Project Advent


I was contemplating a few different ideas for a December project.  At first I thought I may do 25 days of Christmas movies, but December is busy enough without making time for a movie every day.  I thought of reducing it to 12 (because, you know, 12 Days of Christmas) and making all of them adaptations of A Christmas Carol.  I don't know...  I just didn't feel like going back for another movie project just yet.  Maybe I'll reprise Project Valentine in February.

Then, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Pastor Craig delivered a sermon that he called "The Gratitude Project."  Project!  My ears perked up.  He talked about making gratitude an intentional discipline, not an accident, and then he issued a challenge for us to try each day during Advent.  Why Advent?  Because, "If you think of what we're celebrating, Christmas is even more about thanksgiving than Thanksgiving is."

There are three parts to the challenge.
  1. Be real before God every day.
  2. Record gratitude every day between now and Christmas
  3. Share your growth in gratitude in meaningful ways on Christmas Day.
I've seen  many of my friends doing something similar on Facebook during the month of November.  I'm putting this here on Look What Danny Made! because I'm adding another element to it, too.  Every day of December, through Christmas Eve, I'm going to do one hour of service for somebody else.  That way, I'll have done a full day of service when the sun rises on Christmas morning.

Here's my guidelines:
  1. One hour of service per day.
  2. December's a busy month, and I know in advance that I just may not be able to do this every day, so I'm giving myself an out.  I took the amount of my annual salary, divided it by 2,080, and came up with the amount that I'm paid per hour.  To get out of an hour of service will cost me a donation of one hour's pay.
  3. I'm still working to fill all of the slots, but there will probably be some that repeat.
  4. I'm not going to limit myself on what kind of groups/organizations/individuals will receive help.  The point is, each day I'll be thinking about what I'm grateful for while I do something to try and help somebody else.
I hope you'll read along!


Feed My Lambs


When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

John 21:15

Each year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, our church hosts the Community Thanksgiving Meal.  Anybody at all who is hungry is welcome.  It's a really well-run project, and several thousand people get fed.  Even though we've gone to FUMC for eight years, I've only had the chance to work at it one other time, with my dad two years ago.  We seated people as they arrived.  It was a really good morning together.

Blake was sitting with me in service last Sunday when they made an announcement about this year's meal, and he asked me if we could work at it.  I said yes, and it should have been as simple as that, but it wasn't that simple in my head.  As with so many things in the last three months, I found myself thinking about the last time I'd done a thing with Papa.

I'm glad that Blake asked, though.  He's got a good heart.  He wanted to do this.  As it turned out, we had a really great time, busing tables and working alongside our friends.  Blake was a little restless at first, since there were no tables to bus until the first few tables of folks had eaten and left, but as soon as we started, he went all out, zeroing in on any spots that needed to be cleaned and picking up all of the trash.
As we were leaving...
"Yes, Blake?"
"There were a lot of people there today."
"Yes, there were."
"There's a lot of hungry people in Lubbock."
"Yes, there are."

A couple of minutes later...
"Yes, Blake?"
"Who's going to feed them tomorrow?"

Lucky Charm, Lucky 7


My oldest son Blake is my lucky charm.  He's not perfect, and I can't pretend that we don't have our moments, but he is this really interesting little person who just grows more each day.  Today he is seven years old.

I love all of my kids, of course, but something about Blake has just fascinated me ever since the day he was born.  Before he was mobile enough to make this impossible, I used to spend hours just watching him.
I'm trying not to push Blake in any direction, but it's incredible to me to see the ways that he is so much like me.  He loves to read.  He loves monsters.  He loves being able to tell jokes and make people laugh.  He hates when things don't go according to plan.  He wants to know how things work, and he is intrigued by gadgets and things that light up.  He likes to be surrounded by people.  He's already got a lanky body that is going to make most sports an interesting challenge for him.  Ask him what he wants to do, and watching a movie will always be on the short list.  The things that give him joy are the same things that give me joy, and that gives me an entirely new kind of joy.
Our kids are so, so happy at their new school, All Saints Episcopal.  On October 14th, there was a special Grandparents Day chapel service, and Blake was one of a small handful of students who was selected to read something they'd written about their grandparents to the whole assembly.  I apologize for the shakiness of the video, but I wanted to share it with you anyway.
We practiced and practiced this beforehand, and he was brimming with confidence.  Then he got up there in front of that huge crowd, and had to be the first one to read, and you can tell that his nerves kicked in.  He did such a great job, and I was so proud of him.  Courtney and my mom were sitting on either side of me, and they were both bursting with pride, too.  I was especially touched that he still talks about my dad in the present tense: "My Papa teaches me how to play chess."

Happy Birthday, Blake.  I hope the year ahead is your best one yet.  Maybe I'll help you set up your own blog to document it.

October: Not Just for Horror Movies


I have seriously slipped on keeping you posted about what's going on, since I've been so busy with Return of Project Horror.  Here's some of what we did in October.
Instead of flowers, some of our friends honored Papa's memory by sending us a pine sapling, which we planted in Mom's backyard.
Ava started dance lessons!  It's exactly as cute as it sounds.

We visited my in-laws in Dallas on Columbus Day Weekend, and I ate at In N Out Burgers twice.
I took my kids to a bajillion birthday parties for their classmates.  Here is the street sign for one of the parties Blake went to.  Click on it to zoom, if you need to.  If you are an urban planner, and you make streets that are dead ends at both ends, you are a dick.
My friends Jason and Kerri Winter brought their family to town for Texas Tech's homecoming, and asked if my family would like to join them for the parade.  We also met the Burgess family there.

Jack is happy as long as there's food.

Blake with the Winter boys.  They were fast friends!

All of the kids loved the parade.

The Winters wanted to take the kids for some pictures on campus, near the Will Rogers statue and the fountain, so we joined them.

And that is how Jack ended up taking a bath in the fountain when I had my back turned.
Poor kid probably doesn't have a chance now - he's been baptized as a Red Raider.
You may remember this about Jack, but he is fond of getting into the water when he isn't supposed to.  The Winters also presented me with a really cool, really touching gift, but it's one that I'm going to give its own post very soon.


All Saints Day: A Look Back at Return of Project Horror


Is it November already?  I look back on ths list of movies, and it feels like a lot longer than just one month ago that I watched some of them.  Here, for the interested, is a final scorecard of the month's movies (all ratings are on a 5-point scale):
10/1Vampire Variations30 Days of Night
10/2Vampire VariationsMartin
10/3Vampire VariationsThe Addiction
10/4Vampire VariationsCronos
10/5Vampire VariationsThirst
10/7SlashersThe Deaths of Ian Stone
10/8SlashersRaw Meat
10/9SlashersMidnight Meat Train
10/11Parlez-vous d'horreur?Calvaire
10/12Parlez-vous d'horreur?Martyrs
10/13Parlez-vous d'horreur?High Tension
10/14Parlez-vous d'horreur?Trouble Every Day
10/15Parlez-vous d'horreur?Inside
10/16Cult & IndiesDeadland
10/17Cult & IndiesPontypool
10/18Cult & IndiesCemetery Man
10/19Cult & IndiesVideodrome
10/20Cult & IndiesNight of the Living Dead
10/21Evil Twins & ChildrenBasket Case
10/22Evil Twins & ChildrenDead Ringers
10/23Evil Twins & ChildrenThe Omen
10/24Evil Twins & ChildrenThe Bad Seed
10/25Evil Twins & ChildrenThe Devil's Backbone
10/26Campy & B-MoviesThanksKilling
10/27Campy & B-MoviesThe Call of Cthulhu
10/28Campy & B-MoviesRocky Horror Picture Show
10/29Campy & B-MoviesRetardead
10/30Campy & B-MoviesSleepaway Camp
10/31Danny's ChoiceThe Halloween Tree

Time to crunch those numbers.  There was a tie this time for the top-rated block, between Cult & Indies and Evil Twins & Children (each with an average score of 4.2).  My lowest rated block this time was Slashers (2.6), which just barely edged out Campy & B-Movies (2.8).  Aside from a few movies here and there when I was growing up, my first experiences into horror were slasher films when I was in college.  It was during that whole mid-90s slasher revival.  As far as I knew at the time, that was horror.  Interesting, then, to see that those are now pretty much my least favorite of the group.  Kind of like how I used to really love listening to Morphine when I was in college, but when I pull out their CDs now, they just don't grab me like they used to.  The ones I really seem to enjoy more these days are the ones that leave me with something to think about after the movie.

The other thing that I'm taking out of this month is that Japanese horror is officially over.  There are probably still some good movies coming out of there, but France has absolutely stepped up the intensity of the horror game for the rest of the world.  Of course, I hear that A Serbian Film (from Serbia, naturally) is one of the foulest things ever committed to film, so maybe I'll be looking to Eastern Europe next time around.

A friend asked if I'd list a top five at the end of the month, so here are the ones that I would recommend the most, in no particular order:
  1. Martin: a unique take on the vampire genre, and a movie that makes the very most of a small budget
  2. Midnight Meat Train: a creepy slasher with truly over-the-top kills
  3. The Call of Cthulhu: another low-budget star that evokes the heyday of silent film creature features
  4. Martyrs: I am very cautious about recommending this one.  It is powerful, startling, and original, but it is also one of the most difficult viewing experiences I've ever had.
  5. Pontypool: probably my biggest surprise this year.  I'll defnitely watch this one again, and you can, too, because it just became available on Netflix instant streaming yesterday!
I'd like to bring Project Horror to a close with a huge thanks to everybody who took part in this with me.  For those of you who watched along, or who commented either on the blog or on Facebook, I always enjoy hearing what you think of the movies, or what you think about what I thought.  Special thanks to all of my guest reviewers this month, Kyle, Scott, Will, Clay, and Blake!  Thank you to Damon for letting me interview you about Deadland!  I appreciate all of you taking the time to do this with me, and for making it a success.

Also, thank you Davis Neves for being friendly, and a good actress.  And cute.
"Professor Holwerda, is it... dead?"

"It's impossible to say, but we've done all we can, Johnny.  Not even the vilest fiend could survive a stake through the heart, a silver bullet through the eye, and being burned at the stake.  I think we've seen the last of Project Horror."

(They leave the room, partially closing the door behind them.  The last ray of light coming through the door's frame falls upon Project Horror's terribly burned countenance, AND IT OPENS ITS EYES!)