Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Text Message Tombstones

I posted this on my Facebook yesterday:

Reddit asked, "If the last text message you sent was engraved on your tomb stone, what would it say?"
Apparently my tombstone would read: "Yay "
What would yours say?

The response was fantastic. I got several responses, along with friends reposting it on their own walls to get feedback from their friends. I was surprised by how many were somewhat appropriate... and amused by the ones that weren't. So here, for your reading pleasure, are my very, very favorite answers from my own post and the other ones I read:

Yay :-) [that one was mine]

Sometimes I worry that I'm too transparently trying to bring all the people I love together. And then I realize that's not actually a problem.

I made it here safe. I'm having a cup of tea.

Ok laying around impatiently.

The pink slime has been vanquished!

I feel super strong today. I'm not sure what the difference is but I'm feeling the She-Ra :-)

LoL, I like it

I've got this under control. No biggie

We talked about this, right?

Slow very slow

Welcome to the gang!

Who doesn't hate Mondays?

Love you too!!! Hang in there, babe.

I can't talk. I'm at work!

I was running late so I didn't grab the corn but I'm going to want it tonight.

Seriously, that is not okay.

Back home safe now.

I think that thing under my eye might be ringworm.

Ha!

Never mind they looked it up. WAIT FOR ME.

You coming to lunch today? If so what do you want from the grill?

Will you smother me with hugs

Smells like bananas..

STOP

Okay! Love you both! Keep me updated! Give dad a hug for me!

I love you and will chat with you soon!

Hopefully we will have a positive outcome

Yeah, I'm far from Walmart now :-/

Wanna meet up?

And... I was hoping you could help?

I feel your pain.

:-) Just kidding!!!!!

Boo ya.

Leaving now - need anything?

I am making a stop. Won't be home right away.

Which of these was your favorite? And while we're at it, what's the last text you sent?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Della, Part 7

Last time, Della sneaked into the back of Mr. Jorgenson's car -- again -- and wound up a LONG way from home.

You should all know that this is probably my favorite chapter of the whole story.

She sat there in the backseat, waiting patiently as he drove miles and miles

That's pretty stinking patient.

until he finally reached an abandoned warehouse. He parked in the parking lot outside

And what a good place that is to park.

and then got out of the car and walked into the house. Della wanted to know what was going on, so she wandered on inside. 

It was dark in there, and she reached out to turn on a light switch 

Hold that thought there, Della. You're not wearing your inconspicuous long evening gown and mask, so Mr. Jorgenson MIGHT see you.

but then realized probably Mr. Jorgenson would be in there, 

Since he went in there and all.

and she didn't want to alert him, definitely not.

Definitely, definitely not. Definitely in a box with no TV.

She crouched down behind a barrel and watched him walk toward a ring of light in the center. Suddenly a different man materialized in front of him and said, "You have the money?"

Yup, there's something shady happening here. And it involves people who are maybe able to materialize...

Mr. Jorgenson nodded, looked around him, then reached in his pocket and handed over a wad of bills.

The man thumbed through them, then nodded in satisfaction. "All your stuff is in the back," he said, nodding his head toward a room that Della hadn't noticed before now. Boxes were stacked in it. She wondered what was in the boxes. Obviously something Mr. Jorgenson was buying.

This is a fairly logical train of thought, actually. Simplistic logic, but hey, it's more than Della's mastered up until now. I'm impressed.

"Now remember, don't tell anyone about this," the man said, putting a finger to his lips.

Er... okay.

"I'm not stupid!" Mr. Jorgenson said, offended.

I beg to differ. He didn't notice when Della made a FLYING LEAP into the BACK SEAT of his car.

"I know better than to run squealing to the cops about this."

"Just checking," said the man. "Some people haven't been as careful, and then CLICK!" He mimed shooting a gun into someone's head. Mr. Jorgenson winced.

Yeah, I feel threatened. How about you?

"Yeah, ok, I know, I know, just take me to the gold," he said.

The man led him into the back room, where the two men shut the door. Della couldn't see through the door 

She is spoiled by her hole-filled door at home.

into what they were doing. She sat pondering behind the barrel.

Best place to ponder!

Obviously Mr. Jorgenson was involved in something illegal. 

No! Really?

What was in those barrels? 

Barrels? Besides the one she's sitting behind? I think she means boxes.

She had to find out. Drugs? Evil papers?

Watch out for those evil papers. They attack and papercut you to death.

Children being sold into slavery? 

...That they stack in boxes in warehouses? That can't be the most efficient way to store human beings.

Mr. Jorgenson came out a moment later, his hands full of boxes.

And that crosses off the possibility of them being full of children.

The man helped Mr. Jorgenson loaded them into his car, and then Mr. Jorgenson drove off into the sunlight.

Oh, my. A lot of time has passed since Della jumped into his car.

Della wasn't with him, she had decided to stay behind so she could get a look at the boxes. She could always call someone to come pick her up.

Er... Della has lost all indication that she EVER thought sensibly. Which, I mean, she didn't to begin with, but...

As soon as the mysterious man vanished into wherever he came from, Della crept over to the door and pushed it open. It squeaked open and lay rusting on his hinges as she tiptoed in and looked in awe at the millions of boxes 

That is a LOT of boxes.

scattered across the floor. Which to open first? They most likely all contained the same thing,

See, if they're the same on the outside, they're always the same on the inside too.

so whichever one she opened would contain what the rest of them did. 

She took a deep breath, chose one and random, and opened it.

Inside lay a nest of papers. 

A bird sat on top of the nest.

She pulled them out and began looking over them. Oh goodness! They were test scores! Mr. Jorgenson was slipping test scores to people! 

Now hold on just one second. Mr. Jorgenson's illegal purchase is TEST SCORES? Not even test answer sheets. SCORES. As in "Billy got an 89, Susie got a 96." The only law that can possibly breach is some sort of student-teacher confidentiality thing. This is nonsense.

She couldn't believe his audacity, 

I can't believe his moronity.

and was about to turn around and report it to the police,

Who were coincidentally standing right behind her...?

when she felt a cold hand on her shoulder. She whipped around and saw the mysterious man holding her shoulder, 

It appears he ripped her shoulder off.

a grim smile on his face that didn't look at all pleasant.

"I see you've discovered our treasure trove," 

And quite a trove it was, I must say.

he said, without humor in his voice. "Now it's time to pay you."

Uh... Yeah, I messed that one up. It SHOULD have been "Now it's time for you to pay." But perhaps they're going to bribe her?

He cuffed her on the shoulder and all went black. 

Oh, my. That's a powerful hit.

When she woke up, she was tied to a chair in the same back room, a gag in her mouth and her chair leaned up against a wall. No one was in the room but she supposed someone was.

Er, sure.

She tried making a noise, maybe if they came she could explain to them that she was just on her way, just leaving, 

NICE TRY.

but nobody came when she called.

Except...

She suddenly noticed a stirring in the corner of the room. It was a very large feline creature 

So... a cat.

which lay napping lazily in the corner, its tongue flicking in and out when it yawned.

It is SO tired, it yawns AS it naps.

It opened one eye, glanced around, and then glocsed it again. Della realized in an instant what it is. It was a panther jaguar.

This panther jaguar is an amazing creature, let me tell you.

She had read about them in school, they were the deadliest of cats and could tear a human being to shreds in an instant.

But of course this is all pretty common knowledge. I'm sure you all knew that

Not only would she have to be careful, they had probably left it there as a trap in case she tried to escape.

Er... yes. Guard those test scores, Mr. Panther Jaguar!

She realized joyously that she still had her cell phone in her pocket.

I don't know how else she thought she was going to call someone to "come pick her up."

Maybe she could escape if she could call somebody.

Well, yes, maybe.

She wouldn't get attacked by the cat unless she moved out of the room, presumably,

She's making a lot of dangerous assumptions about how this panther jaguar operates.

so if she could just get a hold of it--

She moved and the cat opened its eyes and let out a warning snarl. She let her hands stay in the position they had been. Obviously she had been wrong. The cat would attack if she tried to move or untie herself. The captives have been far too clever.

Well, aside from the incorrect use of the word "captives," it's nice to point out that they'd been so clever that they didn't practically open the door and let her waltz out.

She racked her brain trying to think of what other clever things she could do. Nothing was coming to mind.

I hate it when I'm trying to think of clever things and nothing comes to mind.

She began to think that she would never get out of here, when she heard a familiar noise outside. It was a car. Dax's car.

I am unbelievably impressed that she can recognize Dax's car by its sound. Almost as impressed as I am that Dax is somehow here. Miles and miles away.

"I'M IN HERE!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.

Note how I completely forgot about the gag.

The cat jumped to its feet, snarling and snapping. Della paid it no attention but kept yelling, "DAX, DAX, COME HELP ME, I'M IN HERE!" The cat began to walk toward her, its leathery paws tapping the floor in rhythms.

This... has to be one of the most amazing mental images ever. Why, the panther jaguar ALWAYS rhythmically tapdances over to its prey.

Della squirmed and squealed in her chair, hoping to escape herself

THAT wasn't translated from Spanish to English using Google Translate.

so she could run from the monster. "THERE'S A CAT MONSTER IN HERE!" she screamed next.

Hey, it's not a MONSTER. It's just a panther jaguar.

She wouldn't want Dax to come in unprepared. That would be the most horrible thought. He would mauled in an instant by this lovely creature.

Yes, this lovely... monster... Della has no idea what she thinks of the p.j.

She squirmed some more, as the cat put one paw up on her knee.

"Now, now, Della," the p.j. said calmly, "we must stop screaming, mustn't we?"

If she moved any further the cat should push down and push her knee off. 

That is NOT a pleasant image. But an interesting one.

She had to stay completely still now. The cat gazed into her eyes as if saying "Don't you try THAT stunt again," and then dropped down onto the floor, padded back to the corner, and curled up and lay down.

Apparently the cat didn't hear the sound of Dax's car...

She wasn't fooled though, it wasn't sleeping, not by a long shot.

Yeah, you've gotta get up pretty early in the morning to fool Della. Or at least the morning after you've fooled her, so you can dispose of the body.

She could be cleverer!! 

Glad to hear it. I've been waiting for that.

She began to sneeze violently. The cat opened its eyes, unsure whether to count this as a thing or not.

"A thing"? I think I just ran out of words here.

Then it finally closed its eyes again, assuming it was just a normal sneeze. Della kept sneezing, though, 

I really want to know how one sneezes, gagged. But I guess she's been managing to talk, so...

hoping Dax would recognize her sneeze for what it was and follow her sneeze trail to where she was kept.

If he's taken Sneeze Trail Following 101, he just might figure it out.

A moment later, the doors were thrown open and Dax burst in, holding a pitchfork in his arms. "Come away, cat!" 

The attack of the horrible dialogue!

he yelled at the feline, who had lazily opened one eye and then jumped to its feet at the sight of an intruder in its territory. It snarled as it moved forward slowly as Dax backed up, shoving the pitchfork at it and jabbing it.

Is it tapping its feet on the floor in rhythms? That's when you should get nervous.

Finally when they were so far out of the room that Della couldn't see them anymore, she heard a wild scream and began to panic. Had Dax been mauled?? What would she do? She might get mauled too... 

But note how she isn't really worried about Dax...

But a moment later, Dax came into the room, his pitchfork gone now, and wiping his hands on his pants.

Sounds like quite an adventurous triumph...

"All's well," he said. "Let's get you untied."

She didn't ask what had happened to the cat until he got the gag off.

Why not? Obviously Della can still speak with it in. And sneeze too!

Then she said, "What did you do to it?"

"Oh, that thing," Dax said, dismissively waving his hand.

"That old thing? I've had one in my home for years. They're quite easy to deal with. A bit of a nuisance, but that's all."

"I lured it into a pile of gasoline rags and then set it on fire. Let's go."

Oh........my. I think this speaks for itself.

Her ropes were on the floo besider her, and she was able to get up and move around now. It felt good. Her arms and legs were sore from being in one position for so long. She hadn't moved in hours. Finally she and Dax could walk out.

Now that she's noted how good it feels to move.

She avoided looking at the disgusting pile of whatever it was on the floor on the right. She assumed it was the cat but she wasn't about to look and find out.

Is it near a pile of gasoline rags? Actually, if it is the cat, it's probably still on fire.

As they got into Dax's red sports car, 

As all archaeologists drive.

Della asked curiously, "How DID you know that I was here?"

Just what I was wondering.

Dax nodded. "Easy. You left your cell phone on and I traced your last call.

...What? And Dax says he can't find her parents' murderers... *shakes head*

I needed to talk to you. I think I've found out who killed your parents."

I knew it!

Della jumped up and down in her seat. "You don't say! Well, don't be quiet about it, spill spill!"

Dax put on his blinker and headed onto a dirt road, where they proceeded to bounce up and down as they traveled the path.

That fact is so important. It's pretty much the key to the ENTIRE STORY.

"I don't have absolute proof," he said, "but I have some evidence to support the fact that it was a man who your father had some information on. He threatened to go to the police about it. This man panicked and killed him and your mother." 

Della was astonished. "How on earth did you find all this out?" 

Dax waved his hand. "Never mind all that.

Ha! This way I don't have to explain it either!

The point is, how are we going to prove it?"

This would actually be easier to know if we knew how he found it out in the first place.

Della leaned back in her seat and put her feet up on the dashboard, wondering this very same question. "Well, the first thing I need to know," she said, "is what's his name?"

"Can't possibly prove it without his name."

Dax turned toward her and gave her a steady gaze. "His name," he said, "is Robert Plaintive." 

Della shook her head. If she was supposed to recognize the name, she didn't.

"He's your police man friend," Dax said.

PLOT TWIST!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Favorite Non-Christian Worship Songs

I am a big believer in the idea that art is bigger than just the intention of the person who created it. Some of the songs that make me feel closest to God and describe my relationship with him best were clearly not intended as worship songs, either because they're part of a broader context (like a musical) or because they're written by people who aren't Christians at all. But if a song connects me to God, it connects me to God, whether or not the writer ever intended that.

So these are some of my favorite songs to use for worship that you'd probably never hear in a church service.



















And my all-time favorite:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Intro: Whatever Is... (A Quasi Blogathon)

Most of you who know me know that connecting my faith with my art is very, very important to me. In my 2012 blog post Why I Watch What I Watch (As a Christian), I talked about how I believe Philippians 4:8 is frequently misused by Christians and then that misinterpretation is used as the measuring stick for all works of art.

The verse:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
And what I've said about it before:
When I go to watch something, my main question is, "Is there good in this?" while most Christians I talk to about consuming media ask, "Is there bad in this?" . . . Interestingly enough, this same verse is often used to justify the opposite worldview. It frequently gets turned around to be entirely negative. Instead of, "Whatever is true, think about such things," it turns into, "Whatever is not true, do not think about such things." It's a subtle difference, but a very important one. The emphasis is on things to avoid, rather than things to embrace.
For awhile now, I've been thinking that I wanted to do a blog series where I would focus on each one of these Philippians 4 attributes, figure out what it could mean, and suggest a couple movies that I feel exemplify that attribute. This could easily apply to music, TV, books, plays, and other art forms as well, but I wanted to keep a bit of a tighter focus on it.

I would also really really love contributions from my readers for this series, to get a wider variety of taste and interpretation of what this means.

With every post I'll tell you what the upcoming Philippians attribute is, give you a few ideas of where you could go with this as an idea starter -- you can come back with your own interpretation and that's fine -- and let you pull something together. You can either write an entire blog of your own and I'll quote and link to it, or just message me a couple sentences on Facebook or via email, and I'll include it at the end of my own post (though if you do the latter, stick to just one movie so my blog doesn't end up being a thousand pages long).

Also note that even with this series being based on a Bible verses, I'm not limiting participation to my Christian readers. I believe that these attributes are worth seeking out for anyone, and if any of my non-Christian readers want to offer their thoughts, I'd be fascinated to hear their takes on what this might mean to them.

The first blog will focus on: Whatever is true.

I looked up some info on what this word meant in the original Greek, and found these thoughts:
An adjective, derived from A "not" and lantháno, "unnoticed, concealed"
True, as it accords with fact (reality), i.e. attested because tested – literally, "what can't be hidden." 
Stresses undeniable reality when something is fully tested, i.e. it will ultimately be shown to be fact (authentic).
My first thought was that I would choose something that I thought said something true about life, but I'm also fascinated by the idea of "unconcealing" something -- it makes me think, for example, of important documentaries that brought to light things people had tried to keep hidden, or movies that provide more accurate (if unpleasant or unromantic) historical accounts.

I like its link to authenticity, so I'll also be on the lookout for movies that I believe are authentic, though I may have to think a bit more about what exactly that means in this context. There are also plenty of movies that simply convey the message that truth/authenticity/bringing things to light is a positive thing, and I'm sure I'll focus on a couple of those as well.

So if you read this and think, "Oh! I know a movie that's a good example of that!", jot down a few thoughts and email me, or message me on my blog's Facebook page, or get in touch with me any other way you can.

I think I'm going to aim for having one of these done once a month, to give people a chance to write something up (and to give me a chance to maybe rewatch some of the ones I want to include). So the deadline for the next one is Monday, October 6, by 12:30 EST, which is when my blog will post. That's also the day before my birthday, so... there's that important fact.

I look forward to hearing from you guys and putting this series together with you!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Della, Part 6

In our last episode, Della talked to an old lady who gave her no information at all, found something that proved Mr. Jorgenson bought a gun recently, and made Dax super angry. Here's what happened next.

The next day Dax hadn't called, and Della was beginning to be worried,

Maybe a stray bullet hit HIS car too!

so up she picked the phone

No prepositions at the end of MY sentence. Or... words like "up." In the middle of my sentence.

and dialed. On the first ring Dax answered, "Yes?" he said.

"I want to know where you are," Della demanded.

Obviously he is at home if he is answering the phone.

"Where have you been and why haven't you called me?"

Gosh. She is WHINY.

Dax sighed. "I just left last night, let me have a few hours of privacy!"

That's reasonable. Which means Della will hate the concept.

Della shook her head. "Privacy is a privilege and you don't get it. Life's too complicated for that.

Life is too complicated for privacy?

Over here right now, get you, 

"Or use the Force on you Yoda will."

and you have to work on this deep project!"

I'm not sure I'd call it "deep" so much as...anything else but deep.

Dax said, "Didn't you hear a word I say last night? I don't know what to DO with that, so I'm just not going to try."

Dax is apparently a bit of a defeatist.

Della stopped her foot 

Which was good, since it had developed sentience and wanted to go off and make a life for itself. Obviously I meant "stomped."

and said, "But that's quitting!"

Astute observation.

"You bet that quitting," Dax said smugly, 

SMUGLY? Wow, say hello to the whole new Dax!

"and that's just what I intend to do!"

Della couldn't believe her mouth, 

Or...Dax's words. Which is what I meant. Possibly "the words coming out of Dax's mouth."

she just sat there with her mouth open going, "Uhhhh...." and then finally she said, "So you mean you're not going to help me?"

DING DING DING DING! We have a winner!

Dax shook his head firmly. "I'm definitely not going to. And furthermore, I can't stand working with you."

Wow. When he asserts himself, he really ASSERTS!

The pain! The agony! Della furiously said, "That all?"

"I think you should know I'm feeling pain and agony right now!"

"No. Can't you just let this whole thing along? It's not going to do anything good." 

"Well, I NEVER!" Della said, 

Good comeback, Della. Good comeback.

and hung up the phone. A moment later she considered and picked it up and called her lawyer. Mr. Roth.

Oh, my. She's going to sue Dax? One might consider this an overreaction.

Mr. Roth told her that, yes, Dax could get a lot of trouble for what he had said her. 

In what alternate reality?

It was called slander or something like that, and he could get up to a year in prison for it. Della thought about that but didn't think that really that would be appropriate. "No, never mind," she said.

I think she was hoping for something equivalent to a light slap on the wrist.

She hoped she could still get him to change his mind and work on the project with her.

When she hung up the phone and placed it back on her receiver, 

She did indeed do both.

she realized with a start that she never finished following Mr. Jorgenson yesterday, 

She should go back to yesterday and try again!

and wondered if she should try following him again today. Yes, that was a good plan, she decided, and she would do so.

She cragbbed

Cragbbedding... One of my favorite hobbies.

her happy coat 

O joyous coat!

and ran out the door, hair flying.

Mr. Jorgenson had replaced the tire so was able to drive to work, but luckily Della was able to sneak into the trunk when he wasn't looking.

The question is, how is she planning on getting out?

All the way there she heard him humming to the tunes on the radio and flipping through the dials, and occasionally turning on his cell phone to talk to someone he knew. The conversations were quite interesting, although Della didn't understand them. Lots of talk about business and stocks. I didn't know he had enough money for stocks, Della said suspiciously to herself.

When the car finally stopped in front of the factory where Mr. Jorgenson still worked, 

Wow, he managed to hold on to his job for a day! Fabulous!

Della quickly poked a hole in the trunk before it went on idle.

She really needs to give lessons on this. Apparently you can escape from a car by simply "poking a hole in the trunk" before something (the car?) goes on "idle"...

In just a moment she had jumped out while Mr. Jorgenson was idling over to the gates and entering.

Apparently Mr. Jorgenson went on idle too.

Della hoped today's day would be more interesting, as she couldn't imagine a day quite as boring as the one she'd spent before trying to follow him around.

Uh... yesterday was pretty full of adventure, actually, I'd say.

Maybe she could sit outside with her back against a tree and –

Wait one minute!

A suspicious thought came into her mind. He had bought a new hat yesterday. Why wasn't he wearing it today?

Look, just because Della would do that, doesn't mean Mr. Jorgenson must.

Why should one buy new hands if one wasn't going to wear them?

...New hands? 

She got a hunch and began to poke around in his car, and sure enough, she found the really weird hat buried underneath a pile of clothes that smelled vaguely of vanilla.

Dun dun dun! By the way, I'm sorry to disappoint, but I'm pretty sure this part of the mystery is never solved.

She tried putting the hat on but had a feeling it just looked incredibly stupid

When in doubt, try on suspects' clothes.

so it came back off and she tossed it off in the direction.

The direction... of... something.

Maybe she should put it back, though, she didn't want Mr. Jorgenson to know she'd been spying.

She is likely to get caught very, very soon with these methods.

At that moment her cell phone today rang 

She has one for every day of the year?

and Dax was on it. She almost hung up but then had to listen. 

She just had to!

Maybe it was an apologize.

Della has a loose grasp on the use of nouns.

"Hey, Della?"

"Yes, Dax?"

"Well, Della..."
"Yes, Dax?"
"Hello, Della."
"Hello, Dax."


"I just wanted to say that if you really wanna sue me, you may want to wait until after your whatever it is with the Jorgensons.

Apparently he's been following HER - how else did he know she was going to sue him?

If they really are the ones who killed your parents you want to save your savings for taking all theirs."

Dax... always practical!

Della's heart stopped. Such a practical suggestion!! 

I bet it would just send a shiver of joy up his spine if she informed him how practical he was.

But to put off her revenge on Dax . . . oh, she supposed to could for a short time. 

She already had planned to, after all.

"That's a good plan," she said reluctantly."I'll go with.it."

Dax breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm glad to hear it." 

I'll bet he is.

Then he hung up the phone and Della went back to her uninteresting task of spying on the factory where Mr. Jorgenson worked.

Apparently not as uninteresting as yesterday, though.

Hmm. He hadn't had a brown paper bag today, either. Was he not eating lunch? That couldn't have been the answer, everyone in the world ate lunch!!

They do! They do!!!

It wasn't the last thing on her mind, but she had to eat some lunch, too.

Er... sure.

Across the street was a diner, maybe she could grab something quick there.

That's what she did. As the hours went on she scooted to the diner across the street, 

This conjures up images of Della scooting over an inch every thirty minutes or so.

where a happy waitress served her some disgusting greasy food and said, "I'm sure you'll like it ma'am" even though she didn't like it at ALL.

This is one of my favorite brief descriptive passages EVER.

She kept gazing out the window toward the factoy, hoping that Mr. Jorgenson would show up soon. She was tired of sitting in the leather plated boots waiting for him to appear.

Well, maybe she should stop sitting in the leather plated "boots." I'd think it'd be a lot better than sitting in the bushes, though.

She couldn't wait to get out of the diner and away from the ignorant people.

Everyone there must have been an archaeologist.

Her prayers were answered when suddenly the door opened and Mr. Jorgenson came back out, another black bag with him. Where did THIS one come from? Della jumped up so fast that her coffee went flying over the edge

There it goes!

and onto the floor. A waitress slipped on it. Della ran out the door yelling over her shoulder, "I'm so sorry about the mess, I'm in a hurry!" and just kept going.

Lovely.

When she got to Mr. Jorgenson's car, he was almost pulling out of the parking lot, but she managed to take a flying leap into the back seat.

Oh. My. Oh. My.

He seemed to sense something 

I should certainly hope so!

and turned around to see what was going on, but she had safely rolled herself onto the floor. He gave a shrug and backed out, then pointed the nose of his car in the direction of the sunset and drove steadily.


It was late midnight by the time he stopped, 

Holy cow. He's been driving for awhile.

and it was at a gas station. Out he got to pump the gas.

"Out you go, Mr. Jorgenson!"

When he went inside, Della jumped up out of her seat to see if it was someplace she knew. They were almost three hundred and fifty miles from home!

There must have been a sign: "348 miles from home."

What was she to do? She did have her cell phone, she knew that, if they got too stuck she could always call Dax or the police station or somebody and they could come and get her.

Just then Mr. Jorgenson came back and got back into the car, his arms full of snack crackers. 

That sounds like they weren't even packaged, he just scooped up as many as he could hold and ran.

Della slid down into the backseat again, and Mr. Jorgenson didn't pay any attention.

My gosh. Mr. J is NOT the most observant person in this story.

The next chapter gives us some answers that don't make any sense but it's also one of my favorite parts of the whole story. Stuff just gets weirder from here on out.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Top 5, Bottom 5: Marvel Comics

A few weeks ago I watched my 20th movie based on comics made by Marvel. I'm not much of a comics reader, but I've enjoyed a lot of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. I like superhero movies that are fun and lighthearted, rather than just crime dramas with capes, and they certainly deliver on that front. So, without further ado, here are my favorite and least favorite movies based on Marvel comics.

Top 5:
1. Spider-Man (2002, #106). There's just something about the original Spider-Man movie that still connects with me. I love Peter figuring out what he can do and what that means for him. I think the Green Goblin is a sufficiently creepy but also delightfully campy villain. It's just a solid film all round for me.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, #285). Oh, man, I loved this movie. It's pretty much exactly what I wanted the disappointing Avengers movie to be.
3. Iron Man (2008, #418). Iron Man's easily my favorite of the cinematic Avengers. I like that he doesn't take himself all that seriously. It's a nice change from the extreme angst of so many superhero movie stories.
4. Kick-Ass (2010, #558). The Nicolas Cage part of the story I didn't care about so much, but I was really engaged in the Aaron Johnson plotline, and even more so Christopher Mintz-Plasse's.
5. Men in Black III (2012, #766). This is the extremely rare case where I liked a sequel better than the original. The characters in this are vivid and fun, the jokes consistently funny, and the plot decently smart for a silly comedy.

Comic book superheros from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Helgi Halldórsson, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Bottom 5:
5. Thor: The Dark World (2013, #1673). I liked the first Thor pretty well, thanks to its enormously theatrical tone. It was fun and campy and enjoyable. This one, however, gets dark and ugly and its plot doesn't really make any sense. A disappointing follow-up.
4. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006, #1675). Most people agree this movie was pretty much just a mess. I concur.
3. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012, #1984). This one isn't even fun campy Nic Cage, it's just... weird.
2. The Incredible Hulk (2008, #2092). Another dark, gloomy one. I'm really not sure how a movie that featured both Edward Norton and Tim Roth managed to make me hate it, but somehow it did.
1. Men in Black II (2002, #2107). A truly awful sequel. I'm not sure a single joke landed for me. It's completely terrible.

What are your favorites and least favorites? Which Marvel movies are you looking forward to next?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Della, Part 5

Last time, Della followed Mr. Jorgenson all around town and finally followed him into a hat store. We pick up from there.

"I wonder what he's buying in that shop," Della said despite herself.

...Hats, perhaps?

"Probably hats," said the policeman, 

He's a smart one.

raising his eyebrow once and then letting it drop down.

Della didn't let the policeman's cynical attitude dampen her spirits. 

Realism, Della, not cynicism. Who's cynical about someone buying hats?

She tiptoed to the window and peered in the dusty window, watching Mr. Jorgenson nervously bring money out of her pocket 

Out of...Della's pocket?

and purchase a very odd hat with a large brim and no top.

...That is, indeed, a very odd hat.

"I wonder what he wants that for," she asked herself aloud.

To put on his head, maybe?

The policeman shrugged and leaned against a tree, gazing at his fingernails lovingly.

Oh, great. This policeman stalks Della and has a fingernail fetish.

Suddenly Mr. Jorgenson turned and headed toward the fire door, and Della had to gasp and duck to stay out of the way.

She wasn't anywhere near the fire door, so I'm not sure why that puts her anywhere near him.

He walked right past her, not even noticing the tiny figure crouched in the corner, and soon she had to stand back up to follow him. She walked quickly, he walked quickly, and the policeman walked slowly. 

The policeman is going to be left behind pretty soon.

Before long Mr. Jorgenson had made it all the way to Seventh Avenue, 

The policeman was probably back at Fourth.

where he took a right and went into a tiny house. Della watched him come out of the house a moment later, and then decided she had better find out who was in that house.

Although, of course that means she will have to stop following Mr. Jorgenson.

She approached the big blue house

It's grown!

and knocked on the door, waiting patiently for a reply. "Is that you again, Marvin?" came a cranky voice from inside the house. 

"No, it isn't Marvin, it's me, Della," said Della, opening the door and letting herself in.

She seems pretty confident that they'll accept her based on the basis of being Della.

"Well, come right on in, Della," said the cranky voice,

Doesn't sound all that cranky to me... I mean she let her in, didn't she?

and Della tiptoed into the kitchen 

It's nice of her to be so considerate about making too much noise.

where an older lady sat rocking in a rocking chair. She looked up as Della walked in. "Don't believe I've ever met you before," she said, sneering at her prodigy.

Gah. The troubles of choosing COMPLETELY RANDOM WORDS in my sentences.

"I don't believe I've ever met you before either," Della replied, politely, fingering the necklace she wore around her neck.

Nope, no foreshadowing here. No... I'm serious. This necklace never comes up again.

The old lady leaned forward and picked up a pie. "I made these," she said proudly. "This morning."

It's a CRAZY PIE LADY!

Della nodded appreciatively. "I'm Della," she said.

I think The Old Lady already knows this...

"So you said." The old lady sighed and set the pie back down on the table. "Nobody wants my pies nowadays. Nobody cares about my pies. How sad. My name's Ninerva."

It's a CRAZY PIE LADY with no attention span!

Della glanced around the room at the paintings on the walls and the many cows that danged on the fridge.

Dang cows!

"Are these all your children?" she asked, politely gesturing.

What the what the? Della is insinuating this woman's children are cows!

Ninerva looked carefully and shook her head. "No, they're my grandchildren," she said. "The ones on THIS wall are my children."

Uh... so Ninerva DOES have bovine offspring.

Della asked for a piece of pie, to be polite, 

She really should, seeing as how she barged into this woman's house.

although if Mr. Jorgenson was visiting her, she could be a murderess!! But it never occurred to her, 

Except that it just had.

so she brought out a fork and began to pick away at the pie. It was actually very yummy, it tasted like a woman had baked it. With a mouth full of pie, she poked away at the pictures the wall 

She should really stop poking at the pictures on the wall. I can't imagine Ninerva will take kindly to that.

and asked about them. When she got to the end of the wall, she suddenly realized with a shock that Mr. Jorgenson was a picture on there!!

Apparently this was The Chapter of the Multiple Exclamation Points.

"How do you know him?" he asked, looking on the wall.

Nice of Mr. Jorgenson to join in on this conversation.

Ninerva turned and looked. "Oh, him! Yes, he's my grandson, too." She wrinkled her nose. "He was just here, as a matter of fact."

Apparently his presence is nose-wrinkle-worthy, though.

The moment Della had been waiting for! She leaned forward in her chairs, hearing eagerly the words tumbling from the mouth of the older woman. "And he said? He said?" she asked, a tongue in her mouth.

We- It-- Maybe if-- Nope. No hope for that sentence at all.

"He said he might be in trouble." The older woman frowned. "In fact she said he WAS in trouble." 

She? Who is this she you speak of?

Her eyes moved up

I'm assuming they actually just glanced up, didn't physically move further up her forehead.

and she said suspiciously, "Are you a policeman?"

"No, but I have one outside gazing lovingly at his fingernails." 

"No, no, I'm not," Della assured her, although she thought secretly, But I've got one outside!

As I thought!

She turned her attention back to the woman and said, "Did he say why he was in trouble?"

But Ninerva was suspicious now, 

It's about time!

and nothing could convince her to tell anything more about her grandson. She closed her mouth and mimed silence,

She wasn't actually silent. She was just miming it.

indicating that she intended to say nothing more to Della about anything. Slightly disheartened, Della turned and left the premises, returning to the policeman, who sat out side under a tree waiting for her return.

After all this persistently following her, he was content to just sit outside under a tree waiting for her?

"Any leads?" he asked, cheerfully, putting away the book he had been reading while she had been otherwise occupied.

"No, not really," Della said. "He said he might be in trouble, which might mean he'd killed them, might it not?"

She's making some awfully big assumptions here.

The policeman didn't seem to be sure about this, so he just shrugged his head and said, "I'm not sooo sure,"

"Like, I'm not sooooooo sure, totally!"

and he and Della kept walking.

"We can check with the gun people!" Della suddenly said with a smile.

Er... yes. The gun people.

"I'm sure they could tell us when he actually bought the gun!" And off she skipped to the gun shop.

That has to be one of my favorite lines ever.

"I'm sorry, we can't tell you that," said the gun man at the gun shop.

It does make sense that a gun man would be working at the gun shop, I must say.

"We don't let just anybody know who buys what guns. That's just not fair to the rest of the world."

"If we let you know, then before you know it, every person will come in here randomly wanting to have a list of all the guns their Facebook friends have ever bought!

Della put her hands on the counter and looked so sad. "Oh, please, it's so important! I have to know! My puppy's lift depends on it!"

Yes. Her puppy's elevator depends on this.

The gun man stroked his chin, then accidentally upside a cup of ink and it poured everywhere.

Where do you keep cups of ink? Why, on a gun shop counter, of course!

"Oh, darn!" he yelled, 

Very clean-cut young gun man.

grabbing a towel from the counter and wiping furiously.

At least he keeps towels right next to the ink cups. Both equally handy in a gun shop.

"Now I shall have to get the manager!" and he rushed off to the backroom, anxiously, searching for the manager who appeared to be hidden.

The manager dreads when people come back to tell him yet another cup of ink has been spilled. He knows there has to be a solution to this, but he hasn't thought of, ya know, moving the cups of ink OFF the counter yet.

When he was gone, Della quickly rooted through his desk

Almost as if she planned it!

and found a piece of paper that had exactly what she needed. Eagerly she returned to the policeman outside and gave him the piece of paper, proudly. "Look what I found!" she said, neglecting to say WHERE she'd found it.

The policeman examined it from all angles, upside down and rightside up, 

I am beginning to seriously doubt this policeman's police abilities.

before pronouncing it okay 

"No, this paper is NOT going to blow up in your face unexpectedly."

and handing it back to Della. She began to read it. "It says he only purchased the gun a few days ago!" she says. "Which means he must have bought it to kill my parents!"

Logic, Della. LOGIC.

The policeman shook his head. "Coincidence, coincidence, it could be a coincidence."

I have occasionally sung that to my siblings when I want to be particularly annoying. It sounds a bit like "Button, button, who's got the button?"

"I don't believe in coincidences, Mr. Policeman," Della said boldly.

Now would be a good time for Mr. Policeman to reveal his name.

"I believe in fate. I believe he was fated to kill my parents who hate their date with death on that very day."

"But then nobody could have stopped them," the policeman said.

Della didn't really want to hear that, 

Although she was really the one making that point.

she placed her hands over her ears and sang "LA LA LA LA LA." 

Excuse me? My MC has been replaced by a two-year-old.

Then she decided she'd better go home and discuss this all with Dax. He would have sensible ideas.

Well, Dax *is* probably the most levelheaded of Della's friends. Which isn't saying much, considering the only other friend we've met is Jeff.

Dax was at work when she called him, so she left a message on his voice mail on his cell phone. "Call me, please," she said. "I have some important things to say!" Then she violently slammed the phone down 

She has... some phone skills to learn. To say the least.

and wandered around the apartment aimlessly, hoping to find something to do. 

When she finally found it, the doorbell rang, 

Well, that was terrible timing.

and he curiously looked up to see who it was. She ran to the door, peeked through, and it was amazingly Dax! 

She was happily Della.

She yanked the door open and squealed, "You got my message!"

"Message?" said Dax. "I just brought you food." He showed her the McDonald's bag he held in one hand. "It was less work than cooking," he informed her.

"Not that you are a drain on my time or anything... oh no."

"I love McDonald's," she assured him, and the two of them walked into the kitchen to eat. Sitting down, she pulled out a chicken nugget and munched on it.

That will probably consist of her whole meal.

As she munched she handed him a piece of paper, in fact the very one she had filched from the gun man's shop.

I actually figured out what piece of paper it was on my own, but thanks.

When she told him how she'd obtained it, he gave her a funny look. "Don't you think they'll remember you and then arrest you?" he said, his eyebrows going up and down.

"No, not me!" she said. "Surely not!"

All right. I have a suspicion that was inspired by Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. There's a part in that movie I always make fun of, when Santa comes down through the chimney and they try to arrest him and he jovially responds, "Not me!" and tries to leave. This is very reminiscent of that.

Dax nodded argumentatively, 

So... was he agreeing or not?

and looked back down at the paper. Then he looked up and pushed it away from him with his fingertips. "I haven't a clue what you want me to do, Della," he said honestly.

Honestly, nor do I.

"Oh, I just want you to figure it all out," Della said cheerily. "You're smart enough, you can do it."

Well, that's not asking much, is it?

Dax shook his head. "I'm not so sure about this. After all, I haven't got my thinking cap on." 

"Go home and get it," Della said.

But--- it--

"One moment," said Dax, and he ran out the door. A moment later he was back with a giant red baseball cap in his hands.

It--- I-- Why--
IT REALLY EXISTS?
Dax, I thought you were smarter than that!


"Now I shall do it," he pronounced, putting the cap upon his head. A moment passed, and then another, and Della was impatient. "Well? Well? You have the answer?" she said, jumping from foot to foot.

She was doing the tribal Waiting For Answers dance.

"No," he said, taking it off and scratching his head. "It must be broken."

Oh no! Not the broken thinking cap!

Only then did she catch the look in his eyes and exclaim, "It was all a joke!"

*sigh*

"Indeed," he said, taking a bow and throwing the baseball cap onto a cake. 

The cake came with the McDonald's meal, of course.

"You know I joke." 

"I joke sometimes... you know that, right?"

Della frowned. "This is no time for joking, young man!" She scolded him with her finger. "You be serious and solve my problem!"

Sheesh. She's so temperamental.

Dax sighed. "But they're your problems," he said with a feeble sigh. 

Protest stronger, Dax. It's true, you have absolutely no obligation to solve this random murder with no evidence.

Della relented not at all.

So Dax sat back down on the couch, the paper in his hand, and looking it over carefully, up and down, trying to figure out what each individual figure must mean. It didn't mean very much to him, he had to admit to Della, as he read each figure and who had bought which guns. "Probably doesn't mean much to anyone except for the gun man," he said with a grumble.

"But you can figure out!" Della said, frowning.

"I am an ARCHAEOLOGIST!!!" Dax screamed at her. "I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!" And he shoved the paper into her hands and ran out into the street.

One of my other favorite moments. For, really, the first time in the story, Dax reveals that he might be just as insane as Della is.

Della sat in shock, on the couch, her flowered couch.

Enjoy my knack for details?

She had the papers in her hands and wasn't sure what to do with them, so she put them in a folder and put them in a filing cabinet. Then she stood at the window, hands clasped behind her back, and watched as Dax entered his head. She couldn't believe that had just transpired.

I can't say I saw it coming either.

She wanted to go back and redo the entire evening over again, except this time she and Dax would get along swimmingly and everyone would be happy.

Probably her parents would be alive, too. 

Maybe she should call him and find out if he was okay or not. Maybe not. 

Ah... To call or not to call.