Monday, March 31, 2008

The Know-It-All - D


Descartes, Rene - The 17th century French philosopher had a fetish for women with crossed eyes. This fact alone is interesting enough, but wait, there's more. Once Descartes realized his attraction to cross-eyed gals stemmed from the love he felt for a cross-eyed playmate he had as a child, the fetish disappeared. He reasoned, therefore, that humans have free will and that the mind can control the body; an idea that has had a profound effect on Western thought.

divorce - You think it's too easy to get a divorce in America today? In the Pueblo Indian culture, all a woman has to do is leave her husband's moccasins on the doorstep to signify a divorce. Keeps the money out of greedy divorce lawyers' hands.

dress and adornment - There was a man who lived in the late 1700's and early 1800's known for his style and good taste. His name was Beau Brummel. The only time I'd ever heard of him was in a Billy Joel Song entitled, "It's Still Rock 'n Roll to Me":

How about a pair of pink sidewinders
And a bright orange pair of pants
Well, you could really be a Beau Brummel baby
If you just give it half a chance

I've heard that song a thousand times and never knew what he was talking about. Until now. Thanks to The Know-It-All.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Know-It-All - ABC

I recently finished A.J. Jacobs book The Year of Living Biblically which describes one mans quest to live the ultimate biblical life; to follow every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible for one year. It was a fascinating and humorous read.

So I picked up Jacobs' earlier work, The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. In this book, the author attempts to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica from A - Z. He shares with his readers what he experiences on this journey and some of his favorite facts from each massive tome as he reads them in alphabetical order.

Since I will more than likely never tackle such a large undertaking, I want to share some of my favorite fun facts cherry picked from his. I've followed Mr. Jacobs as far as the C's so far.


Acoemeti - A group of monks who provided nonstop choral singing in the 5th century. Every few hours a fresh vocalist would replace the exhausted monk who sang before him. I like to sing, but this seems like a tough gig.

It brought to mind friends who don't enjoy singing and hear heaven described as a non-stop praise service. I like to think that will work itself out. I remember my sister commenting that when we sang the old hymn When I Wake Up to Sleep No More it sounded more like hell to her than heaven. She was a teenager at the time and sleeping was one of her favorite activities.


Bacon, Francis - 17th century intellectual and politician who some suspect to be the real Shakespeare. But here's the interesting part. Bacon died from a cold he caught while stuffing a chicken with snow because he needed to know whether snow delayed putrefaction. This idea came to him while riding in a carriage in the wintertime. He immediately stopped the carriage, bought a chicken and stuffed it with snow. He could not wait to find out! I wish my thirst for knowledge was that strong.

Braille, Louis - Developed his writing system for the blind when he was 15 years old! Let's see, at 15...I was an idiot.


Chang and Eng - Listed together and rightly so, these were the first Siamese twins. I remember seeing their picture in the Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley's when I was a kid and finding out they married sisters and each fathered several children. That stopped me down. What exactly did Chang do while Eng was getting his groove on?

Cleveland - Named for Moses Cleaveland, a surveyor in the late 1700's, the spelling of the town was changed because dropping the "a" made it fit better on a newspaper masthead. All glory is fleeting.

As I march on to the D's with Mr. Jacobs, I can't wait to see what interesting facts will pop up next. I highly recommend The Year of Living Biblically. I'll let you know about The Know-It-All when I get to the Z's.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

8 Random Creative Things

I was "tagged" this week by my friend Deb McNeill and asked to list 8 random creative things about myself. Interesting exercise. Here are the results:

1. I keep a notebook of favorite quotes, funny stories and clever things I hear people say in real life that I'll use in that great novel or play I plan to write someday.

2. I have a soundtrack playing in my head at all times. You can ask me what song is playing at any given time and I can tell you (Right now? San Francisco Bay by Peter, Paul and Mary).

3. I'm a doodler.

4. I'm a Jesus follower - "You can't be a Christian without being a mystic." - Donald Miller

5. I'm a golfer - "You can't play the game unless you have an imagination." - Bobby Knight

6. I attempt to find simple ways to communicate difficult concepts. That's an art form.

7. I practice acting exercises I learned by studying Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen in college even though I haven't been in a play for over a decade.

8. Stephen Sondheim over Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Wow... I'm a dork.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Sisters Birthday

Today is my sister Lee Ann's birthday. The last year has been the most difficult of her life, a record I pray is never broken. The last time she turned the page on a year she was the mother of four healthy, beautiful children. This time she is a grieving mother who has experienced the most devastating loss imaginable, the loss of her 13 year old son, Connor.

There is still much for which to give thanks. Her other three kids are still healthy and beautiful. Her husband adores her. Her God has not abandoned her. But grief surrounds every holiday, every marking of time.

That said, I've never been more proud of my sister than I am today. The honesty, faith and courage she's modeled through this horrific year has been amazing. Her willingness to simply get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other and step forward is an inspiration to me. I do not know that I could accomplish the same were I in her shoes.

To say that I'm proud of her doesn't even begin to cover it. I was proud of her for being a great mom and wife. I was proud of her for gracefully handling other situations over the years that seemed difficult at the time. The feeling I have for her now goes way beyond pride. It's respect, honor, love, admiration. It's a feeling of reverence for someone who has walked through something I can't imagine walking through. She understands something about God that I can't understand. Like the body of Christ, she has been blessed, broken and is now being used in influential ways she can't even comprehend.

Her son is still dead. Her pain is still intense. Her questions are still unanswered. But on this birthday she understands better than on the last that this world is not her home.

Lee Ann, today I celebrate that you were born. But the fact that you were born again and have heaven and a sweet reunion to look forward to fills me with a thanksgiving that cannot be expressed in words. I mourn with you, I ache for you, but you have illuminated the meaning of hope for me and so many others in ways that I've never understood it before.

And so I ask this blessing for you today: May you know that your Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And you will stand with him.