I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Can You Relate?

There is no pleasure to me without communication: there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to tell it to. Michel Eyquem De Montaigne

I don't do anything special here at Little Nuances. I write about life and in doing so, I tell you what I think and how I feel. Yet, several times a week, I'm honored to hear from readers who are touched, sometimes in ways I would have never imaged, by something I've written here. Maybe it's because deep inside, humans are remarkably similar to one another.

Most of us are lonely. We all want at least a couple of people in our lives who "get" us. We want them to know about and accept our quirky mannerisms. We want them to know what we long for and we want them to root for us to achieve success as we pursue our longings. We want a to be around people with whom we can let our hair down without worrying about judgment. But finding such people rarely seems easy.

So we turn to poems, or songs, or movies, and sometimes even blogs—all of which are generated by people, but always under the guise of creativity. Such creative endeavors often put a finger directly upon the essence of who we are in the midst of our struggles, and we rejoice in knowing that somebody else can relate. But we don't rejoice externally though. That's rarely seen as proper. Instead we rejoice internally—the place where most of us spend our lives hiding because we can bear the thought of someone rejecting us, or criticizing us, or laughing at us.

As a single guy who is nearing his fortieth birthday, it would be easy to give into the loneliness monster. He resides internally too. And as much as my spirit wants to rejoice when I make connections with people who understand and accept me, the loneliness monster wants to pretend that such connections don't exist. Or if they do, then they are misinterpreted, or fraudulent. But when I read quotes like the one above from De Montaigne, which he wrote more then four hundred years ago, the loneliness monster doesn't have a chance because De Montaigne confirms what I already know to be true. Living life deeply, in connection with others, brings immense pleasure.

So if an author, or a writer, or a blogger, or a poet, or a lyricist, or a script writer, or any other form of artist touches you by something he or she has created, then let him or her know. In so doing, you'll be not only make the artist's day, but you also experience the joy that comes from making a connection with a fellow struggler.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

United 93

Like everybody else, I can remember exactly what I was doing on September 11, 2001 the moment I heard that the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I was working at a bank, sitting in my cubicle, going through my normal routine. A woman I worked with was listening to the radio and she told me what happened. I was suspicious after she told me about the first plane, and obviously, after the second plane hit, we were clearly under attack. Then came news of another highjacked plane, and then another.

I live in Omaha, Nebraska—the same city in which President Bush flew into that day to meet with administration officials and military advisors. As the day progressed, my co-workers witnessed something in me that they hadn't seen before—extreme anger. I was angry at the media for telling the entire world where President Bush was located throughout the day and I was livid at the unknown enemy who chose to attack us.

I rushed home that day to pictures and stories of horror on television. Buildings collapsing, people dying, heroes being heroes, and terrorists being terrorists. For several days I watched and read the news coverage. I cheered when President Bush stood atop a car close to ground zero with his arm around a rescue worker and proudly declared that we would strike back. I've disagreed greatly with the administration's mission creep since then, but that's a topic for another day.

Today, I want to talk about United 93—the movie that is set for release tomorrow. I've seen the trailers, and each time, a sense of dread and helplessness washes over me. Forty ordinary people board a plane one Tuesday morning and soon find themselves caught up in the elaborate plans of a bunch of Islamic thugs. But as we know now, those forty people were anything but ordinary and that's one of the many reasons I want to see United 93. I want to see a re-enactment of their actions and I want to remember who they were.

The movie premiered in New York yesterday at the Tribeca Film Festival and after it was over, this article says that sobs filled the room. I suspect that many such sobs will fill theaters all over the country in the coming weeks. And I think that will be a good thing because we are a people who forget too quickly about the sacrifices that others have made for us.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MP3 Players

I know that the technology has been available for a long time with mix tapes and mix CDs, but something about the way MP3 players harness a person's favorite songs in one place, to be listened to in one sitting, or one walk, or one anything, can be overwhelming. It's like cramming every gut-wrenching emotion—from ecstasy to melancholy—a person has ever felt into just a few hours. That's a lot of power in one place.

I bought a cheap BUSlink MP3 player a few months ago. It holds about a hundred songs and while I'm unimpressed with the navigation and few of the other "features," I love the portability, the quality of sound, and the ability to carry so many my favorite songs in my pocket to listen to whenever I want to. I've transferred a lot of songs from my CD collection to my MP3 player and I've started to download new songs when I like them rather than buying an entire CD. It's so much cheaper.

I just have to make sure that I mix in worship music and some light-hearted songs so I don't get out of balance. I'm the type of person whose mood is heavily influenced by the music I listen to, so I have to be careful, but as long as I am, I'm finding my MP3 player to be one of the most enjoyable toys I've purchased in a long time.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


A few years ago, I went to a bookstore with a friend. As we discussed different books we've read, she asked me if I still had Benavenuto. Benavenuto is a book I read as a kid. It's about a dragon named Benavenuto and it was offered through the Weekly Reader's Book Club. Remember that? Anyway, when I was a kid I thought Benavenuto was so cool that I started substituting the word "Benavenuto" for the adjective "cool." And I pronounced it, "Benavenuuuuuuuuuuuuuuto." So, I'd say, "That is so Benavenuuuuuuuuuuuuuuto."

When my friend asked me if I'd seen the book lately, I told her that I hadn't even thought about it in years. (But obviously she knows me well enough to have heard me refer to the dragon's name on more than one occasion.) Then she had an idea. We walked over to the children's section and she asked a store clerk if they had the book in stock. As all three of us attempted and failed to spell "Benavenuto," we weren't able to find the book in the store's computer. And that was the end of that journey.

A few months ago though, as I was cleaning my basement, I found it. And to my dismay, I realized that I've been mispronouncing the dragon's name all these years. His name is really "Benvenuto." Somehow, that isn't nearly as fun. I like the extra syllable. And since nobody knows what I'm saying anyway, I think I'll keep pronouncing it the way I always have.

All this thinking about the little green dragon made me wonder if he appeared in other books. I did a search on Amazon and he did make one more appearance in a book called Benvenuto and the Carnival. That particular book was published in 1976. The original book that I have was published in 1974. And I have to tell you, the illustration of Benvenuto on the cover of the carnival book looks nothing like the cool imagine of the dragon on the book I have.

This adventure reminded me that sometimes memories are better than the real thing—not in regards to people, but things. Our memories of cars, homes, and sometimes even old books seem to get better as the years go by and those memories become part of who we are. We don't remember the flaws because we don't want to. And that's not necessarily a bad thing—unless you stumble across the original and come face to face with the reality that you've been mispronouncing a dragon's name for thirty years.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Down Goes Blogger

Blogger was down all day today, so I wasn't able to post. I'll be back tomorrow morning with a new post.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Why Sports Matter

As a guy who writes a sports column for a local newspaper and a baseball column for a local magazine, you may be surprised to hear me say that I don't believe that success on the field is the be-all and end-all that so many sports fans seem to think. Sports have always been about more than individual statistics, wins and losses, and championships.

From the athlete's perspective, sports are about discipline, and camaraderie, and sticking together—all with the hopes that winning will be the end result. But if you listen to retired athletes, they seldom talk about wins. They talk about the locker room. They talk about specific plays they'll never forget. And they talk about the life-long friendships they made during their playing days.

From the perspective of the fan, sports are a way of identifying with a team, a city, and with other likeminded fans. And sports are a release from the pressures of everyday life. Perhaps I'll write more about sports fans in another post on another day, but for now I want to talk about an athlete who is enduring hard times. And I want to talk about how his team is helping him to cope.

Zack Greinke is a 22 year-old pitcher with the Kansas City Royals. He was drafted by the Royals straight out of Apopka High School in Florida in 2002. He's never known failure on the field. In his senior year in high school he was 9-2 with an unheard of 0.55 ERA in 12 games. He struck out 118 hitters and in 63 innings, and he only walked eight guys. He was named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year that year. In 2003, he pitched in the Royals minor league system (for Wilmington in A-ball, and for Wichita in AA-ball) and he had a combined record of 15-4 with a 1.93 ERA. The Sports News named him Minor League Player of the Year. He made his major league debut with the Royals in 2004, posting a respectable 8-11 record with a 3.97 ERA on a team that lost more than 100 games.

Then 2005 came along and, for the first time in Greinke's career, he struggled. He was 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA. Fans had no idea that he didn't know how to cope emotionally with struggles. He says now that he has always struggled with locker room environments. He just doesn't feel comfortable around groups of people. As somebody who has been in the Royals locker room, I know how tense their locker room feels when the team is losing. When you are winning, everybody is nice, and accepting. When you are losing, people want answers. And Zack didn't have any answers—at least any that made sense.

Zack reported for Spring Training for the 2006 season a couple of months ago and he immediately knew that something was wrong emotionally. Manager Buddy Bell called him into his office, and Greinke assumed that Bell was going to yell at him.

"But that wasn't the case," Greinke is quoted as saying in an article on the Royals website. "Buddy was watching my bullpen and saw that I was doing some crazy stuff and he wanted to know what was wrong with me. He wasn't yelling at me. He saw that there was something really wrong with me—not just pitching."

So, he flew back home to Florida and got the help he needed. His teammates called him continually to check up on him. And maybe, for the first time, he was starting to feel like he belonged—even though he admits to not always being the friendliest guy. Just a couple of days ago, he reported back to extended Spring Training in Arizona and he's on the road back to the major leagues. His praise for the Royals continued:

"I couldn't have done this without Allard (Baird, the general manager), (manager) Buddy (Bell) and my parents," he said in an article published in the Kansas City Star yesterday. "They’ve done so much more than they needed to do or should have done. I'm still amazed by it. When I left, I thought they'd just kick me out the door. The way they've done it, I wasn't expecting it. It's just been incredible."

The Royals are off to another horrible start. They've lost 10 games in a row and are already quickly dropping out of contention in the American League Central Division race. As much as that bothers the players and the fans, I'm thinking that we could all learn a lot from the way a team rallied around a guy who desperately needed help.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing." –Benjamin Franklin

I've written here at Little Nuances several times about leaving a legacy. And I certainly think that writing is a great way to do it, but when I read the quote above by Benjamin Franklin recently, I think he makes a great point about doing "things worth the writing." Writers who sit behind a desk all day without every experiencing life speak in the abstract, and they become stale, and eventually they are empty. Words flow out of life, not the other way around.

This is always a struggle for me when I'm writing under deadline. Sometimes, I have to say no to invitations to hang out with people I'd love to hang out with. My leisurely reading time is diminished. I lose track of current events. And toward the end of the project, I feel a desperate need to reconnect. I scramble to get caught up on e-mail, to send out birthday cards, and to return calls. And I get the bug to invest in young people again by teaching at church or by simply spending time with my niece.

I'm not sure if the "things worth the writing" that Franklin spoke about involves such day to day activities or not, but I suspect that I'll be remembered for the person I was as I went about such activities, rather than some of the other "bigger" endeavors I've attempted. The thing about big endeavors is that you seldom have control over their success. You put in the hard work and hope that somebody catches the vision. But those little endeavors—the things we often take for granted—those are the things we can control. And they often seem to outlast the big things.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Prime, Part 2

The second aspect of the movie Prime that I found intriguing was the "love isn't enough" plotline. Part of me has always wanted to believe that love really is enough, but at 39 years old, I know better. By the end of this movie, Dave and Rafi knew it too.

Rafi is just getting over a difficult divorce, but at 37, she feels the pressure to find somebody else so she can still have children. In fact, having children is her dream—much like painting full time was Dave's. But as she watched Dave, who was still living at home, and who was into playing video games, and who for all appearances, looked and acted much like a boy, reality started to set in. Here's how she described her situation: "I was married to a man who couldn't love me. And now I'm with someone who can love me, but he's not really a man. At least not all the time."

And then they had the religion thing to figure out. Dave comes from a Jewish background, and while it seems more important to his mother than to him, he does eventually want to marry somebody who will agree to raise their children in a Jewish home. He just hasn't gotten around to figuring out what that should look like yet. And Rafi on the other hand has no intention of converting to Judaism.

With the vast age difference, the different mentalities, and the different goals, Rafi realizes that love just isn't enough. She needs to let him go. Even when he decides that he does want to give her a baby, she knew that he wasn't ready. He wasn't ready for marriage or kids. And this might be the first movie I've ever seen where the man and woman split up, but then didn't come rushing back to one another with a sudden realization that love conquers all.

In fact, in the end of the movie, Dave sees Rafi sitting in a restaurant a year after they have split up. With his heart pulled in her direction and his head in another, he decides to walk out the door without saying anything to her. But he looks back in through the door from the outside and when she sees him, she smiles. Then she reminisces for a moment about how good they were together, but she also knows that things haven't changed, so she embraces the nice thoughts, and then she lets them go. Sensing this, Dave walks away and the movie ends.

Sometimes, love isn't enough.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Got it!

Ian over at Refluxology provided the coding fix for my new header. Thanks Ian!

Can You Help?

This post is for those who have a good understanding of HTML coding and are willing to help me out a little:

I've created a new header for this blog, but I can't figure out how to install it. Here's a rundown of what I've done:

1. I created a header that is 760 X 192 and I've saved it as a .jpg.
2. I saved the image at a host site.
3. I removed the original header url in the HTML coding.
4. I pointed the header to the url where the new imaged is hosted.

What I end up seeing is the new header over the top of the old header. [You don't see that now because I didn't save the changes.] What part of the coding do I need to change or remove so that I only see the new header? Or is it more complicated than that? If anybody has any suggestions, please e-mail me.


Prime was another one of the movies I rented last week to enjoy my little mini-break. The promos looked funny and since I'm a sucker for a good chick-flick, I thought I might enjoy it. I was right. The writing wasn't on par with Elizabethtown (by far my favorite movie in the past couple of years), but it made me think, and when a movie does that, I'm happy. Over the next couple of days I'm going to talk about two such instances from the movie.

Prime is about a man named Dave (who is 23) who falls for a recently divorced woman named Rafi (who is 37). The selling point of the movie is that Rafi is seeing a therapist to help her get back on track after her divorce and the therapist turns out to be Dave's mom. While it led to a few comical moments, I don't think it made the movie. I think the chemistry that developed between Dave and Rafi as they got to know each other made the movie.

They had instant chemistry, but instant chemistry isn't rooted in anything. It's just the initial spark that is necessary for two people to get together. I loved Dave's nervousness as he decided to call Rafi for the first time. He looks her number up in the book, makes the call and then hangs up. He does a few push ups, paces a little, and then calls her back. Every guy who has ever had to work up the nerve to call a woman can identify with Dave. After saying a couple of stupid things, he asks her out and she agrees.

They go to a nice restaurant, and as food often does, it brings them together. It even turns out to be their topic of conversation. They go for a walk afterward, and in a scene reminiscent of a scene in Notting Hill, Dave climbs a fence that leads to a secluded garden. He lets Rafi in and they sit on a bench and talk. When Rafi realizes that they are clicking she tells him that she's glad they met. Then Dave said this, "I got to tell you, you are making me nervous in a way that I'm not familiar with." Then he grabs her hand and put to on his heart so she can feel it racing.

As the get to know each other, she introduces him to jazz music, and some kind of fancy food that I've never heard of. He introduces her to hip hop music. They share a love of art, and at one point, he arranges a nice meal for her in an art studio. Painting is Dave's passion and this was his way of letting Rafi into his world and I think this was the moment he won her heart. While his family doesn't think his art is worthy of being pursued fulltime, Rafi thinks the exact opposite.

Here's their exchange:

"Dave, you're really good. This is what you should be doing. You've got to keep painting."

"Yeah? It's not a life."

"Says who? You're crazy."

Love flourishes when people support each other's passions. It's like receiving a ticket to the most luxurious place a person has ever imagined, but never believed he or she might actually get to go there. And in a world where most people seem indifferent about anything other than their own agendas, having somebody take an interest in the things we are passionate about almost makes us believe that "all is right with the world." But as I'll talk about tomorrow, love isn't always enough.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Just Friends

This might sound crazy, but I had high hopes for Just Friends when I rented the DVD. Here's a brief synopsis from the official website:

"In high school Chris was shy and overweight. The bright spot in his life was his friendship with Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), the hottest girl in high school. The two best buds were inseparable. But Chris harbored a secret—he was hopelessly in love with Jamie. On the night of their graduation, Chris finally works up his courage and comes clean. A surprised Jamie tells Chris that she loves him too…like a brother. Then comes the dreaded 'Just Friends' speech. Angry and humiliated, Chris storms off."

As somebody who has lived the plot of this movie, I was insulted by the attempt at making Chris' shyness and weight problem into something that was made fun of—not so much by other characters, but by the writers and director of this drivel. This movie could have done so much to portray a character like Chris realistically, rather than just some Twinkie-munching slob. It could have portrayed him seriously—as someone who wants more, but doesn't know how to obtain it. As someone who wants to take a risk but is afraid of losing the woman he loves. As someone who wants to live, but instead opts for the safety found in hiding.

When one character named Dusty beats Chris to the punch early in the movie and tells Jamie that he's in love with her via a song he wrote for her—even that character is a ridiculous caricature of a long-haired, pimply-faced rock-star wannabe. This movie mocks pain and heartache. It mocks sensitivity. And it mocks love.

Love isn't about a guy losing a bunch of weight and then riding back into town in a rented Porsche to win the girl who never considered him more than just a friend. Love isn't about her seeing the light now that he's lighter. Love isn't a joke. But, unfortunately, this movie is.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Five Little Love Monkeys

I got a bit of a consolation prize yesterday when I heard that Love Monkey is back on the air. Temporarily. VH1 picked it up and they ran two of the first three episodes last night. They are going to run the pilot episode tomorrow. And then over the next five Tuesdays they are going to show the five episodes that CBS didn't show.

I still don't understand why the show didn't make it, but I'm glad to get a little closure. So many of the story lines were left hanging when CBS pulled the show. Unfortunately, I don't think five episodes are enough to bring Tom and Bran together—which is what I've been hoping for since I saw the first episode.

The writing on this show is killer. I love the one-liners about song titles because all of the songs they reference are from my era and those songs generate such great memories. I love their pop culture references—especially the ones about actors and actresses of movies I've enjoyed. And I can so relate to their mid-life problems—bulging guts, a step or two slower on the basketball court, and their inability to find the "one."

So, I'm glad to have the show back on the air for a while. Unfortunately, it sounds like Tom Cavanagh is already shooting another show on CBS. But maybe CBS will be just as impatient with the new show and they'll see that Love Monkey is different and worthy of another shot. Yeah, that probably won't happen.

Here are a couple of other posts I wrote about the show:

Love Monkey
Goodbye Love Monkey

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Break Time

I feel like I've been hiding in a cave for the past two months. In glancing over the headlines this morning, I realized that I'm almost completely lost in regards to current events. I have no idea who two of the top five people on MSNBC's "It List" are. And the weather here in Nebraska has changed from snow to 80 degrees since I started working on the book I'm currently writing for Barbour Publishing called The Experience of Christmas.

If all goes according to planned, I'll be sending the manuscript to my editor on Wednesday—three days before my deadline. Then, it's break time. I can't tell you the last time I rented a movie and watched it slowly (I pause movies a lot to jot down quotes or to just think about what I've already seen), or read a book in just a few days, or slept more than seven hours. I so need all of those things. So, I'll be taking a couple of days off to recharge my batteries this week. I may not post here on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. We'll see.

I'm going to watch a few movies, read, follow my beloved Kansas City Royals, catch up on a few personal items on my to-do list, and when absolutely necessary sneak in a few hours of work—but not much. Talk to you soon.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mark Martin's Legacy

I became interested in NASCAR last year after I wrote a sports book—part of which included a section about the sport. I started watching NASCAR the last few weeks of the 2005 season and I was sorry to see the last race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway come and go—especially after seeing what driver Mark Martin did.

As he battled for the lead with Greg Biffle, Martin realized something. Biffle's car was better, so rather than wrecking himself or Biffle, he backed off and allowed Biffle to win. Afterward, Biffle was highly complementary of Martin's actions. Turns out, Martin has been known for such actions for a long time. But that one action turned me into a huge fan of Mark Martin and of NASCAR in general.

As the 2006 season got underway in Daytona in February, controversy was brewing because of a practice called "bump drafting," that a high number of drivers were using. Drivers who use this technique pull up behind slower cars and bump them to let the driver of the slower car know that he needs to move over, or sometimes aggressive drivers do it to get their opponent's car "loose" so they can pass the slower car.

Through the first few weeks of the 2006 season, the controversy about the practice continued to grow. A couple of races ago, in Bristol (TN), Kurt Busch bump drafted Matt Kenseth and knocked Kenseth's car up the track far enough for Busch to get around him with just a few laps remaining. Busch went on to win and Kenseth wasn't real happy about the way Busch did it.

When Kenseth was asked how he decides when he needs to be aggressive and when he needs to back off during the heat of battle, he said that he asks himself this question: "What would Mark Martin do?"

Mark Martin has never won the Nextel Cup Championship and he's in the final year of his 24 year career. And while I'm sure that he desperately wants to win the championship this season and go out on top (he's currently in the top ten in points), I'm guessing that he has to feel the ultimate amount of satisfaction in hearing what Kenseth said about him. A piece of Mark Martin will continue racing after he's retired, and I think I already know who my new favorite driver will be.  

Friday, April 07, 2006

America's Forgotten Heritage

This is a post from my previous blog:

World magazine ran a story called "The Conservationist" in their January 29, 2005 issue that spoke about the direction the National Endowment for the Humanities is headed under Director Bruce Cole. World said that under his leadership the agency "has returned to the role of preserving America's heritage."

At the end of this article, World cites recently released statistics from the NEH about what Americans believe about our heritage. If the statistics are true, then we are in big trouble. According to the NEH:

51 percent of American high-school students think Germany, Japan, or Italy was an ally of the United States during World War II.

Wouldn't you like to know which countries these students actually believe we fought against? I wonder if Hitler or Pearl Harbor would ring a bell?

40 percent of seniors at America's top 55 colleges do not know within 50 years when the Civil War took place.

How is this possible? Couldn't they have ruled out the 1700's since we didn't become a republic until late in the century? And surely they knew that the Civil War didn't occur in the 1900's. So, which century is left? Just a simple guess of somewhere in the middle of the 1800's would have put them within 50 years.

56 percent of seniors at America's top 55 colleges do not know that Abraham Lincoln was the president during the Civil War.

Wouldn't you like to know who they think the president was during the Civil War?

40 percent of seniors at America's top 55 colleges do not know that the document establishing the separation of powers in our government is the U.S. Constitution.

What other document has the authority to establish power in our government?

69 percent of voting-age Americans think that Karl Marx's principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" either is (35 percent) or might be (34 percent) a quotation from the U.S. Constitution.

No wonder Marxism runs rampant in both political parties and on far too many college campuses. Sixty-nine percent of voting-age Americans actually believe that the underlying principle of Marxism is found in our Constitution. Doesn't anybody actually read the document any more?

Zero percent of America's top 55 colleges have an American history requirement.

As telling as this is, shouldn't students already know the basics of American history by the time they reach college? Shouldn't they have read the Constitution? Shouldn't they have some idea what a democratic republic is in contrast to Marxism?

And how ironic is it that taxpayers are funding a department like the NEH to tell us that our students have no concept of their heritage while at the same time our government is failing miserably to educate our students?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Reconnecting Generations

This is a post from my previous blog:

I am currently reading The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. You're probably aware of the premise of the book, but in case you aren't, it's about a demon named Screwtape who corresponds via letters with his nephew, another demon, named Wormwood about Wormwood's charge—the person that Wormwood has been assigned to tempt.

This book is a fabulous treatise about human nature and how easily our motivations can be warped to lead us astray. In one of the letters, Screwtape writes this to Wormwood:

"And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another. But thanks be to Our Father and Historic Point of View, great scholars are now as little nourished by the past as the most ignorant mechanic who holds that "history is bunk.'"

I know that this is fiction and C. S. Lewis himself said in the preface that, "Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle." Even with that warning, I can't help but think Screwtape has a point in the passage above.

In our entertainment-driven society, people seem less interested in staying connected to previous generations than we once were. I fear that we've become so self-absorbed that we fail to see the relevance of what generations before us had to say. Or worse, we believe that we're more enlightened than they were. Either way, we've turned our backs on what they had to say and consequently, we've detached ourselves from them.

And in the process we've given up the chance to "be corrected by the characteristic truths of another." If you think I'm right, buy a book this week that was written more than 40 years ago and read it. Or forgo your favorite television program one night and watch a documentary on the History Channel or A & E. Or talk to an elderly relative and begin to record your family history. Do anything that will connect you to a previous generation.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Greatest Generation

A couple of nights ago I had a long conversation with a friend the covered many topics, but they were all related; the war in Iraq, generations, American culture, and the future of our nation. The common theme that wove these topics together was hardship, and more specifically, whether or not the current generation (the one in which I am part of) and the one that follows me is too soft to maintain our nation for the generations that will follow us.

My friend, who is about 15 years older than I am, didn't raise the question. I did. I'm well aware of the fact that the generation before me made huge sacrifices in Vietnam, and the one before that made them in Korea, and the one before that made them in WWII. My appreciation for the people who have died in uniform defending our country deepens by the day. But, as many others have noted, something about the WWII generation made them special—some call them "The Greatest Generation."

Tom Brokaw wrote a book by that title. Here's what he has to say about the WWII generation in a blurb on the Random House website: "As I walked the beaches with the American veterans who had returned for this [40th] anniversary, men in their sixties and seventies, and listened to their stories, I was deeply moved and profoundly grateful for all they had done. Ten years later, I returned to Normandy for the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion, and by then I had come to understand what this generation of Americans meant to history. It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced."

I agree with him, but not just because the men who fought there had the courage to fight the war. (Click here to watch a 13 minute speech that President Reagan gave in Normandy in 1984 and see if you can keep from getting misty eyed by their courage.) But also because nearly everybody in that generation contained that same courage. Not long ago, as I was going through things in my basement, I came across ration cards that my grandparents used during WWII. Ration cards were issued to civilians and limited the amount of meat, sugar, coffee, gasoline, and other items they could purchase. A slogan that could be heard again and again during that era was: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

This is the same generation that endured the Great Depression, so they understood what "doing without" meant. They were tough. And after the war was over, they were even tougher. I'm of the opinion that generations are made tough through trials. And I'd like to think that if our generation was called upon to make such sacrifices, that we could. Leaving aside the argument about whether we ought to be in Iraq or not right, our current generation in America has certainly shown the ability and courage it takes to fight when called upon. But what about the rest of us?

We've had so many things handed to us. Parents who didn't push us hard. A government that hands out checks which fosters a sense of entitlement. A fascination with pop culture that no longer even pretends to border on self-obsession. Self has been proclaimed king. And our knowledge of history is severely lacking. According to statistics released by the National Endowment for the Humanities a little over a year ago, 51 percent of American high-school students think Germany, Japan, or Italy was an ally of the United States during WWII.

What will it take to make those of us who are under 40 tougher? I have no idea. Perhaps the aftermath of the current war will bring us face to face with soldiers who have indeed made huge sacrifices. Maybe our leaders will one day call upon us to make sacrifices rather than promising us a better lifestyle. And maybe the current culture war will cause parents who haven't been engaged to become engaged.

Thinking about the big picture is just too overwhelming though. Thankfully, much of life happens in the small picture, which means, all of us can do something. We can teach our kids to respect elders. We can make sure they understand the sacrifices previous generations made. We can read history books to increase our own appreciation. And we can still talk to members of the greatest generation. Some of them are still alive and would love nothing more than to have one person ask them, "So what was it like…"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Randal McCloy

You find out what people are made of when they are on the brink of death. They think about or do the thing that matters the most to them. Why spend time doing anything else?

Randal McCloy, the only miner out of thirteen miners who survived when the Sago Mine in Tallmansville (W.V.) collapsed in January, was certain that he was going to die. Carbon monoxide filled the air at much higher levels than is safe for breathing. The miners began to write farewell letters to their families. One miner lasted 10 hours before he died from inhaling the poisonous air. For some reason, McCloy was still breathing 30 hours after the disaster.

"Well, we all knew there was nothing you could do," McCloy is quoted as saying in an interview with Matt Lauer. "We all knew that. We knew we was going to end up taking the bullet on that one."

McCloy decided that the time had come to write his own farewell letter to his wife Anna and their children, Randal Jr. and Isabel. Here's what he said: "Anna, I love you so much. To my son, trust in the Lord. To my daughter, stay sweet. Don't grieve long. I want you to be happy in life." He signed the letter, "Daddy."

How could he have said any more? He expressed his love for his family. He told them to trust in the Lord. And he didn't want this to change his family—he wanted his daughter to stay sweet and he didn't want them to grieve long. He didn't gloss over the fact that his family would grieve his death. He allowed them that. But he was concerned that his death might keep them from eventual happiness and he didn't want that to happen. That's what love looks like.

Somehow, rescue workers got to him and he was still alive. The neurosurgeon who has worked with him since his rescue said this about his condition upon arrival: "He was in terrible shape when he got here: in shock, collapsed left lung, in kidney failure, heart failure, liver failure.  Really nothing working right and in a deep coma."

He has brain damage, he has vision problems, he's weak, he needs help to walk, and he's going to be in therapy for a long time. But, last week, he was released from the hospital and he got to go home to the family that he obviously loves. How cool is that?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day 2006

Today is Opening Day of the 2006 baseball season. I love Opening Day.

For me, baseball is one of the many little nuances of life that I enjoy. I've been a baseball fan since I was a young boy. My uncle, who used to live in Kansas City, got me hooked on the game and on the Royals. Whenever he would come to Omaha to visit us, he would always sneak away as game time approached so he could listen to it on the radio. I can't tell you how many times I went out on the front porch of my grandparent's house and listened to the game with him. He'd talk to the radio as if the Royals could hear his every word of instruction.

After one of his visits, I flipped on the radio at home to listen to the Royals and I haven't stopped listening to their games since. One year, many many years ago (1985), my Royals won the World Series. Since the early 90's they've been horrible. Last year, they posted their worst record in franchise history. They spent a little money during the off-season, so hopes are a little higher in Kansas City this year, but most fans have no illusions about us making a serious run. As much as I'd love to see one, I'm just happy that baseball is back.

I love the strategy of the game. I love to listen to the same announcers all summer long. I love going to the games and drinking in the ballpark atmosphere. I love watching the athletic plays. I love watching veterans who are barely hanging on, but not wanting to let go. I love watching rookies try to prove that they belong. And I love to watch veterans who play the game the way it was meant to be played (not many of those exist anymore).

Yes, it's Opening Day. And even a Royals fan can be optimistic on Opening Day.


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