Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Four Glorious Minutes

Did you guys hear about this story? Jason McElwain, a 17-year old, 5' 6" HS senior - and he's autistic - who had been a manager for the Greece Athena High School basketball team was allowed by his coach to dress out for his last regular season game. Usually, he sits on the bench in a white shirt and black tie and keeps the stats, runs the clock, and hands out water bottles.

With his team way ahead, Greece Athena Coach Jim Johnson put him in for the final four minutes of the game. Evidently, word had leaked in the school that McElwain would be in uniform, because the crowd had come prepared with "J-MAC" signs and banners. Well, when he got in the game, the home folks went nuts. Jason proceeded to throw up shot number one the first time he touched the ball. Good for him. Unfortunately, it sailed completely off course and had Coach Johnson wondering. A second shot, a gimme lay-up, he missed as well.

Then, magic happened. The next time down the floor, his team fed him again. In one motion he caught and launched. The ball flew up, arced, and drew nothing but the bottom of the net for his first three-pointer ever in a real, high school game. Pandemonium in the crowd! After that, well, in his words:

“As soon as the first shot went in that’s when I started to get going.”

The kid knocked down another three and then another the next two trips up court. He would have made a fourth in a row, but his foot was on the line, so he settled for a two. And the roaring, the screaming, the cheering, the high-fives... all out in force.

All in all, he drained 6 of 10 treys and then had the one two for the most heart-warming "20" I've ever heard of.

How awesome is a story like this? It's so much better than Rudy. And, according to this, the Hollywood buzzards are already circling, waiting to cash in. So what? Let them. This story is great. I have a nephew, my sister's 3-year old son, who's autistic -- well, PDD-NOS, which for a layman like me means autistic. To imagine him one day going out and putting up 20 on some unfortunate team (and while my heart goes out to them, too, this story is all about Jason McElwain), well, right now, it's pretty much unfathomable. How much a kid has to overcome... I'm just happy he had a huge day in the sun. Especially for his parents. They deserve it as much as he does -- close, anyway.

But here's a news story where everything shines, for once. Where everyone got it right. You just don't see that very often, so I'm calling it out. Kudos to Coach Johnson for getting Jason in the game. Kudos to his teammates for getting him the ball and cheering for him. Kudos to the crowd for going wild and then mobbing the court, holding Jason up in triumph after the game. Kudos to Jason's parents for having the courage to let their son try to succeed. But most of all, kudos to Jason McElwain for bearing the load for so long and then, once he got his chance, making greatness happen.

Next year, Jason's enrolling into Monroe Community College, where he'll pursue a business management degree. Go Jason! But are his hoop dreams done?

“I’ll go on to college and I’ll try to hoop there,” he said. “I just love it, it’s one of the greatest sports in the world.”

Well said, Jason, well said. Go with God and GO!!!

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Blimey, They’ve Ripped-off Me Reality

Reality TV has been going strong now for a number of years. And though many readers are too sophisticated for this “mindless voyeurism”, or at least would like everyone to think them too sophisticated, I’ll freely admit that I’ve been sucked in on occasion. The recently-completed The Bachelor:Paris and Dancing with the Stars are examples.

I’m sure many columns, articles, and clinical studies have been done to explain the phenomenon and the psychology behind it. Wikipedia (a site Rich loves to cite) even has a pretty detailed encyclopedic entry on the genre’s history, rightfully acknowledging the debt that reality TV owes to Allen Funt and his creation Candid Camera.

But what has recently struck me is how little creative credit American producers can claim despite the incredible amount of air time that reality shows in this country demand. And how utterly dependent this cultural shift has been on Britain in particular.

While this post focuses on the example of reality TV, I fear that this may also be indicative of a trend in mainstream literature, music, and other artistic outlets. And I'm not talking about quality (or perceived quality), just originality. Where’s the American ingenuity? Have we become so bottom-line conscious and sure-thing oriented that there is no longer any room for tasteful, creative risk taking? Or have we always been this way, and I’ve only just figured it out? Anyway, back to the reality show example.

An article on realitytvworld.com describes our copy-cat behavior thusly:

“The reality TV invasion from Europe continues unabated. CBS's Survivor is adapted from the Swedish show Expedition: Robinson; Fox's American Idol is a clone of the British smash Pop Idol (complete with judge Simon Cowell); CBS's Big Brother comes from the Netherlands by way of Britain ... even Fox's Paradise Hotel comes from Britain. Now The Guardian reports that ABC is ready to go forward with the smash hit British show Wife Swap, which we reported in January was in the casting process.”

Noted culture watchtower, tvbarn.com also observes:

“BBC America, which launched in 1998, has become known for airing a seemingly endless string of popular British reality shows. Changing Rooms inspired American knockoffs such as Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Other series like What Not to Wear and gardening show Ground Force have been copied by American reality producers as well.”

The Dancing with the Stars show which I mentioned above also traces its roots to the British-born Strictly Come Dancing, even importing two of its judges from the English show.

Other shows like SuperNanny and Whose Line is it Anyway? also come quickly to mind.

And unfortunately, after you’ve seen the British originals, the American versions reek even more of stilted, staged rip-off rather than insight into reality of any kind. At tv.zap2it.com, producer Stephen Lambert describes his take on this observation:

“"A lot of British reality programming comes out of a documentary tradition," he says, "whereas a lot of American reality television comes out of a game-show tradition. I used to work for the BBC, and I used to make documentaries for 16 years. The big development for us was coming up with what we called 'formatted documentaries,' which is using the same skills as documentaries, but creating a situation which obviously wouldn't exist if you hadn't created it.

"Having created it, you very much let it run its own course. It's not overly produced. There's a great emphasis on our shows of capturing spontaneity and authenticity, whereas I think a lot of American reality shows are much more about producing each of the moments to such an extent that people often don't seem very authentic or spontaneous."”

Of course maybe I should just shut up, subscribe to BBC America, and start pitching NFL Footballers Wives to network execs over here.

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Now Here's Something You Don't Hear Everyday

Leif Rigney, a fellow at the Boars Head Tavern, is trying an experiment, and he speaks to it at his blog. In effect, he's eschewing the word "Christian" to describe himself. None of his Christ-following beliefs have changed. He's not renouncing the faith in any way. Only the label "Christian" to describe himself.

Before anyone comments off the cuff, please read his reasoning behind it -- I'm linking it again here and you may want to scan the bar script at the BHT to hear a little more. [Note: the BHT is a running conversation just like a bar, and if you want to go chronologically, you'll need to read from the bottom up - and there are a multitude of conversations going on - you'll just have to find this one. If it's too much for ya, just skip this post.] Personally, I think it's an interesting experiment and, truth to tell, a bold one. I'd wager most Christians walking the streets, at least here in Huntsville, AL, have no idea where the term came from and how it came about.

Leif has quite a few good points, and I'm going to follow how his experiment goes. Michael Spencer, the imonk, has a constructive critique of the experiment called "What's in a Name" at his web site, and the comments are really good, too.

I guess the key point Michael made that I'd end up questioning in the whole experiment, and Phillip Winn hits on it in the comments section of "What's in a Name?": What’s the difference between what you are and a Christian? I think Leif is going to try to answer this one as he goes.

It's sad that so much baggage comes along with the term, and the commenters are likely correct that any alternative term (and Leif is not proposing an alternative term, it should be noted - but I'm fairly certain he will labeled by others sooner or later. of course, he can choose to eschew those as well) will be inundated with negative connotations before long, too.

So will people see him differently as an unlabeled person that carries Christ on his way? Will they call him or file him as a Christian despite his own distaste for the label? Or will they come up with another label for him? Time will tell, and I'm interested to hear.

A cautionary note - I realize some people reading this may have hardline opinions one way or another. I'll just say that I'm not going to let through comments like, "This is stupid" or anything questioning Leif's, uh, well, his "Christianity" (read: salvation). Something like that (more a misunderstanding, I think) happened at Thinklings, and Bill deleted a post on the subject. I don't want that to happen here. We don't have near the traffic as Thinklings, but I never know what someone might say. Bottom line: if I take the time to write a post, I'd like to keep it up, so I'm going to make sure it stays civil. Probably nothing to worry about here, but I just thought I'd note. Of course, if this is like a lot of our posts, it may not get a comment anyway, so maybe I've nothing to worry about.

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Facsimile SQOTW

I'm jealous of my brother because he's going to see Bill Mallonee at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia tonight at 8 p.m. All of which has not much to do with this week's song quote, almost surely a number Bill will not play tonight. Here's the chorus:

'cause love is just a plea
deepest point of need
we take a reasonable facsimile
most of the time

and here's a part of the verse that's key:

faith pins her corsage
on easter morning's new Mercy
we know the terrain well
but You kicked down the gates of hell
prison cell's opened
threw away the key

-- Facsimile, Vigilantes of Love from the Slow Dark Train CD

The chorus in this song, and the song itself, laments all the substitutes we make and accept for what is true love. All those different "things" we'll try so that we can fill that gaping hole inside ourselves that needs to be quenched to make life worth the living. Really, we'll use anything as a love facsimile. Which is a shame, because at our "deepest point of need" love is the only thing that will work.

A husband or wife doesn't feel enough love at home, they seek it from someone outside. Kids leave their parent's home for college or a new home of their own, feel lonely, and shack up with some other lonely soul. A child lives in a loveless household and turns to his friends or gangs or drugs or video games or music or anything else that can keep his or her mind from missing what he or she needs most. People seek to replace it with recognition, achievement, and power. Or pornography. Or a bar and a whiskey bottle. We'll go to movies to try and see it or something like it. Listen to songs to hear of it or something like it. Read books to find it or something like it. Heck, a lot of American culture is centered around the idol we think it is.

Or it doesn't have to be bad. It can be work. Studies. Athletics. Art. Travel. Anything that we do where we look for something that might replace that longing in our heart with something else grand. Unfortunately, everything else fails. It all "slips right through our hands." Human beings need love. It's that simple. We were created with that need. We'll take all kinds of other things to try to replace it, to fulfill ourselves, but nothing changes the need.

Even in all the rottenness of our lives, believers have hope. We've glimpsed love, and more than that, we're commanded to do it. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. God tells us under no uncertain terms, give others what they need most. How else are they going to see God in this world? As followers of Christ and the People of God, we do pin our hope to Easter morning and to everything that means. We go on knowing Christ triumphed and God loves us.

But there's a world that needs that love. And instead of us accepting all the facsimiles, which we as Christians do much of the time, we really need to concentrate... in our homes, in our churches, in our careers/jobs, in our leisure, in all of our TIME... to love - God and others. It's what we need, and just as importantly, it's what they need.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make myself listen to Harry Chapin's Cat's in the Cradle about ten times because last night my son asked me the same question about four times, and I put him off without ever answering it. Afterwards, I kissed him goodnight and told him I loved him. But I didn't love him, then, did I?

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Right, Rhaggy!

As I was driving my kid to school this morning and getting frustrated with traffic -- although, admittedly, here in Huntsville, if you're upset with traffic, it'd probably be to your benefit for God to zap you to a place like NYC, LA, ATL, Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Dallas, or any other metropolis with REAL traffic problems so you can spend a good while in repentance for for thoughtless, ridiculous folly -- and worrying about getting to work on time, I belted out, "Heaven's to Mergatroid!" That's an old Snagglepuss interjection for those of you too young, too old, too forgetful, or too mature to have remembered. I've got another Snaggely treasure that I use frequently as well: "Exit - Stage Left!"

Hearing myself say it, well, it got me to thinking just how many cartoon exclamations or phrases have entered my vernacular on a semi-regular basis. The title of this post, "Jenkies!", and "Zoiks!" are expressions I use all the time that come from the cartoon classic Scooby Doo! Where Are You?

I think Thinklings had a similar post a while back on phrases from movies or TV that have become part of people's family dialogue. I thought it might be alright to renew that issue here in The Realm to see how much Cartoon Culture and Pop Culture is leaking into our family or our own vocabularies.

I'm sure if I examined the issue closely, or more appropos if others examined me closely, I or they might say I've let culture slip into my life too much as a Christian. It may be so. But I'm just looking at it in fun right now. Judge me later.

Anyway, here are some other words and phrases that I use a lot in my life as I know it:

"Precisely, Robin." and "Right, chum." -- from the old Superfriends shows. Used usually with my kids for fun. And in return I get answers like, "Don't call me chum!"

Also from the 60s Batman movie: "Quick, Robin, to the Batmobile!" when we're heading to the car.

"Yea-a-a, Boo-Boo!" -- from Yogi Bear cartoons to answer in the affirmative, especially with my kids.

"Shazam!" -- from the Shazam/Isis Power Hour, used in lieu of "Aha!" or "Cool!" at times.

I used to use, "You're a meathead, dead from the neck up," with old, familiar friends, from All in the Family.

And I'll still use: "What's happening, Rog?" from What's Happening? and "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" from Different Strokes, but I use those with co-workers more than at home.

I've got more, but what about you? Anyone else have cartoon or movie/TV sayings that have infiltrated their lives and that they use every so often? Let's hear 'em!

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Go Get 'Em Champ!

Guess who's back in the news? Lake Champlain's "Champ" has been "caught" on digital camera and tape by two respectable fishermen, meaning they aren't just crackpots looking for their 15 minutes of fame (examples of such crackpots would be Ken and me continuing this blog). However, their tape, although apparently authentic as verified by the FBI, doesn't show near as much as their story tells. ABC News has a write-up and a taped report on the story, and you can get to it here.

According to those whacky scientists that we here in The Realm just love to pieces:

Crypto-zoologists think the creature may be a plesiosaur, a large underwater reptile not seen since prehistoric times.

What to make of Champ? Unsolved Mysteries has reported on it. Hundreds of sightings have been documented. Could all these people be mistaken? Of course they could. But are they? Here are some other sites that care:

The Shadowlands

Genesis Park



On the other hand, there is the Skeptical Inquirer's debunking.

We'll keep up with the Champ story and let you know if there are further developments. Why? Because Ken truly does care about this kind of stuff, and when I post on it, well, it always makes him feel proud. And I do what I can to make others feel good.

Oh, and please let us know about any vacations you've had to Lake Champlain and your own respective Champ sightings.

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Coach Venner of the California Atoms, RIP

Little late on this one, so most of you guys probably know - Don Knotts passed away at age 81 February 24, 2006 from pulmonary and respiratory complications. Don Knotts was one of the few actors that could make me smile or sometimes laugh just by looking at him. The guy had more hilarious facial and body expressions than anyone I can recall, including the likes of Tim Conway and Jim Carrey. Probably most famous for his role as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, Knotts has a plethora of TV and movie roles to his credit. The Global Asylum's got a shrine to Don Knotts. Here's his filmography and the like.

A lot of sub-par movies were made funny just by having Don Knotts in them. Walt Disney's Gus was one such movie, and he and Tim Conway cracked me up in The Private Eyes, which was another. Ironically, the bug-eyed comic started off as a regular in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Then, I know a lot of people hated Three's Company, but I enjoyed him as Ralph Furley on that show. And sure, he was just as liable to show up on a Love Boat or Fantasy Island episode as he was any kind of mega-movie, but Fife has to bow to no one. I, for one, will miss him.

Anyone have any favorite Don Knotts memories?

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Portrait of Grandy

Come this July, my side of the family -- parents, brother, sister, sister's family, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and family friends -- are returning to the Smoky Mountains cabins near Dillard, NC for a reunion. The reason I mention this is that the last time our family had such a get-together, the hernia that my grandfather had lived with for the majority of his life ruptured. The recommended surgery he required, one that he at first begged not to have, and eventually underwent basically did in his ninety-plus year old body, and he died shortly thereafter. At least he made it back to the hospital in Lakeland, FL where he had lived for nearly thirty years. I flew in and sat with him in the hospital days before he finally passed, taking turns with my aunt, cousin, friends, and mom. Every once in a while, I fed him ice chips... a small price for everything he bestowed to me.

Young Threlkeld -- better known as Grandy to me, all of his grandchildren, and all of his "adopted" grandchildren -- had been born in Clayton, GA, and I know very little about his childhood and growing up except that he played high school basketball in a time "when the referees called traveling violations, not like nowadays when these boys take ten steps and you never hear a whistle." He couldn't stand the way the sport had changed. Of course, his lifetime saw a lot of change. But before I get off too far, I do know that he loved his roots. Whenever we accompanied him and Grandma on visits back to Clayton, even with his bloated hernia, he walked with a spring in his step and a spark of life he didn't often show. He'd meet people he hadn't seen for fifty or sixty years and start conversing with them as if they had seen each other every day. He always found people he knew, and he always seemed to like them. The reverse was true as well.

The Great Depression had been hard on him and his family. Grandy loved FDR and what the government did to bring people out of the Depression. He was a lifelong, "yellow-dog" Democrat - well, almost "yellow-dog" but I'll get to that. A professional barber from start to finish, Grandy never made it too much above poor, but years after retiring the man still cut hair, most of it for free. He had a wife, Janie, for nearly seventy years and two daughters, Sandra and Patsy (the first of whom is my mom) that he never stopped loving. By all accounts, he was a terrific and beloved father.

But I only knew him as a grandfather.

As with any person, the dynamics of life paint a blurred vision, some of it dark, some of it light, and most of it somewhere in-between. By that, I mean, he had both virtue and faults mixed in with the journey of life he took. Hitting the faults first, because the more time passes the less these mean to me, for one thing, Grandy didn't believe in the Holocaust. You could show him history books, have him listen to news shows, heck you could have brought people that had been there with numbers on their arms and he would have told you plain as day that it never happened. It just never happened. Also, as a barber, Grandy had his share of dirty jokes, but those for me, especially as I sat on his barber stool time after time and we both got older and older, became more endearing about him than anything else. The one issue I always had a problem with was his racism. Coming from a poor background and then following that up as a poor barber, Grandy had been raised in a racist environment and he never departed from that way of thinking, which was: white folks are better than black folks, period. It always drove me crazy hearing this nice, loving man throw out the "n-word" time and again, and I heard it mostly when he cut my hair.

One of the proudest moments of Grandy's life was in direct relation to his racism. While on the stool, if I heard this story once, I heard it at least a dozen times as my locks were shorned: When he was younger, Grandy worked as a barber at a Florida navy base outside Melbourne. For a long time, whites and blacks were required to have separate facilities for their crew cuts. Well, de-segregation occurred on base as it did in most places. It so happened that a black ensign (or whatever the naval term for the men going into basic - equivalent of an army private, I believe) came in to have his hair cut by Grandy. My grandfather refused. The navy man said, "You have to," to which my grandfather said, "Let's take it up with the skipper." (I know, I know, shades of Gilligan. Right, little buddy?) Ended up, the skipper came down on Grandy's side, and he never cut a black man's hair as long as he worked on that base. He loved that story.

Mostly, though, Grandy's racism usually seemed more theoretical than practical, and especially as he got older. He had African-American neighbors with whom he was on very friendly terms, and any time they were in need, he'd provide. When I asked him about these acts, he usually smiled and would reply, "Well, he's pretty nice for a 'n-word'."

In the end, any of his misbegotten beliefs that came along with who my grandfather was paled to me. Because no one I've seen loved like he and Grandma did. And I loved him, fiercely.

Grandma and Grandy had always been great to me and my siblings. At some point in high school, however, I stopped seeing them as just my grandparents, and I started getting to know them and love them. The fact was, they had always done that for me, and now it was time to treat them accordingly. The time spent doing this, mainly in my college years, ended up with me... well, falling in love with my grandparents. I'd grocery shop with them. We'd watch The Morton Downey, Jr. Show (they called him "The Mouth") together late at night. I'd spend time talking to them about their lives, then and now. And I'd wonder why I took them for granted for so long. Any break I had in college, instead of heading to where my parents were -- and since my grades were heading that way, it was usually a good place to stay away from -- I'd drive to my grandparents, including one entire summer break. They felt like home, and they treated me like a king. What more could a selfish teenage/twenty-something boy want?

Like me, Grandy was phlegmatic, and Grandma basically ran him and his household. She'd say, "Do it," and Grandy labored, and with his hernia most work was a true labor for him, to get it done. He'd get frustrated every once in a while and say, "Now, Janie, I'm doing what you told me to do?" when she'd nag him once too often. But for the most part he just took everything she dished out (and don't get me wrong, she wasn't malicious at all, just a little demanding). And through it all, he loved the heck out of her. Not in words that I heard often. Just in every action he undertook. Ephesians talks about men loving their wives like Christ loved the Church and sacrificed Himself for Her. I've never seen a better example than in my grandfather's servanthood to his wife. He amazed me. Even when Grandma had lost most of her mind from the dementia caused by repeated TIAs, his concern was ever for her welfare. In fact, I'm convinced he held on as long as he did simply because he was afraid for what might happen to Grandma if he died (i.e. nursing home, etc. - things she'd never want), plus he knew how reliant she was on him. He whispered words to this effect to my mom and her sister just before he died.

So, yes, I'll remember him as a servant of my grandmother. Also, I'll remember him, and Grandma, as servants for me. Anytime they heard I was coming, they got so excited. They pulled out all the stops to fix all my favorites. Fried chicken, barbeque, ambrosia and peeled and cut oranges, gizzards and noodles, watermelon, greens, three-layered yellow cake with chocolate frosting, three-layered red velvet cake, lemon meringue pie, and key lime pies. Their closets were a delight of Little Debbie and Hostess cakes, candy, chips, pickles, just so many things I could just open and say YES to.

I can still see Grandy going out to the garage to peel and cut up those oranges in a three gallon bowl. I see him over the stove adding batter to the fried chicken or making his famous barbeque and its sauce. I can still hear his knock on my door awaking me so I could make it to the summer job I had on time- he cared soooooo much more than I did. I can still feel him cutting my hair and telling me the old joke where the guy asks God to save him from the flood, and the guy dies after a helicopter, raft and boat come to him but the guy says he's waiting on God to save him. I can also hear him telling me, "Rich, I sure do love ya son."

If I ever have one half of the love of my grandfather for my wife, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, and even "enemies," then I'll have lived as successfully as a person can in this fallen world. My times with Grandma and Grandy were probably as close to Heaven as I'll ever know on this earth, because I felt nothing but love there. And I loved in turn.

I realize this sounds more like an essay than a piece of art, but portraits often aren't the best art has to offer. Still, it's written in fondness and in love for someone I'll never forget. Rest with Jesus, Young Threlkeld. Rest well, my Grandy.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

"What is that? A Pez dispenser?"

I love PEZ, and I don’t care who knows it. I have about 20 dispensers staring back at me from a shelf in my study as I type this now. My favorites are the cartoon and superhero ones.

But I wonder why it is that they’re so darned irresistible. I’ve never offered someone a PEZ and been refused. Gum? No, thanks. Lifesaver? Nah, I’m good. PEZ? Don’t mind if I do.

I’m not sure whether it’s the candy, the dispenser, or the motion of tilting the character’s head back and then swooping in like Dracula to remove the precious sustenance. (Ed Note: For sanitary reasons, please do not combine the Dracula move with the acceptance of PEZ from a friend, neighbor, or kind stranger.)

Also, I’ve not proven it yet, but I’m pretty confident that a combination of PEZ obsession and the experimental 70’s were the inspiration for the Pac-Man video game. However, this nugget is missing from PEZ Collector’s News’ historical research. Their reconstruction of the history of these bricks of confectionery goodness reads thusly:

“It all started in 1927 in Austria when Edward Haas came up with this new peppermint candy. An adult breath mint that he decided to market as an alternative for smoking. The word PEZ comes from the German word for peppermint (pfefferminz). They took the first, middle and last letter and came up with the word PEZ. Short and easy to understand.

PEZ used to be carried around in pocket tins. Then in 1948 they came out with the "easy, hygenic dispenser" that we all know now to be a regular. In 1952 PEZ wanted to expand their sales so they set their sights on the U.S.A., to make their product more appealing to Americans. They placed heads on the dispensers and marketed it for children.

It is unknown which dispenser was first but it was either the Full Body Robot or Full Body Santa. In 1973 PEZ built their U.S. plant that is located in Orange, Ct. In 1983, Mr. Scott McWhinnie became "PEZident" of PEZ here in the U.S. In 1990 the size of the plant was doubled. It operates 24 hours a day. That's right, 24 hours making PEZ candy. In 1987 feet were added to the base of the dispenser. To date PEZ has made about 300 different dispensers.”
As I’ve toddled around the web, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who loves PEZ. In fact, compared to some of these good folks, I’m not sure that they’d categorize my feelings as love at all. Maybe more of a kinda like.

All the same, at this time, I’d like to nominate PEZ as the official candy of The Realm of Possibility.

And if you guys feel as strongly as I do, cast your vote, check out these sites, and have some Tweety Bird PEZ on me.

Official Home of PEZ

Collecting PEZ.com

PEZ Central

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Rank Jerry or No Soup for You!

TV.com has a top episodes of Seinfeld list with which I have a problem. Well, my life problems continue pouring out over this blog, I realize, but this one's serious. Of their Top 10, only 3 or 4 are really top tenners in my book.

So, let me ask regents of The Realm to rank their own Top Ten Seinfeld episodes (which should take a lot less time than me compiling yet another lousy Top Ten list). To get more info on each one: tv.com spells it out for you in their Episode List, all nine years and the pilot. Here are mine, without my usual Top Ten rhetoric underlying why I feel so:

10) The Rye
9) The Fusilli Jerry
8) The Parking Garage
7) The Chinese Restaurant
6) The Junior Mint
5) The Sponge
4) The Puffy Shirt
3) The Marine Bilogist
2) The Soup Nazi
1) The Contest

Trying to really put these in order is tough (but fun), so if you'd rather just throw out the ten you remember most fondly, that's fine too. There are so many great ones, it's hard to narrow it down. And there are so many more Seinfeld sayings and Seinfeld moments that could make this post go on for close to ever. I'll stop here, but you can continue it on.

Note: Also worth noting is that the majority of people think that Seinfeld never jumped the shark.

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Something or Nothing # 3

(Warning: This isn't a typical post or a typical Something or Nothing. It's long. Very long. So if you're short on time, either come back later or dismiss this "post" like the first boy or girl you dumped for being a total jerk. It's three chapters -- rough draft version stuff -- of a YA (Young Adult) story I started (and stopped) three years or so ago. It's working title was Blindsided. The reason I stopped is because I was told, and it became sort of apparent to me, that it was too autobiographical for a fictional work, and some of the things that "really happened" aren't believeable in a work of fiction. Paradox, huh? Well, here's three chapters -- remember it was a first draft and it hadn't even really hit the Story part of Pearce & Story, so remember that as you read with a critical eye (that'll be my only disclaimer this time) -- of the eight I had written, and you can decide for yourself whether it's something I should some day finish or not. I realize maybe three chapters is a hard number to judge by, but do your best. Acquisition Editors do it by far less most of the time. Oh yeah, and the storyline basically is boy likes girl, gets together with girl of dreams, but because of Dad's job change to different state (with no warning and only a month lead time), rug is pulled out from his wonder-life and boy must move from his love - however, boy stays until basketball season is done, of course, as team is playing for State. A HUGE THANK YOU to anyone who takes the time to read this!!! You are loved! So with no further ado, here are the first three chapters of Blindsided, and you can tell me if the story is "Something" or "Nothing".)


The truth of the matter boiled down to this: I had found the one. Seen her, anyway. Or at least glimpsed her. For a year and a half, I had never really noticed (don’t ask me how), but in the last month, scales had dropped from my eyes. And there she was, in every single daydream… the night ones too. At first, I thought the feelings would pass, but they kept growing stronger the more I saw her. In the halls. Gym class. On her way to volleyball after school. It didn’t matter that we had never spoken actual words to each other. Our eyes had met twice now, and I knew…

…which provided most of the reason for why I had driven my current girlfriend, Lindsey, here to Palmer Park, where we sat with our legs dangling over a red rock cliff side. The ride had been quiet, and for nearly half an hour, we simply watched the day end. At last, I felt her gaze, but when her hand slid over to mine, I pulled away.

“Okay, what’s wrong?”

Long, looooooong seconds passed.

Although I expected the question, the reality of it plowed into me like a locomotive. My pat answer escaped into the breeze that blew back Lindsey’s long, blonde hair. Her twinkling eyes caught me off-guard, and I stuttered, knowing two things. One, the smile was about to leave those baby blues, and two, she had no idea what was coming. That made what I was about to say much harder.

“Lindsey,” I started and paused, focusing on the orange-red sunset blazing over Pikes Peak, “I’m not quite sure how to say this.”

Concern touched her features, and she again reached for me. When I withdrew this time, she knew something was up. “Bryan? What is it?”

“I can’t go on like this.”

“Like what?”

Words failed me. Breaking up hurt almost as much as being on the receiving end. Finally, I blurted out, “I need space!” which was partly true. Lindsey had been my first serious girlfriend, the first girl I ever kissed. At first, the every moment of the day togetherness intensified what we had thought was “falling in love.” But as the newness wore off, the other people and parts of my life called me back. Not so for Lindsey, who demanded my attention all of our free time. And when that’s all there was, the whole relationship thing had gradually lost its luster.

“Space?” Lindsey laughed, which left me wondering. “Is that all this is about?” This time she managed to grab my hand and nestled close to me. “Let’s go back home, then. We can find some space together downstairs in the basement.” She smiled again with her cheerleading good looks.

“No,” I said, scooting a little away, “I’m serious. What I mean is that we need some space from each other.”

Her lips formed into a mock pout. “Fine. What is it that you want? Just tell me, and I’ll make it happen.”

A month ago, her answer would have been a godsend. Now though, I just felt numb. Bowing my head, I forced out, “I want it over.” The sentence tasted bitter coming out, and Lindsey’s smile vanished as she released my hand.

“What?” was all she could get out before tears welled in her eyes and began raining down her cheeks.

Struggling, I faced her. “Lindsey, you are so great. You’re fun. You’re amazing in every way. But I don’t feel anything anymore. Nothing.”

This time, she turned away until she stopped crying. Wiping her cheeks, she looked up at me. “I think… I think… Why don’t we give it three days? Bryan, this is probably just a phase. We go together, you and me. You can’t really want less of me in your life. We are each other’s lives! We’ve been going out over a half a year. Let’s not throw it away without giving us a chance. I love you, and you love me; you know that. We’d die without each other.”

I searched myself, trying to think through our past and all the great times. Even through Lindsey’s typical smothering way, some of what she said made sense. Still, I could feel nothing, so I shook my head.

Again, she asked, “Three days?” My minute of silence must have supplied her answer, because I heard, “Just take me home,” before the crying started again.
Mrs. Murray met us, as she swept her porch, waving excitedly with a grin that swallowed her head. I loved Lindsey’s mom and knew her for the sharing and caring person she was, but she really missed the signs on this one. Lindsey opened the car door, slammed it, and wordlessly slipped past her mother into the open front door of the house, which slammed as well. When Mrs. Murray signaled for me to roll down my window, I thought about just driving off, but I owed her more than that. I leaned over and let down the window on the passenger side as she hurried down the porch steps to my car.

“Bryan, I fixed fried chicken, your favorite.” Her head, with its bun-piled hair, poked in through the open window, and her smile grew even larger, if that were possible.

“Mrs. Murray…”

“And I bought a watermelon, just for you. I know how you love them.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Murray, not tonight.”

“Oh come on, Bryan. I even baked a cherry cobbler. Mr. Murray’s in there waiting on us to eat.”

Behind her, I saw Lindsey’s father appear in the doorway. “Lillian,” he called. From his expression, I could tell he had seen the state of his daughter. “Lillian,” he restated, stronger.

“I really need to go, Mrs. Murray. Really.”

Mrs. Murray remained oblivious. “No, no. You just come in and call your parents. I’m sure they won’t mind.” She stood up and gestured to her door.

“I’m sorry. I am.” I accelerated the car around the semi-circle drive. As I pulled out into the street, I saw Mrs. Murray, dress hiked up with one hand and broom waving in the other, trailing, shouting for me to stop. That picture froze in my mind for a surreal instant. After a deep breath, I drove forward, bound for the gym. I needed to shoot.
When I got home later on, I heard my mom’s voice in the kitchen and could tell she was on the phone.

“Yes… yes… okay. Yes, here he is right now,” she said as she saw me enter the kitchen. Her face tensed when she looked at me, and I saw that something was wrong. “Thank you so much for calling. I’ll speak with him, I assure you. Yes, goodbye.” Slam!

“What’s going on, Mom?”

Her face contorted in anger, which was directed straight my way. “What have you done?”

“Mom, what are you talking about?”

“I just got off the phone with Mrs. Murray…”


“That’s right, mister. Her daughter, your girlfriend, has been locked in her room crying for the past two hours because of whatever it was you said to her. And look at you! You come rambling in dressed in your basketball clothes like nothing’s the matter. What’s wrong with you?”

“What are you doing talking to Mrs. Murray? When did you two become phone buddies? This is none of your business.” Outraged, I spun out the door.

“Don’t you walk out on me, buster.” I stopped, stewing, ready to erupt. This had become some kind of night. “What did you say to her? You didn’t hit her, did you?”

Despite my anger, I nearly laughed at her outlandish suggestion. “Are you my mother? Do you know me at all?”

“I’m beginning to wonder.”

“No, Mom, I did not hit her. We broke up, that’s all. We just broke up.” For once, my mom stood speechless. I dropped my duffle bag at the foot of the couch and tossed the basketball I held into a recliner. “I need to shower. Plus, I have homework, so I’ll be in my room tonight. I’m not hungry; Jason can have whatever you fixed for me.”

I escaped to the bathroom, turned on the shower, and began to undress until the door burst open. “When did you stop liking Lindsey?”

“Mom!” Down to my skivvies, I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my waist. “Please. This can wait.”

“Just tell me. Why haven’t you said anything? I thought everything was great between you two. Now, you’ve left her with a broken heart.”

I had absolutely no desire to discuss the particulars with her at this point, but since we usually maintained a pretty open relationship, I told her what I could. “It wasn’t great. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad either. It just… wasn’t. Not anymore.” Not knowing what more to say about it, I shooed her out of the rapidly steaming bathroom and locked the door. As I stepped into the shower, she pounded on the door. I ignored it but couldn’t stop her question.

“Now what are you going to do for homecoming?”


Three days later, Lindsey sashayed arm-in-arm around school with Cliff Ragsdale, the starting power forward on our basketball team. Broken heart, huh? Even for the least broken of broken hearts, that was pretty quick healing.

“Wow! That was fast!” I heard as the two “newlyloves” strolled by. With my face buried in my locker, I waited until I knew they had to have traveled safely down the hall before I peered out. Kate Richey, my friend and next door neighbor for the past seven years, stared after the pair with a mouth so open I could have slid a basketball into it. She took off her glasses and pretended to clean them with strands of her stringy hair.

“Go ahead. Rub it in.”

“And Cliff Ragsdale? You cannot be liking that!”

Flashing my best warning-glance, I grabbed a textbook and threw the locker door closed. “You know, other than the fact she chose that clown, I really couldn’t care less.”

Kate giggled. “Yes, I noticed your lack of concern when you practically force-fit your whole body into your locker as they walked by. Could you have been any more obvious?”

Embarrassed but hoping to recover, I smiled it off and whined, “Well, I just need her to know how much I miss her and can’t live without her and how I just want her back so much so we could be together every single second of every day and every ni… ouch!”

Her spiral notebook crashed across the side of my head. “Oh, shut up, Bryan!” she laughed. Just as we reached Trig class, she suddenly got serious and asked, “So what does that mean for this weekend?”

I shrugged. Her question pertained to the 100% Corps, of which Lindsey was a member. So were Kate and I. The club had just been started up this year by one of our classmate’s moms, a lady named Mrs. McDonough. The membership consisted of a set of selected interdenominational church-going teens from our school, and its goal was to identify and take on social problems in our community – mainly helping the poor in various ways. However rife with good intentions, with the members being all high school kids, usually the bi-weekly meetings dealt more with personal problems than societal ills. Which suited Mrs. McDonough and the rest of us just fine.

“I hadn’t thought about it. I guess I’m going.”

“If I know Lindsey,” Kate said with a smirk creasing across her face as the class bell rang, “she’ll be there too. This’ll be one meeting I wouldn’t miss for anything.”
“You got called up to varsity at the end of last year, right Renehan?” Bart Stubbings, the starting quarterback on our forever-sorry football program, shoveled a mound of pasta a la carbonasty into his mouth as he awaited my reply. Even he – just before homecoming, no less – already longed for the merciful finish of football season for the greener pastures of basketball.

Unlike most, our school prided itself in its grandiose basketball achievements – twice State Champs and three times State Runners-up – but we had missed the State playoffs the last two years and the natives were grumbling. Word had it, though, that this year one of the bus transfers from the southside really had some serious game. I still hadn’t seen the guy and was beginning to doubt his existence because only our regulars from last year had attended the “unofficial” official practices that Coach Grayson held three times a week before school.

“Yeah, he did,” Ted Ellerby, another footballer, answered for me. “Got some minutes, too. Think you’ll be starting this year?”

Fortune had cast an impish grin in my direction this lunchtime sitting me at a table with the starting backfield from our gridiron squad. Class had let out early, and I hoped to see some friends come through the door at any moment to rescue me.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “Belser’s a senior, and he’s got a great three. I figure he’s a shoo-in at the two. But we really don’t have a point guard right now.”

“Oh yeah we do!” broke in Stubbings. “I saw him. Kid’s only a freshman, but he can flat out ball. We’ve definitely got a point.”

“Then, there’s your answer,” I shrugged.

“Come on, Renehan, Belser’s soft as they co…” Ellerby began.

A low, sharp whistle from Stubbings cut him off. The quarterback’s eyes motioned to a set of lunchroom doors. “Check that out. Breck…” and he whistled again, this time in appreciation.

AJ Breckman cruised through the door like a fashion model. Star of the girl’s volleyball team and indisputably the most “untouchable” girl in school, Breck strutted into the room like she owned it. No one questioned her place at the top of the school’s pecking order of quality females. Cheerleaders, dancers, poets, debaters, and prom queens bowed in her wake. And, no doubt, whatever “it” was, she definitely had more than her share and had probably stolen some from a few others, too.

Despite Breck’s unmistakable aura, my eyes and heartbeat stopped on the friend who followed at her side. There she was! Hailey Grace! Forcing myself to stare down at the table and only sneak looks, my heart only beat again after they passed.

“Dog!” groaned Phillip Drudge, the other fellow at our table, once the girls moved safely out of earshot. “I hear she’s dating some guy at CSU.”

Stubbings slung his head from following Breck’s illustrious trail. “No, man. She’s just been up to some sorority parties. That’s all. I don’t think there’s a man alive that could handle that.”

“I’d sure like to try,” sighed Ellerby, and his two backfield mates hummed in agreement. Then, he gazed back up. “What about Hailey? She’d work in a pinch.”

My ears buzzed while I fiddled with my fork through the cafeteria’s pasta. Just hearing her name thrown around by these guys frazzled me, but I feigned unconcern as best I could.

The smile that grew over Stubbing’s face appalled me. “Now, H.G., she’s a different story altogether. She lives down in the southwest. You know how them girls are. They’re easy, man! Anyway, I saw her at Bircham’s party last weekend. She spent most of the time in the kitchen with Gary’s older brother. The two of them left early.” He raised his eyebrows twice, conveying a deeper meaning.

Standing up and feeling sick, I picked up my tray and hurried it to the nearest trashcan.

“Take it easy, Renehan,” Stubbings called.

I faced him. “Yeah, easy.”


Like tremors before an avalanche, feelings of dread whisked through my thoughts over and over as the weekend approached. Unable to concentrate, I passed in and out of my classes by rote. My friends must have seen the black cloud that hung over my head because hardly anyone spoke to me. At home, my mother informed me that I wasn’t myself. What did she want? With the number of times Lindsey’s name and the Homecoming Dance spilled out of her mouth, I avoided contact as much as possible.

In reality, the Lindsey hurdle scared me less than facing a dozen of my friends – friends that I had opened up to in the past – in the 100% Corps with our breakup being the fresh topic. And Lindsey already dating Ragsdale helped matters none. Like buzzards circling a carcass, our club would tear into this feast du jour with relish. At least I could be there to defend myself.

Of course, maybe I was blowing everything out of proportion. Maybe my teenage friends would kindly spare both Lindsey’s and my feelings and keep the matter to themselves. Maybe.
I definitely should have prepared myself better.

When I walked in the McDonough rec room ten minutes late for the meeting, I wedged a seat on the floor between Kate Richey and Bert Nowlin. My eyes locked briefly with Lindsey’s and then diverted. Mrs. McDonough had been speaking when I entered, but she stopped as, in unison, the whole group with the exception of Kate got up and moved to Lindsey’s side of the room. I could feel Kate tense up beside me, waiting for my reaction.

With all the attention directed at me, I wanted to cringe with everything inside me or, better yet, run. Pride bubbled up to keep me afloat as my neck burned with an inner rage I hoped no one could see. Scanning the group, I could tell for some of them, this was just a joke. Others, however, appeared altogether serious. Finally, I shrugged and asked, “So this is how it’s going to be, huh?”

Sarah Douglas, the only other cheerleader in the corps, spoke up, “We just wanted you to have your space.”

Even I cracked up at the comment, which I thought at first would break the tension. Unfortunately, I thought wrong. Sarah wasn’t smiling at all.

“Well, I appreciate that,” I said, hoping to diffuse the situation. I looked back toward Mrs. McDonough. “I apologize for being late, Mrs. Mc-D. What were you saying?”

“Ooooh,” mocked Sarah, “what is it? Little baby can’t go on like this?”

Hearing my own words used against me infuriated me enough to look at Lindsey and say, “Did you have to share it with everyone?”


Angry tears set in her eyes. “It was a girl, wasn’t it? You cheated one me, didn’t you?”

The question took me totally off guard. “A what? No… I…” Stuttering and trying to stop, I belted out, “Lindsey, you’re the one who hooked up with Ragsdale in no time flat? How long had you two been eyeing each other?” The hypocrisy oozed in my skin with each word I spat out.

“You know that’s not true.”

She was right. Whatever else Lindsey was – needy, possessive, demanding – one thing she was not was disloyal. I had never seen her even look at another guy while we dated. Still, I refused to admit that before the group. In no way did I want her accusation spinning back to me.

“Bryan, you’re such a jerk.” This sentiment came from Molly Yates, standing beside Lindsey.

“No, a jerk still has feelings,” added Sarah, “and Bryan can’t feel anything anymore.”

“Didn’t Shelley break up with you at Palmer Park?” one of the guys fired at me. “Is that where you do all your breaking up?”

“Okay, that’s enough!” Mrs. McDonough’s voice echoed throughout the room.

“Yeah,” agreed Sarah, flashing a mad glance at me, “we’ve all had enough of him.”

“Sarah… enough!”

I felt Kate’s hand pat me on the shoulder and heard her whisper, “Do you want to go?” Gritting, I shook my head and listened to Mrs. McDonough.

“…and what I was saying before Bryan came in was that Tiffany isn’t going to be able to make the meetings anytime soon.” Tiffany was Mrs. McDonough’s daughter. “We’ve actually known this for some time, and we informed the school a while ago… it’s just been a question of when we wanted to tell other people… when she wanted to tell other people… and now we feel the time is right.” Taking a deep, deep breath before she continued, she finally told us, “Tiffany was diagnosed with leukemia a month ago…”

And suddenly all my problems seemed trite.
“So all that really happened at your Cliques Anonymous meeting?” Rob Tanksley asked me as he caught a ball I threw him and shot. The net snapped as the ball spun through. I tossed him another, and this time he clanked it off the rim. “Man, I feel bad for Tiffany. I’d been wondering where the heck she’s been. She’s one of the few that are alright around here.

“Now the Lindsey part… that’s just hilarious.” He lifted up another perfect jump shot. “And you’ve had it coming for a while now. I told you from the beginning that this would happen.” I continued tossing him balls and listening as my friend counseled on. “You know as well as I do that cheerleaders are going to protect their own. And once Sarah knows…” Another shot laced the net. “…your name is just going to be mud for a while. That’s obviously why people have been avoiding you. You pissed off the wrong girl.”

“Sarah?” I asked.

“No, Lindsey. Sarah’s just one of the extensions.

“But here’s the thing I want to know…” he said as he caught my pass. Instead of shooting, though, he held the ball on his hip and stared at me.


“Was she right?”



“What are you talking about, Tank?”

“I want to know if she was right. Is there another girl?” We stared at each other for long moments, but I said nothing. “I thought so,” he concluded. “Who is it?”

Walking up to him, I stole the basketball and dribbled in for a lay-up. The ball bounced on the floor after falling through the hoop, and I watched it until it stopped rolling. Then, I turned to Rob, who still waited for my reply. “You’re going to think I’m an idiot.”

“I already think that.”

“You’re very humorous.” I paused. “See, it’s just that I don’t really know her – and you do. And she probably has no idea I even exist. Well, she might… we’ve looked at each other before. I don’t know.”

“Renehan, who – is – it?”

Swallowing, I coughed as I voiced, “Hailey. Hailey Grace.”

A huge grin broke across Rob’s face as his eyes flew open wide. “Really? Hailey? I wouldn’t have guessed that in a hundred years. I really didn’t even know you knew her. Of her.”

“Why not? She’s gorgeous.”

“Yeah, she’s definitely that, but the red hair…”

“Are you crazy? I love that about her.”

Rob laughed. “Man, you are smitten.”

“So are you going to help me out, Tank?”

He nodded with a pleased cat-like grin. “I’ll let her know you exist. See if maybe she’s noticed you.” He laughed again. “Hailey Grace! Bryan Renehan, you dog you.”

“Try to be discreet.”

“I’ll be at least as discreet as your friends Lindsey and Sarah… but you need to forget about all that now and get me that ball. We got tryouts tomorrow. You ready?”

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Worth Reading

Spanning the blogsphere as I/we do from time to time - this time while Ken was searching for other blogs with Bill Mallonee/VOL interests for me - he ran across a blog called Beauty Out of Ugly Things. He told me about it, and I headed over there. It's good, thoughtful, humorous, Godly - all the things we love in a blog. I've really enjoyed it. The latest post Todd has written is entitled 14 Hours. I'll hit some of the highlights.

Donald Herbert died yesterday.

Donald Herbert was a Buffalo New York Firefighter who, while fighting a house fire 10 years ago, suffered severe trauma to his brain. He was in an unresponsive coma for ten years until one day, after switching medications, he awoke and was lucid, coherent and speaking a mile a minute with his family.

This lasted for 14 hours.

Donald had ten years of life to cram into fourteen hours.
-- -- -- -- --
When I heard the story of Donald Herbert, I was listening to NPR on my way home from work. I almost had to pull over. What would I say to my kids if I had missed ten years of their lives? I thought of my boys--about missing games and girls and college. I would have missed watching them grow from boys to men. And my beautiful daughters--I would have missed out on the sweet smell of fear as I did my best to intimidate any boy who came to my door. And I would have missed my princesses walking down the stairs for their first prom. I would have missed seeing them grow from little girls into young women.
-- -- -- -- --
I think of all that I would have missed then I think of all the wasted words I have spilled.
-- -- -- -- --
A colleague said matter-of-factly, "He was getting reaquainted with his fourteen year old son." Can you imagine leaving the house with a four year old boy and the next day waking up to find that he is fourteen years old?
-- -- -- -- --
I went home that night and I hugged my kids harder than usual. I listened a little more intently and I soaked them in. God, when I waste my words, when I take today for granted, remind me of Donald and may each second I have with those I love become the air I breathe.


Just a really insightful post that should be a reminder to all of us how important each second of every day is. Go over and check out this post and a few others over at Beauty Out of Ugly Things. I think it'll be worth your while.

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The Psychology of The Sandlot

Billy, a friend that Rich and I both knew, once explained to me a theory he had that everybody deep-down is one of the characters from the movie, The Sandlot. I hadn’t thought much about it, but I was intrigued by the idea. It was also interesting to me that despite the fact that there were very few female characters in the movie, Paula, Billy’s wife, readily concurred with his theory.

Assuming the theory has some merit, I’d like to hear which character you most identify with and why? And if you’ve never seen the movie, run, don’t walk and get yourself a copy, then weigh in.

BTW, don’t confuse this classic movie with the sucky, straight-to-video, sequel. Here are the primary characters in question and a short description of each.

Scotty Smalls – The outsider trying to fit in

Timmy Timmons – The know-it-all

Tommy Timmons – The tag-along

Kenny DeNunez – The second-fiddle

Hamilton “Ham” Porter – The wiseacre

Bertram Grover Weeks – The weird kid

Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan – The “yes” man

Michael “Squints” Palledorous – The daredevil

Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez – The humble stud

Wendy Peppercorn – The object of desire

Mr. Mertle – The has-been

Bill – The never-was

Mom – The blissful ignorant

The Beast – The larger-than-life figure

Despite the fact that I exclaim, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” anytime someone in my family or elsewhere exasperates me, I’d have to say that I probably identify most with Scotty’s character myself. I’ve often found myself watching “the game” rather than playing in it, waiting to be invited in, and then feeling like a “fish out of water” once I’m there. But maybe, that is the plight of the writer. Observe others, and then live vicariously through your characters.

I haven’t seen Billy in quite a while. Somehow we just quit running into each other and that’s too bad, because I enjoyed being around him. (We also had animated, but respectful discussions over our respective top ten seasons of Saturday Night Live and how much one’s list was influenced by their age. Perhaps the subject of another post.) I guess you can tell that we’re both really, deep philosophical thinkers. So, Billy if you’re out there, stop by the Realm and give us your two cents once in a while.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Legitimate Biblical Question # 1

Well, at least I think it's legitimate. It's a question I have of a Biblical story that I just find hard to buy, at least in what it purports to illustrate. This is the story, from I Kings Chapter 3:

16 Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18 Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. 19 And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21 When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” 22 But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king. 23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” 24 And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” 26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” 27 Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” 28 And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

This is a familiar story to most of us -- the two prostitiutes claiming the one baby before King Solomon -- and the gist of it is to explain the wisdom of Solomon. But I have a problem with the logic. While I agree that Solomon uses some common sense in the story, only a fool would have judged other than he did. And I can think of several other ways to obtain the same information than calling for a sword to cut the infant in half. I guess what I'm saying is: why is this a story to portray Solomon's wisdom? Essentially, it says more about one of the prostitutes being totally insane, sociopathic, and/or psychopathic than it does about wisdom. For all Israel to hear of this story and stand in awe... that's just hard for me to believe.

I just don't hear all the people in the Israeli barber shops, nail parlors, and over the water coolers saying, "Well, you just can't get anything past Solomon, that wise old dog. Ever since he had that dream, the guy's been nails. You heard how he got one over on that harlot, didn't you? Best take a lesson." I mean, the fact that two harlots arguing over a baby made it to the king before being settled by some appointed arbitrator of such trifles (in a relative sense) seems to display sort of a lack of wisdom, doesn't it?

Am I missing something? Am I supposed to be ferreting out the character of God here from something that seems like a basic moral choice that most men would come to (Jew or Gentile, believer or non-believer).

Now, if four ancient countries were approaching war over complex and long-standing issues that had plagued the people in the Middle East for a long period, and Solomon came up with a solution that made everyone happy and averted war... now something like that I could see all of Israel standing in awe of his decision-making and the wisdom of God being in him. Or even if he had to sort out a fight between about twenty-five of his seven hundred wives, well, you might have to have some wisdom for that. But as much as I was taught the wisdom of Solomon from this particular story as a kid, I've never gotten it. What am I missing? Would it be sacrilegious and un-Realm-like to suggest that this was maybe a Jewish folktale that got written into I Kings?

This is just one of those Old Testament stories that has always vexed me. One of you folks with more Biblical insight than me - please help. That would include just about anyone who comments: Codepoke? Ken? B? Doug? Scot? Wanda? Brett? Belinda? Harry? Jon? Jeff? Bueller? Bueller?

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Ho! Forget What I Said Four Posts Down!

I noticed this subtle, since Kenny-boy is all about the subtle, change.

Ken has replaced the Lyric of the Day with a new Quote of the Week category on our sidebar. We have become more like everybody else, which is to say all the really good and cool blogs out there. Cool.

Not only that, we're quoting fictitious people in our very first quote of the week. That being the case, you can regularly expect quotes out of me from the following:

Yogi Bear (not to be confused with Yogi Berra, a real live ex-baseball catcher, whom I will not quote - cheesy commercials ruined that for everyone)
J. Jonah Jameson
Arnold (from Different Strokes)
The Lorax
The Wicked Witch of the West
Dudley Dooright
Mother Goose, Mother Nature & Mother-May-I
Daffy Duck
Jim Street from SWAT
Speed Buggy
Rhett Butler
Jiminy Cricket
Scotty on the Starship Enterprise
Jimmy Olsen
Raven (from That's So Raven)
Dr. Who
Dora the Explorer
Simon Barsinister
Hannibal Lechter
Captain Kangaroo



Anyone else have some better ideas of fictional characters we can quote? I'm - quite literally - taking names.

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News Oddity of the Week

With a name like Scheppler, I think this is the least of their worries

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Chewin' the Veggies

With the fairly conservative Christian vibe (although that certainly isn't an absolute nor should it be here) I get from most of the comments here in The Realm, I probably already know the answer to this one. However, I want to throw this one out there, for posterity's sake if nothing else.

Veggie Tales - Pro or Con

Why or why not? And is their day done? If so, anyone in the know have an idea what the next big thing Christian retailers are going to put out our way for our children? I don't frequent Christian bookstores much, so there might already be something I haven't heard of. Let me know.

Consider me interested.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DETECTIVE Work on Some MARVELous Movies Based on COMICS

Slinging around the web, I've unearthed some sinister plans about some of our friendly, neighborhood heroes that may be just crazy enough to work.

WARNING: Some Spoilers Contained in the Tidbits Below and at the Links

X-Men –2006
  • Titled X3: The Last Stand
  • Includes Psylocke, Angel, Juggernaut, Jubilee, and Omega Red
  • Also Dr. Frasier Crane as the gruff, but loveable Beast

Spiderman –2007

Fantastic Four –2007

  • Rumors of Silver Surfer and Galactus
  • Dr. Doom and Alicia Masters to Return
  • Tim Story back as director

Ghost Rider –2007

  • Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze
  • Also starring Sam Elliott and Peter Fonda

Captain America –2009

  • Road to Perdition and Thirteen Days writer working on script

Iron Man –20??

  • Marvel takes rights back
  • Looking for a new script (What do you think, Rich?)

Superman –2006

Batman –2007

  • Rumors that Paul "Chaucer" Bettany may play the Joker
  • Christian Bale and Michael Caine to reprise roles

More details about all these upcoming movies and more can also be found at Superhero Hype!, a cool site that tracks all the news about superhero-related movies, including Aquaman, Transformers, and more with daily updates.

Heard any other rumors??

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Has Anyone Else Noticed...

...that the Jack Johnson Lyric of the Day over on the sidebar is turning into the Lyric of the Month? It may well turn into the Lyric of Quarter, then the Lyric of the Year, and finally the Lyric of This Blog Site's Life unless someone takes drastic measures. Now, I'm a Jack Johnson fan and a couple days of a Johnson quote isn't too bad a thing, but if we're going to have a Lyric of the Day - sort of like other more respectable blogs have banner's across the top of their sites with pithy quotes of the day - then maybe we should actually have a lyric each day. Else, let's call it what it is, which is basically a Lyric on the Sidebar Until Someone Gets Off Their Lazy Rump and Changes It.

I think we can already hear Ken's response to this post -- "Let's just take it down altogether as the Lyrics of the Day were a bad idea to begin with. Bad on the sidebar -- and no one reads the sidebar anyway -- and worse as actual posts as they are not really posts at all. And whose idea were those, Rich?"

Does that sound like something Ken might say? I think so, too. I better start formulating my response to that exact question. Also, I probably ought to find another picture of a horse's patoot and start my apologizing all over again.

Of course, I was probably the only fool who noticed anyway.

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Round Table

In case the three of you guys didn't notice -- I just did -- Ken has linked:

B's, and

blogs on our sidebar. Hopefully, that's okay by you three. If not, the name "Ken Story" is a good one to yell at, curse, or otherwise slander, libel, or print out, cut out, and throw darts at. If it's acceptable, then you really don't have to say anything. If you're altogether delighted, then you can thank me and think for all you're worth that I'm the one that told Ken to do it. If we've missed anyone, first of all we apologize - just let Ken know and he'll consider your request for us to link your blog at great length before deciding what to do about it. Or you can tell me, and of course I'll tell Ken, who will consider the request for us to link your blog at great length before deciding what to do about it.

Okay then, thanks for listening.

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Chameleon Me (Pin My Hope) - SQOTW

And now for something a little more hopeful instead of my notorious moanings and whinings:

You said, "Hold me that way I know you won't forget."
You were visibly upset, and I was the reason.
I said, "Yeah, you're right, but I believe in happy end-ings,
and those million new beginnings that are ours just for the asking."

-- from Chameleon Me (Pin My Hope), Bill Mallonee's Dear Life CD

This song just as easily could have been on the Friendly Fire CD, and as I understand, most of the songs from Dear Life and Friendly Fire were made together. There had been talk of a double-album, but I don't think the cost-benefit would have been as effective for Bill Mallonee, so that idea was scrapped.

Regardless, what an awesome sentiment. Ken posted a day or two ago on wondering about happy endings. Ken's post ended saying "One day." Here, we see that same belief set forth in the song probably not long after the song's protagonist (if I can use that word for a song) has hurt the person he loves the most, his spouse. She has forgiven and is asking for him to hold her. Then he mentions the happy endings -- and following that, my favorite line in the song:

"and those million new beginnings that are ours just for the asking."

What a wonderful expression of the forgiveness seventy times seven notion.

I think it was Peter that came up and asked Jesus, "How many times should we forgive our brothers if he sins against us? Up to seven times?" And how like me that question is -- "Christ, exactly how many times do I have to forgive my wife/friend/brother/co-worker before I can stop and let him have it? Because if it's seven, then they've already exceeded my limit." But no, Jesus, with God's view of things, turns our own pettiness upside down. "No, not seven I tell you, but seventy times seven." In other words, it doesn't end. You keep forgiving. And each time, there is renewal. In the same way, we can come to God and ask him for forgiveness of our million sins. Each time, we get those million new beginnings that are ours just for the asking. Oh, and what a relief that is.

In theory, it should work this way in all of our relationships. If we forgive as God does, it works in practice as well.

Is forgiveness easy? For any of us? Is it easy for God? I think we need look no farther than the Cross to ask if it was easy for God. Which means for us, sometimes it's going to be the hardest thing we ever do. It is going to grind your guts out sometimes, and you're going to have to wrestle with everything in you to do it. And then to do it over and over? Well, if Christ is our model, and we are to put on Christ, then yes. It may not be what we want to offer the majority of the time. But on the other hand, most of us know what it's like to be forgiven at some point in our lives, whether by God, parents, people in our family, at our works, at our schools. When someone truly forgives you, what a burden it takes off! In the same respect, what a burden you can lift from others when you forgive. How important is it?

The result of forgiveness, I'd say, is the happy endings that we're all looking for. Every single last one of us.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

78th AAAs

Let's go ahead and get this one out of the way. It might be more fun a little closer to award night (but the post will live on through then, so you can chime in anytime you want), but here in The Realm, we can go ahead and dish out the Academy Awards beforehand. In the chosen categories below, let us know who you think will win and who you think should win. Any explanation is gravy, but as everyone here knows, nothing tastes better when handing out the award biscuits than a little red-eye. Here we go:

Best Original Screenplay
1) “Crash” Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco Story by Paul Haggis
2) “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov
3) “Match Point” Written by Woody Allen
4) “The Squid and the Whale” Written by Noah Baumbach
5) “Syriana” Written by Stephen Gaghan

Best Adapted Screenplay
1) “Brokeback Mountain” Screenplay by Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
2) “Capote” Screenplay by Dan Futterman
3) “The Constant Gardener” Screenplay by Jeffrey Caine
4) “A History of Violence” Screenplay by Josh Olson
5) “Munich” Screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
1) “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Dean Wright, Bill Westenhofer, Jim Berney and Scott Farrar
2) “King Kong” Joe Letteri, Brian Van’t Hul, Christian Rivers and Richard Taylor
3) “War of the Worlds” Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman, Randal M. Dutra and Daniel Sudick

Best Achievement in Makeup
1) “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Howard Berger and Tami Lane
2) “Cinderella Man” David Leroy Anderson and Lance Anderson
3) “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith” Dave Elsey and Nikki Gooley

Best Achievement in Costume Design
1) “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” Gabriella Pescucci
2) “Memoirs of a Geisha” Colleen Atwood
3) “Mrs. Henderson Presents” Sandy Powell
4) “Pride & Prejudice” Jacqueline Durran
5) “Walk the Line” Arianne Phillips

Best Achievement in Cinematography
1) “Batman Begins” Wally Pfister
2) “Brokeback Mountain” Rodrigo Prieto
3) “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Robert Elswit
4) “Memoirs of a Geisha” Dion Beebe
5) “The New World” Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
1) “Howl’s Moving Castle” Hayao Miyazaki
2) “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” Mike Johnson and Tim Burton
3) “Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit” Nick Park and Steve Box

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
1) Amy Adams in “Junebug”
2) Catherine Keener in “Capote”
3) Frances McDormand in “North Country”
4) Rachel Weisz in “The Constant Gardener”
5) Michelle Williams in “Brokeback Mountain”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
1) George Clooney in “Syriana”
2) Matt Dillon in “Crash”
3) Paul Giamatti in “Cinderella Man”
4) Jake Gyllenhaal in “Brokeback Mountain”
5) William Hurt in “A History of Violence”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
1) Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote”
2) Terrence Howard in “Hustle & Flow”
3) Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”
4) Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line”
5) David Strathairn in “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
1) Judi Dench in “Mrs. Henderson Presents”
2) Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica”
3) Keira Knightley in “Pride & Prejudice”
4) Charlize Theron in “North Country”
5) Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line”

Best Achievement in Directing
1) "Brokeback Mountain” Ang Lee
2) “Capote” Bennett Miller
3) “Crash” Paul Haggis
4) “Good Night, and Good Luck.” George Clooney
5) “Munich” Steven Spielberg

Best Motion Picture of the Year
1) “Brokeback Mountain” Diana Ossana and James Schamus, Producers
2) “Capote” Caroline Baron, William Vince and Michael Ohoven, Producers
3) “Crash” Paul Haggis and Cathy Schulman, Producers
4) “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Grant Heslov, Producer
5) “Munich” Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Barry Mendel, Producers

Obviously, probably no one in The Realm has seen every single one of the movies listed, but that's okay because from what the word on the street is, neither have the members of the Academy. Just use your best discretion and pass on any category that you don't want to pick for whatever reason. And feel free to cheat in whatever way you need to make some kind of semi-informed prediction. I'll leave my winners in the comments.

And the winner is:

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Reader's Digest Weekend and Note to Self

Sick kid # 1. Sick kid # 2. Sick kid # 3. Movies: Tarzan 2, Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, Radio, War of the Worlds, and Just Like Heaven - nothing great, nothing horrible (that I saw). International Day at their school on Saturday. Sleet. Sleet mixed with snow. Housecleaning. Reading to kids. Up a lot of the night with sick baby girl. More sleet. Sunday school by myself. More housecleaning. Crying and whining. Short naps. Men's Bible Study. Skip AWANAs. Hooked on Phonics. More reading to kids. Finally got around to writing at 10:00 p.m. but called at 1:00 a.m. to watch Awake-Girl again. Sleep at 3:30 a.m. to 7:30. Up for work. Kid's school closed "Due to Weather" rather than President's Day like everyone else's (yet they had International Day in the Sleet - sense? I think not.) At work. No one's here, but a couple of us to move stuff from "The Dungeon."
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Dear Electronic Diary,

Does anyone else feel like they're just living through one day with the only goal to get to the next? It's no way to live, and it's depressing as... well...

The goal has to be higher or life just isn't worth the living. It has to be.


Searching but don't know the way

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Blanket This

Lately, I've been a real jerk to quite a few people, some really, really close. One is Ken, but there are others, and some of them read this blog. So for all of you, here am I:

Please accept my apologies.

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Happily Ever After

"Beauty is fleeting."

"All good things must come to an end."

"If it sounds too good to be true, it is."

Sage words for a lost and dying world. But everytime we find these maxims to be true, everytime their point is driven home in our lives, a little piece of our heart dies.

We ask ourselves, "What's the point, then?"

Our heart hardens through an instinctual desire to protect itself. Even those of us with faith... quaver.

We believe true enough that the wages of sin is death, but why must it be so? Why is this the world that we live in? Why must these platitudes mock us?

Truly, all but the most hardened of us really only want the life we were created for, the life that we dream about, the life that we have tasted in crumb-sized morsels, the life of a fairy tale come true... happily ever after.

One day.

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