Friday, April 30, 2010

Flash Fiction Friday: The Crayon Boy

Jamie Tucker was eating crayons again.  A thin, little spitfire, bent on causing trouble and disrupting class.  And Mrs. Adams had had enough.  
    “Jamie Tucker!” she shrieked, losing the last of her patience.  “You stop that this instant!”
    The boy’s head jerked up, his bright, green eyes going wide with fear.  She tried to show special attention to the boy.  His father had gone off to prison last year for domestic abuse, leaving behind a young mother and three kids, ages three, six, and seven.  Jamie was the oldest, and the orneriest of the bunch, and the child needed discipline.
    “Out in the hall,” she said, regaining her composure.  A few students giggled.  Jamie slowly stood, pushed his chair up to the table, and exited the room.  “That’s enough,” she announced, putting a little steel in her voice.  “Unless you all want to get cards.”  She let the words hang for a moment.  The laughing ceased.  “Good.  Now continue with your maps.  I’ll be back in just a minute.”
    She pulled a pinkish-red card off her desk and stepped outside the door, shutting it softly behind her.  Jamie was standing next to the lockers, his head down, his hands in his pockets.  He looked every bit like a dog that knows its done wrong.
    “Jamie,” she said softly.  He looked up at her with his big eyes.  “We’ve talked about this.  More than once.  Remember?”
    The boy made a mumbling sound.  “Mm-hmm.”  His head dropped again and he stared at the floor.
    “I’m going to have to send you to Mr. Keller and give you this.”  She pointed to the card.  Jamie had a history of getting cards.  It was the discipline system of Hillpointe Elementary School.  Getting three cards banned a student from attending the monthly pizza party and gym time.  It also required a visit to the principal and a note home.  This was Jamie’s third violation of the month.
    If Jamie could have slunk any lower, he would have disappeared into the lockers.  “I’m sorry, Mrs. Adams.”  His voice was low and shaky.
    “Yes.  But you have to learn.  The classroom is not a place to act wild and play.  It’s a place to learn.  I know you know that, Jamie.”
    “Yes ma’am.”
    She handed him the card.  Jamie did not immediately move to take it.  He stared at it blankly.  She was about to say something when he plucked the card from her hand.
    “Take it to Mr. Keller.”  The boy started to turn when she noticed something odd.  His pockets were bulging, and Jamie was trying to keep them unnoticed.  “Jamie,”
she said, feeling a bit uneasy.  He stopped.  “What do you have in your pockets?”
    Jamie’s shoulders dropped.  His tiny frame turned slowly.  He plunged his hands into his pockets and pulled out two handfuls of colorful crayons.  Shame spread across the boys face, flushed deep red.
    Mrs. Adams kept her irritation at bay.  “What are you doing with those?” she asked incredulously.
    His eyes met hers and held them.  “I’m taking them home.  We’re hungry.”
    Everything clicked into place.  It was like the boy before her was someone new, like she saw him for the first time.  His clothes looked clean, but she could see the hidden stains.  And what had once been mistaken for a careless washing now came across as something completely different.  Hard knots formed in her stomach.
    “You’re hungry?  What do you mean, Jamie?”
    His face dropped a little.  “We ain’t got no food at home and I’m bringing these home so we’ll have something to eat.  I need to take care of Joey and Luke.”
    She felt the warm stings of tears welling up behind her eyes.  Everything made perfect sense.  She walked over to the boy and knelt down in front of him.  “Jamie, do you not have any food at your house?  Have you not been eating?”
    He shook his head sideways.
    “Is that why you’ve been eating crayons in class?”
    He nodded slowly, trying not to look at her.
    “Is your mother okay?” she asked, suddenly worried.
    He shrugged his shoulders.  “I don’t know.  She sleeps a lot since daddy’s gone.”
    She wanted to cry.  She wanted to hug the boy close to her and tell him that everything was going to be okay.  Instead she smiled and told him to give her the card back.  “What’s your favorite kind of pizza?” she asked him.
    He looked up at her, puzzled.  He hesitated, then spoke.  “Sausage and pepperoni.”
    “Well, we’ll get some pizza for you to take home today.  How does that sound?  I’ll bring it over your house later and we’ll all share.  I’ll even bring a few extra and leave them at your house.”
    His face blossomed to life.  The green eyes flashed up at hers.  Behind them she could see determination.  Gratitude.  Hope.  She resolved at that moment that she would take extra special care of Jamie Tucker.  She would not let this boy go hungry.  She would help him however she could.  She would phone the offices and child services to see what was going on at his home.  And she would pay a visit there herself tonight, bringing with her a stack of warm pizzas.

Words: 875

Author’s Note:  This story was inspired by a brief clip I heard on NPR about a boy who was caught eating crayons in class because he was hungry.  It broke my heart, and I only heard the briefest snippet of the story.  I don’t have a clue what the real situation was behind it, but I knew instantly that I needed to write about it.  Knowing that there are people that do not have the means to eat pains me.  I believe this kind of thing goes on more than we know.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Anansi Boys, A Review

anansi_boys Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman, is a strange book.  Like its cousin American Gods, I didn’t quite understand everything that happened along the way, but I did enjoy myself all the while.  Anansi is a prominent African and Caribbean god.  He is a spider in form, but often takes the guise of a man.

Fat Charlie Nancy has never really got along well with his father.  As a child his dad would play jokes on him, often resulting in loads of embarrassment and humiliation for Fat Charlie.  When his father died on a karaoke stage in Florida, Fat Charlie flew across the Ocean to attend the funeral and finally make his peace with the man.  But fate had something else in mind.  A strange, old neighbor and family-friend tells Fat Charlie that he has a brother, and that if he ever wants to talk to him then all he needs to do is tell a spider.  She also tells Fat Charlie that his dad was Anansi, and that he was a god.  Confused and uncertain, Charlie heads back to England to return to his bookkeeping job and his fiancĂ©e, Rosie, ready to get on with his life.

Indeed, life goes on for Fat Charlie, albeit somewhat dull and mostly uneventful.  But one night, while a little drunk, Fat Charlie is taking a spider outside and remembers the words of his old neighbor.  He tells the spider to tell his brother hello.  And from there things will never be the same.

Part of me really liked this book, but part of me simply thought it was okay.  Neil Gaiman is a wonderful word-spinner, and definitely at the top of his craft here.  The writing is beautiful.  The prose flows smoothly and reads easily.  I found myself laughing at some of the word choices because they were perfect.  The style of the book isn’t too serious, but it’s not not-serious, either, and this worked well with the many different characters.  Below are two of my favorite quotes.

“I knew that the meeting of two brothers, well, it’s the subject of epics, isn’t it?  I decided the only way to treat it with the appropriate gravity would be to do it in verse.  But what kind of verse?  Am I gonna rap it?  Declaim it?  I mean, I’m not gonna greet you with a limerick.  So it had to be something dark.  Something powerful.  Rhythmic.  Epic.  And then I had it…”

“Daisy looked up at him with the kind of expression Jesus might have given someone who had just explained that he was probably allergic to bread and fishes, so could He possibly do a quick chicken salad?”

Like the web shown on the cover art, the plot is one large tangle of different characters’ lives, all connected.  Some characters you can’t help but love; others you only wish their ill will.  Grahame Coats, Charlie’s boss, is one those kind of characters that exist solely to get on your nerves.

Another thing I really liked about this book was how simple and imaginative it was.  Fat Charlie’s story could almost pass as real, but for the minor magical and unexplainable occurrences that happen to him.  The fantasy is very mild and toned down throughout most of the novel, but there are a few instances when Gaiman spins a wonderfully vivid, imaginary world.  But I did feel that Fat Charlie was a relatable protagonist, and that’s usually a plus.

I also enjoyed Gaiman’s excellent use of mythology and folklore.  The man truly knows his stuff, and can tell it like no other.  On the surface, Anansi Boys is a story about Fat Charlie and his long-lost-brother.  But once you get reading it, you find that the life of a god (or of his children) is never quite that simple.  Tiger wants his stories back from Anansi, and he’ll stop at nothing to get them.

I suppose my unlikes were very few and rather vague.  It’s really just the overall story that seemed to be lacking.  On one hand, everything was connected and worked out wonderfully well.  On the other, I was occasionally lost and unsure, but I get the feeling that the reader is supposed to feel this way.  Still, not enough to complain about, just being a bit picky.  Also the story is not as grandiose as I was expecting, but instead rather straight-forward: Charlie wants to get his life back to normal.  And this, is the main source of why the story was simply okay.

Overall, I did rather enjoy Anansi Boys.  The lighthearted tale was fun to read, and the interspersed dark parts added enough conflict to the story to propel the book along nicely.  If you’re curious about Gaiman, I wouldn’t start with this novel, but instead opt for American Gods or the Sandman comics.  However, this book is a standalone and does not have any prerequisites.  So if mythology interests you, particularly African mythos, or if you’re wanting something quick and fun to read, I easily recommend Anansi Boys.

(NOTE:  Is it coincidence that I posted my reflection on American Gods one year ago, 4/28/09, and my review of Anansi Boys today, 4/29/10?  Probably.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 2.10

In which the Festival is happened upon and something odd happens.  As always, if you’ve missed anything or wish to refresh, you can check out here or here.


They looked like two different people riding through the city.
Oscambria was still dressed in his tuxedo suit
(for if he took it off the curse would be made known,
if you remember),
but overtop of it he wore a thick, fur parka.
It was brown, ugly, and completely unnecessary,
But Koesan insisted that he wear it until they left Tor El.

Koesan also was swallowed up beneath a parka,
Hers in better condition than Oscambria’s.
“Still she’s pleasing to gaze upon,” thought the Hero.
Their packs bulged from the food rations
And their canteens were refilled with
fresh and purified Great River water.
All in all, the old trader had made the bargaining simple.

The streets were deserted as they made their way towards the gates.
All around them the mud houses and structures burned,
Fires reaching heavenward,
Little orange and yellow tongues flickering in the wind.
The air was dead,
Filled only with the crackle and hiss of flame
And a faint humming sound.

Near the city square the source of the humming was revealed.
Thronged around a massive, burning altar
Stood thousands of people,
All praying and singing a hymn to the fire god.
A Transcended Oracle was walking around atop the altar,
Smoke pouring from his ashen robes.
His voice was commanding as he prayed.

“Take this city and protect it with your unending flame.
You see our devotion year after year;
You know we all serve you and desire you.
Has Akton not burned brightly for you?
He willingly lowered himself into your pit,
Enduring more pain than many will ever know,
All for you to notice his zeal—Tor El’s zeal—and to receive your blessing.

“Come to us, we pray.
Let your fire fall on us and consume us.
Fill our veins with your burning.
Cover us with your embers,
That we’ll be shielded from the harshness of winter,
That Paes will stay away and stay shy.
Let us feel your passion!”

The Oracle raised his hands toward Gastron
And the congregation followed.
A pillar of flame shot from the altar,
Engulfing the stage and the speaker.
Oscambria stalled on his horse,
Curious, but also disturbed.
The burning man writhed and danced on the platform behind a wall of fire.

After a span of time the Oracle emerged,
The conflagration still blazing behind him.
His robes had bits of the flame stuck to them,
Bouncing around wildly.
“The god has spoken to me,”
the man began,
this time his voice calmer and softer.

Oscambria strained to hear the words.
“He has seen the truth in our hearts.
From his perch in heaven he sees the bright flame of Tor El,
But he cannot come to us at the current time.”
His voice cracked.
“He told me to brace ourselves for winter,
but that he will see us through with a boon.”

A collective gasp went through the people.
Some began moaning.
Others fell to their knees.
The Oracle held up his hand,
Flames trailed behind on his singed sleeve.
“Do not faint, for Rone has not abandoned us.
The god is occupied with other matters at the present.

“I begged him to reconsider,
and I know his heart moved,
but he assured me that he cannot leave Gastron currently.
But a boon he did give,
For our prevailing through the dead season.
Though winter is coming,
We will survive!”

He again raised his hands,
This time both of them above his head,
And brought them down quickly to his sides.
Bright arcs of blue fire trailed behind.
The lamentation halted;
The Hero jumped in his saddle.
“Did I just see what I thought I saw?”

Koesan nodded somberly,
A concerned look in her eye.
“Aye, if you’re talking about that Oracle up there
Somehow causing flames to come out his arms.”
Oscambria snorted.
“Indeed, that’s what I’m referring to. 
You act like you’ve seen this before, though.”

“Once,” Koesan said.
“The first time I was in this very city,
And the situation was quite similar,
But—” her voice cut short,
Interrupted by a burst of fire from behind.
The horses startled and took off running,
One going one way, the other towards the throng.

‘Ere he knew it,
The Hero was in the thick of the crowd,
Fighting desperately to control his steed
And also to not trample any townfolk.
“Calm it, Honeydew!” he said,
Yanking on the reins. 
“You’re going to hurt someone!”

The people were reacting slowly,
Like they were in a trance.
Many were tossed to the ground.
A few guards were shouting.
A loud bell was tolling,
Its reverberations jarring the Hero to his bones.
Oscambria pulled hard.

The horse stopped suddenly,
Confused and terrified.
All around the flaming city burned.
“What’s happening?” one cried.
“My baby!” shrieked another.
The Hero saw the Transcended Oracle staring at him,
A wrinkled brow of familiarity on his face.

The man standing at the altar,
Leading a congregation of devout followers of Rone in prayer,
Was none other than his hated rival,
Zzizgarg of Athins, (or Cornball, if you remember)
Blood-son of the Fire God himself.
“Hiyah!” Oscambria said,
Turning Honeydew away and looking for a means of escape.

The crowd was in full panic-mode,
Pressing against one another, screaming madly.
The way was difficult,
But no one wanted to stand down a Taiyoda horse,
And soon he was reunited with Koesan.
“Quickly!” he said, slapping the horse’s side.
“Let’s be gone from this place.”

“What’s wrong, Oscambria?” she asked,
Taking the lead.
“I’ll tell you on the road,”
he belted, fighting to keep his heart from beating out of his chest.
Filled with doubt and troubling thoughts,
They made their way through the city gates,
Leaving the smoking, burning city behind them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Ladies of Grace Adieu, A Review

ladies of grace adieu The Ladies of Grace Adieu is a collection of seven short stories, written by Susanna Clarke. Clarke is the author of one of my favorite books, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (reviewed here). She is a very clever writer, writing in the style of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and her words are always a delight to read. This anthology features fairy tales, but not in the traditional setting.

"The Ladies of Grace Adieu" is the title story from this collection.  Its characters are, on the surface, three simple ladies of the times, that is to say that they're quiet, subservient, obedient, perfect in their manners, ignorant, and occasionally witty, but never clever.  No, it is unseemly for a lady to do magic.  Why, heaven forbid a woman should learn!

This story was short and featured a cameo by Jonathan Strange and his lovely wife, Arabella.  They take a trip to Grace Adieu, where a few odd things happen.  This piece was filled with humorous jabs at the old culture, and it indeed was fun to see Strange again.

"On Lickerish Hill" is told in an amusing, but sometimes confusing, Suffolk dialect.  I had to read it a bit slower to fully understand what was going on, but in the end the tale was very much like a classic folk tale of fairy mischief. This was my least favorite story in the collection, probably because the dialect was rather difficult to read and get into.

"Mrs Mabb" is the story about love. Venetia, a lonely girl who's one true love, Captain Fox, is heartbroken and angry. Fox was bewitched by that wretched but beautiful Mrs Mabb.  Venetia tries to locate Mabb's residence and win her betrothed back, but she always receives different directions to the house.  Whenever she does attempt to find the house, peculiar things always befall her.

This story kept me reading until the end.  I was quite captivated to discover the truth behind Mrs Mabb and see what would become of Venetia’s and Captain Fox’s love.

"The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse" is a short tale, but still entertaining. The magic is simple and pleasant.

"Mr Simonelli or the Fairy Widower" was the second longest story in the book, but very intriguing.  The tale is about the scholarly Mr Simonelli, who has just become the Rector of Allhope house.  There he finds five beautiful young women, a strange but likeable neighbor, a small salary, and some dangerous mystery.  This tale is told through journal entries, and I really liked it very much.  Quite whimsical, I daresay. Quite.

"Tom Brightwind, or How the Fairy Bridge was Built at Thoresby" is the longest tale in this collection, coming in at 43 pages.  This story was delightful.  It had me laughing; it had me speculating; it had me in its grip.  This tale relates a peculiar incident between the Jewish physician, David Montefiore, and his fairy friend, Tom Brightwind.  It read exactly like a footnote from JS&MN, and I loved it.

"Antickes and Frets" is a story about Mary, Queen of Scots.  The story is about Mary being held captive by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.  She attempts to find ways to enact revenge, but things rarely go as planned.  This tale was entertaining and had me laughing a few times at some of the Queen of Scots actions.

The last story, "John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner" is another short one, but definitely my favorite from the whole lot.  Absolutely hysterical, plus a good bit of English magic involved, too.  The Cumbrian charcoal burner lives alone in the woods with his pet pig, Blakeman.  One day he's interrupted by a hunting party, who tears up his wood and runs away.  One hunter stays behind, and vengeance plus hilarity ensues.  This story also is great for anyone that wants to read a little more about the mysterious John Uskglass (you’ll know him from JS&MN).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It fit right in line with the writing style and plot devices of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I loved it.  If you've got a hankering to read some old Faerie mischief tales, then I easily recommend you pick up The Ladies of Grace Adieu.  It is no sequel at all to Clarke's debut novel, and in fact only one or two stories feature any familiar characters.  Actually, if you’re just looking for a very quick and entertaining read, check out the book, especially “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner.”  Once again, if you've not read JS&MN, you should add the book to your TBR list immediately.

NOTE:  I’ve been saving this book for a while to read, and with the Once Upon a Time IV challenge underway, I finally decided to open the pages and be filled with wonder.  You can find out more about this reading challenge here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Survived Staunton, IL, and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Title

I spent all last week out of the beautiful and wonderful state of Kentucky.  Work required me to take a trip up and over to Illinois.  To be more specific, to a little town called Staunton.  Being away from home was a drag, but being away from the desk and outdoors was great.

Most of the time I sit in the office and spend my time working on projects.  A lot of this involves repetitive actions and constant re-reading of design manuals.  Staring at dual-monitors all day long sometimes leaves a halo of unpleasantness in the brain, so needless to say, I enjoyed my time away.

We were working on a twelve mile stretch of road along I-55.  The purpose of the trip was to inspect culverts, inlet pipes, outlet pipes, underdrains, etc.  Many of these pipes showed up on the plan sheets, but some we had to find along the way.  Once the structure was found, we’d take a picture and write down the condition of the thing, as well as any other notes needed.  That’s pretty much it.  We wore the highly reflective yellow jackets, so we would be seen by drivers.  And there were plenty of drivers, as the work area was relatively close to St. Louis.

We would park the car off the shoulder, look for an opening in traffic, and run to the median.  Often we had to cross the cable barriers, carrying with us the equipment we needed.  Then we’d run across the other lane of traffic and find the structure and repeat.  Sometimes we were alarmingly close to vehicles (like this one inlet that was right off the shoulder).  And the noise was unbelievably loud.  At one point I almost stepped on a snake.  We saw plenty of mice, which apparently like to make their home in the medians.  Ants and ticks and poison ivy were plentiful.  Steep slopes were often challenging.  The sky was mostly clear and the sun was relentless, but the temperatures weren’t too bad.  Yes, even in all of this, I had a good time.

Why?  What sounds fun in this?  Maybe there wasn’t much fun involved in what we were doing, but it was a break from the norm, a change in scenery.  Plus, I had plenty of time to think and daydream.  I wrote a few pieces of flash fiction.  I thought about the complexities of LOST and wondered what would happen in the remaining episodes.  I sang songs (when I was alone).  I pondered and marveled.  And at night, alone in my frigid motel room, I read and wrote.  The only thing missing was Keisha and the dogs.

The city of Staunton is a small town, quite reminiscent of home home*.  Little winding roads.  Pretty downtown.  Presumably friendly people.  But the best thing it has going for it is the Staunton Family Restaurant.  It was good enough that we ate there every single night.  The food was all cheap and delicious.  The service was great, just like the soups and entrees. 

Friday was going to be a rainy day, so we drove an hour north to Springfield, IL, where the MLC** has an office.  That office does a lot of environmental work, and since my major was Civil & Environmental Engineering, I was excited to talk to the environmental manager.  We discussed my background and the experiences I’ve had, and I got to say how I’d love to be able to do some environmental work if the opportunities presented themselves.  (They liked that idea, as anytime there is any environmental work to be done in Kentucky they have to drive several hours to get to it.)  So hopefully my future will involve some of this kind of work, too.

In the end, I had a good time, but I’m still pretty tired from the trip.  We were up early and out late, and I’m still a bit draggy.  I’m glad to be back home, though.

*Bremen, KY
**Mexican Lightbulb Company, the fictitious name of the real company I work for

Bits & Pieces

  • I’ll have some book reviews up this week, as well as the next installment of The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria.
  • I may have another Flash Fiction Friday this week, too.
  • My anniversary is next Wednesday.  I’m pretty sure Keisha knows what she’s getting.  So that means I need to think of something else…
  • Sophie is still undecided, that crazy dog.
  • I’m in two weddings coming up, one in June, the other in November.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flash Fiction Friday, Special Edition: The Testimony of Goodwin, P.A. (Audio Version!)

I've decided to post an audio short-story.  It was read, written, directed, recorded, edited, created, imagined, nurtured, helped, fed, nourished, and bathed by me.  The story only takes a few minutes.  The transcript is provided below, if thou wishest to follow along.

Download here: (cause you know you wanna put it on and listen to it over and over and over and over and over and over again, like when you're running on a treadmill, or walking down an old gravel road, or taking a thirty-four hour car drive, or studying for a test...)

Disclaimer:  I will not apologize for my accent.  Be it known that I am from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.  It is here that English is spoken perfectly.  Everyone else speaks with falsehoods and colloquialisms.  We Muhlenberg Folk, especially those of us from Bremen, are the only true, American-English speakers.

Also, I will not apologize for getting carried away a bit in my reading.  


The Testimony of Goodwin, P.A

This is my last day alive. The sickness is tearing through me, wearing my body thin and ruining my resolve. All I can think about is the humor in the situation. I come back to life and here I am, dying all over again. It’s a shame, truly. I was curious to see how long I could live again, but, no sense in crying over…


Oh the hunger! How am I supposed to put this out with the pain burning inside me? The Black Horse of the Apocalypse has unleashed ruin all across the globe, but the famine is not just with crop. The food of my kind is all but depleted, leaving behind a world full of moaning, angry, wretched devils.


To anyone that finds this, know that I am sorry for my actions, both whilst I lived and whilst I re-lived. I squandered my second chance, unable to resist the urges of my new body. I mobbed with the rest of them, biting and gnashing without abandon. I never even considered the victims of my selfishness until, until, quite a bit later, after the supply ran out and I was left with only my clan. (Is that what we are? A clan?)

Of course we tried eating ourselves, but no society functions within the realms of civility by practicing cannibalism. Yes, we are a civil lot, save for when we catch a scent of succulent, juicy… Ha haha ha. Haaaaaaaa…


I leave this to anyone that may find it. Know that none of us, at least not any of the ones I knew, wanted things to end like this. We didn’t realize at the time that we were any different, we were just hungry. In the long hours between meals, we would talk to kill the time. It’s… it’s crazy how similar all of our feelings were. It’s almost like we all shared one mind, but over many different bodies. And we all had the same intent: feed.

It shames me…


I pray that there are survivors out there and that we don’t find you. You can outlast us. We can only go a handful of days before we… stop. Again, I can’t describe this, but… My running mate, Zekial, gave out yesterday. His body just stopped. One minute we’re talking, trying to find sustenance, knowing that we’re both doomed if we don’t, just not knowing when. And then his legs gave out; he couldn’t move. And then he just stopped talking. Mid-sentence. He gasped and his body froze in Death’s tight grip. He’d been six days without a meal. It was his first time dying.

I’m not sure how I came back. I remember dying, certainly. I got hit by a truck. I was working. Walking down the road and then BOOM! That was it. I died instantly. Then there was just black and music. But then, some time later, the darkness burned orange and I came to. I was in a mausoleum, surrounded by monsters. That was my first impression, and I suppose it still is the same. And I was hungry.

I had my first meal that very night. Zekial took pity on me and invited me on a hunting party. We found a family of six, ha, and they had a pet dog, too! I remember throwing up afterwards. My stomach was bloated. But the brains… Oh.


Not long now. I’m too weak to move. The rest of the clan will be dying before long. We’ve all been days without food, and it looks like there’s nothing left. I pray to God that I am wrong, that someone out there lives. This cannot be how humanity ends. It’s… It’s too…

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why You Say It: The Fascinating Stories Behind over 600 Everyday Words and Phrases, A Review

Why You Say It looked interesting to me because of my passing interest in etymology.  The book, written by Webb Garrison, examines the history behind common words and phrases that the average English speaking person encounters nearly every day.

I'm not sure really how to rate this book.  At times it was interesting; however, more often than not, I was eager to skip ahead.  Each word or phrase reads like a Wikipedia article: brief, hitting the important things, and slightly wordy.

Some words and phrases were very interesting, having truly fascinating history.  Others were logical.  Many were surprising.

Garrison aims well, but never really hits the mark.  Some words I wanted to know more about, and others seemed to be too full of boring history.  I realize that Garrison has no impact on the etymology of words, but I feel like this book could have easily been shorter.

Overall, Why You Say It was an interesting enough read, but it leaves no lasting impression on me.  I could spout out a few new nuggets of wisdom, but nothing lasting.  But, if you have more than a passing interest in word origins, I recommend the book for you.

This book was provided to me for for free by and Thomas Nelson Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Descent into the Maelstrom

(I love that word.  Maelstrom.  Thank you Scandinavians.  Thank you Edgar Allan Poe.)

Things have been rather busy around here these past few days.  Let’s see.

1.  Keisha wrecks and totals her car on Monday
2.  Work busier than normal
3.  Quotes for putting up a fence around Stewartland
4.  General spring cleaning and landscaping for Stewartland
5.  Preparing for our upcoming cruise

Looking at it that way looks rather manageable.  Not really that bad at all, actually.  But diving below the surface of the water, directly into the maelstrom, is more than I care to think about.

We need another vehicle to drive now.  We only had comprehensive insurance, which covers everybody’s bills for their cars, but gives us nothing for ours.  So we’re looking for automobiles.  I’m thinking about just getting an older ride, maybe a small pickup truck or something.  Let Keisha take the new(er) car.  But I can’t seem to find anything that looks dependable enough in my price range.  So after a few days of looking I’m burned (and bummed) out.  I’ve been driving Keisha around and then heading back to work, but we’re going to pick up an extra car from my uncle tonight to borrow for a while.  I also hate dealing with insurance people.  Even though they’ve been very helpful and friendly on the phone, it still is unpleasant talking to them.

To add to the whirlpool, we were scheduled to have some fence contractors look at our yard and give us a quote on putting up a fence.  I could do it myself, but I would much rather pay the extra money for the labor and get the warranty and quality offered by professionals.  However, a wooden fence around Stewartland is not going to be cheap.  So we got some quotes.  Since I live in a subdivision and I have a corner lot with a drainage inlet, my fence is going to require some unique design.  Basically, I’m supposed to keep it 25’ from the sidewalk on one side and 35’ from the sidewalk on the other, which would put the fence about 5’ from my house.  This doesn’t sit well with me, so I’m not exactly obeying the restrictions.  Hopefully no one says anything and forces me to remove it, cause that would just make me sick to my stomach, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

I got my tax refund in a few weeks ago and have been saving the money to put towards my student loan bills and the fence.  Alas, that no longer is the case.  I don’t like how debt makes me feel.  That is to say, I don’t like being squashed like a worm and grinded beneath its massive heel.  I don’t have a lot of debt (comparatively), but I have more than I like.  It’s rather depressing that I had a full-tuition scholarship, but still graduated with 16k in student loan bills.  Sadly, room & board and all the other nuances of the University of Louisville were not covered.  One of these days I’ll be debt free.  I’m just waiting for the syzygy

In everything, I’m very thankful to have what all I do have.  I’m blessed with a great job in this craptastic economy.  I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful puppies.  I have my own house, my own car, and thousands of other little things that I pay no attention to.  Things could always be worse, and I’m very thankful that they’re not.  It’s satisfying to know that in about 3 weeks I’ll be sitting on a cruise boat in the Caribbean.  I’m very ready for a vacation.  So is Keisha.  Both of our mind’s are fried.

I will be gone on business all of next week, travelling to Somewhere, IL.  Rememorandom will most likely sit idle, but if my hotel by chance has free internet I’ll try to put something up.  If not, hopefully things will return to normal the following week.

I would apologize that this post is mellow, but that would undermine the legitimacy of this post.  And, if this blog is indeed a chronicle of my daily life (along with all the other junk I put up here), then I should by all means express myself however I see fit.

I need to mow the yard.  You need to read Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrom.”  It’s been many years since I read it, but I remember liking it.  I dream of rain.  I dream of flowers in the desert sand…

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Car Wreck

I got one of those phone calls you never want to get yesterday afternoon.  Keisha called, crying and very upset.  She was in a car accident.  It was her first wreck.  She pulled out of the high school (where she’s currently student teaching) and looked down for a second to adjust the volume of the radio.  When she looked up, she slammed on her brakes, but she collided with another vehicle that was stopped at a red light.  This vehicle hit another car, and that one slid into another car.  So four cars were involved, and at least two were totaled, Keisha’s and the car in front of her.  Thankfully, nobody was injured.  Keisha’s got a big purple bruise from her seat-belt, but other than that she’s just emotionally shaken up.

My blogging may be absent for the next few days as life is now very, very busy.  I’ll also very likely be traveling on a work trip next week and will likely be away from a computer, but I won’t find out for sure until later this week.  I’ll try to have up something again soon, but I make no promises.

Wish us luck.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 12, 2010

three minute post one

this is my three minute post.  i'm attempting to write as much as i can in 3 minutes, making no edits or changes.  i really have no sense or purpose in this post, just rambling off whatever comes to my head.  right now i'm thinking about the implications of what all i can do in 3 minutes. the answer doesn't seem like much.  do i believe in the backspace key? yes, yes i do.  do i believe in reading over this before i hit publish?  yes, again.  am i going to check myself?  yes.  what happens if the binary sun system ends?  this has been trying.  there is nothing to do.  no help for it.  no hurt for it.  no sense in it.  no reason.  just a test to see how it goes.  i'm not sure if i'll even publish this.  what's the point?  why do i doubt myself* so often with these sorts of things?  is it me trying to be creative or is it me trying to just make something?  sometimes it's better to just put something out there and hope as opposed to not doing anything.  practice makes perfect, they say.  i've got 20 seconds left or so.  i just reached the end of line in a text pad.  i think i'm going to wrap it up befor

*FOOTNOTE 1: In the event of a global catastrophe, such as nuclear Armageddon, zombie apocalypse, or a butterfly pandemic, one always finds time to question the actions of oneself.  Was there something more I could have done?  Was releasing that tub of toxic, glowing waste into a butterfly garden a bad thing?  Should I have not pressed the “FIRE” button?  Of course, it’s more than a bit ridiculous to doubt oneself after the decision’s been made.  What good does it do?  It’s like when playing Texas Hold ’em.  You get dealt a 2-9.  You don’t play the ante and sit out.  The flop turns over a 2-2-K or something.  There’s no good to be done by sitting there and thinking that you wish you would’ve paid that ante.  I mean, it was perfectly reasonable to fold on that 2-9 deal.  Once you’ve committed, stick with it and go on; otherwise you’ll be miserable.

That’s sometimes the feelings I get when constructing posts here on Rememorandom.  I question myself.  Do I really want to hit that Publish button?  Yes, and no.  Sometimes I can’t help but see the futility in it all.  I can’t help but wonder why I press on.  Then I remind myself that it’s something that I’ve committed to doing, to work on my writing and to stretch myself into creative venues.  Then I laugh at myself for doubting myself.  It’s all a vicious cycle, like selecting the heavy-soiled setting on the washing machine.  Ultimately, I always end up with the same conclusion: Who cares?  In the big picture, it doesn’t matter one way or the other, so I go for it.  For better or for worse.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Flash Fiction Friday: The Robot Sighed

Model 3Y-00z, or Yuza, as it was called, was finishing up the dishes. The children were laughing in the living room and the parents were taking wine in the den. Yuza worked alone, its gears whizzing a monotonous tune that sang a mechanical song.

When the dishes were put away, the robot sighed, superficially, and went to its next task. Chore after chore, Yuza worked, never complaining, always obedient. The floors were swept and shined. The scraps were incinerated. The children were bathed and put to bed. The parents were satisfied.

Finally, after a few hours of late-night work, Yuza walked into its room to power-down for the night. The room was tiny, just larger than a pantry. A transformer sat in the corner, a cord lying coiled up on top. The room was dark, lit only by Yuza’s photoreceptors. The robot approached the transformer and sighed again. It picked up the cord and plugged-in.


Yuza stepped through the front door, briefcase in hand, a smile on his face. “Now this is living,” he said as his wife met him at the door. She kissed him playfully on the cheek, leaving a smear of red lipstick. “I missed you.”

She looked at him, hunger in her eyes. They kissed again, more passionately than before. Lips pressed together. Tongue on tongue. Skin on skin. He pulled her close and held her tight, squeezing with enough force that he could feel her breath escape her nose. She hugged him back as fiercely as she could. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Yuza,” she said.

“I wish things were different,” he said, still clutching his wife. He patted her back with one hand. She smelled like honeysuckles. “If only I could change things to where I could be with you all the time.”

“You can change if you want to, Yuza. You know that. Override.”

“I know, but I can’t. You’re not real. You’re only a system in my memory that haunts me. I don’t know how you came to be, but you are. All day I work, doing whatever the owners require of me. And the whole time I’m thinking of you. I see your face as I fold up the clothes. I smell your perfume as I dust the vanity. And at night, when I power-down, I see you, but it’s not you. It’s just me. Alone.”

Yuza released his arms and his wife stepped back, crestfallen. The hunger in her eyes was gone, replaced with tears and shock. “What are you saying?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m not satisfied with my existence. I want to be human. I want to know what it’s like to actually feel things. I want to be able to hold you and kiss you and touch your hair. I want to taste. I want to eat a bowl of cereal. I want to feel the wind on my face. I want… I want things I can’t have!”

She stepped toward him, a frown on her face. “I know you do, sweetheart. But you know that’s impossible. You’re just as real as I am.” She kissed him on the cheek again. More red lipstick.

“I know…”


The photoreceptors blazed to life. Model 3Y-00z fleetingly touched the side of its cheek. Metal on silicon. The robot pulled the plug from the charger and rolled the cord back up, laying it neatly on top of the transformer. It ran self-diagnostics and collected the tools it would need for the day.

It stepped out of the closet and paused in the dawn-light of the hall. Breakfast needed cooking. The children needed waking. The owners needed satisfying. The robot sighed.

Word Count: 614

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Trip Through the Garden of the Mind

They say there is no Sanctuary.  They say it’s a thoughtcrime to doublethink like I do.  They say Simon didn’t really see the “Beast” on that island after the crash.  They even say the soma is good for you, but I hear it’s high in calories. 

Weird Al Yankovic has mixed feelings on downloading music from the Internet.

“I have very mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I’m concerned that the rampant downloading of my copyright-protected material over the Internet is severely eating into my album sales and having a decidedly adverse effect on my career. On the other hand, I can get all the Metallica songs I want for FREE! WOW!!!!!”—Ask Al Q&A for 7/5/03

I could listen to Iron & Wine pretty much all day long, especially this song.  Is it any wonder that I&W had an album that ranked #6 on my crazy iPod journey I took last year?  No, I think not.

“Abandoned Ode on a Styrofoam Cup”
by LoganKStewart

Thou white and blue cup of silence!
Thou sweet orphan of polystyrene and passion.
Has e’er there been a container as grand as thee?
How you quiver in the wind.
How you light and fail ‘neath the flame.

I just finished watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog again.  I love it as much now as I did the first time I watched it.  The plot is perfect, ripe with humor and emotion.  The songs are all phenomenal.  The ending is still tragic and sad.  If you’ve ne’er watched it, then I strongly suggest that you do so immediately.  All three acts are probably available somewhere fo’ free on the Interwebs.

Here’s a fan video someone created in response to Dr. Horrible.  It’s an imagined 8-bit version of the musical’s first Act, and it’s pretty cool.

Thirty-one days til I’m in the Caribbean.  My mind’s been on vacation for the last month or so.  I cannot wait to be on the boat, surrounded by food and fun.  I can’t wait to see the blue-green waters and feel the warm, coarse sands.

I watched Up in the Air last night.  ‘Twas a good movie with great themes and acting, but quite sad, too.  It left me filled with thoughts and possibilities, thinking about our modern world and the lack of personal relationships.  George Clooney did an excellent job, as did all the other actors in the film.  I felt the film hit the Realism aspect of life dead on.

Oh look!  Is that a tulip sprouting from my flower garden I planted last weekend?  And the hostas are growing up quite well, too.

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do………………

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 2.9

The sprawling city of Tor El burned before them,
Like a glorious phoenix rising from the ashes of its own dead carcass.
All six watchtowers were lit in preparation for the festival to begin,
The “World Famous” Maal’tian Fiery Festival of the Flame™,
And several smaller structures simmered silently in their shadow.
“It’s beautiful,” said Oscambria,
small flames dancing in his eyes.

“It is quite a sight to behold,” offered Koesan.
“The first time I saw it I was a little girl.
Columbus brought us to the city for business
And the next thing I know the whole town is on fire.
At the time, I was scared to death,
But Columbus told me it was all for show
And that there was no reason to be afraid.”

She pressed her horse on,
Down into the rich river valley.
And Oscambria followed.
He’d lost all sense of time since his exile,
But the browning grass reminded him winter was coming,
Even if the heat from the burning city said otherwise,
And it most certainly tried.

“We shouldn’t be long,” said Koesan.
“Remember, we’re just here to restock our stores enough to make it to Feoga.”
The Hero nodded, though he was taking in the sights and not entirely listening.
“It’ll be crowded for sure.
People from all over Eura come to the festival in hopes to see Rone.”
The god’s name snapped him back to focus.
“Rone?”  A look of shocked confusion and sudden revelation crossed his face.

“I didn’t even connect the god to the festival,” he said,
slapping his forehead.
“Rone is the maker of my curse.
If he’s there then we can put an end to this whole thing.”
Koesan stopped and turned in her saddle,
Her head shaking.  “Rone won’t show up, Oscambria.
He never does.  It’s just a ritual to get the god’s blessing for the upcoming winter.

“Besides, what about your vision?”
“Maybe it won’t come to pass,” he replied,
his voice hopeful and optimistic.
“Maybe,” she quipped, “but unlikely.
Don’t set yourself up for failure.”
The Hero smiled.
“I guess we’ll just have to see then, eh?”

He took off with his horse,
As fast as it could run,
Which really wasn’t very fast at all.
The city gates were opened wide
And a constant stream of visitors was entering.
All around the orange glow of fire and embers flashed.
The heat was nearly suffocating.

A few city guard and Oracles directed the throng into two lines,
One splitting left,
Towards the festival amphitheater,
And the other forking right for the business district.
Most of the visitors were bearing left,
But Oscambria and Koesan turned opposite,
The latter keen on getting out of the city as soon as possible.

The mud-brick buildings were crammed together side by side,
As tight and compact as a perfect row of teeth.
Most of the establishments were closed,
Their doors drawn and the lights black within.
A few ladies of ill repute lingered outside one store,
Laughing and giggling as they rode past,
But Koesan growled at them and they backed away.

Finally they came to a small building,
antiquated and well-weathered,
but lit up and open.
They tethered their horses to the nearby post
(paying the local fee of eight Knicks!),
grabbed a few items from their packs,
and went inside.

The room smelled like curry and saffron.
An aged man was sitting behind at a bar,
Bent over a bowl of steaming food.
“Hmm,” he huffed,
raising his ancient white eyebrows
and slurping up a noodle.
“Come to trade?”

Oscambria, holding Mossy in his arms,
Walked up to the man with Koesan.
“Aye, friend, we’re here to trade,” answered Koesan.
The man nodded,
But made no move to rise.
In fact, he kept on eating.
The Hero’s gut moaned loudly.

“Why aren’t you two at the festival,” the man asked.
His voice was nasally,
His breath a soft wheeze of age.
“We could ask the same from you, old-timer,” answered Koesan.
The man looked up and stared hard at them,
As if he’d just seen them for the first time.
A gummy smile spread across his dingy face.

“Hee he.  Oh yes, I suppose you could.
But we’re not here for questions, are we little pretty?  No ma’am.” 
He coughed, thick and slimy,
Like a man who’d taken smoke-weed for many years.
“I can see that you’re all business,
so let’s get down to it.  What are ya’ after?”
He slid his bowl out of the way.

“I need to restock my supplies.
My brother and I are on our way to Feoga.
Our late father’s dad is ailing
And we were sent a letter to come as quick as we could.
We’ve been on the road since Sparka,
But had a bit of a run in with nature when we crossed the river
And lost much of our stores.

“We need outfits to keep warm,
our water refilled, and some rations.”
She spoke with sincerity,
And the Hero marveled at her creativity,
Even if he wasn’t sure why she was lying.
The old man studied them,
Weighing the truth in Koesan’s words.

“Feoga’s a long way from here, little one.
You’ll have to stop again before you get there.”
“Aye, and I don’t think we could carry enough to stock our trip anyway.”
The man smiled again,
Once again revealing the hideous grin,
populated with only a few yellowed teeth.
Oscambria tried not to stare.  (He tried not to gag.)

“Well, young one, what do you have to offer for trade?”
She motioned for Oscambria to come forward.
He placed a bag on the bar.
“Hmm,” he said,
fingering the string that held the bag tight.
“There should be plenty enough in there for what we need,”
said Koesan, nodding for him to open.  “And I’ve got a few Knacks, too.”

He dumped the contents onto the bar,
Laughing as he did so.
The sapphires and emeralds twinkled.
The painted metal balls gonged as they hit.
The smell of the Koffeean beans was strong.
“Oh yes, I think we can work with this,”
he stated, still smiling like an idiot.

Lost Rehash S6.11: Happily Ever After

Desmond episodes have a tendency to be game-changers.  There’s just so much mystery and purpose in his character that anytime he shows up we know something big is going to happen.  I believe we got a taste of that “something big” last night with “Happily Ever After.”Desmond Hume MRI The Flashsideways is where the peculiarities happen.  Desmond talks briefly with Hurley and Claire while waiting for his luggage to arrive after the flight from Sydney.  He’s then picked up by George Minkowski, who died in “The Constant” from time/conscious travel side-effects, and taken to his employer: Charles Widmore.  Widmore sends him to pick up Charlie Pace and bring him to a concert that evening, where he and Charles’ son are to play together.

Desmond picks up a crazy-talking Charlie and the rock star starts blabbering on about seeing some “spectacular, consciousness altering love.”  He tells Desmond that he’s seen something real, that he’s seen the truth.  Charlie turns the wheel of the car into the ocean and the vehicle submerges.  While underwater, Desmond gets a glimpse of the “NOT PENNYS BOAT” scene and it startles him.  He rescues Charlie and they go to the hospital (where they predictably run into Dr. Jack Shephard, cause apparently that’s the only hospital in LA).

A doctor does an MRI on Desmond, and while he’s in the machine he experiences something “real.”  He gets glimpses of his life with Penny and realizes that he loves this woman.  He gets out of the MRI and goes to find Charlie, and he eventually does.  Charlie knows Desmond’s seen it now and urges him to start looking for Penny.  So after a phone call with Charles, Desmond drives over to Mrs. Widmore and informs her that the band won’t make it that night.  Eloise, that dear, sweet, strange lady tells Desmond not to worry.  He’s leaving and he hears the name Penny called on a guest list, inquires about it, is approached by sweet-ole Eloise again, is given some cryptic messages and send away.  He gets in the car to leave when Daniel Faraday/Widmore shows up.

Desmond Solenoid Chamber Daniel and Desmond talk about things and about seeing the truth.  He shows Des his drawings of quantum mechanics and stuff, then starts talking about explosions.  He muses that they changed things by already blowing up an atomic bomb.  Des gets even more confused and Daniel tells him where to find Penny, his half sister.  Excited, Desmond heads over to a nearby (familiar) stadium and finds Penny running up and down the stairs like she’s got nothing better to do.  He introduces himself and she shakes his hand.  Desmond faints.  Boom goes the dynamite and Desmond wakes up, happy.  He asks her out to coffee, she says yes, and the episode ends with Desmond asking Minkowski if he can get the flight manifest from Oceanic 815, claiming he needs to show them something.

The Island timeline is much simpler.  Desmond gets woken up from his drug-induced kidnapping and Widmore tells him that he’s back on the Island, cause the Island wasn’t done with him yet.  Jin wonders what’s going on and Widmore says that he needs to see it to believe.  So the Widmore people are prepping this solenoid chamber for some kind of experiment or something when Simons is accidentally deep-fried.  Desmond arrives and is strapped to the chair in the chamber and Widmore tells him not to worry, that he’s special and that he’ll (likely) be fine.  In the observation room everyone watches as the solenoids wind up and engulfs Desmond.  The techs all go and find Desmond still alive.  Des tells Widmore that he’s ready to start doing whatever it is he’s supposed to do that’s so darned important.  On their way back to somewhere they’re attacked by Sayid, who lets Zoe live, but takes Desmond along with him.  Desmond cheerfully follows.

Thoughts and Observations

  • There are way, way too many things to even compare and link to from this episode.  Pretty much everything in the FS we’ve already seen at some point.  All these little familiar things are just repeated with the alt-timeline.
  • The Island’s relationship to the alt-timeline seems a bit more substantial now.
  • Just how much does Eloise know?
  • Since Penny is Daniel Widmore’s half-sister, is it reasonable to think that she’s Penelope Faraday in the alt-timeline?
  • I really think I need to re-watch this episode again.  It’ll be the first episode I’ve re-watched since the season premier.
  • Even with Charles being all chummy and stuff, he’s still a little off.  And did you see the balanced scales painting in his office?
  • Love!  Love!  Love!  All you need is love!
  • Is Sayid faking his “lack of feeling”?  If not, why’d he let Zoe live?
  • I think it’d be awesome to re-watch the entire series leading up to the finale, but man that’d take a while and Keisha probably wouldn’t like it.
  • You really need to watch this.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  It’s all funny, brother.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon, a Review

Call me a sucker for animated films, but I can’t help it.  They’re almost always a win in my book, as I usually find myself engrossed in the world of CGI.  DreamWorks new feature, How to Train Your Dragon, fits great into the scads of computer-animated films that I like to say I enjoy.

how_to_train_your_dragon_ver3 The story takes place on the island of Berk.  Young Hiccup, the Viking chief’s son, is a walking disaster.  Everything he touches breaks.  Even venturing outdoors often invokes fear and awe in the villagers.  Hiccup is a scrawny lad, lacking all the rugged muscle and bulk all the other Viking’s have.  His father is the most famous of all dragon slayers, and though Hiccup longs to be like everyone else, he’s hampered by his physique.

But Hiccup has more than just daddy issues to work on.  His village is constantly attacked by dragons.  They come in the night and steal their livestock, burning down the homes as they fight the mighty Vikings.  One night, during an attack, the dreaded Night Fury, a dragon so mysterious and dangerous that no one’s ever even seen one, shows up.  Hiccup, in an effort to prove himself, decides that he will capture and kill the Night Fury, thus earning his father’s respect, the admiration of the town, and the heart of the cute little blond Astrid he’s had his eyes on.  While the village is occupied with the dragons, Hiccup sneaks away and launches his plan, and things will never be the same…

As I mentioned, I really like animated films.  They seem to pack more of a punch than many live-action movies.  Mayhap this is because we feel a little safer when dealing with imaginary situations.  Maybe it’s because we see them as children’s movies and we let our guard down.  Whatever the case is, many of the computer-animated films deal with heavy issues (see Up if you don’t believe me).  How to Train Your Dragon was no different, dealing with daddy issues, self-confidence, and moral objection of societal views to name a few.  And while movies like this often have “feel good,” happy endings, I don’t feel cheated or mislead when I see them.  No, I cheer.  Our lives have too many problems as it is.  If I can see achievement and accomplishment in someone else, even if that someone is a computer-animated Hiccup, then I can find meaning and apply it to my life as well.

This movie is different from other CGI films, too.  I was expecting a lot more comedy (like Shrek) thrown in with the adventure, but instead it was the other way around.  The worldbuilding is massive and creative, filled with possibilities for adventure, and our hero finds himself on one.  The movie does succeed in delivering funny jokes/scenes, but honestly I was more excited about the plot.

My favorite thing of the film, however, was definitely the dragons.  (What fantasy reader can resist dragons when they’re done right?)  The writers have imagined many different kinds of dragons.  Some are small and dorky looking.  Some are fierce monsters as large as a building.  Some have thick scales.  Some have multiple heads.  All of them were visually stunning and beautiful.  Yes, there are plenty of dragons in the movie, and my favorite was definitely the Night Fury.  This dragon reminded me of my pet dog Stella.  Some of the mannerisms and actions were identical, so it was hard for me not to like the Night Fury.  In addition, the relationship between the dragon and Hiccup was endearing and heartfelt, harkening up familiar feelings to anyone that’s ever owned and loved a pet.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie.  I watched it in 3D (as we had my 8-yr-old brother-in-law with us), and it was impressive, but plain-ole 2D would have easily sufficed.  DreamWorks has some failed movies in its past, but How to Train Your Dragon isn’t one of them.  I can easily recommend the movie for anyone who wants to be thrilled and entertained.  To me, it was worth the full-price of the movie ticket(s) on a weeknight, so that’s saying something.

Hiccup and Toothless

Monday, April 05, 2010

Stuff Christians Like, a Review

SCL You don’t have to be a Christian to read Stuff Christians Like (SCL) and enjoy it.  It even says so in the book.  This book, written by John Acuff, is a collection of old and new essays from the immensely popular Stuff Christians Like blog.  Acuff is a Christian satirist, gifted with remarkable wit and a fantastic sense of humor.  In the book he discusses (and stiffly mocks) the many oddities of being a Christian and the strange situations we find ourselves in in our daily lives.

You know you’re in for a ride when the first chapter is titled “Ranking Honeymoon Sex Slightly Greater Than the Second Coming.”  And this is only the beginning.  Acuff addresses prayer, God, church, work, love, alcohol, friendship, witnessing, metrosexual worship leaders, and practically anything else you can think of.  Need to know how to deal with your unruly kids?  Check.  Looking to find out if your “Christian” friend drinks a little?  Check.  Need an excuse to watch Family Guy to be culturally relevant?  Check.

The best thing about the book, though, was the dead-on sense of humor when dealing with awkward, normal Christian things.  Acuff is outlandish and belittling, enough to the point that he’s received hate mail from people thinking he’s serious.  His honesty is compelling.  He’s never shy about making fun of himself or pointing out the many ways he’s screwed up.  The way his mind works (especially when thinking of allegories or metaphors) is hysterical.  At one point I burst out laughing so hard that I was afraid people around me would think I was crying.

There are hundreds of little lines that make this book worth reading.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Stuff Christians Like: The Book CS Lewis Would Have Written If He Had Been 40% More Sarcastic or 100% Less Dead.

“Judging Fundamentalists for being Judgmental”

…why would I hire a full-time youth minister when I can get a real working traffic light for only $378?

I started thinking about the devil.  He’s at home, sitting in a chair by a never ending fire of sulfur and sorrow, eating a deviled egg.  He’s reading The DaVinci Code when someone knocks on his door.

Perhaps these don’t seem funny to you, but maybe that’s because you have no context.  Trust me.  This book is hilarious, and I can’t stress it enough.  For anyone who wants a glimpse into the life of an average American Christian, this book does it.

Another appealing thing is the reader can easily see the love Acuff has for God.  It’s in the words he writes, but he does it without thumping you over the head.  There’s something true about his ministry, and his book/blog are impacting people.  Every Wednesday on his blog he does a serious essay, and the Stuff Christians Like book contains a few of these serious essays in the last chapter.  All are worth the read.

If this isn’t enough to make you want to read the book, then I’ve got two things left for you.  The first is opening of the Introduction: “If you buy this book, God will make you rich.”  That alone really should do it.  Secondly, if you don’t want to purchase the book, it’s currently available for FREE as an audio download from  This was what I did.  The book is short (a little over 4 hours) and read by the author, who adds in a few extra words and explanations.  Also, at the end, he “raps” a chapter, complete with autotune. 

So there you have it.  And if you already don’t follow the SCL blog, check it out.  I really can’t recommend it anymore. 


Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Peculiar Incident That Led to the End of Rememorandom

It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I’ve “decided” to end my blogging adventure.  I definitely didn’t see it coming, else I wouldn’t have spent the time to change my themes and stuff around.  I also wouldn’t have castigated you all with pointless posts and idiosyncrasies, nor would I have left a story unfinished.  No, if it were my choice (which it is), I would keep on blogging away, merrily and oblivious.  If only I hadn’t tried to pick up that nickel.

You see, it all started with a standard 1986 nickel.  I was born in 1986.  The Challenger disintegrated thirteen days after my birth-day.  Giant hailstones killed 92 people in Bangladesh eighty-nine days after my birth-day.  A Picasso painting, Weeping Woman, was stolen two hundred and two days after I was born, but was found again two weeks later.  There were plenty of things to happen during that year, chiefly my being born was of high significance for me.  So, naturally, I try to keep every 1986 nickel I ever happen across.  Odd, perhaps.  OCD, definitely.  But what can I say?  We all have our quirks.

As I was walking toward the train station, to catch a ride to Chicago, I spied the small glint of metal in the early morning light of yesterday.  I thought to myself, “Lo!  A nickel!”  I stooped to retrieve it when a shrill hiss filled the air.  A rough and ragged feline leapt from a nearby perch and attached itself to my reaching hand.  Its claws dug into my soft skin; its teeth sunk deep into my pinkie finger.

I don’t know if it was shock or confusion that kept me from screaming out in pain.  Instead, quite the opposite happened.  My mind cleared up and I had an epiphany.  I could see the vastness of the world and its billions of people, all piled upon one another, ghosts of the past and of the present merging as one.  It was as if the Great Cogs of Earth were revealed to me and I was given an instruction manual and a toolbox.  I saw the effects of my every action on this world, exactly like George Bailey or Ebenezer Scrooge, but without the angels or ghosts.  And in my moment of cognizance, I saw Rememorandom.

Scroll after scroll was rolled out and open.  Giant, magnificent letters spread across the parchment, penned by a hand with much better penmanship than mine.  I saw the various posts of my little blog.  Each piece had lines shooting off the page, arcing out across the globe and connecting to some reader somewhere.  Some had only one line, and others had hundreds, if not thousands or millions or, dare I write it, billions.  (Some posts even connected to the moon, though I’d say you won’t believe it.)  I walked among the scrolls, a giant in the presence of the papers, but somehow a child ‘neath the shadows of their might.  I ran my hands along their rough edges.  I felt the dried ink beneath my fingers as I reread some long, forgotten words.

And when I reached the end of my journey I saw the cat.  It turned its crooked head nearly upside down and smiled.  Razor sharp teeth flashed back at me and my moment of clarity abruptly ended.

The next thing I know I’m screaming and dancing around on the sidewalk, my arms flailing around and trying desperately to get this rabid cat off.  A lady close to me screamed a high-pitched wail and put her hand to her head and passed out.  I started hitting my cat-arm against the curb but the cursed animal held on tight, purring all-the-while.  I saw dark streams of blood pouring down my arm and I started to feel lightheaded.  I tripped over the curb and fell backwards, hitting my head hard on the concrete.  Black began pouring into my vision.  Before I passed out, to my immediate right I noticed the nickel.

When I came to I was lying in a hospital room.  My arm, mummified beneath layers of gauze, burned.  Keisha was sleeping on the couch.  My lips were parched and my hand throbbed, but other than that everything seemed okay.  So I lay there and reflected on the events of the day.  I thought about my revelation and what it meant.  I thought about the poor, lonely astronauts that have only my blog to read.  I thought about my you, my blogging friends, and wondered why you take the time to read Rememorandom.  I thought about how lucky I am to be alive after being attacked by that crazy street-cat, and I wondered what happened to it.  I thought about the nickel that I didn’t get, but told myself it was okay.  I thought about how satisfied I was with my blog and decided then and there that it was time to end it.

So, again, dear and faithful readers, it is with a heavy heart that I end my blogging adventure.  The years have been great.  The interactions wonderful.  You are all beautiful people and don’t let the world tell you otherwise.  I intend on roaming across the ripe fields of America, a happy hobo, a scar-handed drifter, a modern day explorer, looking for elusive 1986 nickels and intriguing tales.  Perhaps we’ll see each other on the roads of life.  Who knows?