Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bauer Power

With my fanaticism over the show "24," it started me wondering why Jack Bauer is so fascinating to me. After a bit of introspection, and too much reveling about the character, I think I have some of the profile, but then I wonder why, as a Christian, I am so drawn to that profile. Here's what I came up with about why Jack's my favorite character on TV in quite some time:

First, Jack doesn't believe he can be redeemed. He reminds me of another character I really like, that of Creasy (played by Denzel Washington) in the 2004 film, Man on Fire (a remake, I believe). In that show, there's a dialogue exchange by Creasy and his old friend, Rayburn, played by Christopher Walken. Mostly paraphrasing from memory, it was:

Rayburn: Do you think God will forgive us for what we've done?
Creasy: No.

Creasy's so tortured by his past, and Jack has that same fallen image of himself. As a patriot in the deepest sense of the word, where does that leave him? Basically, everone else is worth saving, Americans especially, but himself -- and the terrorists. He carries that fallenness with him, yet he never projects it upon anyone else. Tony, Chase, Michelle, Chloe, Curtis. All these people have in some way or another commited the same sins as Jack, but he doesn't see it that way. And he doesn't want any of them to have to fall as he has, so unless it's a must for American security, then Jack is going to want to fly solo and do the hell-bound job himself. He's done it so many times now, he's addicted to it and loses a part of himself when he's not saving the U.S.A.

Second, Jack hates what he has to do, but he sees no other way to get his job done. Worse, he might be right here. This attribute affects his image of himself that I've already described above. Jack never tortures or maims for the sake of pain itself, but he never hesitates when saving the lives of Americans is on the line, either. Same with killing terrorists or their allies. In Bauer's semi-warped mindset, however, he crosses a morality line every time he has to do it. The line has never blurred with Jack; it's always been black and white. And he's crossed it and continues to cross it every time he repeats his actions. I remember at the end of one season, it was Season Two or Three, the very last scene at the end of 24 hours of hell was Jack getting into his car, laying his head on the steering wheel, and breaking down in tears. That's how the whole season ended... with Jack crying like a baby in his car. And it was perfect.

Third, I've mentioned it above, but pure, unbridled patriotism is a huge reason for the love we give Jack. As the children of citizens, especially before my generation but even into it, we were taught that it means something, really everything, to be an American. The Pledge of Allegiance. God Bless America. Right or wrong in the hierarchy of our belief system, patriotism was rooted as of prime importance in our souls. Even as Christians where Christ IS our everything, it doesn't filter out that we're Americans, too, and really nor should it. Brave men and women have served in this country's armed forces for over 200 years. They've lived, died, and sacrificed for our freedoms. Jack sort of embodies the patriotism most of us hope that we have within us in some form or fashion. He has a loyalty to the cause of America that absolutely nothing can break. And he'll do anything - become addicted to heroin, kill, rob, cheat, steal, torture - for the patriotic cause he stands for and what his vision of America is. And those people who most define that vision in his eyes are the one's that he's most loyal to of all. He's endured everything for his cause, and we hope that in similar situation that we would do the same for God -- and then for country.

Lastly, Jack's human. He loves. He despises. He hurts. He's a father. He's a friend. He's an enemy. He errs. He regrets his mistakes. He atones for them. Although his humanity hardly ever trumps his loyalty, he's not some demi-god or mystical agent working for CTU. After his self-imposed drug addiction for the American cause, he fell prey to the drug a while. His decisions as a husband, lover, and father have rendered dire consequences on his life. We can see why people question Jack, and then we cheer when they come around to see his valor.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Since I don't watch that much TV, I'll refrain from tossing out absolutist statements like "Jack's the best character on television." But I've seen many episodes of many dramas. I've seen House, and I've watched some of the sit-coms, too. No one's as compelling as Jack to me. He's my favorite, by far.

Yeah, I'm not sure what this says about my Christian walk. My life is to take on Christ's, and aside from his loyalty to his cause, I don't see many parallels between Jesus and Jack. Yet, there are aspects of Bauer I wish I had. And for me, I can unequivocally state that watching the show has been profitable for me. Meanwhile, sometimes I just want somebody to shake Jack and get it through his thick skull that he is redeemable, but then, if they ever got it across it'd be the end of the show.

I'm going to keep watching "24," because if anything is, this is must-see TV. I'll take questions now.

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Song Quote OTW

I haven't done this before and don't plan to in the future, really, but this one I'm going to quote the whole song:

we were thrown into a snowbank
into this screaming night
i heard the splintering of bones
i heard the cries of pain and fright
we had laughed and shared a kiss
mingled there our lives honey
doing ninety miles an hour
when our train hit the ice

now i can't remember
what was i so excited about
i can't remember
why all the fuss and shout
i can't remember
ah watch the ember going out

we were joking about the club car's
noticeable bad taste
the food was barely edible
and the opulence and waste were simply astounding
the passengers spent hours dismissing
rumors of their demise
and it's true a little make-up
can make a corpse look fine

but i can't remember
i've been this way since birth
i can't remember
who gives a rat's ass who is first
i can't remember
ah what is any of it worth

i caught sight of a body
in a coat that looked like yours
and i called out your name darling
but i guess you never heard me
instinctively i reached out
and i pulled you near to me
sometimes God's grace won't let you look upon
what you can't bear to see

but i can't remember
all the idols on parade
i can't remember
buy low sell high trade away
i can't remember
ah watch the embers die away

i saw Jesus in the air
now there's a face that you can't miss
i saw Him brush away the snowflakes
and bestow on you a kiss
He gathered you up in His arms
God you looked so fine
that white dress you were wearing darling
like a billion stars did shine

-- I Can't Remember, from VOL's Killing Floor CD
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Imagine being on that train with your loved one, maybe as newlyweds on a honeymoon, maybe on a getaway vacation, paint whatever picture in your own mind. Your sharing intimate moments. You're dining in the club car with all the wealthy folks, listening to their chat of "this quarter's earnings", the make of their suits and dresses, their exotic tales of travel, and half of them are their with someone other than their spouse, and they're all living the high life of the moment. You head back to your cabin, perhaps tossing a couple of jokes around about everything you saw and heard, and suddenly --

You have no idea what's happened, but you're now rolling on your side, and you realize that the train's no longer on the track. Then, SMACK, and you fly forward crashing into a wall, and the train lurches to an abrupt halt. Everything goes black for you don't know how long, and when you come to, there are some emergency lights on in the car. You hear some groaning back in dining area. But your mind focuses and it hits you: Where is he/she?

Everything that mattered to you instants ago -- your job, making yourself a success, your stocks, money markets, IRAs, and 401K plans, your vacation itself, how big your house is, what car you were considering buying, the TV show you planned to watch, the big game, the kid's education... in a matter of seconds, none of that matters anymore. None of it.

Like in Ecclesiastes, where Solomon laments life as we know it, everything is chasing after the wind.

You see the coat your loved one was wearing -- it's him/her -- next to a broken window where the snow from outside has blown into the train, and when you crawl to him/her, you know... it's not even a question... that person's gone. Your heart cracks in your chest, your stomach gives way, and you bury your head into his/her side and weep bitterly in the night's cold that you're too numb to feel.

Finally, almost as if it's in a moment of clarity, maybe it's a dream, maybe a vision: you see Jesus taking His loved one, your loved one, into His arms arms, wiping snow from the forehead and bestowing that kiss, and in a flash, the coat the person had been wearing becomes transformed into a cloak brighter than all the heaven's stars.

Even a scene such as that may not dull the pain, but it does provide a ray of hope through the tragedy. And more importantly, it contrasts with all those "idols on parade," all those trivialities that had seemed so critical before the train hit the snowbank. You now understand what is truly important.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Of Noble Stations

Here in The Realm, (while many need not hear this at all, I'm quite certain) some of us parents gallop straight-long into the mistake of that middle-ages-old problem of desiring our sons to be knights and our daughters to be princesses, and then exhorting them in those directions alone. Sometimes, our station may be such that those goals might be all but impossible, yet we maintain them while neglecting the aspirations of those we are attempting to mold. For what could possibly be better for them than to be Cinderella at the ball or Lancelot du Lac, the most famous knight that never lost a joust or duel? We only want what's best for them, and in our utmost discernment, we realize what that best is.

I received an e-mail from a good friend a couple days ago. In it he wrote (emphasis mine):

We have had to release [their oldest son's name] a little from our grip and let him sink or swim on his own with his homework, karate, and all things he wants to achieve. It is amazing how difficult it is not to try to mold a child into my preconceived notion of what will be good for him. He is just not me and cannot benefit from "wisdom" I try to force on him. That's not how wisdom works.

Wisdom. I love how it does work. After rearing his child for ten years, my friend has discovered (probably a while before he wrote the e-mail) that knighthood befits his child not at all. Thus, to send him into a squire's apprenticeship instead of encouraging the lad's love and gifts of tending a Realm orchard would someday eat away at his grown boy's soul. Perhaps another parent sees their daughter as the supreme medic of The Realm and foresees sending her off to only the best of The Realm's educational institutions and medic labs, yet their daughter's dream is that of a glass blower -- to make craft so beautiful that all in The Realm of Possibilty are moved by it. Unfortunately, as wise parents, we understand that a living in glass-blowing is a hard one, and our child can do more... be more... than their youthful and wistful dreams allow.

The fact is, some are going to desire knighthood with all their heart and soul. Others will prefer to work the lord's gardens. Neither station is nobler than the other. However, what happens when we've pushed that gardener half-heartedly into the knighthood, and he stands to face the afore-mentioned Lancelot in a battle of honor yet then fails to compete? Anger, diminishment of our sense of pride as parents, and the rejuvenated fire to push harder, which only damages the young knight's psyche all the more.

At some points as parents we must take inventory of our little ones, see their strengths and weaknesses, interests and dreams, and then dare ourselves to support them in those... even if the dreams only amount to being that man wheeling the cart from house to house during the plagues, shouting, "Bring out your dead!"

[Note: Sorry if this sounds preachy; I'm sure it does to some degree. However, I think so many have been affected by the parental ideal for us as children/teens/youths, and we bring that baggage into our relationships as parents, that sometimes it just needs to be said, even if it is common sense. And then, sometimes I'm just getting something off my chest. You can decide which it is this time. And as always, blessed are those who can be offended by what I write and look past it to see the bright, sunshiny me behind the words :) ]

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Note to B

Guess what, B!

Got an e-mail from my wife today. Our friends across the street actually VOLUNTEERED to watch our kids on Saturday night [wow, people really do that? I'll have to remember].

But the reason for the post is that she wanted to do dinner and a movie, and she suggested Pride & Prejudice. So it's set. We're taking your advice! And better news... now all of your advice is on the line (i.e. the Allison Krauss CDs) -- just kidding, B :)

I know we're going to love it, and I'll let you know that we did after the weekend. It's gonna be beautiful.

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Apathy XL

No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get myself enthused about this year's Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Seattle Seahawks. For me, that has all the draw of a day digging up Christmas tree stumps in a Douglas Fir field in January. There's just no want-to for me. And I have a couple really good friends that are huge Steeler fans. But those buzzards have beaten the Dolphins enough that any friendship goodwill fell by the wayside back in the late 70s.

However, maybe the citizens of The Realm do care after all, and this is just another example of my "sophmoric" or even "freshmanic" attitude on items other people actually care about. Thus, I'll ask the question, and for those of you who despise essays, you're in good luck. This one's multiple choice.

Question: What will you be doing Sunday, February 5, 2006 at 5:00 CST? [Please answer with which letter best describes your feelings toward the "big" game next Sunday.]


a) I'll be watching the Super Bowl freak, and so should you! This is football, and American men and women watch the Super Bowl no matter who is playing.

b) Since I cheer for the Steelers/Seahawks, I wouldn't miss the game if my spouse was having emergency surgery.

c) The Super Bowl is worth watching, and if for nothing else, I like seeing the commercials so that I know what to buy and from whom for the next year.

d) I'll be working on something really important, such as my child's pine wood derby car for Indian Princesses, but I might tune in from time to time.

e) No, thanks. Not a football fan. I'm waiting for pitchers and catchers to report or the NASCAR circuit to start up with their own "Super Bowl of Races."

f) I'm not American, and you Yanks spell football incorrectly. It's futbol, and I'm sure there's a club match somewhere that beats men wrestling in pads any day.

g) Walking the dog or walking to the pond with a loved one (perhaps that same dog) and feeding the ducks sound like better options to me.

h) I'll be watching TBS or Lifetime just so something competes with the Super Bowl.

i) Sorry, I've had something big planned for a long time. I'm giving birth or flying to Fiji or I have a chess match in prison with Bobby Fischer.

j) Why, I'll be right here in The Realm of Possibilty where I'm supposed to be on any day of the week, probably playing the Couplet game.

k) Other, and if it's other please explain -- I may have missed something and can go back and update these answers.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006


Two lines and word, that's all we ask, two lines and a word.

I'll get us started with a couplet about The Realm of Possibility and then give the first word of the next couplet. Your job is to follow suit by picking up where the previous commenter left off. Be creative, and while your two lines should rhyme with each other, they need not rhyme with anyone else's. But they should continue the story line. Hopefully, the end result will be clever, humorous, and well-written.

Here's the start:

"There’s a land, full of life, on the net
A land free of charge, but in debt

To... "

Who's Next??

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Know Your Shakespeare

In order to test the cultural veracity of the citizens of the Realm, I'll periodically ask you, "What Shakespearian play is this scene taken from?"

The correct answer is "Taming of the Shrew". Congratulations, Rich!!

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Graveyard Shift


What would it take here in the smoke-filled back rooms of The Realm of Possibility to cut a deal to change the Hot Women in Hot Tubs post category title?

After looking back through our archives today, I totally agree that we have a critical need for a side bar category for pathetic posts. The extremely volatile combination of the "going for volume" posts that I write in, as you say, the Seinfeldian "hey, there's a post (about nothing)" variety and your own "on-theme" posts, in which our given audience could, pretty much, not give a rat's patootie about The Realm's thematic elements, opens up a wide pathway to the ludicrous that we've hopped in on for many a ride.

Despite spewing forth these mega-gallons of bloggerrhea, as you well know, we (Pearce & Story, that is) remain all about quality, notwithstanding my personal penchant for quantity. In an effort to purge the worst of our posts -- and by worst, I'm speaking in relative terms, as we may have excessive "worst-"type posts -- you made up the Hot Women in Hot Tubs link, and then added insult to injury by attaching a monkey picture and saying it looked like me. All that is fine, save that I don't think it represents The Realm image, whatever that is. Ergo, I humbly, for it's only right to petition humbly for all things, submit the following Realm category for the worst of our worst to replace the title Hot Women in Hot Tubs:

Pleasant's Graveyard of Rue (GoR)

Additionally, I'm fairly sure the number of posts contained in the currently entitled Hot Women in Hot Tubs is low in comparison to the number of posts you would actually consider terrible. Check your TMI category for some others.

And should you not be able to find any there, I have one other example of a particularly rotten post that should find its way to GoR or, if you prefer, to Hot Women in Hot Tubs:

this one.

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Nanny, nanny not a boo-boo

Went to see Nanny McPhee today and thoroughly enjoyed it. This was one of the movies that I listed in my earlier post, Movies to Look Forward To? . So, check number two off that list. You'll notice if you reread that post that I gave Hoodwinked a sort of blah rating in the comments, but I found Nanny McPhee delightful.

The screenplay was written by Emma Thompson but was based on the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand, a now deceased British author (who seems to have specialized in crime fiction) and had elements of fairy tales with a twist of Mary Poppins. I haven't read the books, but I'll probably look for them now.

As I indicated in my comments to the post Lately, I've Been Moved that Rich did, I do generally like Emma Thompson features. And I liked Colin Firth a lot in the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice, The Importance of Being Earnest and some of his other work. There were also good performances by Angela Landsbury, Celia Imrie (who's had quite a career in British film and TV), and Kelly McDonald (who is apparently married to Dougie Payne, bassist for the group Travis mentioned in the comments to Rich's Raindrops post).

Maybe I was just predisposed to liked it, but I believe Nanny may be one of those under-the-radar movies that finds a place in my heart and provides enjoyment as I rewatch it again and again through the years. It is done in an understated British film way, so don't expect a blockbuster, but I would highly recommend seeing it.

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The C-Train's Out with Strep - No Blazer Update

Was that a collective sigh of relief I just heard? Man, people. This is my son's team.

Anyway, when I find out if we won or lost, I'll just let Ken know so he can update the record on the side.

In case anyone's interested, he's on antibotics now, and the fever broke last night. I think we'll make it. Thanks for hearing me out!!!

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Friday, January 27, 2006

A Rose By Any Other Name

Rose is a lovely name for a girl, unless of course her last name is something like Thorne or Redd. And how do you account for a boy with the last name Phillips getting Phillip as a first name, too.

What are parents thinking?

My wife and I used to joke that we would name a son, Reid Alexander. That's sounds fine until you realize that his name would have been Reid A. Story.

Some kids may like their unusual names, but I don't understand how you can run the risk of dooming a kid to a life of ridicule for a moment's chuckle. Here's what some kids in the UK had to say. Unfortunately, the girls may also have to run the gauntlet when they marry.

Celebrities are notorious for this practice, but my favorites are the ones that are seemingly innocent. Some of you may remember controversial industrialist, Armand Hammer. And there are plenty of other strange combinations as well. Here are a couple more I like:

Shi T. Wu - A college professor I knew
Jaime Cardinal Sin - former Archbishop in the Phillipines
Ima Hogg - Texas philanthropist
Shanda Lear - Daughter of Lear Jet mogul
Picabo Street - Olympic skier

What are some of the strangest or funniest names that you've run across?

[Ed. note: We've all heard the urban legends of kids named after jello or street signs or unfortunate body parts, so please don't trot them out again. Limit your picks to people that you knew or those that can actually be verified. And try to keep them PG-rated.]

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Something or Nothing # 1

This is not Ken's former post Something from Nothing, so don't think we're repeating ourselves just yet (notwithstanding my post yesterday of updating the status on my New Year's resolutions). No, this is a bit different but related to an extent.

I'm not sure if they're still doing it, but David Letterman used to have the Is this Anything? schtick with Paul Schaffer, whereby they'd show some whacky stunt, and then Schaffer would answer whether the act was "something" or "nothing."

Well, every once in a while on a lark, I'll just write some stuff to see if it'll stick to the wall as a potential short story. These are not whole stories, necessarily. Sometimes I won't even be sure where I was going, I'm just writing from flow. Obviously, some of it's going to be real bad, but hopefully I'll land a gem or two. So from time to time here on the blog, I'll throw down a section of something I've written, and everyone else out there in cyberland (even including Ken) can say whether this is "something" or this is "nothing." Don't be afraid to hurt my feelings because I truly write a lot of crapola. I'm not going to respond; I'm just going to listen.

All that said, here's my first entry (if you're still bearing with me):

Sign Reads:


“What in the world are you supposed to be?”

Next to me, the balloon-headed wrangler snickered under his mask. I pivoted my whole body and glared at the cowboy, but he only laughed louder. Returning to face the three talent evaluators, I cleared my throat.

Before I could answer, the lone male judge, who was sitting on the left of the table below, cut in, “I’ll give it a try, Brit.” He measured me a while longer and then commented, “The guy looks like a fried egg, doesn’t he? Maybe a little sunny side up with that faded yellow face paint. What institution would that be? Is there an ‘Egg-lin’ Air Force Base College?”

Audience hoots echoed through the theater. I gritted my teeth and sucked in a mouthful of air.

Today, plain and simply, BIT. Kayleigh’s call started the morning off like a stalactite dropping from the motel ceiling into my heart. Getting dumped by my girlfriend at seven a.m. ranked right up there with the kidney stone I’d passed three months back. I couldn’t stop thinking about her… well, not until an hour later when I tumbled off the top of the mascot pyramid in the Stage 1 practice for gymnastics and cheering. The mild concussion forced me to skip competing in the stage. Although they said I’d get another chance to go it alone, the fall effectively rendered me out of the running for the competition. Still, I refused to just go through the motions, but with all the heckling… well the day just BIT!

“No, sir,” I stated as the noise simmered down. “We’re the Fighting Hominy of Topeka State.” Raucous laughter burst from the seats behind the judges. “Uh, we moved from Division II to I-A last year.”

The raven-haired lady, the head judge, in the middle raised and lowered her arms. When the din quieted enough for her to be heard, she asked, “Okay, Mr. Cowboy of OSU, what’s your particular talent you’ll be showing off today.”

Sidling up to the front of the stage, the head that was five times too large for the gunslinger’s body stared out at the judge. “Lassoing, ma’am.”

“And you, um, Mr. Hominy? You’re here, so apparently you have a talent, too?

Wild Bill returned to his place as I waddled past. “Oh, yes, miss. My talent is moonwalking.”

All three evaluators gasped, and again the spectators were rolling. The guy judge shouted, “Moonwalking? How can…? Your costume looks like an off-white horseshoe that’s been filled in, and your feet and hands barely stick out of the holes in your suit. You can’t possibly moonwalk in that!”

Even with Buffalo Bill by my side, the stage felt really lonely. My cowboy competitor didn’t help much anyway as he clutched at his sides, yucking it up as hard as he was.

“Well, actually,” I began, “even though you might think I look like an egg, most people we’ve run into think pieces of hominy look like little moons. So when I dance, they say I’m moonwalking. Get it?”

“Well, I’ve never seen a hominy dance, so this is one I’ve gotta see!” the judge bellowed. “You got a track queue up, G-Money?”

An old Michael Jackson song blared out of the speakers at the sides of the stage. Hearing the music, I started to twist and could feel the heavy material hanging from my arms waving back and forth. Pretty soon after, all I could hear was laughter, but I kept bobbing from one foot to the other.

Finally, the crowd quieted, and I had no idea how long ago the music had stopped, so I quit my prancing. Working like that in the hominy costume winded me.

“So, how’d I do?” I inquired, panting.

The judges, all still smiling and wiping at their eyes, glanced at one another. “We… we… didn’t have a gong,” the woman on the right squeaked out between giggles.”

“But thank you for that.” The man judge pointed at me. “Now I can say I’ve seen it all.”

“You’re dismissed.”

[That's as much as I'm going to put out right now, but there's more to this short story, which is sort of a spoof about how seriously we take ourselves. Regardless, just from what you've read so far, is it something or is it nothing. Thanks.]

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Soul Mates for Dummies

This is a topic that has really been bothering me, and I’ve been meaning to get to it for some time.

Lately, I’ve been faithfully watching Beauty and the Geek Season 2, which the WB calls Ashton Kutcher’s sociology experiment. And I can’t help thinking as I watch that there is so much needless categorization and labeling of people nowadays.

When the truth is… there are really only three categories and one question necessary to determine whether you are compatible with a person for a lifelong commitment, for a job opening, or for being seen with them in public places. That question is:

Do you find ventriloquism creepy, funny, or lame?

And the answer to this simple question will easily allow anyone to determine whether or not someone is a suitable candidate. Now, I’m not saying that there is a right answer, but I’m sure going to look at you differently if you pick one of the other two.

Truth is, providing this important service is why professional ventriloquism is the vibrant, flourishing business that it is around the world today. You won’t find evidence of this in any official ventriloquist (or vents as they currently like to be called) literature, but you can believe that they’re gunning to put dating services, employment agencies, political parties, and reality show hosts out of a job.

So Ashton, if you want my opinion, stick to inter-racial and inter-generational relations (and punking celebrities, that’s pretty funny) and leave the sociology to the professional vents.

[Ed note: Ken was drinking a glass of water while he typed this post.]

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Picking Off Resolutions Like Petals on a Daisy - They Love Me Not

In this previous post, I listed some New Years resolutions. Figured it was high time as January is rounding third and heading for home, to take inventory -- and maybe get a little more realistic. So don't look for humor in this post. You'll find none. I'll take them one by one.

1) Our novel. Progress is going slow, and I was a tad hasty in stating we were rockin' and rolling. Perhaps we're just rolling. Rolling into the abyss. Ken's working on rewriting the first four chapters, and I've written two and a half additional in the new year that will need to go through his revisions. Plus, to go forward from here, I really need to see the first four. And our work schedules are not so much crepe-y as they are crappy, for writing I mean. So, buggers!

2) Getting better about the business end of writing. Bleech.

3) Trying to get my weight back down... to a tenth of a ton. Dents. Very, very small dents. I may have lost 1 lb so far. But I prefer to measure that in ounces, so let's say I've lost 16.

4) Unretiring from basketball. CHECK!!!!! I'm only playing one night a week so far, but it's been consistent. And not only that, and this is important, but I've been winning, unbelieveably enough. Not that there hasn't been chunks of rust falling off my body and clanking onto the hardwood floor. A lot of will stay on because one night a week just won't cut it to ever get into a real playing rhythm and playing shape. Oh well, I can always pine for days gone by... OR live vicariously through my children. Which one's better?

5) Work-related. Not so good.

6) Family Bible Study. Er, uh, hmm...

7) Take kids to an AU football or b-ball game. So far, no, but taking them to see an AU basketball game right now may set them back 15 years in the sport. Better wait for football.

8) Getting thru at least 1/2 of N.T. Wright's For Everyone books. I'm still poking through Luke. This also reveals a bit much on my quiet times, unfortunately.

9) Read 15 children's books, 15 Grimm's fairy tales, 5 short stories, 5 myths. Make it 14 books to go. I finished Milkweed. I'll probably post on that one soon. I've read King Midas as well, so make it 4 myths to go. Also, my wife started reading The Spiderwick Chronicles to our boys, so I'm following suit (even with all my other open books around). They're short, which means sweeeeeeeeet!!! So I should be able to get through all five in not that much time. I've started #1.

10) 5 adult books this year (fiction), 2 classics, one Shakespeare play, 10 works of poetry and analysis of them. Down to eight on the poems. Not sure I've got the motivation for 5 adult books, but we'll see. I might get to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, but saying might is exactly the same as saying "might not." I guess I could make that claim about any book, then. Hmm. This year, I might read the whole Huntsville Public Library. I know what you're thinking (besides is there a point to this post). You're thinking: that's not in The Realm of Possibility. And to that I say I'm in that Realm right now.

11) Budgeting Net time for Dolphins to 15 minutes every other day. CHECK!!!!! Call Ripley's.

12) Attending Worship Service. Uh, what's the next one?

13) Write 5-10 quality short stories. Good in theory.

The bottom line, as probably everyone can see, is that I'm probably not going to make many of these. I really don't think they're that ambitious, but maybe I'm wrong. Let me put that another way - I don't think they're that ambitious for the average Joe, but we're talking about an unstructured, undisciplined, below average ne'er-do-well (despite being a diabolical genius), here so it's hard to account for all that sweet goodness.

Hopefully, the above average of you guys are doing better in all of yours than I'm doing in mine. I've gotta believe so. Most of the geniuses out there I have to assume didn't make resolution lists anyway. Next year, I want to be a genius like that.

And yeah, I'm not sure I really had a point.

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Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head Blog Game

As anyone who has ever been a diabolical genius knows, ambition is the diabolical genius' tragic flaw (if you could say we diabolical geniuses have flaws). Therefore, something like this post written by a madman garnering more comments and landing atop our Most Popular list (although the list hasn't been updated yet, thank goodness) is just not going to do. Diabolical geniuses' self-esteem just aren't going to be too high unless they're sitting at # 1. Yah-hahahahahahahahaha.

Working in The Realm's Wizard's Laboratory late last night, I've concocted my first attempt at treachery. A simple game.

Here are the rules:

1) Just list the lyric line or title of a song from any era or any style that contains the word "rain" in it. Not the words: rainfall, raindrop, flood, sprinkle, deluge, wet, dew, or any other such similar word. Just "rain." There are tons of such songs. Feel free to use songs as hip or cheesy as you like.

2) You can comment as many times as you want, but never consecutively. You only have to wait one turn to throw another verse down, but you do have to wait at least one. And you can talk trash in the comments about someone else's choice, but you need to throw a line down yourself to comment.

And that's it. It's sure-fire. It can't miss. I'm sure to bring down that post. If not, I'll have to go back into the potions sector of the lab to see what other substance can derail that post.

Come on! Fear the genius. Beat the madman. I'll put the starter in Comment 1.

[Note: Since I'm almost 100% definite Scot's going to ask for some type of rules clarification, I'll allow him one comment for that, but no more. Alright let's get going.]

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This Honeymoon Stuff Is Greek to Me

My wife, actually fiance at the time this story starts, loves to travel, see the world, etc. I, on the other hand, can exist very happily right at home here on terra firma in the good, ol' U.S. of A. When we were planning our honeymoon, though, I wanted to do something she would love (and something I'd appreciate as well), so I chose Greece as our honeymoon destination. I was fascinated by the myths, Olympic Games, and Greek (and Christian) history and she'd love seeing the Parthenon/Acropolis, countryside, and just traveling in general. Plan was, first we'd do the island of Rhodes for three days/two nights, then fly into Athens for a couple days, take a quick jaunt over to Delphi, circle back around to do the Peloponnesian Peninsula, hitting Corinth, Sparta, and Olympus, and finally back to Athens to leave.

Huntsville, where my wife was located (and where we remain now), had a good little travel agency (read: cheap), and so I'd come on weekends from where I was living in Atlanta, GA, and we hit the agency together. We'd have rental cars for both the island and the mainland. And we did the best we could on hotels in different places. Booked and ready to go.

Wedding bells.

Rhodes was great! The island was small enough and lacked many tourists, so we basically drove our automatic car around the island, through town, anywhere we wanted. And we spent our time being newly married. Except the last night. Most of the whole night... through men were yelling in the streets in a foreign (to us) language likely Greek, some shots fired, and it sounded like a revolution had broken out. We bolted the door, turned out all lights, and just hoped. And whatever melee had gone on during the night, it had ended by morning, and that next afternoon we flew to Athens, where the story really begins.

[Note heading into the Greece mainland: I'll confess, I'm not a true man. I never learned how to drive a stick shift car. Everything was automatic for me. There. Laugh now so we can move forward.]

We fly into Athens at night, so it's dark. We go to the rental car booth, and as we're filling out paperwork, we notice that the car we're renting is a five-speed. "Whoa," says us. "We told our agent 'automatic.'" The rental car clerk points to our itinerary, which to our ill fortune reads, "manual." Okay, we'll just trade up. "No can do," says the clerk. "We don't have many automatics, and they're all out." After checking with a couple other booths and finding the same information, we briefly debate our options, go back to clerk # 1, and say, "We'll take it." [Mistake # 1] We get a map and make sure it's in English, and the clerk outlines our route to the Caravel Hotel, where we're staying. Off we go.

I don't know how many of you have been to Athens, but it's a city likened to the size of Rome, New York, or London. My wife does fine driving us out of the airport, but once we hit city traffic, we know we're in for it. Unlike nice, tame America, Athens doesn't have street lines save one down the middle. So you have these wide streets, cars in a jumble, with maniacs zigging and zagging in and out of traffic, and we're the "old blue-haired ladies driving 15 kilometers under the speed limit." Still, slow and steady and we'll get there... until a problem hits. The directions we were provided show us going up the wrong way of a one-way street. I point out an avenue that might lead us around, and my wife heeds my advice, unfortunately. Of course, it doesn't get us back on track, and the more we drive the farther we get from our destination. High tension is building in the front seat of our economy sizer, the kind you don't speak unless you have something reeeeeeally beneficial to say, and once said, it better be accurate. Somehow, we're on day three of our marriage, and lo and behold we've lost that lovin' feeling. We're going up and down hills, and my wife's riding the clutch hard. Really hard to make sure we make it up these hills. You can hear it grind a bit. And it's not helping anything that now that we're off the major boulevards, there aren't any signs in English. Everything's in the Greek alphabet. That burnt rubber smell starts seeping in through our dashboard vents, and looking over at my wife I see that the clutch pedal is somehow at a 45-degree angle between where it's supposed to be and the dashboard. My wife's knee is approaching her chin. Finally, we pull over in front of a small pizzeria, and when she takes her foot off the clutch, the pedal rises to the dashboard. A car that has only 6,000 km on it, and we've burnt out the clutch. I'm thinking I better start looking for an embassy now.

Best thing to do we say is, "As long as we're stuck here, why don't we eat?" It's a little ma and pop pizzeria, where the ma and pop are about our ages (25). We eat and pay, and then we try to discuss our situation with the nice young establishment owner lady, in English. She knows a little of our language, most Europeans I've found do, but not that much. In the end, she tells us to go outside and hail a cab, and my upset wife tells me to do just that. Cars go by. Cabs go by. I call and I hail and I call and I hail for about a half hour, my wife visits three times to check my progress. Finally, bless his heart, one cabby pulls over for me. I say, "Caravel Hotel," and he starts loading my bags in his trunk. Then, he asks me a question in Greek that I only make out the word "Caravel." I shrug and tell him, "I don't understand." My wife is coming out at this point ready to hop into the cab, and the guy comes around and stops her. "No, no, no." He pops open his trunk, sets the luggage back on the sidewalk by me, gets back into his taxi, and peels away. Aside that we're American pigs, I still don't understand why he did it. At this point, I'm feeling not so manly, and my wife is no doubt thinking the same thing. She takes it upon herself to help out. So we call and we hail and we call and we hail. Thirty minutes later and no stoppers-by, we head back into the pizzeria with our proverbial tails between our legs. We, once again, explain our current predicament to the nice, young lady, telling her that no one is stopping for us. She gives me a puzzled look and a, "Huh," and leads us outside. No kidding, first cab we see coming our way she starts waving it down, and the friggin' guy pulls over. "What the...?" I'm thinking, "I just did what you did for an hour and not one guy... brickinbrackinsuckinsuccatash." The lady gives the cabby orders, and he takes our luggage, piles it in, as the lady pushes us into the cab. Brenda turns to me and gives me one of those looks. Drops of emasculation are running down every part of my body.

We make it to the Caravel and get a room okay. I've mentioned once before on the blog that my wife at certain times can have a "wee bit" of a temper. Well, she wants me to call this rental car place, but I'm not exactly sure what she's asking me to tell them, but I gather it's a lie. Mixed feelings of my non-confrontationalist nature along with wanting to please my newlywed along with a desire not to sin by lying all get mixed in my head, so I start probing my wife with more questions. At last, she rips the phone outta my hand and starts dialing.

I'll just tell you that the Hertz Rent-a-Car message taker got an earful about how they gave us a defective car and how we're not going to stand for this and how we better get another car pronto, and this time an automatic. If nothing else, she's spunky. Two contrite men from Hertz showed up the next morning. We gave them directions to where we had left the other car, the defective one, and they had us fill out some paperwork for the new, luxury automatic they had brought us. Give the girl some credit, Rich.

Another thing about Greek drivers, they parallel park like nobody's business, with just inches between cars. It's actually amazing how close they can get these vehicles. Well, our new rental was right out front, and we were ready to head to the Acropolis. This time, the Rich-man is driving. Everyone can calm down now, relax, because everything's in good hands and it's going to be okay. In front of me, a man in a tailored suit and custom shades has wedged himself between our cars with his trunk up. It's going to take about a hundred and seventy-eight pull-backs and ups to get our car from between the two vehicles it had been parked between. But I can do it. The man in front of me isn't going to move, and he keeps digging through his trunk. Every once in a while, he turns back and glances at me, but he's in sunglasses so I can't really see if they're nice or mean looks. Then, I pull back a couple inches, then forward, then back, over and over. Still the guy goes through his trunk. He must be covering up a body in there, I laugh to myself. Finally, the right edge of my car is going to make it past his left rear bumper. The path I'm pulling out into is a one-laner, with cars parked on the hotel side and a long row of stairs on the other side, so I need to be careful here. Don't want to pull too far out and start driving down the stairs. I want to cut it close to the dude-in-the-trunk's car, just missing it. And I do just miss it. Perfect, thinks I.


That sinking feeling immediately hits my stomach, the same kind you get when a cop's lights go on behind you when you're doing 80 in a 55 zone. Except worse. The well-dressed man that had been stuck in his trunk, has spun around and is gaping at me pointing at the corner of our car and then the ground. Swallowing hard, I get out. Instantly, I breathe a little easier seeing I didn't hit his car. Then, I peer down and see a crushed attache case on the ground. Again, a stomach cringe. The guy sees that we're English-speaking folk, and immediately starts in, "What have you done? What have you done?" A real Captain Feel-Good here. At first, I offer to pay him in drachma for his briefcase. I offer a sum that should more than cover the cost of the case and any pens, materials held within.

He starts shaking his head. "I don't want money. I want what's in my case. How are you going to pay for that? In five minutes I have a meeting with the President of this hotel." And then he starts in flashing his passport and saying he has a place in New York, and I have no idea what he's trying to get across other than he's very important and I'm not. My wife gets out, and he starts in on her, too. Finally, he throws his hands up, and then he tells us he'll accept drachma. But not what we offered. No, he wants enough money to buy him the car we're driving. Or about five hundred of his attaches. Which instantly ticks off my wife. Now, she's giving him nothing. Not only that, but the Hertz guys have come outside, and they're looking over the scene. Ends up, they think we're in the right. The guy had his briefcase in the road. They sort of start arguing with the guy, and they tell us we need to go to this place and file a report. Then, they keep arguing with the guy. My wife tells me to get in the car. We both get in. "Go!" she says. We're terrible people, I think as I drive away with the man running behind us assuredly cussing us and our mamas in Greek. We went and filed the requested insurance report. And to our good fortune, we never heard anything else about this situation.

The Acropolis was cool with the Parthenon and Temple of Athena. Our drive out of town to Delphi went well, as did our journey to Corinth. Heading toward Sparta to Corinth, which is a good ways away, we were sort of stopped in the road a time or two by sheepherders walking their flocks across the major highways on the peninsula. To us, this was just extremely awesome. We don't see that in the parts of the U.S. that we go to.

We arrived in Sparta in the late afternoon and parked where everyone else had, on the town square. Our hotel was located at the edge of the square, so we wandered up to that and checked in. We did some touring around town, and we asked the hotel concierge where we should tour. He gave us a great place, and after eating on the square, filled with people, we headed back to our room and sacked out.

The next morning we awoke, showered, dressed and took off to get our car. However, all the cars that had been parked on the square the previous night were long since gone. Instead of cars, there were stands, booths, and trucks all over the square. It was the daily market on the square, and we had no idea. Walking to our auto, we found crates and vegetables and fruits stacked atop it and a stand built around it. There was no way out. The lady running the booth that was atop our car walked up to us.

"This your car?" she spoke, heavily-accented. We nodded. "Police looking for you."

My wife and I stared at each other. It was getting comical. "Okay," we told her, and we explained that we hadn't known. She just kept repeating her line about the police.

Back at the hotel, the clerk told us we'd probably be alright, but yeah, we should have moved our car last night. He pointed us to where we could grab a tour bus, and we went and toured some cool, old churches, abot 52 of them all together on a hillside.

After Sparta, we started driving to Olympus up the western coast of the peninsula. The country here was mountainous, and soon we veered away from the coastline into the mountains. The downpour hit as we veered off. A long, lonely drive that was too long, and with my wife's silence, too lonely. Because of that, I sped up, hoping to get to Olympus a little faster.

"Watch out for that rock!" my wife alerted me. A large rock had fallen from the mountain, and as I swerved past it, more such rocks lay all over the road.

"I'm not going to hit any rocks," I assured her. "Lord knows, I don't want to be trying to change a tire in this mess.

Along with the pouring rain, fog set in, making visibility really bad. We had slowed down to a crawl again, and I was restless. This whole trip had thrown my manhood into question, and now here was a trip and I was having to drive like a kid on a permit with his mommy in the car. I'd had enough.

About forty miles outside Olympus, atop a mountain, is where I smacked right into the rock you knew I was going to hit. KA-BOOM! goes the tire.

"I told you..."

Before she could finish the sentence, I jumped out of the car into the driving rain. Soaked to the bone and freezing, I spent a good forty minutes -- in which only one car passed by (not a Good Samaritan, by the way) -- changing the blown tire. But better near dead outside in the rotten weather than sitting inside the fairly pleasant, luxury interior of our fine rental automobile with my wife at that point. And it wasn't even close. The car's spare was smaller than regular sized, so we were going to have to go slow. The whole trip had just gotten better and better.

When I did finally get back in at about half past midnight, I was once more warned about going slow and rocks, but I knew that before getting in. We went so slow it was like driving on ice without radials. Nearly three of the most painful hours of my life later -- and this was our honeymoon, dang it -- we finally drove into Olympus.

After that, the comedy of errors pretty much ended. We got a new tire in Olympus the next day. We ran on the old olympic fields. Drove back to Athens and sort of figured things out. But after the flat tire, the whole Honeymoon feel was over, too. Our life had started, for better... or for worse.

The honeymoon, though, has been a microcosm of our relationship. Many ups and downs. Several expectations not met. Many times self-inflicted problems. A lot of me not being the man I should be, but then, a lot of times me actually coming through, like I did by changing the freakin' tire in the deluge. In some respects, there are parts I'd like to take back. Many respects, actually. But there are also parts you wouldn't trade for heaven itself. And in total, if I was pressed, I don't think I wouldn't trade My Big, Fat Greek Honeymoon and the memories it's left me for anything else.

Here's to a good story, but Cheers to it being better down the road.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Good Thing Dumbo Wasn't Married

Ran across this on another site, and I thought it was funny... and Realmish.

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Good Cheese / Bad Cheese - The 70s

I was a mere lad in the 70s, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about the pop culture things that were cool and things that were atrocious back in the days of bellbottoms, plaid, and afros. What was cool from the 70s? Here's my categories and my picks for good and bad of the era:

Good TV

1) Happy Days - Although I could have done without the whole Chachi and Shortcake romance, the Cunninghams, Potsie and Malph, and Heeeeeeeey! the Fonz were just cool. They made the 50s look a little bit different than Leave It to Beaver.

2) All in the Family - From a societal impact, there's probably never been a better sit-com. Archie Bunker is the best character in any sit-com ever. And the interplay between Arch, Edith, and Meathead... just hilarious. Plus, how many spinoffs were spawned from this one show? Archie Bunker's Place. The Jeffersons. Maude. I'm sure there were more.

3) The Six Million Dollar Man - "Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive... we can rebuild him, make him better, stronger, faster than he ever was before." Our first TV cyborg. For a little boy, the $6M Man was as close to a super hero on TV in the 70s this side of Wonder Woman - which I also have a spot in my heart for, probably because she had that Lasso of Truth. Digressing... this show, and the spin-off Bionic Woman, made dramas fun to watch as a kid.

4) Welcome Back Kotter - The two best theme show songs of the 70s, to me, were John Sebastian's Weclome Back and The Theme Song from Hawaii Five-O. Gabe Kotter and the Sweathogs, one of which was John Travolta's Vinnie Barbarino (he played yet another Vincent in a later comeback), made high school hip and cool and totally fun to watch.

5) Charlie's Angels - I'm not even going to go into it.

Bad TV (and I watched them all - and usually liked them) (but I'm not linking them)

1) Joannie Loves Chachi (just the all-time worse)
2) Fantasy Island (cheesy TV at its best)
3) The Patridge Family (why did anyone watch this?)
4) The Love Boat (how many B-list actors can we get to show up on the same boat over and over. Pour me a drink, Isaac.)
5) That's Incredible (no, it wasn't)

Good Music (there's really too much to list, but I'll just throw down five favorites) (also, since I mentioned Don't Do Me Like That by TP & the Heartbreakers on another post, I'll omit them this time)

1) 10cc: Things We Do for Love
2) Cheap Trick: Surrender
3) Lovin Spoonful: Do You Believe In Magic
4) Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds: Don't Pull Your Love
5) Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son

(Honorable Mention for some good cheesy 70s is The Knack's My Sharona)

Bad Music (well, there's a ton of this, too - I'll just name singers/groups)

1) Shaun Cassidy
2) Tony Orlando & Dawn (do they even classify?)
3) Bay City Rollers (and I LOVED Satruday Night)
4) Aerosmith (y'know, aside from Dream On, I don't know that I liked anything they did in the 70s, or much in the 80s, or much in the 90s either)
5) Jethro Tull

Good Movies

1) Jaws
2) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
3) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
4) Alien
5) The Godfather / Star Wars (tie)

Bad Movies (famous ones I thought weren't good)

1) King Kong
2) Close Encounters of the Third Kind
3) Thank God, It's Friday
4) The Towering Inferno
5) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

(Honorable Mention for Bad: Rocky Horror Picture Show)

The decade was long and there are too many things to go over and list. But for nostalgia's sake, I wanted to ask what other people liked or hated about the 70s. It doesn't have to fit in the three categories I've listed. It can be anything. I know I've missed a lot, and there's a fine line between good cheese and bad cheese, and I'm sure other people draw it in a different place than I do.

So how 'bout it? Anything you want to say about the 70s? [I'm sure an 80s post is looming]

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ripping Posts from Thinklings / BHT

Over at Thinklings, Bill (De) posted on The Importance of Art taken from a piece Kent Runge wrote over at the Boar's Head Tavern. This was Kent's statement:

The arts (visual, music, literature) are what makes life worth living. They are the creative energy of God manifesting itself in the lives of His creatures. Through art we exhale the very breath that God Himself breathed into us to give us life. When we abandon art we abandon the part of our humanity that seeks to create what is good, what is pure, what is beautiful; when we fail to inculcate and fan the flame of art in our children we spiritually lobotomize entire generations.

I made my comment over at Thinklings, and I'm probably going to take my share of heat for what I think. Maybe I'll rethink after hearing what everyone else has to say. But for now, I've gotta get my kid to practice, and I'm (basket)ballin' tonight. So for now, I'm making like Sir Robin in Monty Python in the Holy Grail and saying, "Run Away! Run Away!"

What do you guys think about Kent's statement? You can comment here as always, but the Thinklings'd probably appreciate it if you dropped your thoughts over there.

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Isn't It About Time for the Song Quote of the Week?

As much as I might poke fun of these posts in others that I do, they really are my favorites. No one else's apparently, but they're mine. So, just skip 'em if you don't like 'em, but by the same token, expect 'em, week after ever-lovin' week. I love these lyrics as they're so close to my heart:

yeah today i'm sick of all i am
today is my setback
first i swear i love You
then i stab You in the back
i wanna drink out of that fountain
on a hill called double cure
i wanna show You my allegiance Lord
yes i wanna be a son of Yours

-- Double Cure, from the V.O.L. CD (which is sort of like a Best of... CD with a few newbies thrown in)

This song actually was nominated for a Dove Award. It was beat out by the Bleach number, Epidermis Girl, which simply goes to show life isn't fair, even under the best of circumstances, and the best doesn't always win. Nonetheless, I'll take Double Cure over a hundred Epidermis Girls.

The "first I swear I love You, then I stab You in the back" line rings so true with me. How many times do I tell Christ I love Him and then show that love by my disobedience? "If you love me, obey my commandments." That sounds familiar to my ear, but the "stabbing Him in the back" sounds familiar to my heart.

Then, the chorus kicks in. I do want to show Him I love Him. More than anything -- ANYTHING -- I want to be a son of Yours. Romans Chapter 7, Romans Chapter 7, Romans Chapter 7. The war with my flesh. A war I've already lost. A war Christ has already won.

Double Cure is a reference (from the old spiritual Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me -- as opposed to the Def Leppard Rock of Ages tune) to being cleansed from sin's guilt and power. With Christ, I'm free of it all. For some reason, though, it doesn't want to let go. It rises up with its siren calls, and I have to make a choice. Time and again. And I can cling to the Lord, or fail, and many times I do (many more times than I cling, I'm afraid). But I pick myself back up, say, "Jesus is Lord," and resolve to turn back and walk with Him.

I love the last lines of the song's verse, which I'll leave you with:

ask me why i love Him
He gave riches to this poor
yes and i will one day see that face
over yonder shore

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Warts and All

[Another original Pearce & Story short:]

Have I told you what happened along Coventry Way,
To Sir Mortimer Finch… just yesterday?
You will find it amusing, of this I’ve no doubt,
When you hear of the folly down on Coventry route.

This is the lane -- and I’m sure that you know --
Where fair Abigail Swineheart attracts many a beau.
Hundreds of courters from towns far and near,
Come and woo while she strolls and lends them an ear.

One such suitor was Mort, but he wasn’t too brave,
He merely hid in the Widow Prune’s garden and waved.
No swashbuckler he, no not our poor Morty,
For you see on his chin, Sir Finch was quite warty.

Yes, a whale of a wart hung from Mortimer’s chin,
Enough wart, in fact, for at least fifty men.
Gray and bulbous, the cauliflower monstrosity sagged,
Were Mort an inch shorter, ‘cross the ground would it drag.

Yet life’s cruel burden hadn’t dulled Cupid’s dart,
And Finch sighed, for he loved Miss Abby Swineheart.
“Oh, what shall I do?” he groaned with a whine,
“If not for this wart, I just know I could shine.

“But ugly like this, I can’t compete with her mob.”
Thus, he moped as he plucked at his thing-a-ma-bob.
Just then, coming by, who should hear Morty’s plight,
But Dr. McGroo who swore, “By gum, that’s not right!

“I’ve got the treatment that thing will require,”
And he reached for a needle two feet tall -– maybe higher.
Doc stabbed the point into Mort’s chinny fungus,
But rather than shrink that wart grew more humongous.

Across the lawn, it now snaked through bushes and fescue,
And wound onto the pole at the Fire & Rescue,
Here Fireman Joe Blighton jumped up with a start,
Snapped his suspenders and wrangled that wart.

He attached the great growth to the old hook and ladder,
While back at the Widow’s, Finch only grew sadder.
Indeed, and more wretched, as the fire engine blared,
And stretched the wart ‘round about Coventry Square.

Then Joe screeched to a stop and scratched his bald head,
“This isn’t working… we need something instead.”

“Why, of course!” claimed Tom Trawley, from his porch in the shade,
“I’ve got just the tool. I’m a welder, by trade.”
Dodging McGroo’s monster, Tom jumped off his porch,
Ran into his barn, and returned with a torch.

Finch spied Trawley’s flame-thrower and his fears grew and grew,
So, he gathered himself to escape from the crew.
But the weight of his blemish anchored him down,
So he spun, flopped, and cartwheeled, and plunged to the ground.

The welder then pulled his mask over his face,
And aimed blue-tipped fire to lay wart to waste.
Mort screamed, “Do your worst. I love Abby, you see,
No pain is too much, if it means she’d want me.”

The sweet Missus Swineheart heard Mort’s piercing yelp,
So, she bustled right over to see how she could help.
Doc McGroo told the story, and her eyes opened wide,
And Coventry’s beauty swayed down to Mort’s side.

She scolded, “Mortimer Finch, have you been through all this?
If you truly do love me, seal the deal with a kiss.”
“Dear Abby,” said Morty as he lay there prostrate,
“Does this mean you’d accompany me on a date?”

“Sir Finch, if for me you endured all this strife,
I’d even consider becoming your wife.”
She inclined to him slowly, kissed his cheek sweet and soft,
And that wart of all warts on Mort’s chin fell right off.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

100th Post? Tell Them What They Win, Johnny!

This, then, is it. Our 100th post. Well, it is and it isn't. A few of the posts are where Ken created links for our side bar. Like Most Popular posts. Lists Rich Doesn't Make. And other such cute, spry little animals. No matter, they take comments -- not that they've garnered any, I don't believe, but then I haven't really checked (so sorry if you've commented there and were looking for a response) -- so I'm counting them. Coming full circle, then, HURRAY!!! We've reached the big 1-0-0!!! And that means nothing more or less than that we're pros now (minus the getting paid part of being a pro), and blogging for us has become old hat. That being the case, I think it's time to start doling out the advice to those younglings thinking about starting blogs or web sites or those neophytes that are just getting going in their respective blogging careers.

He that has ears, let him hear!

1) Always start your blog with a theme, and then feel free to abandon it. This works really well if you have a two-person blog, or more I suppose, and one person is very attached to the theme while the other makes posts with reckless abandon covering all sorts of subjects from his Mom's birthday to the Matchgame to self-loathing. Not only does that really bring the bloggers together as a team, but it makes for a nice, well-rounded blog about, well... nothing really.

2) When first going into blogging, start as hard and fast as you can with as many posts as you can. If you burn yourself out, that's fine, but we live in a sprinter's world. Keep in mind the Olympics. Are you watching the 100-yard dash or the marathon? Marathoners are booooooooooring. Fly, fast as you can. You won't regret it.

3) Insert posts with catchy names. We've had quite a few ourselves. Let's face it, when you get to a hundred, you have thousands to choose from. The now-deleted "Poopy-Doopy" was one such doozy. How about "Narnia -- B+" for a quick hook, eh? Hard to beat that one, I know. And an initial, blast-off post with a cool title, such as "Welcome to the Realm of Possibility," strikes such an original chord, it's bound to hook people right on in from everywhere around the world.

4) I've found that today's IQ-oriented bloggers enjoy posts that use lyrics from musicians that hardly anyone knows and turn them into semi-devotionals or self-help topics. If the religion doesn't run them in then the hope for self-actualization is sure to. Try this and don't bother waiting for the comments to roll into your post streams. Trust me on this one. I know that of which I speak.

5) Lists, lists, and more lists. And then games and memes. Especially when your Recent Post list is so short they fall off within a day or two. I'm of the opinion that what blog-readers love to do is dive right on into the archives of blogs that have caught their attention (see Item # 3 above for post names that help you do just that). Lists and memes -- readers just cannot help themselves but go back into the bowels of your archives and wade through them in hopes to find some of these babies. And speaking of lists, try posts with lists of cool music that no one else has heard of. That one worked well for me.

6) If you're hoping for readers of all ages, it's really good to identify with your readership. To do that, I feel it's extremely important to use dependent clauses, throw in a few mispelled words, misplaced gerunds, dangle a few participles, essentially forget about how a post reads. Just write it and hope for the best. Search the Internet. You'll see that we hip bloggers that have been around the block once or twice have this one down pat.

7) Lastly: This is the one where we probably fail most often. Glancing at our traffic, people tend to prefer lurking to commenting. So all you bloggers out there, please heed this advice: When someone comments, just ignore them. That's what they want. If we've learned nothing else and can teach nothing else, this one is the biggie. You affect more people by ignoring them than in any other way. Think about it.

Well, that's the advice sure to make for successful blogging. In other news relevant to our 100th post, somewhere Ken had panned for people to submit our site for the Bloggies. Ken, where are we on that? Did we win? Or did some other wannabe take our prize away? Did we get many votes? Heck, did we even get nominated? I know codepoke said he nominated us, but after reading many of his thoughtful comments, you'd have to think he was smarter than that. So no Bloggy this year. We'll get 'em next year, tiger.

And what would a 100th Post celebration without a gala to back it up? Party at Ken's place Friday night everybody: 7:00 p.m. and we'll go for 100 hours without sleeping. Get in on the action now cuz there ain't gonna be another celebration until Number 500!

If you don't mind a small wager, what are the odds that we'll make that?

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Howz About a Little Loverboy?

Anyone remember that Loverboy song, Working for the Weekend? I'm sure everyone does. If your middle school or high school dances were anything like mine, you heard that song, Foreigner's I've Been Waiting for a Girl Like You, mixed in with a ton of Journey. Just thinking about it takes me back to a lighter, less-stressed time in my life when the world was before me.

Going back to the Working for the Weekend song and the mantra that it's become over the years, at this point in my life I'm asking: What for? If you're getting that, "This may be another one of those Rich's pity-party posts," feeling, score a bucket for you. Here's my regular workday schedule:

Monday: Up at 6:30-7:00 a.m. Work from 8-6. Eat. Clean Kitchen Wife's Bible Study, I watch the kids. Have kids work on piano and reading. "24." If I write, it's between 10-2.
Tuesday: Up at 6:30-7:00 a.m. Work from 8-6. Eat. Clean Kitchen. Have kids work on piano and reading. Basketball Night at Church (my one day of activity). If I write, it's between 10-2.

And to cut it short, that's essentially my work week. If I want to have a Bible Study, prayer time, write, blog (although I'll take time in the morning and lunch to shoot off a post), surf the Net, or in any other way unwind, it's all between 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. So, yeah, we're working, working, working for the weekend. And then the weekend comes.

Saturday: Kid's sports in the morning. Come home. It's cleaning day. And outside project day. Which is all very, very important stuff to my better and wiser half. Working with the kids on their reading and maybe doing a little something rough or outside with them. There's the eating and cleaning the kitchen. And then it may be time to file or work on finances. And until everyone else goes to sleep, which usually means 10 p.m., I can't/don't write or anything else.

Sunday: SS/Church takes up most of the morning. Because we've never finished all the cleaning or projects from the day before, we have to finish them on Sunday. Then, we work with the kids on piano and reading. At 5 p.m. I have a Men's Bible Study. From 6 - 7:30 p.m., I take the kids to AWANAs (and hip, hip, hurray, I write [handwritten in a notebook that will need to be typed out] while they're doing Cubbies and Sparks work). Get home, eat, clean the kitchen. And if I write any more or do anything else, it's between 10-2.
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Unlike my junior high dance hall days, the world's no longer before me. I'm flat in it and at times feel like it's drowning me. Sometimes when I think about this season of my life, I have to throw my hands up in the air and say "What is important about this?" And, of course, by "this" I mean "my mundane existence." My job is nice and it's great to have, but it isn't what my mind is necessarily on most of the time. My mind dwells, mainly, on whatever story I'm working on, or even other writing ideas. If I'm mowing the grass, usually I'm thinking about writing. If I'm putting stuff in the attic or cleaning out the garage or scrubbing the johns -- well, I probably have a lot of silent complaining going on but if not -- I'll let my head drift into thoughts of our (P&S) stories. At this point I should note that my wife looks at my writing as a hobby, and everything else -- the important stuff in life or the stuff that's GOT to get done -- come first. I have a lot of bitterness in my feelings toward her notion of this, but at the same time, it's for better or worse, and love is sacrificial. I've conceded and continue to concede to writing in the off-hours, which is what I've done.

And now that I'm getting older, those off hours are getting harder to work in, and I'm getting more and more stressed. A lot of the time I'm too tired to write -- and by golly I'm always too tired at those hours to pray or read the Bible, two things which are sure sleep potions -- so at times I drift into bad habits of either playing X-Box games or watching re-runs on TV. Which stresses me even more. And just as bad, I go into my job or walking around on weekends living and looking like a zombie, which doesn't seem far from the truth.

Part of my problem is that I need to take Colonel Hathi's (The Jungle Book) advice, "Discipline in the ranks!" Discipline is a tough thing for me overall. I'm not a structured person, and I'm definitely more spontaneous than plan-oriented (which is exactly what my wife is). I need to put some of this in play. But I still don't think that's going to do it. I can work for the weekends or for "my time" in the late hours, and I fear it's still not going to be enough. Maybe "What's enough?" is a question I need to be addressing. "Enough" right now would be nice three hour blocks of writing time at least three to four times a week when I'm not sticking toothpicks in my eyes to try to keep them open. And I don't see it.

So... my open question is: 1) Is this a season in life that will get better as my kids get older and aren't so dependent or 2) do I need to take additional steps to free time and if so what are those steps or 3) is it a lost cause at this point and just keep on doing the best I can (i.e Rich take your pity party somewhere else because we all got enough problems without trying to solve yours)? Also, is anyone else's life like this, or is everyone else pretty much hunky dory with at least enough time to do what you think you need/want to do? I'd really like to know.

I read once, and I'm parapharsing here, where I think it was Martin Luther (but it could have been another Christian giant of the past) once said that he spent the first four hours of the day in prayer because he didn't have enough time not to. Boy, I wish I had that mindset, but I look at that with my work schedule and think: I'd have to wake up at 3 a.m. which would, if I wrote until 2 a.m. mean one hour of sleep a night. Hmm. Not to much different than what I'm doing now, but I still don't think that's going to work. But I've got to find something that does so that I at least think that I'm fulfilling a part of God's purpose for having me here on earth. Call me a fool, jerk, or worse, but being a "decent" (which I don't make that) husband, father, and employee just isn't enough. Anyway, God grant me, a fool, wisdom. I'm asking.

As always, if nothing else, thanks for listening. Oh yeah, and for anyone I hooked with the "Loverboy" title, shame, shame, shame on you.

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The Road More Glorious

Glory Road, a Disney flick, has been a movie I've wanted to see. I've linked movies.com review here. It got Bs from the critics and B+'es from movies.com and fans. Hey, I gave Narnia a B+. That's worth seeing to me. As a Disney flick, I'm not expecting in-depth, just inspirational, and the reviews sound like it hit the target. It didn't make Ken's list of movies he wanted to see, so by that I'll just derive that he doesn't like basketball anymore. That's okay, though.

I'm not going to go on about it. Just wanted to know if anyone else has seen it, and if so, do you give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Also, it's rated PG, so what age kid could go see it? I have a 7-year old who really likes basketball and liked the trailers a lot. So, just asking. Thanks.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Do I Stand Alone on the Garden?

I believe it exists. The Garden of Eden, that is.

I know that there are probably many of you now shaking your heads, thinking, "Poor, naive, brainwashed fool" or some variation.

Perhaps the more sarcastic of you would cajole, "Yes, yes of course it exists. Right down the street from Neverland and across the street from Santa's Workshop. The really green spot near Shangri-la. Now come along with the man in the white coat."

But I'm more difficult to dissuade than that. I'm a combination of one of those fundamentalist types that believes the Bible is largely literal and one of those weirdo types strange enough to be open to fantastic possibilities whether I can explain them or not.

And here in the Realm, Possibility is what we're all about.

But where is it? Well, that's the very reason for this post.

If you'll step with me beyond the folks who see The Bible (or at least this part of it) as a dangerous fairy tale, I'd like to discuss various theories on just that.

Here's what Genesis says:

2:8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

3:23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

4:16 So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Eden is also mentioned in Isaiah and Ezekiel, but the clues as to location are a little harder for me to glean there. Though Ezekiel's description of the King of Tyre as a guardian cherub (angel) in the Garden of Eden may provide some help.

Some folks, believe that it is/was a spiritual place rather than a physical place, but I think based on the descriptions above about rivers and Cain's living near Eden some time after Adam's expulsion from the Garden that the stronger implication is for a physical place.

Others believe that the Garden once existed as a physical place, but no longer does. However, I think often this is simply a happy place for those smug individuals who can't find the Garden on a map and still want it to be real. Noah's flood seems to be a favorite Garden-ender, but I'm not sure why these folks find a worldwide flood significantly more believable than an existent Eden. Certainly, the verses above give no indication of its destruction (either obliteration from the earth or ceasing to be a garden) but on the contrary seem to imply by its need of a guardian an intent on the part of God for its continued existence at least for a time. But to what purpose?

Some of the other theories I have heard include:

I'm not sure that its exact location is actually knowable by man, but that sure doesn't keep me and many others from being curious about it. If you're one of those folks, what are some of the other theories you've heard? And which seems most likely to you?

Don't leave me standing alone.

After all, God did say in Genesis 2:18 while Adam was still in the Garden, "It is not good for the man to be alone."

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Top Ten List? No One Gives a Who!

Yet another Top Ten installment for our blog. This fine list encompasses my favorite literary works of that fine author Theodor Seuss Geisel. In other words, here's my Top Ten list of the best Dr. Seuss books (or Theo LeSieg -- which, of course, is "Geisel" spelled backward -- or even once Rosetta Stone). So hello Seussville, we're talking you today! And Dr. Seuss, we miss you!

Per usual, I have numerous also-rans and close calls, and in my most humble opinion (for I have many opinions and most of them don't touch on humble whatsoever), this Top Ten list is the one where the general public's answers might vary more than any I've done to this point. The first close-but-no-cigar entry is one of my children's favorite, penned under the name Theo LeSieg, Wacky Wednesday. Though I'm not definite, my first thought is that the LeSieg books were one's where Geisel wrote the story and let someone else create the art. Wacky Wednesday as a book does a lot what the similar sounding (in title) song Manic Monday, does for me as a song. "Christopher," better known as Prince, or " " (sorry I don't have the symbol on my keyboard), or even The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, wrote the tune, but The Bangles performed the art. And I liked it a lot. And I could still listen to it over and over. It just was never one of my favorites. I think everyone gets the point. How about the McGrew and the McGurk boys? Either of those guys make the list? Uuuuh, no. Neither If I Ran the Zoo nor If I Ran the Circus ran their way onto the list. One Horton made the list, but all apologies to Horton Hatches the Egg, an early childhood favorite of mine, which just missed out -- and I mean just. A couple three others just nosed out we're a trio of early reader fare: Hop on Pop, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and Fox in Socks. I really could list a ton because so many are so good. Lastly, I'll mention There's a Wocket in My Pocket, because I really thought about that one, too.

Oh, and then there was David Letterman's Top Ten Least Popular Dr. Seuss books spoof, which is sort of dated but still might be funny to some.

But this isn't a list of the least popular - it's a Top Ten list of the best of Dr. Seuss, so that being said... on with our countdown.

10) Bartholomew and the Oobleck - No, this wasn't the first time little Bartholomew Cubbins and King Derwin of Didd graced the pages of a Seuss book. The two first appeared in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, not a bad choice in its own right although falling a little short on my list. The 500 Hats was written in 1938 before WW II, while Oobleck was penned eleven years afterward, four years after the war. The image of King Derwin has been influenced by war events to some extent, and this time the headstrong king isn't happy with what the world has to offer (from the sky) so he wants something uniquely his own. The importance of owning up to one's mistakes and learning to say the two words, "I'm sorry," are the moral lesson here, one's we all could use from time to time. Oobleck brings to mind the story of King Midas as well, as those lucky or powerful enough to get a wish might need to be careful what they wish for. Indispensable lessons all around, but written in Dr. Seuss' clever way where the morals are so subtlety weaved in, you nearly miss them for the excellent story.

9) The Sneetches (and other stories) - You gotcher star-bellied Sneetches and your plain-bellied Sneetches, and obviously, we'd all like to be star-bellied, right? This time, the lesson's on prejudice, and covetousness as well. Sylvester McMonkey McBean is the swindler who teaches the lesson, and he takes every penny the Sneetches have - but in the end, the cost was just enough, because the Sneetches finally got it. Oh that we all get that lesson. This story is enhanced on the list due to two other companions along with it. The Zax, a story on the pitfalls of stubbornness, and "What Was I Scared Of?" really add to the Sneetch story, rocketing this past other pretenders right into the Top Ten.

8) Oh the Places You Will Go - This story, close if not the longest of the Seuss stories on this list, has become many a parent's graduation present to their sons and daughters. However, Oh the Places You Will Go is a perfect send-off story for anyone making a change in life, especially kids. The book touches on the dreams we have but balances all the things we may do with times things don't quite go our way... but we keep going. We persevere. And things get better all over again. But not everything. And on and on. But it's a wonderful story and easily worthy of Dr. Seuss' ten best.

7) Yertle the Turtle (and other stories) - Like The Sneetches, Yertle's another tale benefited by a couple of tag-along stories. While Gertrude McFuzz and The Big Brag don't measure up to the extras on The Sneetches, the Yertle story more than measures up and accounts for the difference as well. Again, Seuss writes this story much affected by World War II, and it serves as a warning against dictators. King Yertle wants to ascend higher and higher at the expense and pain, and literally on the backs, of all his turtle subjects. Other morals found are those against uncompromising ambition and pride, and when I read about Yertle seeing the moon and sun being higher than he and wanting to rule those as well, it reminds me of Lucifer's fall. But Seuss' genius is that even when he hits you hard over the head with a moral or two, somehow you still don't feel it. You just think, "Wow, Yertle the Turtle's a great story!" And it is.

6) And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street - Kids love imagination. Adults love hyperbole. Adding that little (or lot in the case of Mulberry) makes the story more exciting for the listener and for the teller. Of course, we shouldn't lie or even stretch the truth (although exceptions can be made I suppose {cough, cough, Rahab, cough, cough}), but at the same time, I hate it when anyone stifles imagination, whether it's their own or someone else (i.e. their children's). Mulberry Street is a tribute to the imaginative. That's probably why it rings so well with me. Probably, a lot of folks wouldn't include this little gem on their own Top Ten list, but there's no way I could keep it off -- or even leave it at the bottom. Number Six seems about right, because I don't think it's as good as...

5) The Lorax - Ah, my pal the Lorax. An environmental story. The evil ecological strip-mining entrepreneur, Once-ler, now repentant, tells of how he cut down every Truffula tree, biggering his Thneed business while smogging the place up, polluting the water, and endangering the habitat for all creatures. Unsuccesfully, the Lorax spoke for the creatures, trees, and fishies, trying to get Once-ler to back off. A serious charge is leveled here at unbridled capitalism, when it loses sight of everything but the almighty dollar. But it's one to which we should pay attention. What looks worse than strip-mined mountains? In Florida, we've about lost the Everglades. I went to San Diego not long ago, and the place was beautiful, save a layer of smog that hovers over the city. And we've found out many times what happens when our waters are polluted. While I'm a capitalist at heart and believe in the free market, there are certainly environmental limits that should be imposed. The Lorax spoke for those but he didn't have the teeth. God commissioned man with taking care of the earth. Hopefully, we can do the job where the Lorax failed. We've certainly done the other (the Once-ler). Good, thought-provoking story.

4) Horton Hears a Who! - This is the first of two Who-books that make the list, and we're already to the Top 4. Apparently, a movie is coming in 2008 on this book. We'll have to see about that. Meanwhile, what a great tale of perseverance Horton is, withstanding all kinds of derision for something he believes in. Please let that be a lesson to all of us. The tension build-up in this story is excellent, and by the end when Horton is about to be done in for his cause, we all want to shout along with the Whos to make as much noise as we can so they can be heard. Horton may well be the most persevering character in kid's literature, what with his sitting in for a bird mother in Horton Hatches the Egg and then with this one. There aren't many Dr. Seuss books more beloved than this one. But there are three.

3) The Cat in the Hat - Recently, I wrote a post that probably passed everyone by on best first lines in a book. How's this for a starter: "The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house on that cold, cold wet day." Almost everyone knows it. What a story. What a character! The Cat in the Hat is the logo for everything Seussian. We got Up, Up With the (know-it-all) Fish. We got Thing 1 and Thing 2. We got Sally and I. We got Mom coming home to the world's biggest mess. And we got the Cat. How many books can you say are just total fun to read all the way through? Well, here's one. Really, it's amazing that Dr. Seuss could better this classic. Seriously amazing. He did, though.

2) How the Grinch Stole Christmas - How can you beat the Grinch? I mean, the fella already tops another of my Top Ten lists, right here. The Whos are back in action, this time with a face - the precious Cindy Lou Who, the most darling Who of them all. And let's not forget Max. But the star of our book is the Grinch himself. While the Cat in the Hat is Dr. Seuss' books logo, "Grinch" has pervaded into the American vocabulary, having the same meaning as "Scrooge." The 1966 classic cartoon special does nothing to harm the book, whereas the more recent The Cat in the Hat movie isn't as fan-friendly. Maybe it's the Christmas theme or the repentant heart of the Grinch that moves it to Number 2, but really, I just think it's the better book. In fact, there's only one Dr. Seuss book I think is better - and isn't it crazy to think one could be? Nonetheless...

1) Green Eggs and Ham - The most beloved of all the Dr. Seuss books by children of all ages, from 0 to 119. That Sam-I-Am. There aren't enough superlatives with which to laud the book. Delightful. Timeless. Awesome. And amazingly, it's all based on a "try it you'll like it" theme. The simplicity is remarkable, but the story is fascinating, so much so that you'll find yourself quoting it at odd times in your life -- oops, sorry, maybe that's just me. However, if you took all the kids stories in the last 100 years and could count up which one's been read the most (both by more people and by the same person over and over), my bet would be on Green Eggs and Ham. It's that good. And to say it's the best Dr. Seuss book is praise enough in itself. Pick it up, read it again. And always have it in your home. It's the best.
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Now, then. All of you guys who are disappointed that McElligot's Pool and Happy Birthday To You and Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! can start writing in. I've been called out before on these lists, so you're free to do it again. If you give a "Who."

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