Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading List 2012

There may not be much consistency to this blog these days (other than spambots leaving multiple comments on year-old posts), but here's one thing you can count on: the year-end reading list!

I'm not too proud of my list this year.  I started pretty strong but only actually finished 32 books, including some trade paperbacks and graphic novels.  Yikes.  (I'm not sure if this is 100% accurate, because I also did a lousy job of keeping track throughout the second half of the year.  As some of you may have noticed, my book blog has been ignored completely for almost a year)  Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure the list below is fairly close. And, as always, the list doesn't include play scripts. 

Part of the problem was that I spent a lot of time trying to slog books that I just couldn't get into.  I listed those last year.  I'm not going to this year.  A bigger part of the problem, though, is that the kids are just so darned demanding of time and energy. Not that I'm complaining, but it does cut back on reading time quite a bit.  And I did start and finish writing two plays in the past calendar year.  (Or was it three?  We'll say two and a half) 

So, I'm not an avid reader, or a book nerd, and I don't read as much as I'd like to.  I don't write as much as I'd like to, either.  Whatcha gonna do?  That's life.  You don't always get to do as much of things as you want to. 

Also, I didn't keep page counts this year because, as I said above, bad record-keeping.  Hopefully I'll be better about that in 2013. 

And, just to change things up, I'm going to do this year's list in alphabetical order rather than chronological. Oooh! 

American Gods, 10th Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery
Annihilation: Conquest by Keith Giffen
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
The Best of Down Goes Brown: Greatest Hits and Brand New Classics-To-Be from Hockey's Most Hilarious Blog by Sean McIndoe
The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey
The Bulllpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran by Dirk Hayhurst
The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan
The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Dune by Frank Herbert
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
God's Grand Vision for the Home by Dr. Rob Rienow
The Green Mile by Stephen King
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Invincible Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Journeyman: The Many Triumphs (And Even More Defeats of a Guy Who's Seen Just About Everything in Hockey by Sean Pronger
Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will by Kevin DeYoung
Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid by Wendy Williams
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Powerless: The New Avengers vol. 12 by Brian Michael Bendis
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
Trust: The New Avengers vol. 7 by Brian Michael Bendis
War of Kings: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King


Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

The first book I read this year was one of my favorites.  The story itself isn't actually all that strong, so it's a bit surprising that I enjoyed the book as much as I did (since I'm generally a story-first man).  The prose, however, is simply gorgeous.  And, as always, the ideas and themes in Lewis' writing are fun to think about.  About halfway through, the book sort of seems to lose its way and gets a little boring (to me, anyway), but it starts and ends so strongly that I'll probably be buying this one day.  (The version with pages and a spine and everything, that is)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I never saw this movie, but I loved the book.  I can't point out anything particularly masterful about it, but it's solid all the way around.  Story, characters, narrative voice, world, there's not really a weak point.  It's laugh-out-loud funny and drop-dead serious, and it flows quit naturally between the two. Another one that wouldn't look too bad on my bookshelf one of these days.  (When I have room for a bigger bookshelf, that is)

The New Olympians series by Rick Riordan
I read the last three of these books (in the original Percy Jackson series) over the course of the year.  If you like YA fantasy or fiction, you really ought to read these books.  They're just a ton of fun.  They're clever, they're creative, and they really use the Greek mythology well.  It is fun, fun, fun reading.  The throughline at times gets a bit messy and often it seems like major character development just sort of happens from out of nowhere, but if you're willing to let that sort of thing slide, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable ride. 

The Green Mile by Stephen King
My favorite book of the year.  Any time someone saw me reading this book, they'd comment on how great the movie is.  Well, I still haven't seen the movie, but the book. Is. Awesome.  I haven't been floored by King like this since The Stand.  (Note: This does not mean that I like this book as much as I liked The Stand, but it did pack a similar emotional whallop)  Now, it does get pretty graphic--it is still Stephen King, after all, and the subject matter involves serial killers and death by electrocution-- but if you can stomach some gross details, I'd definitely recommend this one to just about anybody.

Here, a couple of quickie recommendations, and then I'm off to bed:

Moneyball by Michael Lewis
I like math.  I like baseball.  This book was made for people like me. 

Just Do Something  by Kevin DeYoung
The subtitle to this book is "A liberating approach to finding God's will."  And I can't really sum it up any better than that. 

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Great mystery/thriller.  Enjoyed every twist and turn the tale took along the way. 

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
More Wheel of Time goodness. 

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
No mamby-pamby love triangle here!  Alternately creepy and hilarious, I can't believe no one ever told me this book was this good.

Journeyman by Sean Pronger
Any hockey fan should read this book.  (Just about anybody else probably won't follow)

The Bullben Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst
Ditto, but for baseball.  (Oh, and, uh...LOTS of gross-out content.  Unfiltered locker-room talk. You've been warned)

The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey
Anybody with a passing interest in the Miracle on Ice, hockey, or the winter Olympics should read.

Beast by Peter Benchley
Basically Jaws with a giant squid.  Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but quite possibly the best use of a sperm whale in modern literature. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Night Conversation

So, here we are again.

Yeah.  That's, uh..that's kinda weird, isn't it?  I thought this was supposed to be kind of a one-shot thing. 


 Okay.  So, uh, what do you want to talk about?


Good call.  My family and I went to St. Louis for a week to spend Turkey Day with Kim's family.  Parents, grandparents, sisters.  My nephew was there, too.  The side of the family won't get to do Christmas together this year because two of the ladies are nurses and are working on Christmas, so we made Thanksgiving a big deal.  It was nice.  The boys did SO well on both flights, thank God!  I was really worried about, for instance, trying to keep Isaac calm while we stood in line for the security checkpoint.  Thanks to the iPhone and classic Beatles, though, everything went fine. 


Yeah.  Isaac is a huge Beatles fan, apparently.  He walks around singing "Love Me Do" and "Eight Days a Week."  And with prompting, you can usually get "Yellow Submarine," "Hey Jude," and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" out of him.  It's incredibly cute.  Isaac just loves to sing, though. It's not all Beatles stuff.  He just likes to learn new songs and walk around singing them, banging out the rhythm on his own tummy.  He probably gets that from me.

I'm sure he didn't get it from Kim.

Well, yeah.

How's about your 365 project?  You should be done with that now, right?

Ha!  Yeah, actually, I should be.  Actually, I was due to post my last pic today, but it didn't happen.


I know.  Sad, right?  Thing is, I'm working on my last pic, and I know what I need to do to finish it, but somehow I lost my camera AFTER unpacking it when we got home from vacation.  And for this particular picture, I can't just use my iPhone, which is what I've been doing for a lot of my shots recently.  My camera probably went hiding because it's jealous of the iPhone. 

How about those Top 7's you mentioned last time?  Any progress there?

Well, I wanted to do a "Top 7 Boss Battles (in Movies)" list because the other day I rewatched the Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock fight on the train and the whole sequence was just awesome.  I mean, yeah, Spidey gets hit by a train and bounces RIGHT back at one point, and yeah the whole thing starts with Spidey and Doc Ock falling dozens of stories and landing on a moving train, then getting up and wrasslin', so it's a little far-fetched.  But if you can let that stuff go, it's just a sweet fight scene.  A lot of times, the best "boss battles" (I'm using video game terminology here, of course) are the ones in the middle of the film, not the ones at the end.  For example, the battle with the cave troll in Fellowship of the Ring is more epic than the battle against Lurtz (the leader of the Uruk-hai) at the end of the film, though the fight with Lurtz has more emotional impact.  So I wanted to look at my favorite fight scenes, which is kinda funny because I don't get into a lot of the movies that are hailed as being the best fighting films.  (Tarentino films, in other words)  Of course, lack of credibility on the subject matter has never stopped me in the past!

So what happened?

As you know, I like to include video clips embedded in my Top 7's, and a lot of these fights are hard to find in decent quality on Youtube.  Copyright.  Go figure.  So I never really got into the list-making stage.  Off the top of my head, though, some of the ones I was thinking about are the two I listed above along with Hulk vs. The Abomination from Incredible Hulk, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, Rocky vs. Drago in Rocky IV, Indiana Jones vs. the huge muscle-bound Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Incredibles vs. the robot  in The Incredibles, and Scott Pilgrim vs...well, pretty much anybody in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Your Top 7 lists totally show off your limited scope of pop culture.

True.  I could restrict it to top comic book movie boss battles (or more easily, most disappointing comic book movie boss battles), but eventually I want to to a Top 7 comic book / superhero movies  list, and I'd hate to be too redundant. 

You know what else I love?  Melee battles in movies.  Helm's Deep, the Battle for New York in The Avengers, the storming of Fort Wagner.  The end of Slap Shot (kidding).  When I was a kid, I LOVED the Lost Boys' attack on the pirates at the end of Hook.  That's one of those films I'm scared to go back and watch again because it's probably not nearly as good as I remember it. 

Hey, maybe that'll be a fun list someday.  "Films I Love and am  Afraid to Watch Again for Fear That They Actually Suck." 

Read anything good lately?

Yes!  I picked up Les Miserables, but then I lost it.  Several times.  I don't know how you can lose a 1,600 page books multiple times in one week, but I did.

Sensing a theme here...

Yeah, it's hanging out with the camera.  Anyway, I picked up a book I've been borrowing from a friend for a while (and that could be any number of books) and finally finished it.  But now I'm excited for the second annual Christmas Book Month!

That didn't go so well last year, did it?

What are you talking about?  That romantic comedy about the cat that tried to hook the firefighter up with the lady from the pet store was GOLD!

Any surefire hits this year?

You know what, I just put about four or five books with "Christmas" somewhere in the title on my hold list at the library.  I don't even remember what I'm getting.  Hang on a sec, I'll go check.  Let's see...I've got a Christmas murder mystery, a historical romantic fiction, a book on Christmas philosophy, Scaredy Squirrel, and a story about a stray cat who brought love into the life of an autistic child.  And those are all the ones I'll fess up to.

Any recommendations?

Yes.  The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry.  Laugh-out-loud funny and a surprising amount of heart.  Also, for nonfiction fans, The Man Who Invented Christmas by Lee Standiford is about Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (obviously), how it came about (an interesting story!), and the effect it had on English society at the time. Those were two gems picked out of the rot last year in Christmas Book Month.

Well, it's getting late....

True.  I'd planned on going out to see a movie tonight, but the baby went to bed so late it didn't pan out.  Just as well, I'd probably better get to rest.  Got a whole day tomorrow with  no running water at home.

Awesome!  It'll be just like Little House on the Prairie!  


What?  I've always wanted to live in Little House on the Prairie.


Everyone's always so happy!

Dude, there was a major trauma every other episode!

Whatever.  I'd be buddies with Pa Ingalls.  Ain't nothin' that man can't handle.

You do have a point there.

Plus, I had a crush on Melissa Gilbert growing up.

I knew it!

You did, too?

No!  But pretty much any guy who says he liked LHOTP growing up had a crush on Melissa Gilbert.

Hey, did you know there's a Little House on the Prairie stage musical?

What?  No, I didn't.  I thought we were wrapping this interview up...

Do you remember the episode where Mary went blind? I cried!

This is getting weird.  I'm going to go to bed.  I don't know why we're talking about little house.

Okay, okay.  One last question, and then we'll be done.

All right.

Who would win in a fight: Laura Ingalls or Anne of Green Gables?


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dave does it better

Here's another thing stolen from Dave.  (Fun fact: if there's anything cool you've seen on this blog, I probably stole it from Dave.  Shuffleblog?  Stolen.  Link-dumps?  Stolen.  All the good stuff.  Except for the birthday mad-libs, those were all me)

A while back, Dave returned to his blog after a lengthy hiatus and, instead of trying to do the usual catch-up-and-apologize entry, he put it in the form of a personal interview.  And I liked it.  So I'm going to do it, too.

Only, Dave did it better.

Until he got the fever and (apparently) died. 


Hey, Will.

Hey, Interviewer.  How are you?

I'll be asking the questions here, thanks.

Oh.  Um, okay.

So, how are you?

(You stole that one from me)  I'm doing pretty good.


You know what, almost every time I talk to someone I haven't seen in a while, they do that.  They ask how I am, and if I say I'm good, or fine, or anything like that, they press with, "Really?" As though they think I'm lying.  And I'm not sure what that says about me, because I think I've always been pretty straightforward and told people when, you know, I wasn't fine.  Because I know there are a lot of people who'll say they're fine just because they don't want other folks to worry about them.  But I'm pretty sure I've never been that way.  When I'm not fine, I want somebody to buy me a pizza or something, you know?  I'm a wimp that way.  But yeah, lately, nobody believes me when I say I'm doing well. 

Maybe it's because you haven't been blogging for a long time.  


Like, a long time.

I know, I know.

So what's the story, Wishbone?

Ha, nice.  No, you know what it is?  And this is the plain truth, and it's going to sound kinda harsh, but I promise it's not at all.  It's just a fact.  Truth is, I've had more important things to do.

Since last June?

Actually, yeah.  Since last April, actually.  I actually had a job over the summer.  I know I talked about that a little on here before my disappearance, but I had a job, and I would work every  night for a week at a time, and then when I had time off I wanted to spend it with family or catching up on reading.  Or there was my church work. Man, summer is probably the craziest season of the year for my church job.  There's VBS, which I'm in charge of, there's camp, which I have to go to , and I scheduled those during breaks in my other job, so when I wasn't working one place I was often working the other.  Plus, I was keeping both boys every day all summer.

Aww, poor you.

I know, it sounds like I'm complaining, right?  I promise, I'm not.  It was a good summer.  Busy, tough, but good.  Just meant that blogging was not an activity I saved a lot of energy for.

How much energy do you really have to save for blogging?

You'd be surprised, actually.  Oh, and then fall came around!  Can I talk about fall?

Sure, why not?

Okay, well in September I started rehearsals for a touring show that traveled to schools, mostly in the Katy area, as part of a literacy program.  We actually had our last performance this past week.  At Robbie's school.


It was.  And they've invited me back for the spring tour as well.  Now, since we are a one-car family, and I had to get out to Katy twice a week, that means I took a lot of buses.  Sometimes 5:30, 6 in the morning.


Yeah.  I'm not so much a morning person.  So again, too tired for bloggity blog.  Plus, Isaac has been having issues getting to sleep at night, so I've spent a lot of time staying up way too late rocking him, too.

So despite the business, and early mornings, and the late nights, it's been all sunshine and roses?

Yeah....I wouldn't necessarily put it that way.  I've had my ups and downs over the past couple months.  I mean, that's life, right?  But for now, things are good.  Hey, I got to see my parents the past couple of weekends!  They were on their way down to Galveston for a cruise, so they stopped in to play with their grandkids while they were gone.  Also let Kim and I get out to dinner one night, and Kim ended up getting a kiss from the Houston Texans' mascot.


Yeah.  It was pretty random. 

Okay....well, what else is new in your world?

Let's see...Robbie started kindergarten...Isaac is singing Beatles songs...I finished the script for my first ever musical (Thumbelina, I think it's going to be pretty good)...Kim and I celebrated our 7th anniversary...we're flying to Missouri in about a week...

Hey, what about that picture thing you were doing?

Oh, my 365?  Yeah, that's probably another reason I wasn't blogging.  Some nights, those pictures take a lot of time and creative energy. 

And then sometimes you just take a picture of yourself reading a book.

It's a series!  And anyway, trying to find the right place to put the camera, the best lighting, and all that jazz, can take some mental gymnastics if you're like me and not a very good photographer.   Still, it's been a cool project.  I'm actually almost done.  Actually, I would be done, if I'd actually gotten something every single day, but I'm still pretty close.  But you'll always be my first love, blog. 

What about the book blog?

Oh, man!  That is so behind!  You know what, I was actually going to update that once over the summer, then somebody posted a comment about "Hey, you haven't updated in a few months."  Literally, the day I had planned on updating.  And then I thought, "Well now I can't update it, because people will think I just did it because of the comment, and then they'll start leaving comments like that every time I go a while between entries, and I don't want that!"  So I sat on it for a while longer, and then I actually went a while without reading anything for some reason.  So yeah, ball dropped.  But I'll pick it back up at some point.  I can tell you I've read some pretty good stuff.  I read The Green Mile, which was excellent.  Also, Shutter Island was very good, and I was very impressed with Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera.  I've always been sort of underwhelmed by the storytelling aspect of the popular musical; I was amazed to discover that there's actually a really compelling and frightening story in there!  Let's see, what else...The Boys of Winter is a must for any American hockey fan or just anybody who loves the story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team.  Peter Benchley's  Beast is great, if you're into monster stories in the vein of Jaws.  (And I don't just say that because it's the same author; it really is quite a bit like Jaws.  Only with a giant squid, a chainsaw, and an epic final battle)  Oh, I also finally finished the first Percy Jackson series.  Super-fun books. 

I'm surprised you haven't logged on to blog about the hockey work stoppage.

You know what? I really don't want to blog about that. I've been following the whole thing very closely.  On the one hand, it just makes me furious.  On the other, I'm actually kind of over it.  See, last time they had a lockout (2005), when they lost a whole season, I at least understood the reasoning behind it.  This time, I totally understand where each side is coming from...but they're both being unbelievably stubborn and foolish.  The whole thing is just dumb.  The players' side is being dumb.  The owners' side is being dumb.  It's remarkable how utterly stupid the whole mess is.  And I'm kinda like, you know what?  If they want to lose a whole season over this, fine.  Whatever.  The AHL hockey is phenomenal this year.  But if they think they're going to step right back to arenas full of loving supportive fans when this thing is over like they did in 2006?  Man, are they ever in for a nasty surprise.

Okay.  Yikes.  Well, any plans for the blog?  Are you "back on the wagon?"

Oh, I don't know.  Probably not really.  I'll probably never be an almost-daily blogger like I used to be.

Why's that?

Several reasons.  One, and this is kinda like I said earlier, I've got more important things to be writing.  I just finished Thumelina, like I said.  I plan to have Jungle Book drafted before Thanksgiving, and a script for my church to use at Easter done before Christmas.  Those three projects will all have to have rewrites, of course.  I've also got another couple of plays I plan to work on. Maybe even something for grown-ups. 

Shock and disbelief!

I know, really branching out, right?  I also have some idea for kids' picture books that I think would be kind of fun.  Really, though, I want to get back to my novel.  It's been way too long.  I think there's something good there, though.  It's time to rewrite. 

And then?

Wealth and fame, of course.

Of course.  So, you're not blogging any more?

Well, not necessarily.  There have been a few posts I've wanted to write lately, but not many. Actually, I have a ton of Top 7's I want to do.  Those actually take quite a bit of time, you know.  But hopefully I'll get to some of them.  I do want to write the occasional blog, if for no other reason than I know I have a few friends and family who like to read it from time to time.  You won't need to check in daily, because I won't be posting all that often.  But I'm sure I'll still lurk around here from time to time.  Hopefully, there'll be some exciting new things in my life that I'll want to share, and I may drop in here for some added insight on what I'm working on.   Maybe someday I'll finally go on my full-out rant on how stupid MLB's new playoff system is/was.  Who knows?  But you'll see stuff on here sometimes.  And on the book blog, too, once I figure out the best way to get back into that one. 

I see.  Well, anything to say in closing?

Um...not really.  I'm kinda tired of talking, actually.

I love you, man.

Oh.  Okay.  Um, thanks.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Football on a Wednesday night?  What's that about?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I mean, you really can't cover it all.  Not after over a month of non-blogging.  So your options are either ignore everything and pick up as if you never went away, or else give an inadequate recap of the past month.  I'ma go with option B!

--Robbie's last day of preschool has come and gone.  He was pretty sad, so we let him pick dinner that night. Naturally, he chose New York Pizzeria.  Now it's been twenty-one days of keeping both boys at home with me throughout the day.  We had some struggles early on, since we don't have cool things like playgrounds and classmates in abundance, and transitions are always hard anyway, but we've been doing better lately, getting into our groove.  And I actually got him to (with help) clean his room, so we can play with the toddler in there now as well.  I try to fit one "outing" in per week, and maybe two trips to the park as well.  I'm pretty darn sure we'll all survive the summer :-)

--I threw out my back about a month ago.  I've strained it before, but I was completely incapacitated for a full day.  And mostly incapacitated for two days after then. And then, I could function fairly normally, just with a lot of pain, for a while.  I cannot think of a time I've been in that much pain in my life.  Kim had to help me walk back to bed, and I almost passed out from the pain.  It was crazy.  Anyway, I had my first completely pain-free night of work this past week, so I feel pretty safe in saying I'm just about out of the woods.  Now, time to work on getting out of terrible shape and back into marginally poor shape. 

--The Kings won the Stanley Cup.  I know you were probably expecting something epic from me about that, but it's now a part of the "too much to cover" cloud.  It was pretty awesome, though.  They pretty much steamrolled through the playoffs.  First Cup in franchise history, and there's always been a pretty fantastic core of hockey fans in the LA area.  Like my dad.  So happy for him to get the chance to finally see his boyhood team lift the Cup. 

Also, really happy for a lot of guys on that roster, especially good soldier Willie Mitchell.  The man has played steady if unspectacular hockey for years, and to see him finally get a Cup win is a huge part of what makes the SCF so fantastic every year. 

--Finally, by now I sincerely hope everyone has seen the Les Mis trailer twenty or so times.  But in case you haven't,

--And that, of course, reminds me of the Les Miserables Street Fighter-style fighting game, Arm Joe.  Because you always wanted to see Marius beat the snot out of Eponine, and because you thought the story needed a cyborg Jean Valjean, right?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I just booked an airline ticket from Oklahoma City to Houston on July 5th.  We're going to be in the Kansas/Oklahoma region for a week after Robbie's birthday, but I'll have to head back to work just as most of Kim's family shows up for the slightly-belated holiday.  (At one point, we'd thought about my flying down to work that weekend and then driving back up to bring everybody else back, but it's gotten to the point where it'll actually be cheaper for me just to fly one way)  I love all those web sites like Expedia and Priceline where you just plug in your desired departure and arrival site and dates (and whatever criteria they ask for) and they just give you a ton of options from all the different airlines.  Sometimes the choices you get can be pretty funny.  Today's example: I could leave OKC at 9:30 in the morning, then stop in Dallas for an hour and forty minute layover, then fly to Denver for a two hour and forty minute layover before arriving in Houston, nine and a half hours after I left. All this convenience for only three times the cost of a direct flight from OKC at 10:45 a.m. on another airline.

On the other hand: this roundabout way of getting home would have included freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.  If I were a rich man, that would have been quite the temptation.


An old college chum of mine is currently posting a blog series called "Where did our Bible come from?"  Worth checking out, if you're into that sort of thing.


It seems a lot of the whole "turning thirty" process is coming to grips with the fact that, really, thirty isn't all that old.  And it's true.  Your life isn't over.  Chances are, your life isn't even half over and, while you are technically just past your physical "peak," you've got quite a few years ahead of good physical condition for just about any activity you'd choose to engage in (unless you want to do something like play professional football or hockey, in which case your ship has sailed).  There's still time to fall in love, get married, and have kids if you haven't, you'll still have energy (relatively speaking) to chase around the kids you do have if you have them, and while it'll probably be difficult, it's still totally feasible for you to change your career if you're starting to feel "stuck."  Objectively speaking, you're not that old.

That said, you're also not as young as you used to be.  And if you want a fairly tangible reminder of that, I recommend going to a college graduation.  I recently got to work at one, which required me getting to work by 6:30 a.m. to stand around, directing people to the working elevator, for five hours.  Man, college kids are young!  I mean geez, when did that happen?

I will say, however, that I was pretty proud of myself for managing that day.  It had been a while since I woke at 5 a.m. on purpose and went through a grueling work shift.  By the end of the day, I found myself wanting to go back on bookings to perform plays at elementary schools. I don't know if I've ever talked at length about that on here, but that may have been my favorite thing (artistically) that I've ever done. 

That, in turn, got me thinking back about the old faux rock/folk band my last touring unit and I joked about from time to time.  I decided that, if we ever went through an angst phase, we would write a song called "Like Pop Rocks In an Open Wound."  Or maybe that's more of an album title.

Ooh, maybe both!


I've been trying to read Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book, which is--no surprise--a sequel to The Jungle Book.  I thought maybe there'd be something in it I could use in an adaptation/reimagination of the first story.  And about 40 percent of the way into the book, I gave up on it.  Not a single story managed to hold my imagination like the first installment had.  I realized then that the reason I haven't read much in the past few months is that I haven't gotten my hands on anything that I can really dive into.  I've been working on Dune, and it's good, but about a hundred pages in it hasn't really got me to that "page-turner" point, and I need some of that addictive narrative quality to get my head back in the game. I therefore decided to turn to some authors that I knew I enjoyed and picked up Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna (I've been meaning to read more Kingsolver since my senior year of college) and, because he was right next door, Mr. King's The Green Mile.  In addition, I just got an email that The Wind Through the Keyhole is waiting on hold for me at the library.  So hopefully this'll help jump-start me back into being a Reading Guy and, by extension, a Writing Guy again.  (Oh, and I'm also picking through Eats, Shoots & Leaves when my wife leaves it lying around)

And then, back to Dune, I promise.  But probably not back to The Second JB.


Finally, I posted this on my FB earlier this week, but this is crazy, and I think anybody who deals with schedules or managing work forces or other administrative tasks will appreciate it.  LA's Staples Center has three main tenants--the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA and the Kings of the NHL.  Never before have all three teams been in the playoffs at the same time.  Never before have they all been scheduled to play home games on the same days.  This weekend, however, ALL THREE TEAMS are scheduled to play not one but TWO home games between Thursday and Sunday.  Six games in four days.  Six complete changeovers, six crowds to usher in and out of the building.  Jobs I'm glad I don't have this weekend: event changeover staff at the Staples Center.


All right, I'm out.  Enjoy the music, peeps!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Birthday presents

Well folks, I just turned 30.  Which is apparently a pretty depressing birthday for a lot of folks.  Me, I've sort of known it was coming for a while, so I wasn't too put off by it.  I actually got some pretty nice gifts this year.

*The Astros gave me a 3-game sweep of the Mets for my birthday.
*The Rangers and Capitals gave me a triple-overtime game for my birthday.
*Disney and Marvel were a day late, but they made up for it by giving me The Avengers for my birthday. 

My wife and sons also got me a bag of Reese's peanut butter cups, and my sister and brother-in-law sent me the cast recording for the new Newsies musical.  Aside from that, it's mostly checks and gift cards these days.  Which is actually kind of nice.  The past few years, it's gotten a little stressful when people ask what I wanted for my birthday.  I don't know!  I don't think I need any more stuff!  Which is, in turn, stressful for the gift-giver, because they want to give something that you'll like, but they have no clue what that'll be.  So most people just go with gift cards, and that takes a great deal of pressure off of everyone involved. 

Let's face it: birthdays just aren't a huge deal once you become a grown-up.  Case in point: My third annual birthday Astros game drew seven folks including Robbie and I. That's down a bit from the twenty (or so) the past few years.  Thirty, schmirty. People have got places to be!  (Also, both mine and Astros' popularity has been trending downward the last ten months or so)  And that's fine.  We seven had a good time, though Robbie and I had to leave early because Isaac had a small seizure at home while we were there.  (It was a pretty dull game, anyway.  Two out of the three games I've gone to for my bday have been pretty lame.  Probably time to put that "tradition" away) 

Oh, right, Isaac was sick the weekend after my birthday.  Had a pretty intense fever.  However, our thermometer was still lost from the move last fall, so we didn't know how high it actually got until it was on the way back down.  I took him in to the pediatrician, and she said that seizures in babies Isaac's age are not unusual when they get sudden high fevers, and that it's not indicative of any long-standing condition unless it happens more frequently and with greater duration (his last one was only like five seconds).  Since then, his temperature has returned to normal.  So, no reason for worry.  Though I guess that would be the one un-cool thing that happened around my birthday this year. 

You ought to go see The Avengers if you haven't yet.  It is so dang entertaining.  If you've enjoyed any of the recent Marvel Studios movies, you need to see this one on the big screen.  Obviously, there are a lot of little things you could quibble about, as there always are with these films.  However, the action is incredible, the dialogue is snappy and often hilarious, the characters are extremely well-managed, and the cast is solid.  I can't think of a single time I've had more fun at a movie in the past, what, ten years or so.  If you're a fan of summer popcorn movies, this is the one you need to see. 

Okay, getting tired of writing, and I have some work to do on a script for a publisher before I get to bed.  Lightning round!

*Had a great day today with the boys today.  Fresh bread for breakfast, took Kim to work, an hour of play time at the park, visited the library, got lunch for all three of us, had storytime, and everybody still managed to get a 2-hour nap before Kim got home from work.  Some days--and admittedly, they're rare--you really think you might be able to "do" this whole Parenting Thing. 

*Just wrapped up a long homestand for the 'Stros which saw me working seven nights in the last 10.  We were 6-1 on nights that I worked and 0-2 on nights I had off.  Conclusion: I'm supposed to work more.

*Tomorrow, Kim's sister Christina is getting into town, and she'll be here almost a week, so I probably won't be around online late at night for a while.

*Despite the 'Stros being out of town, I am working Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m.  Boo.  Afterwards, Kim and I are going out on a late afternoon-to-early evening date.  Yay!  We're doing to see...The Avengers!  Yay!

*No, seriously, what is up with those L.A. Kings???  (Also, Philly is done.  Yay!)

*Dang, I didn't get to blog about the awesome wedding idea Sherri and I had the other night.  Oh well.  Next time...

Well all right, I'll give you a clue: imagine the bride riding down the aisle on a rhinoceros. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

More of This, Less of That

How to get everyone all caught up?  Hm...

*My new job is awesome.  I've only had one night that was kind of a downer.  It's been a while since I've really looked forward to heading to work on a daily basis.  Of course, we have a stretch of 9 games in the next 10 days at home.  First long homestand of the season.  I do have a couple nights off, but still, we'll see how I hold up. That's a lot of standing!

Anyway, even when the team's losing, it's still great to be at the ballpark.  Most of the people you meet are nice enough.  I've actually met some pretty cool folks already, including one guy who went to the same high school where my parents met.  Crazy, eh?

Got some major sunburns the one open-roof day game I worked.  Been a long time since I've really had to worry about sunburns.

Also surprising: public transit is kind of fun.  In a sort of boring, monotonous way. 

*I've been thinking some pseudo-Ecclesiastical thoughts lately.  I've always liked Ecclesiastes, and I think it gets a bad rap as "the depressing book" in the Bible.  I'll blog on this at some point in the future, maybe, but I've come to realize that a lot of this past year has been God showing me how many wonderful things I've been using as crutches of moral and emotional support. (I.e. friends, art, dreams, family, etc)

Also: I've always considered "Ecclesiastical" to mean something along the lines of ponderous, meditations gravitating toward the melancholy focusing on the purpose of existence.  Turns out, it really only means "of or relating to a church."  I learned this because one of my 3rd-through-6th graders asked me what Ecclesiastes means.  Kids are geniuses!  I would have never bothered to ask that question!  And the title basically means (in a more contemporary context; I'm also simplifying here) that it's basically a sermon of teaching.  That's all the name means: for a gathered assembly.

Try teaching kids some time.  They'll make ya learn stuff!

*Isaac is a full-time walker now. He's also developing a sense of how to get his older brother into trouble.  Kim told me the other day that Isaac tried to take the toy Robbie was playing with, and Robbie started to fuss and grab for it.  Kim shouted out a quick, "Hey!" and apparently Isaac gave a somewhat smug look toward his big brother.  When Kim said, "Isaac, you have to leave Robbie alone," she insists he looked taken aback.  I wasn't there, I didn't see it, but I've seen them play and I believe it.

*Hockey season ended.  Playoffs going on now.  Due to no TV, I'm not watching them, but I am listening to a lot of games over the Internet.  (Thank you, NHL, for streaming radio broadcasts free!)  I do get to watch Sunday afternoon games on NBC's web site, too.  What to say?  None of my teams were anything to be proud of. The Bolts and Avs both missed out, and the Pens embarrassed themselves on and off the ice in a six-game loss to the Flyers.  Out of it in the first round: the last 4 Stanley Cup winners, three of the last four Stanley Cup losers, and all four of last year's conference finalists.  Who does that leave?  Nashville, Phoenix, LA, St. Louis, New York (R), Washington, New Jersey, and Philly.

The Aeros ended a frustrating year, bowing out to OKC in four games.  A few things: 1)Yes, it was a pretty remarkable feat just to make the playoffs with the circumstances they had this year.  2) Best-of-5 series' are dumb.  3) Even tho I'm glad the team fought to a playoff berth, it was still a frustrating, disappointing season.  It just wasn't a real fun year to be an Aeros fan.  4) There's actually reason to believe that next year, however, should be awesome.

*This video just makes me smile.  A lot.

FIF played their first show in 8.5 years last night.  The entire crowd screamed along every single word to every song all night.  This is my favorite of the videos I've found (so far) because you can tell how much fun the band is having.  They all have such huge smiles on their faces.  It seems like it was an incredible night for all involved.

Here's another video, which includes a set list in the comments. 

*The Avengers starts this week. I'm heading to the midnight showing with some friends.  This may be my retirement from midnight movies.  We'll see.  I am turning the big 3-0 this week.  And I don't know what midnight movie experience could really top The Avengers.

I'm going with my own team of Avengers.  But we don't have code names, super powers, or costumes. But if called upon, I'm pretty sure we'd save the world while being entertaining.

And if we couldn't save the world, you can be damn well sure we'd avenge it

*By the way, click that last link.

*I will not update this blog again until I've given an update on my reading blog.  So hopefully I get to that soon. Until then, adios!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Just enough to keep you watching

Sarah recently noted that I haven't blogged anything lately. 

Yeah.  I'll let the irony of that particular observation sink in for just a moment ;-) 

It all started when I went to the Children's Pastors' Conference in San Diego.  That got me out of the habit.  Then, when I got back, I found the stuff that was on my mind was not really stuff I wanted to blog about.  See, I've been thinking about serious stuff lately, about art, about faith, about human relationships, and I have come to the conclusion that I don't care to write discourses on these subjects.  I want to talk to people about them.  I'd sit down to blog about, say, the western church's (general) failure to teach people about worship, but I couldn't get into it.  I've talked about it a couple of times with my wife when one kid is sleeping and the other is watching a movie/playing in his room/running back and forth through the living room making train noises, and those conversations have been awesome!  I had a conversation via chat about the use of cheap/vulgar humor in theatre for children with a former coworker, and it was great!  I tried to blog about these subjects, and it just wasn't the same.  So I guess the reason I haven't been blogging much isn't that I haven't had anything to say, it's that I've had too much to say, and the limitations of the blog have been discouraging me. 

Don't worry, I don't have anything important to say tonight ;-)

I hope you got a chance to see The Velveteen Rabbit over the past month.  I'm not just saying that because I wrote it and I want you to tell me how good I am, either.  I'm saying it because I saw the show two times, and it was a really sweet, heartwarming show.  It made me feel good, and I know from reports that it did the same for a lot of the audiences who came.  My favorite was the report of two hardcore VR fans who saw an adaptation of it last year that they hated so much, they were afraid to go out and try again.  (That whole I've been hurt before thing, I guess)  Fortunately they decided to risk it, and apparently they loved this VR. Despite the fact that I added an antagonistic cat storyline that had nothing to do with the original book.  (Trust me, it was for the best) 

I also say I hope you saw the show because there's a great chance that script will never be performed again.  As with most public domain works, there are already several dozen VR scripts in publication, so most publishers aren't exactly looking for a new take on the old story. And those companies who don't end up spending the $35-75 for royalties (like the Players) just write their own.  So I'll be surprised if there's much life for this one beyond this run. Hope you liked it! 

That reminds me of a thought about humility and contentment that I meant to blog sometime in the past three months.  Maybe I'll get around to that one of these days. 

Can I say that I think MLB's new playoff system is DUMB?? (Actually, maybe I can't, now that I'm an employee of a MLB team...) Well then I won't get into it, but I'll just say that, while including more teams is a GOOD idea, having them play ONE GAME to decide who will be the Wild Card team is STUPID.  Furthermore, my opinions in no way reflect those of my employers.  That I'm aware of. 

Oh, I've been sick the last few days.  And tomorrow I'm doing some work as a lighting dummy.  So here's hoping a good night of sleep will make everything better.  Plus, I have to teach children's church on Sunday, so I'm going to need my voice. 

Speaking of, it is getting a little late, so I really ought to be going.  But I may as well pass along some awesome Internet videos I've found.  Because that's what y'all expect of me.

The first is a video from a gal who plays video game music and television theme songs on her violin and piano.  Apparently, she does them all by ear.  Also, she apparently love Halloween, because in half the videos she dresses up as a character from the show or game. She's found her Internet niche and it looks like she's really having fun with it.  Plus, the music absolutely kicks.  I can't embed a video, but you can check out her youtube channel here

And finally...I don't know how else to describe this, really, other than to say that, if Jesus had taught a parable that used hockey as its subject matter, this may be what he would have come up with. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oh by the way...

That RNGOTM Lightning Round post was my 800th here at wbw.  So there's that. 


It's funny how your mind connects things. 

The other day, I was at Lifeway picking up some Bibles for some kids in the church.  Playing in the background was a series of contemporary Christian hits redone as instrumental pieces.  It was really nice background music, actually.  (Though it was a bit of a trip listening to Baby, Baby as classical piano)  One of the songs that played--actually, the first song that got me to realize what exactly I was listening to--was this:

Now, every single time I hear this song, I always, always, always think of Abby and Jason.  They both love this song, and I think they used it in their wedding.  So it's one that I have no choice but to associate with those two lovebirds. 

HOWEVER, thanks to the former Slackerlitgeek, there is another association that always pops up when "I Will Be Here" plays. 

(Man, I don't wanna crash into a pier either.  That looks brutal!)

Normally, these two very different memories just sort of clash whenever I hear that song.  Yesterday, however, they managed to find a point of intersection.  Six years ago (WOW!) I was in a traveling drug awareness play with Jason and two gals.  Abby choreographed the "Say No Dance".  And it (the play, not the dance) was bad.  I mean, the production was pretty good, but the script itself was not.  It was pretty painful.  And it made for a lot of awesome memories.  (Or traumatic ones.  One of my castmates from that show still crawls into a little ball and rocks back and forth if you bring it up around her.  I'm pretty sure she'll never say the words "embarrassed zebra" again in her life) 

I played three or four villains in the show, including the bully, the head of the gang (the gang consisted of the bully and two small girls), the tough kid who tries to get Max to--you guessed it--drink beer.  By the end of the show, Max has learned to stand up for himself and say no.  So I hand Max a paper sack that supposedly has a six-pack inside, and he's supposed to say, "No, Duke," and then shove the sack back in my chest.  "No beer."  And then I get all mad and leave. 

Only, the last performance, it didn't quite happen that way.  I handed him the sack, just like usual, only instead of "No, Duke," Max said, "No, Beer."  I doubt anyone in the audience heard it, because half the kids are just screaming "NOOOOOO" and hoping they can pop some more balloons (um, don't ask), but I knew he caught it because immediately I could see his eyes register that he'd said something wrong.  And then I saw him racing through his mind to find a cover (No matter how good you all are, by the end of a year of touring to schools, everyone in the cast will be able to recognize when anybody else is scrambling).  After a brief moments pause, he sighs slightly, shakes his head--from the audience, it looks like he's just saying no, but I can tell the actual meaning is Dang, I got nothin'--and then he shoves the bag in my chest and repeats "No beer."  Our eyes lock, and we share an imperceptible acknowledgement that yes, this is awkward, and then the show goes on. 

What's the point of all this?  Simply to say that, yesterday and Lifeway, I kept picturing Jason standing just around the corner, dressed as a gigantic nine-year-old, holding out a paper sack with a six-pack in it and wearing an awkward grin.  And that I'll likely have that particular visual every time I hear that song for the rest of my life. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Random Nintendo Game of the Month: Lightning Round!!

My original intention was to hop onto and play the game I played for my very first RNGOTM back on MySpace, Disney's Pocahontas.  However, several other titles in the 'P' category distracted me.  And, as few of them really required more than 5-10 minutes of gameplay to get a good feel on what exactly they were, I decided to make do something a little different with this not-really-monthly feature.  It's Random Nintendo Game of the Month: Lightning Round!

Game 1: Peepar Time
Okay, what is a Peepar?  I'm not sure, and while I wasn't certain that I wanted to know, curiosity got the best of me and I started with Peepar Time.

This is more or less what my internal monologue would have sounded like:

Okay, so what's a Peepar?  Obviously some cutesy Japanese thing... help from the title screen.  None at all.  Well, okay.  One player, here we go.
Stage 1.
Okay, let's see, where am I?  Am I that hopping thing?  What is that thing?  Is that a peepar?  I guess those squid things are the bad guys.  Hey, that peepar thing is moving.  I'm not moving it.  Go left, bouncy guy!  Go left!  Or right!  Or just stop going forward!  Okay, I can't control that guy, so I'm obviously not him.  Maybe I'm not on the screen yet?  Maybe if I push a button I'll shoot something.  Well, it made a sound effect, but I can't see that anything actually happened.  Maybe this rom is just busted...Where is that hoppy guy going?
(music changes, words "STAGE CLEAR" flash on the screen.

The good news is, you cannot lose stage one of Peepar Time.  The bad news is, you're no closer to figuring out what it is you're supposed to be doing by the end of stage one of Peepar Time.

Eventually, I figured out you're supposed to rearrange the tiles that Peepar (I'm assuming that's a peepar) is hopping on to get him to the goal and keep the bad guys away from him.  If you've ever played Pipe Dream, it's kind of like that, only with a Peepar.  (Still not sure what a Peepar is, but it looked kind of like a cartoony penguin in a hoodie?) 

Game 2: Penguin Wars
Penguins have the lamest wars ever.

There's not really much of a war in this game, more an athletic tournament.  You see the bracket at the beginning of the game, and you're supposed to win your way to the top.  The game actually looks like it would be really fun to play in real life with a slight modification.  You (the penguin) and an opponent (in my case, a yellow bear with no hind legs...wait, velveteen bear?) each start off with a number of balls on your side of a table.  When the game begins, you start rolling your balls toward your opponent.  The goal is to get all of the balls to end up on the other side of the table.  Of course, in the video game, if you hit your opponent they become unable to move for a few seconds, so that gives you an edge. 

Take away the table and replace "rolling" with "throwing" and I think this would be an awesome sport.  Really, though, I got tired of the NES rendition pretty quickly because things just moved so slow. 

Also, I lost to the freaking legless bear.  And it laughs.  While your poor little penguin is crying. 


Anyway, check out the theme song!  It makes this game sound way more exciting than it actually is. 

Game 3: Pooyan
Once again, I just wanted to know what the heck a Pooyan was.  Apparently it's a mama pig (this is the first game I played that had a story behind it).  Some baby pigs were out playing in the field when they were kidnapped by wolves.  Because wolves are into kidnapping now instead of eating.  Mama pig is out to save her piglets, and this rescue takes the form of shooting arrows from a crudely-rigged elevator-type apparatus while scores of wolves jump from a high ledge, slowing their falls with large balloons.  When you've sent all the wolves to a splatty doom, the piglets chase off the lone survivor. 

Really, though, you need to play this game if for no other reason than the soundtrack is amazingly bizarre.  Especially the title screen. 

Game 4: Panic Restaurant
This game was actually really awesome.  You're a chef.  One day, while walking to your restaurant, you're assaulted by fruit and vegetables from above as the evil chef Ohdove.  He says he's taken over your nice clean little restaurant.  So the entire game is the chef fighting his way through the restaurant to take it back from Ohdove.  Somehow, Ohdove has made all the food evil, so you are bashing your way through a restaurant using a skillet as a weapon while being attacked by gelatinous desserts, sliced apples, feminine carrots, and runaway stuffed turkeys.  It's silly, it's surreal, and it's just fun.  You can upgrade your weapon (once you get that giant spoon, you are ready to take down some evil produce!), candy gives you health (because that just makes sense, right?), and you collect coins for a chances at a slot machine-style bonus game at the end of each stage.  This game also marks the only time I can ever remember being angry enough to want to shout, "Damn you, pizza!"  

Seriously.  I hated that pizza.

Simple game, silly premise, and ridiculous fun. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I love you! You're my favorite! GET AWAY FROM ME!!!

My boys are awesome.  They love each other so much.  Whenever one sees the other enter a room, his face lights up.  They love to play together.  Robbie loves to make Isaac laugh, and Isaac is always ready to laugh at Robbie. They play peek-a-boo together.  They play trucks together, which is impressive since Isaac can't talk or really "play with" anyone yet.  And when Robbie runs back and forth through the living room, Isaac either watches and cackles or else tries to crawl after him.  And they almost always want to hug one another. 

At least, at any given point in time, at least one of them wants to hug the other.  However, very rarely do they want to hug at the same time.  It's actually really funny to watch.  Either Robbie will come up and try to hug Isaac, and Isaac will start crawling away, halfway dragging Robbie with him.  Isaac starts grunting, and Robbie starts whining "I want to hug Isaac!"  And then Isaac starts whining, and by that point Robbie is laid out on his back trying to keep his arms around his baby brother's midsection.  Or else, Robbie will be sitting watching a movie, and Isaac will get this huge grin on his face and he'll come over to Robbie.  He'll get up on his knees and stick both hands out, then grab Robbie's shirt and push against his torso.  Robbie doesn't move, because Robbie doesn't move when he's watching TV, so Isaac pushes harder.  Robbie starts to whine, Isaac starts to laugh, and eventually he knocks Robbie completely onto his back because, again, Robbie doesn't want to function when he's watching the TV.  So there's Robbie lying on his back, Isaac fallen over on top of him laughing, and then--and only then--Robbie whines, "I want Isaac to leave me aloooone!"  "But he just wants to hug you and play with you!" Isaac cackles.  "I don't want him toooo!" 

My boys.  They are absolutely love one another.  Unless it's time to love one another. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In which I get a job

Yesterday, I went in for a quick interview with the Astros for a spot on their Guest Services team. I thought it went quite well.  It was a position I interviewed for last season and didn't get, but I thought I was better prepared for it this time around.  Plus, it just felt like the "vibe" was better, you know?  Sometimes you just feel like the room is for or against you.  Still, those sorts of things can be misleading, so I figured I'd just sweat it out for the weekend.

This afternoon, the sweating out came to an abrupt end, as I got "The Call."  I'm goin' up to the big leagues, ma! 

Seriously, tho, this is a major answer to prayer.  And it's something I want to do.  Bonus!  Plus, the 'Stros are out of town during VBS and preteen camp, so it won't step on any of my major church commitments this summer.  Tonight, we celebrated: we bought a pizza. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl and other tidbits

I just accidentally brushed against Isaac's toy train, which I had forgotten was behind me, and the dang thing cackled at me and then rang a dinner bell.  I knocked it halfway across the room.

Toddler toys are creepy.

Yesterday was Super Bowl XLVI.  (Once we get to Super Bowl L, I say we just stop with the Roman numerals, because Super Bowl L looks dumb)  The Giants beat the Patriots after a gutsy come-from-behind game-winning drive with under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter on the strength of an amazing catch off a perfect throw in the face of certain doom!  That doesn't sound like the sort of thing after which you could say, "Oh yeah, just like last time," but...yeah, it was pretty much like last time these two teams played in the Super Bowl.  Crazy.

Up until about 4:00 yesterday afternoon, I didn't have anywhere to watch the Big Game.  Now, I've finally managed to move past that thing where I'm constantly hurt that I'm rarely invited to game nights, parties, movies, etc with most of my former coworkers.  That was pretty hard for quite a few years, but I think I'm at peace with it now, and it doesn't change the fact that I dearly love and miss my friends from my Players days. The Super Bowl, however...well, that's a bit different.  I will be honest, I was pretty bummed about having nowhere to go for the game.  It's not so much like I feel I wasn't invited to a party, it's that I always enjoy the sharing the event with others.  Because really, the Super Bowl is an event, not a football game.  Right or wrong, it's like Super Bowl Sunday has become a holiday in the U.S.  And I do love holidays.  So, with no party invitations, no sports bars or grills that I frequent, and no TV at home to speak of, it looked like I was just going to miss it all this year, and I was kind of sad.

Then, Kim went to her Sunday afternoon ladies' Bible study, held at the home of one of the church's deacons.  I secretly hoped someone from the study group would invite her to come by their place to watch the game, but I was pretty sure she wouldn't bother to mention that we didn't have plans.  As it turned out, Bible study had been cancelled since everyone was getting ready for the game in their own houses, and nobody told her because they didn't have her phone number.  Kim did mention that we didn't have any plans for the night, and they did invite us over...and then Kim said no thanks.  Fortunately, after she came home she decided that did in fact sound like fun, so she shot off a quick email to see if we could bring the kids, and suddenly we had folks to watch the game with.

Or at least, I did.  Kim had other ladies to coo over Isaac with, and Robbie had a girl his age to run around a pretty spacious house and eat pretzels and fudge with.  (In fact, at one point they were playing a game that bore a striking resemblance to the plot of The Pass-It-On Christmas. Which, in turn, bears a striking resemblance to the story of the song Do You Hear What I Hear?)  We all had a good time.  The game was fun and exciting, and I think the deacon who was hosting the party appreciated having another man to watch the game with.  The rest of the crowd, aside from his wife and daughter, consisted of a woman from our church and her several teenaged foster daughters.  It was unlike any Super Bowl crowd I've ever watched the game with.

It was fun, though.  Watching the Super Bowl is always fun.  Even that year when Carolina lost to New England and it felt like both teams spent the entire first half punting.  It's always fun, because there's always a festive atmosphere.  Some folks cheering for one team, a couple for the other, there's a bit of a friendly rivalry going on, and the snacks are good, and the commercials are entertaining, and the people who are just there to watch the commercials are goofing off in the back the whole time.  It's become a social event, so as long as you have someone to be social with, you'll almost always have a good time, whether you love football or not.

Unless your team loses.  Cause that always sucks.

And the Avengers trailer came one.  Holy-freaking-cow, it was fantastic.  And the full-length version on the web is even better.  I haven't been this stoked for a movie since The Dark Knight.  (Before that, it was probably Return of the King.  Before that?  Um...probably The Lost World. And before that, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. So there you go.  My "Most Hyped Movies of All Time" list, in reverse-chronological order)

There's really nothing about this trailer that I'm  not completely thrilled with.  Well, except for Black Widow being treated as a member of the team instead of another SHIELD agent, but I've never been crazy about that. I mean, you've got that awesome shot where they're circling up, back-to-back, with what is apparently an onslaught of alien invaders (or something) about to release hell upon them.  And amidst the Super Soldier, the man whose entire body is a weapon, the freaking HULK, a thunder god, and a guy who somehow makes a boy and arrow look hardcore, you've got a five-foot-five redhead reloading....a hand gun?  The world is being destroyed!!!  It really does feel like they just threw her into this movie (and Iron Man 2) to have a token girl on the team, and I think that's a disservice to the character.  (Plus, all her fighting in IM2 was just silly.  Even for a superhero movie)  But if you are gonna throw her in there with the heavyweights, give the woman a rocket launcher or something!  *grumble grumble that tiny gun had better be the stinkin' Noisy Cricket or something...*

Um...rant over...anyway, the trailer is epic.  Awesome way to start the summer/celebrate a birthday. 

Let's see, what else was I going to talk about...

*Congrats to another Aero sticking with the big club.  Bravo, Nate Prosser.

*Reading some great books lately.  Check out my book blog soon for short reviews of Till We Have Faces, Just Do Something, The Help, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Yes, reading the Best Picture nominees again.

*Part of the reason I lapsed so severely in blogging was that my late night creativity had been going into my 365 project.  It is a lot of fun.  And I manage to get at least one pretty decent picture in there per week, so that's something for a guy who's never been very good with a camera. Hard to believe I'm already 92 days in. Also hard to believe that means there are 273 days to go.  Acctually, 274, because it's a leap year.

*I love leap year.  I'd say we should all have a Leap Year party of some sort on the 29th, but I'll be in San Diego that day.  Not that I'm disappointed that I'll be in San Diego, but still.  It would have been fun.  Again, I like Events.

*A friend I worked with at Horsefeathers one summer lost her engagement ring in 2005.  She figured it was gone forever. Today, it turned up on eBay.  The seller is asking for $1,250.00. She doesn't have that, so she's asking for help.  I'm trying to see if we can get this thing to go viral :-) 

*Finally, I have a job interview for some part-time work with the Astros on Wednesday. I applied for this position last season and didn't get it then, so my hopes aren't too high, but we'll see. I gots to make me some coin, yo!

*Finally-finally, if you think Sherri and I should start making video reviews of musicals together, clap your hands.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

All right, all right

Enough with this "not blogging" crap.  You people deserve better!

Actually, I was reading a friend's blog recently and I thought to myself, "This is nice.  I like it when my friends blog, even when they don't have particularly deep mind-blowing truths to share.  I wish they would keep this up more consistently."  And then I realized, "Hey, there are people who like it when I blog, even when I don't have anything good to say!  And I'll be they wish I'd keep it up more consistently!"

I know. Your mind is blown with my deductive powers. +5 enlightenment, +3 "Well, duh" points, but -1 against ogres.  Stupid ogres...

So I'm back at it.  And I'll try to be better about it, because you know what?  I doesn't have to be all about me. I miss most of y'all, and I know some of you miss me, especially those of you reading from other states who happen to share some of the same genetic information as I have. 

The initial incarnation of this blog had a purpose: to discipline myself to blog something every day for a year.  To see a project through to its completion.  Done.
The second incarnation also has/had a purpose as an exercise to try some new things, some different things, and ultimately just to get more practice at a form of writing other than play script format.
Well, I like to consider this a new incarnation of the blog.  So I'll have to find a new skin or layout I like.  (Bother)  This new phase of WBW/FOMW is simply to connect. To stay connected with some of you, and to write for my friends and loved ones who really just want to keep up with what's going on in my world. No more counting days, because really there's no point to it any more.  No more worrying too much about content, because let's face it, sometimes there's just not much newsworthy going on in my world.  But I can still drop in and say hey.  It'll be a lot more like "the old days," only hopefully I'm a more talented blogger now than I was when I started this thing up three years ago. 

So, welcome to WannabeWordslinger Chapter 3.  I'll make sure to drop in every couple of days or so to say hi. 

But first, I feel the need to give FOMW a proper sendoff.  So look for that in the next few days. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

v2, d431: 2011-in-reivew #2: 2011 In Review

I suppose I'd best get around to this before it's 2013.

Last year's year-in-review post was a lot easier to write than this year's for two reasons: 1) I was stuck at work until midnight with nothing else to do, and 2) I had a very strong feeling on the preceding year in that I had hated it and was so glad for it to be over I likened it to Roy Scheider blowing up the shark at the end of Jaws.  This year, I've got a baby trying to crawl up my leg half the time and it's been harder for me to find much of an emotional through-line to 2011.  Finally, I realized this was because the only constant in my year was MASSIVE CHANGE!!  The year started with Kim at home on bed rest.  From there, it was new baby, new plays published, quit job, lose friends, subsequent depression, more involved at church, new apartment, and, perhaps the biggest change of all, I got some new socks during our marathon Christmas adventure.  You can see, then, how it's been difficult to get a handle on exactly what 2011 was, because I feel like I'm still sorting out what life is now.

All right, let's start with the biggest change, because it got the ball rolling on all the others: in February, Kim and I welcomed Isaac Joseph into the world, and he has been a joy.  He is so good-natured that it is difficult to stay "down" when he's around (unless he's hungry or sleepy or in pain). And that's been an incredible blessing, because there have been some hard times since he's been born.  New babies are always difficult.  It's such an extreme shift between "I'm so happy, I love this new baby so much" to "I'M SO EXHAUSTED, I CAN'T DO THIS!" every week, sometimes every day.  It's disorienting, being a parent.  Obviously, though, it's been great overall, and I wouldn't go back on it ever.

It does, however, radically shift your priorities.  I was surprised how even going from Parent of One to Parent of Two requires a priority shift.  I'd thought I was stretched pretty thin, between being husband and father and holding down 1.5 jobs while maintaining something of a social life, but it turns out there was a whole new level of stretching we could reach.  I couldn't leave Kim and home with both boys as easily as when it was just Robbie, so I started heading out at nights less.  I didn't so much lose a ton of sleep, because I haven't slept well in years, BUT my late-night time shifted from being writing time to being rocking baby to sleep/doing dishes/being-exhausted-(but unable to sleep)-from-the-boys-and-the-dishes time.  In addition, the summer was fast approaching, which I knew would be my busiest season in my job at the church.  Finally came the straw that broke the camel's back: I was "cast" in the summer show at work.  And by "cast" I mean assigned one of the scene shift jobs, the other two of which had gone to unpaid apprentices.  I knew this basically meant I'd be leaving my family in the lurch and putting my church in a bad situation headed into our busiest season because I was supposed to change scenery for a place where I was constantly frustrated and ultimately unappreciated/abused while slowly losing money anyway.  For the first time in my life, it wasn't worth it anymore.

My decision to quit the theater was hard. It's still hard, though I'm convinced I made the right choice.  I wish I were still working in theatre every day.  I had made the best friends of my life there, and I knew I would see them only very rarely after I left.  I knew I was depriving myself of two of the most precious things in my life--my art and my friends--but it was time for me to go.  Now obviously, without the consistent income from that job and with nothing else to jump right into, we didn't have the money to keep both boys in day care, so I became a stay-at-home dad, keeping Isaac at home with me.  And those first few months were rough.

I trust you'll forgive me if I don't go into further detail on that point?

Eventually, I began to adjust to my new life.  After a while, I started to enjoy it, and that's where I am now.  I now keep Robbie and Isaac both on Tuesdays and Thursdays while keeping Isaac the rest of the week.  I still don't see my friends unless I go to their workplaces and visit them during work hours, but I'm adjusting to that as well.  That's just about the only way our schedules can line up.  The only time I really have free any more starts at about 9:30 or 10:00 at night, and most folks just can't stay up late anymore.  We're not in college, after all.  Well, life comes in phases, and that's what this phase looks like for me.  God is very good, and I am very blessed in my days at home, my time spent working for the church, and the few opportunities I do have to get out with friends, whether it be for a football game, a late movie, or Christmas Tree-zzas. 

As time went on, it became clear that we needed to cut costs further, so we moved.  To a bigger apartment, it turns out, in a comparable neighborhood, but a bit further out from, well, everything. (Except for the church and Robbie's day care, fortunately)  This has also made seeing friends more difficult.  It's been good, however. The move has been stressful.  We're still completely unpacked, and that's been stressful.  Because again, these two boys require a lot of energy and attention, and we've been distanced from our usual support system.  In all of this, I've been forced to really do battle with some of my own personal shortcoming, attitudes, weaknesses, and fears.  It's been uncomfortable.  But it's been good, and I hope I'm becoming a better man because of all of it.

And now we've reached the "conclusion."  What do you conclude from your world turning on its ear?  Well, in my case, from turning my own world on its ear, and my family's.  I guess what I've learned is that you really do have the power to do that.  I spent a lot of my life believing I was sort of a prisoner to circumstances, that you just can't change your situation.  And I learned this year that you totally can. You can always quit your job.  You can always move out of town.  Or you can do something less drastic: cancel your cable and Internet so you're forced to get out and meet strangers.  Become vegan.  Sell your car and walk/ride a bike wherever you go.  Those things are options.  They may not fix your problems, but they're there.  I heard a quote at a children's ministry conference I went to last October: Change happens when either you know enough to want to or you hurt enough to have to.  I think in this instance, the biggest change happened when I learned that maintaining my unhealthy status quo would no longer be unhealthy just to myself, but to everybody I cared about.  So in my case, the violent change was worth it.  In your case, it may not be worth the fallout to take the leap, whatever the leap may be.  But at least when you reckon that yes, it is an option to you, you really take stock of what is important in your life.  Yes, where I am is worth it.  I'm living this way because of (priorities) or because I'm reaching (goal).  And if there's nothing in those parentheses, well, what have I got to lose?  I'm moving to Montana! 

I've also learned that change is intentional. You have to stick with it.  Over two years ago now, I wrote a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month.  It was an incredible experience, it was something that I'd never done before, and I thought it would radically change me.  It hasn't.  I've been wanting to rewrite it for years now, and I haven't done it.  I met a goal, I didn't change myself.  I still want to become that guy who can write novels, but it's too easy to be exhausted after playing with the boys and instead watch TGWTG videos until I'm tired enough to go to bed.  2011 has taught me that I don't have to accept that from myself.  If I want to make that change, I can make it. But I have to follow through with it.  Change takes conscious action, not goal-setting.

So hopefully, 2012 sees me reclaim some of the things I want to be doing.  Toward the end of the year, Robbie will be starting school, Isaac may be back in day school, and the whole Change thing will start all over again.  Hopefully these experiences will prepare me for that time.  Only time, my own discipline, and the grace of God will tell. 

In the meantime, I think I hear the baby stirring in the next room.  Naptime is over.  Gotta go.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

v2, d430: 2011-in-review #1: The Reading List

Every year, I make a reading list.  This is usually reserved for people who read a LOT, but I read about as much as my two young children allow me to, and it's always fun to look back at the end of the year.  Plus, it gives me the opportunity to come up with a bunch of obscure statistics about page count, authors, genres, and whatever else I feel like dissecting.  And I'm always up for some obscure stats.

First, I'll list the graphic novels and comic collections I read this year.  I don't like to include these in my list, because in my opinion they skew the page count.  Which, admittedly, is an imperfect statistic anyway, since page and type size varies from book to book, but I like to think it all evens out in the end.  Now, a couple of the books I read as part of the Summer of YA Fiction, relied pretty heavily on illustrations, but as long as they still followed a more traditional narrative format, I included them with the traditional books anyway.  Like I said, it's not like there's an exact science to this. 

Also, you obviously won't see the dozens upon dozens of picture books I read with Robbie and Isaac over the course of the year, though there were two in particular that were actually tougher reading material than one or two of the SoYAF entries. 

Oh, and if you don't remember SoYAF, I made a deal with the kids in my AWANA class that I'd read whatever books they recommended for me over the summer if they'd agree to read a certain portion of the Bible.  Thus, I spent the summer with a lot of kids' books. 

All right, first, graphic novels and treasuries:

#1. Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar
#2. Batman: Hush by Jeph Loep and Jim Lee
#3. Superman Birthright by Mark Waid and Leilin Francis Yu
#4. Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury by Stephan Pastis
#5. Runaways: Teenage Wasteland by Brian K. Vaughn
#6. Runaways: The Good Die Young by Brian K. Vaughn
#7. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan O'Malley*
#8. New Avengers #6: Revolution by Brian Michael Bendis


Next, the books that I started but did not finish.  I almost always finish reading what I start, BUT sometimes I just can't make it.   Here, then, are the unfinished, approximately how many pages I got into each, and why I dropped each book. 

The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge (110 pages in) -- I really expected to like this book, but I felt like I was wading through pages and pages of pop culture examples just to get to a point.  The biggest annoyance, however, was the way they kept referencing Paradise Lost as if it were a primary source for the events that happened after the war in Heaven.  I just couldn't finish it. 
The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (85 pages in) -- This book was pretty good, but I had just seen the movie a week before, so it was kind of boring reading the same thing all over again. 
Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets(120 or so pages in--hard to tell, I wasn't reading this one in order) -- I was re-reading this book, then a friend asked to borrow it, so I lent it to him instead of finishing it myself. 
The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub (350 pages in) -- I lost it. And for some reason, I wasn't really all that hooked on it, even 350 pages in, despite the fact that the last line I had read was, "And then all hell broke loose", so I didn't really search all that hard at first.  I've found it since, though, so I'll probably finish it in 2012. 

And now, my actual reading list of 2011!  Books with a * were part of the SoYAF.  Books with a ^ are re-reads.  Sorry I don't have start/finish dates.  I'm a statistics geek, not a record-keeping geek :-)

1. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien (304) ^
2. Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (468)
3. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (247) ^
4. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (352)
5. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (254)
6. How to Run a Theater by Jim Volz (181)
7. The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield (165)
8. The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell (195)
9. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King (698) ^
10. Winter's Bone  by Daniel Woodrell (224)
11. Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston (352)
12. The Dead Zone by Stephen King (426)
13. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (1007)
14. Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back On the Board by Bethany Hamilton with Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh (213)
15. True Grit by Charles Portis (235)
16. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (681)
17. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (165)
18. The Rise and Fall of the Bible by Timothy Beal (225)
19. The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (220)*
20. Dying to Meet You by Kate and M. Sarah Klise (156)*
21. Persuasion by Jane Austen (249)
21. Zamboni Rodeo: Chasing Hockey Dreams from Austin to Albuquerque  by Jason Cohen  (240) 
22. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (224) Third Edition (2007)*
23. The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (128) *
24. One False Note by Gordon Korman (160) *
25. Addie McCormick and the Chicago Surprise by Leanne Lucas (136) *
26. Savvy by Ingrid Law (352) *
27. The Cave of the Dark Wind: A Never Land Book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (176) *
28. Isle of Swords by Thomas Wayne Batson (344) *
29. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (377) *
30. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney (217) *
31. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (137) *
32. Slob by Ellen Potter (199) *
33. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (279) *
34. Isle of Fire by Wayne Thomas Batson (338) *
35. The One Left Behind by Willo Davis Roberts (139) *
36. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (203) *^
37. Way Down Deep by Ruth White (197) *
38. The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson (316) *
39. The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis (160)
40. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney (224)
41. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (505)
42. The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (249)
43. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (537)
44. Pirate Latitudes by Michael Chrichton (384)
45. Is Belief in God Good, Bad, or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism, and Christianity by Preston Jones and Greg Claflin (165)
46. Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald (181)
47. Home by Marilynne Robinson (325)
48. Duma Key by Stephen King (611)
49. Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh (264)
50. The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts (214)
51. A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller (249)
52. The Shepherd, The Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry (128)
53. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford (241) 

Total # of books read (completed) in 2012: 53
Total # including graphic novels and treasuries: 61
Total # of pages read (in completed books): 15,615
Average # of pages/book: 294.642
Total # of SoYAF books: 19
Average # of pages/book MINUS SoYAF: 332.853
Average # of pages/month: 1,301.25
Average # of pages/week: 300.288
Average # of pages/day: 42.781

 Compared to last year's totals:
Total # of books: +12 (53 to 41)
Total # of pages: +1,905 (15,615 to 13,710)
Average # of pages/book: -39.748 (294.642 to 334.390)
Average # of pages/book excl SoYAF: -1.538 (332.853 to 334.390)

I thought about breaking things down into # of books by men, # of books by women, pages per book by men/women, fiction vs. nonfiction, etc.  But I want to get through this, so I won't. ;-)

I'm not going to go into a ton of details as to why I liked/hated/recommend/was disappointed with the books below.  You can check out what I had to say when I finished each one on my other blog if you're really that curious.  Hoping to push my totals up again next year, but if I don't then I hope it's because I'm making valuable use of my leisure time to get some more writing done in 2012. 

Favorite reads of 2011:
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Still my favorite novel.  Just as awesome second time through)
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller (And I don't usually like Don Miller!)
Wizard and Glass by Stephen King (Another re-read, still chilling and exciting and passionate.  Um, forgot exactly how passionate...still, a great book.  R-rated)
Between A Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Rolston (for those of us who don't particularly want to see a guy cut off his own arm but are intrigued by it nonetheless)
The Rise and Fall of the Bible by Timothy Beal (Very thought-provoking examination of the Good Book's history.  Interestingly, I agreed with almost every point made, yet don't come to the same conclusions as the author)
Zamboni Rodeo by Jason Cohen (Hard to track down, but a MUST read for minor-league hockey fans everywhere. R-rated language)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (People don't believe me, but this book is hilarious.  Can't remember that last time I've laughed out loud so often while reading)
Savvy by Ingrid Law (Surprised by this one)
Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson (Surprisingly solid Christian YA pirate novel.  Sequel was pretty good, too)
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Better than the movie, but also just a really cool adventure story)
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (How have I never read this book before this year???)
A Wrinkle In Time by Madelien L'Engle (Smart, creative, fun, intelligent, classic.  Just a winner)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (SO GOOD!)
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (SO GOOD! FANTASY!)
Duma Key by Stephen King (Sure, it's a ghost story.  But it's a cool ghost story!)

Biggest Disappointments of 2011:
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (Nick Hornby and I just aren't going to get along, and that's okay)
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (Actually liked what it had to say, but took 100+ pages to say something he could have said in, oh, five pages)
The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell (The Pig did what?  Why is it so boring??)
The Dead Zone by Stephen King ("How 'bout a crooked pol-i-ti-cian? Hey stupid, that ain't news no moooore!") (Newsies reference)
The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilky (I...I have no words)
One False Note by Gordon Korman (Surprisingly weak addition to YA 39 Clues series)
The Cave of the Dark Wind by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (Lacks imagination.  Odd, for a Neverland tale)
Slob by Ellen Potter (Just...clearly not my cup of tea)
The One Left Behind by Willo Davis Roberts (A depressing story about a girl who loses her twin sister and then...wait, no, no, it's an adventure story about helping an orphaned boy escape from kidnappers? Huh?)
The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson (Eh, the pirates were better)
Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald (So unhelpful...)
Home by Marilynne Robinson (Just couldn't live up to everything I loved about Gilead)
Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh (Twitch)
The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts (Christmas romantic comedy for single cat ladies. Clearly, I'm not the target demographic...but still!)
The Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller (You're trying to make me hate Christmas, aren't you?)

There you have it, folks!  (This took too long.  Next year, I'll reduce the last two lists to Top 7's or something)