12 Days of Christmas – Part 2

Day 4

The fourth Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to me:

Song Competition

At Concordia Middle School, 7th grade (also known as Junior 1) through 11th grade (also known as Senior 2), have a couple of intra-grade competitions. One of these is the Christmas song contest. For this competition each classes needs to select a conductor, a pianist, and two songs to sing for the judges. One of the songs needs to be a Christmas song, and other needs to be a religious song. Everyone in the class participates, and they spend over a month preparing to sing.

This year on Wednesday December 23rd, Concordia Middle School had Christmas Worship in the morning from 8:00-9:30. Then from 10:00-12:00, the 7th grade and 9th grade students had their competitions, in the Luther Chapel and Auditorium respectively. After a break for lunch the 10th and 11th graders had their performances in the auditorium, while the 8th graders sang in the chapel.

I absolutely love to listen to their songs. While 80% of the songs are sung in Chinese, there are some English ones and even a Taiwanese song or two. Over the years I have developed several personal favorites of mine, and have even learned the words to a handful of them. It brings such joy to my heart, hearing the students sing praises to God. In addition, it is something they will always remember, and I pray God will use the words of those songs to impact their lives and help them know more about who he is.

Prayer requests:

1. Pray that God would use these songs as means to help the students of Concordia Middle School know about him.

Want to listen? Check out a video from Youtube.

Of course if you subscribe to this blog via email or RSS feed, you will have to go to the website to see the video.

Day 5

The fifth Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to me:

Bright, Glowing Trees

The second intra-grade level Christmas competition that the students have at CMS is the Christmas tree contest. This time, 7th-11th graders are each given a tree or shrub on the main part of campus. They then need to decorate their tree to show a Bible story or Biblical theme. Some of the stories created this year include Jonah, the parable of the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, Noah’s Ark, Jesus Turns Water into Wine, and Revelation. The students are required to make the tree and decorations using recycled products like boxes, paper, and drink boxes or bottles. Students are judged on their creativity, content, appearance, and use of recycled goods. Like their Christmas songs, they spend weeks preparing for the contest.

On the day of the Christmas song competition the students go outside and decorate in the morning or afternoon, depending when their grade is singing. At night all of the trees are lit, and students are able to stay at school until evening to finish decorating, eat dinner as a class, and see the trees at night. The school leaves the trees decorated on campus for a couple of days and lights them for a few hours every evening. Each Christmas I take a little time to walk around the trees at night. I take in the beautiful scenery, appreciate my students’ hard work and pray for them.

Prayer requests:

1. Please pray that the students understand the message in their Bible stories, and that God would use these stories and trees to help the students know more about him.

Day 6

The sixth Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to me:

6 Former Students

In the previous two updates, I shared the joy of students decorating trees and singing songs. I know I touched on it a little bit, but it is something the students really cherish and enjoy. Over the years teaching, I have had many students write about how Christmas is their favorite time of year here at CMS.

This even carries over past their graduation, into their college years. This year, I was blessed to see 6 of my former students at CMS during the Christmas celebration. Two of them attended the Senior High Song Competition, and the other four I saw while I was watching students setting up their Christmas trees.

For all of the students I was able to quickly catch-up with them about how their college experiences are going. We also talked about Christmas here at CMS, and they all reflected how important it was for them and how they wanted to return to see trees or listen to songs.

One of the students, Jason, even came all the way from Taipei just for the afternoon. He had one class on that Wednesday, and decided to skip it at travel down to Chia-Yi. The trip is 3 hours by bus or 1 hour by bullet train. He arrived in the afternoon then had to get up the next morning to return for his Thursday classes, but he talked about how this was the way he wanted to celebrate Christmas.

This really touched me, and helped reinforce the impact of Christmas celebration here in Taiwan. What a blessing it is that Jason wanted to continue celebrating Christmas into college, and that he wanted to do so with the Christmas Trees that show Bible stories, and songs that praise Jesus.

Prayer requests:

1. Pray that God will continue to work in the lives of all of these students: Jenny, Sam, Terry, Jackal, Peter, and Jason. That the message of Christmas will sink into their hearts and create faith in the Savior.
2. Praise God that they were able to make it back to CMS and that I was able to see them, if even for a brief amount of time.

The 12 Christmas blessings that my Lord gave to me
-6 former students
-Bright, glowing trees
-Song Competition
-Lost Son Skit
-Water and Word
-Messiah on Christmas Eve

Happy Insight Bowl!

Today is a major holiday! Today is the day that Iowa State plays Minnesota in the Insight Bowl! I thought I would celebrate this major holiday by sharing some of my favorite pictures from the season.

Iowa State vs. North Dakota State - 2009

Iowa State vs. North Dakota State - 2009

Iowa State vs. North Dakota State - 2009

Iowa State vs. North Dakota State - 2009

Iowa State vs. North Dakota State - 2009

Iowa State vs. Iowa - 2009

Iowa State vs. Iowa - 2009

Iowa State vs. Iowa - 2009

Iowa State vs. Iowa - 2009

Iowa State vs. Iowa - 2009

Iowa State vs. Iowa - 2009

Iowa State vs. Iowa - 2009

Iowa State vs. Army - 2009

Iowa State vs. Army - 2009

Iowa State vs. Army - 2009

Iowa State vs. Army - 2009

Iowa State vs. Army - 2009

Iowa State vs. Army - 2009

Iowa State vs Colorado - 2009

Iowa State vs Colorado - 2009

Iowa State vs Colorado - 2009

Iowa State vs Colorado - 2009

Iowa State vs Colorado - 2009

Iowa State vs Colorado - 2009

Iowa State vs Colorado - 2009

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State - 2009

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State - 2009

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State - 2009

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State - 2009

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State - 2009

It is one of the greatest days of the year. Today would be a great day to wear a Cyclone hoodie! After all, they aren’t just for family events!

Proust Questionnaire Number Sixteen

Proust Quote:
“What a profound significance small things assume when the woman we love conceals them from us.”

We have come to the end of the days where I will answer any more Proust questions. I hope some people got something out of this little exercise. I will give special thanks to Angie, as she is the only person that either read these little essays or is the only person to have the testicular fortitude to also share her answers. I fear the lack of participation has dashed my hopes of playing this little parlor game at a tea party this Spring.

Since this is the last day, rather than throwing a bunch of words at one question I will answer all the remaining questions with just one or two words.

Your favorite virtue or The principal aspect of my personality:
Valor (of the Seven Holy Virtues)
Temperance (of the Eight Heavenly Virtues)
Prudence (of the Four Cardinal Virtues)
Love (of the Three Theological Virtues)

Your chief characteristic:

If not yourself, who would you be? or What I should like to be:
Sorted out

My favorite bird:

Your favorite prose authors or My favorite prose authors:

Your favorite heroines in fiction or My favorite heroines in fiction:

My favorite composers:

My favorite painters:

Your heroes in real life or My heroes in real life:

What characters in history do you most dislike:

Your heroines in World history or My heroines in history:

Your favorite food and drink:
sauerkraut casserole & Pepsi

The military event I admire the most:

The reform I admire the most:
Health Care

How I wish to die or How I want to die:

What is your present state of mind or My present state of mind:

For what fault have you most toleration? or Faults for which I have the most indulgence:

Before I click “Publish Post” and wish you a safe and Happy New Year, I would like to conclude this little exercise with some of my favorite Proust quotes that didn’t make it into any of the previous entries:

“A woman one loves rarely suffices for all our needs, so we deceive her with another whom we do not love.”

“As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress.”

“Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without his book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.”

“Habit is a second nature which prevents us from knowing the first, of which it has neither the cruelties nor the enchantments.”

“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

“In a separation it is the one who is not really in love who says the more tender things.”

“It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.”

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

“Lies are essential to humanity. They are perhaps as important as the pursuit of pleasure and moreover are dictated by that pursuit.”

“Like everybody who is not in love, he thought one chose the person to be loved after endless deliberations and on the basis of particular qualities or advantages.”

“Love is space and time measured by the heart.”

“No exile at the South Pole or on the summit of Mont Blanc separates us more effectively from others than the practice of a hidden vice.”

“The charms of the passing woman are generally in direct proportion to the swiftness of her passing.”

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

“The time at our disposal each day is elastic; the passions we feel dilate it, those that inspire us shrink it, and habit fills it.”

“There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory.”

“Those whose suffering is due to love are, as we say of certain invalids, their own physicians.”

“Three-quarters of the sickness of intelligent people come from their intelligence.”

“Time passes, and little by little everything we have spoken in falsehood becomes true.”

“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.”

“We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”

“We must never be afraid to go too far, for truth lies beyond.”

I have just begun to read Swann’s Way. (It was a Christmas present along with Within a Budding Grove and The Guermantes Way!) If I can make it through this entire series, I might be ready to try to tackle Ulysses.

Now that this exercise has concluded, I will begin posting pictures from my latest photo projects very soon.

Proust Questionnaire Number Fifteen

Proust Quote:
“Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces.”

Confessions Question:
What I hate the most.

Confidences Question:
What I hate most of all.

Proust’s Answer:
What is bad about me.

I’m clearly too arrogant to hate what is bad about me and I try not to dwell much on the concept of hate. In fact, I think I can state with a clear conscience that I don’t actually hate anybody.

There are concepts or things that I hate. I hate the Boone Speedway. I hate golf. I hate the fact that Pufferbilly Days is held at the fairgrounds. I hate the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Notre Dame and Duke. I hate the Yankees and Cubs.

Above all things though, I hate ignorance. Perhaps that is a way of hating what is bad about me, but not in a straight line sort of way.

I hate what ignorance brings. Ignorance brings ideologues. I hate ideologues. Ignorance brings prejudice. I hate prejudice. Ignorance brings anti-intellectualism. I hate anti-intellectualism.

However, the way that ignorance effects my every day life (besides having to read news stories about death panels. With apologies to Se7en, “I’ve been trying to figure something in my head, and maybe you can help me out, yeah? When a person is as dumb as Sarah Palin clearly is, do they know that they are dumb? Maybe they are just sitting around, reading “Guns and Ammo”, trying to put a verb next to a noun in a futile attempt to actually complete an intelligible thought, do they just stop and go, ‘Wow! It is amazing how frigging dumb I really am!'”) is my ignorance when it comes to subjects that can be used for making small talk.

I am terrible when it comes to small talk, but I don’t want to put in the time it would take to keep me abreast of the subject that is invariably the focus of small talk – television.

Contrary to my reputation I am not an elitist. I do own a television. It is frequently on. I can’t deny that it is to some degree little more than a monitor for my Blu-ray player, but I do frequently watch sports, news, documentaries, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. In the future I will be giving the show Dexter a shot, but other than that I am completely and utterly ignorant of most television programs.

When I am in a group of people that I don’t know well (okay this even frequently happens with people that I know well) I am frequently reduced to little more than a background observer while the others happily chat about the latest episode of Big Brother or about the winner of American Idol or the latest crime solved on Law & Order: NCIS – Miami.

I do not mean to sound greedy. I do not need to be the center of the attention constantly. I can be a background observer occasionally dropping a mind-blowing dimebag of insight on the conversation, but when I get involved in these conversations I cannot really pay attention. I am often forced to drift off to Willy-land. There are chocolate waterfalls and gumdrop forests in Willy-land. That is where I remain until there is a word that draws my interest and breaks through the boredom induced haze.

What I truly wish is that there was a website for people like me that are small talk handicapped. A website where I would go before parties and other social engagements and learn just enough to fake my way through the night. The website could feed me just enough information so that when I was thrust into one of these conversations I could laugh knowingly and when the moment was right I could interject something like:

“Oh yeah. That Adam Lambert is super talented.”


“Sgt. So and So really nailed him on that episode.”


“I totally saw that. David Hasselhoff is such a card!”

Then I could retreat back to the anonymity of the background. New money of course, but part of the club.

Proust Questionnaire Number Fourteen

Proust Quote:
“The bonds that unite another person to our self exist only in our mind.”

Confessions Question:
Your idea of misery.

Confidences Question:
What would be my greatest misfortune?

Proust’s Answer:
Not to have known my mother or grandmother.

I once stated that the greatest misery is waiting for something to happen and the greatest happiness is when that thing happens. Therefore I think the best way to answer this question is to think of what didn’t cause me the greatest depth of misery this year, but what caused me the longest length of misery.

Or what was my greatest mistake in 2009?

To answer this question with one hundred percent honesty my greatest mistake is the same as it has been probably every year of my life. My inability to see and act on what is plainly in front of me. This year that inability lead to a huge mistake, but that mistake is one that I feel that I have been able to correct, more or less.

The mistake that caused me the longest stretch of misery was actually a mistake I made in 2008. I wasn’t sure how much detail I would go into on this mistake. It is dependent on how deep into the well of bitterness I wanted to go.

However, of all the people I know that should actually loathe the organization that I could easily eviscerate with but a drop of that bitterness, is worried about what I will write. She doesn’t want people to think poorly of this organization that she still loves.

Therefore, I will dial the bile back and just keep this simple and short. I will not go into detail about broken federal tax laws, lies, cover-ups, recriminations and witch trials. I will skate around the edges.

The greatest mistake I made in 2009 was joining the board of a community organization.

This organization exists (at least it is my understanding) to help people gain leadership skills. In essence, it is supposed to be a self improvement organization that does this through community service projects.

Self-improvement did not appeal to me. I belong to the Tyler Durden school of thought on self improvement.

I’m not in the need of enhancing my leadership skills. Running small projects isn’t that interesting when you’ve run a million dollar business. Writing a CPG is somewhat of a joke after you’ve written actual business plans.

However, I was interested in community service. In fact, I would even say that I was happy in the organization until I joined the Board. In the 3 months I spent on the Board, I witnessed backstabbing, political maneuvering and the most ridiculous turf war I have ever witnessed in my life.

In short, it amazed me what I learned that one human being is willing to do to another human being to protect their small piece of the absolute insignificant part of a power structure for an organization that has 50 members and a budget well under $50,00.

Not that this organization isn’t significant, but to quote George Bailey, “In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say (it) is nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

In essence there is nothing in this organization that is anywhere near important enough to treat people the way that I witnessed people being treated.

After 3 months on the Board I quit. I can’t stand quitting. It is something that runs contrary to the fiber of my being. But sometimes, you have to cut your losses and that is what I did. The Board had broken into 2 factions and the side that I was sitting on had all quit. All of my “allies” were much more passionate about the organization than I was ever going to be and if they weren’t really willing to fight for it, then somebody of my nominal interest surely wasn’t going to stick around.

But I did stick around the organization for the rest of the year to fulfill some of my obligations. In this time I have come to realize that there isn’t really much community service being done by the organization. At least not in the way that I see it. There is a lot of begging other people for money so that they can turn around and give that money to another organization that actually helps people. I don’t like begging people for money. Raise money in an honest way and then give the money to the people that actually help other people.

Although my faith in humanity was slightly shaken (I still really can’t believe that people would act so heinously to protect something that is so insignificant.) I have decided to make my community service contributions to the world through my church. I will be the Vice President of the Methodist Men for 2010. I have been promised this job has no responsibilities whatsoever.

I figure that if I concentrate my activities on a Christ-centered organization there will be more concentration on actually helping people and less effort to worry about anybody’s 3 inches of turf.

That is not to say that I consider my entire time in the organization a waste. Even though I am saddened to think about how much time I wasted on fruitless endeavors in 2009 (I’ve taken steps to correct that in 2010) I definitely met some incredible and wonderful people through the organization. I hope to continue some of those relationships from outside the organization.

12 Days of Christmas – Part 1

I’m trying to figure out a good way to post Mark’s most recent newsletter. He has what I think is a most ingenious idea. He is posting a new thing that he is thankful for on the 12 days of Christmas.

It has come to my attention that most people seem to think the 12 days of Christmas starts 12 days before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. When in actuality, Christmas is the first day of Christmas and it lasts until Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates the coming of the Magi: Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar.

Rather than publishing them 1 at a time, or all together, I’ve decided to publish 3 at a time.

Enjoy Mark’s first 3 days of Christmas:

Day 1

1st Day of Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

When I was in my teacher education courses at Iowa State I remember getting many pieces of advice, but one particular piece sticks out that I learned in many courses. The advice was that a teacher needs to be a thief. It is absolutely important, to borrow, steal, use and modify ideas from other teachers. I should never think I have all the ideas I need, but should rather be continually learning from others. Well I am glad I listened because as it turns out this piece of advice is definitely true. And for my upcoming newsletters, I am borrowing an idea from Ben and Amy Riley, who are missionaries with me here in Taiwan.

The Christmas season is such a busy and joyful time, with a plethora of activities. Honestly, it is very difficult to put all of these into a newsletter (or two), so instead I am going to give you the 12 Days of Christmas as a substitute for December and January Newsletters. For the next 12 days, I will give you a short update, highlighting an aspect of the ministry here in Taiwan, most of which will focus on the Christmas season.

Let me know if you like this or regular newsletters, but I thought it would be fun to try something new. So without further delay…

The Twelve Christmas Blessings that My Lord Gave to Me:

1. Messiah in Church on Christmas Eve

The most important blessing is the gift of Jesus, our savior and king. On Christmas night, Salvation Lutheran Church had a Christmas service, featuring selection’s from Handel’s Messiah. These selections were performed by many of our very talented members at church. With the church was filled with both members and non-members alike, all of whom were able to hear about God sending a savior to the world.

Praise God for his love and pray for those who came to church but do not yet know him.

Day 2

The Second Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to Me:

Water and Word

Baptism is a wonderful gift that God has given us. This past December we had our Fall Missionary Retreat in Sun Moon Lake. The focus of this retreat was our baptism and the faith and confidence that we have because of God’s work in this way. The retreat was a relaxing time to get away for a weekend, build-up our team, and refocus on God’s word.

Baptism was also part of our worship service this morning. This morning at Salvation Lutheran Church, God brought Erin Shu into his family through water and the word. Erin is a Senior in High School at Chia-Yi Girls school, and has been attending Youth Group and Friday Night Bible Study over the last few years.

Prayer requests
1. Praise God for a great retreat in early December.
2. Praise God for his work in Erin’s life, and for her baptism this morning.
3. Pray that Erin will grow in faith and that God will use the members of Salvation Lutheran church to encourage and support her in Christian love.

The 12 Christmas blessings that my Lord gave to me:

-Water and Word
-Messiah on Christmas Eve

Day 3

The third Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to me:

Lost Son Skit

Every Christmas season is busy with practices and preparations for our annual Christmas dramas. One of the dramas that I helped to write this year was a drama about the Prodigal Son. This drama was a modern re-telling of the parable, and was a wordless production with the action driven by a musical soundtrack.

16 people participated in the skit, and it featured roles such as the father, sons, servants, wild livers (that is people who live wildly), gangsters, and a pig farmer with pigs. My role was to be one of the gangsters who stole from and beat up the wasteful son. The soundtrack included songs such as Whistle While You Work, My Heart Will Go On (from Titanic), ABAA’s “Money, Money, Money”, and a song from the West Side Story.

The skit was really funny and overly dramatic, but afterwards we connected the skit to Christmas. We are all like that son who leaves the father and wants to live for himself. But God loves us, and accepts us even though we sin and fall short of his law of love. He forgives us through his son Jesus Christ, who was born as a baby on the first Christmas.

We performed the Lost Son drama four times. The performances were for the On-Campus Student Fellowship Christmas party, the Friday Night Bible Study Christmas party, the Saturday School Orphanage Christmas Celebration (I’ll write more about this at another time), and on Sunday morning worship. Praise God for the chance to share the message of his love through this entertaining method.

Prayer requests:

1. Pray for those who watched the drama, that they may understand and believe in God’s love for them.
2. Pray for this Thursday morning when we will perform the skit one last time for the 7th grade students at the weekly chapel service. Pray that God would help them to understand the message and pray for us teachers as we prepare to do the skit and lead songs.

The 12 Christmas blessings that my Lord gave to me:

-Lost Son Skit
-Water and Word
-Messiah on Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve


Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are promises offered to us by God, and all of them manifest in this one we light tonight: the Christ Candle. In Christ we find the hope of transformation, the peace that follows justice, the joy of self-fulfillment in community, and the love that encompasses us in all our diversity, empowering us to make our own unique contribution to this world. In Christ we find light and life, and the courage to be like him, answering his call, following in his footsteps.

25 Years

I think I’ve only shared these pictures with one person, but some of these are framed and going on my wall. I thought I would share them with people who might not make it to my house in the foreseeable future.

25 Years

25 Years

25 Years

25 Years

25 Years

25 Years

There are more pictures going on the wall, but some of them are just too large to scan.

Proust Questionnaire Number Thirteen

Proust Quote:
“Let us leave pretty women to men devoid of imagination.”

Confessions Question:
Your favorite qualities in a woman.

Confidences Question:
The quality I desire in a woman.

Proust’s Answer:
Manly virtues, and frankness in friendship.

I do have to repeat – “Did I mention that Proust was gay?” With apologies to Proust, I kind of like pretty women as well.

Putting that aside, I do fear that some of these answers will both incriminate me and give away some of the precious information that I have hoarded over the years for my seminar: “All the Things I REALLY Can’t Believe that Women Can’t Figure Out About Men!”

Fortunately most of this information is me-specific and not applicable to the Man Kingdom as a general rule.

I wish to start with a scene from a fairly benign but fairly dreadful teen comedy called Drive Me Crazy.

In the scene, the male lead is approached by a couple of reporters for the newspaper and they ask him (more or less) to describe his dream girl. He responds (once again apologies for the vulgarity):

“All right. She’s the kind of girl who’ll call you on your bullshit. She’s not afraid to dance. She offers to pay. She doesn’t decide before a date whether she’s gonna kiss you or not. She’s not completely earnest, yet she’s not completely ironic either… She orders dessert, and she can be ready in ten minutes.”

“Well, we will have to change that ‘bullshit’ to ‘bull’.”

“Well, then use ‘pretensions’.”

Now I’m certainly not going down the “dream girl” road, but if I look back on 2009 and think of the women that have raised their stock this year, these must be the attributes that I think women should possess.

  • Women should smell nice.
  • Women should know that when a man makes a wrong turn, it isn’t really a wrong turn, the man is choosing to take the scenic route.
  • Women should cry at movies.
  • Women should give A Clockwork Orange a chance. They can worry that it is kind of violent (so much so that it requires a reassuring phone call), but after time, it should grow on them.
  • Women should absolutely, positively, affectionately, affirmatively, aggressively, articulately, assertively, clandestinely, cognitively, concisely, constructively, creatively, cutely, definitely, densely, desperately, selectively, exhaustively, expansively, explosively, freely, genuinely, impressively, indeterminately, inordinately, intensely, obstinately, obsessively, passionately, pensively, perceptively, perversely, privately, profusely, resolutely, routinely, safely, sagely, sanely, savagely, sportively, substantively, supinely, surely, unchastely, uniquely, verbosely love words that end in “ely”.
  • Women should know a little bit about sports, perhaps even have played sports in the past or present. They should understand the basics of what they are watching. It is okay for a woman to ask some questions, but I would say that about 3 per half is a good rule of thumb. It is okay for women to have opinions on sports, but they shouldn’t be more well thought out than a man’s opinions on sports. A certain amount of a man’s self-worth is dependent on how well he understands sports and when a woman knows more about sports than a man, the man feels inadequate.
  • A woman should never pretend to be dumb.
  • A woman should like jazz. Real jazz.
  • A woman should let a man off the hook if he agrees to have his tonsils removed with her if she ever has to have them removed a second time because he wasn’t being serious. He didn’t know that tonsils could grow back.
  • A woman shouldn’t whine incessantly about every picture ever taken of her. She should accept her beauty with a quiet grace.
  • A woman should have some musical talent.
  • A woman should have a soft heart for small children and animals.
  • A woman should have an adventurous heart. Especially when it comes to posing for photos.
  • A woman should have some artistic skills. Beaver drawing skills are a premium.
  • A woman should have some interest in the arts.
  • A woman should be able to eat candy or fatty foods without talking about how “fat” she is.
  • A woman should own at least a pair of fuzzy socks and pjs.
  • A woman should know of an alley that is photogenic.

Although hardly comprehensive, I think this list is a good start. As good as it is going to get at this time.

Proust Questionnaire Number Twelve

Proust Quote:
“All our final decisions are made in a state of mind that is not going to last.”

Confessions Question:
Your main fault.

Confidences Question:
My main fault.

Proust’s Answer:
Not knowing, not being able to “want”.

Ye be warned, any that go much further. What lies below is discussion of the movie Gone Baby Gone. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t wish for the ending to be spoiled for ye, stop reading right now!

The offense that I’m about to admit to is not easy for somebody that is as extremely manly as I am to confess. I have come to realize in the last few months that my greatest fault is that I am too emotional.

I have been reassured that being this way is a “good thing”, but I am not without my doubts.

For example, on two separate occasions this year, I reacted to situations at a very visceral level. I don’t want to go into details about those situations, but one time it took the counsel of very good friends to prevent me from making what would have ultimately been a huge blunder. The second situation caused me to send a profane text message to my eldest sister. Perhaps the first time she has heard me utter such filth. I think you all know how I feel about base language and why I feel that way.

Even more than those situations, I think I can pinpoint my reaction to the movie Gone Baby Gone as when I realized how emotional some of my reactions have become.

Gone Baby Gone is a 2007 movie directed by Ben Affleck. I know that makes it sound awful, but it turns out that as bad as Affleck is as an actor, he is a pretty good director.

I am fairly dreadful at writing up a synopsis of books or movies, so I lifted a synopsis from the Internet Movie Database:

The tough private eye Patrick Kenzie was raised in a poor and dangerous neighborhood of Boston, and works with his partner and girlfriend Angie Gennaro generally tracking missing losers in debt. When the four year-old Amanda McCready is abducted from her apartment, her aunt Beatrice ‘Bea’ McCready calls the police and the press, and the case is highlighted with the spots by the media. Then Bea hires the reluctant Patrick to work in the case because he is not a cop and based on his great knowledge of their neighborhood. Meanwhile Capt. Jack Doyle, who lost his own daughter many years ago and is in charge of the investigation, assigns detectives Remy Bressant and Nick Pole to give the necessary support to Patrick. After interviewing the addicted low life mother of Amanda, Helene McCready, Patrick goes to a bar and discloses that Helene was on the streets with her boyfriend Skinny Ray Likanski dealing and using drugs on the day Amanda disappeared. Along his investigation, Patrick faces smalltime criminals, drug dealers, pedophiles and corruption, facing a moral issue to solve the case.

The first time I watched this movie I was outraged by the ending of the movie. I don’t mind a movie having a sad and/or depressing ending. Some of my favorite movies are Once, The Ox-Bow Incident, Paths of Glory

But at the end of this movie, one character that I had grown to love makes the wrong decision. A very wrong decision. In fact, the thought never even crossed my mind that he made the right decision. That was until I began discussing this movie with other people. I quickly found out that I am the only person that thinks that Patrick Kenzie makes the wrong decision at the end of the movie.

Well, almost the only person.

But as I reflected on the movie some more, I realized that Patrick actually makes 2 moral decisions. Then after discussing the movie extensively I came to realize that there is actually a third moral decision that other characters in the movie make that I never even considered whether or not they were right or if they were wrong. I instinctively knew what I thought was right, but as it turns out, I am also in the minority on this as well.

As it turns out, the only person to agree with me (that I have found) on these 3 moral dilemmas 100% is Jill. Everybody else seems to disagree with me 100%.

I am going to do some extensive quoting of the movie Gone Baby Gone and it does contain quite a bit of profanity. I apologize if this offends anybody’s delicate sensibilities, but that is the way it has to be.

Gone Baby Gone starts with this line of dialogue. I don’t know if it is particularly relevant to this discussion, but it sets the stage for Patrick’s personal code of morality.

Patrick Kenzie: I always believed it was the things you don’t choose that makes you who you are. Your city, your neighborhood, your family. People here take pride in these things, like it was something they’d accomplished. The bodies around their souls, the cities wrapped around those. I lived on this block my whole life; most of these people have. When your job is to find people who are missing, it helps to know where they started. I find the people who started in the crack and then fell through. This city can be hard. When I was young, I asked my priest how you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world. He told me what God said to His children: “You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.”

When Amanda McCready is kidnapped, her aunt and uncle hire Patrick and his girlfriend Angie to augment the investigation. Amanda’s mom Helene is a drug addict and a terrible parent. Imagine all of the Wal-Mart parents you have seen in your life. Now multiply that by 10.

Angie does not want to take the case:

Angie: We have a good life, right?

Patrick: Is that a trick question?

Angie: I don’t wanna find their little kid in a dumpster.

Patrick: Maybe she’s not in a dumpster, babe.

Angie: I don’t wanna find a little kid after they’ve been abused for three days.

Patrick: Hon, nobody does.

Patrick and Angie meet up with the police that are assigned to keep them in the loop and find out that the only lead the cops have is a pedophile that has dropped off the police radar.

Detective Remy Bressant: Corwin Earle. Serial molester, recently work-release. Went AWOL around the time Amanda disappeared.

Detective Poole: Known associates – Leon Trett and his handsome wife, Roberta. The Tretts were released six and eight months ago, respectively. They have drug habits. We don’t know where they are, but we think Corwin’s with them. Jailhouse snitch claims that Corwin confided in him and told him when he got out, he was gonna move in with his family. Apparently, the three of them have some kind of Addams Family deal going on.

Bressant: Corwin’s plan is to keep a kid in the house to have sex with.

Patrick: Well, that sounds promising.

Bressant: Not for Amanda, it doesn’t.

Through Patrick and Amanda’s investigation they learn that Helene wasn’t at her neighbor’s house on the night that Amanda was kidnapped. She was down at the Fillmore (think Wilson’s Tap if you are from Boone or Deano’s if you are from Ames) doing drugs. They also learn that Helene and her boyfriend robbed a local drug dealer named Cheese. With the blessing of Bressant and Poole, Patrick and Angie approach Cheese in an attempt to broker at trade: the stolen money for Amanda.

Cheese denies he has Amanda and turns down the offer.

Cheese: You got my money, you leave that shit in the mailbox on your ass way out, you feel me? Some mother fuckers let fool rob on them. I don’t play scrimmage. But I don’t fuck with no kids. And if that girl only hope is you, well, I pray for her, because she’s gone, baby. Gone.

Later Cheese calls in and brokers a deal with Bressant. But the deal is intercepted by Captain Jack Doyle. He does not want to go through with the deal, but feels obligated to, since to welch on the deal would put Amanda’s life in danger.

Jack Doyle: Do you have any children, Miss Gennaro?

Angie: No, sir.

Doyle: My only child was murdered. She was twelve. Did you hear about it? What you probably didn’t hear, and what I hope you never have to deal with, Miss Gennaro, is what that feels like. What I have to deal with. Knowing that my little girl likely died crying out for me to come and save her. And I never did. My little girl died afraid and alone in a shallow ditch bank by the side of the road, not ten minutes from my house. I know what it feels like to lose a child. Now damn it, you force my hand and then you question the way I handle it.

Bressant: No one’s questioning you, sir.

Doyle: I honor my child with this division. So that no parent has to go through what I’ve known. This child. That all I care about. I’m gonna bring her home.

The deal doesn’t go as planned. Amanda ends up falling to her death. Captain Doyle is forced to resign. Patrick and Angie are forced to live with the guilt of not being able to save Amanda.

Life starts to normalize when another kid goes missing. This time, nobody comes looking to hire Patrick and Amanda. But after a few days, Patrick is approached by his friend (a local drug dealer) who has found Corwin Earle.

Patrick contacts Bressant and Doyle. They approach the house where Corwin Earle is living. Shots come from the house and Doyle is killed. Patrick goes inside the house and finds the body of the kidnapped child. He was raped to death.

Patrick shoots Corwin Earle in the back of the head while he pleads for his life. Afterwards, Patrick is treated like a hero by Angie and Bressant.

Angie: They told me what happened. I’m proud of you. That man killed a child. He had no right to live.

Patrick: You’re proud of me?

Angie: Of course I am. You did what you had to do.


Patrick: They say how old the boy was?

Bressant: Seven.

Patrick: Second grade.

Bressant: Should be proud of yourself. Most guys would’ve stayed outside.

Patrick: I don’t know.

Bressant: What don’t you know?

Patrick: My priest says shame is God telling you what you did was wrong.

Bressant: Fuck him.

Patrick: Murder’s a sin.

Bressant: Depends on who you do it to.


Bressant: I planted evidence on a guy once, back in ’95. We were paying $100 an eight ball to snitches. We got a call from our pal Ray Likanski. He couldn’t find enough guys to rat out. Anyway, he tells us there’s a guy pumping up in an apartment up in Columbia Point. We go in, me and Nicky. Fifteen years ago., when Nicky went in, it was no joke. So it’s a… it’s a stash house, right? The old lady’s beat to shit, the husband’s mean, cracked out, trying to give us trouble, Nicky lays him down. We’re doing an inventory, but it looks like we messed up because there’s no dope in the house, and I go in the back room. Now, this place was a shithole, mind you? Rats, roaches, all over the place. But the kid’s room, in the back, was spotless. No, I mean, he swept it, mopped it; it was immaculate. The little boy’s sitting on the bed, holding onto his playstation for dear life. There’s no expression on his face, tears streaming down. He wants to tell me he just learned his multiplication tables.

Patrick: Christ.

Bressant: I mean, the father’s got him in this crack den, subsisting on twinkies and ass-whippings, and this little boy just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing a good job. You’re worried what’s Catholic? I mean, kids forgive. Kids don’t judge. Kids turn the other cheek. What do they get for it? So I went back out there and put an ounce of heroin on the living room floor and sent the father for a ride, seven to life.

Patrick: That was the right thing?

Bressant: Fucking A! You gotta take a side. You molest a child, you beat a child, you’re not on my side. If you see me coming, you better run, because I am gonna lay you the fuck down! Easy.

Patrick: Don’t feel easy.

As Patrick reflects on these events he figures out that it was actually Bressant and Amanda’s uncle that kidnapped her. This leads to a shootout where Bressant is killed.

Patrick and Angie visit Captain Doyle and discover that Amanda didn’t actually fall to her death. It was an elaborate ruse to fake her death and that she was now living with Doyle and his wife.

Patrick has to make a decision. To turn in Doyle and return Amanda to her wretched mother where her chances of having a successful life are practically zero. Or let her remain kidnapped where she will be loved, pampered and spoiled.

Despite the pleadings of Doyle and Angie, Patrick decides to turn Doyle in and return Amanda to her mother.

Patrick: I’m calling state police in five minutes. They’ll be here in ten.

Doyle: Thought you would’ve done that by now. You know why you haven’t? Because you think this might be an irreparable mistake. Because deep inside you, you know that it doesn’t matter what the rules say. When the lights go out, and you ask yourself “is she better off here or better off there”, you know the answer. And you always will. You… you could do a right thing here. A good thing. Men live their whole lives without getting this chance. You walk away from it, you may not regret it when you get home. You may not regret it for a year, but when you get to where I am, I promise you, you will. I’ll be dead, you’ll be old. But she… she’ll be dragging around a couple of tattered, damaged children of her own, and you’ll be the one who has to tell them you’re sorry.

Patrick: You know what? Maybe that’ll happen. And if it does, I’ll tell them I’m sorry and I’ll live with it. But what’s never gonna happen and what I’m not gonna do is have to apologize to a grown woman who comes to me and says: “I was kidnapped when I was a little girl, and my aunt hired you to find me. And you did, you found me with some strange family. But you broke your promise and you left me there. Why? Why didn’t you bring me home? Because all the snacks and the outfits and the family trips don’t matter. They stole me. It wasn’t my family and you knew about it and you knew better and you did nothing”. And maybe that grown woman will forgive me, but I’ll never forgive myself.

Doyle: I did what I did for the sake of the child. All right. For me, too. But now, I’m asking you for the sake of the child. I’m begging you. You think about it.

Patrick pays a heavy price for turning in Doyle. Angie leaves him. In the end of the movie it seems like he puts himself in a guardian angel position over Amanda. Watching over her to see that she will be okay.

There are 3 moral issues in this movie as I see it. The first one I thought about when this movie was over was whether or not Patrick did the right thing.

One of the weekends that Jill was back from Minnesota, we went over to Jen and Derrick’s to watch a movie on their Blu-ray player. Derrick’s dad gave Jen and Derrick a Blu-ray player when they moved into their new house in January. I believe this movie watching night was the Saturday following Thanksgiving. It has been 11 months and they still had not watched a movie on their Blu-ray player. This is quite the tragedy in my mind.

I was given the power of selecting the movie on this evening. I chose Gone Baby Gone. Jill chose Full Metal Jacket as a backup.

We might have ended up watching both movies, but the first part of the evening was devoted to watching the Iowa State-Northwestern debacle. Thankfully that is far behind us now.

After watching the movie, I posed the following question to Derrick, Jen and Jill: Did Patrick do the right thing at the end of the movie?

Derrick and Jen thought that Patrick had done the right thing.

Jill agreed with me. Patrick had done the wrong thing.

Then I asked them if Patrick had done the right thing when he executed the pedophile.

Derrick and Jen thought he had done the wrong thing.

Jill agreed with me that he had done the right thing.

However, this is how I think that I am too emotional. Philosophically, I want to be opposed to the death penalty. I want to think that all life is precious. I want to think that I am evolved to a point where I don’t believe in vigilante justice. One of my all-time favorite movies is The Ox-Bow Incident. A movie that is about a posse that lynches 3 innocent men.

The movie ends with a member of the posse reading a letter that one of the innocent men has written to his wife. Writing the letter is one of the last things he gets to do before he his hung. That scene is one of the most beautiful movie scenes I have ever seen. The letter reads like this:

My dear Wife, Mr. Davies will tell you what’s happening here tonight. He’s a good man and has done everything he can for me. I suppose there are some other good men here, too, only they don’t seem to realize what they’re doing. They’re the ones I feel sorry for. ‘Cause it’ll be over for me in a little while, but they’ll have to go on remembering for the rest of their lives. A man just naturally can’t take the law into his own hands and hang people without hurtin’ everybody in the world, ’cause then he’s just not breaking one law but all laws. Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It’s everything people ever have found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity. There can’t be any such thing as civilization unless people have a conscience, because if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience? And what is anybody’s conscience except a little piece of the conscience of all men that have ever lived? I guess that’s all I’ve got to say except kiss the babies for me and God bless you. Your husband, Donald.

I love the line, “if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience?”

Philosophically I want to think. “Just bring him in Patrick. Let the justice system handle him.”

But do I really think, “Shoot him Patrick”? You’re damn right I do! That is clearly an emotional response that I can’t override with my powerful intellect.

It was during this discussion that Jen said something that really stuck with me. In fact, it completely blindsided me. I am paraphrasing, but she said:

“Morgan Freeman’s character (Doyle) didn’t have much compassion for Amanda’s mother. He knew the pain of losing a child and he was willing to put somebody else through it.”

It was a Saturday night when she said that. I thought about that for a long time. Of all the characters in the movie, I have the most in common with Doyle, but this is something that had never once even dawned on me. It never occurred to me that somebody might think that what the kidnapper’s had done was wrong. How can giving a child a chance at a decent life be wrong?

I told Jen and Derrick that I had one more Gone Baby Gone question for them.

On that Monday I talked to Jill and asked her if she thought that what the kidnappers had done was wrong.

She agreed with me that what the kidnappers had done was dumb and not the best way to handle the situation, but it was still right.

That Wednesday was Iowa State’s embarrassing performance against UNI. I already had tickets for the game, so Jen took my season ticket and sat with Derrick. At halftime I went over to talk to them. Jen asked me what was my 1 more Gone Baby Gone question.

I asked them if they thought that the kidnappers had done the wrong thing.

They said that they did think the kidnappers had done the wrong thing. Just because somebody doesn’t deserve to be a parent, doesn’t give somebody else the right to take their children.

I can see their point intellectually. I understand the reason for the rule of law, even though I don’t think people should follow laws that are contrary to their moral code, but I disagree.

I look around and see people who shouldn’t be parents and my base emotional response is why not take their kids from them and give them to people who deserve to be parents. People who would actually love the kids and raise them to be proper adults.

Then I think about Derrick’s keen insight. He pointed out that the whole movie can be boiled down to one scene involving Patrick and Bressant:

Bressant: Would you do it again? Clip Corwin Earle?

Patrick: No.

Bressant: Does that make you right?

Patrick: I don’t know.

Bressant: It doesn’t make it wrong though.

I think on my emotional responses to outside stimuli and I tell myself again: “It is a good thing”. My emotional response to that is, “Maybe it is.”