Monday, December 24, 2012

Ode to 'Nog...


That'd be a pint and a half o' the stuff... Yumz!
 
I chug this ‘Nog because it is yummy.
Over the tongue and down into the tummy.
 
Available only once a year,
It’s certainly sure to bring lots of cheer.
 
Well – that is unless you’re icky;
One of those weirdoes who’s super picky?
 
Perhaps you just don’t realize what you’re-a missin’!
So set down your fanny and have a good listen.
 
Egg-Nog should be savored and sipped.
It’s a crème-a-la-crème so unlike reindeer chips…
 
Creamy and thick, like a shake made of milk,
It’ll sit on your tongue and feel softer than silk.
 
Because of its rarity this drink can be expensive.
Nonetheless this is no time to be pensive
 
‘Nog is a drink fit for the highest of class.
Pleablings and peasants ought better to pass.
 
But if you feel ready for a treat that is treaty,
Something so tasty for you and your sweetie.
 
I’d suggest drinkin’ a keg of the ol’ ‘Nog.
But savor it slow, don’t be a big hog!
 
 
Merry Christmas, friends, family, and fellow hooligans!

Friday, December 14, 2012

An adventure...

 
Well, it's finally here and Matty and I will be off to pick up a friend, and then we three will be headed to the cinemas. Imax 3D will be waiting for us. We’ll be meeting another friend there, and the four of us will be watching The Hobbit together. We would have gone at midnight this morning, but work has been calling me in at midnight through holiday season, so that was a no-go.
 
 
 

Still – it ought to be immense amounts of fun! We're all really looking forward to it. I’ll be wearing my cosplay costume. Because I’m a dedicated nerd. It took me months to put it together and I still can’t believe I went through all the effort. (Actually I should be shouting out to PatricksPens over at ShirtWoot! for his beautiful artwork on this shirt. I really like his style. Oh - and the content choice, of course!)
 

 

It’ll be a long day for me, though, mostly 'cause I’ve been up since 10:30 last night. How will I be able to keep my eye-lids from unconsciously closing you might ask? Well - with a little help from a life-line of mine… Mountain Dew. I’m on a Mountain Dew binge. I’ve already drank several pints of the stuff and am ready for even more consumption. I've got a couple cases of assorted-sized cans, so I should be well-stocked. If one were to ask me, I’d tell him that Mountain Dew is the best carbonated drink available to man-kind. The stuff is just so great.
 


I cannot wait! This is going to be one immaculate night! Whoo! (Many apologies for this post and its apparent mindlessness. I really am a sane person... on most occasions.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sketchbook Pages...


 
            It’s been some time since I posted anything related to drawing on this blog. I noticed that my sketch pad is nearly full. I’ll certainly need to replace it soon with a fresh, new one from my local arts and crafts store. I’ve always found it enjoyable to go back and skim through my sketch pads when they’re full. Primarily I do this because it’s nice to see the advancement in skill apparent in the drawings from the first page to the last. Sometimes it’s really quite painful to look on my older work. I recently scanned through my drawing pad and thought I’d post some highlights from its contents. These are a few of my favorites.

A WWI dogfighter. Perhaps inspired by the film Flyboys.


Meant to be simplistic. A cigar-chomping sharpshooter.
I have no words...
"Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!"

More simplicity. Apocalypse survivors just chillin’...

            So there you have it! They’re not in any particular order, and some are much older than others. Some have a more finished look to them, while others are sketches and never meant to be touched up or given complication of any kind. I do so adore the look of black and white pencil sketches and drawings, though. I think pencil drawings may be my favorite visual arts media available to mankind. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do some more drawings soon.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Writing Meeting: 11/29/2012


Yesterday, our club of two met again. This time our attention was primarily focused on my short story. The final pages received editing. We weeded through the pages I brought, making revisions, cutting unnecessary and superfluous lines of writing or adverbs. There was much less need for punctuation correction, thank goodness.

He liked how the story ended. Thought the characters developed well. Overall, he thought the story was a good one. I’m rather happy with it, myself. It’s a nice feeling, having something finished is. I’m one of those people who is an absolutely splendid ‘starter’ but a rather awful ‘finisher’. I make the best plans, but they never pan out, or I just never get around to completing those projects I start. I have six stories started, and a couple other ideas roughed out in outlines, but only one completed story. And only quite recently completed at that.

I’ll need to remedy that. For now – I’m just glad this writing meeting is motivating me to plug on. I think it’s been revolutionary for the sake of forcing me to sit down and write at least something for us to edit. Now I have no excuses. It’s quite fulfilling, actually.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Daft Scotsman Goes to the Movies...


 
A Film Review of Red Dawn

I don’t post a whole lot about movies on this blog. I really don’t know why, though. I mean, I definitely watch enough films to legitimately write about them. I love movies, really, especially in the theaters. I think whatever movie you go to see, it’s always better in the theaters.

Back when I got my wisdom teeth yanked, and I had to lie low for a couple days, my dad introduced me to a 1980’s film called Red Dawn. It’s a movie that involves America being invaded by Russian and Cuban military forces. The film follows a group of teenaged kids as they attempt to survive the harrowing experience by, at first, striking out into the wilderness with whatever supplies they can gather, and then striking at the opposing military forces with guerilla tactics. The film, while bloody and brutal, tells the audience that heroism starts with the unlikely. And that fighting for a cause that you believe in can make all the difference, even if you’re just a bunch of teenagers. I really liked it when I saw it. I liked its messages, I liked the casting. I thought the acting was decent and I liked the score. I thought it was a pretty good film. And then, somewhat recently, I heard that someone was doing a 2012 remake.


I’m a bit tentative with remakes. I’ve seen enough of them to know how awful they can be. And besides that, they’re lack unoriginality. Still – I’d wanted to see this one. Odd, I know, but I’m funny that way. I didn’t even know it was hitting theaters this Thanksgiving, though, until I saw an ad in the newspaper. So I suggested to Dad and Matty that we make it a man-date and go to our nearest cinema to see it. Dad and I each had a four day holiday weekend, and thus we had time to go and do something fun like this. Both thought it was an excellent idea. We went yesterday, to a late afternoon matinee showing. It was fun just being with Dad and Matty. With Dad and I both working, we don’t see a whole lot of each other anymore. The experience was great, made even better by the fact that the movie was actually surprisingly decent. If you ask me, it was pretty-darn good. I hope I’m not being biased because I love Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, both of which starred, but I don’t think I am.

The story doesn’t differ a whole lot from that of the older ’84 film, but certain plot-points do. For instance: in this version it’s North Koreans, not Russians and Cubans, who are assaulting America. Story-wise, I thought the film held together really well. The actors all gave great performances, causing plenty of tear-jerker moments throughout the film. The score, composed by Ramin Djawadi, was incredibly moving as well. Red Dawn is an incredibly fast-paced film. It’s just about non-stop action from the start of the film, to the moment the credits begin to roll. And all the while, somehow, magically, there’s room for character-development and unexpected plot-twists. Sure, this is a remake, but the creators put just enough new material into it to make it surprising. Perhaps best of all, was the fact that the original Red Dawn’s primary messages were definitely the same in this 2012 remake. Fighting for something you believe in is worth the grit and grime. It’s worth the blood you bleed. Even when the odds are stacked against you, standing up against evil is worth the fight. Just because you’re not a hero in your own eyes, doesn’t mean your actions can’t make a difference. And really – should you stand firm, swaying not from what you believe is right, you will make a difference. These are the things the heroes of Red Dawn show us through their responses to the traumatic circumstances they experience. This 2012 Red Dawn remake tells the story that needs to be told today. The indifference of good people is a greater evil than depravity.

I enjoyed the film immensely. But it is only fair that I warn prospective viewers that Red Dawn has a good deal of foul language. And the violence, while fairly bloodless, is still realistic and gritty. Nonetheless, I thought the messages were very applicable and found the film surprisingly thought provoking.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Life of Thanks...


Thanksgiving. A time of thanks. A day of thanks. But why? Why must we restrict our outward display of thankfulness to one day? Are we so unthankful, that we need set aside a day to behave contrarily? I propose radical alteration of this behavior! Thankfulness is not something to fear. It’s something to embrace. Something to use to lift our spirits. Our God has blessed us with life, so that we can praise and thank him. Will we fulfill our purpose?

I know I shouldn’t be the one to say these things. I work a job that wears me to the bone. I hate it and I complain about it every day to my family. I’m one of the significant population of this beautiful, backwards planet that complains as if it were my passion. The Israelites of the Old Testament had nothin’ on me, dawg! And while I’m throwing my stupendous pity party for myself – a dart of realization pierces my soul. Idiot. Fool. Selfish worm. Have you nothing better to do than wallow in your own poor outlook? Seriously, dude! Wake up! I reach in. I rise up. What am I doing? What a fool I’ve been. Feeling sorry for myself, whining like a spoiled child. My God, my savior has been so good to me. And yet I can only see the bad. Am I so blind? Are my eyes so focused to see the blatant in front of me, that I’m oblivious to the greater beyond? I really do have so much to be thankful for. And yet, after thanking the Lord today, will I not complain to him tomorrow? Will next week be chock-full of my whining and whimpering about how bad I have it? Tell yourself no, now. And if – when – you do complain… Bite your tongue and praise the Lord instead. Wake up to the blessings that surround you. Stop wallowing in pity for yourself, and look the bigger picture in the eyes.

So I write a short list of what I’m thankful of, because it’s a cliché way of proclaiming my thankfulness to others.

Salvation. Father God, I praise Thee for sending Thy Son. I am not worthy of preservation, nonetheless you lift me from the waves and set me on dry ground. Praise be to almighty God, halleluiah!

Friends. The many faces that come to mind. The many hearts that have broken mine. I love you all. Each of you. For you often give me the encouragement I need. The love I don’t deserve.

My job. I’m employed. And that’s a blessing in and of itself. Sure, it’s not my favorite thing to do. And driving in to work at two in the morning is a hell of sorts. But I can be thankful that the bills are being paid and I’m being taught good character. (And my coworkers are great at teaching me what bad character looks like. Thanks so much, guys!)

This lovely, beautiful, four-day holiday weekend. I’m sure some folk don’t get that and I’m thankful for it, because it’s just what I needed.

Words. Because writing would be impossible without them. And I love them so much.

Music. Be it praises to be sung to our God on High, or the Dubstep mixes I’m listening to right now, I am thankful for the beats and chords of music. It is a wonderful, beautiful gift.

Time. Time to think. Time to live. Time that ticks so constantly away from us. It cannot be grasped by the hand, it cannot be caught up. So often we chase after it. But we waste it in doing so. I live in time, thankful for what I have and what I have experienced.

That hurricanes don’t attack me and my family. My heart has often been burdened by the victims on the east coast. You guys are in my prayers. You’ve lived through things I couldn’t imagine. Keep up courage.

So much more could I write. And if I sit here and allow myself, I could go on and on. Instead, I need to get up and apply this thankfulness. I need to praise my God for what He has done in my life, the truths he is so constantly showing me. Because that is what matters. What makes this day special. Not talking about thankfulness – but being thankful in the truest form.

At the beginning of this post I asked why Thanksgiving is our only day of thanks. Why we live ungrateful lives all of the year, to talk about being thankful on this one day. Perhaps it is not a day to be thankful – but a reminder to be thankful all year ‘round. To remind us of our purpose, so that we can better fulfill it. I like that idea. I really do. I’ll do my best to live a life of praise – for my God is worthy of all praise and worship. Thank you, my Lord.

Oh – and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Writing Meeting: 11/15/2012


                We met again for our writing meeting. This time a friend joined us to comb through manuscripts. The structure of the meeting differed from our last; as we looked over material from each of us, instead of focusing entirely on one person’s manuscript. (Mine less so, though, because time didn’t allow us to get very far on my manuscript before it was time to leave.) It was an invigorating time of encouragement and insight. The coffee was great, and we edited a lot of stuff before it was time to conclude. I know it was an inspirational time for me, and I hope the same was felt by the others. It’s official though. We need to invest in a set of red-inked pens. It’s much more official in red ink, easier to spot the edits too.

                One particular thing I noticed was the humbleness and willingness to listen that my companions displayed during the meeting. Both of them were more than willing to receive criticism and really seemed appreciative of any thoughts or opinions that were mentioned. Open mindedness was very much a part of the meeting, and I’m glad it was so. It was a wonderful time for like-minds to be encouraged in their literary endeavors. I find myself looking forward to future meetings with even more vigor. Until the next meeting – I’ll be writing as much as I can.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Writing Meeting: 11/01/2012


                Well, I feel our writing club is in full swing now. Last Thursday, we edited a chunk of one of my short stories (By chunk, I mean more than half of what I have written thus far…) and I felt very encouraged. Mostly because this story is one I hadn’t worked on in a while, and it seems I’ve improved since last I wrote much of it. I’m excited to swing back into the saddle and really get writing again. During our meetings, I feel that I learn something new about the writer whose work is getting edited. And since my work was edited this last meeting, I found some things out about myself. I think I don’t mind starting sentences off with “and”. I like short sentences that flow together, one after the other. And I am deciding my older writing habits of writing long sentences that go on and on is clunky and hard to follow and I don’t like it anymore.

                I think my style will see grand alteration. A new feel; more natural, more personal.

 I’m really quite pleased with our meeting place of choice. It feels part café, part coffee shop and I like that. Mostly, the people who frequent it are friends, meeting to catch up on each other. It’s a nice atmosphere. And they serve good coffee.

Of course, getting your work picked apart is a humbling experience, too. As I realized quite quickly, you have to be teachable. Thus far our meetings have gone smoothly and without mishap. And since we know how far to go, and how to be humble with our work, I don’t foresee there being an issue here. Still – it was a good reminder to me. When criticizing someone’s work, I do need to be understanding and as gentle as can be allowed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My dear, little friend...

             2003-2012

Goodbye Otis. Rest well my friend.


               The world washes about me. I roll onto my side, hear a beeping. That has to be the most annoying sound I’ve ever heard. My alarm clock. I stumble out of bed, switching off the alarm. I search the room for the things I’ll need today and pack them in my shoulder bag as I come across them. Then I notice my dog isn’t anywhere in my room. I search in all his usual haunts, not just in my room, but all throughout the house. Nonetheless, he can be found in none of them. Knowing I’ll be late to work if I don’t hurry, I take a quick shower, throw the last things I’ll need into my bag, and toss it into my car before deciding to do one quick search around the house. It all comes back to me in a rush – I let Otis out last night. Had he not been let back in? Had he spent the night in the rain? I hurry to each of the doors, checking to see if he’s there. As I near the back door, I see his small form curled up near the wall of the house. “Otis?” He doesn’t stir. I crouch down beside him, afraid to believe what seems to have happened. No heave of his sides, no sound of breath. I reach out – touch his furry coat. He’s stiff. I prod him, stroke him. No response. I make to lay my ear against him, but notice the glossy sheen, the milky film that covers what I can see of his eyes. I’ve seen enough dead animals to know. My Otis, my beloved pug-nosed-pup, is dead.

Tears well at my eyes; I don’t bother holding them back. They stream down my cheeks, collect in my beard. I can’t help but to cry. This dog was my friend. Yes, an animal, but nonetheless my friend. I still remember those nine years ago when he picked me as the boy to take him home. I still remember the shy puppy that crept out of the pet-crate to my arms, unsure of his new surroundings which would be his home. I still remember the morning I woke up to find his head on the pillow beside me, so natural, as if he had slept there all his life. From then on, he’d never willingly sleep anywhere else. I cry. Not just the hot tears, but the broken breathing. I break down and sob. I loved that dog, and now he was gone. He’d never do the many things he used to do. The many things that would bring a smile to my face, cause me to laugh out loud. He’d been such a good dog. Never been crabby when babies pulled his ears, twisted his tail, sat on him. He’d been patient with me, even when I forgot to feed him, even when I paid him no attention when he needed it, badly. He was a good dog, and I loved him. But now…

My crying wakes my parents. They come to find what’s wrong. I tell them, hardly believing the words that fly from my mouth. “Otis… Otis is dead.”

My brother tells me he was up late doing homework, but that Otis never came back to the door. Never asked to be let back in. They give me time. I call my boss, tell him I need the day off, I can’t come in. He sounds peeved. “It’s an animal, Caleb. You’re shirking your responsibility for a dead pet?” I hear it in his voice. He doesn’t say it, but I can hear it. I don’t care. I’m not going to make it in today. He tells me to call it in, make it official. So, I do.

I wrap my pet, my friend, in a towel; carry him in my arms out to a spot where I think a grave would be out of the way. It’s too wet. I think of another, carrying my puppy’s lifeless body and setting it down gently. The tears. My nose runs. The tears don’t stop. It’s raining, rain running down my face. Washing the pain from my face. I can do this. It’ll be alright, Caleb. Yes, he was your friend. He was your companion, your pet. The one creature on this earth that loved you undividedly… but he’s only an animal.

The rain drips from my chin, my nose. It runs down my neck as I dig. I’m no stranger to digging. I know how to handle a shovel. I’ve dug graves before. But not for my own dog. My shadow, cast by the flashlight I set on a rock, looks eerie as it slams the shovel into the ground again and again. I dig the grave, one shovelful at a time. I look at the towel where my dog is wrapped. I guess I didn’t do a very good job, his tail sticks out one end. The tears pour out again. That tail. The tail that curled. The tail that would instantly curl and wag the minute I said Otis’ name out loud. The tail that would straighten when the dog thought he was a puppy and ran around in circles, chasing, playing. That tail. I dig. The grave is finished. I unwrap Otis from the towel, lay him more straight, tuck everything in, roll him up. I lower him into the hole, into the ground. So stiff, so lifeless. A corpse. My puppy-dog is a corpse. With my bare hands I cover the small body with the dirt one handful, two, three, four. Then I just pull it all. I realize this signifies that I believe he is dead. I mound the dirt on the grave; it is only a small mound. He was a small dog. I stand and retrieve the flashlight, the shovel. Look down at the grave. Is this a dream? Do I have to live this? Can’t I just wake up? No. No. No! Not this! Not now! I knew I’d have to bury him someday, but why must it be today? What sign is this! What am I being taught? Why do I look for a hidden meaning? Why would there be a hidden meaning? Death is natural. It comes to every living, breathing creature at some time. It was just his time. Why? Why! The tears stream again. They mingle with the rain on my face. I can do nothing. It is finished. Before I go, I kneel by the grave. Place a hand on the mound of earth. Goodbye, Otis. Rest well, my friend. And then I’m walking back to the house, the rain still falling on me.

I miss him already. I go inside. Talk with my parents. “Get some sleep.” My dad says. But I can’t sleep. How can I? I sit up, reading. A diversion – it’s what I need. I want to cry more, but crying won’t help. I’ve cried enough. There’s a time to linger on the past, and there’s a time to move on. Jesus Christ, give me the strength to move on. You gave me that loving pet, and now you’ve taken him back. What would you have me do? As I look back, I feel I’m in shock or something. I still have trouble believing he’s gone. I think: what must it be like to lose a close friend, who’s human? Flesh and blood of man? I wonder if I’d survive that. Somehow I doubt I could without supernatural assistance. I guess I’m just protective of the people I love.

But now that this day is nearly at its end, I have to prepare for tomorrow. I’m expecting work to be awful like it always is. It will probably be worse. I’ll expect no sympathy. Before I accept this day as done and over, though, I feel I need to do one thing. I pray. Father in Heaven! I call. Lord God, Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all Creation. You giveth… and you taketh away. Take what you will, Lord. It is yours. All is yours. I am only the steward for the time you have me to be. And when that time is up. Lord, take what is yours. All is yours. Jesus Christ, Savior of man, halleluiah! Praise be to you and your grand will. I am your servant, Father. Do as you will, not as I will. Thank you, Lord, for Your gift; Your generous gift. Thank you for those nine years with Otis. Praise be for your glorious will. Amen.

I look to tomorrow in a new light. I’ll miss my dog. I’m sure the scars will take some time to heal. But this, yes even this, is part of a glorious plan that is not my own, but the Lord God Almighty’s. And that gives me comfort. I have the strength – I can move on.
 
Goodbye Otis. Rest well my friend. And… Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And so... It begins...


One of the reasons I blog, is because I absolutely love to write. About anything, really. I have certain projects I'm working on, stories and whatnot. Also, several of my friends love writing as well. It's been good-fun being able to criticize each others' works and encourage one another in our literary endeavors. We usually pass our projects to each other through USB thumb-drives, marking each others’ MS Word documents in assorted colors of text. Personally, I’ve always found this to be exceptionally encouraging as well as very inspirational. But...

Well... in this day of technological advancement, quite often I find life to be so impersonal. We scurry here, we scurry there - never speaking in person, only texting a hello, or emailing it. People seem to rarely call each other anymore, or even sit down in person to talk over a steaming cup of coffee. I always preferred the 'in-person' conversations to any alternative. So I told one of my closest friends it was high-time he and I started a writing club. My idea was that we would meet somewhere where we could sit down and edit each others' manuscripts in person. As we spoke more seriously on the matter, we set out a general plan of action. Last Thursday, we put that plan to action, and all went remarkably smoothly.

            We met in a small coffee and crêpe shop in his hometown. He brought some of his work, and after a bit of general chattering, we got right to work. I had a good time of tearing into his work, and he took my criticism and teasing quite graciously. It was so much more enjoyable than our usual ‘social network’ style editing sessions because we were able to speak together. My questions were answered as I read the manuscript, and I could edit it verbally, which was a pleasurable experience.
 
            We worked through everything he brought to the table fairly quickly. Actually, I was surprised at how much ground we covered in a short bit of time. We’ll be meeting again next week, where I will have the opportunity to have a bit of my work edited. I’ll be sure to bring a good-sized stack of writings, so that we need not worry about running out of material to go through. I’m really excited to seeing how this idea pans out. If it continues to be the incredibly encouraging and inspiring time it has proved to be thus far, we’ll have to branch out and begin accepting new members to our little club. It’s definitely been a beneficial thing for the both of us and our writing.
 
            I’m looking forward to the next meeting!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cider...

            Well, fall is in full bloom. The harvest before the long winter. (Though I have a feeling that winter isn't too far off, as the distant mountains are already snow-topped.) What deciduous trees do lie in eyesight; have let loose their leaves to transform into that of bright oranges, yellows, and ambers. This is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. I love the colors and the moods that the short days take on during this time of the year. I love the festivity. The smell of the air before a downpour of rain. The need for sweaters, scarves, and hats to keep warm. And I certainly love the many, tasty things that are associated with the fall. Things like Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Cider, and Candy Corn. This also happens to be open season for deer hunting. My dad is a hunter, and he passed the intrigue of the hunt down to me. For me, hunting is more about the company I get to keep and the time I get to spend out in creation than really actually bringing down an animal. 
            It’s been raining a lot more as of recently. So on Saturday, when my brother and I, along with several friends, hiked off for a few hours to hunt wild game, we ended up kind of wet. Half the party returned to their homes to warm up, while the other half of us spent the more dry part of the morning hiking around. No deer were spotted by a single one of us, nonetheless it was an enjoyable enough morning.

After our hike was concluded, my dear brother and I hitched a ride with our friend back to where our other hunting companions had returned to. We chatted with their family a bit, had some coffee, began to warm up…

… And then one of their numbers decided, since she had three extra strong sets of hands, that it was high-time they got around to that cider-pressing chore they had been putting off for a week or so. Of course, my brother and I were more than delighted to help out. (I love me some cider… it’s an unhealthy yearning for that golden liquid of deliciousness.) We got right to work, and in a couple hours, all the apples had been sliced, mashed, and pressed into fresh cider. I was the one graced with the job of turning the press, perhaps the most strenuous job.  Of course, like a donkey pulling a cart while its master dangles a carrot before its nose, I was coaxed on to the final product. (Did I mention that I love me some cider? ‘Cause… well, I like totally, do.)

Oh… and… oh… The final product? Not can compare. We speak of a liquid gold, which was no less than absolutely divine. It was like sipping at sunshine on a chilly day. Fantastic stuff.
Roll out the barrel of fun, Chaps! Good-O!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Stone of Destiny


 
I adore good books. Since I first learned to read those many years ago I’ve always been an avid reader. Sure, I’ve had my share of literature famines, in which I don’t read for some length of time, but it isn’t often that I haven’t at least one book that I’m reading through at a time. I just recently read through another book, actually. It was titled The Stone of Destiny, by Ian Hamilton, and I certainly found it to be a ‘page-turner’. It’s actually a non-fiction piece, written by the gentleman involved in the very circumstances the volume is written about.

Basically, the Stone of Destiny is a Scottish relic. Said to have been brought up from the Holy Lands, supposedly it is the stone which Jacob lay his head on while he dreamt of Angels ascending and descending ladders into heaven. Farfetched or not, the legend remains and is exactly what makes the Stone so special. Scottish kings were crowned over it for years and years, until an English king invaded Scotland and forcefully took possession of the stone. He had it brought back to England, where it sat in Westminster Abbey for a very long time.

Ian Hamilton was a Scottish youth, who wanted nothing more than to give Scotland back her pride and excite her people. He wanted the Scottish to realize how very special it was to be… well… Scottish. But what could a college student, barely scraping by with expenses and everyday living, do about all that? His people needed an icon to rally them. A symbol to boost their moral. The Stone of Destiny was just sitting in Westminster Abby gathering dust, when instead it could be exciting a people who had forgotten what it was to be who they were. So, with the help of a few friends, he constructed a fairly simple plan to regain the Stone. He would retake the Stone of Destiny, and return it to its rightful owners. The Scottish people deserved their icon, and he would give it to them.

And thus he and his companions attempted, on Christmas 1950, to break into Westminster Abby, bundle away the Stone, and somehow lug it all the way back to Scotland with them. It’s really an incredibly delightful tale, about youthful impulse and fearless patriotism. Ian Hamilton’s way of telling the story is wonderfully rich with a charming sense of humor and plenty of intrigue. I’ve found that often non-fiction work can be dry and dreary-some, but The Stone of Destiny is, instead, quite alluring and amusing. Personally, I found the entire thing enthralling. Not a bit of it did I consider dull or plodding. On several occasions I laughed out loud, either because of Mr. Hamilton’s clever wit, or the pure preposterousness of the tale. But as unbelievable as the story may prove, the factual evidences remain.

Personally, I found the book to be riveting, and certainly would recommend it to any who might like a humorous ‘fact is more unbelievable than fiction’ read. It really is an extraordinary tale, and why not hear it from the fellow who orchestrated and undertook these very happenings?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


 
Back in 1937, on September 21, a man named John Ronald Reuel Tolkien published a "Fairy Tale" novel titled The Hobbit. 75 years later, I wonder if he ever thought the book would garner so very much success. Translated into nearly fifty languages and selling over 100 million copies, this whimsical and inventive tale continues to delight readers of all ages. Personally, I’ve been a fan of the book for years now. I still remember purchasing a copy in a used-books store that I frequently visit. I read the whole thing in nearly a single sitting, and was forever a captive of Tolkien’s spell from then on. His descriptive writing would be my very favorite literature and both his stand alone novel (The Hobbit) and his fantasy trilogy (The Lord of the Rings) still remain my favorite pieces of literary work, only preceded by the Holy Scriptures, to this very day.

In honor of the book’s 75th anniversary, a second trailer for An Unexpected Journey was released to the public earlier this week. After watching it several times, I am again considerably stoked for the distant, but upcoming release of the first installment of the trilogy of films that will be based on this literary work by Tolkien. It really will be so great.


I thought it might be appropriate to post the first trailer, too. For those who might have missed it somehow. They’re both great.

 
Also – I’d recommend checking out TheHobbit.com. There, you can choose five alternate endings to the new trailer, all of which have about 20 seconds of differing alternate ending footage. There are also some other neat goodies over on that website, so if you’re into that sort of thing, you should go check it all out.


Remember, tomorrow is Hobbit day. (Lord of the Rings fans will recognize it as both Frodo and Bilbo Baggins’ birthdays, thus the date’s significance.) So be sure to let your curly hair out and embrace the hair on your feet. I’ll be attempting to satisfy my enormous, Hobbit-like appetite and shall be going about barefoot whenever possible. I’m just that nerdy.
 
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Voting...


 
Ah… voting. It’s something that is considered important by some, trivial by others, and entirely disregarded by those who I do not quite understand. Still – it is a very real part of American life for those who have lived long enough to be regarded as significant. (IE: Those who are able to be taxed.) That last statement is meant to be read with the firmest use of irony, with a pinch of snarky distaste thrown in for good measure. Those who live in dear old ‘merica, and plan to exercise their right and ‘duty’ to vote, are more than likely contemplating the slowly nearing presidential elections and all that they imply. These citizens might be all gung-ho for a particular candidate, or still unsure as to who will receive their final vote. Actually, I was in this second party until only just recently.

You see… I’m not entirely loyal to any one party. Some might call me a dirty, low-down traitor because of that. But the simple fact is I’m not radical enough to be a libertarian, I’m too freedom-loving to be a republican, and I’m just not enough of a pansy to be a democrat. Take all that as you will, because it’s absolutely how I feel. (And the only reason I din't say anything distasteful about any of the other parties, is because I simply don't know a whole lot about them...) The more research I do, the more disgusted I am by the two-party system, with all its fault and fraud. I find that the more I look into either the red or the blue, instead of white… I find black, power-hungry greed. And if ever I mention that I have no intention of voting for either of the main, two presidential candidates my words are often met with heated replies that sound something like “Well, then. You do know your vote isn’t going to really count?” or “You might as well vote for the guy you don’t want to get elected, ‘cause that’s who’s gonna’ get your vote in the long run!” and sometimes even, “You might as well not vote at all!” Perhaps you too feel neither of the main runners up have our best interest at heart, and would rather not put their names on your ballot come this voting season? If that is the case, I’d highly encourage you to disregard what those people have to say. Not because the words that they speak are untrue, but because it shouldn’t matter.

For however long a time our liberty remains, we can vote for whom we believe is fit for the position. And whether you believe that that individual is a power-hungry clown intent on the complete destruction of this nation; or a gutless, flip-flopper who doesn’t know ‘yes’ from ‘no’ is your choice, so vote for that person no matter what your neighbor may tell you. Vote as your conscience calls you to vote, not as you feel you are being pushed by mankind and his fraudulent faults. That’s what I’ll be doing. I believe it is not only our duty, as American citizens, to vote… but to vote as we are morally inclined. If I feel strongly to vote for a particular candidate, be he the greatest of underdogs, or the landslide of popularity, I’ll put my vote where I feel I should, not where that nameless yahoo says it should be placed. So I’ll let my conscience choose my candidate, and allow God to do with my ballot as He will.

For goodness sake – I’ve already trusted Him with my life and soul, can I not trust Him with the fate of my vote? Or is He not big enough to alter the tide of the elections in an incredible way?

My opinion is that He, most certainly, can.

In closing… I can’t help but to think on these words that I heard once. “A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.” How terrifying that this quote rings so true. Here’s praying that the next fellow who takes up residence in the White House can again bring us assurance that those who govern us have our best interest at heart, not their own power-gaining agendas.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Every hero needs a Sidekick...

            And now I have my own. To some this might be old news... but I've been meaning to post about it for a while now. I happen to be the proud owner of an automobile, now. She's a 1996 Suzuki Sidekick of a silver shade.

 
             She has some funny quirks that I'm getting used to, but for the most part she's a lot of fun to drive. She seems to favor the higher gears, and thus is quite the speedy little car.

 
            She has plenty of space in the boot, only seats four, has a manual; five-speed transmission, and is Four-Wheel-Drive capable. She's a pretty basic car, but I love her. I'm already certain that we'll enjoy many an adventure together.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Camp 2012


What’s summer without a concert out in the sun? Well – after experiencing 107.7 The End’s ‘Summer Camp’, I don’t think I’ll let another summer go by without attending at least one outdoor concert. It wasn’t my first concert, but it was the first I’d experienced in a long time, and it was a whole lot of fun.
Matt, Jesse, and I...

                Personally I’ve never been much of a ‘Summer Camp’ enthusiast. I love camping… but the whole ‘Summer Camp’ idea just doesn’t jive with me. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t go to a concert that happens to be called ‘Summer Camp’ (Even though it is kind of an odd name…) and I am certainly glad that I did! One of my besties and I decided that we needed to be experiencing more live music. We both love listening to lots of different tunes, and recommending different groups and songs which are our favorites, but we hadn’t ever gone to any concerts together. Neither of us had gone to a concert in a while, so we looked around at what was local and affordable and decided ‘Summer Camp’ was our most feasible option. And since Broskie is beloved by the both of us as well, and we wanted him to come too, we split the cost of his ticket for him, which was a very kind deed if I do say so my own self.
                We bought the tickets in advance, made the plans, packed a lovely lunch, and then on the day of the concert; the three of us headed off to the park. It was a beautiful day, with the temperature hovering around the high seventies for the afternoon, and only cooling down later in the evening after sundown. We could not have asked for better concert weather!

                Summer Camp’s lineup was pretty great. The groups playing were Adventure Galley, Husky, Milo Greene, Animal Kingdom, The Features, Morning Parade, Atlas Genius, The Royale Concept, WALK THE MOON, FUN., and Alex Clare. Eleven bands played their hearts out one after the other. The group I originally went for was FUN., but before the concert I had familiarized myself with a bit of WALK THE MOON and Atlas Genius, so I went to listen to them too.


Adventure Galley opened. It was the first time I had ever heard them, so that was a new experience. They were pretty good, too. I liked them quite a bit. They were an American band from Portland, Oregon. Before the concert started, we set up base fairly close to the stage, but further back than those loony folks right up only twenty feet or less from the performers. Needless to say, we eventually wizened up and got closer. Like… much closer.

Next up was a band all the way from Melbourne, Australia called Husky. They were great. Their music was a bit folky, while still holding dearly to a kind of more contemporary sound. The perfect stuff for a Summer concert, really. I’ll be looking more into their music, because I really liked their sound and the tunes they played for us.

Milo Greene played after Husky. They were from Los Angeles, California. They were special, because they didn’t really have a main. Each member, minus the percussionist, took a turn singing the part of the primary vocals, and traded instruments throughout their performance. It was actually really fun! Sadly, because of those lame black-box things you can only see three of the five band members in my picture. They were all very accomplished musicians, though.

             During Milo Greene’s last number, this plane flew by with a Geico flag trailing behind. Clever time to advertise, eh? I thought so. I couldn’t help wondering if he could hear the great music all the way up there in his cockpit. If he did, I’ll bet he was totally rockin’ out!

Then up jumped Animal Kingdom. They came all the way from London, England to play for us. So I thought that was totally awesome. Also – they were the first trio to play that day, so I thought that was pretty sweet too. They had a pretty cool sound, too. Really ‘Brit-Rock’ styled at times, while still somehow hitting those folk-ish notes. It was nice. Do you see that bright, pink, inflatable, water-floating-bed-thing leaning over there next to the Bass player? The Bass player tossed that out into the crowd during their last number. It crowd surfed across the mass of us until some overly-devoted fan snagged it and took off. I had hoped someone would have climbed up onto it and ridden across our raised hands in style, but ‘twas not to be. Still – it was a funny and original touch.
After Animal Kingdom’s performance they mentioned that they’d be back at the T-Shirt stand signing shirts and albums. I liked them a lot, so I jumped up and headed out to the stand, bought an Animal Kingdom shirt, and stood in line to get it signed. The line wasn’t exceptionally long, but the lads of Animal Kingdom were all quite chatty, chill, and easy-going… so the line didn’t move all that quickly. I was in line for a good while. I was in line so long; The Features, a group from Nashville, Tenessee, got up on the stage, played their numbers, and got back down before I even got to the table. The music was loud enough that I was still able to hear, but I was by no means close. When I finally got up to the table, though, all was forgiven. The Animal Kingdom guys were so friendly and cool. Their accents were awesome, and I told them so. They replied by saying that “That’s the easy part for us!”, which I thought was absolutely hilarious. So I broke into an English accent, which impressed them quite a bit. We all had a good laugh and joked a bit, and then I got a picture with them – it was so the best ever. Oh - and they totally signed my shirt! And Matt bought a shirt, too, and had me get it signed for him, which they happily did, so that was great too!

Me with Hamish Crombie, Richard Sauberlich, and Geoff Lea...


The hallowed object, itself!


                I still was a bit disappointed that a sort of ‘missed’ The Features. But, I have been catching up a bit on their music, which I like quite a bit.

                I headed back to the cheering crowd to show off my newly acquired trophy to my companions and tell them about what happened, and arrived just in time to catch Morning Parade’s performance from the back of the crowd. They were pretty cool, too. They came from Essex, England. I hadn’t even heard of them until attending Summer Camp, though, but now I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for their albums.

Atlas Genius was next, and I had already been familiar with a bit of their music. They were also from Australia, but from Adelaide. I liked them a lot, mostly because all their songs were all really energetic and fun. Just like with Milo Greene, those stupid, black box things were in the way in my pictures, so you can’t see the drummer. Meh. They were still great.

                The Royal Concept was another one of the groups I hadn’t even heard of until attending Summer Camp. They were from Stockholm, Sweden. And like everyone before them, they had a lot of soul. At one point all three of the guys in front were banging it out on keyboards, and the percussionist was using synthesized drums, and it was pretty great. The main was pretty be-bop-itty and he hopped all around the stage, playing guitar, the keyboard, drumming a bit, and singing at the top of his lungs. They used one of those electronic, voice-changer-box-thingies (I honestly don’t know what they’re called…) at one point, which was kind of funny. But yeah – for the most part I liked The Royal Concept.

Before the concert I had discovered WALK THE MOON, from Cincinnati, Ohio, and enjoyed their great beats and boppy tunes quite a bit. They were one of the main groups I went to Summer Camp to see, and I knew I would be in for a great performance. WALK THE MOON was so great! Right before they started someone tossed a bag of face-paint up onto the stage. The main picked it up and looked at it oddly, but then he pulled some light-blue out and put a stripe on his cheek. Then he gestured to the crowd to tell him whether it was cool or not. Of course we all cheered him on, so he not only stuck a stripe on his other cheek, but he stuck some of the stuff on the base-player’s and the guitarist’s faces, too! (I think he gave some to the percussionist, too, but because of those retarded black, box thingies, I’m not totally sure.) It was pretty funny. I was already familiar with most of their music, so I sang and clapped along with the songs they sang. In short, we partied it down pretty hard while WALK THE MOON was up on the stage. It was awesome. Also during their last number, Morning Parade jumped back up on the stage and broke out into song with them. It was absolutely hilarious!

After WALK THE MOON, and a long wait for the stage to be prepared for them, FUN. finally took the stage. They are from New York City and were really the primary reason I went to Summer Camp. I was already quite familiar with their albums and very enthusiastic about seeing them live, so I was pumped for their performance. Let me tell you… FUN. Is great listening, but no recording is half the greatness that hearing them live is. Hearing them live is so… well… FUN!

All six of the musicians are quite accomplished, and being there to hear them live was absolutely great. If anyone hadn’t been dancing, clapping, or singing along with the previous bands, they all joined in for the songs FUN. performed. It was such a ball!

FUN. also had the coolest lighting. The sun had set by the time they took the stage, so it began to get dark as they played, and the back-lights and strobes were all really cool. And then – bam – ticker-tape was getting blasted all over the place. It was so, stinking wicked, dawg!
The only snow I ever want to see in the middle of summer...


When FUN. left the stage we all begged for an encore, but security began blowing their shiny, little whistles, the stage hands came up to clean the stage, and none of the FUN. members reappeared; so we all gave up hope. But then… out of nowhere they all stepped back into place and told us that this was unplanned. The crowd, as could be imagined, went wild. FUN. gave us the best encore we could have asked for. It was so very, very great!

                The last group to take the stage was Alex Clare's. He was also from London. They were alright. But really, all their songs sounded the same, and they were terribly over-shadowed by FUN.’s performance right before them. I had also tired myself out considerably by behaving like a madman during both WALK THE MOON and FUN.’s performances, so I didn’t have a whole lot of energy left in me.
                After Alex Clare was done we re-grouped and headed out the gates. The parking-lot was full of traffic so we sat in the car with my stereo blasting WALK THE MOON, for which we received plenty of thumbs-up and peace signs from those who we waited in traffic with. It was fun. Heck – overall, the whole afternoon and evening was a blast! If I wasn’t before, I am now a big concert enthusiast. Live music trumps anything you might hear through a stereo.

Two shirts and a tote... yummy!
 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A sunset on the Oregon coast...


      I do so love a beautiful sunset. I’m kind of a bit of a sunset chaser, actually. I mean… not over the top or anything… but kind of a sunset chaser. So while on the Oregon coast I knew I’d just have to photograph a sunset. As usual with me and sunsets, it was a spur-of-the moment decision one evening. But the walk to the beach was short and I had plenty of time.

      The sunset was gorgeous. It just was. The massive globe of orange fire slowly shrank as it pulled away and plummeted towards the grand, dark sea. The ocean cooed out its lullaby to the sun as the waves broke on the beach, wetting the sand at its constant rhythm. And before I knew it, it was gone. The sun had said its final farewells before pulling its bedclothes over its fiery head and going to sleep beneath the horizon of waves.

      I do so love sunsets. No matter where they are, they’re sure to impress me each and every time I get the opportunity to watch them.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Scotsmen only!

      I’ve quite decided that this blog of mine has far too few Scottish-related posts. In an attempt to remedy that very thing, I thought it might be clever for me to blog about the sign I purchased while I was in Oregon on a family vacation this last week. Already I’m sure you’re asking what this has to do with Scotland, and how I could make a post concerning the Oregon coast and signs somehow related to Scottish-ness. Well – just read on, dear reader.
       While visiting the Oregon coast, we went shopping in one of the larger towns and came across a wee Celtic shop. I was not about to pass by such a pleasant little sales-place, so I popped in and glanced about at the peddler’s wares. The gentleman was hawking a lot of interesting items, but one particular one caught my fancy. Well – enough for me to just about buy it up on sight. It was just that awesome. ‘Twas a sign. What’s so great about a sign? Well it was manufactured locally – which I found to be incredibly great. But the best part was really what was written on the sign. Check it out!

       Funny stuff, right? I thought so, anyway. It was totally a must have for me. If you don’t know the significance of the ‘City Ordinance’ date on the bottom right corner, you must not be Scottish. That date marks the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath at Arbroath abby. A declaration by Scotsmen of freedom from English rule. That occasion, one buried in historical intrigue, actually plowed the furrows for modern-day democracy and even remained something of a basis for the American Declaration of Independence. So it really is a very significant date! Though, how that date is really associated with the content of the sign is not really all that apparent to me…
       …Still, the sign is great. And buying local was an added benefit. It was all win.

The sign doesnae lie, Laddie!