Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If You Don't Like Reading, Your'e Doing it Wrong

I was not a bibliophile from the beginning. My love of books did not come until late in my adolescence. I never loathed literature, but reading books I found boring and irrelevant in school did not nurture a healthy longing to read. I mostly stuck to the basics; Garfield books, books about NBA players with copious amounts of pictures, and the occasional novel about Wayside Schools or perhaps a fictional baseball player trying to make it into the the big leagues. As my juvenility slowly progressed into my pubescent years I began to form a somewhat broader interest in reading. But it only went further into the subject of sports. All I read was books about various athletes and maybe the occasional biography on a musician. The only real progression was that at age fourteen or fifteen I was reading decent sized books with little or no pictures inside (often just a few choice photos in the middle of the book).

 One instance altered my paradigm forever. I was sixteen and in California on vacation with my family. The first day of our trip we lounged for hours at Huntington Beach, soaking in the sun. My parents were engrossed in huge paperbacks and I was laying in the sand reading a book about post-retirement Michael Jordan. My dad took an inspired break from his guilty pleasure novel and accosted me. He spoke rather sardonically, "why don't you read a grown up book for once?" I laughed and shrugged. I had no clever or reasonable retort. He then tossed me a paperback of some 500 plus pages and said, "start reading this, if after the first two chapters you are bored or don't like it I will leave you alone, but I think you will enjoy it." I reluctantly agreed, thinking I was going to prove him to be the fool. Well I was wrong. John Grisham had captured me. The book was The Runaway Jury, and I was hooked. Never before had I realized how enjoyable reading could be. I mostly just liked learning trivialities about my childhood heroes.

 So I got a late start, but some ten years later I have read nearly 600 books since that fateful day on the shore. I am afraid too many people are stuck in the same place I was a decade ago. They do not hold reading with disdain or harsh feelings, they simply do not know how to love reading. They are stuck with the notion that reading is tolerable, and enjoyable if the subject is just right. But one must love reading! One must be enthralled with learning, exploring, finding, and searching for new ideas. One must learn from the past, and study to conquer the future. I have met too many people that claim "I like reading, I just do not have the time." I assure them that the busiest people in the world find time to glean knowledge from the priceless pages of timeless books. Louis L'Amour in his book entitled Education of a Wandering Man said that within a year he could read upwards of twenty-five books simply in the time he spent waiting for things. Ipso facto, we all have time to read. We simply must make the time. For Mr. L'Amour also said: "Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you." What terrific incentive we have to not waste away our time. Thomas A. Kempis so wisely said: "Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating or endeavoring something for the public good."

My personal secret for making the leap from liking reading to loving it, to having an obsessive passion with it is simple. I dominate the books I read. No matter the book, if I come across a word I do not know, I do not read another page until I have looked up said word and written the definition in the margin. Even if I have a pretty good idea what the word means from context, I look it up to homologate my suspicions. Why be unsure if we can be certain? In reading works of history I omnivorously look up subject matter, whether it concerns names, geography or organizations. Why just learn about something if you can become expert in it? Why are we so determined to know much, but be expert of nothing? My books are precious to me. They are filled with food stains, and scratchy annotations. They have underlined salient phraseology, and highlighted pieces of poetry. But I never vacillate with the idea of lending my book to another. The point of a book is that it is timeless. As long as one copy is extant, its inspiration and influence can know no bounds. So why limit a book's influence by keeping it on a dusty shelf or in a battered book bag? After all, knowledge begets knowledge.

So if you are having trouble finding that passion for literature, do not fret. You needn't run out and procure the works of Tolstoy or Edward Gibbons. Read something small that sounds interesting. Knowledge begets knowledge. Read Wikipedia, read magazines, read blogs (especially this one), read comics. But do not ever read just to read. Read to learn, read to edify yourself, read to find answers, read to escape. Let your mind be tangential. If you just finished a book you quite enjoyed about  two young lovers in South Carolina, read up on South Carolina on Wikipedia. Maybe you will find that James Brown is from there, or that Ray Allen grew up there. Or maybe you will come to remember what you heard once in an 8th grade social studies class, that the Civil War started in Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Let your curiosities dictate what you learn. And lastly, do not limit yourself to one book at a time. Perhaps you think it does not make sense to read more than one book at a time. But should you not have a book ready at hand for your every capricious mood? Sometimes you just want to escape, get away from it all and delve into a guilty pleasure type book. Sometimes you just want facts, so you read the Sports Almanac, or The Guinness Book of World Records. Sometimes you need healing, so you read a religious piece to enhance your spirituality. Sometimes you just get recommended a book, and absolutely have to start it immediately because it looks so interesting. I am always reading between five and ten books at a time. And it is perfect for me. But find what is perfect for you. My advice would be however, to start a book any time you feel inclined to do so. I will finish with a few words of sagacity by Henry David Thoreau: "A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."

And to read my book, click here

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Dating Anecdotes Vol. 1

In the last 4 and half years I have been on more dates than I like to recall. I have probably spent in excess of 20,000 dollars on courting. So far I have received nothing but experience and some priceless memories. I plan to eventually write a book that further describes in detail the foibles and misadventures that have become my dating life (the first page is written!). Until that glorious day, I think it will be amusing to post a few anecdotes to lighten everyone's mood concerning the quest to find an eternal mate. Yes it is frustrating searching for that elusive "one", but so much can be learned in the process, despite our calloused attitudes towards taking girls out (or being taken out). Memories are to be had, and in my case, they are to be documented. Enjoy.

1. I once took out a girl (that shall remain nameless) who upon entering my car started with the following phrase, "Hey, you changed your hair..." I said, "No....." She retorted with, "But you were blonde." Nope I have had dark brown hair since I was 4 years old. She must have been confused since I got her number like 3 days prior to our rendezvous. Well that was strike one. Unfortunately she struck out with 2 strikes. On the way to the movie theatre we were deep into the platitudes of get-to-know-you chat. She inquired concerning my field of study, I said in plain English, "I'm a history major." My west coast diction must be hard to understand, because she replied with the curt comment: "Hmmm never heard of that." Strike two, you are out. Luckily I really wanted to see Fast and Furious 5.

2. I dated a girl for a few weeks that blew my mind. She was gorgeous in every capacity. Her beauty was the kind that made men and women alike give a double take when she walked by. This majestic attractiveness she was blessed with helped me greatly with my own ability to disregard and completely ignore the crazy that was very much a part of her. Was it the fact that she farted on our first date? No, I looked past that. Was it that she had a cackle that would scare most children? No, I convinced myself that was endearing. Was it just too many odd eccentricities? Nope. It was her ridiculous obsession with zodiac signs. She was convinced that the apparent position of the sun had an unyielding effect on one's personality. The mere fact that I was a Gemini somehow added to her already loquacious nature. She could not get over it. I in no way was being judged as a person or a man, but as the typecast Gemini that I was. I always thought this pseudoscience of horoscopes and zodiac signs was hogwash, but after this little adventure I am completely convinced it is malarkey. Ultimately she decided our signs were not compatible and that is why she had to move on. Lucky me.

3. I went out a few times with a lovely girl I met in the halls of my University. We kissed a few times, had some lovely confabulations, and then one night it got weird. She invited me over to her parents home, which was mildly disconcerting considering we had hung out only three times before. But, I can handle parents, so I accepted. Meeting the parents was routine, if not superfluous. We then ventured into the basement for a talk. This is where she proceeded to tell me that she really did not enjoy kissing. And that it wasn't me, she just didn't like the activity in general. For whatever reason I was more offended than if she had said, "I hate America." So that was that. I feigned interest in her dislike for smooching, gave her a hug and hustled home.

4. This story is about a girl I would eventually develop deep feelings for. But the first night we met each other was an amusing one worthy of trivializing. We were actually set up on a blind date. She was very attractive though, and our meal at Cafe Rio seemed to be going very well. Somehow conversation made its way towards film. She mentioned that she had never seen Shindler's List, but always wanted to. I somewhat jokingly said, ya let's rent it then (RIP Blockbuster). So we returned to her flat to watch this 3 and half hour movie on our first date. The sexual tension was apparent, and all signs pointed to the fact that we were going to engage in a kiss, but for some reason it just seemed taboo to kiss during an epic movie about the Holocaust. So out of some putative respect for the Jews or Stephen Spielberg we waited. Then we mated. Jk. After the credits finally rolled, push led to shove and kissing ensued. The rest of the story with this lass would require many more pages, maybe even a nice screenplay.

5. Caveat: I at times have been cavalier in my relations with women. I apologize. But with that being said, this next anecdote should explain why men can be the way they are. One night years ago when I was just an enthusiastic 21 year old I had a crazy night that went as follows: Me and a bunch of my guy friends met some girls at the hot tub (classy), took them back to our apartment, watched a movie then some of the girls left. My lady of the night invited me back to her place for another movie. It was 4:00 a.m. at this point. So I think we know what was coming. I entered her boudoir and we started kissing. About 10 minutes later she stopped, turned to me and said, "So what are we?" This girl demanded a DTR after what could only be described as a good ole fashioned freak fest. Please excuse me for sounding like a rakehell, but I was only 21, and I very well may have not headed for the hills if this nymph did not require a relationship review after knowing each other mere hours.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Man Can Do All Things

I somewhat recently have become obsessed with the idea of knowing everything. I am quite keenly aware that this is not something I will realize while on this mortal sphere. However, with my belief in eternal progression this aspiration is not absurd. Centuries ago, before the advent of the internet and other technological advances a handful of men made it their goal not to specialize, but to become expert in many categories. These were the original Jacks of all trade, or rather Renaissance men. Men like; Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, and Copernicus used their specific genius in one field to thrust them into other realms of interest and domination. I feel like we should do the same. We all excel at certain things, no matter how seemingly trivial or apparently grandiose. Why shouldn’t we use our given talents to procure related talents? Does an interest in history not turn into an interest in geography, which can in turn become an interest in geology? After all, everything is eternally connected in some way I believe. Several years ago I learned Portuguese while serving an LDS mission in Brazil. Knowing Portuguese gave me the urge to learn Spanish, which led me to my current task of learning Italian. Learning Italian has given me an unhealthy obsession with visiting Italy, which has turned into a yen for travelling all through the European continent. I now have signed up for a Holocaust tour throughout Western Europe for the summer of 2014. This upcoming tour is giving me another obsessive yearning for knowledge concerning the Holocaust. So, consequently my head is buried in books concerning said subject matter. So, in summation, did my decision to serve a mission effect my current quest to know everything about specific concentration camps and Nazi nomenclature? I think so. I may have eventually arrived from another avenue, but my point is that knowledge begets knowledge. And we have a much greater ability to know massive amounts of things than we realize. And we can accomplish much more with our time here on earth than we tend to think. Leon Battista Alberti said it best in his pithy statement: “A man can do all things if he will.” So, I find it necessary to become a polymath. A polymath is defined as someone whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject matters. Why are so many of us determined to lounge in our pedestrian zones of comfort? Why not get better at what we are great at? Why not seek to learn new trades? Why not master any and everything we can? Perfection is an elusive thing, but is this quest for it, this determination to approach it not the very desire of Jesus when he famously instructed us with the terse commandment to “Be thou perfect”? I shall end with a splendid quote by Robert A. Heinlein that well encapsulates this ineffable desire to know everything: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
This is an old Book of Mormon of Hugh Nibley's- A polymath who was fluent in 11 languages.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What We Desire Vs. What We Deserve

The above subject, for whatever cosmic reason has been circling around my ever tangential thoughts lately. I look at all the things I want out of life, all of my deepest desires, and I wonder if I really deserve them. I wonder if my desires are congruous with my actions. Am I setting grandiose goals without creating a means by which I can accomplish them? Am I just hoping my little heart out, without getting my knees scuffed and my elbows dirty? These are some questions that have been weighing on me, and I wonder if my personal moments of introspection can't resonate with others. So, let's talk about courtship. We have all waited for this subject to surface. Who among us (being men) doesn't want that elusive prize? Maybe we do not all want the quote on quote trophy wife, but who doesn't think they deserve an amazing quasi-perfect girl with fantastic features, impeccable personality and stunning social skills? We all do. My question is, are we doing everything in our power (as men) to be that potential counterpart for someone? Are we striving omnivorously to improve ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually? If I for instance want a future spouse who is in unbelievable shape, and incapable of ever gaining weight in the future, am I likewise diligent in maintaining those same bodily characteristics myself? If superficiality in terms of longevity is that important, then it better go both ways. What about something more important...What if I desire a future mate that will be the perfect mother, and spiritual compass for my children? Do I really deserve such a wonderful specimen if I am not working insatiably to achieve a similar mantel of paternal greatness and spiritual prowess while I am single? These are questions that we should all ask ourselves. Because I am confident that only a very small percentage of the population thinks they deserve something sub-par. Few people imagine their future wife or husband to be not much more than the dregs of society. So, no matter what putative social or economic class we find ourselves in, should we not strive for the best? Should we not procure the choicest of people to surround ourselves with? Should we not aspire to excel in whatever endeavor we come across? We absolutely should. Let us save mediocrity for another day. Let us dominate today. But furthermore, let's get what we deserve by deserving it. If you want a "10", be a ten. If you want to be rich, work like someone who deserves to be rich. If you want something special in your life, be something special. Maybe this sounds like one man's convoluted diatribe about karma. But saying be good and you will receive good is oversimplifying my message. I am a true believer in the power of optimism, but success is more than just thrusting positivism out into the universe. It is about getting up and doing. It is about an epic attitude that generates unreal results. The author and pastor Charles Swindoll perhaps articulated it best:

 "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It Has Never Been Solely About The Food: Dining and its perks

Perhaps this will come off as a very trivial topic, but I feel that much goodness and knowledge can be elicited from even the most seemingly trivial activities if your attitude and mindset are such. The topic for this small symposium I wish to give is on the importance of eating out. All health related thoughts and questions must be disregarded at this juncture. This is for those who struggle to cook, or are blessed in some capacity, making frequent restaurant visits possible. I suffer from an inability to want to cook, and many of my friends share this insidious struggle. So, I think some words on dining out are perfectly apropos.

For me, eating out has never been solely about the contents of the meal. I love food just as much as anyone else, and seek the finest of foods if possible. But I look to glean much more from eating out than having a succulent burger slide down my gullet. A few years ago I decided to keep track of and document every single restaurant I would ever enter. I have currently eaten at 281 restaurants in 4 countries and some 30-35 states. This includes at least 30 pizzerias, 14 Chinese restaurants, and 32 Mexican restaurants.

 This started out as just a fun little thing I did for my own nerdy pleasure. But now it has become something that inspires and motivates me to try new places. When someone says where should we eat, I am always thinking where have I never eaten? This has seemed to flow into other aspects of my life. I always want to try new things, and now when facing a bifurcation I opt to choose the way that has yet to be traveled. In addition to this new attitude I find that I have actually met lots of people in my quest to be a gourmand. I met a lovely girl one night at Wendy's whom I courted briefly while in Philadelphia. I also was able to give her a Book of Mormon and teach her a little bit more about my beliefs. In always asking the names of my garçons and chefs I have formed some awesome acquaintances and friendships.

 One other thing I love about eating out experience is the ambiance. I am no stranger to Mcdonald’s and other fast food chains famous for their lovable grease and questionable cooking techniques. But the restaurants with choice music, aesthetically pleasing decor and other amenities add greatly to the eating experience. Most of all a meal is dictated by who you choose to eat it with. There are few things I treasure more than 2-3 hour lunches with those I am close with. When lunch turns into a long and serious conversation I know it is going to be a good day. I follow the adage of Maurice Chevalier: "I never eat when I can dine."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Brief Biography

My name is Taylor Stephen Church, Billy Money is the pseudonym I have selected for this pilot of blog. I was born in 1987 in Seattle, WA and have since lived in 18 other cities, including but not limited to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Fairfax, VA. My passions are many. I love basketball. I love photography. I love history in its many forms. I am an omnivorous reader. I love geography and travelling, even if it is just to an obscure town in the United States, famous for nothing. I love people. Gregarious would be an appropriate word to describe me. I am a linguaphile. I currently know English, Portuguese and Spanish. I am working on Italian. I appreciate, but loathe mathematics. I make copious amounts of lists. I have documented every single book I have ever read, every movie I have ever seen, every restaurant I have ever eaten at, every municipality that I have ever stepped foot in. I know the names of every girl I have ever kissed. I have written pretty religiously in journals for well over a decade, and have filled some 15 journals. I am by definition an ectomorph, which is a fancy way of saying I am tall and skinny. I hold two things in the highest regard: God, and my family. Nothing else really matters. Although I consider friends to be nothing less than an extension of the family. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (See, and served a two year mission in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This experience in all its cliche glory changed my life for the better. I love music, and wish I had musical talent, alas I was left with nothing more than epic and awesome taste. I aspire to be a high school history teacher, head basketball coach, and author. I have been told by many friends that I should try my hand at stand-up comedy. I am reluctantly becoming open to the idea. I do not get along with animals. They all smell, and they all smell my fear. In summation, I am a pretty laid back gent whose life long goal is to be well read and to be awesome until the day I cease to exist on this sphere. Of course I desire a fair lady to be at my side. For it is not good that the man should be alone (Genesis 2:18). And a nice brood to go along with my putative wife.

The Inception of My Blog

This is something I have wanted to do for sometime, and almost started about 9 months ago. I love expressing myself through the written word, and I love sharing personal experiences that could possibly edify or ameliorate someone's life in some capacity. Facebook becomes an annoyance at times, and nobody wants to be bombarded with information on their newsfeed, so this seems to be the perfect outlet. The goal of my blog I am sure will be rather mercurial. I want to share my thoughts, my taste in music, literature, films, and a myriad of other eclectic topics. I want to inform people on the most obscure things I have learned as well as keeping the masses updated on my life via the use of humorous anecdotes and colorful photographs. My blogging experience is nil, so I hope all will be patient with me as I am very much a neophyte in this advanced world of weblogs. Thank you, and do your self a favor and enjoy.