Pens with Powell

It’s a practice that begin in 9th or 10th grade. After seeing the old notebooks of my dad, in his neat, printed handwriting. That very day, I ditched my mechanical pencils and my sloppy, middle school handwriting. It took some getting used to. with lots of accidental lowercase letters and flipping my pen around to erase what were suddenly permanent mistakes etched into my spiral notebook. Now, though, years later, pencils feel flimsy and waxy and less substantial if I try to do anything but sketch. Even writing the date next to a portrait or drawing of a giraffe in my sketchbook feels odd. I just love writing in pen. And seeing pen marking the page.

I had a friend in high school whose love of ball points pens went unrivaled. He was one of the first people I ever met in my large and daunting public high school, in Algebra 1 on our first day of freshman year. His name was Powell. He was usually more tan than the rest of the guys around him, cause he played tennis for the high school and had long tournaments outdoors on the weekends. We had a few classes together through high school, but it wasn’t until AP Government in my junior year that we really started to connect on the pen-front.

By then, the pencils were long gone from my – pencil case. And every other day, I walked into Mrs. Darcy’s classroom (though we always called her Miss Darcy), sat down, and quickly turned to my right, looking one row over and three seats back to Powell, lounging against the back wall, staring me down with a new fancy pen in his hand and a smirk on his face.

We swapped pens and complimented the action on the click. Measured the weight and balance. Tested them on the corner of a page page, just a few signatures and squiggles, with maybe a checkbox or two.

That was the friendship. That’s what I always think about when I think of Powell. And whenever I find a pen with a particularly good click or a line as smooth as can be, I think of Powell then, too.

I write with a Pilot G-2, 0.7mm. It’s basic. But I wonder what Powell writes with these days. I bet it’s got a great click.

Ted Lasso and the story of Jesus

I have recently started watching the Apple TV+ original show, Ted Lasso, starring Jason Seduikis. It tells the story of a young college football coach from Kansas who is hired to coach a English Premiere League football club with no experience, and practically no knowledge of the game.

While the plot of the show revolves around the Richmond Football Club, the story concerns the impact of Ted – endlessly optimistic, kind, thoughtful and generous – on those around him. It is not a story of a protagonist changing, but of a protagonist changing those around them. Here is a great video that describes the nuances and specifics of this sort of story – called the “flat arc.” In that video, the narrator says:

“One of the reasons we enjoy stories, is that they reassure us that we can change. But movies with flat arcs assure us of something else: that we can change the world around us without sacrificing our beliefs. These are stories about good people. Inspirational heroes that spend their lives spreading a positive message in the hopes of radically transforming the people around them and the world at large, for the better.”

 

Reading that paragraph, and watching this show, I am constantly reminded of the character of Jesus. The story of Jesus’ life is a flat arc. Jesus’ character does not change, he does not go through a transformation of belief or understanding. There is a not a lie about himself he believes at the beginning of his story that, by the end, he has learned to dismiss. He is constant. And the story of his life is one of changing those around him, and the sacrifices he makes to do so. It is a change of circumstances, not a change of character.

Jesus in The Chosen series

Ted Lasso is an excellent embodiment of how we can live like Jesus in a modern world. Ted is a force for good. And sure, I’ve always wanted to be a good person, and wanted to be a positive force in the lives of those around me, and wanted to treat others and treat life as Jesus did. But reading an ancient text – or even watching a show or movie that depicts the life of Jesus – does not put a crystal clear image of how I can be that Christ-like ‘force for good’ in a modern world.

Ted Lasso shows me how I can immediately change my attitudes, actions and words in today’s context, to match the spirit of Jesus. And it does it through a beautifully written, funny, sometimes raunchy piece of television.

the Meerkat Mob (short)

This particular Mob of Meerkats had practically run South-County for three and a half generations. Their hole-in-the-ground diner, laundromat and pool parlor had been fronts for nefarious critters and shady dealings of all kinds for 50 years. They were all in separate holes, of course. The legacy and wealth of the Suricatta family had been built on broken bones and caved-in burrows. On the backs and exploitation of weasels, rats and lowlifes – those lesser vermin not deemed worthy for true places in the gang. Jamison Suricatta had been running the Mob for 15 years. He was growing tired. Leaving the burrow was getting harder and harder as his eyes became glassy and glazed with age. He had become fixed to his desk, a barrier and stronghold. Now, his oldest daughter, Luna, thought it was time for him to retire his stick for a cane and his snake-skin armchair for a recliner. It was time for her to take over. Not that there was much to take over… her decrepit father had squandered the family’s fortunes away along with much of their credibility in the grassland. She didn’t want to continue the family tradition. It had been mostly quiet for the last couple years, and it was time for Luna to retire the Suricatta Mob from its mob life. That’s what she thought, at least… with six younger siblings, most as charmed with criminal life as their father had been, it would be a tall order to see the family turn a new leaf. And with rumblings of a new Mob moving in uptown along with the devilish pair of jackals that had been slinking around south-county for far too long… And of course, there was the odd disappearance of the aardvark just days after Luna’s father had met with him late in the evening a few weeks ago. But no – it simply wouldn’t do to continue digging into the dirt where her paws didn’t belong. She had to think of her children. And her dear dear Jamison – as wonderfully oblivious to her family’s affairs as ever. She did not want to be a Mob boss… Yes. It was time to settle down. It was time for her father’s reign over south-county to end. Now just had to find the keys and it would all be over.

Rough rough writing, but I think the idea is such an incredibly fun one. Like Arrested Development, except they’re meerkats and it’s an old crime family.