Thursday, December 20, 2007

Where Have All The Good Eats Gone?

What's the deal with Good Eats on the Food Network?

Time it was the show was on several times a day. And they'd air different episodes. Now, it seems they're showing the same three episodes over and over and over, and only like two nights out of the week. Is this some kind of weird holiday rotation, or are they just anti-Alton?

I think this is the 87th night this month they've aired Puff, the Magic Mallow.

I'm sure I'm overestimating it, but it seems like they've cut down on the spikey haired wonder-boy, and put a handful of episodes into heavy rotation.

Not that I'm helping my wife with the 60 million things she's baking up to put on plates for people. There's blogging to be done!

PS Oh, and Froggie, is Sam The Cooking Guy even on any more? I thought I'd set it up to record all shows, but he's not showing up on my DVR any more . . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Many Spaces After A Period?

When did they stop telling people to put two spaces after a period?

I had no idea, absolutely zero idea that this wasn't being practiced any more.

I thought the increased tendency towards a single space after a period was a combination of two things:

1. People learning to type themselves, and never taking a formal typing class where they were told to insert two spaces after a period.

2. HTML formatting not recognizing a difference between a single space and two spaces, and showing them both as a single space.

But, no. Come to find out that the Chicago Manual of Style people want the second space obliterated. The much more generous people at the Modern Language Association say there's nothing wrong with it, but still say they use the single-space form.

Apparently books haven't used the second space since before the middle of the last century.

This is amazing to me. This is like being told that i stopped being before e fifty years ago, didn't your grandparents get the memo?

This is one innovation I don't know if I can handle. I figured out how to install my wireless router. I'm not a complete fogey. But my poor thumbs are so trained to put two spaces after a period, they sometimes want to do it when I'm typing the period as a decimal point.

Could we maybe get a recount on this one? I think I may have filled out my ballot wrong.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Peace During The Holidays

Dave Barry has a solution to relieve holiday stress.

Clarence Thomas At Chapman

My brother scored me a seat at the Clarance Thomas event at Chapman University yesterday.

Sandefur has a good summary of some of the highlights, including the rather random moment when, moments after he was introduced, a woman in the audience burst into song.

Thomas took one question from the small group I was with--a question about whether the Declaration of Independence should be considered when reading the Constitution (He said, "Wow, that's like asking, 'Explain the universe and give three examples'"). He did not, however, get my question, which was about the one point in his book he never clearly explained. I guess I will go to my grave without ever knowing how to play "Send Back."

Sandefur picked a lot of my favorite moments, but there's one that made a large impression on me, especially when my brother expanded on a further answer he'd heard Thomas give before.

Thomas is known for not asking a lot of questions from the bench. While some of his associates tend to try to trip up the lawyers presenting before the Court, Thomas is content to let them present their cases. He was asked about it here, and said, more or less, "This isn't Perry Mason. Everything is in the briefs. These cases have been through dozens of courts, and there's not really going to be a 'gotcha' moment." In other words, the grandstanding didn't really serve a purpose.

But what my brother shared with me was that on another occasion, Thomas had said something along these lines: "When I go home to Savannah, and I talk to people whose cases came to my court, I want them to be able to say, 'My case was heard. I had my chance, and they heard me out.'"

In other words, it's more important to him, as judge of the highest court in the land, to make sure that everyone gets to feel they had their day in court than to feel that everybody knows at any given moment how much smarter than them Clarance Thomas is.

That's exactly the attitude I would hope every judge in this nation has.

Enough respect for those before them to allow them to be heard, and enough integrity to do the right thing when it comes time to render a verdict.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Am I Awake? Fan Video

Don't normally post links to YouTube videos, but I thought this guy managed to make a video that was fun, and a spot-on match for the tone of this great They Might Be Giants Song.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What's Up With The Magic Cafe?

Yes, the Magic Cafe is down. (I can hear the screams.)

No, it will not be forever. (I can hear the sighs of relief.)

The full story is here.

The buying and selling forums are responsible for many happy Christmases, methinks, both with money raised and deals made. Glad to know they'll be up soon.

Kid Nation

You know, usually I have the good sense to actually form an opinion before I try to express it, and heaven knows half the time I have nothing better to do than form opinions. I got more opinions than a bunch of inebriated socialite women at a costume party.

But I don't quite know how I felt about Kid Nation.

I know how I feel about Reality Shows. I hate them.

I hate the whole premise of them. They're everything I hate about game shows, magnified to a huge degree.

What I hate about them is this:

On a regular fiction show, the idea is generally that you take a noble character, give them a terrible problem, and despite repeated failures, they overcome and triumph.

This pattern teaches nobility, teaches overcoming your problems, and makes the world a little bit better place. It's why this form of fiction, as an art form, has endured for thousands of years.

Now, enter reality TV. And the premise of reality TV is this:

People will allow themselves to be put in situations where they could potentially be publicly humiliated, in exchange for even the slimmest chance at money.

And other people will tune in to watch people who have the potential of being humiliated at any moment.

That's generally not the starting premise, of course. It starts out with some noble premise like starting a business or overcoming fear or finding love. But the minute the cameras start rolling, these reality show producers, desperate for something exciting, start looking for any stupidity, idiocy, contention, or humiliation.

And thus reality TV degenerates into a cesspool.

Enter Kid Nation.

Now, we're not just humiliating adults by giving them a shot at money, we're getting parents to offer up their kids for humiliation in exchange for a shot at money.

It makes me sick to my stomach when I see people put their kids in front of Simon Cowell. I don't care if my daughter grows up to be the most talented singer this fine nation has ever produced--I will never put her in front of Simon Cowell. If she's that good a singer, we don't need Simon Cowell to tell her that, and if she happens to blow it, I've set her up for public humiliation on the most popular show in all America. It's practically a no-win situation.

The premise of Kid Nation is well known: they took a bunch of kids, stuck them in a "ghost town" in the southwest without any adult supervision, to see what kind of society they would set up.

At least, that was the premise. In reality, it was, take a bunch of kids and stick them in a "Ghost town" in the southwest and stick cameras in their faces all the time, so they know Mom and Dad will see every minute of it and then give them things to argue about so we can film it.

The stuff they were supposed to argue about ranged from death (should we kill chickens to eat them?) to religion (What, if anything, should we do to accommodate religion in Bonanza city?) to politics. You know--all that stuff you don't discuss in polite company. Let's haul your kids away and see what we can get them to say about it when the cameras roll.

And then, at the end of every episode, one of the kids gets a "Gold Star," a prop that means they've won $20,000. This is voted on by a town council, a group of kids that makes most of the decisions and who can give the rest of the kids someone to argue with.

I have to say, I'm not inherently opposed to the idea of competitive shows featuring kids. Like every kid of my generation, I didn't look at the kids on Double Dare crawling through the slime and think, "Stop degrading yourself! You're wading through muck for the man! And for what? A prop from the set of You Can't Do That On Television?"

I looked at the kids on Double Dare and thought, "I would totally take the physical challenge."

Kids thrive on competition. A chance to win something here and there is good for them. A chance to win or lose in front of people is good for them.

A chance to cook their own meals is good for them. A chance to be away from home is good for them. A chance to make decisions for themselves is good for them.

So it's not that I'm opposed to the idea of a show like this.

And I certainly don't have anything against any of the kids. They tried really hard, all of them, and a lot of maturity crept through.

So what was it that left me feeling so empty when the show was over? What was I waiting for that never showed up?

I don't think I realized it, right now, writing this, but now it seems obvious in retrospect. I think I was waiting for the biggest twist of all: Some sign that the producers cared. The show was done, the kids had jumped through all the producer's hoops, and I think I was just waiting for that one big final twist that said, hey, kids, we know you gave up your summer so we could make some money, and we know we sort of put you up to fighting with each other and we know things were sort of rough out here--here's a little something for everybody who didn't get a gold star.

But there was nothing like that. Couple kids got a couple bigger gold stars, and then it was over. No twist, no big finale.

Not saying the producers didn't play fair or that anybody got gypped. Judging by the way the show was edited (and who knows how accurate that is?) when the kids signed up, they didn't even know there were going to be gold stars.

I guess I just liked some of these kids enough that I ended up hoping this would be the show that would abandon the principles that make me hate reality shows.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Thoughts On The Writer's Strike

Okay, this isn't really about who should win or what's best. All of that stuff would involve research and thought and maybe a degree in marketing or economics, and I'm not really ready to do any of those.

Instead, these are my thoughts on the most important part of the writer's strike: How it's affecting me.

Here be spoilers!

I really only watch a few shows, and here is how I feel about what the writer's strike has done to those:

24:This is the one show that the strike seems to have killed. Every other show is airing at least some fragment of a season.

(I'm still waiting for some show to just cut out, mid-episode, Sopranos-style. Who will be the producer with the guts to film half a script?)

24 was actually in a sort of disaster recovery mode after a really bad season, and a lot of the moves were pretty bone-headed.

A lot of what made the previous seasons hard to follow, was that they'd killed off so many of the characters anybody cared about that all that was left were new characters and old characters nobody cared about.

This was particularly true in the White House plots, where everyone was new except two people, one of whom nobody liked anyway. And he was the President.

So their solution to fix that this season? Wiping the slate clean, disbanding CTU, introducing an entirely new cast and having the whole show set in Washington DC.

Say what?

Dave Barry once summed up my feelings on 24 when he called it, "My favorite show on television, except when I am actually watching it."

At any rate, we won't see a frame of this one until the strike ends. They won't start showing them until they can show all 24.

Lost: I know it was probably hard to watch this all divided up and aired sporadically the way ABC used to air this show. I wouldn't know--I don't watch it live. This one I tend to wait until the season is over and then watch them on DVD.

And I think that's the way to watch this show. This show is great. I'd heard bad things about this season, but I thought this season was nothing but home runs. To have Locke back as the guy who you think must be crazy but who you really, really want to believe knows something you don't--that's great.

And as for the big twist at the end of the last episode, the writers have now said that they're going to do more stuff like that, making the show one big pastiche that you have to watch all the way through to get the whole story.

I like that idea. And I like the idea, once you know the whole story, of putting all 50 or however many DVDs will be in the complete series in the DVD player and hitting "shuffle" and watching them in an even more random order and see what kinds of combinations that brings up.

(Of course, if I ever have enough free time to do that, I hope I have something better to do.)

As for this season, I've heard we're only getting 8 episodes, which for a season of a story-arc show like Lost, is like getting a book with the last two-thirds torn out. Do I really want to even pick the thing up and read it in that condition?

Heroes: Heroes started out slow, but got really, really good towards the end of last season. In fact, I actually even liked no-powers Nikki better than super-powers Nikki. I think her beating up the thug without her powers may have been my favorite Nikki moment ever.

The best moment, of course, they didn't emphasize enough. They had a moment that was the kind of thing that used to make me like 24. The best moments on the first few seasons of 24 were when people would be put in situations where there was no good answer. Does Jack stop the bad guys he's undercover with from releasing gas into the mall, even though it would blow his cover and keep him from finding the other 12 gas canisters, or does he let them do it, in the hopes that finding the other 12 canisters will save more lives later?

Mohinder had one of those moments this season, when he was on his way to save Nikki, and then he gets the phone call from Sylar that he's got Molly hostage. What does he do?

They didn't play it out as well as they could have, though--Mohinder seemed to dash off to Molly and the madman without a second thought. Just as well--I think we'd all rather save Molly than Nikki, but there was potential there that they missed.

My favorite character is still Noah, although Kristin Bell's character got interesting there towards the end.

This show got incredibly lucky. The ending actually managed to be a fine place to stop, although that's partly because the basis of next season--Sylar getting his powers back--isn't that interesting to me.

I was also discouraged by an interview I read with the creater of this show. In it, he said he felt the problem with Hiro in the past was that it went on too long. Quite the contrary--there were two problems with Hiro in the past, and one of them was that we weren't seeing enough of the trials. Too many of them happened off-screen. We want to see Hiro and Adam use their powers and be clever and do stuff, but instead, all the scenes were them standing around talking about how tough the trials were.

The other problem was that it wasn't the Hiro from the first season. Hiro from the first season was just so cheery and excited about things, you couldn't help but get excited about whatever he was a part of. This season was "Sad Hiro" season, and that's just not the emotion we love Hiro for.

Smallville: The good news about Smallville being off the air, quite frankly, is that I stop having to force myself to watch each week on the off chance this is the week something thrilling will happen.

I'm trying to think if there are any other "story" shows I watch on TV, and I can't think of any.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Real Life Is Not Like CSI

Got robbed today.

Okay, my company got robbed. One of the stores I'm in charge of.

How much did they get? Not enough to make it worth their while, but enough that it's going to seriously affect the bonuses of the employees who work there. And this was probably one of the few months their little store would have earned a bonus this year.

(Yes, of course, I'm going to try to get them whatever bonus level they would have earned if the thieves hadn't taken what they took. That doesn't change the fact that the bad guys didn't just steal from a big, soulless corporation, but stole from hardworking people who are trying hard to make that store grow, so they can grow with it, earn better salaries, and do better for themselves.)

Anyway, real life is not like CSI.

Real life does not have intensely focused brilliant people who seem to only have one case to solve and computers that would have made the 1950's Batman jealous of their computational ability. Real life has fairly bright people who want to care, but are overwhelmed with the number of terrible things people do to other people every day and are doing their best just to write it all down.

It would absolutely be possible to figure out who did this one. There's only a handful of options.

Chances are, it will never happen. We won't even make it to a detective's desk.

But if we do, I'll let everybody know.

The good news is, real life is not like CSI.

People actually do have problems and not kill each other over them. Some people go about doing enough good that the world manages to be a pretty decent place.

Sure, there are idiots idiots who let their own self-interest blind them to the rights and humanity of others.

But despite what CSI or Jerry Springer or whatever other hyped-up show might portray, most people manage to get along perfectly fine, and even do some nice things for somebody besides themselves once in a while.

Thank goodness for that.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hey, I Won Sumptin'

A big thank you to the folks over at All American Blogger, home of the podcast, "A Field Guide To American Politics."

I won their November contest, and will soon be receiving a copy of The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason. According to their last podcast, this means I will soon have six quintillion dollars.

It is very much appreciated.

The last time I won sumptin was from the fine folks at Serenity Stuff.

And speaking of the fine folks at Serenity Stuff, they are (actually he is) currently selling a bunch of stuff on Ebay to raise money to go march with Joss and the other Mutant Enemy writers in LA later on this month. If you dig Firefly (and who doesn't?) head on over and see what he's got up for auction.

While you're listening to the Field Guide podcast.

And I'm enjoying my free stuff.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm Getting Old

How do I know I'm getting old?

My brother, who I think is only doing it because he has no idea what he's getting himself into, is taking my kids to Disneyland tomorrow.

So of course, although they're supposed to be in bed, they're doing that insane-giddy-I'm-going-to-Disneyland-and-won't-go-to-sleep thing we all did when we were going to go to Disneyland.

I've discovered that being the slightly peeved parent who is the killjoy who tells them to go to bed and stop being so excited is just as much a rite of passage as being the excited kid who won't go to sleep.

This must be a significant parent moment, equivalent to unearthing a monolith in an Arthur C Clarke story. I wonder what it signals?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quotes Taken From a Discourse by Jeffrey R Holland

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. . . . Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. [The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 4 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1889), pp. 51-52]

Such public and personal virtue was understood by the Founding Fathers to be the precondition for republican government, the base upon which the structure of all government would be built. Such personal ideals as John Adams' "virtuous citizen" and Thomas Jefferson's "moral sense" and "aristocracy of talent and virtue" were fundamental. Even the pessimistic James Madison said:

I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. [20 June 1788, in The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, arr. Jonathan Elliot, vol. 3 (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1901), pp. 536­37]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Commercials and Music

One of my friends mentioned a commercial he'd seen recently, and it made me realize how absolutely unacquainted I am with a couple of things.

The first, of course, is commercials. I have no idea what commercials are airing on TV right now. I have no idea what commercials are airing on the radio right now. Between DVR and podcasts, I don't have any exposure to commercials beyond the quick flashes that appear as I speed on to the next segment of my shows.

This actually means I watch less TV, not just because I don't sit down and flip through channels any more, but because I don't see the commercials for other shows I might like.

So as far as my own subconscious is concerned, the same commercials that were airing a couple of years ago are frozen in time, perpetually airing as I blip through them without paying attention.

Of course, because of the podcasts, this also means I have no idea what's popular in music right now. Since I don't touch the radio any more, I have no idea what bands are popular. My entire exposure to music comes from Radio Disney when my kids are in the car. It's as if I've been sucked into an alternate reality where rock, pop, and alternative have been sucked into space and been replaced by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and the cast of High School Musical.

I'm sure there have been a couple of musicians come out who are the new Beatles, and that my life would be dramatically altered if I just heard the uplifting message of their latest hit single, which would speak directly to my soul with both it's musical structure and it's lyrics.

But I don't consider to be that big a loss, really, except it means there will be even less chance I'll know any of the songs being parodied on Weird Al's next album.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Won't Give Up On You, Dune!

Timothy Sandefur has given up on Dune. As in, the Frank Herbert Sci-fi book that is like in everybody's top ten list of Sci-fi novels.

I had to comment.

Actually, I had to answer a question that I believe he posed rhetorically: "What could have possessed the world to grant superstar status to this dreary eternity of a novel?"

The answer is that he's spot-on in his own analysis. The book is a product of it's own time that, were it published today, wouldn't have made it past the editors at TOR. (This despite the fact that I have it on pretty good authority that the editor at TOR thinks all great sci-fi novels should be the tale of a boy rising up to take his father's place, which essentially means he wants revistiations of Dune.)

Dune genuinely has lost some of it's value as entertainment as the years have gone on, but to recognize the greatness of Dune is to recognize that it sprang forth out of nothing.

It's somewhat akin to looking at old I Love Lucy reruns. It's easy to be jaded towards the show and feel cynical about how it features nothing but the same old tired gags we've seen a million times. The appreciation comes when you realize you're looking at the origin of all the imitators, the place where every sitcom staple became embedded into the consciousness of every hack who ever put words into a sitcom actor's mouth since.

As a certain sci-fi writer of the time put it (I won't mention his name, because it's L. Ron Hubbard, and people automatically look at you out of the corner of their eye if you mention you're willing to read anything he wrote now), at the time this book was written, every sci-fi book and story was, for the most part, taking place in pretty much the same universe. He said that it was sort of like the sci-fi writers were all going to the same places and sending each other postcards from all the places they'd all already been.

What Herbert introduced in Sci-fi was something akin to what Tolkien introduced to Fantasy: A sprawling epic, in a world that was unlike any of the worlds we'd been getting postcards from before.

He created an entirely new place, with entirely new issues. An analog writer at the time probably could have done a whole story around any one of the ideas that Herbert brought together en mass to form this complex and truly alien world. It wasn't just a bunch of people who talked like present-day Americans and with the attitudes of present-day Americans in space with zap-guns.

However, because he was sort of inventing the genre of the sci-fi epic, he suffers from some of the same difficulties as those who invented the historical novel. In Hugo's Les Miserables, Hugo spends chapters detailing accounts of wars, just so you'll understand what's happened when a guy starts going through the pockets of the dead when the battle is over. He'll spend a whole chapter outlining the history of the Parisian sewer system just so you'll understand how gross the muck is the hero is escaping through.

Herbert has some issues with that here. The world he's created was so unlike what anyone had done before, he had to spend a lot of verbiage making sure it was clear. Now, it's entered into the consciousness so much as it's influenced other sci-fi authors, that the same dialogue that seemed innovative and ground-breaking when it was written seems unnecessarily cumbered by repetitive prose.

More modern writers have learned to more seamlessly integrate the details of their vast worlds into their prose, but I daresay the line that got us from "Doc" Smith to John Varley went straight through Frank Herbert.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to Blogging

Well, I'm coming back.

I'm sure you all have noticed the new layout and the smoother features and some of the other stuff that's found it's way into the blog page.

Yeah, I'm learning.

All the learning actually has to do with some other blogs that I'm working on that I'm not quite ready to unleash on the public yet, although they are out there and running, if the more savvy among you are curious enough to try to find them.

But hopefully soon I'll be able to be proud of them and show them off to you fine folks and let you know they're mine.

In the meantime, this will continue to be my review site, my venting site, my on-my-mind kind of stuff site. In other words, the kind of site that only people who know me probably even remotely care about.

Speaking of which, the new Orson Scott Card book is out, and it's supposed to be fantastic. I still haven't read it, but it's an Ender book about Christmas in battle school. There was a lot of talk in the fan circles about this book before it came out. It was branded as being the literary equivalent of the Star Wars Holiday Special. But I haven't heard a word like that since the thing was published--apparently, it's great.

Also, some of you may have noticed that in setting up the link to that, I am actually able to have the text line up next to the ad instead of having it floating that the top of my post like a bizarre pointy hat sticking out of the top of a block of text.

Wow. First he chose readable colors for his blog, and now he's got HTML figured out. Next thing you know, the guy might end up writing something on the Internet somebody wants to read.

Hope everybody's Thanksgiving was happy, and look forward to both of my readers enjoying more posts in the near future.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Better Bonds Summary

Earlier I posted a review of Bonds That Make Us Free.

I'm still not happy with the ineptness of my review, and I intend to give it another go at some point, but I think a good one line summary would be this:

This book is about the changes that can happen in our life when we start accepting who people really are and why they do what they do instead of insisting they be who we want them to be and assigning them motives that suit our own purposes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Book Review: Bonds That Make Us Free

I read an absolutely amazing book this week.

I read it once before--in fact, I think I reviewed it once before, but I didn't finish reading it that time. I don't think I was really ready for the full implications of what the book was telling me.

What the book proposes is that a lot of the unease, frustration, and anger we feel is rooted in attempts to justify the times when we do the wrong things.

As an example:

A new father is lying in bed at night, and the baby starts crying. His wife doesn't wake up right away.

The father feels the right thing to do is get up and help with the baby.

But he doesn't want to. So he starts coming up with reasons why he shouldn't. The meeting he has in the morning. That he got up last night. That she got a really good nap in after he got home from work.

And he doesn't just stop there--he goes ahead and lets himself get angry with his wife for not getting up. Starts thinking about how little she must be thinking about his wants and feelings to not be jumping up to take care of the kid.

Well, this could lead to one of two actions--he either wakes his wife up and gets her to take care of the kid, or, he gets up and takes care of the kid himself.

In the first case, he doesn't appreciate what his wife did fully, because he feels like he had to goad her into it, and in the second case, he still resents his wife even though he did the nice thing for her. And now he feels like she "owes" him.

So here's the scary thing:

We always think that if we "do" the right thing, then we'll have peace, and that our relationships will work out. "What should I do?" is usually the question we most ask.

But in this case, we can see that, no matter what way the guy chose, he was still hurting the relationship. In other words, what he did wasn't nearly so important as who he was when he was doing them.

The book then takes this a step further, and says that we tend to get into cycles of this with people. Cycles where we see other people as acting irrationally, and we have to act a certain way to try to "control" them, or keep them from acting how we think they're acting. (EG, "I know my wife wants me to fix the sink. But if I just drop everything and go do it, then she'll always expect that. I need her to understand how valuable my time is.")

And then the other person does the same thing with us (EG, "I know I'm nagging him, but if I don't stay on top of him, then it won't ever get done!")

This builds into cycles of blame and frustration, as we become so busy justifying who we are ("Can't he see that I do ____, _____, and _____?") and negating who they are ("He's the one who always _____, _____, and _____!") that we don't ever let our defenses down, and let ourselves see the truth.

And that's what this book is really about, is Truth.

Most of this anger and frustration is caused because of fantasies. Fantasies about what we think we're supposed to be, and fantasies about what we're afraid we might be.

We think we're supposed to be perfect, that we're always supposed to do the right thing, that we're never supposed to hurt anybody and that we're never supposed to mess up. But what we're afraid of is that we're monsters, monsters who do hurt people, monsters who monsters who don't do the right thing, monsters who consistently mess things up.

But the truth is simpler--the truth is we're all just people. People who are struggling, people who are afraid, people who have hope. People who do amazing things, and people who make mistakes.

And when we get away from those caricatures of everybody, of seeing people as being monsters we have to hate, or annoyances who drive us crazy, or even as anybody who can make us be anything other than who we are, that's when we can truly start to have peace.

That's not to say there aren't terrible people out there. One negative review on Amazon says this book is more for "Jerks," and that people who are accustomed to letting people walk all over them should stay away from it, because it will just fuel their fire.

This couldn't be further from the truth. Like I said at the start--this book is not about what you do. A woman with an abusive husband could stay with him or leave him, and still have anger and bitterness and malice in her heart. Leaving him won't take the hurt away by itself.

But a woman who has let go of her false perceptions, a woman who is straightforwardly dealing with truth, a woman who has let go of the caricature of her husband that she's held in her mind--that woman will see, more clearly than ever before, who her husband truly is. Once she's able to let go of the stories she's telling herself about him, once she doesn't need those any more in order to define who she is, then she will truly know whether she has a reason to stay with him, or whether she needs to go.

Because that's the thing the book won't tell you--what to do.

Because for you to have peace, it isn't about being true to who C. Terry Warner thinks who should be. It's about being true to who you know you ought to be, the person who, deep down is really your best self.

That's why the full title of this book is what it is: Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves. Because the book isn't nearly so much about trying to change who we are into someone who is acceptable. It's about letting go of all the self-justification, self-recrimination, and self-analyzing that distorts us and weighs us down, and instead, just being the decent people we really are inside, and being okay with that.

I hope this doesn't all sound like psychobabble. It's a fantastic book that I hope will change my life. I'm definitely having a hard time coming to terms with some of the implications of it. But I'm never going to be able to forget it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Firefly cheap!

If you don't have it yet, go here and get the whole series of that Firefly show you've been hearing about for $20.

It's Amazon's gold box deal, just for today. Snatch it up while you can.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I'm always amazed at the ability of dreams to surprise me. Surprise anybody, really.

Since dreams are forged somewhere down in the depths of whatever it is that makes you you, you would think that everything that happened in them would seem fundamentally right. No matter how weird they got, or how sad they got, or how scary they got, they should never quite seem wrong.

I mean yeah, you could be "surprised," but it should be in a Bruce Willis-Sixth-Sense kind of way, a surprise that seems absolutely right the whole time--not a complete blindsided surprise that seems like things shouldn't be like that. Sort of like the difference between being "pretend scared" and "real scared" when you were a kid. You should be able to be wink-wink surprised in dreams, and you can go through the motions of being surprised by something that, deep down, you expect would be the sort of thing that would surprise you.

But it just seems to me that if dreams are coming from the same part of you that's forging your core, your beliefs about how the world works, then things shouldn't happen that are fundamentally contradictory to that.

That's the observation. Now you must want to hear the dream.

I almost didn't blog about it, just because dreams are one of those things that are inherently boring to other people. Just about any dream is pointless if you didn't experience it yourself.

But making this post without saying what dream inspired it would have made you curious and made the dream seem more important than it was. The dream wasn't nearly as important as the observation. And just to prove that, here it is:

My wife and I had parked the car and were walking to a restaurant to meet my folks for dinner. We passed by what looked like a fairly decent hotel that had a sign about some services it offered, including Internet access.

My wife ducked inside through a back door, and I followed her. As we started exploring, though, we realized it wasn't a hotel, but a really nice restaurant, the kind that I could never go to in real life. It had a nostalgic Meet Me in St. Louis feel to it, with lots of wood and textured wallpaper.

A couple people smiled at us conspiratorially and called us cheaters when they realized how we got in.

We nosed around the place for a while, spending quite a bit of time at the magic shop looking at different types of force decks, but then I had to go to the bathroom and so I told Marci I'd be back.

The bathroom was as awesome as the rest of the place, and I spent a while exploring it, too.

By the time I got out, two women were walking holding my crying wife between them.

When I asked her what was wrong, she said something like, "I had to go the bathroom, I just couldn't wait any longer, and I didn't know where to find you . . ."

Not my wife. Not my wife at all. Not the crying because she couldn't find me, and not the confiding in two strangers about anything.

The absolute bizarreness of my wife acting like that woke me up.

See? I told you the observation was more interesting than the dream.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Obscure Movie Review Of The Day: Akeelah and the Bee

I wasn't expecting this to be a nearly perfect movie.

See, here's the thing. If I tell you what this movie's about, you know the whole story. If I say, "It's about a girl from a bad family who goes to a bad school in a bad neighborhood who starts competing in spelling bees," then you can fill in all the blanks. Probably you guess she finds a wise old mentor. Probably you guess a lot of stuff. I know I did, and I was right about all of it.

But here's what I wasn't expecting: Them to get it all exactly right. And, boy howdy, did they get this movie right.

Oh, I was leary, looking for stuff to jump on right from the start. The first thing we see about Akeelah, our introduction to the character, is when her teacher is handing out graded spelling tests. She's handing out Ds here and Fs there and she comes to Akeelah.

"How long did you study for this test?" the teacher asks.

"I didn't," Akeelah responds.

And the teacher hands her her paper face down and says, "See me after class."

And when Akeelah slides her paper to the edge of the desk and peeks at the grade, there's a great big red A+.

Ah-ha!, I thought. I'd caught the writers in their first mistake.

See, it's kind of a rule for writers that if you want to establish dramatic tension, you don't make your hero naturally good at whatever it is they have to do. If you're writing a story about a person who has to survive on a cold, harsh world, you don't make him a survivalist who's had cold-weather survival training. You make him a teenager who's always lived in cushy, warm environments and who's never prepared his own meals.

So if the writers had decided to make Akeelah an abnormally good speller right from the start, they'd blown it right at the start, hadn't they?

Well, no. Because ultimately, this movie isn't about learning how to spell.

Now don't get me wrong--this movie also doesn't make the ridiculous mistake so many movies are tempted to make that just because she's naturally good at this that she can easily go toe-to-toe with kids who, you know, study and stuff. So many movies want us to believe that the hero can win the signing contest or the talent contest against all the others who've spent their whole lives practicing and trying just because the hero suddenly decided they wanted to bad enough. This movie doesn't fall into that trap either.

It takes the time to show how complicated and involved the world of competitive spelling is. But the movie still isn't about spelling.

It's about the battle that each of us has with ourselves and the world around us, the battle between what we know, what we love, what we want to be, what we hope we might be, the battle between all those things and the so-called "realities" of life, the self-doubt, the worries about what people around us are thinking, the fears of rejection. It's a movie about possibilities. Possibilities we dread and possibilities we almost are afraid to dare hope for.

It's all summed up in this quote, which the wise old mentor has Akeelah read off the wall of his office:

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine,
we consciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

The quote is true. So is the movie.

And when you watch it (And yes, you must watch it), at the end of the movie, when it seems Akeelah has found an exception, when she's about to shrink for the sake of another, and they almost have you thinking that would be okay, remember the quote again.

And when we see that when the impossible happens, the miracle no one believed possible occurred, remember that it was when no one shrunk back--it was when everyone did their best, played off each other, that they could do what no one else had ever done.

Watch it.

And then go out and be the best person you can be, so everybody else can be, too.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

More Magic:

Since that worked so well, here's a little something more we put together:

Testin' The Tube:

This is a test of the Doc's YouTube account.

This puts the Magik in DocMagik.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Author Burns Own House Down

. . . but seems to miss his sports car the most.

David Eddings, being, as he eloquently describes it, dumb.

Harry Potter Available For Pre-Order

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows is out at Amazon.

Go. Get it. You know you want it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Worst Name For A Movie That Was Meant To Be Serious

The Astronaut Farmer

Which Sci-Fi Writer Am I?

I am:
John Brunner
His best known works are dystopias -- vivid realizations of the futures we want to avoid.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

We've made a bunch of changes over at We've basically turned the whole thing into a blog to make things easier. If you haven't been checking it out, check it out. And watch it close--lots of fun stuff in store for the coming year.