Making up for lost posts

For those of you who have been wondering, I’m still a Happy Husband. I’m just not a blogging husband anymore. Even so, I still think in terms of blogging sometimes. If I’d had the time and inclination over the past few months to actually put my thoughts on the web, these are a few of the things I would have written about.

We’re having another baby. Tomorrow. Literally. Tater is 15 months old. He’s walking, and he says a couple of words, but he doesn’t really talk. We still have to change his diapers. We also have to feed him, thought he’s getting to where he can eat certain things without help. And now we’re having another baby. Tomorrow. I hope I’m not freaking out too much.

I think if I ever get a job at NASA, I’ll make it a point to go to work every day and say, “Come on, people, this isn’t brain surgery!” I don’t think that would ever get old.

My mother knows a couple at her church who recently went through an interesting pregnancy. Their five-month sonogram revealed that they were having a boy. Another sonogram in the eighth month revealed that their child was actually a girl. At the time of delivery, they discovered that there was actually one of each. So I’m a little dubious about the accuracy of our sonograms, especially since there are a few sets of twins in Mrs. Happy’s family. And the sonogram techs and doctors are so cavalier about their infallibility. The tech that did our five-month sonogram said, “Well…I don’t see any boy parts….” Five minutes later, she said, “Okay…um…it’s a girl.” Since our proverbial cup runneth over with pink baby gear now, I seriously hope she was right.

You know what really annoys me about smokers? It’s not that they knowingly pump their bloodstream full of carcinogens, or that many of them feel they have a right to pollute the air of public spaces with secondhand smoke. It’s not even that they litter streets and highways with cigarette butts that take as much as 25 years to decompose. No, what bothers me most about smokers is that they’re so darn picky about the cigarettes they smoke. I understand that it’s none of my business what brand of nail anyone wants to use in his own coffin, but it’s torture when I’m standing in line at a convenience store behind a smoker who can’t fully communicate to the foreign-born clerk that he wants Marlboro Lights Low Tar Unfiltered Menthol 150′s, and not the 155′s that the clerk pulled from behind the counter. Smokers are even worse than scratch-off lottery players in that regard.

I’ve heard that when the body experiences too much sensation (usually pain), it sort of shuts down the part of the brain that registers that stuff. It’s commonly known as going into shock. I’m afraid that’s happened to my emotions lately. I and my family have been through a lot this past year (recap: unemployment—> pregnancy—> Tater’s birth—> move from New York to Texas—> continued unemployment and lots of personal stress—> Tater’s first birthday—> Tobe’s conception—> employment after 18 months of joblessness—> Tobe’s impending birth). It hasn’t all been pain, but I’ve felt so many intense emotions that I’m finding it hard to feel anything at all. On the other hand, I can also cry like a little girl with little or no provocation.

I’ve always had a very low tolerance for noisy children in public, especially in places that require a level of decorum (churches, restaurants, libraries, etc.). At my grandmother’s funeral, I sat with my extended family on my mother’s side while my father held Tater in the rear pew of the funeral parlor. The whole purpose of that was so that he could whisk the baby away if he started making noise. The problem was that my father adores the sound of his grandson babbling and cooing, and assumes everyone else does too. About halfway through the service, I started getting antsy because I could hear Tater making all kinds of noise, and I worried that my fellow funeral-goers would get angry about it. Then I thought, “If Nana were here and I suggested that her great-grandson be taken to the lobby, she would scold me pretty harshly.” I’m glad my dad kept him in the room for the duration of the service.

I’m having to wipe tears away after writing that last paragraph. See what I’m talking about?

In order to forestall criticisms, disapprovals, and suggestions for alternatives, Mrs. Happy and I have not told anyone what we plan to name Tobe. A friend of mine actually threw out red herrings in response to name inquiries before his daughter was born. He told people that “if it’s a boy, we’ll name him Halbert Porter, and if it’s a girl she’ll be Amethyst, with no middle name.” I tried that. I told a few people we were thinking of naming our daughter Penelope, but we would pronounce it to rhyme with antelope, and “we’re still deciding between that and Persephone,” which would rhyme with telephone. I didn’t have the nerve to let anyone believe I was serious for more than five minutes.

Two muffins are sitting next to each other in an oven. One muffin turns to the other and says, “It’s starting to get hot in here.” The second muffin says, “Holy cow! A talking muffin!”

I hate comment spam, but sometimes it’s entertaining. It puzzles me how thousands of cyberscumbags manage to flood blog comments with tripe and yet be unable to write an intelligible sentence or spell the simplest words. The Dadaists sometimes give me a chuckle. A couple of times, though, comment spam has really made a positive impact on me. A few months ago, my life was in a hopeless position. I had a wife, a child, a child on the way, and no job. In fact, I had been unemployed for over a year. I’d had many interviews, but no viable offers. I was on the brink of despair. Then one day I looked at my backlog of pending comments (400 or so pieces of spam) and saw one on a post called Hope for the hopeless. I didn’t remember what that particular post was about, so I read it. It had nothing to do with what I was going through except for the last line: “There’s no such thing as a dead end in His kingdom.” That encouraged me. Had it not been for that post getting spammed, I don’t know how I would’ve coped. What man meant for evil, God meant for good. It’s not Joseph’s story, but I’ll take what I can get.

Did I mention we’re having another baby? Tomorrow morning? I’ll be holding our new baby in about 12 hours. Wow.

Tapping into the soul of wit

There is a legend—I can’t decide whether it’s true—that Earnest Hemingway once won a ten-dollar bet by writing a six-word story:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Hemingway reportedly considered the story some of his best work. Whether the legend is true or not, the idea is intriguing. Can one write a story with six words? I shared an article that explores this with some friends and said, stupidly, “I think we should all try this.” I didn’t expect that anyone would take me seriously. But MCF, as is his wont, took it as a challenge. I figured I should at least try, since it was my idea in the first place.

The challenge with such a short story is to inspire creative thought in the reader. You can’t say much with six words, but you can suggest a lot. A single sentence can begin a story or end a story, or even hint at what came before as well as what might yet come. James Thurber used to draw single-panel cartoons of people in bizzare situations just so that readers would think, “How did this predicament come about?” Of course, since Thurber used pictures he was working with the equivalent of a thousand words as opposed to my six. I don’t know how successful my attempts may be, but here they are:

After all that, I quit coffee.

Emerged. Loved. Married. Procreated. Died. Loved.

I’m still pretty much a virgin.

It’s six fifty-nine, and all’s well.

It’s only a story, he thought.

Curious things happen when I dream.

Most people are words. I’m punctuation.

The piglet controls his bloodlust, usually.

My son the superhero

Tater as Green LanternRecently, MCF asked his readers to alter a photo of himself holding a sign. He framed it as a contest, so I entered and won. The prize was any sort of reasonable design or Photoshop task that was within his means, so I had him paste Tater’s face onto the body of the Golden Age Green Lantern (aka Alan Scott) and mine onto the Golden Age Flash (aka Jay Garrick). I didn’t look too good as the Flash, but that’s not MCF’s fault. Garrick was tall, stocky, and muscular. I’m medium height with a small frame, and my face is really too thin and angular to be anything but disconcerting in that context. Tater ended up making an awesome GL, though. Personally, I think they should let him into the GL Corps, but maybe that can wait until he learns to walk.

Funny movies, according to me

I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been busy, lazy, and uninspired. Somehow, though, MCF (as he so often does) has found a way to put a burr under my saddle, as we say in Texas. He made a list of what he considers to be the 20 funniest films of all time, and it is such a travesty I feel I must set the record straight.

First, a few disclaimers:

  • I hereby admit that humor is subjective, and that my sense of humor does not completely coincide with anyone’s, though there is bound to be some overlap.
  • I have never, even as a child, found The Three Stooges to be funny. I can respect the Marx Brothers and their pioneering ways, but I’ve never been able to sit through one of their films.
  • I love gross humor, but only if it makes sense. I thought There’s Something About Mary had some wonderful bits in it, but American Pie was trying a little too hard.
  • The easiest way to fake a sense of humor is to do a spoof. In general, spoofs hold no appeal for me. Airplane is the only film in this category that deserves even an honorable mention, unless you count Scream as a spoof. Scream was brilliant.
  • My list of “funniest” movies has less to do with how funny they are and more to do with how good they are.
  • My definition of “good” as it applies to any art is “something that stays with me for a long time, teaches me something, makes me think, and makes me want to watch it again.”
  • My list holds no particular number of movies and is in no particular order, but I have divided the movies into categories.
  • This list is not definitive. There are too many movies I haven’t seen, and in fact a number of them (six) are on MCF’s list.
  • My favorite movie ever is The Princess Bride, but I do not consider it a comedy. It transcends genre, though when pressed I call it a fairy tale.

Movies that probably no one but I would put on a list like this

I hesitate to include this film because 1) I haven’t seen it in nearly 20 years and 2) it is universally reviled. I saw it in high school, and I remember laughing hysterically. Granted, I was a teenager at the time and had the sensibilities of a teenage boy, but in my memory, Hoffman and Beatty were brilliant as Simon and Garfunkel wannabes to whom international espionage was a necessary evil in their quest to get their awful music heard. I want to see it again to see whether I’m remembering correctly, but it will probably never be released on DVD.

Addams Family Values
This film is the exception to the rule that sequels suck worse than the movies that spawned them. This follow-up to the mediocre original had an actual story to tell, three-dimensional characters who behaved consistently from beginning to end, brilliant one-liners, wonderful performances (I will never forget Christina Ricci’s “smile”), and hilarious situations that the Addamses breeze through with humor, passion, and a strangely morbid love of life.

Young Einstein
I have found in talking to people in the film business that great movies are not usually the ones that inspire. What makes most people get into films is seeing something of poor quality and thinking, “I could do better than that.” When I saw Young Einstein at the age of 20, I watched it no fewer than 15 times simply because Yahoo Serious has a sense of humor remarkably similar to my own, and an acting, writing, and directing abilities that are roughly equal to mine. If he can do it, I can do it.

Joe Versus the Volcano
I hated this movie when I saw it in the theater. Years later, I saw it again on video after I had worked for some time in a door factory. With that experience, I understood that JVtV was not the romantic comedy I had taken it for but rather a comic fairy tale written by someone who knew the feeling of losing your soul to a tedious job. It is not laugh-out-loud funny, but rather an internal, ho-ho, I-recognize-myself-in-that kind of funny.

Movies whose merit can be respectfully debated

Jason Schwarzman is perfect in his debut as an average high school student with aspirations of greatness. He lives and acts as if he has already achieved something, as if he’s capable of achieving anything, when in reality his earnest delusions affect people in ways true ability never could. I think this movie must be a guy thing. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who enjoyed or even understood it. I saw it with Mrs. Happy and a friend of hers, and they didn’t crack a smile from the titles to the credits. I, however, could barely catch my breath from laughing so hard and so constantly. It is the funniest, most heartfelt movie the Anderson/Wilsons trio has yet produced.

Dumb and Dumber
The Farrelly brothers know what’s funny, and this is freakin’ hilarious. Most people I talk to claim not to like it because “it’s stupid,” to which I reply, “You were expecting Shakespeare from a movie with this title?” For the record, the characters are ridiculously stupid, but the movie itself is wonderfully bright. If it were otherwise, the guys who sold a decapitated bird to a blind crippled boy, traded a van for a scooter, and tried to return lost luggage to Ms. Samsonite (they found her name imprinted on the suitcase) would have accepted the invitation of a bus full of supermodels at the end of the movie instead of directing them to a nearby town where they’d be sure to find a couple of guys happy to service them.

Blazing Saddles
No one thinks this movie isn’t funny. I include it in this category because all the profanity it contains lowers it slightly in my estimation. The censored TV version actually showed more wit and verve than the unedited theatrical release. Mel Brooks is not my favorite moviemaker. I think his films tend to contain more self-conscious parody and jokes-for-the-sake-of-jokes than original thought and storytelling. Blazing Saddles is an exception, as is Young Frankenstein, and both are among the funniest movies ever made.

The Cable Guy
Movies rarely admit that movie behavior is borderline psychotic. We all imitate what we see in the theater and on TV to some extent, but what happens when someone goes all the way and truly becomes the characters he idolizes? Jim Carrey show us in this film. It is dark and disturbing, yes, but highly entertaining and eye-opening. It didn’t do that well at the box office, but I think that was because people went in expecting another Ace Ventura and just didn’t get it.

Life Is Beautiful
Like real life, this is both comedy and tragedy. Roberto Benigni shows us what humor is for as he perseveres in an unbearable situation (a Nazi concentration camp) and saves his son’s life in more ways than one. No single movie has made me both laugh and cry as hard as this one. Some people object to it on grounds that the Holocaust is in no way funny. I agree, but I don’t think the movie makes light of suffering. It simply shows how one man mustered impossible levels of bravery and strength with his sense of humor and love for his family.

The absolute funniest movies I have ever seen, and any arguments to the contrary will have to be settled with fisticuffs

The Muppet Movie
Is there anything this movie doesn’t have? Wonderful songs, great characters, sharp dialog, brilliant jokes, celebrity cameos, a barely-there fourth wall, a ludicrous road-movie plot, and all those wonderful muppets.

This Is Spinal Tap
The mockumentary to end all mockumentaries and, ironically, the one that started them all. What I loved about Ishtar, Rushmore, and Dumb and Dumber was the exuberant earnestness of characters that had no business taking themselves as seriously as they did. That trait is embodied by every member of England’s loudest band, and delightfully so. It is full of amazing performances.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Every film requires its audience to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. The opening scene should let the audience know exactly what the rules are, and if the film is worth its salt it will stick to those rules. The first character we see in THG is King Arthur pretending to ride a horse, and he is followed by a stooped servant clacking two empty halves of coconuts to make a horse-clomping noise. So we know it’s a movie where ridiculous things will occur. But then the first bit of dialog has another character questioning where he managed to find a coconut in Britain’s temperate zone, so we know that the main characters are the ridiculous ones, and others are more sensible. The line between farce and nonsense is razor-thin. Many have tried to walk it, and most have failed pathetically. It has always been the Pythons’ strength. The Holy Grail is the pinnacle of their comedic achievement.

Raising Arizona
The Coen brothers are masters of their craft. How they came up with the idea for this movie is something I’ll never understand, because it’s not something that can really be explained. Their pitch for the studio had to be something like, “Okay, there’s this guy who’s a chronic convenience store robber, and he falls in love with the female cop who takes his mug shot every time he gets arrested. They get married and set up home in a trailer in Tempe, Arizona. They’re devastated when they find out they can’t have children, so when the local bigwig furniture dealer has quintuplets, they decide to kidnap one and raise it as their own, figuring the family won’t be too upset since they have four others just like him. And that’s the opening sequence.” The characters speak in a sort of redneck, high-brow poetry that seems not only natural but preferable to regular speech. The visuals are stunning. Certain camera movements are nothing short of breathtaking. The scene where John Goodman and his younger brother try to rob a bank is one of the funniest scenes in the history of cinema. It’s not often one can describe a comedy as “stunning.” In fact, there may be only one that can be described as such. This is the one.

If cartoons were meant for adults, they’d put them on in prime time

I think my favorite TV comedy of all time has to be The Simpsons. I judge the effectiveness of any piece of art by how deeply it affects my life, and The Simpsons has affected my life to the extent that I find an extreme emotional pleasure in quoting it at every available opportunity. This practice can draw confused stares from non-Simpsons fans, but it can also elicit appreciative chuckles from fellow Simpsonians. These are just a few ways I work The Simpsons into everyday conversation:

Note: The information that follows is not meticulously researched. It is from my imperfect memory, so actual quotes may differ from what you see here. Furthermore, please be aware that this post was almost certainly more fun to write than it is to read, and I won’t be offended if everyone skips it altogether. Also, I got the idea for this post from an article in The Onion.

The setup: Lisa meets a boy her age whose interests and intellect are a direct parallel to hers. He introduces himself as Thelonious. Awe-inspired, she asks, “As in Monk?” He responds…
The line: “The esoteric value is worth the beatings.”
When I use is: This one’s hard to pin down. I just use it whenever someone admires something I have, and that something is more fartsy than artsy.

The setup: Homer is on the grounds of Mr. Burns’ mansion, threatening him. Mr. Burns tells him to leave immediately. Homer responds…
The line: “Or what? You’ll let out the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs that have bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you?”
When I use it: Whenever someone gives me some sort of cease-and-desist imperative.

The setup: Mr. Burns has hired some old-school strike breakers to end the labor walk-out at his power plant. The guys he hires are the ones who used to break up strikes before labor laws were passed and enforced, so they’re all really old. Grampa Simpson, one of the strikebreakers, explains that one of the techniques they use is to tell stories that go nowhere. For instance, the time he went over to Shelbyville in aught-six. It was during the war, and…
The line: “…I was wearing an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time…”
When I use it: I like to explain complex ideas with metaphors that approach a given topic from a completely different direction than the discussion at hand but reach a conclusion that satisfies the original problem and illustrates the process of…um…sometimes I go so far afield that I forget the point I was trying to make. Also useful in this situation is a dialog between Homer and Bart, when Bart wants something his parents won’t give him:
Homer: Son, when I was your age, I wanted a dog worse than anything in the world, but my parents wouldn’t give it to me. So I held my breath until I passed out and hit my head on the coffee table. The doctors said there might be brain damage.
Bart: What’s the point of this story?
Homer: I like stories.

The setup: Bart perpetrates an elaborate hoax on his teacher, making her believe she has a pen pal who is a handsome fighter pilot that has fallen in love with her. Through the letters they exchange, Bart sets up a date for her and her “boyfriend.” She shows up at the appointed time and place only to wait two hours for the dream man who never arrives. She drops her head and sobs into a dying candle as Bart watches from afar and says, “Aw, she’s heartbroken….
The line: “I can’t help but feel partly responsible.”
When I use it: Any time I do something ridiculously stupid that I can’t even tangentially blame on someone else.

The setup: Comic Book Guy wins a Batman-style utility belt at a Star Trek convention, then tries to return it to a novelty shop because it is a medium size and will not fit around him. He berates the proprietor in his trademark fashion, but the shop owner is unimpressed, saying…
The line: “Ooh, a fat sarcastic Star Trek fan. You must be a devil with the ladies.”
When I use it: I use this only when either MCF or Jerry ticks me off with a snide quip.

The setup: This line is actually a combination of two unrelated lines. I can’t remember in which episode the first line occurred; I just know Homer says it, I think to Bart. The second line came from an episode in which Homer brags to Lenny and Karl about how smart Lisa is, telling them that some sort of scientific institution hooked a computer up to her brain to make the computer smarter, but she was so smart the computer exploded. Lenny asks him if that’s really true, and Homer says yes, yes it is…
The line(s): “Your ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. On a completely unrelated matter, I have to go.”
When I use it: When someone I like blathers on about something so trivial and unimportant that it tests the limits of my considerable tolerance.

The setup: Homer and Moe try to go bowling one night only to find that the entire alley is occupied by a bowling league. They sit at a table and complain, when Moe speaks a beautiful and farcical bit of self-pity…
The line: “They’re treatin’ me like dirt. Well, I’m better than dirt! Except for that fancy store-bought dirt. It’s full of nutrients. I…I can’t compete with that stuff.”
When I use it: When I feel the need for a bit of beautiful and farcical self-pity.

The setup: Homer gets a job taking cannon shots to the gut in some sort of Lollapalooza-type traveling music show. When he appears on stage, a teenager in the audience deadpans, “Here comes that guy who gets shot with a cannon. He’s cool.” When his friend asks him if he’s being sarcastic, he sighs and says…
The line: “I don’t even know anymore.”
When I use it: My sense of humor tends to be pretty dry—so dry that people often don’t know when I’m joking. Every once in a while someone will question whether I’m being serious.

The setup: Bart is developing emotional problems due to difficulties in school and draws a picture of a monster called Satan Clause. Marge asks Homer to look at it, but Homer is watching TV, so he simply raves about the picture’s beauty and insists they should hang it on the fridge. Marge forces him to actually look at the drawing, and when he does…
The line: “Eek! Send it to hell! Send it straight to hell!!”
When I use it: This line, and my delivery of it, never fails to make my wife laugh hysterically. Therefore, I say it any time I see any piece of mildly disturbing art.

The setup: Bart is in some sort of academic competition at school. His project finds favor with the judges, and Principal Skinner gives him the big award, but repeats his words as he hands Bart the trophy. Bart wakes from what turns out to be a dream, only to find Lisa bending over him and saying…
The line: “First prize! First prize! First prize!”
When I use it: The brilliance of this line is that Lisa says it for the sole purpose of messing with Bart’s dreams. I sometimes use it when I wake up Mrs. Happy.

There are other lines that occur to me when the moment is right, but I’ve already gone on too long. I’ll just end with a few that I love but hardly ever get to use:

  • “You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.”
  • “Can’t we have at least one meeting that doesn’t end with someone digging up a corpse?”
  • “Beer—the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
  • “I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missour-a!”

My music

Wendy came up with an idea for a blog post based on music in her iPod, then MCF did his own take on the same idea. I just happened to have made an iTunes playlist yesterday so that I’d have something to listen to on the road to and from Fredericksburg, Texas. Here are sample lyrics from each of the songs in the list. See if you can guess the songs and the artists before clicking the links for the answer. (I knew two of Wendy’s ten songs, and one of MCF’s 20.)

  1. I bet there’s rich folk eatin’ in a fancy dining car.
    They’re prob’ly drinkin’ coffee and smokin’ big cigars
  2. Oh his knees are-a gettin’ chilly
    But he feels no fear or pain
    ‘Cause he sees an angel peepin’
    Through a broken window-pane
  3. I’d buy you some art
    (a Picasso or a Garfunkel)
  4. Si tuvieras fe como grano de mostaza
    Eso lo dice el Senor
    Tu le dirias a la montana
    Muevete, muevete
    Esa montana se movera, se movera, se movera

    (Those are actually all the lyrics in the entire song, but it absolutely rocks. It’s one of the few songs in the world that makes me want to dance.)
  5. At times life is wicked and I just can’t see the light
    A silver lining sometimes isn’t enough
    To make some wrongs seem right
  6. Where’s the mini-skirt made of snake skin,
    and who’s the other guy singing in Van Halen?
  7. All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
    And I feel this empty place inside so afraid that Ive lost my faith
  8. When they said you was high classed,
    Well, that was just a lie.
    You ain’t never caught a rabbit
    And you aint no friend of mine.
  9. I thrill when I drill a bicuspid
    It’s swell though they tell me I’m maladjusted
  10. When that love comes down
    Without devotion
    Well it takes a strong man baby
    But I’m showing you the door
  11. God tells Gabriel behind the altar
    “Pick up your trumpet and begin to blow it”
    (I can’t find lyrics to this song anywhere, but here’s the album and here’s a sound clip.)
  12. Did you ever feel unwanted
    Kicked around so much you’re taunted
    Heart cries out with so much pain
    Well that’s the way l feel
  13. Blue! Blue! They sky is blue!
    The grass is green and your heart is true
    (Again, I find no lyrics for this online, but you can hear it on the band’s web site.)
  14. Si el espiritu de Dios esta en mi corazon
    Yo danzo como David
    Oh Yo danzo, Yo danzo, Yo danzo
    como David
  15. Wanna be ready, gotta be ready
    To fly away to my home
    My house is in order, my faith holdin’ steady
    I’ll fly away to my home
    (I’m starting to think I listen to some horribly obscure music, because I can’t find online lyrics for this, either. You can see the album, and listen to a Real Media clip.)
  16. D’ja hear ’bout Louie Miller? He done disappeared, dear
    After drawin’ out all his hard-earned cash
    And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
    Could it be our boy’s done somethin’ rash?

    (And yes, I’m listening to that artist’s version rather than the original.)
  17. In tales of ancient glory,
    Every knight and maiden fair
    shall be joined when the quest is over,
    And a kiss is the oath that they swear.

Coming home

I lived the first fifteen years of my life in Texas. I didn’t realize until I moved to another state how much people and customs vary from region to region. I have lived in four U.S. states in my life, and they all have a distinct culture. I’ve had to adjust to each one in turn, but the funny thing is that I have to readjust every time I return to Texas. Old, familiar things can surprise me by feeling old and familiar and resurrecting memories from days that seem lifetimes removed from the present.

I have loved everywhere I have lived, but I think I love Texas best. And though I did not live in Central Texas until adulthood, it feels more like home than anywhere else. Even so, I had to readjust my attitudes and expectations when I moved back from New York.

When I lived in New York, I had a pretty strong sense of identity: I was the guy from Texas. I was the one with the University of Texas Longhorns baseball cap. I was the one who sneered at the stuff that passed for Tex-Mex cuisine on Long Island. I was the one who said y’all so naturally that hardly anyone noticed. I was, at any given time, the most patient person in the room by far. I was the one who knew what a sky full of stars looks like. I was the one who had driven a tractor, ridden a horse, milked a goat, and eaten truly fresh beef.

I guess I’m still all or most of those things, but it doesn’t mean as much here. Everyone in Austin is from Texas, or at least lives in Texas. My UT cap is one of a million that grace the heads in this city, and it gets lost in the sea of burnt orange paraphernalia that has grown even larger since we beat USC 41–38 in the final minute of the national championship. People here actually have a lifetime of experience with authentic Tex-Mex food. Everyone says y’all except for the transplanted northerners, and even some of them say it. I am no longer even in the running for the most patient or slowest-talking person in the room.

New Yorkers, and probably the rest of the country as well, make fun of Texans for all those things. I think they don’t realize that Texans make fun of them for their irrationally hectic pace of life, the weird things they say (like you guys even when they’re not talking to guys), and their tendency to prefer concrete over grass and their $1,500-a-month efficiency apartments over affordable acreage.

Mrs. Happy and I attended the university-wide graduation ceremony at UT this past weekend. The orchestra played a medley called Songs of Texas. One of the songs in the medley was Deep in the Heart of Texas. In the old movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Pee-wee Herman phones his girlfriend while in San Antonio and proves to her that he’s in Texas by leaning out of the phone booth and singing “The stars at niiight Are big and briiight…”. Everyone within earshot of the phone booth claps four times in rhythm and sings “Deep in the Heaaart of Texas.” I would not be surprised if that worked in real life. Nearly everyone in the graduation audience (including me) clapped at the appropriate times, though we didn’t sing back at the orchestra. That would never happen in New York. I would be the only one clapping, and people would look at me like I had ten heads, but at least I would have a more distinct identity.

Movie Review

There’s a movie called The
Exorcism of Emily Rose
. I never even thought
about seeing it during its theatrical release because it looked like a knock-off
of The Exorcist, which I don’t really care to see.
Recently, though, I came across a Christianity
with the writer
Derrickson. I was surprised to learn that a) he is a Christian, and b) TEoER is
a courtroom drama.

The court case is the prosecution of a priest charged with the negligent homicide
of a girl who died under his care after he attempted to rid her of demons.
The girl’s story is told in flashbacks—sometimes from different, incompatible
points of view—that supply all of the horror-genre scenes. The three main
players in the court case are the priest (Tom
), his lawyer (Laura
), and the prosecutor (Campbell
). The priest, of course, wholly
believes that Emily Rose had been taken over by demons. The prosecutor, a devout
Methodist, believes Emily suffered from a medical condition in which epileptic
seizures led to psychosis. The defense attorney is an agnostic intent on defending
her client, but finds herself questioning her own personal beliefs about the
events leading to Emily’s death.

Mrs. Happy and I have watched this movie twice now. It will not receive
any Oscar nominations, but it’s worth checking out.

Seven things

I’m picking up this meme from Marriages
. I don’t do memes very often,
but it’s been a really long time since my last post and I can’t think of anything
to write. Anyway, here are my answers to the Seven Sevens meme:

Seven Things I Want To Do Before I Die

  1. Play with my grandchildren.
  2. Meet an angel.
  3. Publish a book.
  4. Visit Malaysia and all my Malaysian friends I’ve yet to meet.
  5. See the northern lights.
  6. Provide my family with a house and a yard.
  7. Coin a word that makes it into the dictionary.

Seven Things I Cannot Do

  1. Dance.
  2. Laugh at lame jokes.
  3. Touch my nose with my tongue.
  4. Take Keanu Reeves seriously.
  5. Watch a daytime soap opera.
  6. Enjoy going to the laundromat.
  7. Throw away a Bible.

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Wife

How ’bout a hundred?

Seven Things I Say Most Often

  1. "Hey."
  2. "I love you."
  3. (to Mrs. Happy) "You’re so beautiful."
  4. (about Tater) "He’s so amazing!"
  5. "Dangit."
  6. "I can’t find my shoes."
  7. "I need a catchphrase, or at least a watchcry."

Seven Books, Or Series, That I Love

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia (I have some reservations about the movie from
    what I’ve seen of the previews. I’ll be upset if it strays too far from the
    original intent of the books.)
  2. The Winnie-the-Pooh books
    (Not the Disney cartoons. Disney deserves some sort of eternal punishment
    for those cartoons. See
    for more info.)
  3. Madeleine L’Engle’s Time quartet
  4. The
    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  5. All Creatures Great and Small and other books by James Herriot
  6. Pretty much anything by Dean Koontz, but especiallyOdd
  7. Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again (and have)

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. The Muppet Movie
  3. The Shawshank Redemption
  4. Raising Arizona
  5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  6. Serenity (actually, I’ve only seen this once, but it’s going into my DVD
    collection when it comes out)
  7. This is Spinal Tap

Seven Things I Often Wonder…

  1. Who are all these people and why are they making such an effort to get
    in my way?
  2. Why is living on Long Island so expensive?
  3. Is my baby really the cutest ever, or is that just my biased opinion?
  4. What’s going to happen here?
  5. Does God’s omnipotence preclude humans’ free will or make it possible?
  6. How did this crap make it onto the radio?
  7. What will my baby be like in 5, 10, 15, 20…years?