After Work Walk

I went through a little walk through the woods after work on Monday. I took the following images. They amuse me. Hopefully you will get some moments of amusement from them as well.














I only came upon 3 deer during my walk. Last week I came upon ten deer. I also did not find the groundhog. Of course, I have seen the groundhog 8 times this year, but never with the right lens. I’m still going to get that groundhog.

Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World

As you may know, it is part of my Sunday ritual to check the Post Secret website. I think it is one of the most beautiful and compelling community art projects going. Everybody has secrets and it is therapeutic to find see that there are other people will similar secrets (struggles and burdens) as you. Most of the time I enjoy the funny ones or the ones that I can relate to. This Sunday I saw one that although it certainly isn’t funny and I can’t relate to it, I found it to be beautiful nonetheless and I wanted to share it in this way. So below is my favorite “secret” from this week.


Here is a short story:

I was walking the mean streets of Ames the other day. I walked by a place that had an advertisement in the window. It proclaimed that this business needed “Rock Stars”.

I decided that although I don’t possess the requisite musical talent, perhaps they would hire me on because of my incredible personal charisma and give me the proper training to become a “Rock Star”.

After a couple minutes of inquiry it turns out that they didn’t really want a “Rock Star”. They just wanted people to make their lousy sandwiches for a low wage.

My search for somebody to hire me as a “Rock Star” continues.

Randumbness

I’m going to attempt to get out of the video posting rut that I’ve been in lately. Not that the videos I’ve posted have been bad. In fact, they have been highly entertaining. However, this here “Artist’s Notebook” isn’t supposed to be about funny videos. It is supposed to be about “Yours Truly” and my artistic endeavors and artistic failures. Although it is certainly also about my inspirations. Those videos are a part of my “Online Idea Box”, as I have been known to refer to this thing as. 

This “Artist’s Notebook” is also about my more personal inspirations: My friends. So I should reveal what has been up with some of my friends. 

The biggest news about my friends would be that Derrick has become the man at his place of employment. I believe his previous job title was “Guitar god” or “Guitar Guy” or “Sales Consultant”. Now his job title is something like “General Manager” or “Store Manager” or “The Man” or “Mr. Man” or “HHIC”. 

It is a strange twist of fate that his S.O. Jen was once “The Man”. She hired Derrick on. Now it is a few years later and he is now “The Man”. 

There was a store manager in between them, but I fail to recall her name. I do know that the rulers of Derrick’s company did her in on Monday. They pulled the old switching the locks to the door trick. A classic of all passive-aggressive wieners that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do somebody in face to face. 

I know from my extensive firing experiences that it takes a man to look somebody in the face and tell them: “Get out of here kid. You’re no good. You don’t have a future”. Of course my extensive fire experience includes firing not a single person. 

You see I was once “The Man”. Not with the same company where Derrick is currently “The Man”. Yet, I was the man for a couple of years in a quickly failing restaurant. It was hard to be “The Man” at this place because the owner of the restaurant wanted it to fail. They were begging their understanding of God for it to fail. 

I ran what in the politically correct vernacular would be known as a “quick service restaurant” in Campustown. The large overhead of such a business and poor location spelled doom for the restaurant. 

While I was captain of this sinking vessel I did not have to fire anybody. I soon realized that most people fired themselves. You set up standards for people. You communicated these standards to the people. You set up consequences for not reaching these standards. You communicated these consequences to the people. When people knew that they weren’t reaching the established standards, they would pretty much quit on their own. 

I should point out that I wasn’t exactly setting the bar high either. My minions consisted of High School and College Students. This wasn’t a career stop for them. This was a little bit of spending scratch so they could booze it up on the weekend or go to that Dave Matthews concert or for some it was to pay for their textbooks or their rent. 

The good ones already cared about their job, not because they cared about the job. They cared about their job because they were the type of people that did well because what they were doing was what they were doing. In less convoluted terms, anything that they did they were going to do well because the result was a reflection of them. It wasn’t what the job consisted of that was important. Whatever it was, they were going to do it well. 

Then there were the employees that failed under my regime. They really failed of their own accord. At least they left of their own accord. Which the majority of them left because their time at Iowa State had concluded or they realized that they could get paid much better doing a much easier job some place else. However I am not typing words out about the people who just moved on to better things. This is about people who theoretically could have been fired. The failures. 

My standards were not that high. It isn’t that they were low. It is that when you are stuck working in corporation there are about 1 trillion incredibly dumb rules about every single insignificant aspect of how to do every single mundane job. In huge multilevel corporations like the one that employed me, you will find people that memorize and dream about every single one of these stupid little rules that have nothing at all to do with the success of a business. In fact the enforcement of these rules is a waste of time. Concentrating on the mindnumbing minutia that is the “Proper way to pull eggs from the grill” is allowing insignificance to control the significant aspects of the business. 

There were really only a handful of things that I cared about. I never spelled this out, wrote it down, posted it, or handed it out on cards. But if you were to really spell out my rules of management they were simple: 

1. Serve the customer, in a fast, friendly manner with a good product.
2. Keep the store clean.
3. Maintain the equipment.
4. Don’t get me in trouble. 

People who couldn’t do these things usually phased themselves right out of the business. 

WOW! I never meant to drone on and on and on and on and on about it. 

Willy had oral surgery last Thursday. It must have went well. He was up and back on the dance floor by Friday night. He even attended the largest Friday Night Supper Club in history. There were 6 people there. Including 3 people that had never made it to a Friday Night Supper Club function before. Jen, Derrick, and Sara now have FNSC Auxillary Member Status. 

Jesse did not make it to Friday Night Supper Club because he had his nose broken Friday morning. It was on purpose. It wasn’t like he had lipped off to some dude and got regulated. A doctor busted him up good and attempted to rearrange some of the nose parts so that he can breathe better and make him a little bit softer on the eyes. 

I got the pleasure of hanging out in the Ambulatory Waiting Room with Kelly and Mary while the doctors were working him over. It was through a conversation with Kelly that I learned more about his lying, scheming ways. Also I got more ammunition for the Bandwagoner side of the Jesse Howard: Bandwagoner or Innovator debate. Wives sometimes talk too much. 

Kelly also regaled me a tale that I will file in my memory banks under the “Great Easter War”. I will not retell the tale at this time, but it might make its way into a short story collection in a bookstore near you. 

Last night after work I headed to a park to test out my new camera bag. Once I got to the park I realized I couldn’t test my new bag out because the only thing I had brought with me was my camera and the new bag. I hadn’t brought my old bag that was full of goodies. I was looking forward to doing some bird photography, but that dream was effectively snuffed out by the fact that I had left my telephoto lens in my old camera bag. Therefore I was stuck with only my 50mm lens to try to capture images. The 50mm is a great lens, but birds are known cowards. I believe that they are the first known draft dodgers. 

Due to their well documented cowardice (sometimes known as migration but really draft dodging) it is difficult to get close to them with out them taking off. So below are the best pictures I could muster out of the experience. They are failures. I know this fact. 


04-19-2007

 




This is going to sound slightly harsh, but it was nice to see a collection of deer without injuries. There is quite an assortment of deer that live in the woods behind my current place of employment. Almost all of them suffer from at least one injured leg.

John 20: 19-32

What lies below is a copy of the sermon Andrea gave on Sunday. I know what you’re thinking: If I wanted to know the sermon the Pastor at your church gave on Sunday I would have went to your church on Sunday. Irregardless of your skepticism, I am going to post it any way. It seems to have come at a perfect time for me. I would almost say that it is divine intervention. I would almost say.

John 20: 19-32

A defendant was on trial for murder in Oklahoma. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense’s closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all,” the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. “Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.” He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made up the previous statement. But you all looked on with anticipation. I, therefore, put it to you that there is reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.” The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty. “But how?” inquired the lawyer. “You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door.” Answered the jury foreman: “Oh, we did look. But your client didn’t.”

In today’s scripture we see two different stories. In the first story we see the 10 disciples in a house on Easter evening. We know that Thomas is not there, and that one probably committed suicide. We aren’t sure why Thomas isn’t there. Maybe he didn’t know that they were all going to meet that night. Maybe he was so upset that he just needed to be alone. For whatever reason, Thomas was missing from the group. And in our story Jesus appears to the Disciples in a house, talked with them and showed them his hands and his side to show them that it was indeed Jesus. Our second story which I want us to focus our time today happens a week later. Thomas is now with the group and was told during the week what all the other disciples had seen. And Thomas said, “I want to see it.” Thomas loved the Lord but in his sadness and his confusion from what the other disciples had told him, he needed proof. I mean, maybe it was the other disciples who had gone mad up in that room, maybe they had just made it up.

But what I think is so important in our scripture today is for us to see how Thomas dealt with his doubt. Does he hide it and just go along with the crowd? No, Thomas brings this doubt out in the open so that his friends can help and support him. He questions what they are saying and states that he needs more time, more proof. Another important thing is that after he says this he doesn’t leave his friends, he continues to be with them to give them time to help him understand what they have seen. There is something to be said for Thomas’ willingness to be bold and state his doubt, and his willingness to be shown so that he too can believe.

But aren’t we like Thomas sometimes, when we are told something, don’t we want to question it, and even ask for proof? Does that mean we disbelieve what people are telling us or do we just need a little reassurance? I think many of us today, whether we will admit it or not have a little doubting Thomas in us at times. One thing is for certain and I want to prove it to you now.

Let’s play a little game. I’ll say a word, and you tell me its opposite.

Black, Girl, Up, Happy, Wide, Full, Faith.

That last one is tougher isn’t it? What exactly is the opposite of faith? I’m not sure what the best answer is. Maybe the opposite of faith is unbelief. Often in scripture, it seems that the opposite of faith is fear (“Why do you fear, you of little faith.”) One thing that I am sure about is that doubt is not the opposite of faith. Many people of faith, I’d venture to say all people of faith, have times of doubt or areas of doubt in their lives. Now, we tend not to use the word. We say that we are confused or that we don’t understand, but we are just being polite. We mean that we have doubts.

Because of situations that happen in our lives we all have doubts about God, our faith, and in the promises made by God. Many times our doubt comes from how much we are given and how unworthy we feel to receive God’s gifts.

There are times we doubt that God loves or cares for us, we doubt our free salvation, we doubt the resurrection took place. It is not that we deny any of these, but there are times when we doubt or question them. We want to believe, we do believe, but there are moments… moments when we just ask what if? What if God is so mad at me for asking for forgiveness over and over again, I wonder if I will really go to heaven? What if Jesus really didn’t rise from the dead?

I bring all of this up because I think that Thomas has been given a bad reputation. We call him the doubter when in reality we all doubt at some point in our lives almost everything. We don’t like Thomas because in reality he is just like one of us. But we can’t sit here as Christians and say that we have never ever felt some twinge of doubt in our lives. But today I think what is important for us to come to grips with is that to have doubts is ok, to question our beliefs is ok. It is how we handle those questions and doubts that is more important.

What we know from our story is that all the disciples were up in a room talking with one another and sorting through all that had happened in the past week. They were talking about Palm Sunday and how the people cheered, they talked about their last meal with Jesus, and they talked about his trial, beatings, and death. Finally they reflected on what had happened earlier that Easter morning with Mary going to the tomb and then talking to Jesus. They too probably had confusion, doubts, fear, and questions. It might not have said it in black and white but we are all human, with that much going on, we know that they were questioning the entire week’s events. And then Jesus appears in front of them, gives them peace, and sends them to start evangelizing. They got to see and talk with Jesus. But poor Thomas was off alone trying to deal with the week alone. Friends it is all about how we deal with doubt. Openness, communication, community, prayer, and study.

Imagine for a moment that you are a teacher. One student spends the day staring out the window or nodding off to sleep. Another writes down everything you say, memorizes it, and parrots it back to you on the exam. The third is full of questions. This student is always trying to guess what comes next or apply what has been said in unexpected ways. This third student is full of opinions and is willing to voice them even when they are clearly misguided. Which student is really learning? Which student will actually apply what you have taught? The second student may get the better grades, but the third student is the one who has internalized the lesson. Doubts and objections are a sign that the student is engaged and growing.

How are we growing? Are we growing? Do we find ourselves engaged in our faith and in scripture? Or do we find ourselves coming each Sunday to hear the word, get warm and fuzzy so that we can leave and mark off of our to-do list that we have attended church? Friends I think that it is important for us to question and I think that it is normal for us to doubt parts of our faith. If we never doubt or never question couldn’t we almost call ourselves gullible?

Recording artist Billy Joel in one of his songs wrote, “ And the only people I fear are those who never have doubts.” A faith that does not ask difficult questions is a faith that has become stagnate and stunted. An examined faith is not worth living. And to keep our faith alive we need to be really living it, which means study of the word and of the church. Back in the day, when the Methodist church was just being created the church intentionally created groups called societies. These groups main goal was to come together and to ask questions. Questions about their faith, God, salvation, resurrection, and the Bible. It wasn’t lead by a specific pastor. It was just lay people getting together and being in conversation. And what was so wonderful, and yet probably why we don’t have them today is that the people were ok with asking questions, knowing that if one had the question, than probably many others questioned the same thing. Also, the question was asked to the entire group, not one person had to know all the answers. They worked, struggled, and researched together for the answers. HHMM maybe a group that we need here at the church.

And we do have a group like this, every couple of months we have a question night with the youth group. And they really love it. They can ask any question that they have about their the church and their faith. And Phil and I try to answer their questions to the best of our ability. But what is even more wonderful is that most of the time, the kids help each other out and explain the answer together. If there is a cut and dry answer. But they are still in community, still in communicating, and still learning from one another’s faith and experiences.

>Doubt can be like a fork in the road. We can use our doubt as an opportunity to mature our faith and grow in our relationship, or we can use it as an excuse to isolate ourselves and pull away. “Doubting Thomas” became “Believing Thomas” because he stayed with the other disciples in spite of his doubts. He was rewarded with a closer knowledge of Christ. What many of us don’t know about Thomas because it is not in scripture but only in historical documents is that most of Jesus’ disciples went west to take the gospel to Europe. However, Thomas decided to go east and was believed to be the father of the church in India. Thomas’s doubts became convictions and God used him in a wonderful way. Our doubts can lead us to a deeper faith if we only seek God in the midst of our doubts.

I would like to ask you to think about this question this morning. The question is, “If Jesus Christ would appear to a group of people, what would your reaction be?” Think about it for a while. Would you panic? Would you run? Would you hide in fear? Would you doubt? Would you ask for proof?? Did he really appear, Would you cry out in love, “My Lord and My God?” “Would you disbelieve because you weren’t in the group? What would your reaction be to the question that Jesus appeared to a group of people?

I wonder if our reaction to Jesus’s appearance to a group of disciples would have been like Thomas if we weren’t there?? I wonder if we would have been there if we would have believed without some proof, some evidence that this person was really Jesus??

One of the most amazing things we have that gives us proof to so many of our questions can be found in our scriptures. But they can also be found if we just stop and look around us. So many people ask the question how do I know that God loves me? How do I know that God exists, how do I know that I am saved? Well today I am here to answer those…at least attempt. We know these things because if we look around at everything we can see, God made that for us. God made it for us. How do we know he loves us, well he keeps on giving doesn’t he. If he was so disappointed in us as humanity why does he keep blessing us with springtime, with friendships, with new babies, with food on our tables, with…well the list could go on and on. We can’t look at a sunset or a new baby and say that God does not exist. Where else could the most beautiful things in our lives come from? Only someone who loves us more than anything could give us such things. How do we know we are saved? Have you ever experienced inward peace? Have you ever just sat in the pew and felt calm? With all the sinning we do, with all the bad ways in which we treat each other don’t you think that we would feel different. Don’t you think we would feel heavier with guilt, anger, and chaos? If we weren’t saved do you think that you would still have that urge to love everyone, to do things for others, and to be here? Proof of God’s presence is all around us friends, you just have to stop and see it.

another proof that we have is all of you sitting in the pew who have just been recognized for being a member of a UMC for 50 years. And we also have those who have been members for over 50 years. All of these people could say that they have struggled with their faith, that they questioned their faith. But just like a marriage or a friendship, faith takes work. If you have a disagreement with a friend or a spouse what do you do? You talk about it. If you have a fight to you stop being friends? Do you get divorced right away? No, you talk it out, you find yourself in a conversation. Today we have honored our 50 year members because of their commitment to God, to the church, to our community, and for their leadership. They are proof that God is Good and will provide.

Post Secret

Last Thursday I went to a lecture by the Post Secret guy at the Union with Stephanie, Jen, Derrick, and Sara. It was rather informative.

If you aren’t familiar with Post Secret it is an art project where people write down their secrets and send them to one guy. He started by handing out self-addressed card is DC and asked people to write down a secret and mail it to him. He then took those cards and posted them at a public art exhibit.

He has published 3 books of Post Secrets so far and he continues to get about 3,000 cards a day. He posts the 20 or so best ones every Sunday on his website:


Post Secret

Below are some of my favorites from this past week:

















Taiwan Times – April Issue

Below is the text from Mark’s April Newsletter:

Greetings to all of you in the love our Christ our risen Lord. He is risen…He is risen indeed. I pray that all of you are having a blessed celebration of the resurrection of our Lord.

here’s a quick Chinese lesson to start this newsletter. In church this Sunday Pastor Lio greeted us with the Chinese equivalent of the famous Easter proclamation. (The following are the phonetic sounds for this phrase in Chinese)

Yeah Sue Sh Foo Hwoe luh…
Tah Sh Jen Duh Foo Hwoe luh

The literal translation of this is “Jesus is risen… He is really risen”

What a joy it is that Easter is celebrated all over the world, in many different languages, but all with the same message. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. He is risen indeed. We have new life and hope in His victory over death, sin, and the devil.

Cleansed by Water and Word

Easter is such a wonderful time. Everything from time with family, Easter eggs and Easter baskets filled with candy, to wonderful Easter hymns and of course the life-changing message of Easter. All of these make it a joyful holiday. Easter here in Taiwan is not at all like Easter in America. We do not sing all of my favorite traditional Easter hymns, nor do we see a lot of Easter treats (although Salvation Lutheran does give us all a hard-boiled Easter egg), and of course I am far away from family.

There is however one difference about being in Taiwan for Easter, that is better than my traditional view of what Easter should be. This is Easter baptisms. Last year two people were baptized at our church, and this year there were four people. While I do remember baptisms in my church, I can’t recall any happening on Easter. This addition to the Easter celebration makes it even more joyous than the hymns, candy, or anything else.

Each person who was baptized this year has a wonderful story of how God is working in his or her life. One is a teacher here at Concordia Middle School. Another is a friend of mine from church who I work with at the Saturday kid’s camp. The other two are students here at Concordia Middle School. I was especially excited about the two students who were baptized because they are former students of mine from last year. Jasmine and Grace are both currently 11th grade students here at Concordia Middle School, and I taught both of them English and Bible class last year in 10th grade.

It was extremely uplifting to see students come to trust Jesus for their salvation. It is easy to get discouraged while teaching Bible class, especially when students are cynical or disinterested. Sometimes it is hard to see God working in the lives of students. Grace and Jasmine are two examples of God’s Spirit working at work. To see these two girls publicly declare their faith and receive God’s blessings from baptism brought such joy to my heart. This is why I came to Taiwan to help people know more about the love of Jesus, especially my students. I am thankful to God that He keeps His promises and has brought these all of these people to faith.

It’s Prayer Time!

Here are the prayer requests. As always we lift these up according to the will of God, praying for Him to be glorified through everything.

1. Pray that God would be with all of those who were baptized this past Sunday at Salvation Lutheran Church. Pray that God would bless them, be with them, and keep them strong in their faith.
2. Pray for all of my students that I teach. Pray that my actions and words would point towards the love of Jesus and that they would come to trust him. Pray especially for the following students. All of them are at different places concerning what he or she may or may not believe about Jesus but please pray for them that God would help give them faith. Jacky, Sunnie, Michelle, Bryant, David, Angel, Nneia, and Lana.
3. Pray that God would continue to bring people to the mission field. That God would open doors for those who have a calling for mission work.

Thank you all for your continued love, support, and prayers.

Happy Easter,

Mark

Sister, The State Fair, and A Few Jokes

For the last few years my sister Teresa has talk a lot of jibber jabber about entering the State Fair crocheting competition. In the same time frame, Monica has made a similar amount of dissonance about entering a painting into the State Fair.

Last year they were together in a contingency of people that made their way to the Fair with me. Once again they began opening their mouths and allowed words to escape about how “next year” they were going to enter their wares. Perhaps it was the heat. Perhaps it was hunger. Perhaps it was hearing the same inane prattle for years, but I believe that I snapped at them.

I can’t recall what I said, but I’m sure I pointed out that I was sick of hearing this same song and dance every year and yet every year the State Fair deadline came and went and all their talk had yet to spawn any action.

It has always been my philosophy to not pay too much attention to the words that people use. Everybody can talk a good game about what they are going to do or how good a person they are. One of the great truths I’ve learned in life is that “action defines character”. If you want to know the truth about a person, don’t listen to what they say. Watch what they do.

At that point they struck a deal. They both agreed to enter something next year. Well as I gaze admiringly at the Photography 139 Calendar on my wall I realize that next year is now this year. That immediately begs the question: “How are they doing?”

At a recent birthday dinner for Monica she revealed that she “still had plans” for the State Fair. So that is where Monica stands.

Teresa on the other hand has been quite diligent in her pursuit of the State Fair. She has been crocheting things left and right. The picture below are her latest creations. What makes these creations impressive is that these bears are a few inches tall.






I wanted to throw out a couple of jokes from the “Showbiz Show” that amused me:

A new video game allows you to form a “virtual band” online with other Xbox users. Those who’ve played it say it’s so realistic you almost feel like an actual failure.

Bono was granted an honorary knighthood, but he’s not entitled to be called “Sir” because he’s not a British citizen. “It’s cool, I wouldn’t want to be called anything that’s not my god-given name,” said Bono. “Yeah, that’d be totally pretentious,” said The Edge.

Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown has given birth to a baby girl, who she claims was fathered by Eddie Murphy. She’s basing this on the fact that the baby is capable of both being totally amazing and putting out crap.

Odonata

I haven’t had the “pleasure” of being on MySpace much lately. Which means that my “blogs” have become sporadic and if I’m not mistaken, lower in quality. I can’t say that this saddens me. There are more important things I should be doing with my time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times that I miss the moments of entertainment I get from this little site or the contact I lose with some people that I seem to only make through this “social networking” thing. Still, Uncle Sam hit me with a pretty stiff tax bill this year. I should be trying to figure out how to raise the funds to pay the feds off before I end up rotting in debtors prison. Although I do know this one thing about many of my chums. If I do end up rotting in debtors prison, I shant be alone. Some of us will be rotting together. I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Do your worst Uncle Sam! Just not to me, I’m not like normal people. I don’t like pain.”

I have changed the background music for the blog yet again. I will not pretend to have the musical talent or knowledge of at least 4 of the subscribers to this thing. I just felt that I should cool things off a little bit after the hard rocking of Pillar’s cover of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. I’m also quite certain that somewhere north of where I sit typing, Mike Britson is scoffing at my tenet that Pillar is anywhere near the neighborhood of hard rocking. I can’t dispute this fact. Mike has always claimed to be the “World’s Greatest Music Snob”. I do not think that he has a t-shirt that proclaims this fact, but in my heart of hearts I hope that Stephanie made him a button that did.

I come away from that aside. All I really wanted to point out is the fact that the new background music is “Minuet in G”. It was composed by the great Ludwig Van. It has always been one of my favorite pieces of music. Due to my relative musical ignorance (despite being a wretched to middling trombonesman in my day) I may be interpreting the intent of the music incorrectly. I have always been struck by how desperate this music sounds. It is more than sad. It is desperately mournful. Yet when you feel like it should be too depressed to carry on, it seems to find a way to carry on. In that ability to carry on, I find the song hopeful as well.

Take that for whatever you like. I don’t claim to be an expert. Although I do subscribe somewhat to what Roy Adzak said about art:

“Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.”

Meaning that the person interpreting the art is in many ways more important than the artist. That is a somewhat scary thought. I have the slight delusions of my own artistic ability I don’t like giving up my art and allowing whomever stumbles upon it to translate what it means. I don’t even struggle with the control issues that some of my friends do and it is still difficult.

I guess what makes this concept bearable and allows me to subscribe to it is the fact that the alternative is utterly unbearable. Namely, having to explain the meaning of everything. Of course, this also allows me to view “Minuet in G” as desperate and hopeful in the same breath and dear old Ludwig Van just has to accept it. IN YOUR FACE BEETHOVEN!!

Dictionary Dot Com defines “irony” in such a way: 5.an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.

I’m not sure this following tale is actually really ironic in the way the word was forged by its creators or in the “Alanis-Morrisette-I-Clearly-Wrote-A-Song-About-Irony-Where-I-uses-Examples-of -things-That-Aren’t-Ironic” way.

Perhaps it is ironic that I don’t know if this is ironic and I am having a go at somebody else for their ignorance. Perhaps I should just tell the tale.

Not really much of a tale. I have found a home for some pictures of mine. Here is the arguably ironic part: that home is the Boone Homeless Shelter. My church has adopted a room at the homeless shelter. As a congregation we are donating items to fill this room. I have donated a copy of “Happiness Shared: #01” & “Happiness Shared: #02” to adorn the wall of our room.

What I found out tonight is that when each homeless family leaves the shelter and sets up their home, they get to take everything from the room to furnish their new home.

I did not hand the pictures over to Pastor Phil personally. I left them in the hands of my sister Teresa. Allegedly Phil was excited by this donation and thinks that I should donate such pictures every time a new family moves into our room.

In some small way I have a “standing order”. In no small way, this kind of excites me. Looks like I’m just doing good deeds all over the place. But before I break my arm from patting myself on the back, I should show you what is going to the homeless shelter, to somebody’s home, and perhaps someday to a Goodwill Store near you.


04-04-07

04-04-07

So what would these other good deeds be that I am doing? Depending on your ability to recall facts about me, you may remember that a while back I was instrumental ( by instrumental I mean the same way I was instrumental to the success of the BHS Concert Band by holding down the last chair trombone) in the making of a batch of soap. Some of the soap from that batch is going into care packages for people being released from Mitchelville State Penitentiary.

The truth is that I had nothing to do with this donation. It is all Shannon. Yet since, she is donating soap for this cause AND I helped make the soap. I get to glom onto some of her glory. The boys I hang with like to call that bandwagoning. Except for one. He likes to call it innovating.

However, I am going to attempt to make the world a better place in one more way. It is through something I hope to propose and railroad through Friday Night Supper Club through my power of oratory. I won’t tell you what it is, but I will give you a hint. I should also point out that at this time Friday Night Supper Club is a secular organization. I point this out for my sister Teresa.

I like to go out to the woods on my break. Some people like to smoke. I like to commune with nature. No tax on that, suckers!!

While I was out there I went a little crazy with the camera on a fellow that became a buddy of mine. Since he was what I like to call Odonata, I cracked out the 50mm lens. This is a lens that is fine and dandy for Odonata, but then I heard a rustling to the left of me. There he was for the 5th time this year. The groundhog! The problem was that I was unprepared for this development.

I did not have the proper equipment. He was staring me down, practically screaming at the top of his rodent lungs: “I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille!” All I could do was take this incredibly bad picture from about 75-100 feet away. This picture is cropped quite a bit. If you saw the original you would never be able to find the groundhog. That isn’t a challenge. Just a statement of fact.


04-04-07

At least I got a few decent shots of my chum Odonata:


2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

Within these images I find solace, but I’m still coming for you Mr. Groundhog!!!!

Why I Love College Basketball

This is taken from Paul Shirley’s ESPN Diary. It is a retelling of one of the greatest injustices in the history of College Basketball. Plus he only gives a cursory look to my least favorite college basketball memory (I watched that game in F-ing Hunky Dory’s!) and the peripheral reason why I will never have State Farm Insurance.

Journal 43: When basketball became the crying game

Because I am an American with at least one functional eyeball and/or eardrum, I was exposed to the regional finals of this year’s NCAA tournament. Usually I pay only cursory attention to the NCAA tournament; unlike most humans, I find college basketball to be subpar.

I’ve never fully grasped why people prefer it to the NBA. In my mind, the NBA is to the NCAA as a bottle of Pacifico is to a can of light beer. Increased consumption of both results in entertainment for all — one just makes the journey a little more enjoyable.

This year, though, I had a reason to watch the tournament. My favorite college head coach, Tim Floyd, managed to unexpectedly lead his Pre-Mayo USC Trojans into the Sweet 16. Sadly, his team lost its game with North Carolina but, because I had given the tournament more than one idle thought, I resolved to watch on.

Thanks to the shockingly humorless commentating and a realization that it matters not a whit to me if someone wins the national championship or the tournament is canceled due to an outbreak of hantavirus, I was quickly relieved of most of my interest in the tournament.

Except for one part: I paid attention to the crying. And that reminded me of why I should cut college basketball fans some slack.

Back before I embarked on my wending professional career, I played basketball at Iowa State. In March 2000, my team played Michigan State in the Midwest regional final, with a trip to the Final Four at stake.

It would prove to be a memorable game for me, but not for reasons I could have anticipated beforehand. In a semi-prophetic turn of events, I became known not for plays I made on the court, but for my actions off it — specifically for my actions at the end of the bench after I fouled out and it became apparent that my junior year of college would not include participation in the Final Four.

I cried. A lot.

This year, when I watched players break down when their respective seasons came to an end, I was sent into flashbacks via my own episode of quasi-post-traumatic stress syndrome. Thankfully, I was able to stave off tears this time. My brothers might have packed me away for admission to the sanitarium if I hadn’t.

My most memorable emotional breakdown was not an isolated event. I’ve cried after many, many basketball losses. In fact, I’m fairly confident that I teared up after every non-win of my junior and senior seasons of college. (I didn’t play much my freshman year. And we lost 18 times when I was a sophomore — I would have needed a tear duct transplant.)

But my moist and salty trend had begun much earlier. After a sub-state loss during my junior year of high school, I spent an hour in a bathroom stall in a locker room in Silver Lake, Kansas. When we lost in the state tournament the next year, it took me two hours to regroup enough to talk to the one college coach whot had waited for me to pull myself together — Tom Brennan, then of the University of Vermont.

But the loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight was particularly crushing. En route to Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships, we had lost all of four times on the year. I had grown accustomed to winning. Losses came as shocks to my admittedly fragile emotional system.

I had played a fairly significant role on the team. I didn’t start, but was consistently the first player off the bench. That is, until one of our last regular season games, a matchup with Texas in Ames. During the first half, I came down awkwardly on my right foot and broke a bone within. (I, of course, cried when I found out it was broken.)

Because of my crippled status, I didn’t play in either of our first-weekend wins in the NCAA tournament. But I had healed sufficiently to play sparingly in our Sweet 16 thrashing of UCLA. Emboldened by my ability to tolerate foot pain (assist: injection-delivered opiates), coach Larry Eustachy returned me to my sixth-man status in our game against Michigan State.

I played well enough that I was still on the court with about five minutes to go. (Warning: Most of what follows will be extracted from my admittedly fuzzy memory of the events that transpired. Times and scores are approximations, mostly because I don’t want to take the time to do actual “research.”)

We were up by four or five at the time and were playing well. I allowed myself to think — as I was running down the court — “You could be playing in the Final Four next weekend. Gosh, that’s neat.” (I had not yet been exposed to the cruelties of the world outside of the Midwest, so I thought in sock-hop.)

Then, it seemed like life got even better. I caught a pass in the middle of the lane, lofted up a shot, and ran into someone wearing Michigan State green. The referee in my field of vision immediately put his hands on his hips to signal a blocking foul and then dropped his hand like they do, counting the basket I had semi-inadvertently made. We would soon be up by, well, two more than whatever the margin was at the time. Three more if I could summon the wherewithal to make a free throw.

But then I noticed a referee conference develop. There was discord in the striped ranks — debate over whether the foul had been a charge by me or a block by . . . the other guy. The one in the green.

(Again, fuzziness. In my defense, much of what transpired has become twisted because the events quickly became part of Cyclone Nation lore.)

After a lengthy discussion, the officials came to the conclusion that they would call . . . a double foul. My teammates and I were, obviously, aghast. And a little awed. Our feeble minds had not contemplated the double foul to be a viable option.

We did quickly realize the following: Blocking foul, good for us. Charging foul, bad for us. Double foul, bad for us . . . and bad for the referees. Public admissions of ineptitude are rarely looked upon fondly by 18,000 basketball fans.

(Unless those fans are overwhelmingly in support of the team that stands to benefit from the call. Like if the game is played in Auburn Hills, Mich. and one of the teams’ campuses is in East Lansing, Michigan. Not that we found that 10:1 green-to-red advantage daunting. Or that I’m the least bitter about the logistics.)

The basket was waved off, I fouled out, and our momentum came screeching to a halt. I next looked up to watch Michigan State’s Morris Peterson finish off a lob with a dunk, which inspired the partisan Palace crowd to explode. We couldn’t stop the tide and, soon, it was over.

And so I cried.

Fortunately, I was given exceedingly ample time for emotional expression. With a few seconds remaining in a game that was then out of reach, coach Eustachy took it upon himself to demonstrate his frustration with the officials’ work by storming onto the court.

The circus that followed his ejection gave those manning the cameras — both television and standard still-photo — plenty of time to capture my mood. That mood being the one that inspires a clean-cut white kid to make really ugly faces as he cries and tries to hide behind his left hand.

I was sad because we had lost. But my despair was exacerbated by the personal circumstances at work. I had trained hard to return from injury in time to help my team. My efforts had resulted in a tragic loss. Obviously, I had let someone down.

The next 24 hours was a blur. I remember choking my way through a few postgame locker-room interviews, enduring a long charter flight home, and wading through several hundred Cyclone uber-fans who had awaited our arrival in Des Moines.

We had lost on Saturday, which meant that the poignant shots of the Iowa State basketball player crying his naïve little heart out were featured prominently in Sunday papers all over the Midwest. I vaguely remember hearing from a relative that my tear-stained visage made an appearance even in the Los Angeles Times.

I spent that Sunday holed up in my apartment, healing. That sounds melodramatic, but it’s actually true. Basketball was all I cared about. And that spring, it was all anyone in Iowa cared about. We were the talk of the state. Which meant that I felt like I had failed a population base of around 2 million full-on or partial Iowa State Cyclone fans.

And yes, I took myself a little too seriously.

But by Sunday night, I was ready to move on. I had another season to look forward to — my senior year at a Division I basketball program.

With the departure of Marcus Fizer, I undoubtedly would move into a starting role (true). I surely would have an injury-free season for a change (not true). And of course, we would avenge the previous year’s exit from the NCAA tournament (also not true: At the end of my senior year, we became only the fourth No. 2 seed to lose in the first round). Life was full of promise.

On Monday morning, I woke up ready to begin anew. On my walk to campus, I received a few sympathetic greetings from total strangers. I humbly shrugged off their condolences, nobly declining to confirm their rage against referees who had — in their eyes — bungled a call and taken the game away from their Cyclones.

As I did every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I stopped in at the cafeteria on the western side of campus. I opened the door to Friley Hall and grabbed a copy of the Iowa State Daily.

Whereupon my heart immediately dropped into my colon. In the interest of the entertainment of 23,999, and to the horror of one, the editors of the university newspaper had covered the entire top half of the paper, from left margin to right, with a picture of me, crying.

Specifically, this one

I’d like to say that the picture instantly crystallized for me the relationship between sports and money. I wish that what dawned on me at the time was a realization that the NCAA, CBS and the Iowa State Daily cared very little about my feelings — that they cared about selling tires, razors, and ad space to local bars. And if my inability to control my inner infant helped them to accomplish those goals, they would put a picture of it wherever they could.

But, instead of anything so cynical as that, I only realized that each of my walks between classes was going to be extraordinarily awkward.

I ate my breakfast and walked to class. My suspicions had been correct. As they passed, my fellow studentry looked at me with a mix of awe, sympathy and wild-eyed panic.

Except for one person. While I sat in the library, plowing through the mess of hieroglyphics that passed for my engineering homework, a girl walked up and, without hesitation, asked me to autograph the day’s paper.

I resisted the urge to push her down the nearby stairs and politely signed my name.

Eventually, it dawned on me that her request summarized the feelings of everyone who had watched me break down on the bench in Auburn Hills. They weren’t ashamed of me because we had lost, and they weren’t ashamed of me because I had cried like a sixth-grade girl who’s been told she will have to wait another year to get her ears pierced. In fact, they were proud of me for crying. They loved that I cared enough to cry.

Which, I suppose is why people like college basketball. They want to see heartbreak. They want to see the farm kid burst into tears when his Cinderella hopes are crushed by some basketball juggernaut. And they want to see vulnerability in the street-hardened eyes of that juggernaut’s McDonald’s All-American, when his team’s hopes are crushed by someone else.

On and on, until only one team is left. A winner. A conqueror. Whose head coach immediately chokes up on the podium.

(It would seem that sports fans just want to see people cry. Kind of the opposite of the bloodlust we might expect.)

As I watched teams fall in the tournament this year, I was struck with how ridiculous the players look when their seasons end. I know that they’ll probably play more games. For the better players, those will be more important games: Their ability to feed themselves will depend on them.

But, just like the 21-year-old version of me, they don’t know that yet. Their attention was more focused: They cared only about winning that game. And that, I grudgingly will admit, makes college basketball a little more watchable than I would like to admit.

i’m just glad my emotional fragility could contribute to the entertainment of us all.

Source URL: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=shirley_paul&page=Journal-43