A lot has happened in the three years since I’ve last posted here, and I thought we could discus some of it.

I’ve changed jobs a few times; worked in a a pharmacy for a while, then got back into restaurant management before I realized I REALLY didn’t want to be in restaurant management anymore (ownership is a different story). Now I’m a Occupational Health Coordinator and digging it.

We bought a house a couple years back and slowly learning how to repair things. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in that regard is… get the best people to help you. Better yet, get the best people to do it for you.

Bobbie Jo and the girls are doing well, even though we’re all very busy.

Life is good, and it beats the alternative… in a completely secular sense.

I’ve been writing and it’s going… well, interesting. Let me tell you about it.

Three years ago I was writing and rewriting a book titled, “By Design.” I thought it was pretty good and ended up having some important things to say, though that’s not why I wrote it. After carving up the manuscript until it was unrecognizable I had to set it aside to preserve what was left of my sanity. Painful. Painful. Painful.

In fact, it still hurts. I’ll tell you about it someday.

After that I took some time off from writing. In fact I wondered for a while if I’d ever bother writing again. I read about writing, even listened to books on writing but I kept from combining subjects and verbs together as often as I could. That probably lasted a couple months.

My agent, a sweet lady who specialized in romance novels, mostly of the Amish variety, tried to get a few gigs in front of me including a historical fiction about the hobo subculture during the Great Depression (my attempt at Steinbeckian narrative) that I will probably get back to someday and a serialized story about the early days of Hollywood that I’m quite fond of. A couple short stories here and there but mostly nowhere, but that’s about it. Nothing that put Mac and Cheese on the table.

Then I remembered a story I thought of a little while back about a police investigation. I figured out a key ingredient that made the story click and I was off to the races. My agent seemed to like the idea and encouraged me to get to work. I did and after the better part of a year I had the first draft done. That was this spring.

I wrote up a proposal and sent it in to my agent who, after a couple months made he decision to drop me from her client list.

I was surprised at first.

Then I thought about it some more. Like I said, most of her clients wrote Amish romance. How could I expect her to get excited about a police story with a serial killer that abducts and assaults young women and a cop dealing with a porn addiction. Not a bonnet or barn-raising in sight. Her move made sense and I had to admit it was the right thing to do.

So for now I’m a writer without an agent, which doesn’t exactly make me unique. Most writers don’t have agents. But for what I want to do with my writing an agent is a really good idea. So I’m back on that path.

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It’s not that bad, but if you’re the praying type I sure won’t stop you from bringing me up before the Big Boss. ‘Cuz right now I’m as excited about writing as I’ve ever been. As John Fornoff likes to say, “Blessings ahead.”

I’m writing this because I threatened to, and I’m nothing if not a man of my word.  Well, I’m trying to be a man of my word.  Sometimes I do a crummy job.  Let me ‘splain.

Many years ago I was in Vienna with my dad and he gave me a book to read called, Vienna Prelude. by Bodie Thoene.  The story revolves around the period just before World War 2 and covers the anschluss into Austria and the Nazi move into the Sudetenland.  The lives of a beautiful violin player, from a wealthy a Jewish, Berlin family and an American journalist recently arrived from the Spanish revolution intertwine with each other and the expansion of National Socialism.  There’s chases, romance, great locations, spies, anarchists and music.  In fact all the titles in the series have a musical motif.  Even though they were published in the Christian Book market they’re not evangelical in nature; they just tell a great story that includes several characters living by faith.  They have a tendency to lean on the romantic side for a dude with my amount of chest hair, but they’re so well written and researched that I didn’t care.  My dad and I both thought they’d make a great series of movies.

One of the cool things about the author is that she spent time working for John Wayne’s production company and was personally acquainted with the Duke, who encouraged her with her writing.  Her husband is also a writer and an historian whose name now is on the cover of each of the books they work on.  They seem to have an amazing partnership that works out great.  They’ve written almost 50 books, many of which are award winners and they have a very loyal following.

Last week Bodie announced on her facebook page that they would announce the name of the actress who was going to play Elisa, the previously mentioned (beautiful) concert violinist in at least two of the movies.  This was exciting news for many reasons, not least of which was THEY WERE FINALLY GOING TO MAKE THE MOVIES!

Let me try to describe Elisa to you as I remember her when I first read her: Ingrid Bergman at about 25 with perfect teeth.  Think of the flashback scenes in Casablanca and shave about 5 years off her- not that you’d need to.  That’s how I saw Elisa.

Obviously Ingrid Bergman isn’t an option for this movie anymore, so I was pretty curious to see who they chose to play the part.  So, was I disappointed when they revealed the actress?

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Nope.  Not even a little bit.  Jeanne Nielson has been in a few movies but the one I know her from is Faith Like Potatoes, and she was very good in it.  If you haven’t seen it it’s worth checking out.  Not a perfect film but David Lean has been out of commission for a few years now so what do you want?

A few days after this happy revelation Bodie asked her fans and friends who they thought would make a good John Murphy, the American journalist who gets wrapped up with Elisa and her family.  He’s a curious mixture of egghead writer and action hero who keeps getting in over his head, not unlike Tom Clancy’s hero Jack Ryan.  When I read the books I always imagined Harrison Ford during his Force Ten From Navarone/Hannover Street period.  Definitely a pre-Indiana Jones Harry.

Okay, that’s not who I pictured.  I pictured that guy from Red River and I Confess.  The guy that hooked up with Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In The Sun.

Montgomery Clift.

If I’d said Montgomery Clift right off the bat how many of you would say, “Who?”  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Harrison Ford is a safe choice because I don’t have to explain him.  Most people would know who he is right away, because we’re all fans, and rightfully so.  But without putting too fine a point on it: Harrison Ford would be all wrong for John Murphy (so would Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck).

But that doesn’t matter because absolutely nobody mentioned Mr. Ford in the “who do you think would make a good John Murphy” thread.  Nobody. Not one mention. Not even the, “a young Harrison Ford” shout-out.  I tell you, it’s a rough crowd when Han Solo can’t get any love.

So who was the big winner in the Murphy sweepstakes?

Kirk Cameron.  Yup, the actor from Growing Pains, three Left behind movies and Fireproof.  Of course he’s done many, many films and television roles but these are the ones that might end up on his tombstone.  He’s a fine actor and he’s committed to living his life in accordance with his faith in Jesus Christ.  He won’t even kiss another actress besides his wife, Chelsea Noble.  Some folks might find that silly, I find it admirable.  He loves his family and doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize it- and maybe he has a hard time kissing someone he feels no attraction to and doesn’t want to “go there” for a role.  Either way I think it’s cool that he sticks to his convictions.  Would that we all could do it…

So why do I get so annoyed that so many people want him to play Murphy?  Because he’s all wrong for the part and the only reasons people want him in the movie are (1) he’s a Christian and (2) they’re women who think he’s cute.  These are the same reasons that Jim Caviezel comes in at a close second.  He’s wrong for the part too, Murphy isn’t that big a brooder.  And despite Caviezel’s turn as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, he’s great right where he is: killing a dozen dudes a week every way imaginable on Person Of Interest.  

I don’t begrudge the ladies wanting Kirk to play the part because he’s a Christian, but I’d rather see the right actor filling the shoes.  As good as Kirk is there are better actors out there (and I bet he would be the first to admit it).  The actor I chose, after Montgomery Clift, was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was in Inception and will be seen in The Dark Knight Rises later this summer.  I sincerely doubt that he’s made the short list of actors for the role- and there is a short list- but he’d be a nice choice.

But there’s another reason I get a little hacked off at the Kirk-fest, and it has more to do with the state of the Christian film industry than anything else.  With few, notable, exceptions the movies Christians are putting out tend to look like After School Specials and not serious, artistic endeavors, and Kirk Cameron seems to be in quite a few of them.  He’s like the Michael Caine of Christian movies, and not Michael Caine in his Christopher Nolan period; we’re talking Michael Caine in his 1980s, Jaws 4 period, and that ain’t good.  It’s easy to say Kirk was good in Left Behind, but that’s just damning him with feint praise.  Fireproof was a good movie that has been used to repair broken relationships and marriages, to which I saw, “Awesome.” Very cool. Did people outside the Christian community feel compelled to see it because it’s a well made movie?  Not that I know of.

I don’t want you to think I just want to put down Christian movies.  Quite the opposite. I’m looking for a Christian movie to truly embrace, and there are a few notable contenders.  Bella and To End All Wars are two that leap to mind, but for my money Christian filmmaking peaked with The Hiding Place in 1974ish.

I don’t know if Vienna Prelude will be considered a “Christian movie.”  I’d hate to see it pigeonholed or marginalized that way.  It certainly doesn’t need to be. The source material doesn’t warrant it.  Even if it is, there’s no reason it can’t be a quality film.  It’s not a question of money, it’s a question of good decisions and careful planning.  Making sure everyone has a reason to bring their A-game, from actors and director, to various departments, including the craft service people.

I guess what I’m saying is: I’d rather it be closer to Doctor Zhivago or The Godfather than The List or Suing The Devil. 

Jeanne Nielson is a great choice.  I’m excited to see who they choose to play Murphy- as long as he’s right for the role.  I guess I can take some consolation that the ladies are picking Kirk Cameron and not Willy Ames.  Again, fine actor, but…

It’s always nice when the rest of the world catches up with me.  That’s kind of a jerky thing to say, even for me, but it seems to be the case every decade or so.  In 1997 James Cameron made everyone a Titanic buff, a group that I was part of long before it was trendy- and when there were about nine books total about that fateful journey of a century ago.  Then again, I was behind the curve on Castle, Rush, Daniel Silva and the new Battlestar Galactica. But I don’t know where to place myself in the Sherlock Holmes community.  I mean, let’s face it: Sherlock Holmes was phenomenon 80 years before I was born.  His popularity has risen and fallen over that time and I was born into one of those fallow periods.

It was in 1979 that my dad came home from a business meeting in Kansas City.  Apparently there was a store in the airport there that sold Radio Rerun cassettes, old time radio shows from the 30s, 40s and 50s and he usually brought one home for me.  It was one of the John Gielgud/Ralph Richardson Sherlock Holmes dramas from 1954 titled “The Blackmailer,” based on what has become my favorite of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, The Bruce-Partington Plans.  I still have the tape, and I’m sure it’s worn pretty thin by this point, but I enjoy it as much today as I did 33 years ago.  It’s a great story and very well adapted.  It’s also a medium that I’m very fond of.  Dramatic radio or dramatic audio.  In fact, my first professional writing job was “Left Behind: The Kids Dramatic Audio.”   Yeah, blame that on my dad too.

Shortly after getting the tape I found a volume of the complete A.C. Doyle Sherlock Holmes books and short stories.  They gave me weeks and months of entertainment but eventually ran out.  So where was a fella to go at that point?

Fortunately there were plenty more books to read.  Sherlock Holmes pastiches existed in those days, but not in the volume they do now.  And many of them were limited to smaller print runs and quickly disappeared from the bookstore shelves.

The first Sherlock Holmes book I read was titled Exit Sherlock Holmes, written by Robert Lee Hall (and you can still find it on the Amazon marketplace).  The title might be off-putting for some people but I have to say: I enjoyed this book a  lot.  In fact, I reread it a few months ago and had the same reaction that I had 30 years ago: enjoyed the stuffing out of it.

There’s a couple reasons I liked it.  The first is that it’s one of the few books that gets Doyle’s/Watson’s voice right.  As I read it I thought that, if it weren’t for a wildly creative turn near the book’s end that Doyle couldn’t have imagined in a million years, this could have been written by Sir Arthur in 1930.  The second reason is that Hall did his research and wove elements into his story that make it fit into the official canon while still turning the whole thing on it’s ear.  Sherlock Holmes is exactly how we remember him yet completely different.  To say more would give away key plot points and I don’t want to ruin it for someone who might be looking for an arcane piece of Sherlockian fiction.

Not long after reading Exit Sherlock Holmes I saw the movie The Seven-Percent Solution on television (the only way to see older movies in those days) and thought it was a fun little romp as well.  When I found out there was a book as well I ordered it from a local bookstore.  A friend gave me a copy of The West End Horror as well and reading the two made me a fan of Nicholas Meyer as well. Or maybe it was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan- I don’t remember which came first.

Nick Meyer also wrote another Sherlock Holmes book called The Canary Trainer, which I enjoyed, but not as much as these two earlier books.  At the time I didn’t mind Sherlock Holmes meeting historical figures like Sigmund Freud, Bram Stoker or Oscar Wilde.  Nowadays I find that stuff gimmicky and don’t dig it at all.  It feels a little lazy to me.

If it sounds like I like everything in a deerstalker hat, let me assure you I don’t.  And that brings us to the next book: Michael Didbin’s The Last Sherlock Holmes Story.  As I was reading this book, which is usually highly regarded, I found myself wondering why I was continuing to read a book I wasn’t enjoying.  I was acutely aware, for the first time ever I believe, that the book I was reading was total rubbish.  The book has made me so angry that I’m going to do something I wouldn’t normally do: I’m going to spoil it for you.

The Last Sherlock Holmes Story is not the first story that pitted Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper, and it sure hasn’t been the last. As far as I’m concerned it is by far the worst.  And here’s why.  You ready for this?

Jack the Ripper turns out to be….  Seriously? You ready for this?  Jack the Ripper turns out to be Sherlock Holmes.  Even as I typed those words my mind filled with language that I have chosen not to use anymore.  I hated the book before the dimwitted reveal.  Making the “foremost champion of justice” the most feared serial killer in history showed a lack of respect that the character doesn’t deserve.  I could tell you the hook of Exit Sherlock Holmes and you would like it better (at least I did), even as far out and fantastic as it is.

As much as I disliked The last Sherlock Holmes Story it still didn’t put me off the non-canonical stories.  It’s a good thing too.  There was a book on my Holmes-horizon that would give me much of the same entertainment value as the Conan Doyle stories and serve as an introduction to one of my favorite people in the world.

Today Max Heins told me he was going to marry my daughter, Emma.  He didn’t ask me; he told me.  And what’s more, he didn’t even look at me when he said it.  Now saying something like that to men of a certain age, especially someone whose aches and pains (and lack of sleep) had him thinking about his mortality anyway is an invitation to a shot in the mouth.

But Max Heins is so darn cute.  And he and Emma will be finishing their 4 year old pre-school class in a couple weeks.  And have I mentioned he’s so cute.  Here’s a picture of them playing today.Image

That’s the only picture of him looking at the camera.

Bobbie Jo and I were in London 11 years ago and saw a production of Mama Mia (while many of the original cast were still doing the show).  The stand-out song for me was “Slipping Through My Fingers,” which a mother sings to her daughter as they prepare for the younger woman’s wedding.

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well known sadnessand and I have to sit down for a while
the feeling that I’m losing her forever
and without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
that funny little girl 

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
the feeling in it slipping through my fingers all the time
do I really see what’s in her mind
each time I think I’m close to knowing
she keeps on growing
slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
barely awake I let precious time go by
then when she’s gone, there’s that odd melancholyc feeling
and a sense of guilt I can’t deny
what happened to the wonderful adventures
the places I had planned for us to go
well, some of that we did, but most we didn’t
and why, I just don’t know

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
the feeling in it slipping through my fingers all the time
do I really see what’s in her mind
each time I think I’m close to knowing
she keeps on growing slipping through my fingers all the time 
sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
and save it from the funny tricks of time(slipping through my fingers)

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile

When I first saw the show I didn’t have any kids.  Now I have two daughters and I really don’t want to imagine them getting married.  Even more, I don’t want to imagine this part of the song:

what happened to the wonderful adventures
the places I had planned for us to go
well, some of that we did, but most we didn’t
and why, I just don’t know

We talk about going back to Walt Disney World and we watch videos about the Disney Cruises.  We talk about taking the kids to Vienna someday.

How many of these trips are we going to have to take a pass on?  We’ve cancelled our last two real vacations and settled for “lesser” trips.  The girls had fun and we ate lots of good food but it wasn’t the vacation we dreamed of.

Or is this all just part of life?

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Doesn’t matter.  THIS is my life!

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George Smiley was described by his creator, John LeCarre’, as “one of the meek who do not inherit the earth.”  He’s old, short, fat, nearsighted, untitled, cuckolded and the ultimate spy.  You might see him on the street but you’ll never notice him.

These days you’re more likely to see George Smiley on your television, whether it’s the recent film release of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy starring Gary Oldman or the 1979 miniseries starring Alec Guiness, both of which were recently released on bluray.

George Smiley started out in LeCarre’s book, Call For The Dead, and was little more than a detective for the intelligence service, referred to in his series as “The Circus.”  The first chapter is a history of the character, how he was recruited, used and eventually discarded by the service and his wife.  If you read the books backwards, as I did starting with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, you’ll find fun little tidbits about Jebedee and Steed-Asprey, characters that are referenced but never appear in later books that give a wonderful continuity to Smiley’s world/universe.  The Smileyverse, as I call it.

Tinker is the 7th or 8th book LeCarre’ wrote (don’t remember exactly) but it’s the one that got me hooked, even more than The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

For those unfamiliar with the story: One of the operatives that the Circus uses occasionally for wet work (a “scalp-hunter” in their parlance) sneaks into the U.K. with a story that one of the people at the top of the British Secret Service is a spy. This comes about a year after the previous head of MI-6 was disgraced after sending an agent into Czechoslovakia where he was caught by Russians (?).  Percy Alleline is the new head of the service and building his reputation on intelligence from a source called “Merlin.”

And Percy is one of the people suspected of being a Russian mole.

Reenter George Smiley, who was put into forced retirement when the previous head of the service, Control, was handed the shoe.  Smiley needs to find the mole, preferably without getting himself or anyone else killed.  The book asks two questions: Who spies on the spies?  How far does a free and decent society go to protect itself and remain a free and decent society? Both of these questions have come up outside the Smileyverse in the last decade and I think are worth considering… somewhere else.

The illustration of George Smiley above is from my copy of the novel which I’ve read a couple times and listened to unabridged a couple more times.  The writing is wonderful and textured and the characters are fleshed out in rich detail.  It’s not an Ian Fleming styled action/thriller.  It’s more of a word puzzle that makes you dread putting in the final piece, not because the story will be over (it’s not), but because, like Smiley, you don’t want to admit you saw the final picture a long time ago.  It’s not an Agatha Christie style mystery where you slap your head and say, “Of course!”  Instead you close the book, shake your head and say, “How could we have fallen so far?”

In the late 1970s the BBC and Paramount Television produced the miniseries with Alec Guiness as George Smiley.  There’s lots of other familiar faces in the cast and the adaptation to 324 minutes is masterfully handled.  There are moments where it gets a bit fat, but overall it is very well done.  My only wish is that they had used better formats when they filmed it- my guess is they shot it 16mm, and the production just isn’t on par with recent BBC programs.Image

Guinness’s portrayal of George Smiley is nothing short of amazing.  That’s not surprising; Guinness is great in everything he’s done, but Smiley’s meekness and lack of physical strength makes his prodigious mental skills more interesting (and in the followup, Smiley’s People, more devious).  Guinness never chews the scenery, but he sure commands the room.  The miniseries succeeds in every possible way.

One of the actors in the series is Bernard Hepton.  He plays Toby Esterhase, a Hungarian discovered by Smiley in Viennese museum after the liberation from the Nazis.  Smiley recruits him and brings him back to England where he runs the “lamp-lighters,” the internal security force of the service.  Hepton’s performance is great, but I must say I preferred him in another role a few years later.

The role of George Smiley.

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Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy was made into a radio drama by the BBC in the late 1980s with Hepton in the role of George Smiley.  The adaptation makes the narrative chronological (the book and miniseries play with the timeline) and condenses some aspects, especially the ending, but it works very well.  This version is told in 3 hours but doesn’t miss any key point.  Some of the social commentary is more subtextual but it’s still there.

The BBC did another radio version of Tinker in 2010 starring Simon Russel Beale, a marvelous actor who never seems quite right for Smiley to me, but apparently I’m in the minority on this one.  Ultimately I think this adaptation was unnecessary, except to complete the whole Smiley series for the BBC.  Each of the radio dramatizations are well done but several of them are just superfluous, having been done before and better.

Which brings us to the newest version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the film starring Gary Oldman.

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The bad and then the good.

My wife was not familiar with the story when we went to see this film in the theater.  It was also a late show.  The film seemed to drag on and on, making the 6 hour miniseries look thrifty by comparison.  In addition to that several elements were missing or glossed over.  Mark Strong’s character is not firmly nailed down.  In the book and previous versions Jim Prideaux ad his mission are more clearly defined.  So is his fate and motivations.  One characters name was changed to another LeCarre character for no clear reason (Jerry Westerby was Sam Collins in the book.  Sam plays a big role in the next two books so I’m not sure why they dropped him).  Toby Esterhase is all wrong, in my opinion.  His history is not very clear either.  The movie was both too long and too short, if that makes any sense…

The good:

Gary Oldman.  The entire cast was fantastic.  The performances were all nice.  Visually it’s beautiful.  There is a nice mixture of humor and seriousness.  The mystery is maintained and built up to the right point, and the reveal is skillfully handled.  Great locations and production design.

So Smiley has existed through books, television, radio and cinema.  And he’s done fairly well in all of them.  If I were told that I had to give up all but one version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy I would hang on to the radio version starring Bernard Hepton.  Of course I’d try to hang onto a paperback copy as well but that radio show contains the voices I hear when I think of the character and this story.

I do think that Tinker Tailor is the ultimate spy story of the 20th century, and it’s themes are relevant to the 21st century as well.  But in the end I just like George Smiley, and I feel a certain kinship to him, not only because we share the same dislike of the telephone.  It’s easy to put ourselves in Smiley’s shoes.  We all see ourselves as pretty smart but we still can’t cultivate social skills the way we want.  We get caught wiping our glasses off on our tie and though we’re sure we can protect our country from an evil empire we can’t always make our spouses love us.

And yet, the secret world revolves around men just like him.

A couple years ago I was an Assistant Manager at a restaurant, working for people who were only interested in the bottom line no matter how low they had to limbo to get there.  Our management staff was unhappy because none of us were proud of what we were selling.  The food was cut rate quality and the portions were a joke.  We privately consoled each other that we were part of the employed and tried not to let the other employees under us know how unhappy we were.

For me there was a “jump the shark” moment when I knew my employment there had begun winding down (it took a couple years and didn’t happen the way anyone imagined, but that’s another story).  We were in a manager meeting with our… I don’t know, “District Manager?” a guy I actually kind of liked because I felt that he, like me, was paying the price for making a bad career choice as a teenager.  Sometimes familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.  Anyway, he was telling us how he wanted our job to be “our passion.”  He even said it passionately, as if this job was HIS passion, which it may well have been.

He noticed me looking at the ceiling with a contemplative look in my eye and said I looked like I wasn’t sure.

“I’m trackin’ with you,” I said.  And the truth was: I was tracking with him.  All too well.  And it was in this moment that this business lost me forever.  I still strove to do a good job while I worked for them, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore, not even for a paycheck.

What happened was I asked myself if this was my passion, working for this company and whether it ever would be.  The answer was resoundingly negative on both counts.  I didn’t respect the people I worked for, mainly because the only values they had were money and the country club.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a steady paycheck too, but it’s not what’s driving me these days.  I don’t care if my friends or family drive a nicer car or live in a swankier home.  Those things may be nice for me and my family someday but as far as money goes I only want it to pay my kids tuition and get completely out of debt- which I’ve done twice in my adult life, once for almost a week!

And I can be- nay SHOULD be passionate about doing my absolute best at whatever job I have.  Working 100% and working as unto God and not unto man.  But I can’t manufacture a passion for a job that brings out the worst in me.

As I talked about it with the General Manager of the restaurant he made a comment that put the whole thing over the top for me: “My passion is my family,” and our job kept us away from them way too much.  My two young girls were growing up pretty quickly and I was missing a lot of it.  During the summer months I only had 4 days off each month- and they were never in a row.  My kids need their daddy, and they don’t need him tired and shouting every time they have some rare family time either.

I have a passion for barbecue too.  Not grilling out but low-and-slow smoking of pork, chicken, beef brisket, etc.  In fact my wife and I own a business that makes and sells barbecue sauce (Heavy D’s Throw-Down-Delicious Bar-B-Que Sauce). It’s good stuff and I suspect I’ll blog about that from time-to-time as well.

I love painting, and not because I’m so darn good at it.  I love the way I feel when I’m painting.  It’s one of the most relaxing things I do.  I love golfing too, but even if I’m not keeping score I still have to deal with all the lost balls.

I’m passionate about writing, or storytelling in general.  As I write this I just received a contract from Books & Such Literary Agency who will represent me.  I’ve written a book titled …by Design, which I am confident will be published in the near future.  I’m excited and passionate about the book and what it represents.

The thing that I am most passionate about is my faith, my absolute belief that God created the universe, that He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible (a complete revelation and 100% reliable document from Genesis 1 through Revelation 23) and by sending Jesus to be not only the saviour of the world, but the Lord of the world.

Did I mention that that’s what I’m most passionate about?  Yeah, well… sometimes it’s what I’m least passionate about.  I mean, I’m still passionate about it but I do a lousy job remembering it sometimes.

I dig music, I dig movies, I dig books, I dig traveling, I dig Walt Disney World, I dig Classical Education (something that IS moving towards the “passion zone), I dig improvisational comedy.  There are even elements in each of them that I can feel passionate about, but they all come naturally to me and they are each rewarding in one way or another.  Will any of them become full-fledged passions?  We’ll see.  Will I have jobs that I will be passionate about?  Absolutely.  In fact, I feel like I’m closer to that every day.  But the job that I’m passionate about won’t be about giving the customer a cheap, meaningless clump of food that barely satisfies their stomach.  I’m hoping it will be something that will feed someone’s spiritual need, pointing them towards Jesus Christ.

Was that job my District Manager’s passion? I don’t know.  But I do doubt he’d show up to work if he wasn’t getting a paycheck.

People who have known me for any length of time find it strange that I can’t fill pages and pages with information about me.  For years I’ve taken grief about the size of my ego, my arrogance and whatnot.  I should be able to write a hundred books about everything I’ve done in the last two weeks, right?

Strangely, I’m not that guy…

The grief I get is because I speak with confidence about things I feel strongly about, most of which I’ve been thinking about for a while before I start running my yapper.  I don’t have immediate recall of everything I’ve read or seen when discussing things so I sometimes have a hard time refuting an argument when it’s placed before me (though on the ride home I can usually bust out, “And another thing!”).

The biggest reason some people consider me arrogant is because I try not to wear my insecurities on my sleeve.  My wife sees them all; they are like Mrs. Bennett’s nerves to Mr Bennett, his “constant companion these many years.”  I know now that when I’m being a mope I should just keep to myself until I can get my act together and act like a man rather than a Rousseauian whiner that society seems to breed and nobody seems to like.

So, if I need to say anything about myself it is this:

My life is wonderful.  I have a beautiful (and tolerant) wife, two beautiful girls, a great family and friends who challenge me, whether they mean to or not, to be a better man and a better servant of Jesus.  Everything I have is by God’s grace.  He’s even graced me with stuff I don’t need!

This summer I’ll be forty-five, and I feel like some things in my life are just getting started.  After years of trying to get an agent for screenplays I’ve written (unsuccessfully) I am now being represented by an amazing agency, Books & Such, and a wonderful agent, Mary Keeley (whose name I still fight an urge to spell wrong.  Sorry Mary) for a book I’ve written for the Christian market.  I’m confident that the book will be published, though there’s still plenty of work for me to do on it, some of which is self promotion.  Oy…

So stick around for the ride.  As I blog I will be doing some book/movie/television/radio reviews and I’m sure I will make more than a few lucid comments.  I’m looking forward to posting my “Trekster Manifesto” and my Sherlock Holmes book reviews (post A.C. Doyle).  And I’m looking forward to you commenting and telling me how arrogant I am.  Believe me, you won’t see me cry.