Monday, October 31, 2011

Daver's Five Best Scariest Books

And of course, another confession. I am a reader. Ok, that's an understatement of fact. I love books. In fact, my house looks more like a half-strewn library at times, and if I didn't fear the risk losing my career I would probably read all day and night long. If I had a hundred dollar bill for every page of all the books I own, I would have a good start on paying back the debt that the Wall Street brokers & mortgage companies got in the bail-out (ok, maybe just Goldman Sachs or Freddie Mac).

In honor of Halloween, I will try to narrow down my top 5 favorite scariest books...again, this is a challenge because there are so many good stories out there!

5. A Good Man is Hard to Find (by Flannery O'Connor).
 A short story about a road trip to Florida with grandma. Written in the 1950's, it's still a good read!

4. The Stand, by Stephen King.
It's flu should read it now. The unabridged version is best, but it's Tolstoy-like in length. Good read!

3. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Ever have an unsettling feeling while visiting strange little towns where the people act a little odd, and things seem just a little off? 

2. Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne
One of my all-time favorites by Hawthorne.

1. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Nice letters written between senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a "temptor", named Wormwood. The letters are about the many ways to bring about the damnation of a British man, known only as, "the patient." Gives a great fictional account of how demons might dialogue about how to best entice a man into sin. A great Christian apologist and an academic (most notably at Oxford), Lewis' works are exceptional. I could write several pages on my fondness for C.S. Lewis' writings. 


Ok, so there are many other books that should be considered as well, including the many works of Edgar Allen Poe (The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, etc.), H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter stories (especially Hannibal), and It, by Stephen King (and most of his other works as well). I used to love the short stories in the Alfred Hitchcock books. Nathaniel Hawthorne's other works are excellent, but probably a bit heady. There are many more that I'm sure I've forgotten about that I can't seem to recall at the moment. Feel free to add you favorites.

Daver's List of the Top 10 Best Scariest Movies

I must confess that I am a fan of scary movies. People who like scary movies will often get into passionate conversations about their favorite movies, and it's difficult to narrow down the list to a handful of the best. As such, I debated with myself about which ones to exclude. I'm not much for the blood & gore, or slasher movies. I tend to like movies with suspense & a psychological effect.

Like with many books that I love, I have a hard time settling on just a few titles to name as my favorites, but here goes!

10. Signs
Ok, so it may be more of an UFO/Alien movie, but I thought it was a great scary movie (and I love the subplot involving Mel Gibson's character & his faith). 

The Devil's son as a cute little child. Love the scene in the old cemetery when they dig up the coffin. Just a good overall creepy movie!

Gotta love Jack Nicholson as a crazy guy (is that an oxymoron?)! Another Stephen King great (we'll have another discussion about books & written stories). Love the scene when Wendy finds Jack's manuscript in the typewriter that he has supposedly been working on for hours: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." And of course, "Here's Johnny" is the best line of the entire movie. And the twins, saying, "Come play with us." Redrum!

7. Alien
Sigourney Weaver. Big, nasty, drooling alien. What's not to like??

Another M. Night Shyamalan production! I was one of the guys in the theater at the end, scratching his head and saying, huh? About 30 seconds later, I got it. A few good startles and shriek moments.

Creepy Asian movie. Lot's of good jump in you seat moments.

One of Stephen King's best stories, I think. Gotta love vampires!

(Amazingly low-budget film, shot with a camcorder, and brought in millions. Should make the big Hollywood companies very frightened). I know it did me! Especially when the lady is sleepwalking and stands for what seems like an eternity over her sleeping husband.

A young couple with some relational issues return to an isolate home in the middle of nowhere.. They are up in the middle of the night discussing their future together (or lack thereof) when the first knock on the door begins their horrific night of terror. Loosely based on a true story out in Washington State, I believe. It's more scary because it has the feel of reality...that this could really and probably has happened.

The god-father of them all. Personally, all of the blasphemy and sacrilegious imagery and language was very offensive. However, the intensity of the scenes are incomparable, I think. And Max von of a kind actor!   

Ok, to be fair, I have to include a list of other movies that didn't make my top 10, but are still pretty gosh-darn creepy and deserve honorable mention! Here they are:

When a Stranger Calls (Have you checked on the children? Bahahaa!!)

It (another Stephen King great, the book is better though!). "We all float down here!" I haven't liked clowns since!

The Ring (If you suspend reality for 90 minutes, this is a really creepy movie). 

The Village
(M. Night Shyamalan again, almost always does a great job! And of course, Sigourney Weaver)

Phantasm (and its sequel). Scared me big-time as a kid! That silver sphere thingy chasing people, and the old man with the white hair, in the hearse. Scary!

Needful Things (Another Stephen King great, and it has Max von Sydow, one of the best old school actors!)

Trilogy of Terror (Karen Black and the doll....truly an intensely scary scene!)

Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum's character is perfectly creepy. An oldy, but downright frightening.

The Stand
One of King's best novels, and although not perfect in line with the book, the movie is still decent (a bit long, but then again, the unabridged book is like Tolstoyian in length!)

Norman Bates has a bit of a mommy issue. Hitchcock at his finest, a great movie!

And there are many more. If you are a scary movie buff, feel free to leave a message about my list and what ones you feel should be in the top ten!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Dash

Among my many quirks is that I happen to like reading obituaries. With Halloween being tomorrow, I guess my macabre confession is fitting.  I find it interesting how people's lives are summarized in a paragraph or two. Most obituaries are typically mundane.

This weekend I read an obituary in our local newspaper that was most unusual. It was of a man who grew up in a nearby town (Fairmount). He had died after a hard-waged battle against cancer. His obituary described him as "world-famous' and later it stated, "when God made me, he was just showing off." I smiled and chuckled, and continued to read his obituary with fascination. It described a man who "escaped Indiana" for Vietnam the day after graduating from high school. It goes on to describe this man as one who lived his life in an extraordinary way. He rode with the Hell's Angels in California and was kindly asked to leave the state by "the Judge." He then moved to Texas. He was at different points in his life a cowboy, an exotic animal showman (and did Rattlesnake shows as well), and was a river-boat captain. His obituary left the reader with the sense that he was quite a character, a rather unique man who had lived his life to fullest. Definitely not the typical obituary, and it made my morbid reading hobby a bit more interesting. I quietly wondered if he had might have written the obituary himself.

I have heard that it is common in certain writing-classes for the instructor to give the students the assignment of writing their own obituary. Wow, what a genius but terribly difficult task. Would mine be typical, mundane, and boring? After giving this idea some thought, I realized how much more in my life that I still want to accomplish. This kind of exercise gives one pause. How do we really want to be remembered? Who wants to be thought of as mediocre? Or having lived a bland life? One who went to work for 45-50 years, retires, maybe to Florida, and dies largely unforgotten?

Depending on one's perspective, I guess, there are different ways to look at what constitutes a successful and fulfilled life. I know of businessmen who have sacrificed their personal lives & families on the alter of the corporate ladder. Many of them are renown for their executive prowess and will be remembered for their huge business successes. But I wonder about their loved ones that they leave behind. What will they think?

I remember hearing of a wise man who once said no-one on their deathbed would say, "If only I had spent more time in the office." Kind of gives a different perspective, doesn't it?

A few years ago I faced a serious health crisis. I was told that my prognosis was unsure. I was suddenly uncertain of my future, and spent a lot of time thinking about the things I still wanted to do. I spent the next several months getting treatment and years of having frequent medical tests. Things at this point are fine, thank-God! But looking at one's untimely demise gives a serious and fresh appreciation of the things in life that are important.  I realized that there's a whole lot of things out there I haven't yet experienced that are now on my bucket list (another blog for another day!). During this time in my life, Tim McGraw's song, "Live Like You Were Dying" was a top song on the charts. To this day I have a hard time listening to that song....guess it hits too close to home. Not sure about the sky-diving part, but yes, there's a lot I still want to do.

I once heard a minister at a relative's funeral say something that has never left me. The pastor asked, "Have you ever noticed the dash between the dates on an obituary? It's the shortest part of the obituary, but that dash encapsulates that person's life, from birth to death. It's the dash that's important; what they did with the time between those two dates."

I want that dash to represent more than the mundane and ordinary. If I had to write my obituary, I think I can say that, in recent years, I have given more of myself to the things that I believe to be important. I still haven't accomplished everything yet that I want in life, so hopefully that dash between the two dates are still many, many years apart!

How would you write your own obituary? How would you want to characterize "the dash?"

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Dark & Stormy Night....

Over the last week or so it seems as though Murphy's Law has struck quite a bit. I really think ole' Murphy shouldn't be allowed to take more than three swings when he's up to bat. In fact, I think I'd just like take that bat and take a couple of good swings...well, you get the picture. 

This week I have blown up two laptops, in as many days. The culprit appears to have been a bad power strip, that may have had a short, allowing the electricity to overload the motherboards. Fade to black. 

Last night, after returning home from a meeting out of town, I found myself looking through the windows of my truck, at the keys dangling in the ignition. With the doors locked. As the cold, torrential downpour rendered me into a comical, drenched mess, I was sure I resembled a drowned rodent. With my briefcase in hand, in the dark, I began thinking, "Really, what next?" I know better. I really do.

After some rather creative manipulation of my truck window (aka 'breaking into'), I was fondly thinking how warm and pleasant my bed would be. I was trying to ignore the cold, wet clothes, and the howl of the wind outside. Oh, but the night was yet young. As I turned the key of my truck over, everything went black. Click. Click. Then nothing. 

And just as I was trying to make sense of this ridiculous moment, the cab lights and dash lit up. Ah! I let out a breath. Ok, let's try this again. Repeat, rinse. Deja vu. After locating a flashlight (surprise--the batteries were working) and a wrench, I coached myself into thinking that a simple battery cable adjustment would do the trick. As the stinging, freezing rain pelted my hands and face, I disconnected the battery terminals, lightly yanked on the wires, and re-connected the battery. Nothing. After a phone call to a buddy and a ground wire securely re-attached, (and some muttering under my breath), I finally made it home.       

This week I have also been reminded that grown children can disappoint and cause more heartache than you think you can bear. But there comes a point where you've done all that you can, and hope that someday, someway, they'll get it. Maturity and experience comes with a price. Every gray hair I pluck has been well-earned, and represents a character-building, teachable moment in my life that has usually involved my children. I think I should have the wisdom of Solomon by now...but I am smart enough to know I am far from being sage.  

It is tempting to be self-absorbed and self-centered when everything seems to be going wrong. Daniel Goleman, author of "Emotional Intelligence," states that, “Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands.  Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.” 

Tonight, as I sit in my warm, comfortable home, with my belly full of good food, there are so many who want for basic needs. From the homeless, to the abused and neglected, to people with disabilities who need services and supports but are years away from ever receiving it, there are so many forgotten people on the margins of our society with unmet needs. And then there the countless young men and women serving in our armed forces, thousands of miles from home, who are constantly in harm's way. They have few of the creature comforts that I take for granted.  

So, yes, it's been a tough week for me. Most of it I could have done without. But at the end of the day, I am so thankful and grateful for the many blessings and wonderful things in my life. I have a good job that pays my bills. I have a wife and family that love me. And I have a place to come home to at the end of a cold, wet day. I know that there are those who have it much, much worse, and I wouldn't want to trade places.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Everyone has a story

As I write this, I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop (which, incidentally, offers free wifi). I have put off writing a new blog post due to time constraints, and decided to make a valiant effort this morning at coming up with something to write about. But being a people-watcher, I become distracted as I observe the various patrons, in search of their particular caffeine-fueled potions, drift in and out of this fine establishment known for it's rather strong coffee.

A few of them I know. Many of them I recognize because they are frequent visitors at this time of day. And there are several I don't know at all. They all have lives they're living, and this particular moment is just a snippet of their day. Some are on their way to their offices or various places of employment. Others are students trying to ease into their day that will be filled with lectures, discussions and lots of reading. There are the occasional retirees who leisurely sit and talk. I recognize a local pastor who has brought his young daughter in for a hot chocolate, and another young professional-looking man and woman who appear to be meeting about business over coffee. At another table a couple of ladies are having a lively discussion about work and their children. A thinly-built, middle-aged, well dressed gentleman is sitting alone at a table near a sun-drenched window, pensively sipping from his beverage, seemingly in deep thought about something miles away. University faculty and local high school teachers filter in and out, warmly greeting their peers.

Each of these folks have a story. Each of them are living their lives, whether or not they are consciously aware of it. John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans." It's a fun and curious thing to guess at who these people are, and I wonder about their real-life stories. They are all at different stages of their lives. Many, I am sure, are excited about their futures, careers, love interests and growing families. A few are enjoying their golden years, taking the time to catch up on old friendships and the things that a former busy work life made difficult. Some are undoubtedly carrying around the burdens of life, their smiles masking their true selves.

In my professional life, I meet with families and individuals that have real life stories that I get to hear. Many of them have stories that are incredibly heart-wrenching. I have talked with elderly moms and dads who have raised their child who have significant disabilities, and now are no longer able to care for them. I regularly receive calls from families who need help for a loved one that needs intensive assistance. I've talked to parents who have had to quit their jobs to be their child's primary caregiver. There are some individuals who have no one. And then there are those who have fallen through the cracks of our society, some of whom have been involved in tragic situations.

We are living in tough times. It's hard to ignore the dismal reality. A bad recession and a struggling economy have created pretty bleak outcomes for many. Our elected representatives and leaders in government are quick to remind us of this austerity, lecturing the masses on the scarcity of resources. As such, I get to be the bearer of bad news to those who often need help the most. It may be well over a decade before they will ever see the help they so desperately need. And all these folks really want is a chance for their loved ones to live their lives. Wouldn't it be great if individuals with disabilities had lives in which they were excited about their futures, careers, love interests, and whatever else that may be important to them?

Everyone has a story. Some are just a little more difficult to hear.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Learning new things!

Today I learned quite a bit more about blogging. Thanks to Chris Goode and The Arc of Indiana, I've learned more than I thought possible about putting together a blog. What a really fun day, but I don't think my brain can hold much more! But here I am, thinking about what I learned, and had to jump on my blog to write for a spell.

After being asked about what I want to accomplish with writing a blog, I said that disability issues and similar contemporary topics were the primary things I want to focus on. I want to lend my voice to highlighting important issues that often do not get the attention that they deserve.

I also want want to write about things that are not so serious....stuff that may be a little whimsical and quirky. I often have random thoughts that could be characterized as such.

I also think writing should be fun, and it should be enjoyed by those who read it. Hopefully none of it bores people to death!

Well, we'll see how things progress...enough for tonight.

Photo of the day!

Picture of the day....

I used Pixlomatic & PS filters. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Diving In!

Well, here I go. I'm actually taking the writing/blogging thing seriously. While attending a blogging workshop recently I created this blog. I was unsure of a creative name until one of the members of my group suggested something with a diving board...and it made sense. I tend to 'dive' into things...and my intention with this blog is to talk about a variety of different things....'diving' into subjects that are important to me. 

I've always been interested in writing, and have written quite a few things. However, most of my writings have not been read by lots of people, especially in this kind of medium. Writing is cathartic, therapeutic, and a great way to vent at the world. Discussing personal observations and ideas is appealing, but the notion of putting it out there for anyone in cyber-world to read is also kind of scary. So can jumping off a diving board, and being kind of a bigger guy...I don't do that very often. I make too big of a splash! (Ok, that was my poor attempt at humor). 

So...some quick things about me. I tend to like the quirky and unusual. I love seeing nature as God intended it. I believe the arts are essential and necessary for civilized society to flourish. I believe History is undervalued and ignorance leads to repeating its mistakes. I am a person of faith. I am probably a bit old fashioned, and probably would've been right at home had I lived in a different era. I am intrigued when finding irony and paradox in our modern lives. 

There is an old saying that says one should never discuss politics and religion in polite company. I find these particular topics fascinating...and love to read about & discuss them at great length. However, I have decided to be very selective and careful in discussing these two issues. They may, however, crop up occasionally, just as they sometimes do in real-life conversations. 

Many of the issues I deal with in my professional life often involve frustrating and sad realities for numerous families and individuals in my community. I know of tragic events involving vulnerable people who have fallen through the cracks of our society. Worse yet is the bureaucratic indifference that exist. Rather than become jaded & cynical (more than I already am), I want to try to find productive ways of highlighting issues that are too often ignored. 

I also believe there is a vast array of things that we should enjoy and savor. Life is way too short to be culturally and spiritually myopic. It is a sad thought to think people spend their entire lives making a living but never really making a life.  

Well, enough for now...until I take another bounce off the ole' diving board!


About Me

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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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