Tuesday, March 28, 2006

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

From what I can tell, there are those of you out there who have a wonderful dream life. When you slip into the arms of Morpheus, you frolic in a playground of wonderful images, with storylines that see you winning the Nobel Prize, becoming the leader of the free world, running off to tropical islands with Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, vanquishing your enemies and fulfilling your wildest dreams.

Unfortunately, I am not one of you. For the most part, whatever dreams I have I never remember after I wake. And the few dreams I do remember are anything but voluptuous wish fulfillment.

Let me give you some examples. For some strange reason, I have been able to remember dreams I had the past two nights. I will give you the synopsis of each recent dream to let you judge where my brain goes while I’m at rest.

On Sunday night, the dream involved me and my best friend from high school. For some reason, we were to meet at an airport to pick up a mutual acquaintance of ours who was arriving on a plane. As I prepared to leave for the airport to meet my friend, I realized that my car had been stolen. A second car in my driveway turned out to be a rusted old junker that no longer ran. There was a third car, this one a luxurious sedan parked in my garage, but I learned that this car belonged to a door-to-door salesman who at the moment was inside the house trying to sell something to my parents. A time share, maybe. In short, I had no way to get to the airport in time.

I then decided to call my friend on his cell phone to tell him I wouldn’t be able to make it. But then I realized I didn’t know his cell phone number, and I spent untold minutes of my dream trying to track down the number – looking through phone books and address books, calling information, but having no luck. When I finally remembered that his cell phone number was programmed into my cell phone, I began to call it, and that’s when I woke up.

Last night, my dream began a little better. My wife, my daughters and I were sailing in a small sailboat on a beautiful body of water on a sunny, perfect day. This was great for a few minutes, but apparently my brain panicked when it realized that it was letting slip a perfectly wonderful dream scenario. Therefore, my family and I for some unexplained reason docked our sailboat, then went next door to another marina to rent a second sailboat on which to return to the water.

This second marina was the Marina from Hell. After waiting in long, slowly moving lines, I finally was served by a man who must have been in his 90s. He first had me sit down and watch a long video on boat safety, kind of the maritime version of those old driver’s ed films. During this video, the old man kept clutching his chest from apparent heart seizures, and we’d stop the video each time until he felt better.

After the video was over, the man insisted on teaching me how to tie some knots that I’d apparently need for the rigging of my sailboat. For some reason, I had an incredible amount of difficulty learning these knots, and the old man kept having to rest because of his frequent heart pains.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, I was able to get a boat rented, but once again I had to wait in a huge line until something became available. When my family and I finally got into a boat, there was another delay while some guy who looked like Grizzly Adams went over the safety features and took time to place us in different positions in the boat until he was satisfied.

As my family and I expectantly set sail onto the peaceful waters, I woke up.

When I told Mrs. Muley about my two dreams, and I asked her what she thought they meant, she told me, “Boy, you are one frustrated guy.” She knows that these are the kinds of dreams I have all the time.

Is she right? Am I secretly frustrated? Why is it that I never have dreams where things go right, where I am enjoying pleasures, licit or illicit, and where I reach goals and conquer enemies and doubts? And why is it that the minute my dreams do start to get good, my brain either introduces a disaster scenario, or wakes me up?

Maybe tonight I’ll dream that I win the Texas Lottery, but then realize that I left the ticket in the jeans that just got washed in the laundry. Yeah, that sounds like a good one.

Today's quote:

"Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives."

--William Dement

Monday, March 27, 2006

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. It is with some sadness that I report that one of my favorite bloggers, Marla Swoffer of Just Marla, is giving up her blog. She feels a calling from God to spend more time with her family, and in her final post she lists a number of other reasons in her usual eloquent and forthright fashion. I've always admired how Marla is willing to tackle even controversial issues in an honest and gracious way, and she also seemed like a person you could sit down with over coffee and spend a fascinating couple of hours talking about all kinds of subjects. I'll miss her on the blogosphere, but I'm glad that she will guest blog occasionally on Intellectuelle. I'll look forward to those posts.

UPDATE: Another blog bites the dust: Strand of Three.

2. Here's a complete change of tone. Remember the book Fahrenheit 451 by Robert Heinlein, where in a dystopian future, firemen go around burning up every book they can find, because it's against the law to possess them? In the final scene, a former fireman who has grown to love books escapes outside the city to a commune of sorts where other book-loving refugees live. Each one is assigned to memorize one entire book -- by Plato, Shakespeare, Austen, et. al -- so that its contents will survive throughout the ages. The other day, I had this thought (and it tells you a lot about my philosophical tendencies): if the commune grew big enough, would one poor soul eventually be forced to spend the rest of his life walking around with the text of Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants repeating endlessly in his head?

3. If you've ever had to watch some of the cartoons now popular on Nick Jr., Toon Disney or Cartoon Network (as I have), and have lamented the disappearance of most artistic and intelligent animation, go out immediately and rent the DVD of "Howl's Moving Castle," released just a few weeks ago. Another masterpiece by director Hayao Miyazaki, the master of Japanese animation, it has some of the most beautiful and inventive animation sequences I've ever seen. And unlike many "cartoon movies," it's got characters that you actually feel for by the end of the tale. Muley gives it two floppy ears up.

4. As long as I'm making product endorsements, let me put in one for The Teaching Company. What this company does is find some of the best professors in the world, and then tape them delivering lectures on their subjects of expertise. The result is a number of fascinating courses, broken into 30- or 45-minute chunks, that you can listen to at your leisure. I listen to them in the car going back and forth from work, and just driving around town. The "normal" prices for the courses are pretty steep, but there are at least five or six titles at any point in time that are on sale at drastically reduced prices. Just keep looking, and at some point during the year the course you're interested in will go on sale. After waiting a year or so, I just bought possibly my favorite course, Victorian Britain, on sale in cassette form. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I've also bought courses on C.S. Lewis, science fiction, American authors, famous Romans and the Aenid from the company. I recommend the products for anyone with an interest in lifelong learning.

5. Finally, let me impart an interesting fact of history I just learned from the course on Victorian Britain I've been listening to. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert after she'd been on the throne just a few years, and after they were married, he was the love of her life for 20 years. After he died, Victoria was so distraught that she wore black mourning clothes the rest of her life (some 40 years). She rarely went out in public, and insisted on keeping up certain routines as if Albert were still alive. For example, every morning she had servants lay out his shaving utensils and his robe, she had a place set for him at the table, and at night in her bed, she had a cast of his hand which she held as she went to sleep.

Today's Quote:

"I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all."

--Queen Victoria

Friday, March 24, 2006

Some Things About Me (part four)

76. I have bounced a check or two (or three) in my time. It’s not something I’m proud of. For what it's worth, it was due to poor recordkeeping on my part, not a desire to defraud anyone.

77. Our family had a CB radio in the car back in the 1970s when it was all the rage. My handle was “Texas Tornado.” Copy that, good buddy? 10-4.

78. The stupidest, worst comedy I remember seeing is “Anchorman” with Will Ferrell. It’s one of the few movies in my life I’ve felt like walking out of.

79. I took oil painting lessons in 6th grade, and was getting much better when I had to quit because we moved to another town.

80. When I was in elementary school, my mother made me and my younger brother take etiquette lessons. We were taught how to introduce ourselves and others (“Mr. Jones, may I introduce Mr. Muley.”) We learned which fork was which, how to use napkins, how to insert cufflinks, what to do with finger bowls, and how to bow, among other things. I have forgotten most of what they taught, although I do remember that elbows on the table are a big no-no. Feet on the table, too, as far as that goes.

81. I think O.J., Michael Jackson, Robert Blake and Lizzie Borden are guilty, UFOs and the Bermuda Triangle are bogus, Elvis is dead and Paul McCartney is quite alive. However, I believe there could have been a second gunman in the JFK assassination, and that there are supernatural occurrences that defy human explanation. And the check sometimes is in the mail.

82. I spend more money than I’d like to admit each year at Half Price Books. I have been a customer since my college days, and I can easily spend two or three hours browsing without blinking an eye. My family has learned to drop me off and just arrange a time to meet me later.

83. I also try to periodically sell back books I’ll never read again (or have grown tired of) to Half Price Books. If I was rich and had rows of empty bookshelves I’d probably keep them all, but I have a finite amount of space, so I must purge every now and then to permit me to bring new treasures home.

84. I love to fish, although I don’t end up doing it much.

85. I don’t think there’s a sexier screen performance than that of Grace Kelly in either “It Takes a Thief” or “Rear Window.”

86. The first girl I ever had a crush on was Lisa Counts in the third grade. She was a beautiful Southern belle, and I knew she was something special when she invited me to her birthday party and I learned that she had invited only boys.

87. I have never watched a complete episode of the following TV shows: Alias, 24, Desperate Housewives, Lost, The OC, CSI (any variety), Stargate, The Man Show, Sex in the City, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Joey, Grey’s Anatomy, South Park, Greatest Race, Survivor...Maybe it would be easier if I just listed the current shows I have watched.

88. I’m jealous of people such as my daughter Rebecca and fellow blogger Jenn who are natural artists and can draw whatever they want so well. I am in awe of people who can draw or paint well.

89. I’m a huge fan of the comedy team of Bob and Ray. They are the kings of dry humor and wit, in my opinion.

90. I prefer books with a straight-on narrative style, and a good, event-filled plot if it’s a work of fiction or autobiography. Books where the author talks for pages about his memories of the smells of pickles and alfalfa on his grandma’s farm drain the life out of me and make me reach for the TV clicker.

91. I’ve had to dig holes to bury two dogs (they were dead at the time) as well as take one cat to the vet to be put to sleep.

92. Based on which TV show makes me laugh out loud the most, the Beverly Hillbillies is the funniest thing on the tube. I knew my wife and I would get along well when I learned she loved both the Beverly Hillbillies and Star Trek.

93. One of my literary goals is to read every book Charles Dickens ever wrote.

94. I accepted Christ as my Saviour during elementary school, although it wasn’t until college that I was baptized.

95. Two historical periods that interest me greatly are the Victorian Age in Britain and the 1920s, the “Jazz Age,” in America.

96. I always wanted to learn how to fly a plane, but my poor eyesight prevented me. Now that I’ve had RK surgery, my eyesight would probably be okay, but I have neither the money nor the time to learn. My dad learned to fly small planes when I was a kid, and he would take me flying with him across Texas. We used to touch down in small rural airports where you had to make sure the cows were off the runway before landing. I'm not kidding.

97. I am doing research for three eventual books right now, all nonfiction books about local history.

98. I celebrated the American Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, by watching a huge fireworks show over Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans.

99. As I’ve grown older, I have learned the value and wisdom of speaking less and listening more.

100. This last fact does not explain why I feel the need to keep a blog.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Twelve Flags, Seven Days, One Hearse

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Muley family took some time off over Spring Break to do a little traveling around Texas. We went with another family from our church we're good friends with and who have girls around the same age as our two daughters.

We made the daring, possibly insane, decision to visit both of the Six Flags Over Texas parks in the state within seven days of each other. We began with a one-day trip to Six Flags in Arlington, where we had to go to pick up our new season passes. Six Flags must be in need of some quick cash, because they have a deal now where you can buy a season pass for the price of a one-day admission. Consequently, there were a bajillion people at the park, most of them new season pass holders like us.

The funniest sight I saw in the Arlington park was one of the musical acts. This was during spring break, and apparently someone in park management figured, "Hey, we'll have oodles of head-bangin' college and high school kids here on Spring Break. We need a band they'll like." So, they hired an aging baby boomer heavy metal band that played songs such as "White Wedding" at a volume that almost jammed the radar at nearby DFW Airport. Here is the band in their full rockin' glory:

Actually, they weren't all that bad. The big problem was that the park officials apparently decided it was okay to place this 100 decibel gang of bangers onstage at the edge of the young kiddie section of the park, right between the log flume ride and the Spongebob Squarepants 3-D Theatre. As a result, there weren't too many screaming college chicks around rushing the stage, but there were a lot of deaf old people and exhausted moms with baby buggies, glad for a chance to sit on a bench, who made up the crowd. Don't they look as though they might form a mosh pit and start tearing off their clothes any minute?

Have you gotten "fed up" with the high prices they charge for food at amusement parks? We have, so we were looking for culinary bargains at Six Flags. We finally found a great deal on some incredibly inexpensive food near the koi pond.

We returned home, and after a few days back in Waco we took off again, this time to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. This is the best Six Flags park in Texas, in our opinion, because the rides are better and it's usually less crowded. There was nothing weird to report at Fiesta Texas, except that they asked me to join their latest publicity campaign. (Uh, I'm the one on the left...)

I did get one final laugh out of the trip, although it wasn't at Fiesta Texas. I was doing some browsing at a Borders bookstore while the rest of the crew was out clothes shopping, and when I left and got in my car, I noticed an old hearse across from me in the parking lot.

Now, a retired hearse being put to use as personal transport is not all that uncommon, but what got me to laughing was the vanity license plate attached to the front:

Today's quote:

"It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off."

--Woody Allen

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Smattering of Quotes

The Muley family is getting ready to embark on a long-anticipated Spring Break trip, so I won't be around to check my blog for awhile. And since I've been so busy this week trying to "get ahead" at work, I've not allowed the contemplative, goofy part of my brain to have much of a chance to mull over something that could be crafted into a well-written, witty post.

In place of said well-written post, I'd like to offer you a few quotations to ponder. As I've said before, I collect quotations and enjoy reading them. Here's a few of the ones I've collected in the past few weeks I'd like to share:
"There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!'"

--Abraham Kuyper
"Unless we can bring men back to enjoying the daily life which moderns call a dull life, our whole civilization will be in ruins in about 15 years...Unless we can make daybreak and daily bread and the creative secrets of labor interesting in themselves, there will fall on our civilization a fatigue which is the one disease from which civilizations do not recover."

--G.K. Chesterton
"An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way."

--Charles Bukowski
"The world is changing. Those of us who automatically deal out politeness words in suitable contexts are becoming uncomfortably aware that we earn less credit for it than we used to. It is becoming obvious that we are the exception rather than the rule, and that our beautiful manners fall on stony ground. People who serve the public are becoming impervious to rudeness, either because they are young and don't care, or because they are older and have learned to toughen up or suffer a nervous breakdown. Either way, if you attempt to sympathise with a shop-worker who has just served a rude customer, the response is rarely the one you expect. Mainly you will get a blank shrug, which carries the worrying implication: this person doesn't care whether customers are polite or not. This makes it quite hard to go through the ensuing politeness display without feeling self-conscious, or even quaint."

--Lynne Truss
in Talk to the Hand
"I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it."

--Edith Sitwell
"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"

--Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rejected Romance Novel Titles #6

Any of you ladies interested?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Another "Four" Meme

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. I've been tagged with that same ol' "four" meme that's going around the blogosphere now. Here's my answers.

Four things I've never stuck up my nose (all the way):
1. Potting soil
2. Catnip
3. Postage stamps
4. Rodents

Four nicknames I had in grade school:
1. Hey, fathead
2. Yeah, you
3. Boar Hog
4. Goiter Boy

Four mistakes I still regret:
1. Attending junior high
2. Feeding laxatives to seagulls
3. Standing underneath laxative-fed seagulls
4. Wearing Donny Osmond pajamas

Four of my favorite numbers:
1. 87
2. 369
3. -5
4. 87 (I mean, I really like this one)

Four of my pet phrases:
1. Are you gonna eat that?
2. No, really, it's only a fever blister
3. I'm free, and well worth it
4. Yes, dear

Four careers I once considered pursuing:
1. Zoological spoor redistributor
2. Hamster sexer
3. Tanning bed lightbulb installer
4. Archduke of a small East European country noted for exports of phlegm

Four of my worst habits:
1. Biting my fingernails
2. Biting other people's fingernails
3. Collecting Q-Tips used by famous people
4. Wearing fake parrot on my shoulder while at Long John Silver's

Friday, March 10, 2006

More Reasons to Be Happy

I'm stil working on trying to write a few movie reviews, and since I have nothing new to offer today, I've decided to update and re-run a post I did soon after I started blogging last year. Hope it gives you a few laughs.


Sixteen years ago, a short but squat little book titled 14,000 Things to Be Happy About hit bookstores. In the book's opening pages, author Barbara Ann Kipfer said that the work was the fruit of a 20-year effort to write down the "little things" that made her happy.

The compact, simple volume has proven to be quite a welcome counterpoint to the public flow of information over the years, seeing as how just about every newspaper and TV news program nowadays could be subtitled 14,000 Things to Feel Crappy About.

I have passed by this book many times in the bookstore, but I finally decided to take it off the shelf and have a look. The way I figured it, if push came to shove I could only name maybe 2,000 things to be happy about, and I thought, why am I missing out on 12,000 others?

I found a lot to agree with in Kipfer's choices. Who among us doesn't have happy thoughts about making love, music, nature walks, rereading a good book, singing old hymns in church, small at-home dinners, opportunity, doing something against all odds, and "this thing called love?" For my personal taste, I was glad to see that Kipfer included such favorites as the Hallelujah Chorus, the Art Institute of Chicago, Bob and Ray and KahlĂșa chocolate torte.

Of course, we aren't all made happy by the same things. I guess Kipfer is a different sort of person, or maybe she was running out of obvious ideas and had to stretch, but I find it hard to hop on the Happy Bus for salespeople, the ring of the telephone, loud radios, "morning mouth," listening to the news, cold hands, "food debris under a high chair after an attempted feeding," planning your future with the help of an Ouija board, grass stains, spittoons, Spam, sour milk, seeing a grown man cry, or Gene Shalit's mustache. Especially Gene Shalit's mustache.

A few entries just had me puzzled. Are we supposed to feel emotional one way or the other about brake fluid, isosceles triangles, dial tones, Naugahyde or "the suck of a pump?" And aren't a few of the items a bit dated? Is anyone truly made happy anymore on a consistent basis by mood rings, the Senate Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker, Polaroid Land cameras, shower microphone soap, Montgomery Ward, Tab soda commercials, 3 1/2" computer diskettes, AMC Pacers or "boogie dancing?"

In case Ms. Kipfer ever wants to release an updated and expanded version of the book titled 14,030 Things to Be Happy About, I offer her these potential additions free of charge:

* No TV series planned starring Pillsbury Doughboy
* Pouring hot oil on enemy combatants from high atop castle walls outlawed by Geneva Convention
* Barney show no longer inserted between features on U.S. to Asia flights
* Despite rumors to contrary, Jerry Mathers, Paul McCartney and Abe Vigoda still alive and well
* Euell Gibbons televised appeals to begin eating pine trees fell on deaf ears
* Scurvy eliminated in most North American fishing fleets
* Only 70 years until U.S. Tricentennial
* Proposed leisure suit revival killed because of high oil prices
* Treaty of Oregon setting U.S.-Canada boundary still preventing bloodshed after 160 years
* Country singers dying slow, lyrical deaths from TB a thing of the past
* Metric system and Esperanto never caught on in U.S.
* Thanks to commentary translation track by marine biologist on DVD set, Flipper's words now understandable
* Last insurance claims from Krakatoa eruption finally settled
* Despite decades of wobbling, Weebles still do not fall down
* "Dark Side of the Moon" now distributed to all world people groups, including prehistoric tribes in Asia
* Haggis still banned from most U.S. restaurants
* Cloning of zoo pandas will prevent embarrassing public ridicule over mating failures
* Widespread notoriety of classic "pull my finger" prank has greatly decreased its use
* Constitutional ammendment to add Millard Fillmore to Mount Rushmore failed
* Charlie Tuna's death wish still unrequited
* Lakehurst, N.Y., relatively free of fatal blimp accidents since 1936
* William Shatner finally has decent hairpiece
* Slow tectonic forces still centuries away from ripping Florida from U.S. mainland
* Goofus' behavior still considered bad example in "Goofus and Gallant" cartoons
* Reverse of Colorado commemorative quarter will not feature John Denver in granny glasses
* Cancerous test mice denied legal standing by lower courts
* General Francisco Franco still dead
* Banana Splits reunion postponed indefinitely
* Loss of U.S. control of Panama Canal has not prevented timely shipments of Yu-Gi-Oh cards to East Coast
* New series "Star Trek: Shore Leave Tiki Lounge" killed at pilot stage

Today's Quote:

"Once, craftsmen of all kinds were referred to as artisans, people who considered their work to be an art. There's no reason we can't create a life that allows us to approach our work and our lives in this way, as artisans –– people who, in the words of George Bellows, 'make life more interesting or beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or probably in the best sense, more wonderful.'"

--Paul and Sarah Edwards
from The Practical Dreamer's Handbook

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Abortion Steals a Waving Flag

Once again, there's evidence that pro-abortion forces can't stand to be competitive in the marketplace of ideas.

Earlier this week, a pro-life group at Baylor University here in Waco, Texas, planted 3,500 pink and blue flags. Near the flags they posted a sign which read, "In Loving Memory of the 3,500 Children Aborted Daily in the United States." The students, who call themselves Bears for Life, had permission from the administration to put up both the flags and the sign and keep them up through Wednesday.

However, some pro-abortion types snuck out Tuesday night, and in typical fashion (under the cover of darkness) removed all 3,500 flags, replacing them with a sign which read, "Abortion Saves 7,000 Adult Lives Every Day." I guess seeing all those thousands of little flags waving across Fountain Mall for the aborted babies was just too much for them.

In case you're interested, here's the full story from the Baylor student newspaper, the Lariat.

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. After browsing the spines in the bargain DVD bins at the video store, I have determined that one of the most popular movies on the planet is apparently titled “Security Device Enclosed.” I have never heard of this flick, however, and IMDB has no listing for it. Has anyone seen it who can provide a review? It sounds like something maybe starring Sylvester Stallone or Steven Seagal.

2. I have never read the book, but I found this funny "abridged version" of the Ayn Rand book Atlas Shrugged while trolling around blogs the other day.

3. I have occasional moments of olfactory epiphany. I’ll get hold of a certain scent –- usually riding on an outdoor breeze or slipping out of some busy kitchen –- and instantly I am transported back in time, to joyous days of childhood or times of adventure or courting. The feeling doesn’t last long, but it is powerful enough to stop me dead in my tracks sometimes.

4. I am somewhat frustrated that so many of the hot series now on TV are sequential instead of episodic. That's a fancy way of saying that each episode continues the story line into the next episode, like a soap opera. I am frustrated because, although I don't get to watch much TV at all, I hear about great shows I might enjoy checking out if only their story lines weren't so far advanced. For example, it seems everywhere I hear what a great, riveting show "24" is. If I just tuned in one night and watched a new episode, I'm sure I would be fatally lost and confused. "Who's that character? And who's that? And why is that guy plotting against that one? Wait a minute, why'd he shoot that guy and not the other one?" To truly get up to speed, I 'd no doubt need to go back and watch the previous four seasons worth of episodes, but who's got time for that?

5. I am so in awe of natural artists such as my daughter Rebecca and fellow blogger Jenn at "My Life is a Cartoon." They can draw just about anything, it seems, and are so creative with not only their pictures but their thoughts. I think I'd die happy if I just had half their talent to draw people and things.

6. I can't seem to find an answer to this burning question: there's "new," and then there's "brand-new." What does the extra word "brand" signify? Why is it there? Is there a real difference between the two words? Don't they mean the same thing?

7. I have finally decided to give up on Little Women halfway into it, and try it again when I'm more in the mood to read it straight through. I will leave you, though, with one excerpt I had marked. It's a very old-fashioned, non-PC bit of advice that Mrs. March gives to her daughters about what they should strive for in life. I think I'll share it with my own daughters when they're a bit older.
"I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected, to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman; and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg; right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it; so that, when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties, and worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world -- marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes, because love is wanting. Money is a needful and a precious thing -- and, when well used, a noble thing -- but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rejected Romance Novel Titles #5

I'm working up a few movie reviews, but until I finish them, here's another in my series of romance covers you'll never see. This north-of-the-border bodice-ripper might have been made into a movie with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald back in the 1940s.

(By the way, I am not the creative graphic artist who came up with these parodies. I pulled them off a web site somewhere, and if I had saved the URL I would give it to you).

Today's Quote:

"Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise."

--Margaret Atwood
in Cat's Eye

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Something or Other Interruptus (But Not That)

Have you ever had a case of interruptus? I mean, do you have problems finishing what you start? For some reason, I've been battling it more than usual lately.

I most notice it in my reading habits. I pick up a new book -- fiction or nonfiction, it matters not -- and begin with excited anticipation, turning pages like an accountant on April 14. But then, by the time I'm halfway through the book, my interest flags. Sometimes I trudge on anyway, thinking, "This is a good book. It's even considered a classic. I should read this and finish what I started." This logic, quite frankly, is what got me all the way through the unabridged versions of both Les Miserables and Moby Dick, books which are great at the beginning and end, but drag terribly by page 726 or so.

But sometimes, I don't even finish. I just give up. I quit. My list of books each year that I start and then don't finish is most assuredly longer than the list of ones I do finish. Maybe this is why I try to read Goodnight Moon at least once a year, to get that feeling of literary completion without a lot of effort.

(I've just re-read this about 10 hours after I wrote it, and on second glance I realize I sound like a bit of a lazy dilettante, starting in on a book and just dropping it on a whim because maybe there aren't any more pretty pictures or because I want to go to sleep and drool on the couch all day. In reality, what occurs is a teaming of two fatal forces: the book becoming a little boring, and my discovering a new book that seems even more exciting and worthy of my limited free time. I'm like an insatiable playboy philanderer who starts dating his new girlfriend before he even gets around to dumping his old one. I know this only in theory, by the way.)

My latest "stuck on the tar baby, caught in the brier patch" book is Little Women. I enjoyed the first quarter a lot, and I appreciate how it paints such a pleasant picture of life. But now I'm smack dab in the middle of the thing, after I've learned the father recovers from his war injuries and little what's-her-name doesn't die of fever, and I'm trying to decide, "Do I want 250 more pages of this?" I haven't touched it in a week or so. The thought of sneaking off to a new book -- maybe a juicy modern mystery or a Wodehouse comedy -- is seducing me like a sultry painted lady of the night. But then I think, what about Jo and the girls? What will I say now if someone ever asks if I've read Little Women? I'll have to answer, "Duh, I've read half of it," as if the prose was just too complicated for me to understand or something.

I do the same thing with movies. It's very rarely that I watch a DVD or even a movie on TV in one, uninterrupted sitting. I'll watch a third or a half, get called away or find something else I want to do instead, and the movie never gets finished. Can you tell me if Rhett and Scarlett live happily ever after? Did they ever figure out what "Rosebud" was? Was Norman Bates' mother the killer in "Psycho?"

Another thing that happens is that I will finish the movie, but I'll do it by watching in 20- or 30-minute segments as I'm running on the treadmill or doing another task. These viewings don't all take place right after each other, so I'm many times popping in a movie and asking myself, "OK, what was going on when I left this a week ago? And who are the characters again?"

I know that this is no way to read books or watch movies. I like to think I have more of an attention span than this would indicate, but maybe I don't.

I'm curious, readers. Do you also have problems with literary or video interruptus? When you get well into a book or movie and it loses its zing, do you drop it and move on, or do you stick with it?

Today's Quote:

"We Christians must simplify our lives or lose untold treasures on earth and in eternity. Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible, The need for solitude and quietness was never greater than it is today."

--A.W. Tozer

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Thoughts

Mrs. Muley and I pointedly didn't watch the Oscars last night because, frankly, there weren't any movies in contention for the big awards that we were interested in. Also, it was readily apparent that this year's nominations were a big poke in the eye to conservative, family values Middle America, with just about every movie filled with appeals for the approval of homosexuality, and views of America as a racially bigoted place run by evil corporations and filled with bloodthirsty, misguided anti-Communists.

I mean, I figured "Brokeback Mountain" would win Best Picture, but did it matter to me if a movie which portrayed us all as foaming homophobes lost to a movie potraying us all as foaming racial bigots? Not really.

Let's face it, a movie I thought was undoubtedly one of the best of the past year -- "Chronicles of Narnia" -- won exactly one Oscar. One. For best makeup. Whoo-hoo!

On the plus side, I see there were some bright spots. I'm glad Reese Witherspoon won Best Actress for her part in "Walk the Line" -- a role and a movie I enjoyed. I'm also glad that two of my favorite movies of 2005 won in lesser categories: "March of the Penguins" for Best Documentary, and "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" for Best Animated Feature.

But what made me most proud, as a consumer of pop culture, as a parent, and as an American, was the winner of the Best Song. I didn't see the show, and I've never heard the song that won, but this description from an AP news story just melted the cockles of my heart:
The raucous hip-hop tune "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle & Flow," whose expletive-laden lyrics had to be toned down for performance at the Oscars, won the prize for best song. The song was written by the rap group Three 6 Mafia, aka Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard.

Featuring dancers dressed as hookers and pimps gyrating on stage, the song's performance stood in sharp contrast to the other nominated tunes and the general stateliness of the Oscars.

"You know what? I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp," joked Oscar host Jon Stewart.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Lion Story

Alright, it's time for the lion story. You asked for it.

This tale takes place back in the late 1980s, when I was a young reporter with one of Waco's three television stations. I was a general assignments reporter, meaning that I could be covering City Hall or a car accident one day, and doing a feature story on a woman's collection of dolls made from corncobs the next day.

One blustery winter day, I was assigned to take my photographer and do a story about the Waco Zoo. Apparently, there were some new additions that were being contemplated. I must set this story by saying that while Waco now has a beautiful, natural habitat zoo along the Brazos River, the zoo at the time I was a reporter was a pretty shabby affair. It was located on a flat, tiny piece of land near the airport, and was far from a "natural habitat." The animals were crowded in small cages which were lined up next to each other.

I felt good going out to the zoo that day. It was cold but sunny, and I was nice and warm inside my new leather jacket, which I had been saving for out of my measly reporter's salary for quite some time. I must say, I looked good in it, and I knew I would look good on air as well.

We went through the basics of getting the story by interviewing the zoo director and a few visitors, then shooting "B-roll," pretty shots of the zoo and its animals which we'd slap over my narration of the piece before it aired. So far, so good.

There was one final thing we had to do before leaving -- shooting the "stand up." This is the part of a TV news story where you actually see the reporter on camera, holding his or her microphone and making some serious and hopefully intelligent-sounding observation.

After looking the place over, my photographer decided that the most photogenic place to shoot the standup would be in front of the lion cage. There were two lions in there -- a male and a female -- and we would position the shot so that you'd see me backed up near the cage on one side of the TV screen, while over my shoulder you'd see the lions on the other side.

From what I remember, the lions that day were taking a nap when we arrived. Like many animals in zoo cages, they looked as though they spent a lot of their time each day snoozing.

We set up the shot, and there I stood in my new leather jacket, my script improvised on the spot. We did a few run-throughs to let me practice first, and then we were ready to tape.

I did a few takes, but for some reason I can't remember I wasn't happy with them. Maybe I flubbed a word, maybe the wind was blowing hair in my eyes. Anyway, I started the third take with confidence that this would be the one that nailed it.

Soon into my speech, I felt what I thought might have been a light mist blowing against my neck -- sort of like when there's a sprinkler turned on next door, and the wind wafts over some of the spray. It didn't bother me, though, and I kept on talking.

A few seconds later, I felt the mist become a strong stream of liquid hitting me square on the neck and back, as if some kid had one of those Super Soaker water cannons pointed at me, unloading at full power. Not a little angered at my perfect take being disrupted, I jumped back and turned around to see where the offending stream was coming from.

Imagine my shock (and disgust) when I looked at the lion cage, and noticed that Mr. Lion was no longer napping. He had gotten up and backed himself up against the bars, butt first. His tail was lifted high, and a stream of urine was still flying in a high arc toward me. I had no idea a lion could pee like that! If I had been judging for form and distance, I would have held up the card reading "9.8."

Of course, I quickly realized what had happened. I had interrupted Mr. Lion's snooze, so he had decided to give a new definition to the term "mainstream media" and shut me down. When he finally finished his task, he gave me what I swear was a sleepy grin, turned around and then laid back down to sleep.

It was so bizarre that I had to laugh. And even though the photographer was laughing as well, he didn't stop rolling tape the whole time. I soon stopped laughing to turn toward the lion and give him a piece of my mind into the microphone. I'm not happy to confess that I used a few words that would get bleeped if they ever showed up on television.

We eventually calmed down and I ended up completing the standup, albeit a little farther away from the cage. We couldn't wait to get the tape back to the office and see the whole thing again.

When we popped the tape in the machine, we were instantly disappointed. The ancient TV cameras we used back then had tubes in them instead of computer chips -- a blue tube, a red tube and a green tube. If they were correctly aligned, you got natural color. If the tubes were misaligned -- which could be caused by as little as a slight bump to the camera -- then any tape that was recorded ended up looking like a series of red and blue shadows, something like how a 3-D cartoon looks if you don't wear the 3-D glasses. We could still make out me and the lion, and hear every word I said, but the picture was un-airable. Our hopes of submitting it to "America's Funniest Videos" were dashed.

I got some more bad news. Remember my brand-new leather jacket? Well, it was covered in lion pee. Have any of you ever had something urinated on by a little house cat? Remember how acrid (and how hard to deodorize) that stuff is? Well, multiply house cat urine by about 50 and you have lion urine. I could have taken that jacket, dumped it in benzene and then dangled it over Niagra Falls for an hour or so, and the smell still wouldn't have come out. Sadly, I threw my reeking jacket in the trash. My station being the cheap place it was, the management refused to buy me a new one, even though I had been hosed in the line of duty. It was awhile before I could afford another.

So, there's my lion story. I still have the tape of that event, and every now and then I get it out and play it. I'm not sure if I will ever play it for my kids, since it will show them what colorful, descriptive language Daddy used back in his TV days. But Mrs. Muley and I get a kick out of it.

And the lion? Oh, he's probably enjoying strolling through his new, natural habitat home in the Central Texas Zoo. And laughing when he remembers me.

I hope he has fleas and mange.