics in the next week.

--For all you Napoleon Dynamite fans out there, I present what may be the greatest piece of Idaho state legislation ever written. (Via Say Anything, one of my daily reads.)

--If you haven't been reading Lehman, you should. He's becoming one of my favorite poets.

--Expect a post about this in the near future.

--Expect Brown-bag Poetry this afternoon, if I'm still here at work (up in the air, that).

--Also, you'll get your Friday Fiction a day early, since I'm gone tomorrow. So expect that in the afternoon. I've decided to keep Chapter 6 for now, though it will be seriously revised and possibly still taken out after the first draft of the book's done. But I felt good about keeping it, after reading it again on my own, so I made some chronology changes (the events take place on a Saturday, for example) and then began the next chapter. Louis meets two interesting people in this chapter. Hope you like it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"You're toxic, I'm slippin' under..."

Yeah, that's right, it's a Britney quote. Blame the illness and its related delirium.

Day 2 of the plague. The word of the day is "uuuuuuggghhhhh."

I made a deal with The Man. If I get one semi-longish task completed, I can jet.

So, that said, check you cats later.

(By later, I may well mean "next week." I requested off Friday for doctor's visit and car repair.)


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

illness poetry (4/12)

when you relish
thoughts of
bashing your own face in
with a ball peen
or perhaps using a
power drill with a
quarter-inch bit
to penetrate your
nasal cavity,
it's a good sign that
the unmedicated
sinus congestion
you've suffered with
for seven hours
has finally driven you
a bit crazy.

I'm pretty sure viruses can't travel through blogs...

I've been afflicted, stricken, with some kinda nasty bug. When I woke up, my throat felt like I had tried to swallow a cheese-grater, and it had gotten stuck halfway, so I had to yank it out and try again. Yeah. That bad. I so wanted to stay home.

Yet my workload is like a stack of oddly-shaped books reaching high into the sky, and starting to sway. So, to avoid the topple, I'm here, sniffles and all.

This means no bloggy today. If I have to be here, it will be to get something useful done. Blogging, while enjoyable, is rarely useful. And I've yet to receive a paycheck for it.

Later on, I'll do my best to return the multitude of emails owed, though. No guarantees. But I'll try, at least.

Thanks for your patience, and your prayers.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Maybe it's just because i'm a lit-geek...

...but when a girl goes on a tirade about improper grammar/spelling/punctuation, it's really freakin' HAWT.

Maybe it's just me.

(Hat-tip: Ken.)

Harry Potter Preview Photos with Snarky Commentary

(Hat-tip due to MSN. Please don't sue.)

Photo #1:
The young stars get a look at exactly how long the script is.

Photo #2:
"Ron, seriously--the 'rock-star' hair thing is getting out of hand."
(Alternate: That's right, the Weasleys are so poor that Ron's growing out his hair to sell for extra cash.)

Photo #3:
Harry springs into action as Snape changes into an Agent.
(Alternate: Harry Power Ranger.)

Photo #4:
Would you believe that costume was one of her demands during contract negotiations?

Photo #5:
Ron is told that he must wear his da's old tux to Hogwart's Prom.
(this may in fact be what's actually going on).

Photo #6:
"Look, Malfoy, call me Gandalf one more time and I'm gonna kick your pale little arse."

Photo #7:
Cast of Harry Potter? Or cover photo for the latest popular emo band?
You decide.

Photo #8:
"Pardon me, but I'm looking for the 'O.C.' auditions?"

PBB Cool Ten (4/10-4/16)

10. "I wanna fly to the moon and drive a racecar..."
9. Cubbies are 3-3. We should be doing better, but hey, it's the Cubs.
8. Hanging out with SunSco friends on Saturday night.
7. Surviving the ridiculous flat-tire ordeal relatively unscathed. (Physically, anyway; it's gonna cost me, replacing the tire and the paneling in the tire-well that got ripped out by the burning steel-belted radial angel of death that used to be my front-driver-side tire.)
6. Frank Peretti's returning to monster stories. Good thing. "The Oath" was most righteous. As much as I rag on "religious fiction," Peretti's one I keep coming back to. Good stuff, generally.
5. I'm teaching SunSco in a few weeks. Sadly, this means rescheduling my upcoming northward trek. I'm still coming up, Willam, no worries. We'll work it out.
4. "God" quoted and expounded upon the first two lines of "The Wasteland" on this week's episode of Joan. It's a good show.
3. If you want a mini-teaser for the upcoming geekfest that is SWe.3, check out Trev's blog; he just finished reading the novelization.
2. Speaking of finishing things, I just finished the book of Joshua. Good times. Bring on the Judges.
1. Forgive my unabashed glee: NEW SMALLVILLE EPS START THIS WEEK!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Friday, April 08, 2005

(Brainsludge: Mind-dump) (in lieu of Friday Fict.)

in the space above your mind
lie thoughts of last explosions
left behind when the meteor crash
took the last few moments of the
earth's misspent youth.

when you reach out for me
i can't decide if you offer
help or hurt in your calloused hands

sometimes the fabric rips and
time slips into the in-between space
that harbors all the best and worst
of mankind's ambition. and in this
no-man's-land i wanderlost without
your spotlight eyes and lighthouse
voice guiding me away from the

music hides the truth of emotion,
and rockstars fear silence like
dieters crossing the street to avoid
dunkin freakin donuts.

i want to go home but not home home
rather to a home that i imagine
where i am not making meals for one
and having to find space for the telltale
plates of leftovers that choke my

(i miss your eyes, your dayblue eyes,
i miss your eyes because they lied
and sometimes lying eyes are fine
if the lies they tell are nice ones.)

alone alone alone alone alone
no home no home no home no home
quiet quiet too quiet too too quiet

your love was like an atom bomb:
when i didn't have it i wanted it
but once i got it, i spent sleepless
nights dreading the day it was
destined to destroy me.

roses are red and
roses are red and
roses are red
red and red and red
(and when your artless
fumbling fingers find clever thorns
you are red like roses)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Brown-bag Poetry (4/7)


when he spoke, he squinted
his eyes in concentration,
valiantly failing to grapple with
the elusive sounds, the vowels
and rolls of dead foreign tongues.
in his frustration, he did not sin,
however (at least, i don't think he
did); instead, he struggled through
the benediction, waving his curled
and aging hand in a blessing
that one billion cherished.

the last time he tried to perform
this most-appreciated service,
(i could see the hole where the
surgeons tried to forestall his
sure decline) he strained to
make sound, and could not
even whisper a prayer for mercy.
i saw the grief in his eyes, as this
last gift was no longer his to give.
i saw the pain as he tried again to
speak, as his throat seemed to
constrict, and he rolled his head
toward heaven--his eyes pleading
with the firmament--as if to beg, or to
accuse. ("my God, my God...")
then he blessed the crowd and
disappeared behind the scarlet drape.

that was the last time i ever saw him
living. and though i'm not of his
flock, i joined them in sorrow. even
now, i remember his eyes, his
despair, as his life ebbed so far that
he could not even give voice to
suffering, and i pray in his stead.
("God save the people.")


in the thoroughfare
lined on each side with
high-rises and shops, with
cheering masses filling
cracked sidewalks, the
sailor danced along the yellow line,
still wearing his uniform.

she walked out of the hospital,
her shift not yet finished,
when she heard the news.
her uniform and stockings
a snowdrift on the backdrop of
blacktop and skyscraper and
yellow-and-checkered taxi-cab.

when he saw her, he did not think
of propriety, or dignity, or even
sex, though some accused him
of it later. he saw another free citizen,
enraptured in the news of peace
conquering war. a beautiful symbol of
home. (admittedly, her lips may have
played a small factor in his decision.)

when he kissed her, sweeping her back
in his exuberant embrace, she didn't
worry about what her friends would
say, or what his name was, or whether
her parents would see. she allowed herself
to be caught up in the celebration of victory,
in the relief of returning to a world without
casualties or rationing or grieving mothers
holding faded telegrams.

when the photographer snapped the picture,
he didn't worry about politics, or viewpoints,
or whether the other side was
unfairly portrayed. these thoughts faded
into the cheers of the crowd who had just heard
the news that the boys were coming home.
his photograph was perhaps
an indication of the kind of welcome
the boys returning would receive.


my shoulder itches. not
in a constant, steady sensation
that i could learn to ignore,
but in a sinister intermittence,
catching my mind at odd
moments and taking up my attention.
i can't scratch for another two weeks,
after the doctor takes the stitches out
and checks to make sure the wound
closed up properly.

my mind itches. not
in a constant, worried state
that i could learn to work through
with prayer or positive thoughts,
but in a nagging, scattered way,
as i await the test results, though
the doctor assured me that my
fears of the worst were almost

life and death hangs
in the realm of "almost."

"It's just a spirit thing, it's like a holy nudge..."

Something that has been driven home to me lately is the importance of prayer, especially when you don't know why. I can say that I have been praying for you, either by name or by thought. I say this, not because I want you to think I'm somehow holy or important (so much the opposite), but because I want you to realize that we are community, and that as community, we have a responsibility to each other. Sometimes, in my quiet moments, God brings you to mind, and I feel led to pray for you. Some of you have shared as much with me.

What's amazing and intimidating is that we don't know how the Spirit works through these things. I'm slowly learning that there is no such thing as chance in the life of the believer. Everything--everything--is invested with meaning. And in prayer, this couldn't be more true. You don't know what your brothers and sisters are going through, you don't know what's in their heart, and yet the Spirit compels you to fumble through a prayer for them: "I don't know what's happening with them, Father, but give them strength and a sense of your presence."

I often don't know what to say when this happens. I just begin speaking, and I trust that what I say is what I'm supposed to say. What needs to be said. These impromptu intercessions take turns I don't expect, often. I'll sit back and say, "now what possessed me to pray about that in particular?" But I already know the answer: the Spirit of God possessed me--or, if you prefer a less eerie term, the Spirit "moved within me."

(From the outside of faith, I can only imagine how bizarre and senseless this sounds. I'm sure that if a friend in this group read my words, they'd either be bemused or creeped out. If they don't think it's ludicrous or foolish, they might think it's scary. If you're in this category, my friends, all I can tell you is that it's neither. It's really...comforting. Because you realize that even when you're alone, you're not alone. Maybe all of this is mass psychosis, sure. I can't guarantee you that any of this God stuff isn't some kind of psychological self-delusion. But I have peace and direction. I'm okay with that.)

All of this circuitous prose to say, pray for your friends. Pray for your family. If, in your closet, the Spirit of God brings certain people to mind, randomly, and provokes you to pray for them, don't for a moment question it. Instead, simply allow yourself to be moved. To be moved through. To become part of the divine mechanism of God's interaction with man.

What this requires, though, is that you are open to the Spirit's voice. That you're not calloused or blinded to His pull. This puts the idea of sin in a new light. Sin causes separation from God. Even as believers, sin puts up barriers between us and the Father. Paul talks about walking according to the flesh; I believe this is something we can fall back into, even after we've been redeemed. So, if this is true, and we can "lose the signal" so to speak, this can have a ripple effect. If we are part of God's will, through our prayers for "the saints" and our good works for others, and we are not fulfilling these roles, then these "secret sins" that we think hurt no one actually hurt many, by depriving them of our participation. Not to say that God can't use someone else in our place, but there's no guarantee that He will.

So. Pray for other believers. Pray for old friends. And when the Spirit pulls, yield. Listen. Obey. Don't question or look for reasoning. He Who Sees knows what is needed. He will give you the words to say.

It's hard to explain, this dance we do with the Spirit of God. But then again, some of the greatest truths of existence are hard to explain.

(Brown-Bag Poetry, coming up later.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"My Beat is Correct..."

Happy Wednesday, friends and lovers. A few general updates.

I was weak, and bought the new Beck album. You betcha. I love Beck.

Yesterday was my parent's 25th anniversary. We had a nice family gathering.

Unbeknownst to me, my parents were married on the very day that the band REM was formed. I find that odd. Humorous, even. I doubt my parents would enjoy the info as much as I do. (Hat tip to Michele for indirectly bringing this to my attention.)

I saw Spanglish last night. Interesting. Different than I expected. Not a total winner, but winner enough to recommend. Check it out. If for nothing else than Tea Leoni going all "Meg Ryan." Just kidding.

I got my evaluation at work today. I passed. "Yeeeeeeah, boyeeeeee.!" *said Beastie-Boy-style*

Guess that's it. Cubs are 1-1. Ugh. Hate losing the one-run games.

Work to be done. Be good, kiddies.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Blogger is the cruellest month...

Blogger just ate a particularly well-written post of mine. I'm rather irritated at the moment.

Seriously. I incorporated Eliot, Herrick, the Bible, and some nice turns-of-phrase, and freakin Blogger "apologizes for being unable to publish at this time" and assures me that their "engineers are working to fix the problem."


So, sorry kiddies. No clever ruminations on April, or the psychological/spiritual/emotional significance of this time of year. I can't recapture it.

So here's a link to "The Wasteland." Read.

PBB Cool Ten (4/3-4/9)

10. I actually had Illinois and UNC in the championship game on my bracket. (My call? Illini by six.)
9. Fever Pitch comes out next week. My folks saw the preview this weekend, and said it wasn't bad.
8. My new read. Interesting so far.
7. Introducing a co-worker to a great movie of the 90's.
6. Frostie Root Beer. Tasty.
5. TobyMac "Momentum" + Audio A "Zombie + Pete Stewart = Fun Monday Music.
4. A new idea for some Fri-Fict. I'll keep you posted.
3. Taking tomorrow off. Good times. (I mean, it's for a doctor's visit and some errands. But still.)
2. Two words--Opening. Friggin. Day.
1. My parents are celebrating their 25th anniversary tomorrow. This is an incredible blessing to me. The thing I'm most thankful for in my childhood was that I was always certain Mom and Dad would be there.

Reader Recommendations

I've recently heard or read about a few bands with whom I'm unfamiliar.

If you have any thoughts on the following (or recommendations of your own), I'd appreciate it.

  • Rachel Yamagata
  • the new Beck album
  • Straylight Run
  • The Arcade Fire
  • Jonathon Rice


(artificial post time used for top-billing.)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Just because Easter's over...

...doesn't mean the holiday snacking has to end. 9.8 out of 10? Oh yeah.

(Thanks to this fine lady for the tip.)

No foolin'

I hate today. I really really hate today.

Yes, it's April 1. Fool's Day.

I was thinking about doing some sort of April Fool's thing here on PBB. Posting something really emotional and angry. Something like "no one comments anymore" and "it's not worth it if hardly anyone cares." Finish up with a "that's it, I'm done--go find your entertainment elsewhere." And then going for a while without posting.

But I'm not going to do that, because I believe in practical joke karma. And nothing terrifies me more than being made to look a fool.

Yes, I'm uptight. I know.

I'm just trying to survive the day.


Sorry to announce, there will be no Friday Fiction today. Hopefully, I'll make it up to you on Monday. If you must read something, may I recommend the latest Bible story redux, or some poetry. You know, if you're absolutely desperate.

I was having trouble with what to do about "Taylor House." It's clear that the last chapter was pretty much crap; I knew that pretty much as soon as I posted it. But I couldn't figure out why, for a while. Finally, the other day I realized that I was forcing it to go in a direction it didn't want to go naturally. SO... the new version of Chapter 6 is upcoming. I'm deleting the old version when I post the new one, so if you really wanna see the barely mediocre original chapter, be my guest, because by early next week, it will be no more.

Have a good weekend.