494. Almost Done

This blog is taking a one-week break, and shall return on December 12 with its final round of new posts.

This blog is almost done. Today is December 2. Typewriter Monkey Task Force shall end on December 30. Four weeks remain.

Obligatory Majora’s Mask reference. (I can’t help myself, and I’m not sorry.)

Before TMTF staggers ignominiously to its end, I must make a few quick announcements.

TMTF is taking a one-week break

December is a busy month, and I need some extra time to catch up with personal commitments. TMTF shall return on December 12. There will be no updates until then.

My plans for post-TMTF projects are not yet clear

I have not yet decided whether to start a personal newsletter after TMTF bites the dust. I will definitely work on my story project, but may possibly write a couple of short stories first. Speaking of which, I never did get around to writing that last Gabriel Green story for this blog. I apologize.

If you’re interested in following any of my future projects, you can find me on Twitter, on which I plan to share any future news or announcements; my Twitter handle is @coffeeologian. You can also reach me via this blog’s Contact page. It will remain active even after the blog ends.

December is a great time for charity

Around this time every year, I give a shout out to the Advent Conspiracy.

The Advent Conspiracy is awesome.

This Christian movement encourages everyone to spend a little less on Christmas consumerism, and to give a little more to charity. The Advent Conspiracy has a particular emphasis on clean water projects, which save lives, prevent disease, and improve quality of life in impoverished areas.

If you can spare two and a half minutes, I recommend this video explaining the Advent Conspiracy. I don’t even like churchy videos, but this one is rad.

It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to support the Advent Conspiracy. It’s a cause near to my heart, and you probably have a cause near to yours. Please consider supporting your cause this month. Christmas is a time for giving.

Besides, to quote my favorite video game that I’ll never actually play, the world could always use more heroes. You can be someone’s hero this month, and I hope you will be.

Coffee creamer makes a great hair product

A couple of days ago, I had a little accident at work, and it’s too funny not to share. I spilled some coffee creamer on my head—long story—and tried to wash my hair with a wet washcloth, spiking it up on one side. However, I couldn’t wash out all of the coffee creamer. When my hair dried, the spikes remained, stiffened as though with hair gel, and smelling pleasantly of caramel macchiato.

It was quite a look: business on the right, party on the left. The incident amused me so much that I, upon returning home, did something I don’t recall ever doing before: I took a selfie.

Spiky.

I’m too lazy to style my hair; I keep it short so that I don’t even have to comb it. My one day of accidental style was neat, but I don’t plan on ever buying hair gel… or coffee creamer, for that matter. (I prefer my coffee with milk, thank you.)

Well, I think that wraps it up. Speaking of which, I still have a gift to wrap… and blog posts to write… and other stuff to do. Bah! Humbug!

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back.

Silence

I’m astonished, even amazed, that this movie has actually been made. I can’t wait to see it.

The trailer above is for a film adaptation of Silence, a heartbreaking novel by Japanese novelist Shūsaku Endō. It tells of two seventeenth-century Jesuits who travel to Japan to help its persecuted Christians, and to investigate claims that a fellow Jesuit had publicly disowned his faith.

The novel is considered Endō’s masterpiece, but outside of literary circles, it’s mostly unknown in the West. Silence is not a fun read, and not a book that lends itself easily to film.

I’m amazed not only that a movie adaptation has been made, but that it has been made by Martin freakin’ Scorcese, a filmmaker considered one of the most significant of all time.

This movie has been his passion project for more than twenty years. Many of the cast and crew, including Mr. Scorcese, worked for minimum pay to keep the film within its budget. When a director like Scorcese waits two decades for the chance to make a movie, it’s bound to be remarkable. I hope it’s remarkably good; I suppose it could be remarkably bad. Either way, a passion project like Silence won’t be lukewarm.

Silence stars Liam Neeson in a supporting role, which is awesome. He gave a fine performance in The Mission, a film with striking similarities to Silence. He’s also, y’know, Liam freakin’ Neeson. ’Nuff said.

Silence, the novel on which the film is based, is a book near and dear to my heart. I first read it almost a decade ago for a class in high school. I realized it was something special, but didn’t know why at the time.

Well, now I know.

Silence is a powerful meditation upon the silence of God. It’s also a reflection upon the apparent incompatibility of Christianity and Japan—a poignant perspective written by a Japanese Christian whose culture was indifferent to his faith.

Japan fascinates me. More significantly, I’ve struggled to keep my own faith in a world that seems ever more incompatible with it. Silence speaks to me. (Yes, I know how odd that sounds.) The novel shall always be one of my favorites. I can’t wait to see the movie.

493. Adam Turns into the Hulk and Rants about Interruptions

Caution: This blog post contains furious ranting. Sensitive readers, and readers averse to things being smashed, are advised not to continue.

My memories of kindergarten are few and faint, but I have never forgotten its lessons. Kindergarten taught me the importance of picking up after myself—does anybody else remember the clean-up song?—and of occasionally taking breaks. Man, I miss those scheduled naps.

Among other lessons, kindergarten taught me that I shouldn’t interrupt others when they’re speaking. I didn’t practice this lesson very well, and sometimes still don’t, but at least I acknowledged it, even as a kindergartner.

Many people don’t practice this lesson, and some are apparently not even familiar with it. Instead of waiting patiently for others to finish speaking, in the manner of civilized human beings, they interrupt—sometimes with statements that are completely unrelated, proving they weren’t really listening, or simply didn’t care.

An interruption says, implicitly, “Screw whatever you want to say. What have to say is more important, because am more important.”

Interruptions are rude, disrespectful, and inconsiderate. They make me mad. They make me really mad… and bad things…  happen… when… I….

BLOG SMASH!

TIME FOR HULK, BUT ONLY WHEN YOU DONE SPEAKING.

YOU DONE SPEAKING, PUNY BLOG-MAN? HULK NO WANT TO INTERRUPT. YOU DONE? GOOD. IT HULK TURN NOW.

INTERRUPTION IS DOUBLE INSULT. IT SAY, “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR OPINION,” AND ALSO, “YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO MY OPINION.” THESE STATEMENTS, TOGETHER, EQUAL, “I BELIEVE I AM BETTER, OR SMARTER, OR WORTH MORE THAN YOU.”

YOU MAY NOT SAY THESE WORDS, BUT INTERRUPTIONS SAY THEM IMPLICITLY. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

IF YOU WANT OTHERS TO LISTEN TO YOU, LISTEN TO OTHERS. DON’T BE HYPOCRITE. DON’T BE RUDE, DISRESPECTFUL, AND ARROGANT.

FURTHERMORE—

Hi there.

WHAT? WHO DARE INTERRUPT HULK?

You have, in a manner of speaking. I’m the part of your mind that stays sane and calm during your rants and rampages as the Hulk. I’m your rational subconscious.

HULK HAVE NO SUBCONSCIOUS. HULK JUST SOUND AND FURY. NOT COMPLICATED.

Hulk is a conflicted, psychologically fascinating individual, but that’s not the point.

Hulk is clearly a complex, sensitive person. Can’t you tell?

I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled rant to remind you of something important.

YOU BETTER HAVE GOOD REASON FOR INTERRUPTING HULK.

You’ve spent a lot of time ranting about things that annoy you, from butchered hymns to Black Friday to noisy people. Has ranting made any difference?

NO. THESE THINGS STILL ENRAGE HULK.

These bad things aren’t likely to change, you know. There will always be awful Internet ads, high prices for coffee drinks, and stinky people. Maybe, instead of ranting, you should practice patience. Set a good example. Be the change you want to see. Words, however loudly they’re spoken, go only so far. As you pointed out, actions speak louder than words.

YOU WERE LISTENING TO HULK.

I was.

GOOD EXAMPLE NOT GUARANTEED TO CHANGE BAD THINGS.

Neither is ranting. It acknowledges problems, but doesn’t fix them. Besides, does the world really need more noise and indignation?

YOU GIVE HULK THINGS TO THINK ABOUT. HULK THINK ABOUT THEM.

Glad to hear it.

ON BITTERSWEET NOTE, HULK BLOG SOON END. NO MORE HULK RANTS. HULK WANT TO THANK EVERYONE FOR READING. AND FOR NOT INTERRUPTING.

HULK OUT!

…Whoa, I spaced out for a minute. Was I talking about something? I feel like I was talking about something. Kindergarten, maybe? I barely remember it. I do miss scheduled naps, though.

492. About Storytelling: Representation Really Matters

This post is a long one, but I believe it’s much more important than most of this blog’s nonsense, so please bear with me patiently. (This post is also extremely geeky, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone.)

A friend and I recently watched Doctor Strange, the latest in a long line of superhero movies based on Marvel comics. It starred Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor from Sherlock who looks like an otter. Along with some psychedelic visuals—watching certain scenes was like taking drugs without actually, y’know, taking drugs—Mr. Cumberbatch’s performance elevated an otherwise predictable Marvel movie.

Yes, Marvel movies are pretty formulaic at this point. The dialogue is peppered with quips, the villains are generally unimpressive, and the starring heroes are white dudes.

It’s tradition.

Every headlining star in a Marvel movie has been a white man. There are female characters and characters of color, of course, but nearly always in supporting roles. Black Widow (a woman) and Nick Fury (a black man) don’t get their own movies. War Machine and Falcon, both black heroes, are sidekicks to Iron Man and Captain America, both white heroes. Movies starring a black man (Black Panther) and a woman (Captain Marvel) are in development, but after eight years, only white men have starred so far in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place for diverse representation. Maybe I should look at, say, video games.

I’m pretty sure that each of these famous video game characters is actually the same guy in a different wig.

Maybe not.

I have absolutely nothing against white guys. I am a white guy. Many of my friends are white guys. There is nothing wrong with white guys. However, when white guys become a default template for fictional characters, well, that just ain’t fair.

People like to see themselves represented well in fiction. For example, I’m a Christian, and it really bugs me that Christians are often underrepresented, or represented badly, in popular culture. Joining Christians in that category are… well, lots of people. Women, people of color, various minority groups, and people with certain body types, among others, are often not represented well.

It ain’t fair.

I could yell and shake my fists, but won’t. (I find it doesn’t help.)

Instead, I’ll give a shout out to Marvel Entertainment, whose films I criticized earlier for lacking diversity, because its story doesn’t end there.

Marvel makes TV shows with fairly diverse representation. Luke Cage stars a black man, features a mostly black cast, and offers thoughtful takes on black culture and identity. I didn’t like Jessica Jones, but its depiction of a woman recovering from (maybe literal and definitely metaphorical) rape trauma deserves consideration and respect.

In the meantime, Marvel’s comics are becoming steadily more diverse. I hardly read superhero comics. However, I do occasionally read articles from Evan Narcisse, a journalist who offers brief but fascinating glimpses into contemporary comics.

Well, this is different. I like it.

Mr. Narcisse’s articles inform me that a woman carries Thor’s title at the moment. The current Spider-Man, Miles Morales, is a half-black, half-Hispanic teenager. Iron Man’s successor is a young black woman. Bruce Banner has passed on his Hulk condition to a young Asian-American man.

Marvel is embracing diverse representation, and so are many video games. I can think of at least two games—not indie games, mind you, but triple-A titles—that star Native Americans. More games are getting people of color, and fewer babes in chain-mail bikinis, as playable characters. The latest Tomb Raider games reinvent Lara Croft, perhaps the most egregious sex symbol in the game industry, as a smart, tough woman who actually wears clothes.

Then there’s Overwatch. God bless Overwatch. It’s a multiplayer video game in which colorful characters shoot each other with guns. It also boasts some truly amazing (read: Pixar-level) animations. I’ll never play Overwatch—I don’t care for multiplayer games about shooting people with guns—but I’m glad it exists.

Overwatch has an amazing cast of characters.

The characters in Overwatch represent quite a number of races, nationalities, and body types. As you might expect from a video game, there are a couple of tough-looking white guys and a few slim, curvy white ladies. There’s also a chubby Asian woman, a black Hispanic man, an old Middle Eastern woman, and a brawny Slavic woman, to name a few. (There’s also a gorilla from the moon. How’s that for diversity?)

I will remember the characters in Overwatch long after I’ve forgotten most of the generic white dudes from other video games—and that’s one reason representation really matters. Far from getting in the way of storytelling, representation can actually improve it. Diverse characters bring backgrounds, languages, cultures, and points of view to a story that might otherwise be generic or forgettable.

By the way, I know this is a longer post than usual, so please accept, as a reward for reading this far, this animation of a character from Overwatch booping someone’s nose. It’s barely relevant, but it makes me happy. Here you go.

Boop!

What was I saying? I was distracted by the boop. Ah, yes, I was making the case that diverse representation can actually benefit storytelling.

A lot of people grumble that diverse representation is just “political correctness,” and that it causes harm. Does it?

Believe it or not, there can be harm in diverse representation. It can be done badly. Diversity for its own sake, lacking respectfulness and understanding, is a huge mistake. Not doing can cause less damage than doing badly. It’s wrong to leave a starving man hungry, but it’s worse to feed him poison.

Diverse representation isn’t easy. Like everything else in a good story, it must seem real. It must convince. A storyteller must understand and respect whatever he represents, which is especially hard if it doesn’t represent him.

This brings me to a personal note. It’s easy for me to preach diversity in storytelling without actually practicing it. Up to this point, I haven’t practiced it.

I want to practice it. Instead of merely ranting that contemporary stories aren’t diverse enough, I should tell a story with diversity. Conveniently enough, there’s a story I want to tell.

Anyone who has followed this blog for more than five minutes knows of the Lance Eliot saga, the story I’ve tried for more than a decade to write. Its hero was always a white dude because, y’know, I’m always a white dude.

This time, Lance Eliot isn’t white. He’s Hispanic—Ecuadorian American, to be exact.

lance-square-portrait

The premise of the Lance Eliot saga is that Lance saves another world from destruction. I had always planned for a few other characters to represent other races, but imagined Lance as a white man.

In so doing, I became unintentionally guilty of upholding the white savior narrative, in which a white person rescues a community of non-white people. On the surface, it’s a bit racist. Look a little deeper, and… well, it’s still racist. The narrative is common, however—just look at James Cameron’s Avatar, whose white hero saves an entire society of people of color. (That color is blue, but the narrative is the same.)

I didn’t want Lance Eliot to be another white savior. The world has enough white saviors; Lance can be a coffee-colored one.

I chose to make Lance an Ecuadorian American specifically because of all non-white ethnic groups, I believe it’s the one I can represent most faithfully, respectfully, and convincingly. I grew up in Ecuador; I live in America. Beside, I’m well acquainted with an Ecuadorian American: my aunt, a wonderful lady who not only makes delicious Ecuadorian food, but also watches American football with greater enthusiasm than any of the white people in my family. (My white relatives prefer Latin American soccer, ironically enough.)

Has Lance’s change of ethnicity gotten in the way of the story? Not at all! In fact, I believe it will enrich the story… whenever I get around to writing it. As a character suspended between cultures, Lance now has better reasons for feeling insecure and out of place, and for hiding those feelings behind sharp sarcasm. He can adapt quickly to the fantasy world I will create, because he’ll already have learned to adapt to other cultures. I can relate to Lance more than ever before. My attempt at diverse representation will (probably) help me to write a better story.

People like to see themselves represented well in fiction, but even as a white guy, I’m tired of seeing white guys. I want to see other experiences, cultures, and points of view. There’s a big world out there, and I want to see more of it.

On a related note, Disney’s Moana just hit theaters. It looks rad.

Well, I’m hooked. (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.)

I know this post was a long one, and probably not much fun to read. Thanks for reading it anyway. Adam out. Boop!

490. TMTF’s Top Ten Ways Autumn Isn’t Horrible

I don’t like the fall season. It’s cold, dark, and flavored like pumpkin spice. Leaves fall. Flowers die. Everything turns brown. Worst of all, here in the American Midwest, autumn happens every single year. It just ain’t fair.

However, autumn isn’t all bad—mostly bad, yes, but not quite all bad. It has its charms. Here are ten reasons why the fall season isn’t totally awful.

Bundle up, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Ways Autumn Isn’t Horrible!

10. Daylight Saving Time Ends

On the first Sunday in November, the time is set back one hour at two o’clock in the morning. In practical terms, I gain an hour, provided I remember to set back my clocks. An extra hour of sleep? Yes please.

I happen to be a big fan of sleep.

Of course, the time is set forward one hour when Daylight Saving Time begins in spring, costing me a precious hour of sleep, but I’ll not worry about that until March!

9. Snowfalls Are Gentle, Gorgeous, and Mercifully Brief

Snow is beautiful when it’s falling or freshly fallen. It softens everything and gleams with an infinity of tiny sparkles. Then it quickly becomes a nuisance. Heavy snow becomes slushy, crusty, or muddy, and always wet and cold. Autumn sometimes brings light snowfalls, but they never overstay their welcome. They last just long enough to be pretty, and no longer.

8. Winter Blockbusters Begin to Arrive in Movie Theaters

After the October wave of horror films, end-of-year blockbusters start to trickle into movie theaters.

Aw, yeah.

We have Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Disney’s Moana this fall. Last autumn brought The Peanuts Movie, which surpassed my cynical expectations, and the one before gave us Disney’s Big Hero 6. I may not like the fall season, but it brings some great movies.

7. Triple-A Video Games Are Released

The final months of each year often bring not only good movies, but also great video games.

Aw, yeah.

Triple-A is the classification given to games with big budgets, which is often (but not always) an indication of high quality. Game developers often save their triple-A releases for the holiday season. I play mostly older games these days, but still enjoy watching trailers and reading reviews for brand new ones.

6. Leaves Turn Bright, Beautiful Colors

As summer fades, leaves change from green to brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Clusters of leaves become clouds of fire.

Colors like these are the only warm things about autumn, I’m afraid.

Apart from the trees, autumn is a season of drab grays and murky browns, so the fiery colors of leaves are a welcome change… until they die, turn brown, and fall to the ground, of course. Ah, well. Beauty is often a fleeting and fragile thing.

5. Thanksgiving Day Arrives

I poke fun at the Thanksgiving holiday, but it’s actually one of my favorites. I love the idea of setting aside a day for family, food, fellowship, and… well… thanksgiving. Unlike Halloween or Christmas, Thanksgiving demands no elaborate customs or decorations: no costumes, no trick-or-treating, no carols, no presents. It represents not the busyness of Martha, but the peace of Mary. (It’s just a shame about Black Friday.)

4. The Christmas Season Approaches

It’s against my religion to listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. (It isn’t really, but seriously, guys, wait until after Thanksgiving Day.)

Christmas is coming!

I’m a little cynical about the Christmas season, but only a little, and colder weather is a reminder that Christmas is coming. Autumn is a dreary season, but it promises brighter things. I appreciate that.

3. Fresh Apple Cider Becomes Available for Purchase

I like apples. really like apples.

How ’bout them apples?

For just a few glorious weeks every year, a local Amish market sells fresh apple cider: unpasteurized, unadulterated, with no preservatives or additional ingredients of any kind. It is glorious, and available only in early autumn.

2. Colder Weather Enhances Enjoyment of Warm Things

I hate cold weather, but appreciate how it increases my enjoyment of warmth. Hot food warms as well as satisfies. My sleeping bag becomes a haven of perfect warmth and comfort. (I don’t own a bed, because beds are for sensible, well-adjusted people.) However deeply the cold may settle in my bones, a hot shower always drives it out. Coffee, which is a refuge and strength at all times, keeps away the cold. Heck, even washing dishes becomes kind of a treat.

1. Autumn Brings Duster Weather

I actually like cool weather; it reminds me of Quito, where I was born, and where I spent many years. Even when the air turns painfully cold, I don’t despair, for lo! I have a duster overcoat.

I couldn’t find a photo of myself wearing my duster—selfies, like Christmas music before Thanksgiving, are against my religion—but my overcoat looks just a bit like the Tenth Doctor’s, minus the sparkles.

Since it appeared mysteriously in my closet a few years ago, I’ve taken a geeky satisfaction in wearing it when the autumn air turns chilly. My duster makes me look a bit like a khaki canvas tent, but it makes me feel awesome, and also warm.

What do you like most about the final months of the year? Let us know in the comments!

Star Wars Is Back, and That’s Awesome

Well, if it isn’t our friend with the cello. I’ve been in a Star Wars mood lately, and with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on the horizon, it seems like a good time to revisit some of the best music from the famous film franchise.

Some story elements in the Star Wars movies are pretty weak, but the films have three outstanding strengths.

First is the visual design. Have you seen Darth Vader’s mask and helmet?

At once stern, sad, and inscrutable, this mask and helmet are a masterpiece.

Vader’s armor is amazing. So are the TIE fighters, X-wing fighters, Star Destroyers, stormtrooper outfits, and lightsabers, not to mention the Millennium Falcon. These things are iconic for a reason: their visual design is striking and unique.

Another strength of the films is their sound design. Like the visuals, it’s positively iconic: the buzz and hum of lightsabers, Vader’s breathing, the scream of TIE fighters, and the whine of laser weapons. It’s all so good.

The final great strength of Star Wars is its music. John Williams may be one of the greatest film composers ever, and Star Wars is some of his best work. The video above includes my favorite melodies from the films, including “Main Theme,” “Imperial March,” “Duel of the Fates,” and, of course, “Cantina Band.”

Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon for many reasons, including the strengths I’ve mentioned. They give the franchise an enduring quality, which we remember long after we’ve forgotten Luke Skywalker’s whinier moments and Boba Fett’s embarrassing demise.

What an embarrassing way to go.

I grew up on Star Wars. Besides watching the movies, I played whatever Star Wars games I could find. (These included such cult classics as X-Wing on the PC and Rogue Squadron on the N64. Great games!) I also began reading licensed Star Wars novels within a couple of years of learning to read. My first attempt at writing a book, at roughly age eight, was my own take on a Star Wars novel. I wrote about two paragraphs before giving up. (Writing is hard, man.)

By the time I reached middle school, my passion for Star Wars was dwindling. I had moved on to other media franchises, such as The Lord of the RingsHarry Potter, and The Legend of Zelda. The final Star Wars movie, Episode III, was a disappointment. (The prequels were all disappointments, really, but I didn’t realize it at the time.) No more films were planned. The licensed novels had become steadily more nonsensical. It wasn’t worth keeping up with the franchise’s convoluted narratives.

Star Wars was dying.

Then, just a few years ago, Disney bought Star Wars. A new film entered development.

The film represented, dare I say, a new hope.

The clutter of the franchise’s expanded universe—three decades’ worth of contradictory stories by dozens of different writers—was swept away, declared by Disney no longer to be Star Wars canon. The first new Star Wars movie was really good. I hadn’t even dared to hope there would be a new movie, let alone a good one.

After ten or eleven years, I’m recovering my interest in Star Wars. It’s exciting and nostalgic. It’s also oddly comforting, like slipping under a warm blanket patterned with TIE fighters. I’m fond of Star Wars, and I’m glad it’s back.

489. Trump Predictions

This is not a Serious Post. I wrote a Serious Post last time. Nah, today’s post is silly. These days of strife and political uncertainty call for a little comic relief, and TMTF is ready to answer that clarion call. Silliness is my beat.

Today I’ll share nine predictions of what Donald Trump will do as President of the United States. Please note that my jabs at Mr. Trump are all in good fun, and not meant to be taken as serious political commentary. I believe it’s important to respect our leaders whether or not we agree with them. That said, I also believe in the importance of humor, especially in difficult times. I found some cheer in writing this post, and I hope you find some cheer in reading it.

Cheers.

Here are my predictions for Donald Trump’s first actions as President of the United States.

(If you’re reading this, Mr. President, please don’t deport me.)

  • In addition to building a wall along the Mexican border, Trump will build a wall between the US and Canada, “just to be safe.”
  • Trump will make Official Donald Trump Wigs™ not only available to the American public, but mandatory. Now you can sport Trump’s iconic hairdo! What a privilege!
  • Trump will ban anime: “I love Japan—nobody loves Japan more than me—but anime is taking away jobs from our American animators. We make the best animation in the world. We don’t need anime. Anime is watering down America. We need to make animation great again. And anime is just weird, just really weird. Those Pokémonsters and giant robots—unhinged, really unhinged. No more anime. Let’s keep America safe.”

Unlike President Obama, Trump is probably not an anime fan. (For the record, President Obama isn’t actually an anime fan, which is a shame.)

  • As compensation for C.S. Lewis’s blatant plagiarism of the Trump name for one of his own characters, Trumpkin the dwarf, Trump will demand royalties for all copies sold of The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Trump’s likeness will replace the current pictures of famous Americans on all existing denominations of US currency.
  • By decree of Trump, all American manuscripts of historical significance will be subjected to a barrage of painstaking examinations and scientific tests: “There’s a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. I know there is; I saw it in a documentary this one time. There’s a treasure map, and that treasure belongs to the American people. It’s a travesty, a total travesty, that nobody’s found it yet.”

National Treasure is a great, um, documentary?

  • Trump will decree that all seasonal autumn flavors must be renamed Trumpkin Spice. (I must give due credit to Lauren Faust on Twitter for this one.)
  • Trump will deport everyone except himself, his family, and his personal staff, reducing the US population to dozens. Overpopulation solved, baby.
  • Trump will commission the construction of a national monument for himself. It will be orange.

God bless America. We’re going to need it.

488. I Believe

There is a fine line between healthy transparency and self-centered whining. I sometimes stumble over it. I tend to talk too much, or not enough, about my struggles and problems. Unlike some of the writers and bloggers whom I admire, I haven’t mastered the art of selfless transparency.

I hope I can be transparent today without seeming whiny or selfish. A number of things have weighed me down lately with sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty.

I’m not sure what to do, except to keep going.


Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to thy God to order and provide,

who through all changes faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend

through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.


A couple of months ago, as I sat in a back pew of my church, a singer took the stage for a special performance of “Be Still My Soul.” It’s a beautiful hymn, and one of my favorites. As the singer began the second verse, I was surprised to find myself holding back tears.

I almost never cry. It took me a moment to realize why an old hymn had brought tears to my eyes.

“Be Still My Soul” took me back to simpler days, when God seemed near and the future seemed bright. Oh, how things changed. I’ve kept my faith, but it seems to make so much less sense. As I listened to the hymn, I grieved.

These days, I sit in the back.

It was a moment of painful emotional clarity. I felt, for a moment, echoes of my old faith, with its old confidence and hopefulness. I mourned their loss.


Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake

to guide the future surely as the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;

all now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know

his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.


Work has been really tough lately. A widespread shortage of nursing professionals has left my workplace, a nursing home, hilariously short-staffed. At any rate, the staff shortage would be hilarious if it weren’t, y’know, a serious problem that’s exhausting and demoralizing those of us remaining.

I applied this week for part-time work at a few local libraries. They aren’t hiring, unfortunately, but offered to keep my applications on file. I’m not hopeful, but hey, I tried. I tried, I tried, I tried. Now it’s back to a workplace that seems a little more dysfunctional every day.

At least it’s not as bad as my last job, I remind myself. It isn’t yet.

I learned just yesterday that starting next year, I must either work more hours every week, or lose my employee health insurance. It’s not an easy choice. I feel like I can’t handle working any more hours, especially under current conditions, but can’t afford to lose my insurance coverage.

Whatever I decide, change is on its way.

I really don’t like change.

I’m not the only one facing uncertainty. A few days ago, the United States of America chose Donald Trump as its next leader. I’m busy preparing for the Mad Max-style wasteland this nation will become.

I’m kidding about the wasteland. I wish I were kidding about Trump. In writing this blog, I’ve avoided political discussions: partly to avoid strife and controversy, and partly because I’m not versed in politics. Today I’ll make an exception to acknowledge that Trump’s election troubles me greatly. A majority of voters supported a narcissistic liar who openly derides women, immigrants, minorities, and the disabled.

Is this America? Are Trump’s ideas what we value, support, and believe? Is this God’s Church in America? Have we really decided Donald Trump was the most Christlike candidate for president?

(Besides, have you seen Trump’s hair? It’s not a hairdo—it’s a hair-do-not.)

Look at that hair. Look at it. It’s horrible. On second thought, maybe don’t look at it.

Trump’s election is appalling, but Hillary Clinton was hardly a better choice. This was an ugly election, and I couldn’t see any possible victory. Simon & Garfunkel put it well: “When you’ve got to choose, every way you look at it, you lose.”

America, which already seemed plenty broken, is in shock. Reactions range from fear to outrage to smug satisfaction. Heck, the situation makes my workplace seem perfectly ordered and functional by comparison.

I just want to stay home, drink tea, and wrap Christmas presents. Is that an option?


Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on

when we shall be forever with the Lord;

when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,

sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past

all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.


My parents moved to Spain a week ago. After using my apartment as their home base for seven months, they packed, said goodbye, and launched themselves bravely into the next chapter of their journey. I miss them. More to the point, I am so proud of them. They live by faith, always cheerful, bouncing from place to place with practiced ease, loving others.

My parents are the best.

A week or so before my parents left, my older brother and his family concluded a brief visit to Indiana. They’ve returned to the Dominican Republic to continue working with troubled youth. I’m proud of them, too.

My family lives by faith in Jesus Christ. They uphold a legacy of belief and devotion that stretches back generations. That circle remains unbroken. I believe. At any rate, I try.

Perhaps my favorite prayer in the Bible isn’t actually a formal one, but a desperate plea from a man at the end of his hope. A father begged Jesus to heal his son, who from childhood had suffered from an excruciating malady caused by a demon. (Here’s the full story.)

“If you can do anything,” pleaded the man, “take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” echoed Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

The father exclaimed, desperately, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

That’s my prayer these days.

I face my own challenges, and the world seems more broken by the day, but God has a reputation for calming storms, and for making just a little good stretch a long way. God is bigger than social inequality and personal problems—and he is certainly bigger than Donald Trump’s hair.

Be still, my soul.