The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My updated web page

After four years, I have finally started posting things on my blog again. Now, after nearly a similar time lapse, I have updated my web page. Incrementally, not to do too much at first, as if to wear out the fingers with which I tweet. But I have updated my Circle of Trust (favorite bands and authors), have added a page of links to videos taken (by other people) at the Cornerstone Music Festival, and have created a page filled with lists: favorite albums, films, books read for each year. I have my albums lists going back to the year I was born, and the films list back to 1990, the year I graduated college. Not that this is of a special significance as far as these lists go, but it was that year that I finally purchased a decent stereo. More updates to come, when I think of them. Or if I figure out how to make a dancing bear GIF.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This year's Bulwer-Lytton contest results

OK, I haven't updated my blog in nearly four years, so I might as well kick this into motion again:

The latest Bulwer-Lytton contest winners have been posted. It’s the usual assortment of merriment and literary mayhem. The Bulwer Lytton contest is an annual contest where writers submit the worst first sentences for hypothetical novels. The winning entries can involve some measure of purple prose, vile puns, non-sensical allegories, and spurious declarations of romance. This years batch is at the following link:

The winning entry is funny, though a little bit gross. Still funny though.

“As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.”

The fantasy winner is funny. It’s the wordy thing that someone would write during a Nanowrimo session, where quantity of words written is more important than quality.
“The brazen walls of the ancient city of Khoresand, situated where the mighty desert of Sind meets the endless Hyrkanean steppe, are guarded by day by the four valiant knights Sir Malin the Mighty, Sir Welkin the Wake, Sir Darien the Doughty, and Sir Yrien the Yare, all clad in armor of beaten gold, and at night the walls are guarded by Sir Arden the Ardent, Sir Fier the Fearless, Sir Cyril the Courageous, and Sir Damien the Dauntless, all clad in armor of burnished argent, but nothing much ever happens.”

All you need is some characters with fancy three-and-four-word names, and references to the seventh sword of the seventh knight of the seventh king of the seventh kingdom of the seventh universe, and so on. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

My Top 25 Films List for 2008

In my last post of best-of-lists for 2008, I left off a list of favorite films. I did that because where I live, many of the acclaimed films that are considered favorites for Oscars aren't released until January or February. Well, now it's the end of January, and to be honest, I've only seen a couple of those so-called acclaimed films this past month (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Gran Torino) and I wasn't that impressed with either one. There are also films like Revolutionary Road and The Reader and Milk, that to be honest, I can't find the enthuasism to go into a theater and pay nine bucks and see them. So now, a full month before the Oscar ceremony, I might as well go ahead and publish my final list, my 25 favorite films of 2008.

Overall, I had the chance to see many films and documentaries. Most of whom aren't going to be recognized by Oscar (or else just given a token nomination or so), but who cares about the Academy. This is my blog and my list, so here goes, and I believe each and every film on this list is worth seeing:

1. Wall-E
2. The Wrestler
3. Man on Wire
4. Rachel Getting Married
5. Slumdog Millionaire
6. In Bruges
7. The Dark Knight
8. My Winnipeg
9. Speed Racer
10. The Visitor

11. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
12. Flight of the Red Balloon
13. Ben X
14. The Bank Job
15. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
16. Iron Man
17. Frost/Nixon
18. Happy-Go-Lucky
19. Son of Rambow
20. Encounters at the End of the Word

21. Up the Yangtzee
22. Tell No One
23. Tropic Thunder
24. Be Kind Rewind
25. Redbelt

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The end-of-the-year lists post

Here as we come to the end of another year, and everyone makes up best-of-2008 lists, I have compiled a list of my own, because, I like to make lists, and I listened to a lot of cool music and read a lot of good books this year. So, here goes:

Best albums of 2008 (at least of the ones I've gotten around to listening to)

1. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
2. Sloan - Parallel Play
3. The 77s - Holy Ghost Building
4. Fleshtones - Take a Good Look
5. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
6. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
7. Devotchka - A Mad and Truthful Telling
8. Marco Benevento - Invisible Baby
9. Calexico - Carried to Dust
10. Woven Hand – Ten Stories
11. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
12. Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
13. Los Campenisnos – Hold on Now, Youngster
14. Dengue Fever – Venus on Earth
15. Sparks – Exotic Creatures of the Deep
16. David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
17. She and Him - Volume One
18. Copeland - You Are My Sunshine
19. Lovedrug - The Sucker Punch Show
20. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Best songs of 2008 (songs not listed in order of favorite to least favorite, but listed as the way I would have them flow in a mix CD)

1. "Constructive Summer" - The Hold Steady
2. "Believe in Me" – Sloan
3. "Halfway Home" – TV on the Radio
4. "Against the Skyline" – Oh Darling
5. "The News" – Carbon/Silicon
6. "Swimming Pools" – Thao
7. "Two Silver Pools" – Calexico
8. "Going Back to School" – Fleshtones
9. "Lost Coastlines" – Okkervil River
10. "The Real Morning Party" – Marco Benevento
11. "Lighten Up, Morrisey" - Sparks
12. "Strange Overtones" – David Byrne and Brian Eno
13. "The Clockwise Witness" - Devotchka
14. "White Winter Hymnal" – Fleet Foxes
15. "Blood Like" – Lovedrug
16. "I’ll Remember You, Love, In My Prayers" – The 77s
17. "Absence" – Carrie Rodriguez
18. "A&E" – Goldfrapp
19. "Cathedrals" - Joan Osborne
20. "Out Like Bats" – Tu Fawning
21. "My Favorite Year" – Destroyer

Best live concerts I attended in 2008:

1. Michael Farris - Cornerstone 2008
2. Bruce Springsteen - Scotttrade Center, St. Louis
3. New Pornographers/Okkervil River - The Orpheum, Madison, WI
4. Sloan - Dante's, Portland, OR
5. The Swell Season - The Pageant, St. Louis
6. Devotchka - The Pageant, St. Louis
7. Caedmon's Call - Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI
8. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - The Pageant, St. Louis
9. The 77s - Cornerstone 2008
10. MeWithoutYou - Off Broadway, St. Louis
11. Neko Case - The Pageant, St. Louis
12. IlyAimy - Saint Charles Coffee House, St. Charles, MO
13. Calexico - Blueberry Hill, St. Louis
14. Resurrection Band - Cornerstone 2008
15. Destroyer - Blueberry Hill, St. Louis

Favorite books I've read in 2008:

1. So Young, Brave, and Handsome - Leif Enger
2. Winter's Tale - Mark Helprin
3. Watchmen- Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
4. Cyndere's Midnight - Jeffrey Overstreet
5. Acedia and Me: Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life - Kathleen Norris
6. Fieldwork - Mischa Berlinski
7. Freddy and Frederika - Mark Helprin
8. My Name is Russell Fink - Michael Snyder
9. Danny Gospel - David Athey
10. The Infinite Day - Chris Walley
11. The Battle for Vast Dominion - George Bryan Povlika
12. Sweethearts - Sara Zarr
13. Merciless - Robin Parrish
14. The Shadow and Night - Chris Walley
15. The Next Christendom - Phillip Jenkins

Best books I've read in 2008 that were published in 2008

1. So Young, Brave, and Handsome - Leif Enger
2. Cyndere's Midnight - Jeffrey Overstreet
3. Fieldwork - Mischa Berlinski
4. Acedia and Me: Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life - Kathleen Norris
5. The Infinite Day - Chris Walley
6. My Name is Russell Fink - Michael Snyder
7. Danny Gospel - David Athey
8. The Battle for Vast Dominion - George Bryan Povlika
9. Sweethearts - Sara Zarr
10. Summa Elvetica - Theodore Beale
11. Merciless - Robin Parrish
12. Hero, Second Class - Mitchell Bonds

OK, enough lists for now. More to come next year.

My reading list - December 2008

This month I read two books from Marcher Lord Press, the coolest new little publishing house in America, specializing in fantasy fiction that takes faith seriously.

Summa Elvetica by Theodore Beale

An intriguing mix of fantasy and theology that takes place in a world that is ruled by an organization much like the Catholic church. Fortunately, the church here isn't depicted as absolute evil like Phillip Pullman would. Here, a young is dispatched by the church's pontiff to find the answer to a thorny theological question: Do elves have souls. On the way to Rome, he gets caught up in an adventure where he is rescued by corrupt officials in the Elven kingdom and learns the truth about the Church and about the nature of God and the soul. An interesting look at the fantasy genre.

Hero, Second Class by Mitchell Bonds

A fun fantasy tale influenced as much by Monty Python and Terry Pratchett as by Lord of the Rings a nd Eragon. A quest involving a self-narrating swordsman, a wise-cracking dragon, a fair maiden that happens to be a cat-like species, an apprentice hoping to one day become a Hero, Second Class (and probably by the time of the next book in this series, a Hero, First Class). The author is only twenty years old, but shows a lot of imagination and wit, which will hopefully lead to a successful career, fame, money, all that stuff.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Map of U.S. States Visited

Around four years ago on my blog, I posted a map showing the states I have visited. I happened to find the internet site with the map on it, and since I have done a fair bit of traveling since then, I have updated my map. So now I have visited 44 states out of the 50. Woo-Hoo!

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I have successfully finished Nanowrimo for another year! I managed to compose 50,000 words toward a novel during the month of November. As it turns out, I managed to complete the whole draft of the novel, with a final word count of 52,063 words.

What does this mean for my story of a lottery winner who becomes so bored with life with millions of dollars that he lives in an abandoned Wal-Mart, and has to be awakened by meeting a hippie-ish girl? I have no idea.

But I got a cool virtual sticker from the Nanowrimo web site with a pirate ship and a Winner tag, so that's cool enough for now!

My reading list - November 2008

My reading list for November 2008, a little light due to Nanowrimo, but one very good book:

Acedia and Me - by Kathleen Norris

An informative look in to a spiritual sickness that is largely ignored by psychologists, doctors, and even clergy: the condition that monks centuries ago termed "acedia", which is a malaise, an indifference of not caring about anything. Kathleen Norris looks at the way this condition was diagnosed by monks, and how the condition affects many people in our modern society, though they wouldn't call it by name. She also differentiates between acedia as a sickness of the spirit, verses clinical depression, which is a physiological condition due to impaired brain chemical functions. She also recounts her own struggle against acedia in the midst of her life as a writer and through her marriage to a husband with significant health challenges. Ms. Norris really gives an insightful look into a condition that affects so much of modern society, that is not named but whose effects are felt in human isolation, cynicism, and coldness of heart. We should learn to diagnose this condition in ourselves, and I am learning how much of my life has been affected by acedia.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My report on SLIFF 2008 (St. Louis International Film Festival)

Ranking the films I saw during the most recent St. Louis International Film Festival starting with my most favorite (although all were worthy films)

1. The Wrestler

This a deeply moving and authentic film. It gets all the details right, from the collaboration of the wrestlers in and out of the ring, to the desperation of these characters in gathering at strip clubs, seeing in their eyes they're just trying to keep going. And even an authentic 1980s wrestling video game with the blocky graphics, the kind I used to play back when could still figure these games out.

There's one scene in particular, the aftermath of a particularly bloody match, that is just as gut-wrenching as anything in the Passion of the Christ. Speaking of which, there is an offhand reference to POTC early in the film that perfectly illustrates the mentality of these characters, the way they view this kind of blood sport, as well as life in general.

I can see the Dardennes influence with the shots looking at the main character from behind. As well as the uncompromising realism. I can imagine that this will be a very polarizing film, nothing like you would expect from a Hollywood sports film. It will be something that you will that you love or hate, with no middle ground.

And the ending is perfect.

Definitely one of the best films of the year.

2. Ben X

I was very impressed with this film. I'm not qualified to comment as to the accuracy of its portrayal of Asperger's Syndrome, but I think the film did an excellent job in showing how difficult and painful it would be for a high school student who has some kind of condition preventing him from communicating with people and in having social skills. I can understand how Ben could retreat into his fantasy world of the computer game to cope with the extreme bullying he faces. And I could buy how someone in his situation would do what he does to cope.

Some minor flaws, though. Ben looked too old to be in high school. And the monstrous behavior of the bullies was a bit over-the-top. But this is a very worthy film.

3. Timecrimes

A very enjoyable and clever film. The film has the feel of a mathematical exercise in recursion, and there is a darkly comic feel as it shows the increasingly convoluted lengths an ordinary guy would have to go to if he actually did travel backward in time and started messing with the timeline.

I liked the simple approach: no real special effects, just good writing and believable characters. The thought of a remake scares me a little bit, but I would trust Cronenberg more than anyone else to pull it off.

4. The Grocer's Son

A low-key and charming character-driven story about an irresponsible young French man who is idling his way through life, when his father has a health problem and needs someone to run his grocery store in the country. Motivated by the desire to bring his girlfriend into the country, the man decides to take on the grocery, but his manner with customers is definitely less than friendly. Eventually, though, his interactions with the people he meets in driving his mobile store around the countryside helps him to see what an a-hole he's been, and by the end of the film, he starts to learn what it means to be human.

I can definitely see comparisons to the Station Agent, as both films featured a character who runs a business from a motor cart, and both films featured a character who comes out of a self-imposed shell and softens due to developing relationships with other people. The landscape shots of the French countryside were gorgeous. The film had some nicely done humorous moments in it too. A lovely excursion into the French culture and landscape.

5. Opera Jawa

All singing, all dancing, it's like an Indonesian version of Moulin Rouge on a micro budget, and without the gargantuan excess of Baz Lohrman's vision, and without Nicole Kidman singing pop songs out of context. But it's the film's lack of expensive sets and pretentiousness that makes this film work. It's undeniably strange, but its DIY creativity in the staging of such unusual scenes was fascinating. I'm sure there was a lot of cultural stuff that went over my head concerning the main storyline, which seems to be a myth about rival warriors battling over the heart of a princess. But I found the film very enjoyable; it was the kind of film that I wanted to keep watching just to see what odd but beautiful scene would happen next.

6. All for Free

After losing a brother and friend in a bizarre barroom tragedy, a Bosnian man with nothing to live for except an inheritance, hits the road in a grocery van and decides to go from town to town and give away food and drinks for free to anyone in the area. Some customers are skeptical, and a few are hostile, but he manages to develop little mini communities based on people getting together to share in the bounty. Along the way, he meets a pretty lady who is trapped in a house with a domineering brother, and the man with the truck tries to win her. This film is an interesting look at people trying to build communities in post-war Bosnia, but the scars of the war run deep and frustrate these efforts.

7. Let the wind Blow

Drama about a friendship between two young men growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Mumbai, India. Each of them struggles with their station in life, fairly low on the economic scale, one step ahead of poverty. Each yearns for a better life. It's the kind of drama shared by people all over the world, but in this film there is a shadow of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, and the specter of nuclear weapons. The human drama was very well done, although the ending betrays the coming-of-age story by seeming to suddenly leap into a different film altogether, and betraying the rest of the film. Still, most of the film is a worthy exploration of life in modern India.