Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Neglectful

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by Dan

“As perhaps you can imagine, there is something to offend everyone in this film and induce headaches or nausea in people susceptible to such things. Plus no kid should be allowed to see it, ever.”

This makes me want to see “Crank: High Voltage” even more. How low have my/our standards fallen? I’m surprisingly blank whenever I sit down to write on this thing. I don’t know what exactly, but for once in my life, I don’t know what to say.

Things are good though, very good.

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Great Writing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 22, 2009 by Dan

I’ve been on a book reading roll of late and I can’t seem to miss. I’ve read such wonderful literature this past month that I find the need to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. I’m enjoying this ride while I can.

One of the reasons I love to read is not just for the stories and characters and drama but for the writing itself. I love it when an author writes a sentence that has impact, that causes you to take pause and reread what you just read because it was so profoundly wonderful. Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and the The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is one such author. He is much, much wordier than someone like Cormac McCarthy, but he makes the most out of every one of his words. His sentences have substance to them, you could take a literary bite out of his writing and feel quite filled.

The structure and rhythm of his writing is awe inspiring. I wish I could write one sentence as well as he could and convey so much characterization and emotion in a single sentence or paragraph.  I’m going to quote a paragraph from page 141 of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. I seem to share these things with people and I feel like I sometimes get excited about nothing, so deal with it if you don’t find it as profound as I do. However, after reading this, does it not make you wish to meet this fictional character? Have you ever come across someone such as this?

There was something in Mendele. There was a fire. This is a cold, dark place, Dectectives. A gray, wet place. Mendele gave off light and warmth. You wanted to stand close to him. To warm your hands, to melt the ice on your beard. To banish the darkness for a minute or two. But then when you left Mendele, you stayed warm, and it seemed like there was a little more light, maybe one candle’s worth, in the world. And that was when you realized the fire was inside of you all the time. And that was the miracle. Just that.

Read it again. Look at the pacing of that paragraph, how it starts in simple sentences and how the characterization builds like a fire growing from kindling. Notice how you become gradually intrigued by a fictitious character you know nothing about. You wonder to yourself how nice it would be to meet this Mendele, and feel a bit warmer after you did.

This is a paragraph I could only dream of writing. When I grow up, I want to write like this.

The Road

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 9, 2009 by Dan

I had planned to write a beer review or speak of the theme of redemption in the novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union that I finished last night but then this morning, because I was bored, I opened The Road and was unable to put it down. I read all 287 of its pages in two settings throughout the day and all I can say is wow.

The book is by Cormac McCarthy and he is the same author who wrote No Country for Old Men and All the Pretty Horses. I had not read any of his previous works and picked this one up because several members of the Tucker Max messageboard recommended it and it sure did not disappoint.

The book is about a nameless father and son struggling to survive in a bleak and desolate future brought about by some unnamed catastrophe.  The world is dying and everything is covered in ash. There is no sun, no life, just the carcasses of burned out buildings, animals, and civilization. The father and son follow the road, avoiding cannibalistic bands of villains, scrounging up supplies when they can and surviving the onset of winter as they move south for what they hope will be warmer weather and signs of life. As McCarthy begins their journey,

“they set out along the blacktop in the gun-metal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.”

McCarthy’s style is very lucid and simple. He writes in short sentences.   Commas are sparse and quotation marks are completely absent as he strips his language and structure down to the bare essentials, much the two characters in his novel. The tale is told through paragraphs and page breaks that at times do not exceed more than a sentence. The passage of time is erratic, some days stretch for many pages while some weeks last a sentence. He has a rich vocabulary that invokes great and vivid images of a dark and desolate earth:

“Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.”

Despite the darkness and the sheer misery that the father and son endure, there is a hope that the characters carry with them that doesn’t allow you to put the book down. The young boy speaks of carrying “the flame” within them and you can’t help but be moved by such genuine goodness in the face of such annihilation.

The tenderness that McCarthy subtly weaves into the story is simply wonderful. One particular sentence remains in my head and it is when the man, dreaming of a memory where he is laying with his wife on the beach and he remembers:

“Then he went back to the fire he knelt and smoothed her hair as she slept and he said if he were God he would have made the world just so and no different.”

What a wonderful image. What a wonderful sentence. What a wonderful book.

It has been quite some time since I have read something so profound, so moving, so heartbreaking and yet so uplifting. If you can find the time, give this book your full and undivided attention. I just can’t say enough about it.

Outliers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 8, 2009 by Dan

Success in any way you choose to define it, is acheived through hard work. There is little room to debate that. However, sucess is never acheived without the help of others and large amounts of good fortune.

Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell,  seeks to redefine the way we view successful people. Each billionaire, professional athlete, or mathematical genius had help or an overwhelming advantage along their way. The point of the book  is not to water down their success but to point out that with a little luck and some hard work, everyone has the potential to excel.

At first this concept seemed a little counter-intuative to me. People have talent, they work hard on developing it, and the success that follow is a result of this, right? Not so much.

I doubt you know that when Bill Gates was a teenager, he was enrolled in a private school that was one of the only schools in the country to have a computer club. This was 1968 and computers used to fill entire rooms and literally had to be programmed by hand via punched cardboard cards that were fed into the computer which were the instructions.

It was at this time though, right when Bill Gates was in eighth grade, that the “Mothers’ Club” at his school spent three thousand 1968 dollars to rent a computer terminal. It was a new terminal, one that was linked to a computer mainframe in downtown Seattle. It did not require the labor intensive card system to program it and was state-of-the-art. With this money, Gates and a few of his friends were left to program as much as they wanted to and on the best equipment possible at a very young age.

The book goes on to detail how Gates became obsessed with programming all throughout high school and college, sometimes falling asleep at the keyboard two and three times a night. When the time came along to design a new operating system for the next generation of personal computers, who do you think was the most proficient at this?

Bill Gates had the drive, the passion and the technical skill to  revolutionize the computer world but how incredibly fortunate was he to be born to wealthy parents who could afford to send him to a private school which just so happened to invest in the state-of-the-art computer and grant him unlimited access? Very.

Behind every successful person, there’s someone or something else that helped them get there. Some, like who are parents are, are out of our control. Others, like the educational accessibility for all, are in our control. Gladwell argues that by changing the way we look at success and manipulating the factors we can control in our favor, we can provide more opportunites similar to the ones that a hard working and brilliant mind like Bill Gates had. It’s not that abstract of a concept, but it’s surprising how little consideration we have given it.

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P.S. This is why I love books.

Randomness on January 4th

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4, 2009 by Dan

Is it time for baseball yet?

With the Cowboys out of the playoffs and the Mavericks merely mediocre in the Western Conference, I’m anxious for spring training to begin. Now, I know I’m crazy for rooting for the perpetually terrible Rangers but of the three major (I still don’t count hockey) franchises in Dallas, the Texas Rangers have a bright and competative future.

I like baseball because you can always find a game on that is usually worth watching. I’ve spent tonight flipping between “Independence Day” and “The Girls Next Door” (I know, I hate me too). Baseball is always there for me.

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I did inventory today and it reminded me how much I hate doing inventory. Counting individual GU packs and shoelaces is a good way to send me looking for work back at Blockbuster of McDonald’s. At least it’s only four days a year.

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I get to see Mike in two days, that’s news worth celebrating. I’m sure a trip to Chipotle is in order. Mmm…have I ever mentioned that I love Chipotle?

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Lastly, because I love this song and video:

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2009 by Dan

My boy Mike, after two months in Iraq, has just informed me that on January 7th, he will be coming home for two weeks! Yes! That’s freaking Tuesday!

I wonder if he will be similar to how he was when I first saw him out of basic training. He hasn’t spoken of anything but I’m sure he’s already seen and experienced some things that I cannot compare anything in my life to. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

I also said goodbye to Guy tonight and sent him off back to Witchita Falls to finish up his tech schooling. It was great to spend a couple of hours with him this evening, he really has changed for the better. He is more articulate, more confident. He stands taller and looks people in the eye. These are little things but they’re wonderful to see. I think the best part of having a friend in the military is that they have no shortage of fun or bizarre story that comes from that kind of structure. I will have to go visit him shortly.

Lastly, remember when I spoke of paradise? Yea, this is it. Jessica, eat your heart out:

cancun-2008-09-226-large

Paradise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 1, 2009 by Dan

The pictures of Cancun do not do it justice. It is simply the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have ever been. The ocean, the waves, the smells, the wind, the palm tress, the soft corral sand-are my shangra-la.

Some people prefer the mountains but I’ll take the beach anyday. There’s something magical about the ocean that I can’t quite explain. Maybe it’s the vast, eternal sea of blue, or the endless and soothing sound of waves crashing onshore. There’s something mesmerizing about it and I can’t get enough of it.

I found myself swimming in the ocean on our second night, completely alone, bouncing up and down with the rhythm of the waves, under a bright canopy of stars, and I told myself I never have anything to complain about again.

Michael Cunningham, in his novel The Hours writes that there is:

“an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined…”

That night, alone and wrapped in the arms of my beautiful and wonderful ocean, was one of those moments.