Monday, January 30, 2012

Daredevil 2.3 - Wake Up

Wow. I knew Brian Michael Bendis was praised as a comic writer, and now I see why.Wake Up, Volume 2.3 of Daredevil, is deep and powerful. But as good as the writing was, the story was just as much artist David Mack's work as it was Bendis'. 

Ben Urich is a Daily Bugle investigative journalist sent by J. Jonah Jameson to report on the "Crime of the Century." Instead, Ben stumbles upon something more important, at least to him, and that's the story of a boy named Timmy. Timmy is shocked into a catatonic state by witnessing something horrible. Something involving his missing dead-beat dad.  Something about Daredevil.  He spends his time in a hospital drawing comics and generally ignoring the world around him.  

As Ben digs deeper, he begins to ache for Timmy and does everything in his power to help the boy. But what's more, Ben wants to know what's caused his pain. 

I loved Wake Up, and it definitely is the best of the Daredevil comics so far. While not as flashy and showy as most superhero comics, and definitely nowhere near as light, it's a wonderfully drawn and written story.  And ultimately we get to see more character development from Daredevil to Ben Urich, whom I'd never heard of. 

I have to take a minute and address Mack's art. The styles are constantly changing, and the fluidity really adds to the mental state Timmy is in. Characters even look different from panel to panel. I'm tempted to say that this may be one of the best looking comics I've ever read, and that's saying something. It's obvious how much work Mack put into these four comics, as they're quite mesmerizing. 

Daredevil 2.3: Wake Up pretty much stands on its own as a story. No prior knowledge of the Man Without Fear is needed, but it would add to the depth of the tale. Nevertheless, if you're itching to try a Daredevil comic, then I can easily recommend this 4-issue run. Here's to hoping Bendis can maintain this standard I've set for him.

EDIT: Even though I just read Volume 2.2 recently, I didn't make the connection that David Mack, the artist for Wake Up, was the writer for the fantastic Parts of a Hole.  Looking back, it's easy to see Mack's influence on the storyline of Daredevil and Echo.  Not only that, but Mack was the cover illustrator for those comics as well, which I thought were excellent.  I'm going to have to keep my eyes open for this guy.  He can write and draw...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, a Review

Christopher Priestley's Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is the kind of book that begs to be read aloud, with a British accent, and in the dark of night sitting next to a roaring fire while an unnatural storm brews outside.  This book is an anthology of ghost stories and cautionary tales, all told by the mysterious Uncle Montague to a rather dimwitted nephew, Edgar.  Most leave you with a crooked smile after finishing.

Uncle Montague's home is filled with odd collectibles.  An old brass telescope.  A gilt frame.  A small Indian ink drawing that may or may not move.  These and more all have a story to tell, and not a one of them is happy.  In fact, the words "ghastly" and "terrible" came to mind more than once.

Uncle Montague tells Edward ten tales over the course of the evening.  All take place within the frame of Edward and Montague reclining near a fire place in Montague's moody home.  Noises break into the frame, setting the stage for something else that may exist outside of the stories.  Most of the tales feature young children as their protagonists, and because of this, the horrifying aspects of Montague's tales is multiplied.

Enhancing the book and each story is illustrations in the style of Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies.  In fact, the stories read as if they were directly inspired and lifted from one of Gorey's panels.  David Roberts, however, is the illustrator for the book, and his work is so memorable that I can scarcely think about Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror without thinking of the delightful illustrations.

It's hard to pick a favorite story here, as all were great for one reason or another.  I particularly enjoyed the ones below.

"The Demon Bench End" is truly horrible.  Young Thomas Haynes is not really a very good boy.  For all appearances he is, but truthfully, he's just as bad as anyone else.  After a fateful street side encounter with a tinker, Thomas's life forever changes.  Largely neglected by his father, Thomas stands idly by while his father and the tinker haggle.  Eventually the family parts from the riffraff, but Thomas does not forget what he saw.  For the tinker had something Thomas wants terribly bad, and he'll stop at nothing to get it.

"Winter Pruning" is one of the more twisted tales of Uncle Montague's.  It's a very traditional child's story.  There is an old blind witch that lives miserly at the top of a hill.  All day long Old Mother Tallow stands out in her yard pruning her trees, mending the apples.  Simon Hawkins, another young rapscallion if ever there was one, decides to sneak into Old Mother Tallow's house one day while she's outside.  The witch is supposed to be rich, after all, and he was sick of stealing pennies from his mother's purse.  One big score would be all he'd need.

"A Ghost Story" was probably the most lighthearted of the tales, and that could be partially why I liked it so much.  Little Victoria Harcourt begrudgingly attends a family wedding, a horrible affair where rain and wind ruins the day.  Victoria is mostly scorned by the other girls, and when her most loathsome of cousins Emily begins telling a ghost story, Victoria is almost ready to abandon all pretense of wanting to fit in.  I don't want to say much about this story, but I did enjoy it immensely.  I smiled like a baboon at the end.

In the end, every story in Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror was exactly what I was looking for.  While some are better than others, all are perversely wicked.  One can't help but feel a trifle ashamed at the outcomes of these tales, for smiling at the often demise of children.  Priestley's stories fit into the vein of the Brothers Grimm, though not as fantastical or folky.  There are lessons to be learned beneath these stories, making it a perfect book for adolescents and teens.  Even so, Priestley offered a memorable book that's quick to read and perfect for when the Halloween mood strikes.  I'll be adding the other installments, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship and Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth, to my TBR now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jeff VanderMeer's "The Situation" as a comic on

Possibly the most enjoyable read for me in 2011 was Jeff VanderMeer's The Third Bear.  It blended weird with brilliant prose and wonder, and I think fondly of the book.  Today, Jeff VanderMeer and Eric Orchard have released Part 1 of 3 collaboration to re-tell a short story from The Third Bear titled "The Situation."  From my review,
"The Situation" is baffling. Part office-life, part post-apocalyptic, part Idon'thaveaclue, this story sealed the deal for me. I read it after reading "The Third Bear" (which I recommend you do as well, even though it doesn't follow the story in the layout of the book) and noticed a few coincidences that I could not ignore. I'm not sure at all how to describe what's going on in this story, but I highly recommend you read it.
The artwork by Orchard is phenomenal.  It's style fits exactly how I imagined VanderMeer's world, capturing both the mood of the story and the horrifying beauty described therein.  If you've not read VanderMeer's book, then you really should.  It's so unlike anything else I've ever read.  What's more, if you love good art and a captivating story, then check out's "The Situation."  No background knowledge is necessary to enjoy the tale, though it probably makes understanding it a little easier.  I'm looking forward to seeing the remainder of the story.

Images are from, created by Eric Orchard.  For more, follow the link here.  And while you're at it, Ken Scholes' If Dragon's Mass Eve Be Cold and Clear was another excellent freebie posted up on  Part post-apocalyptic, part haunting tale of hope, this story had Santa as a sword-wielding, Christ-like myth.  I thought it would be silly.  I was dead wrong.  Just reminds me that I really need to read Scholes' novels, as I've been more than pleased with his shorts I've read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

About Google Music

I've been using Google Music since it came out of Beta, and for the most part, I've been very pleased.  Basically, it's a music streaming site that runs on cloud storage.  It was cloud storage that I wanted to try, since Stewartland1 is turning 8 years obsolete this May, and Stewartland2 is only slightly younger.  Because of this, memory is something of a problem, and I have a lot of music (around 50gigs or so).  Thus, the cloud storage.

Google Music merges with your Google account and allows the user to listen to his or her music anywhere they can sign in (as long as flash is supported).  That means that if I had a droid phone then I could listen anywhere.  That also means that I could listen at work and at home without having thousands of songs taking up hard-drive space.  This was my chief reason for signing up, well, that and my infatuation with Google's products.

I've been mostly pleased with my Google Music experience these last few months.  The player links to a Google market where you can purchase songs and albums at competitive prices, ranging from FREE to whatever.  I've not bought anything above $0.00, but what I've got from here has been good.

The only problems I've encountered have been listening at work.  My computer at work is older than Stewartland1 and the internet connection isn't as good, so I get occasional freezes.  Still, as long as I'm not doing anything too computationally intense, everything runs smoothly.  The only other issue is the randomizer used seems pretty bland, especially when listening to just one artist.

Google Music is not a streaming radio like Pandora, unfortunately, and I think this would be one area Google could improve.  Still, if you're on the go and have a droid, using Google Music seems like a smart idea.  Or, if you're like me and have limited storage space, it's a no brainer.  It does take some time to upload your music, but once it's there it's there for good.  Currently you can upload 20,000 songs for free, with pricing starting above and beyond that.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday: The Clean Man (A Study of Mostly Realism)

THE MAN leaned back in his chair, cautious not to go too far.  Wouldn't want the back to break after all.  He idly wondered to which back he was referring, but then shrugged it off, not really caring.  He picked up his coffee, bitter with only the slightest taste of artificial hazelnut cream somewhere in its black depths.  Steam rose from the mug, hot and refreshing.  Probably the only warm thing in the whole room, he thought.  As he returned the cup to the table some liquid splashed over the side.  Brown stains freckled paper.  He winced at the accident, critical of himself for the mishap.  He was a clean man.  A tidy man.  A man who took pride in organization and order.  Accidents were things that happened to others, not to him.

Scowling at the drying stains, he blotted the coffee up with a folded paper towel.  He could no longer reuse it, as was his custom.  Paper towels were luxuries many could not afford.  He, on the other hand, had stockpiled a basement full, affordable at the time in thanks to his wife's coupons and his cunning.  A clean man must have towels, he thought.  He glanced at the clock.  0741.  The spill had altered his routine by a full minute.  Not a problem to most, but he was a punctual man, leaving home at 0748 every day, arriving to work at 0759, and at his desk by 0800, usually beating his boss and everyone else to the scene.

He dropped the paper towel into the bin, frowning as it disappeared from sight.  The man returned to the table and gathered the papers, organizing them neatly.  He moved to his desk and placed them in their proper cribs. 0743.  He had to go.  He could already see the horrific traffic accident, detouring the roadways, pushing his arrival time back by several minutes, if not hours.  If he was lucky, he thought, he would be in the crash, and then he would not have to endure the patronizing glares of tardiness.  A perverse smile came unbidden at the grim thought.

The man topped off his coffee mug, filling to the prime place just below the rim of the cup.  He screwed on the travel lid.  I'd like to see you splash about now, he thought smugly.  0748.  He really had to go.  The man scooped up his jacket, throwing it on like a smooth and well-practiced machine.  "Off," he said, and the overhead lights began to dim.  As the door slid closed behind him, the man had a peculiar feeling of despair.  He paused and did an inventory count.  Lights.  Phone.  Wallet.  Keys.  Coffee.  Something was different, he knew.  Something was off.

The man arrived to work without accident.  He quickened his pace as he entered the gates, ready to be in his seat and about business.  The nagging sensation still poked at him mind that something had happened, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what it was.  The office was still dark.  Good, he thought.  "On."  The lights remained unchanged.  Frustrated, the man spoke again.  "On, please."  Nothing happened.  He sighed, agitated, but did not let it deter him.  Someone else would fix it.  He was a clean man, not an electrician.

He thought nothing of it that his computer was already on and lit.  On any normal day, the monitor would be awaiting his password entry.  Today, however, the man was greeted with a different screen.  Fingerprints smeared across the glass, greasy and yellowed.  A rag was in a wad atop his keyboard, soiled and smelling of rot.  The man stared in horror at the scene before him.  Papers were everywhere, many torn to shreds or mutilated.  His inkwell had been unstoppered and its contents poured onto his seat.  A spasm worked its way to his left eye, twitching violently.  The man's hand quivered and his coffee mug fell free, clanging on the ground below.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there.  Time ceased to matter to him.  His already fragile mind was now shattered into pieces too tiny to ever reassemble.  The man's knees buckled, and he collapsed into a heap of broken bone, broken body, broken soul, and broken heart.  They found him on Monday, two days later, still lying on the floor and talking to himself.  People gossiped about his unusual habits and his horribly filthy desk.  His clothes were dirty and his face unclean.

The thoughts made him sick to his stomach.  0744.  He might have to drive a little faster today, he thought, scooping up his coat.


Does this make any sense?  Too vague?  And how much is based on my own life?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Daredevil 2.2 - Parts of a Hole

Straight on the spandex-heels of the introductory arc to the rebooted Daredevil franchise comes a much more improved arc titled Parts of a Hole. Parts of a Hole was written by David Mack, a different writer than the first arc. Joe Quesada still helms the pencils for illustrations.

From the onset, Parts of a Hole was better than Guardian Devil. Matt Murdock is still getting over the death of Karen Page and coming to grips with his fledgling law firm. We're also introduced to a new character, a beautiful young woman named Maya Lopez. Maya is uncannily similar to Matt, though she is deaf, while he is blind. Maya's father was murdered while she was young, and she has been on a quest for vengeance ever since. Gifted with a unique talent, an ability to mimic what she sees to a perfect form, she begins training in martial arts and various forms of combat, preparing for the day to finally bring down her father's killer. Her road leads her to Hell's Kitchen, where she meets Matt, and things change for them both.

I really liked this arc a lot better than the first. Can I say that enough? The story was more engaging, the characters more developed, and the action more interesting. Maya was a very interesting character to meet and watch develop. What's more, the Kingpin of Crime Wilson Fisk, Daredevil's archenemy, played a prominent role in the tale. As I mentioned on my review of Guardian Devil, I know very little about the Man without Fear, and even less about Kingpin. With Parts of a Hole we get to see some of Fisk's backstory and learn a bit about the man.

Volume 2.2 still has it's problems, however. I'm not sure why the writers feel the need to rehash Matt Murdock's tragic circumstances that led to him becoming Daredevil in nearly every issue. The only reason I can come up with is that a letter from the editor in one of the issues apologized for the sporadic publication times between comics, and from this I inferred that maybe the writer's thought that readers would need reminders. Even so, this is annoying and wastes space. 

On the plus side, though, Quesada had some truly great artwork throughout this arc. I'm still not fond of the eyes and a few other things, but the art really shines when dealing with Maya. She has her own color motif and line styles/weights, and here it felt like Quesada was enjoying his work. (Maybe it's because he was drawing the female form?) So art is a definite improvement over Volume 2.1. Also, the cover illustrations were all rather snazzy, too.

Next up comes Volume 2.3, Wake Up. Brian Michael Bendis takes the writer's pen, and this is when Adam assures me that the series really starts to take off. But I no longer think I need his assurances. After the stunning conclusion to Parts of a Hole, I want to know what happens next. Consider me hooked.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Introducing the Revised Rememorandom

In short, I've given Rememorandom the most extreme makeover its ever received.  Ever since I've began blogging, my layout has always been similar.  There have been a few changes here and there, but never anything like this.  I've always stuck with a dark theme, liking the moody contrast of white text on dark backgrounds, with hints of green and grey lingering about.

After piddling around last night with Keisha on the possibility of her starting a blog, a spark wedged itself into my mind.  I like change.  It forces awkwardness and growth and learning.  Even change for the worse can be fruitful.  So, dear readers, any input?  Any problems viewing on your home screens?

Bits & Pieces

  • I've not mentioned it before, but David Crowder Band's latest and final cd was released this week.  I've been enamored.  However, no review proper will be showing up here, at least not in the foreseeable future.  No sir, a masterpiece as glorious as it deserves something else.  I'm working on a review that I will be submitting for hopeful acceptance in the 2012 Spring Edition of TalyaWren, a zine crafted by fellow blogger and frequent commenter L and her family.  This year's proceeds go to support Door to Grace, an Oregon mission that combats human trafficking.
  • Anyone else make use of Google Music?  I've recently fell in love.
  • Today is Keisha's birthday.  She turns 24, and is still growing in beauty with each passing day.
  • Sunday is my birthday.  I'm still getting balder and beardier with each passing day.
  • I failed to mention that Avonlea sprouted teeth recently.  Two, in fact.  They're like tomahawk heads in her mouth, sharp and jagged.  Such a cute thing, though.
  • Dunkin' Donuts moved into town.  I've never had 'em before.  Me, I've always been a Mom & Pop local bakery kind of guy.  Nevertheless, I tried it out.  Donuts tasted like they were a day or two old and came from Kroger.  The coffee was pretty good, though.
  • First major snowfall yesterday.  About an inch or so.  Bitter cold.
  • Francis Chan continually blows my mind and challenges me.  
  • No Skyrim updates.  I've not played it all week, come to think of it.  Still much to do, but not enough time to put in to another imaginary world.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Inheritance, a Review

Say one thing for Christopher Paolini, say he finally finished his Inheritance Cycle.  Beginning back in 2002 with Eragon, the series finally drew to a close nine years later with the release of Inheritance.  Paolini started writing the story at age fifteen, which was probably about the age I was when I started reading the series.  But as I matured, my tastes began to move away from clean, bland, cliched fantasy, and I lost interest in the tale of   Alagaësia.  By the time Brisingr came out--Book 3, 2008--I was a completely different Reader.  My review (here) reflects this well.  I was unsure whether or not I would even read the final volume.

As it goes, I did decide to read the concluding book to the Cycle, and I'm glad I did.

Inheritance begins after the Battle of Feinster, with the Varden deciding to march upon Urû'baen and finally confront Galbatorix.  Alagaësia is a big country, and this march takes about 800 pages.  Okay, I go too far.  While the march takes a long time, there's a lot of different things going on between the beginning and the end.  Eragon has some last minute things he needs to do and take care of.  The Varden have a few "loyal" cities to crush before they reach the capital.  And a lot of travel.  And a lot of page filler.  But still, much of the exposition and rising action are all pointing to Urû'baen, and the Reader can't help but trudge along.  

Going into the novel, I had no doubts that Paolini's vanilla series would end with Galbatorix dead, I just didn't know how.  Color me surprised when the affects of war and suffering started permeating throughout Paolini's writing.  People were grieving and dying left and right, and the general confusion of war reigned.  Add to that the growing promise of Galbatorix's power and the grittiness of a torture scene spread over several chapters.  I still suspected, but at least I wasn't as sure as I had been.  And oh, the torture scenes.  I've read a few books with torture and interrogation in them, but Paolini's methodology and writing were excellent here.*

At times it felt like Paolini was struggling, and his tale suffered for it.  In particular, the denouement was painful and incredibly long.  I'm reminded of the multiple endings of Peter Jackson's Return of the King, except in a bad way.  The climax was prolonged and simplistic, but overall pleasing.  Sadly, the story continued on for many more pages after.  I considered quitting, not knowing why there was so much closure, figuring it must have been hard for Paolini to write the end to this series that is by all rights his baby.  He needed closure, and perhaps so did some of the ardent fans of the series.  Unfortunately, resolution was a bit... lacking.

Also, like the previous novels, typical tropes and blatant knockoffs abound in this book.  One cannot help but be reminded of Tolkien.  However, Paolini is not alone here, and in fact there is a distinct subset of fantasy fiction that is very Tolkienesque.  Personally, I like innovation, which Paolini has, but he didn't rely on it near enough.  Having been a reader of SFF for most of my life, I'm familiar enough with these cliches to know that practically all SFF writers rely on them to some extent, and Paolini's use wasn't bad enough to be plagiarism, but it did have me groan a few times (especially at the very end of the novel).  Another problem is the bland-to-lifeless characterization, especially Galbatorix.  Truly, I laughed at Galbatorix's demeanor, presentation, and general being.  His actions just didn't fit his reputation at all.

In the acknowledgments after the book, the author reveals that he has more stories to tell in Alagaësia.  He admits to leaving some things unresolved and up-in-the-air (eg, Angela the Herbalist), and this was a slap in the face.  She was possibly my favorite character, just due to her strangeness.  (I have my ideas about her, but alas.)  I seriously doubt I will be revisiting this world again of my own volition.

As a whole, the Inheritance Cycle is a very clean and approachable series that has impacted millions of readers around the world.  It is a great introductory story that really captures what traditional, high epic fantasy is about, even if it staggers along its way.  It lacks the depth and despair of Lord of the Rings, of course, but it has a certain depth of its own.  (Yes, it is unfair to compare this to Tolkien, but on the same token, it's unfair to compare almost anything to Tolkien.)  In my opinion, I can recommend Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle to those curious about traditional fantasy, especially younger readers.  There's dragons, elves, dwarfs, sword fights, magic, and a lot of fun to be found in these pages.  For veterans of SFF, the series won't knock your socks off and may not even raise your pulse much, but the story is still an impressive (if mostly predictable) feat.  Inheritance itself is better than Brisingr, but lacks the excitement of Eragon and Eldest.  I had wished for something else in the final book, but it is what it is, and puts a fitting end on the story.

Inheritance Cycle Covers, by John Jude Palencar
*As a rule, I generally dislike picking on an author's writing style.  They are published, after all, and famous and rich and living the high life.  Still, I'm compelled to point out that Paolini's writing seemed amateur throughout most of this book and Brisingr.  (I don't recall enough about the first two to add them here.)  His lack of pronoun usage bothered me, as I grow tired of paragraph upon paragraph following a similar structure.  Pronouns are okay in my book.  Another thing was his occasional bizarre word choices.  It almost seemed like he had a thesaurus handy and just picked whatever came to mind, whether it fit or not.  While this isn't necessarily a problem, it is worth mentioning, as I found it made the reading experience uneven and jagged. 

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Downton Abbey, Season 1

I'm late to the party here, but still early enough to catch the premier of Season 2 tomorrow night.  As a devout NPR listener, I'm equally devoted to PBS whenever it comes to television.  For the last several weeks, a certain commercial kept playing, showcasing a series on Masterpiece called Downton Abbey.  "This looks like something you'd like," I told Keisha, and she agreed, and that was that.  But, as it goes, it wasn't, and over the course of time, I continued to hear more and more of this show.  Capping it off was an interview on NPR's Here and Now with a critic who was lauding praises.  They played a clip, it sounded intriguing, and I decided I wanted to watch it, too.  Turns out that it was available on Netflix, and over a Friday night Saturday morning binge, Keisha and I watched the whole first season.  

Downton Abbey is an early 20th century drama, featuring an incredibly talented cast, remarkable writing, beautiful set pieces, and a perfect score.  The season begins with the sinking of the Titanic, where the heir to Downton Abbey perished, along with his family.  This left the Earl of Grantham and Lord of the estate, Robert Crawley, in a predicament, as his only children are all girls.  At the time, entailment still existed, and so the girls could not inherit.  The remainder of the season deals with finding a suitor for Mary, the eldest daughter.

Simultaneously, the audience is given insight to the running of the estate and the considerable staff required to provide for the gentry.  The ins-and-outs of the staff--a butler, a housekeeper, the Lord's valet, the Lady's maid, two footmen, three housemaids, and two kitchen staff--are the heart and soul of the show.  Every character is important to the plot, filled with a backstory, and integral to the excitement and intrigue of Downton Abbey.  Take Mr. Bates, for example.  He is arguably my favorite character, and his handicap and unwillingness to reveal much of his past propels the plot, as well as the plotting of two eager staff-people.  These two, Thomas the first footman and Misses O'Brien, are possibly the most detestable villains of any show I've watched in recent memory.

I do not intend to slight the nobles.  On the contrary, as I very much enjoy the various plots concerning the staff, I also very much enjoy the plots concerning the Crawley family.  Mary's quest for love/marriage is center here, and while I'm not much on gooey gooey stuff and lots of romance, the writers handled Mary very well.  She was a character that I both liked and dislike, and that's a good thing.  I also must give credit to the wonderful Maggie Smith a la the Dowager Countess and Robert's mother.  She is wonderfully witty and a hoot when pinned against other characters.  She provides a heavy moodiness to any situation she is in, and yet she's funny, especially when remarking on the modern technologies (swivel chairs and telephones to name two).

Honestly, I was surprised at how quickly I was caught up in the story.  Generally this kind of stuff is more up Keisha's alley.  Nevertheless, I was extremely impressed with everything about this show.  It never dipped into ridiculousness, nor did it stray too far from the many themes it makes.  Each actor is perfectly suited to their role, and each performs well above the norm.  

I look forward to starting season two tomorrow night and getting back into the affairs of Downton Abbey.  Truly, I'm eager to find out more about these people I've grown attached to and to see how much life will change in the coming years.  If you've not watched this show, I cannot recommend it enough.  It's available to watch online for free on PBS (here), as well as Netflix instant streaming.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

By the Side of the Pale-Faced Moon

I've found myself unable to sleep much these last few days.  Is it myopia?  Dystopia?  Is it the paean and the clanging, and the tolling, throbbing, clangor of the bells bells bells bells bells?  Maybe yes.  Maybe not.  Maybe porridge, sickly hot.  Maybe sweat and beats and wrinkled sheets beneath my bed bed bed bed bed.

Hours crawl.  Bioluminescent monsters stomp around in the living room, just out of mind, not out of sight.  I cannot remember my dreams.  I can remember my disappointments.  And so I found myself awake and asea during the witching hour, garbed in synthetics and clothing born of labor, not love.  Indeed, the only thing born of love was the toboggan* atop my barren head, wrought by the fingers of the girl I love.  I found myself in the hinterlands, staring up at the sky, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Quadrantids.  Alas, it was not to be.

Coffee consumed, and even its typical bitterness was as honey, though it frothed rabid for unknown reasons.  I think on my goals for the year, for myself, for my family.  Keisha and I have been steadily scaling down things for several months now, and our goal is to get even more simplistic**.  It began when I decided to save money and cancel our satellite back in the summer of 2010.  We traded a crazy bill for a cheap Netflix plan.  And yet, after sixteen months of digital streaming, I've found myself more attracted to PBS and basic television, and those only on occasion.  Sure, there are plenty of great shows available at my desires (Buffy!), but I'm loth to spend so much time in front of a monitor.  A recent survey found that the average American spent 2.7 hrs/day watching tv, which equates to about six-weeks of non-stop, 24-hr viewing.  And that's just tv alone.  I dread thinking of computer usage...

So we both came to the conclusion that we're going to get rid of Netflix at Stewartland.  By our reckoning, any movies/shows that we really want to see, we'll be able to get them from either the library or Redbox.  In conjunction, we've scrapped much of our DVD shelves.  Next up comes the bookshelves, I think.  Because, I wonder, why hang on to these things?  I'm not nostalgic.  I'm not materialistic.  So why keep them?

I would love to get to a point in my life where I have few things that I simply "have" to have.  I remember reading this article about a family that limited itself on how many items each person could have.  Seems like it was around a hundred or so, which included everything from socks to toothbrushes to kitchen gadgets.  If you wanted something new, something else had to go.  Part of me really likes this idea.  This was one of the reasons why we limited the amounts of gifts Avonlea got for Christmas.  From us, there were three, and we tried to convey this to the rest of the family, too.  We don't want her to grow up overindulged and spoiled***.

Maybe it's that I'm getting older, though my dissatisfaction has been growing for a while now.  I turn twenty-six next weekend.  I wonder what I'm doing with my life.  How am I making a difference, not only in my community around me, but in my family, too.  Why am I content to spend so much time at home, with my nose in a book?  Thank God that I only average about four hours per week with the PS3.  I thank God that I don't have a smartphone.  I'm tired of the sham of politics.  I'm tired of the bickering in the church.  I'm tired of the apathy of bosses.  I'm tired of suburbia.  I'm tired of the passivity of America.  I want to be different.  I serve a Jesus that was different, that was hated, that lived a radical-but-simple life.  And I want to be more like Him.

It's a sort of Runic rhyme, really, to the tintinnabulation of the bells bells bells bells bells.  I am forever thankful that I've been blessed with a house to keep me warm, a closet full of clothes, and five pairs of shoes.  I have a job, while many do not.  I have a car.  Two, actually.  I'm healthy.  I could be much worse.  I could be much much worse off.  Am I stuck in idealistic youth?  No, I think not.  Am I held back by fear and trepidation and idleness?  That remains to be seen.  Here's to hoping 2012 is different.

* An apparent colloquialism of the Appalachia region.  By toboggan, I mean a knit cap.  I grew up calling these things toboggans, and didn't realize the discrepancy between the words until I was in college.  I love Kentucky.

** I'm hesitant to use this buzz-word, but it best describes my ambitions.

*** Okay, we want to spoil her with love, not materials.  I trust I make sense.