Monthly Archives: October 2012

Podcast PSA- The Moth

I love podcasts!  I have a list of ones I am devoted to, and they are crucial to keeping me motivated when it comes to cleaning and doing laundry.

One of my favorites is The Moth Storyslam podcastThe Moth is an organization that promotes the good old fashioned art of storytelling, and they host evenings across the country where regular people off of the street can gather to swap tales.  Often the podcast features celebrities and other famous/professional storyteller types, but some of my favorites are the non professionals who come on to the stage, their voices often shaking just a tiny bit from nerves as they pour forth hilarity and pathos.  I grew up in a family of bullshitters of the highest order, people who know how to tell a story that will make you sit up and listen, and so I recognize the kind of intense verbal weaving that is the mark of every good storyteller.  It feels like home.

I thought about including a clip of one of the most famous Moth stories, Mike Birbiglia’s hilarious adventures in sleepwalking, but I’ve decided instead to go with a common man:  the winner of the first Pittsburgh Storyslam, a man randomly selected from the audience who ended up winning the night.

This man just so happens to be my uncle, and one of the great heroes of my life.

I apologize for the side-ways orientation here!  Don’t know how to fix it.  The audio is the main thing, anyway.


Unedited ramblings on a Saturday Morning

I am conflicted about this blogging thing.  I’m not sure how committed I am to sticking with it.

The problem is, I really think of myself as a creative writer.  Coming up with works of fiction is what makes me happy, keeps me grounded, and helps me work out what it all means.

But it takes so much work.

I’m more of a re-writer, actually, than a writer.  The first draft is a long, tedious slog for me as I essentially just work out an outline for what I want to do.  It’s inefficient, but it’s the only way I can do it.  Re-writing, though, fills me with confidence and energy.  I am an excellent editor of my own work;  if a passage or a line that I am particularly fond of doesn’t serve the story – poof!  Gone.  It’s my superpower.  It’s the one area in my life where I feel really competent.  I love chiseling away at an idea, finding the perfect way to best present it, delving into characters and discovering how they really work.  I love it!

But it takes so much time.

Time, for the uninitiated, is not something you can find in spades when you have a family.  Well, at least, not if you are an inefficient sort, as I am.

Blogging is a great compromise, a creative outlet that makes less demands time-wise.  Every time I work on a post though, I have a creeping uneasiness that my time would be better spent on other types of writing.  I have a fantastic idea for a screenplay (believe me, I know how stupid that sounds!) that I haven’t begun work on because I’ve been using my snippets of spare time to prepare stuff for this blog.

I think it comes down to this:  what does God want from the need to write He has given me?  Creative writing is what I am best at, and it’s what I most enjoy…..but it just sits around my computer once it’s done.  I don’t “do” anything with it, partly because I don’t have the time and partly because I am sensitive to criticism.

If I write a short story in the empty woods, does it make a sound?

Am I meant to make a sound?  I mention not having a barbaric yelp in my first post, but that wasn’t entirely true.  I think I do have one, I just don’t know if it’s meant to be heard.  Maybe I’m meant to slave over something I love without accomplishing anything, like the father with his piano in The Tree of Life.  Devotion without mastery is something powerful, I think, in the eyes of our children.  And the value of things that are never fully realized in this world is a theme that tends to run through just about everything I write.  It’s clearly something carved deeply in my heart.

So.  I don’t know.  There are some things I’m interested in exploring (like why I like the Song of Ice and Fire books so much, even though the racy parts are so shocking I never recommend them to Christian friends) and that I think are worth some time and effort.  Maybe I’ll keep this up, at least sporadically.  Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe this is the empty woods, too.  It may be that there is where I’m meant to stay.

Seven Quick Takes in which I out myself as a craft beer enthusiast

1. I am writing this on Thursday night, during the V.P. debates

My thoughts on politics:

Mmmm, this beer is delicious!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

2. Apropos of the beer

We actually did something today that my children believe we do every day while they are in school:  we went someplace fun!  We live a little over an hour from Troegs Brewery, and my husband heard that they were releasing a very small batch of super-special IPAs* so we decided to hop (heh heh) into the car and make an afternoon of it.

I am so glad we did!  Not only was the beer well worth the trip, the warehouse was a ton of fun.  They have all the brewing equipment set up to be observed and just walking around the perimeter was fascinating. The restaurant inside had some impressive items too;   it was hard to choose what to order.  (As it turned out, the star of our lunch was a crispy and fluffy homemade pretzel, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and dipped into some frothy/creamy/buttery sauce that made my day!  We bought it for the toddler, but the poor thing did not get much of it.)

3. I liked it so much I asked my husband to take my picture there.

He was shocked, so I had to whisper very very quietly, “I want to put it on my new blog.”  I was terrified that someone might overhear me and my pretentiousness.  But I took the picture.

4. I keep finding myself actually watching the debate.


5. Does #2 worry you?  Do you think we are alcoholics?

It’s okay, really!  We talk about beer, plan beer-related activities and proselytize about beer much more than we actually drink it.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love a nice stout or a big, hoppy IPA.  But we are kind of geeks, and we get geeky about the things we love.  We can’t help it.  But by “beer” please at least understand that I mean stuff that has actual taste and does not come in cans that change color by temperature, like my toddler’s Magic Bathtime Puppy.

6. The one heartbreak of the afternoon…

…was the moment, as we passed by Hershey Amusement Park, when my toddler saw the roller coaster and got really, really excited.  “I’m ready!” she shrieked.   I felt terrible.  Luckily, the gooey chocolate cookie she got with lunch seemed to make up for it.  She’s two, in case that doesn’t otherwise make sense.

7.  I feel like I should write something Catholic-y now, since I haven’t really done that yet.

So:  I signed up for the Read the Catechism in a Year thing, and I’m pretty pumped about it.  They email you a small portion of the Catechism every day and within a year you will have read the whole thing.  I think it’s a great idea, and it’s probably the only chance I’ll get, ever, to actually make it through the whole Catechism cover-to-cover.  So, way to go, people who set it up!  It’s a great idea and I think it’s a wonderful (read: easy) way to grow in our faith this year.

Now go read the rest of the Quick Takes at Jen’s!  I guarantee you more Catholicism and less beer.

*Fresh Hops Ale Scratch 78, for those in the know.  Made with elusive but wonderful Citra hops.

In Defense of Zombies

Zombies seem to be de rigueur these days, which is fine by me.  I love just about anything zombie-related, plus I am convinced that the surge in zombie popularity the past few years spells very good things for our culture at large.

Wait. What? Yes. Zombies are good!

For one, zombie themed movies and books tend to be pretty clean. Sex isn’t much of a priority when your friends are being eaten alive. Of course, they do tend to be heavy on the violence, but “violent” here means lots of blood spatter and fake limbs, very little of the actual violence that could be experienced or emulated in the real world. You may have heard of kids imitating violent video games, or music, or movies, but you never hear of kids trying to chew each others’ arms off. The sort of violence encountered in the gangster or revenge genres may disturb, but that is usually because they can reflect reality. After all, gangsters do exist and can do bad things. Your chances, however, of encountering a wrestling match between a walking corpse and a shark are pretty slim.

Zombies also remind us of what is truly important. In zombie fiction, you see the same theme over and over: when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, people return to the simple things. With the distractions of modern life destroyed by the ravaging hordes, the survivors cling to what is, after all, really important: family, friends, loyalty, courage, faith.

It goes deeper: modern materialists tell us that mankind is nothing but the sum total of our parts: blood, cells, synapses, muscle. No zombie aficionado could fall prey to such a line of thought. The zombie fan knows that we are not just the sum total of our parts, we are something more. When your girlfriend has been bitten, you hold her in your arms and tell her you love her. When her eyes glaze over and she stands up despite her multiple wounds to lunge for your neck, you cut off her head with a machete. It’s simple common sense. Your girlfriend’s body contains the same physical properties both before and after her demise. Even her mind continues to function after a fashion, as it is a known fact that the only way to stop a zombie is by destroying the brain. Despite all of these things, the zombie connoisseur knows that the girlfriend, in her essence, is gone. The body is reanimated, but the soul has fled; this tells us something vital, something the materialist has forgotten. As a collection of muscle and bone, there is nothing stopping us from eating each other alive. It is our souls, that nebulous, invisible, unprovable thing that makes us human. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but it could happen. What is certain is this: there are no materialists in the audience of a George A. Romero marathon.

Finally, zombies remind us of an important and hard to face fact: our own mortality. Momento Mori the monks of old used to inscribe over their doorways and walls – remember your death. “Remember that from dust you came and unto dust you must return.” (Gen 3:19) The world is not permanent for us, and it is a good and healthy thing to keep it in mind so that we may train our focus on the things that are permanent. On the other hand, though, it is frighteningly easy to allow the fact of our own deaths to drag us into despair. Thinking of our own deaths, it is a short journey to forgetting that death does not get the last laugh. If you believe in life after death,though, death must lose some of its horror and all of its permanence. This is an easy thing to think but a hard thing to feel, especially in regards to loved ones who have gone on before us. Zombies, with their lumbering (or sprinting, depending on your zombie proclivities,) their groans, their hunger for human flesh, take something scary and turn it into something a little bit silly. They are wonderfully, hilariously ridiculous and they provide an outlet to release our mortal anxieties.

Death, where is thy sting?

Zombie gems:

Night of the Living Dead – a classic!

Shaun of the Dead – a lighthearted twist, but still good zombie action

World War Z – the best zombie book, period.

28 Days Later – fast zombies! Brilliant.

note: This article originally appeared in my column in 09. I am choosing to believe it is not at all a bad sign that I’m already recycling posts on my two-week-old blog.

Big Easy Express, cheap!

My PSA for today:

I just found out that the documentary Big Easy Express is available right now to rent from Amazon for just $1.99!

Directed by Emmett Malloy, the film follows three bands (Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford and Sons, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) on their whistle-stop train tour.  It’s a love-letter to musicians, a teensy sneak look behind the scenes at three bands who share a passion for earthy music, some grizzled veterans of the road, some on the cusp of making it big time.  Watching it is a pure joy, not unlike sitting back and watching children play on the beach;  these people care so much, and are so on fire for what they are doing, that their sheer enthusiasm is inspiring.

Side note:  The Edward Sharpe guy is so stinking adorable when it comes to his wife that I wish someone would make a documentary just about the two of them.  While watching Big Easy, my husband at one point turned to me and said, “Now there is someone who loves his girl!”  And it was clearly true.