What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

This one contains FEROCIOUS LIONS!!

This weekend Amanda and I were in Abilene on a family mission: to see and entertain two aunts and a pair of grandparents. Not to mention the regular inlaws. Yes, it was a success, as always, I was a hit. Amanda was fantastic.

As soon as we walked in the door the ballroom became ablaze with the fire of excitement and anticipation. I announced that we had arrived and, of course, there was much applause. I twirled my cape and out of nowhere Amanda appeared wearing a sequined one piece leotard with her hair up and a spray of peacock feathers outlining her entire body. We opened with some magic, you know the usual levitation stuff. I made my father-in-laws head and his father's switch bodies. A pretty simple allusion really. Everyone was so amazed. Then Amanda took advantage of the rope swing in their living room to perform some acrobatics. She was lovely up there and so graceful. Grandma Curtis said to me, "Are you sure she's safe. If my baby gets hurt..." But I assured her that Amanda was a professional. After that came the comedy act. The bit about the stolen pants killed. Of course, she plays it straight while I play the fool. We ended with a little soft shoe number and the old standard Momma, Don't Make Me Sing For My Supper made famous by the Okiebaugh Twins back in 1907. Kathy, said, "It's a good thing you did sing, because it's supper time!" and we laughed as we made our way to the dinner table and proceeded to engage in behavior that continued the entire weekend. Of course, I'm talking about the making of my fatter self. The food was deeeeeelishh!.

Later, Amanda's sibling's arrived and we were serenaded by Brandon and Christine's very own acoustic rendition of "Tree's in the Forest" originally by Carlos and Dean, but made famous by Jerry Putters in the fall of '70. The rest of the weekend was rife with adventure and lavish banquets and parties. Returning home was like stepping out of The Great Gatsby into The Dukes of Hazard.

This was the last little outing until Amanda and I return to teaching school. As much as I can't wait to be disrespected and ignored for 7 hours a day I will miss this summer. It's been magical. Goodbye, summer '05. See you next year. Or not.

Ferocious Lions.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Issues with Quidditch

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I think it was my favorite one so far. I started reading the Harry Potter books when I was working at the Dallas Theater Center as an intern. During the first show of the season, Hedda Gabler, I was assigned to run sound. If you are familiar with Hedda then you know it's about 3 hours long. Don't get me wrong, it was a wonderful performance of a classic, but seeing the play 50 times and only having about 20 cues during that 3 hrs., gave me ample time to ponder the complexities of Hedda's psyche. So I spent the time reading. I read whatever I could get my hands on, including a Vanity Fair magazine that had Annie Leibovitz photos of the first Harry Potter characters. Of course, I hadn't read any of the books and therefore didn't know who any of the people on the pages were, but I was intrigued. The primary reason that I was had a copy of VF in the first place was because a few of the other stage hands were ga-ga over the books and were going on about the pictures in the magazine. So I asked one of them if I could borrow a copy of the first one to read. It turns out at least one copy of each of the four books that were written at the time were floating around the theatre and I was able to read the first three in the matter of two weeks, and finished the fourth the night that the show closed. I remember trying desperately to finish the last chapter of The Goblet of Fire before my boss got me to working on striking the set. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed the books and when the fifth came out I had my reserved copy. My wife and I are both fans, actually, so we bought two copies so that we could read it at the same time (something that would have served us well to do this time and solved more than a little dispute over the book).

But something always bothered me about the books. No, it's not the writing or story points or plot twists. It's not even the fact that the first two books are rather elementary and rely heavily on a deus ex machina to resolve the story tightly in the end. After all the books are intended for youth, especially the first two. No, my disagreement was with the sport of choice for the wizard and witching world: Quidditch.

The first time I heard of Quidditch I was very interested. I am a huge sports fan and the idea of something that resembled basketball on broomsticks sounded like a lot of fun. I could just imagine myself flying through the air with the quaffle dodging opponents and finally working the Keeper so that he think I'm about to toss the ball in to one of the hoops but actually go for the other. The moment I started reading about it I was very careful to take in each detail, I wanted to imagine what this fascinating would really look like. The idea that something is made up and couldn't actually happen and therefore it is ridiculous to imagine it so is about the most detrimental think a person can think of when dealing with fantasy. Fantasy is all about putting yourself into this world, and believing, if only for the time you are reading that everything contained within the pages of the book are true. For this reason, I wanted to fully believe the world of magic and wizards and Hogwarts and Quidditch.

The first book introduced the world to this sport played on broomsticks on a pitch (oval, roughly the size of a football field) in which two teams see who can score the most points. Points are scored by sending the quaffle (a magical ball) through three hoops on either side of the pitch each hoop worth a different number of points. The game seemed simple enough, almost like basketball or soccer. The addition of two team members whose job it is to send a second enchanted ball, the bludger, batted at various opponents with the intention of disorienting them, and at times knocking them clean off of their broomsticks, seemed a little unnecessary for game that already took skill and dexterity to play, but I bought into it. The problem with me arose with how the game of Quidditch is ended. There is a third ball, called the Snitch, which has wings, is golden and smaller, and about the size of tennis ball while the others are closer to a volleyball. This elusive little ball flies around the pitch the entire game hiding and ducking and evading capture by the player known as the Seeker. The Seekers job is to fly around the pitch, find the Snitch, and catch it. (Here comes my big argument) Once the Snitch is caught the game is over and the team whose Seeker catches the it first receives 150 points.

Now, granted, sending the quaffle through the hoops, (which have a more official name that escapes me) can rack up the point, being that they are worth 20, 30, and higher numbers like that (click on the title of this entry for complete rules). But it seems to me that in a supposed team game, there are really two separate games taking place: the game called Quidditch and the game called Find the Snitch. It is up to the Seeker and the Seeker alone to win the game for their team by finding and catching the Snitch. As a Keeper, your only real job is to make sure that your team doesn't fall behind by more than 150 points because no matter how well you've done, the Seeker will win or lose the game for you in the end and all of your sweat and effort has accounted for little or nothing. I could think of no other sport, in the real world, were one team member's actions and performance had as little bearing on whether the game was won or lost. And so it goes, every time Quidditch is played in Harry Potter's world this issue becomes a problem because one team will be fast ahead but lose because the other team's Seeker was faster or more agile or just lucked out and caught the Snitch.

I wonder if this is a problem that J.K. Rowling either didn't foresee, or simply didn't think mattered or has even noticed. I kind of imagine her sitting down writing the second and third books and kicking herself because she essentially wrote herself into a corner. She obviously can't change the nature of a game that has been played in the magic world for centuries, not to mention that the outcome of these games very rarely if ever deal directly with the primary plot. But, if it were me I'd be a little agitated that the rules of a game that would never work in real life (flying brooms notwithstanding) and would have had these kinks dealt with throughout the years by the natural process of being played, is now sealed within the billions of pages in circulation, not to mention the minds of every dorky little eighth grader in the world.

My issued with Quidditch by no means diminish my love for the books themselves. They are obviously very imaginative and exciting and have spurred millions of children to read who might not have otherwise. I especially enjoyed the way that Alfonso Cuarón imagined the game in the most recent movie adaptation of The Prisoner of Azkaban. Soon enough I was able to get pasted and it would simply take me out of the world for a moment while reading, if that.

I know that there are some obsessive people with regard to Harry Potter and they would be quite upset to hear my objections to a game that my sister-in-law Amy believes is the only game worth playing, but its a small thing that I can easily get over. But, I am interested to hear if any other Harry Potter fans havefeltt the same way. It's okay, you can come out, too. Nobody's gonna hurt ya.

[***UPDATE*** SPOILER WARNING: the comments area for this post is full of spoilers from the book. Proceed with caution.]

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Greatest Homeless Man in New York**

Oh, I have so much to tell you that I just can't contain myself. Or, actually, I can.

While Amanda and I were in New York we saw and did so many wonderful things that there is just no way that I could make fun of all of it. So this is a pretty straight forward account of what went down in the City That Never Sleeps. (By the way, it sleeps, but they alternate shifts so that someone is always available.)

New York was such a great trip. It was the first time Amanda and I had been on a big vacation like this without other family members since our honeymoon. It was nice to have paid for it on our own and to be on our own. While in New York I was able to see my good friend Patrick and meet his boyfriend Jose. Amanda and I saw Wicked and it was excellent, and The Producers which was also very good. We went to SOHO to shop, but thankfully we didn't buy anything. I was very proud of Amanda as she saw some really nice clothes that I know she wanted. It wasn't really my kind clothes that they had there. The Gap is as trendy as I want or need to be. Speaking of the Gap, Patrick is a manager at the largest Gap store in the world located at the corner of 34th and Broadway in Manhattan. It was neat to get to see him in action as a store manager. He's very knowledgeable about fashion and stuff like that. When he and I were roommates in college he would often tell me what to wear if we were going out. Usually I didn't even own the right thing so he would let me borrow his clothes. He was my own personal Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

So Amanda and I had a nice romantic dinner before going to see Wicked at a restaurant called Azalea. It was very good and the manager paid for our wine for our anniversary. Actually it was because they were supposed to have surprised Amanda with flowers at our table but it had been neglected and the manager felt bad. I'm never one to complain like I'm mad because I've found that at places that really know how to treat their customers will compensate you sufficiently if you simply sound sad or disappointed and then thankful when they've made everything better. And if you're not out of state and can frequently return to an establishment, do so. If you're a good customer they will give you better service. Plus, I think it makes the experience better if you can be friendly with your waiter. I feel Italian saying this.

So on Thursday we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I really like art museums and seeing all the famous and wonderful artist, but there is no way you could see everything one day at this place. Amanda and I were both exhausted after walking around this mammoth museum for only a few hours. [Is it just me or does this Egyptian chick look like Paris Hilton] I've now been to a good number of the premiere museums in the United States, including the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and I've probably only seen a third of all the great stuff these places contain.

That night we set off on New York's World Yacht, a sunset dinner/dancing cruise that took us around the lower part of Manhattan from the west side, around to the Queensboro bridge, then turned around and took us back again. It was really neat because we got to see the Manhattan skyline from an angle one usually only gets to see in pictures. Then on the way back we saw the same thing at night. They even took us right up to the Statue of Liberty while Ray Charles sang, America. Then we kicked it with some Swedes on the dance floor. They were not very good dancers, but man could they laugh and fall down.

Amanda and I were very good for the first couple of days and woke up early as to get started on our vacation. We are typically still in bed by 10 and sometimes 11 in the summer time, so to be up at 8am, which is 7am in Texas, was really good for us. But, on Friday we decided that we were tired enough and had done enough that we could allow ourselves a little bit of a morning in. So we slept late, I got some pastries and juice at a nearby bakery as Amanda got ready, then trotted back out to tour the city once again. This time we spent some time downtown, had lunch at Maui Taco (which supposedly is a favorite of Oprah's) and then to Central Park to relax and watch people. That night we saw The Producers with Patrick and Jose. We didn't have great seats but in a Broadway theatre none of the seats are that bad when I think about seeing Phantom of the Opera at Jones Hall and not being able to see people's heads if they were too far upstage because our sightline was blocked by the top of the proscenium arch. No, these seats were primo compared to that, so I'm not complaining.

My typical knee-jerk reaction to everything that I've written here is that it's pretty boring and that only those who really love me are going to want to read all of this. I'd like to comment on everything that we did in larger detail, but the truth is that I'm just not up for it right now. Amanda and I just bought the new Harry Potter book and I want to get back to reading it. Plus commenting on everything with some funny quip or analysis of somekind would just make this entry longer than it already is, and I know that my readers have lives outside of my blog, so I'll just make one more statement about Tasti D' Lite ice cream:

"It's really frickin' good and we ate some everyday we were in New York." and Amanda says, about Tasti D' Lite, "Mmmm...Yummy. I wish I could have some now." Ryan English says, "Make a trip up to old Plano

For more pictures from New York check out my Photoblog as soon as I get around to putting them up.

**[His sign read: "Tell me off for two dollars." I really wanted to go back and take his picture and give him 5 dollars, but A. Amanda wouldn't let me. B. It was Saturday, the day we left and we were holding on to every dime ourselves. Still I loved the sign.]

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

New York State of Mind

Amanda and I are off to NYC for our 3rd anniversary. I haven't been back to New York since I was in a summer film workshop there in the summer of 2000. At the time I hated NY, Manhattan imparticularly. Why, you ask, do I want to go back if I hated it so much? Well, I don't hate New York. I hated about the first two weeks I was there and felt contained on this prisonous island of brick and cement. I longed for nature. I didn't have many friends at first, and I missed my friends at home. After awhile it got better, especially when I went to upstate NY to see a friend in the musical Gypsy that she was doing in summer-stock.

As far as a vacation destination, I love NY. Amanda and I have history with NY even though we've never been there together. That summer I would sit in my dorm room, reading, doing push ups, listening to music, writing and anything else I could do to keep my mind occupied in my drab, posterless, TVless cell. I called a lot of friends back home. One time I called my friend Christine, but she wasn't home so I talked to her mom, who I had met more than a few times. She encouraged me to get in touch with her other daughters who were counselors at a camp Shiloh, a few hours away. So I did, as I am not shy about anything. They were not there, or they were busy, but I understood because I had been a camp counselor before. You don't have a lot of free time during the week. I figured at most that if they ever came to the city that we could hang out. But, I didn't get a call back.

Later Amanda said she thought it was wierd that I was calling since I was Christine's friend. Plus she wanted to focus on the kids she was there to serve, and didn't want to worry about meeting up with some guy. She wasn't ready to fall madly in love yet, I suppose. Skip ahead six months and no more waiting. Now she really thinks that I weird, but she loves me anyway. Thank goodness. I love her, too. Three years worth of love. That's a lot of love, but I know there's much more to come.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Movie review

Click on the title to read my thoughts on a movie I saw the other night.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Larry James' Urban Daily

Any one who doesn't think that someone can be a liberal Christian needs to check out this blog. Larry James works with Central Dallas Ministries, an organization in Dallas that shows the love of Christ to those in the inner city by trying to initiate change in the there. He is tireless advocate for the rights of the underprivileged, and I've been very impressed with the things he has to say on the matter. This entry about the myths on uninsured Americans was particularly eye opening.

I am placing a link to his blog on the right for anyone who wants to check it out in the future.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Book Tag

Picking up the "book tag" from Kate.

For those who may not know what this is, it's pretty self-explanatory, but I don't know who out there reads this. Kate, whose blog I read, answered this questionnaire and then challenged me of all people to return the favor. Then I have to Tag some people and so on. So, here we go....

1. How many books have I owned?
I think if I were to have counted I might be embarrassed to say, but it would still be way more than I've actually read. Probably in the hundreds, maybe 200s.

2. What was the last book you bought?
A Partly Cloudy Patriot (oh, and also, here) by Sarah Vowell. That is, unless you count plays, which I don't. But if you do it was Sordid Lives by Del Shores. Plays take less of a commitment and so I can do more of them. Plus, if a play doesn't grab me I put it down because I know I'll not want to produce it.

3. What was the last book you read?
Same as above.

4. What are FIVE books that have meant a lot to you? (These are in order of when read - not favorite order)

1. "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. This is the same as Kate (the person who sent this to me) said, but it really did make a big difference in my life. I didn't really appreciate it until I was older, but I did read it as a child.

2. "The Boxcar Children" by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I read a lot of books as I was growing up, but this one sticks out in my mind for some reason. There has been a trend in my life of being moved by stories that focus on major transitions and change for the better. This is about orphans who take care of themselves and are eventually adopted and given a good home. I just really remember liking it. This is the original book in a series. The rest of the series was about the orphans solving mysteries, which I thought was stupid.

3. "Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger. I read this as an adolescent, as most of us do. I imagine that I loved it for the same reason most teenage boys love it. Holden Caufield as a boy who wanted more than the drab mainstream that seemed his destiny related to Kyle Martin at age 15 in a major way. I had felt or was feeling all the things he felt in the book and pondered all every issue the book through at me. It was one of a few books that I actually finished while in high school.

4. "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis. I read this as I was attempting to truly discover who God is and what being a Christian means to me. This book helped me a lot with that.

5. "Rewrites" and "The Show Must Go On," the companion autobiographies of Neil Simon. Even though this list is chronological if it was a ranking list this would be numero uno. I read these books while living in New York, Simon's home, while studying at NYU to make films. By this time I had already decided to focus on playwriting and screenwriting as much as possible and these books not only served as an entertaining look into one of America's best dramatists, but it acted as a sort of handbook to writing plays and the business of theatre. I learned as much or more from these two books as any course I took in college. That's saying a lot, too. It's inspiring, heartwarming, heartbreaking, funny, and brilliant.

Honorable Mention:
The "Harry Potter" books (J.K. Rowling). Gosh darnit, I love 'em. So addicting and I'll be buying the new one soon enough.

"America, the Book" by Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. The DS is my all time favorite show of all time (I know I what I did), containing everything I love: people who really don't have any business or credentials to report the news satirizing and exposing those who do report it and make it. These brave men and women are my heroes. I predict that it will go down in history as a very important show. It tells the truth and is respected by both sides of the isle for that. The book does the same thing.

"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding. Another one I was able to finish in high school.

"The Partly Cloudy Patriot" by Sarah Vowell. I liked this book so much I actually wrote her a fan letter. I've never done that before. I thought it would be lame to put it in my top 5 since I just read it, plus I couldn't decided which book to eke out of the way. Probably that one about the brats in the old train. Oh, well, I had to include one from that time when I read a bunch of kid books...When I was a kid.

"Liars and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" by Al Franken. Very funny and less conspiracy theoryish than Michael Moore. More speculative than anything. And funny. Not for people who think any of the following people have anything worthwhile to say: Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'(liely) Riley.

What I should read:
I have "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis checked out from the library, so it's next. People tell me I would like "The DaVinci Code" so I should probably do that before the movie comes out and everyone's like, "the book was so much better" so that I can tell them to shut up.

Tag You're It:

Jason: Hey, Jason. Where did the blogging go?
Mad C
Steph: what are the youth reading? I'm sure you're list won't be typical, but I'm curious, nonetheless.
Royce: I know you don't blog, but I'm interested what you're reading, so just reply, I guess. Or don't.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Garage Sale! Save! Save! Save!

Amanda and I are going to New York next week. It's for our anniversary and we've been planning it since February. We got our tax return back last Spring and were able to get our plane tickets, hotel, and two tickets to Wicked all without spending money from a paycheck or using a credit card. But then there's the issue of spending money. Throughout the preceding months we've had various surpluses here and there, and everytime we said, "Put it aside for New York." Never happened. So here we are a week before the big trip and unless we want to eat Taco Bell every day and just see a bunch of free stuff (who wants to see free stuff in New York, especially when you've already been there many times before) we are having to find money.

So we settled on a good old fashioned garage sale, and were able to swindle...I mean convince my parents to hosting it in their garage. They're even selling a few things themselves. Rumaging throught the stuff here at my own apartment was easy. Amanda and I both have tons of stuff that we've just been waiting to get rid of. Mostly stuff from college that we used before we had taste, but also a few gifts that, for lack of a better expaination, didn't fit in with the rest of our stuff. (Don't worry, we are keeping the thing/s that you gave us, and we LOVE it/them! We use it/them everyday.) Rumaging through my parents things are little more difficult. Not only do they have almost thirty years of junk to deal with, they accumulated people along the way and therefore have accumulated layers upon layers of stuff. Looking through the stuff at my parents home was surreal on many levels. It's great to get all nastalgic and weepy eyed over a letter that my dad wrote my mom while they were in college, or find a picture I drew as a kindergartener. I even like looking through my brothers' things or pictures and thinking, "Yeah, I remember making fun of him when he got that haircut." Ahh, those were the days.

I find myself thinking, as we are trying to thin out some of the clutter that simply sits and collects dust, "At what point does sentimentality and nastalgia become nausiating and lame?" I can't throw away pictures. No matter how much distance is between myself and the people or events that took place in the photographs I can never bring myself get to throw away actual records of what I or my loved ones were doing at any particular time. Pictures are so personal, so ingrained in our minds as what have molded us into what we are. They are the records of our experiences, whether happy or sad, sweet or bitter, grand or small, we are who we are because of the things that happened to us previously in our lives. Pictures are actual mini recorded histories of our lives. Even if a photo reminds us of parts of our lives we might like to forget, I just don't see how trashing them would be anything but detrimental to our self awareness. The motto of Gamma Sigma Phi, the social club (fraternaty) I was a part of in college, is "Know Thyselves, Brothers." I truly believe that knowing oneself is one of the most important things a person can do in life. Not just pictures but all the other junk that gets rediscovered in the midst of garage sale mania helps us to get know ourselves in such a way that it becomes therapy.

Of course, there is a load of stuff that needed to have been tossed a decade or more ago, and probably just didn't get sold in the last garage sale. For example, when I was in college I bought from a T.V. commercial this Dale Earnhart comemerative clock, with the car that races around in circles every hour to the announcer saying "And Dale Earnhart takes the checkered flag," or whatever it is that they say when someone wins a NASCAR race. Amanda hates it but I think it's funniest thing ever. I will never be able to put that up in our apartment or house. I probably should sale that thing. It's will hurt, but there's a kid who's got the number 3 with wings on it on the back of his truck who needs that in his bedroom more than I need it in my closet. Sentimentality can become quite rediculous. For sure, we can't take any of it with us, and while some of it will be passed to our childen, it's arrogant to think that my great-grandson will take any interest in my affection for ugly pottery. Plus, if too much of my stuff is preserved then the few things that really mean something won't be as special. Is a photo of media-whore Paris Hilton, anything to balk at anymore? No, but if you have an autographed photo of J.D. Salinger and you might as well retire. In the same way, I want to pass on some stuff to succeeding generations, but only the good stuff. You know, photos, letters, my CD collection, bobble head dolls.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Betrayal and Church Camp

Lots of people get ideas for what to write on their blogs from current events in the news. I get mine from other blogs. Mike Cope asked a question about people's summer camp experiences.

Let me start by saying that I lived for nothing more during the summer when I was a kid than going to camp. From the time I first went after my 5th grade year I was hooked. There was just such an incredible feeling while I was at camp that I was accepted, liked, popular...All the things that I really wanted to be at school, but didn't feel, even if I was. I wasn't the type at school to cower in the corner and disappear. On the contrary, I always felt like I was in the way. Especially in grades 8-10. But at camp, no matter how old I was, no matter how horrible that past year had been I was the BMOC* of camp.

This was made all the better by the one thing that I looked forward to most at church camp: girls. At camp girls liked me. My ego was just a little greater in the woods for some reason. I don't know why this was, but I had all this confidence when surrounded by my church youth group, and it paid off in friends, respect, and most of all, girls. I rarely went to camp and didn't have a summer romance; a week long relationship. There was even one year that I had a girlfriend back home who couldn't come on the trip. She was in the youth group at my church and had wanted to go, but she couldn't. I don't remember why. This was a girl that I spent a lot of time with at church and on the phone. We had, just a week earlier, admitted to each other that we liked each other and wanted to be girlfriend and boyfriend. We had been friends for a long time, had fleeting crushes on each other, but the timing had never been right until this particular summer. But when I got to camp the whole camp atmosphere kicked in and I ended up liking another girl. On Friday of that week she came up to camp to attend the banquet with me. All hell broke loose. In the eyes of my 9th grade head I had made my choice, and as horrible as I felt, I felt justified. The romance of the woods and the dark candlelit devotionals were too much for this hormonal 15 year old to handle. (Youth ministers, this kind of atmosphere succeeds in pulling focus to God, sure, but there's just something about confessing your cuss word problems or that you have a friend at school that tells bad jokes that is very sexy. Just saying you might want to watch that.)

The girl and I remained friends, somehow, and we had many more conversations on the phone, all of which seemed to contain the phrase, "I am so sorry" in there somewhere. The last time I talked to her was when I was home from college and we hung out at her sisters house as she sat with her nephews. She brought it up again. "I know, I know, I hurt your feelings. Geez, that was a long time ago." It was water under the bridge, I think. I invited her to my wedding, but didn't hear from her. Then she didn't invite me to hers. She probably figured that you didn't invite people that you hadn't talked to in more than five years. I guess it's true. But for a long time, and during some of my toughest times she really was my best friend. It's kind of sad to loose friends like that.

*Big Man On Campus

Sunday, July 10, 2005

One Last Political Post

I know that a lot of my posts have been rather political and slanted to the left lately. It is because I am a liberal, left-leaning guy who is reading a somewhat political book by an even more liberal gal. This will be the last one for a while, I promise, but I just finished the book and really liked the passage from the essay from which the full book gets it's name, The Partly Cloudy Patriot. This passage is in regard to the immediate days after 9/11 when it became the almost mandatory fad to fly the flag in the name of patriotism and people who were critical of the government were looked down upon.

The true American patriot is by definition skeptical of the government. Skepticism of the government was actually one of the platforms the current figurehead of the government ran on. How many times in the campaign did President Bush proclaim of his opponent, the then vice president, "He trusts the federal government and I trust the people"? This deep suspicion of Washington is one the most American emotions an American can have.

I am by no means a hellraising, anti-government, revolutionary, or conspiracy theorist, but I certainly have some things to say when I'm not in total agreement with the government. This passage made me feel justified in not only my own suspicion, but of my empathy for those who get raked across the coals because they want to make the U.S. a better place, not because of hatred for the land that bore us.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Green Day at Live 8

I just watched the last little bit of the Green Day portion of a concert being aired on MTV. When I first turned it to the channel I was suprised to see that MTV was playing music at all much less music that wasn't super poppy or hip-hop. (Nothing against hip-hop, but let's just say that it ranks with country as a special niche genre of music that can be great, but tries so hard to appeal to so many that it is mainly just watered down, and boring.) So I kept watching despite Green Day not being a band that I'mas fond of as I once was. When I was in high school I rocked out to Longview and Welcome to Paradise but have since moved on to greener, more musically layered days. To me the boys never really moved past that bratty, punk-rock, screw-the-man type of rock that appealled to me as a teenager, but now seems a little juvenile and one-dementional.

But this concert made have changed my mind and brought me back into the fold as a Green Day fan. Well, fan is a strong word. I am an R.E.M. fan, as I will go out and buy any album they put out, whether I've sampled it or not. The same goes with Ben Folds and Dave Matthews Band. So I'm not a Green Day fan, but I can certainly appreciate them a lot more after seeing this televised concert. The concert was filmed last week in Berlin as part of the Live 8 Festival to help raise money for AIDS in Africa. This is a series of concerts that took place all last week during the G8 Summit in all of the G8 nations.

What most impressed me was not their musical prowess. They seem to contain roughly the same amount of punk rock talent, or lack there of, as in their early days. They have matured, however, in their ability to not only grip a crowd and hold on, but to get a clear message across. This message is what sets them apart from their earlier days. The message, said bluntly is, don't let the burocrats in charge take complete control of your life. The people are still the true rulers and have the ultimate say in things. He seemed truly anti-establishment in way that your thoughtful, genuinely concerned citizen could get on board. Sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of people just want to say "F**k the man!" then get drunk, high, fall over and forget what they were saying. This is passe for the gentlemen of Green Day. A mindset of their youth that has blossomed into a true calling. Their latest album American Idiot is unabashedly political, and takes an unapoligetic jab at the current President Bush for his domestic, foreign, and diplomatic policies. Billy Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day, is particularly inspiring on songs like Holiday, a song that, while I don't know the lyrics verbatem, can only be describes as an anthem for rallying the countries youth to action. If this is not the intension in the lyrics, the feel and spirit of the song certainly shines this through. The song Minority gets me thinking about my life as Christian. It would be a stretch to say that Billy Joe or any of the Green Day members are even remotely Christian, however the idea of rejecting the majority and being glad to be in the minority is one that I think anyone with a true grasp of following Christ can identify with. The line "Down with the moral majority / I want to be the minority" struck a chord with me because I've often felt that my own morals, and how I percieved right from wrong conflicted with how certain institutions or organized moralities told me I was supposed to view morality.

All in all, I was inspired by the Green Day performance. It showed me something that I'd been concerned with for sometime: a youth movement that was not only viable as a means to get the youth of the country involved, but a voice that is mature enought that it could be paid attention to. All of this and the underlying message is still peace, not war. Musical movements have the power to induce love and hate and there was a while there that it seemed like more hate was being played on the airwaves than love. I'm not counting the sappy crow of bands like Nickelback or Three Doors Down. And I'm not talking about country singers that back up every word that comes out of the president's mouth. I'm talking about music that questions authority and opposes the government. As an American this is, after all, our greatest resource: the ability to defy authority, speak ill of the government, and protest,peacefully, policies and decisions that we don't agree with, and feel are wrong. I think that Green Day does this a well as anyone does and they actually get radioplay.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by the Increadible's Daughter

I am currently reading The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowel. It is a collection of essays that are about Sarah's life as a lover of things American. I was initially interested in Sarah because she has made guest appearances on Conan O'Brian and The Daily Show. With enough energy and spunk to keep up with O'Brian, and wit to floor John Stewart I knew that I would enjoy anything she had to say on just about any subject. Add to this that she is a contributor on NPR's This American Life along with David Sedaris, whose book Dress Your Family in Corderoy and Denim I loved, and you have a very interested Kyle. Like Sedaris's book The Partly Cloudy appeals to me because I don't have a very long attention span. Both books are collections of essays that can be read in a short period and then picked up again to read the next story. While there is a common element in the stories, there is no through line with pesky plot devices to be remembered, and what happened in chapter 3. I'm already in Chapter 10, for Pete's sake. Like I remember Chapter 3...

Sarah Vowell is a politics hound, a history nut, and a devout Democrat. A capital "D" democrat as she put it. In one of her best essays, thus far, she describes her pilgrimage from New York, where she lives, to Washington, D.C. to witness the President's inaguration. She began weeping as Dubya finished his oath of office. She held no picket sign, did not yell obsenities or throw fruit, she simply "burst into tears....Alas, my tears are my picket sign," she claims. Now those of you who don't know Sarah's work may think this is lame and overly sentimental and dramatic. If you already know Sarah, or have read her work, or have heard her on NPR, then you know that she is the epidemy of the dorky, self-depricating but laughing about it, loner, witty, funny, artsy New York writer type. What I like the most about Vowell is that she is not unfairly partisan. She has her opinions and values and the candidate that she feels is most inclined to run the country well is the one that she supports, but she will admit that Bush isn't evil, wants what's best for the country, and while mistaken, is well-meaning (of course the book is written pre-9/11). Like myself, I imagine that it would be very hard for her to vote for a Republican, regardless of the candidate simply based on the overall Republican platform. It is my believe that you don't vote for the candidate, you vote for the candidate's platform, which is generally in line with their party, and if it's not, you have to wonder why that candidate is a member of that party to begin with (Can I get a Zell Miller?) Sarah is surprisingly fair about the President-elect, Bush. She even quotes a part of his speech she appreciates and admits that she'd have been willing to cut him more slack if he wasn't so gosh darn arrogant (my words). I am most impressed with how prophetic she is with many of her reservations about Dubya. She complains that Bush doesn't seem to care about the more than half of the country that didn't vote for him, which he completely alienated in his first years and after 9/11. She also aludes to the lack of foreign diplomacy contained with the new administration. This is has been, in my humble opinion, (and that of many experts, of which I am not) the greatest mistake of the Bush presidency. You, and America are not an island. In the physical or global sense. Bush seems to me to suffer from the very same problem that most Americans do: The pittley problems of Americans are more important than the tragic problems of other countries.

The essay in The Partly Cloudy Patriot that has gotten me particularly inspired today is the two part, "The Nerd Voice." The first part, "Nerd Israel" is the one where she recounts her trip to the inaguration. She makes the trip with some friends of hers who had been following the campaign and discussing it over email. They were all staunch Kerry supporters and brought along with them picket signs and a heart full of "boos." Sarah considers this little email club "the all-time nerdiest thing I've been involved in, and I say that as a person who has been involved in public radio and marching band." "The Nerd Israel" title is a reference to the movie Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation when one of the nerds describes Adams College as "the Promised Land. Kind of like a nerd Israel."

Part 2 is entitled "Nerds v. Jocks" and it describes the election and inaguration of Bush from the perspective of Al Gore, the uber-geek elect of the Nerd Nation, according to Vowell. She draws the comparison of Gore as the dork and Bush as the jock. She reals at how America electing Bush over Gore would have been like the student body of a high school electing the quarterback of the football team over someone who actually cared about the job. All the football player has to do is stand up in front of the student body, with a smirk and make empty claims like off-campus lunch, better food in the cafeteria, and how the football team is going to crush North-side next year. "They're going down!" A kid who would actually be a good choice and cares enough to find out what programs could be accomplished by a strong student presence would get booed off the stage. But we don't live in a high school. There is a reason you have to be of a certain age to vote. It shouldn't be a popularity contest but a contest of who would make the better president. By all accounts Gore should have crushed Bush, who had so little experience, virtually no knowlege and still has trouble pronouncing words.

But, Gore did not win the election. Bush did. And then, as we all know, Bush won again. This time fairly. And this time it makes sense. I can certainly see why America would not want to switch president's right now, especially without a clearly better alternative. Well, to me Kerry was clearly better, but it makes sense that most people would have their reservations about him. "He flip-flops!" Oh, no! He flip-flops...flip-flop, flop-flip, flippity-flop, flippity-flop....ooohh, that's so bad. "Oh, and he doesn't support the military!" What? My second cousin is over there! That bastard! At this point you could basically say that Kerry kills puppies. Sometimes I'm surprised that the election was as close as it was. As much harm as Rush Limbaugh does to this country he nailed it. On the day that Howard Dean (whoohah!) dropped out of the race, Rush pointed out, "There goes any chance for the Democrats to win. Howard Dean was the passion of the Democratic party, and now he's history" or something like that. I had to agree.

Back to the subject at hand, I began thinking of Nerds and Jocks. Nerds skate by on what they know. According to Vowell, a nerd is simply someone who cares way too much about a subject. The more I read this essay, the more I realized, "I'm kind of a nerd." My wife's voice keeps ringing in my head. "Kyle, you care way too much about this." I'm guessing that we are all nerds about something. After all, without passion a person is just a sad stone. Living life for nothing and in the end having nothing to show for their life. A true nerd, however, is passionate about something odd. For instance, grass. Grass seems like such a nerdy thing to be completely strung out over, but I'm sure there's some geek out there who loves grass. He/she knows the different variety of grass, they can tell you the names of all the parts, the way it grows, and in which part of the world it originated. But no one else gives a rip. This person is a nerd. According to Vowell, Gore is a huge nerd because he has expertise on a multitude of these types of subjects that no one else cares about. Gore is a foreign policy, environmental issues, energy, military technology, and digital communications* nerd, which all happen to be qualities that would make a really good president, by the way. But people don't want to elect the guy who reminds the teacher to take up homework. Like Vowell mentions, Gore should have killed Bush in 2000 but only slightly won (giving Bush and the Supreme Court the window to slip through the legal mumbo-jumbo) because Gore pissed people off and made them feel stupid for not knowing as much. Like Jimmy Fallon's "Nick, the Company Computer Guy" sketch on Saturday Night Live, we want nerds around to help fix our problems, but we're generally glad when they're gone to annoy someone else. Vowell says on page 104:

"Clearly [the reason why Gore lost] has something to do with who he is as aa person, and who he is as a person is a big honking nerd. Nobody minds this in a vice president. The vice president is actually a nerd's perfect job. A sidekick is supposed to be a bigger geek than the star."

And now with a solid 4 1/2 years of George W. Bush in the white house I feel like a new trend has been set. We now expect those people around the president to do the real thinking and for the Prez himself to show up, say something like, "Smoke 'em out!" and leave the real desicion making to the slimy, unelectable, unlikable, squinty eyed people with brains and heart problems.

*[This is according to Sarah Vowell in her book The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Maybe you've heard of it.]

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My site over at Xanga

Click on the link above to view my site hosted over at Xanga. It is a blog hosting site, like the one we are on here. One thing that I like about Xanga that Blogger doesn't offer is a quick and easy way to link and post a picture of music that you are listening to, a movie you are watching, or a book you are reading. I've wanted to use the Xanga site for something for awhile, as I got it initially to post replies to other people's Xanga. I've decided that since they have the affore mentioned feature I'll use it to post my thoughts on new CDs that I buy or books that I read or movies that I watch. I won't post there nearly as much and will make note here when I've made an update. But if you want to check it out it is there.

Monday, July 04, 2005

10 Reflections for the 4th

1. U.S. companies that use the colors red, white, and blue to market their products have to work harder to create a catchy phrase or graphic to represent their company for fear that they will look like every other company that does this. Does France and Chilé have this problem? Does Mexico and Italy have this problem with the colors orange, green and white?

2. I am drinking Mexican beer today. Is there something wrong with that?

3. Two days before the Declaration of Independence was signed John Adams wrote that the anniversary of that date would be celebrated "with pomp and parade, with games, shows, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..." But was he counting on cover bands and heat stroke?

4. Given today's technological world are the fireworks done by a remote location or do pyro maniacs, hired by the city, run up and down the field during the fireworks show lighting wicks with little sticks with a smoldering tip?

5. If places like Astroworld, Six Flags, Disney World, and Sea World are the gallerias for buying cheap, useless crap, 4th of July festivals have got to be the strip malls.

6. Country music is typically of the South. The South hated the North in the Civil War. The North typically represented the U.S.A., or the Union. Is it ironic that mainstream country is the primary producers of modern patriotic music when they were cursing the U.S. just a little over 100 years ago?

7. I wonder what the British think about on the 4th of July. Probably nothing, but if questioned what would the average British person think about the Revolutionary War? Again, probably nothing.

8. If freedom isn't free, as is proclaimed by many a bumper sticker, what does "certain inalienable rights" mean? Well, I looked it up. It means that these rights cannot be taken away or given away, or transferred to another. So if we are born with these rights, as our Declaration of Indepence states then freedom is free.

9. Homemade ice cream is way better than any other kind of ice cream. Hands down.

10. This day seems much hotter than when I was a kid. To me this is is hard evidence of global warming. I'm warmer and I live on the globe. Makes sense.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Website update (Click here)

I have updated my Professional Website (professional meaning that I it is about my profession, not that the site itself is professionally done. Far from it, actually). Follow the link to glory beyond your wildest imagination.

I'm going to eat a Chipotle burrito today. That always makes a day better, eh? So does speaking like a Canadian.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Sad Clown

Everyone should be creeped out and not know what to think every now and then. This will provide that for you. This is not for those who love clowns or hate them. So, for all you indifferent people click away.