Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I have been reading like crazy lately. I do not know what came over me but as I near 30 I do not have as much desire to watch TV, but instead have enjoyed reading in my leisure time. In the last couple months I have read 6 books, having finished another last night. As part of my goal to write full time this can only help. I have heard it said that there are six things a person must do to become a writer. 1) read 2) read 3) read 4)write 5)write 6)write. If that is true, and it seems to make sense, then I am glad that I have gained such an appetite for reading lately. Mostly it is because I am reading something that I enjoy. I have also been writing a bit lately, though teaching takes a lot of time. I want to write "the day after the day the earth stood still," because I was so upset by the movie, so hopefully I can begin that sometime this week. Otherwise I am just busy with work again. Also I had my appendix out which was an adventure in itself but I will post about that later. Look for my next 3 book reviews, and a post about my appendix, also my short story about the day the earth stood still.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Book Review: Unprotected

My Grandfather lent my wife a book entitled Unprotected when we were there for a visit this break. Since we were driving to the coast after our stay with my grandparents then back home, Brandi read the book aloud in the car after I continuously asked her what was so interested as she sighed every few minutes. We finished the book before we returned home. It was very interested and supported some things that I was either aware of or suspicious of. It is written by a college psychiatrist who was apparently fed up with some things. I recommend it highly for anyone, but especially young people. I wish I could assign it to my high school students. Anyways, one of the things that is interesting is the manner in which we treat HIV/AIDS. As I have been annoyed with for some time, there is a lot of miss information out there about HIV/AIDS and it is backed by an agenda that is worried that the truth about the virus would ostracize gay men, who are one of the two main groups of people who the virus affects, the other is IV drug users. Instead then of focusing on those two groups of people in an effort to control the spread of that virus, the add campaign that was promoted was one in which the idea that "aids doesn't discriminate," was the motto. As evidence of this deceptive slogan she shared the story of a patient who was at high risk (gay man with multiple and anonymous partners) and a married woman who found out her husband had cheated on her. The gay man ignored the danger and did not get tested. The married woman was convinced she had HIV and had a nervous break down. Who is that campaign helping then? The gay man won't get tested, the straight married woman doesn't really need to get tested but nearly lost her mind with worry when she found out her husband cheated. Anyways, this and many other issues are tackled in this book from a different perspective than the one often pushed by those who above all else desire to be politically correct. I highly recommend it, and if you can get someone else to read it aloud to you, that would be cool also.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Waiting for a King

This is the Christmas play that I wrote for my church. I enjoyed it. The things that appear to be poems mixed throughout the script are my attempt at writing song lyrics. This was with mixed results in my opinion.

Christmas Program 08
Christmas Musical

Scene 1: A New King?

There are three men tending sheep. They are a motley crew of different sizes leaning on their staffs. One of them speaks up.

Shepherd 1: What do you two think about our king, Herod?

Shepherd 2, Shepherd 3: Bah! (gesturing with their arms)

S2: I could do without him.

S3: Me too. I mean sure he is building the temple back up, but does he have to tax us so much?

S2: Who decide to call him Herod the great anyway?

S1: I don’t know maybe we should call him Herod the tax collector instead.

S2: Don’t get me started on tax collectors. What an awful bunch they are.

S3: I just don’t understand how any self respecting Hebrew could work for the Romans.

S2: Oh vey! The Romans! What a bunch of pigs they are! Pt, pt, pt (spitting).

S1, S2, S3: (collective sigh)

S1: We need a new king.

S2: I hear that.

S3: God promised us the one, the Messiah. I hope he comes soon.

S2: I don’t think he is ever coming.

S1, S3: What? How can you say that?

S2: How long have we been waiting?

Song: Waiting for a King

We’re waiting
Waiting for a king (echo) What king?
Waiting for a king from God (echo) From God?
Yes God (sign)

We’re waiting
Waiting to be free (echo) Set free?
Waiting to be free from Rome (echo) From Rome?
Yes Rome (spit)

We’re hoping
Hoping for a chance (echo) A chance?
Hoping for a chance at peace (echo) At Peace?
Yes Peace Oy Veh

We’re hoping
Hoping Herod goes (echo) Goes where?
Hoping Herod goes away (echo) Away?
Far away

We’re praying
Praying for a king (echo) A king?
Praying for a king from God (echo) From God?
Yes God. Sign

Shepherds go back to leaning on their staffs.

End of scene

Scene 2: In the Holies of Holies

Zechariah enters the stage seemingly in a hurry. The shepherds stop him to inquire as to his destination.

S1: Zechariah old friend! Where are you going in such a hurry?

Zechariah: Do you not know? It is my turn to enter the Holy of Holies to pray and light the incense.

S2: It is? What an honor! You must be very proud.

Z: Of course. I have waited a long time for this honor.

S1: Well then we won’t keep you, tell us all about it when you get back.

Z: Thank you friends, I will. Zechariah turns to leave.

S3: Hey when you’re there…ask God for better weather, my joints get stiff in this stuff. Another shepherd pops him in the back of the head.

Zechariah moves to the other side of the stage where the Holy of Holies is located. He performs rituals (bows, lights incense etc.) then prepares to pray.

Lord oh Lord, you are holy
Lord oh Lord, you are mighty
Lord oh Lord, bless your people
But Lord, my heart is broken
My wife, she has no children
She weeps, because she’s barren
Oh God, we want a child
Please God, give us a child
For you, we’ll raise a child

An angel appears to him and he falls in reverence.

Angel: Do not be afraid Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be great in the sight of the Lord and from birth he will be filled with the holy spirit.

Z: How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.

A: I am Gabriel . I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you the good news. But now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words.

He finishes his duties, then leave the Holy of Holies and travels home.

As Zechariah travels he passed by the shepherds.

S1: Hey Zechariah…how did it go in the temple?

Z: …Zechariah tries to talk but cannot

S2: What’s wrong Zechariah? Can’t even put it to words?

Z: …tries to mime what happened

S3: What are you doing Zechariah? Are you well?

Z: …Zechariah gives up and hurries home

Zechariahs wife Elizabeth is waiting with her cousin Mary. Zechariah comes in excited.

Elizabeth: Welcome home dear (Hugging him). How was your trip? What was it like in the temple? What was it like being in God’s presence?

Z: …Zechariah tries to mime

Elizabeth: What are you doing? Why don’t you answer me?

Mary: Elizabeth… I don’t think he can speak.

E: What do you mean Mary? Zechariah what’s wrong? Can you speak?

Z: …Zechariah shakes his head

E: How did this happen?

Z: …tries to mime that an angle appeared to him

M: Did you see an angel?

Z: …nods enthusiastically

E: You saw an angel? What was it like?

M: Cousin, he cannot speak…

E: Oh you’re right. Can you show us what he told you?

Z: …he mimes “pregnant” and “baby” to his wife and her cousin

E: You are not making any sense husband. Mary can you make anything of this?

M: I think he is trying to tell you that you are going to have a baby.

Z: …Zechariah jumps up and down with excitement

E: That is ridiculous I am too old and barren. I can’t have a baby.

Z: …embraces his wife lovingly then and thanks Mary and asks her to leave (in mime)

E: …aaa…cousin… I think Zechariah wants you to leave now…

M: Oh…ok…I will leave you to be with your husband… I will visit soon.

E: Thank you for staying with me while he was away… take care.

They hug, and Mary leaves. Zechariah picks up Elizabeth and carries her off the stage.

Scene 3: Good News

Mary travels home. There Joseph is waiting for her.

Joseph: Hello my bride! Did you have a nice visit with your cousin?

Mary: Yes, thank you. How have things been here is Nazareth?

J: Things have been well sweet Mary, though I longed for you to return.

M: You are kind Joseph. I too anticipate our marriage but there is much to do before we can wed.

J: I know Mary. I must go and tend to things now. I am glad you have returned. Take care my bride.

M: Take care Joseph my groom.

Joseph leaves and Mary takes to doing chores.

Mary sings a worship song while she works.

An Angel appears to Mary.

Angel: Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.

Mary: What is this?

A: Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. You will have a baby and name him Jesus. He will be the son of the most high. He will be great and his kingdom will never end.

M: How can this be? I am a virgin.

A: The Holy Spirit will come upon you so that the one to be born will be called Son of God. Even your cousin Elizabeth is pregnant in her old age.

M: Elizabeth is pregnant?

A: Yes. Nothing is impossible with God.

M: I am the Lord’s servant. I believe what you tell me.

Mary kneels and prays. The angel leaves. Mary remains kneeling in prayer.

Scene 4: Change of Heart

Mary is praying when Joseph returns.

Joseph: Mary? How have you been?

Mary: Oh Joseph something amazing happened.

J: Really? What?

M: The angel Gabriel appeared to me.

J: An angel? What did he want?

M: He came to tell me that I was going to have a baby.

J: That’s wonderful! But we’re still merely engaged. Surely the angel means after we wed.

M: Joseph my groom, I’m afraid it is more complicated than that.

J: What do you mean my bride?

M: The angel told me that I was going to have a child of God.

J: What does that mean?

M: He said that the Holy Spirit would be upon me and that I would have a son of God.

J: But you are a virgin. Aren’t you?

M: Yes of course, that is the miracle. The angel said I would be pregnant without ever being with you.

J: I don’t know what to say. My bride pregnant before we marry?

M: I know what it will look like, and I know people will talk, but please try to understand.

J: I guess I can try, but it is pretty hard to accept.

M: Thank you for trying. I must go to Elizabeth, the angel told me she is pregnant.

J: Elizabeth? But isn’t she too old to have children.

M: That’s the miracle. How blessed we are to be favored by God.

J: Yeah… blessed…
Mary leaves to go to Elizabeth, while Joseph is left to ponder the news. He paces around uneasily.

Joseph’s Song

What to do? Lord what to do?
Oh Lord, I want to serve you,
But Lord, my Mary’s pregnant,
And she, says by your spirit,
And me, a man of merit,
You see, my troubled spirit.

What to do? Lord what to do?
Oh Lord, I want to love you,
Mary, so sweet and lovely,
Mary, my bride to marry,
Mary, you’re full of mercy,
Mary, I know you’re worthy.

What to do? Lord what to do?
Oh Lord, I want to know you,
But I, I don’t believe her,
But I, I’m not the father,
But I, I’m in a dither,
But I, I will divorce her.

When Joseph finishes his song the angel appears to him. Joseph falls to the floor when he sees the angel.

A: Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived by the Holy Spirit.

J: By the Holy Spirit my Lord?

A: Yes, she will give birth to a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save the people from their sins.

J: Lord this is too much. Why is this happening to me?

A: This is to fulfill what the Lord said through his prophet: “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.

J: I will do as you ask my Lord. I am the Lord’s servant.

The angel leaves and Joseph falls asleep (or remains in prayer). The scene shifts to the other side of stage.

Scene 5: Blessed Cousin

Mary arrives at the home of her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. Elizabeth is now 6 months pregnant.

Mary: Elizabeth look at you! Praise the Lord you truly are pregnant!

Elizabeth: Mary! Blessed are you among women, a blessed child you bear! The mother of the Lord has come to me!

M: How do you know of the child in my womb?

E: As soon as I heard your voice the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

M: The Lord has blessed us both. Praise his name

Mary’s Song

My soul…Glorifies the Lord
My soul…rejoices in God
For he, has been mindful
Of his, humble servant
For me, he’s done great things
Holy is his name
Holy is his name

Mercy…to those who fear Him
Mighty…the deeds of his arm
Brought down, rulers on thrones
Filled, hungry, with good things
Away, he sent the rich
Holy is his name
Holy is his name

E: Praise him cousin for he has blessed you more than other women.

M: But you too are blessed to be pregnant at your age.

E: Yes, and I am so thankful that you have come to help me.

M: Of course I would help you Elizabeth.

Scene 6: John is Born

To transition, because the scene begins in the same spot the last one ended the shepherd will sing another song to introduce scene 6.

Shepherd 1: So what do you think about everything that’s been going on?

Shepherd 2: What do you mean?

S1: Well you know, about Elizabeth being pregnant, and Zechariah being mute.

Shepherd 3: And don’t forget about the virgin Mary being pregnant.

S1: Of course. It is a miracle.

S2: Is it? Or maybe it is something else.

S1: What else could it be?

S2: I don’t know all I’m saying is… maybe it isn’t a miracle. Maybe God had nothing to do with it.

S3: Are you saying you don’t believe that God did the things that Elizabeth and Mary said he did?

S2: Something like that. I’m just saying that there are other explanations.

S1: Come on. Don’t be a fool. Can’t you see that God is at work here. He may even be sending the Messiah.

S2: Bah! I don’t believe that. I don’t believe there will ever be a Messiah.

S3: You have to have faith man! You have to trust in the Lord.

Song: Trust the Lord: He is in Control

You have to trust
Trust the Lord with all of your heart
You have to trust
Trust in him, it will be alright

But I can’t

You have to trust
Saved us from an evil king
You have to trust
Saved us from our suffering

I don’t believe

You need faith
He’s our God through thick and thin
You need faith
He’s with us when life is grim

I can’t be sure

You need faith
He’s the God of Abraham
You need faith
The father of every man

I still doubt

Open your eyes
Liz is pregnant, and Mary too
Open your eyes
He blessed them and can bless you too

I don’t know

Open your eyes
He working out his perfect plan
Open your eyes
To save each and every man

I guess we’ll see

S1: Just watch. Elizabeth gave birth recently, and Mary will give birth soon. I believe those babies will be special because God gave them to special women.

S3: There from King David’s family. The prophets said the messiah would be from David’s line.

S1: That’s true. One of these babies could be the messiah. Can you imagine? We will be free at last.

S2: Well I guess you might be right. But I am going to wait and see.

S1: Look here comes the rabbi right now. I bet he is going to perform the circumcision on Zechariah and Elizabeth’s baby.

Rabbi: Hello gentlemen. How are you?

S3: We’re alright, just having a bit of a discussion about the Messiah. Do you think he is coming soon.

Rabbi: In my prayers I get the feeling that he is. It seems that God is setting events in motion that will lead to huge changes. Can you imagine what it will be like to be free? No longer slaves to men, but free in God’s kingdom?

S2: Are you going to circumcise Zechariah and Elizabeth’s baby?

Rabbi: Oh… yes that is where I am going. I should be getting along now they are expecting me. Good bye men.

S 1,2,3: Good bye Rabbi.

The rabbi proceeds to the home of Elizabeth, and Zechariah. Mary is still there having helped her cousin birth the child.

Mary: Rabbi! Welcome, my cousin and her husband are waiting patiently for you.

Rabbi: Why Mary you are along in your pregnancy as well. Surely you should be preparing for your own child’s birth.

Mary: Yes I will leave as soon as you are finished.

Rabbi: Very well. Where is the baby?

Elizabeth: He is here Rabbi.

Rabbi: What a beautiful boy. Surely he is a blessing from God.

Elizabeth: Oh yes. He has blessed me beyond what I dared hope for.

Rabbi: Indeed. What have you decided the boy’s name will be?

Elizabeth: He will be named John.

Rabbi: But there is no one in your family with that name. Why call him John? Zechariah… what do you say the boy’s name will be?

Zechariah motions for a tablet. Mary gets it for him. He writes the words “His name is John.”

Zechariah: gasp…I can speak again… I can speak… the boy’s name is John Rabbi because he is gift from God and God asked me to name him John because he is going to pave the way for the messiah.

Zechariah’s Song

Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
He is our Redeemer
He is our Savior

Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
He showed us mercy
He alone rescued us

My son John
My son John
He will show the way
The way for the Lord

My son John
My son John
In the wilderness
Like a lunatic

My son John
My son John
Baptizing in the river
To show us the savior

Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
He is our Redeemer
He is our Savior

Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord

Elizabeth: Praise God, he has blessed us.

Zechariah: Yes he has my wife, beyond our dreams.

Rabbi: Surely this child is special. He is chosen by God to bring the good news of the Messiah to the world.

Zechariah: Yes he is. The Lord has heard the cries of his people and he is going to answer.

E: I am so happy he has blessed us with a child.

Z: Yes but this is not the only child he was blessed our family with. Soon Mary, you too will give birth.

Mary: Yes and it is wonderful to me. But I must return home now to Joseph to prepare.

Elizabeth: Of course Mary. Thank you for all of your help. You are so kind.

Mary: It was my pleasure, take care.

E: You too cousin.

Scene 7

Mary arrives and Joseph greets her.

Joseph: Thank goodness you have returned. How is your cousin?

Mary: She is well her baby John was born and Zechariah can speak again?

J: What a miracle! No doubt these are miraculous times.

M: Our baby is evidence of that.

J: Of course my bride, but we must prepare for a journey to Bethlehem.

M: Bethlehem?

J: Yes. Caesar has called for a census so we must return to the town of my origin. Bethlehem, the city of David.

M: But the baby is coming soon. What if it is born while we are there?

J: Then it is God’s will and he will look after us.

M: Very well then…

Mary and Joseph prepare for a journey then travel to the manger.

The shepherds again are tending to their herds.

S1: I am so sleepy. Why doesn’t anything exciting happen around here?

S2: Because we live near Bethlehem. No one cares about Bethlehem.

S1: I guess. Still it is awful boring. I just wish something interesting would happen.

S3: Careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

An angel appears to the shepherds and they fall to their faces in fear.

Angel: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

S3: A baby? Are you sure?

Angel: Yes. This baby is the Messiah that you have been waiting for. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

The angel leaves.

S1: Well what are we waiting for. Let’s go see this baby and sing songs of joy.

At this point the play is mostly over. There is only singing left to be done. Christmas carols or something which can include the children.

The End

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book Review: Intellectual Morons

This was a very interesting book. The premise is that people are often blinded by ideology. The author gives copious examples of this phenomenon and they are sometimes shocking. I will spare you some of the more graphic ones and simply advise anyone to read this work. Here is a brief summary of what ideology will make people do. 1) People will lie to promote their ideology. 2) People will ignore evidence which is counter to their ideology. 3) People will attack anyone who does not agree with their ideology. 4) College campuses are rife with various ideologies.

It made me examine my own thoughts and leanings to wonder if I too follow some ideology without knowing it. After all, I went to college and could have been conditioned to believe something in spite of facts. After some interpersonal inspection however, I do not believe that I blindly follow an ideology for a few reasons. 1) I recognized and challenged several ideologies in college. 2) I loath lying and strongly value honesty. 3) I change my mind too often. If I find flaw in something I am doing or embracing I accept that it is flawed. I regularly find fault in books that I am inclined to like, people I am inclined to listen to, and especially important, my own speech, thoughts and actions.

Over all it is a good book which further encouraged me to promote independent thinking in my classroom, at whatever the cost.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Reading Zhivago

I decided around this time last year that I wanted to read Dr. Zhivago. My motivation was two fold. Firstly, I was a Russian linguist and strongly desired to read some of the Russian classics that are so famous even today. Secondly, I came to believe that this book held some sort of key to understanding the dysfunction that plagues my family on my mother's side. You see, my grandmother and grandfather are still alive, as are their three children and four? grandchildren. They are divorced, and have been since before I was born. They have not spoken to each other in decades. Perhaps that is understandable. Their three children however, also do not speak to each other. Strange. Furthermore, my grandmother does not speak to either of her two sisters. Stranger still. Of my grandparents three children, only one speaks to each of them. My uncle does not wish to speak to either myself or my sister so I have not heard from him or his two children in a while. I have never met my grandfather. Get the picture? Probably.
So how does Dr. Zhivago factor in. Shockingly, many of these people who do not talk to each other love Dr. Zhivago. My uncle implored me to read it years ago when we were communicating on a regular basis, claiming it was a masterpiece, and one of his favorite books. My mother then explained once that she loves the movie passionately. Lastly I discovered that my grandmother also loves the movie. Well that was enough for me. If three people who strongly dislike each other (I don't want to use the word hate) to the point of completely ignoring their existence, all love the same story, then I figured reading it would help me understand something about my family.

So what about Dr. Zhivago? It took me nearly a year to read it. Not because I was too busy, but because it was too slow. In the end I too came to embrace the work as a masterful, but I was not convinced until page 500 (the book is 500 pages long). The story is very disjointed early on and is difficult to follow given the Russian tradition of calling a person by the various diminutives of their name. At one point I believed there to be another Dr. working with Zhivago, only to find out it was him all along. Off the top of my head, he was called: Zhivago, Yuri, Yurochka, Yura, Yuri Andreivich, and perhaps even a couple of others. It was confusing. The prose is beautiful. Pasternak (the author) can describe a scene that had me not only visualizing, but also hearing, smelling and sometimes even tasting it. There is very little action however. So little that it made reading the book difficult. It had me wondering if nothing ever happened in Russia.

But did it help me understand my family? Yes and No. At a superficial level I could not see why they would all love the book. On a deeper level however, I wonder if it is because the tragic (and it is fully tragic) story of Zhivago in his absolute loneliness helps everyone to feel better about relational failure in the real world. Everyone Zhivago loved, and he loved a few people, were lost to him. He was left alone and he stubbornly accepted that fate. He was a character who believed himself to know what was best no matter what the circumstances or who he was with (another characteristic of my family). So maybe these things are enlightening. Or maybe I am looking for a connection where one does not exist.

Perhaps it will require reading the book again to truly understand what the connection is. Unfortunately that is not likely to happen in this decade.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Vacation is over

As a teacher I get a lot of time off. Every time, it seems, someone asked about when I was going back to work I got a sarcastic response. It got old but finally I am going back to work Monday. I am a little sad because I got a lot of things done over the break. I worked on the Sureshot some more, read four books and wrote two Easter dramas. Speaking of which, I had the honor of watching the Christmas drama I wrote which was in the form of a musical. It pushed me a bit to write song lyrics, and ultimately I feel as though I failed to write lyrics as a couple of the men at my church who are musical had to significantly alter them in order to make the end product worthwhile. Still, it was a fun project and I loved watching it. It is somewhat of an nerve racking process because I have a vision of how the play should look and yet the end product is out of my immediate control. This is the second one that I wrote then watched and both were pleasing. I even feel a bit guilty because it seems I have the easy part--writing. The acting, staging, memorizing of lines and all the other things that go into a play are far more difficult in my estimation. I can't bring myself to be honest when people congratulate me on the success of the production then inquire about how long it took me to write. I have written such things in a few hours, but I think people expect me to say days, weeks, or even months. I am not sure, perhaps I should investigate. Anyways, look for a series of posts this month as I share all of the "work" I was able to do while I wasn't working.