Wednesday, July 26, 2006

prancing with dignity

the memories will keep us together.

with a perfect goose egg of wins for the regular season, the 'prancing gazelle' of the byu 223rd ward played our first game of the tournament last night. while regular games were matched up by no apparent order, we were now placed against a team of like ability. sure, they were mostly married grad students, but we feared them not.
the game started off with a jolt of promise, for, at the end of the first inning, we were ahead [for the first time in the season]. sadly, a missed catch here, an overthrown pass there, and a strong defence by the nameless married-grads pushed us back over the course of the hour-long game.

our friends came and cheered us on as we ran as fast as we could and made some nice plays, and the final hit came from phil, our amazing captain, who cracked the ball so far into the outfield that it was called an 'out', and with it went the 'prancing gazelle' from the tournament.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

reason #177 why i love my sister

becky has been in ghana for almost a month, and on wednesday begins her treck back to the north american continent, arriving in utah on sunday evening. i'm thrilled to have my sister back, and her final e-mail beat anything that i could write for today [i don't think i did a very good job describing the thrills of accordions and rodeos and perhaps need a break].

Saturday we were set to go to Paga, which is up by the northern border of Ghana. We were supposed to be picked up to leave at 6am, so I was ready then. At 6:30 I figured they were just running late, and kept the same thought at 7am. By 7:30 I began to wonder i was forgotten. Then they called and said they'd be there in 5 minutes. Around 8:25 they showed up at my house (this is Ghana and that's just the way it is). So we journeyed on for 2 and a half hours to Paga. The scenery was beautiful and green with trees dotting the land, and villages and farmers along the way.

Paga has ecotourism--where you can go to the crocodile pond, that supposedly has tame crocodiles and you can sit on them. Not quite the same at elephants, but still makes for a great picture.
So we get to the crocodile pond, pay a few bucks to buy a chicken that will be fed to the crocodile after it patiently lets it sit on us (Mom, sorry, a few chickens were harmed in this process--but it beats the alternative of humans ;)

And a crocodile comes out of the pond, with its mouth wide open "smiling" at us, if you will. Well, they fed a chicken to the one crocodile, who promptly crunched it up. I turned and saw another crocodile on my other side. You have to wonder how stupid you would sound to say "I got attacked by a crocodile while I was standing there....they said they were tame...."
Really, who tames crocodiles??

The legend says that years ago, the villagers wanted to make friends with the crocodiles, and so they did! So they threw another (live) chicken to the second crocodile. Unfortunately, this crocodile didn't snap soon enough and the chicken ran away--towards us! So here's a chicken, running at me, with a crocodile right behind it, coming after the chicken on its stubb legs! Of course we screamed and tried to run somewhere so as not to have our legs mistaken for a chicken. The natives just laughed at us and assured us they won't hurt.

But what if there's that ONE time when......?????

So then a bigger crocodile came out of the pond and one by one, a native took us over to sit on its back, and we squatted on top of it, smiling scaredly at the camera. Then we stood up and held its tail, then cautiously walked back, keep a distance as we walked by the mouth (Yes, I brought my BYU bookstore bag and took a few pictures--if I can figure out how to crop the pictures, they look pretty good)

Monday, July 24, 2006

what would brigham play?

i like how fireworks are sold in utah throughout the entire month of july.
we've got the fourth the start, where it belongs. and then, almost three weeks later, we get the 24th of july, which we call 'pioneer day', in celebration of the day brigham young came in with the pioneers and stated, 'this is the place.'

dispite any stereotypes that may exist, i have noticed that utahns like to celebrate things more than most do. not that new orleans has any cause for competition; it's a different kind of party.

still, not growing up here, i tend to forget about the second july holiday, and am not entirely sure what to do with it. i've been gone for a few of them, and spent the night in a salt lake city park to see the parade the next morning one year.
but this was perhaps the raddest.

i got my first accordion lesson!

and it was all i hoped it would be.

actually, it's rather hard to play that thing. kind of like a mutation between a saxophone and a piano, as your left hand is pressing different buttons down while your right hand plays a little piano. totally different set-ups, the left produces the harmony and the right is the melody.
after a few hours, i could play the first line of 'twinkle, twinkle', had some sore shoulders and hands, and was in musical love.
so, many thanks to corinne for her help and patience, and i will be scanning ebay now....

my long term goal is to play the solo from 'particle man.'

but what better way to celebrate utah than with a rodeo? as i think about it, my only previous experience was our last night in preston, id, when the rodeo came to town [and we were no longer front page news]. i only saw part of it but knew that i liked it.

the spanish fork rodeo was great.
while tickets are all you need to get in, i recommend a cowboy hat, ripped jeans, and a few bottles of sarsaparilla. worked for me, anyway.

there was a pre-show of cowboy mounted shooters, who raced around a course and shot balloons with a six-shooter and, later, a pump-action shotgun.
a guy from minnesota won, thank you.
the rest of the night included racing, bucking horses, rodeo clowns, and some seriously big
and mean bulls. we cheered and waved our hats, but i think my favorite event was the 'mutton busting', which is little five-year old kids riding bareback on sheep. a ton of fun to watch, and something i intend to force upon my children. [em, are you reading this?]

once i master the accordion, i'm pointing my sights at steer wrestling.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

jimmy olson's blues

michael jackson, the prince of pop, the greatest entertainer of the 80s, is now generally seen as a wacko.
and tom cruise, who was the epitome of cool all those years ago, is looked upon with confusion, too.

o where have all the heroes gone?

at a time like this, it is nice to know that superman has returned.

actually, he's been around for a while.... the comics killed him then brought him back as four or five different incarnations, network tv married him to a desperate housewife, and the wb thought he would be more interesting as a teenager.

but the best superman is the superman.

bryan singer brought insight, depth, and general coolness to x-men six years ago, a series that could have easily been a mediocre comic book movie. he revitalized the public's interest in superheroes, a rebirth that has produced a surprising amount of good movies [all three x-men, the second spiderman, and last summer's batman begins].
i was nervous when mr. singer left x-men 3, but it seems to have turned out just fine. better yet, his expertise could not have been better placed than with the first and the greatest superhero.

unlike christopher nolan's batman begins, superman returns does not erase the previous story and begin anew, but continues with what has been said so far in his cinematic life. from the very start this is acknowledged, as the opening credits are done in a style that look like they could have been designed for 1980's xanadu. i loved it.

i loved to movie from the start. and through the end.
often i find myself waking from the suturing of the screen after 45 minutes or so, enjoying a movie but perhaps a little restless for it to be done, so that i can have seen it and then be on with my life.
but for over two and a half hours, i loved it all.

scenes are not wasted in all that time. we don't have to wait an hour to see the eponymous character, he and the world he lives in is treated as if it were real, and even though he is invincible and omnipotent, he still has to work hard.

lest there be any question about the abilities of the man of steel, once he is 'back', we are given an excellent slice of his life: a diabolical crinimal is on a rooftop with police surrounding below--a typical dc comics scene. the bad guy opens up on the officers below with a giant machine gun and havoc ensues. literally moving faster than a speeding bullet [much faster], our hero comes and walks right into the fire. not only does the shot say so much about who superman is and what he does, it is also very cool.

back at the daily planet, the editor states that three things sell papers: sex, violence, and superman.
that's interesting to think about.... if superman was real, he would be fascinating to read about. i'd buy the paper. look at the headlines on 'superman stops bank robbery' would stand out like a physician among the sick.
hearing the editor bark out subjects for investigation to all the differest newspaper sections is fun, and you have to agree with him; it's interesting stuff.

while he was gone, lois lane wrote a pulitzer-winner article entitled 'why the world doesn't need superman'. written out of a broken heart for him leaving her suddenly, she cynically looked upon the world and declared that there was no need for a Savior. that we are fine without any help from above. to this, superman takes her high above the city. lois doesn't hear anything. but he hears everything, he tells her. every cry for help, every prayer sent up is heard. the world pleads for a Savior; they need him, and he is there.

there is an interesting association with our heroes and their values. batman is an iconic hero, but works in the shadows dishing out vengence. he is not against 'truth' and 'justice', and is in fact a soldier of them, but those are not slogans of the dark knight.
but superman does stand for 'truth, justice, and the american way' [interestingly, that final phrase is deftly omitted in the movie...]. and he looks and acts like it.
he is not a popularly cool hero. no chains or spikes or guns or sunglasses. he wears a bold blue
costume with a red cape and neatly combs his nice black hair. even clark kent is a lovably nerdy guy. our heor is polite and courteous, cares for those whom he loves, and encourages people not to smoke. no lasers or claws, his strength is based on his physcial abilities, albeit infinitely enhanced by the powers of his father, who sent him to this earth to save those who could not save themselves.

not only does it feel refreshing to have such a classic hero return, it feels right.

like the chronicles of narnia, it is not only a fun blockbuster of the season, it's unexpectedly wise.

go see it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

potential rare cow sighting

i like road trips.
we met some nice people who gave directions when we were unsure which way to go [from wenatchee to the tri-cities, of which i had heard so much but never visited, is a beast. but once you hit kennewick, it's 500 miles on that road and you're home].
we listened to every they might be giants cd in chronological order as we sang along and discussed what each song could mean. quite enlightening.

but the coolest thing was that i think i saw three dutch belted cows. now, most of you didn't know me before i came to utah, but back in the day, i was a pretty big cow fan.
i still like cows.

i think they're great.
they are calm and just happy to be out there, being a cow.
'moo' is fun to say and is fun to hear a cow say.

gary larson has made us laugh at bovines perhaps more than any other subject, and observed that even the word 'cow' is slightly funny sounding.

needless to say, getting to milk a cow at the minnesota state fair was a treasured memory.

and so one year for Christmas, my best friend got me 'a field guide to cows'. absolutely fascinating. it went through every breed of cow and discussed all about them. i loved it and have it with me out here.

while holsteins are the great iconic cow, the dutch belted cow is my personal favorite; a black [or sometimes, red] body with a broad white stripe around its body. a beautiful cow.
what made seeing them so cool [assuming i was right in identifying them from our speeding car] is that, last i knew, there were less than 50 registered in the u.s.

yes, they are more abundant in the netherlands.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

smells like nirvana

as we were leaving our little continental breakfast in the small lobby of the 'econo lodge' this morning [me with my chocolate muffin], a man walked in to the desk and said that his wife checked in here last night and paid for a single room while he was in the hospital, but that he got out early and spent the night here and now wanted to pay for the use of a double room.
it was really cool to see honest people like that.

we saw all that we needed to in leavinworth yesterday--can it substitute for an austrian town for our upcoming movie? far from an ideal location, but we can make it work, especially with shallow focus and avoiding showing the cars and the wide streets--and so we decided to spend today in seattle.

i think i took 250+ pictures and have decided that i should buy my own digital camera so i can stop borrowing [maybe i'll put them up on tim's website...].

in a karma way of making up for missing the tokyo tsukiji fish market, we saw the pike's place fish market, where really cool guys cheer and yell and really throw the fish you buy.
delicious fresh sushi and peaches [we think...] from a farmer's market for lunch.

the 'experience music project' cost more than our budget allowed, but the science fiction museum fit. cool? yeah, i suppose. worth it? not really, because it was $14 for two small floors of memorabilia. granted, i got to see darth vader's lightsaber from 'empire strikes back', which is something i've wanted to see for many years, the 'pit bull' hoverboard from 'back to the future II' [really not that impressive--i could build one], the t-1000's pointy fingure from T2, and the only full 3-D model of the death star from 'star wars'.
strangely, there was nothing from '2001'. sad.

outside the museum was a dancing robot--and by that i mean a dude in cardboard, red lightbulbs, and laundry dryer hose, dancing to kraftwerk's 'computer love' [in rather lackluster fashion] with a sign reading 'earth dollars needed for space fuel to get to st. louis'.
i gave him a dollar for a picture.
he beeped.
i beeped.

coming out of the museum, it looked like there was a girl inside the costume. she wasn't much of a dancer either.

the space needle was really rather rad.
fun. cool. neat.
we made reservations to come back and eat at the revolving restaurant.
and we could see the house boat from 'sleepless in seattle' [and by 'see' i mean we couldn't see it but we could see the area that it's in].

seattle is a nice city. very rich in fun culture, there are roughly one billion dining establishments of all cousines in the downtown area that i would like to try. complemented with all varieties of architecture from the last 100 years or so and a great warf with obsenely large boats, it's a fun fun place to run around and take pictures.
hopefully i'll have a few worth printing and hanging around the home.

the sky city restaurant was pricey but worth every penny. the structure does not rotate, just the floor [makes the most sense, really...], with one revolution being 47 minutes. i dined on fancy and delicious seafood that is best eaten slowly, so as to savor each delicate flavor [make sure to allow adequate tasting time for each item, be it shrimp, scallop, salmon, or ahi tuna--taking two different bites too close together can bring taste confusion and sadness].

our drive home took an hour less than did going there because we took the shorter route.
we talked about bigfoot, sasquatch, the yeti, and the abominable snowman.
interesting how bigfoot and vampires are two myths that exist in many cultures around the world.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

laughs for no one else

'fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
fortune depends on the tone of your voice'
--ben folds

when i was younger [so much younger than today], i noticed that people generally like to talk. and so i decided that i would be someone who listens and encourages others to talk.
i think i've done pretty good at that.
the side effect is that i can be rather un-talkative at times. it's a reaction to pass the topic of conversation to the other.

recently i've found myself around some rather talkative people; i like them, and others around them generally do, too.
and so i listen a lot and don't say much.
it's just a habit.

i think i need to talk more. politely listening and pondering can easily be mistaken for lack of interest or opinion.
talking seems to be a good thing, particularly if you can do so with confidence, enthusiasm, or some other positive adjective.

but then i think of the sage-like personas of dean duncan and other such great thinkers, who speak softly and wisely in such a way that people come to them to seek their opinions and thoughts, knowing that just because they are not constantly speaking has no relation to what
lies beneath.

maybe i just need to be more assertive.

'i'll tell you up front; i'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.'
-the fat man, 'the maltese falcon'

in these same not-so-talkie situations, i don't laugh a whole lot, either.
i guess i don't want to hand out my laughs likes pretzels; if i laugh, i want it to be because i genuinely think something is funny or amusing.

people like people who laugh, so why not laugh?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the camera that keeps on giving

on three and half hours of sleep, the drive out to wenatchee, washington, went rather quickly, the time being occupied by several they might be giants cds and lenghtly discussions on movies, the 'r-rated' debate, and theories of film viewership.

as we were pulling in to town [we're out here scouting for a movie slated to be shot later this year in the nearby town of leavenworth, a swiss-style village about 45 minutes from here], my brother ['captain amazing'] called. this is somewhat uncommon occurance, but not as unexpected as what he told me.

now, remember that time when we went to japan a few months ago? well, before we went, captain amazing goes out and buys a point-n-shoot digital camera at best buy for the trip [he earns money by volunteering for medical research experiments, and this is where it goes....].
i would have liked to have a digital camera, but i'm a cinematographer; i shoot film.

we got to japan.
tim shoots a lot.
i shoot a lot.
we come back.
dad e-mails me a shot of tim's, telling me that he has a lot of really good pictures, and that he put on of them on his computer.
i spend $80 for developing at wal-mart and get maybe a dozen that i'm happy with.

today captain amazing calls and says that he has his pictures up on his website [check it out here; i didn't even know about it, but it looks like a sort of 'myspace' for nerd-kids] and that some dude in canada wants to buy one of his pictures and use it in a brochure publication, and tim wants to know what to do.

that is really, really cool.

i do take come consolation remembering that one of my friends put up one of my pictures on her computer's wallpaper.

well, i did get some good pictures of tim there.

post script: the new tgs had me laughing in the econo lodge lobby.

Monday, July 17, 2006

substitute writer

i had a crazy busy weekend and came home from church with more responsibility, a box of huge baked potatoes, and busier schedule than i planned.

so i'm working today and need to be there right now.

which is why i'm going to give you the e-mail my sister wrote me, because it is interesting and a good story and i really wish i were there.

i'm going to washington state for the week and don't know when i will write next.

ladies and gentlemen, my sister:

Okay, well the trip to Mole National Park was definitely and adventure,
and seeing the elephants was not the main adventure.  One girl in our group
who's been here for a couple months said that it would be a relaxing
time and a nice weekend. I can't say it was relaxing!
Mom and Dad, before I forget, happy anniversary!!

So, we were supposed to leave in two vans yesterday at 2pm. One of the
vans had been in the repair shop all week, but they said it would be ready
to go by then. GMT doesn't stand for Greenwich Meridian Time, here it's
Ghana Maybe Time. So appropriately, we finally were on the road at 3:45. (I
strategically got in the van that hadn't been in the shop....) Oh, and
we even had a mechanic riding along--I'm not sure if that made me feel
better or not.

Jeff, remembering the fisherman boat ride to Rai Lay in Krabi? Yes,
the very bumpy one that we all thought we were going to capsize on, so we
just laughed every time we almost fell in? Imagine a road version of that.

We drove on a paved road for a while, then turned onto dirt roads.
They were all washboard bumps, and the vans were going pretty fast, and it
was one vibration and bump after another! You really couldn't read or
sleep because you had to pay attention and brace yourself for bumps. The
scenery was pretty though.

Well, we got to a turn off after an hour or so and pulled over to wait
up for the other van. They caught up and carried on. However, while we
were parked for a minute, we were at a village and a bunch of kids were of
course mobbing our van to see the simingaas (white people). Then a white guy
came up and started talking to us. He said he was dropped off here by a bus
and was on his way to Mole but that he and his buddy had been here two
hours playing with the village kids and wanted to know if they could get a
ride with us the rest of the way there.
Me, being the uptight and cautious person that I am, thought "We
already have a full enough van, and the idea of riding with strange guys didn't
appeal to me." But another girl was more compassionate and said, "We
have to make room for them; I would hate to be stranded here, we can't just
leave them."
So charity won, and we squished in three more people, who happened to
have large backpacking bags with them. Two guys were from Holland and one
was from Canada. I just laughed at us squishing all these people into our
van (We were seven girls and two Ghanians--one driver and a mechanic, pluse
these three extra guys--and while I don't favor picking up hitchikers
and the like, I've been a hitchiker in Thailand and sometimes you just have
to laugh about things). They were nice enough and we talked to them some
along our continuous bumpy road for another hour. One guy said he hadn't
showered for three weeks (yeah, he kinda looked like it). And when we were all
surprised he said "We're in Africa!" Yes, but get a bucket of water
and some soap! Fortunately, I was sitting in a spot furthest from them, so
I couldn't smell their lack of freshness, but later when I got out of the
van, I could : P

So we got to Mole about an hour later--and we had to each pay and
entrance fee and a CAMERA fee (how stupid is that? Pay if you want to use a
camera in the park? Well, okay, it was about 20 cents, but still....)
Then we went up to the "hotel" sleeping lodge. We walked into reception and
the girl told us they didn't have room for our two vans totalling 15
people plus 3 extras guys. They said they had one room.
Note: When going to a national park in Ghana, don't assume there will
be room to stay if you don't make reservations.
After much confusion and miscommunications, the girl said she could
give us the one room, that had three beds, and we could bring in three more
mattresses. There was also a boys dorm and a girls dorm--the girls
dorm could bring in two mattresses and the guys dorm one.
Well, anything's possible in Ghana. I just wanted to take a real

So, it ended up that two of our girls stayed in the girls dorm, the
Canadian boy took the boys dorm, thirteen of us from our group stayed in one
hotel room, and the two Dutch guys slept with their airmattresses on our back

Fortunately, the rooms were quite large. We could have easily put down
three or four more mattresses if the hotel had more. A floor mattress
was smaller than the bed mattresses, so we went two girls to a bed, made a
bed from the chair cushions and somehow it kind of worked. I felt slightly
bad for sleeping in the same room as two guys (they're at least RM's, not
random Dutch guys from the road) but you gotta do what you gotta do. Heck, we
were grateful to cram into a room--another group arrived after we did and
they had NO WHERE to sleep except the coach bus they came in--I think in the
end, the hotel let a bunch of people sleep on the restaurant floor or

Around 11 everyone was kind of heading to bed. (I thankfully got a
bed). We didn't have mosquito nets, so I was paranoid of getting malaria from
the night mosquitoes and planned on sleeping in jeans and a long sleeved
shirt. Until I got too hot. THen I changed and crawled under the sheet
And jeans don't make a very good pillow. It did feel good to take a
real shower (I jumped in first while everyone else was at the pool--I didn't
really feel like swimming--I took microbiology and know how easy
diseases are spread in pools if the chemicals are off balance--and in Ghana,
anything's possible.)

One girl in our group is inactive and so she had a couple drinks last
night. Fortunately, it didn't get too out of control, and she wasn't
hungover, she just fell asleep quickly in the chair in the room. I was almost
asleep when I heard the Dutch guys come on our back porch, because they were
being quite loud (I think they'd been drinking too). However, they were
sooned drowned out by the loud thunder that began rumbling. And lightning.
And more thunder and wind and lightning. Oh dear, it was going to pour.

And yes, it POURED. I guess it really is the rainy season here. It
looked like buckets pouring down outside. Oh, the poor guys sleeping on our
porch--I didn't really think I'd like to cram them into our room as
well, but I wasn't sure how they'd fair out there (there was a tin "awning"
on our porch, but I don't know how much that helped). The compassionate girl
said "We have to let them come in, they're going to get struck by lightning
out there." Possibly, but I was personally relieved when they refused the
invitation to come in and said it was fine out there.
It rained on and cracked thunder and lightning. I was grateful there
was at least a long pause between the flashes and the cracks meaning the it
was far away. And then it cracked LOUD and close and I could feel it rumble
and vibrate. And the power went out. The porch light went dark and the
fan stopped. And it was very dark. Most of us were all awake at this

Thunderstorms are cool to an extent, but this had just been a crazy
It finally died down and subsided (oh, and the power came back on
shortly after it went out.)
Okay, I was almost asleep another time when it flared up and stormed
The power when out again, and came back on a little while later.
I couldn't get too comfortable because I couldn't move much. I think I
slept between 2:30 and 5:30. I was grateful for morning.

So yeah, at 7 we went on a walking safarin with a guide who carried a
gun! We saw wart hogs (they look like Pumba) and some Kob (antelope-like
creatures) and vultures. We just walked through the green--it wasn't
as "jungly" as Thailand, but we did see elephants! They were frolicking
and we went to the water hole and there were lots of them! They are almost
black--and not as tame--you can't get too close to them, but I got some
cool pictures. And there was a crocodile in the waterhole--we just saw his

After our safari, it poured and rained again, so I was grateful that it
wasn't raining during that time.
We journeyed home on that same bumpy road and I was sure our windows
were going to shatter from rattling so much (we had more space because the
hitchiking boys stayed another night in Mole). We had to change a tire
in the other van, so we were delayed some, but we got home safe and sound
in the end.

So there you go. It's one of those things you have to look back on and
laugh and wonder what the heck was going on.

Well, I gotta run. And I'm tired and I have to teach Sunday school
tomorrow (you just can't escape from your calling, even in Africa!)
All is well, and I hope we have some good for dinner tonight. I'm kind
of getting tired of peanut butter on bread every morning (mark the
calendar; I'm tired of peanut butter!)
Much love,

Thursday, July 13, 2006

tv theory, part 1

i don't think very highly of television. i usually lower my head and mumble when i mention that i watched tv the other day.

during college i had little time to watch, but when i moved in with beej and his big screen tv and dvr, that began to shift a little. we watched 'my name is earl' and 'the office' every thursday and he tried to get me hooked on 'lost' with moderate success.
and then in january, the paradigm shifted when jen had me record '24' because it overlapped with fhe. from that seemingly minor event, friendships were made, cheers were raised, and david palmer's killers were brought to justice.

here are some thoughts on philo farnsworth's legacy.

media is a fantastic reflection of the times: in the mid-90's, 'the x-files' kept us enthralled every... whatever night it was on. enemies and conflict came from the literally unknown. the political environment of that time was less volitile, and a president having illicit affairs hardly made for gripping stories over a whole season. with no prominant terror in the reported news world, writers were forced to create the adversaries. we followed government agents mulder and scully as they fought to find proof of extraterrestrial life and the federal involvement in it all. yes, there was an the grand conspiracy story [referred to as the 'mythology' episodes]; these were the most intriguing of the season, but we only got about 4 or 5 a year, the rest being a 'monster of the week' encounter with a sasquatch or el chupacabra or vampires and a pre-famous luke wilson.
the show was a great success, spawned plenty of copycats, and is still fun to watch 10 years later.

24 is not only one of the biggest shows on right now, it is also one of the most influential to current trends.
aliens aren't so cool anymore [space aliens, anyway]. as scary as the monsters in the dark may be, when we know there are terrorists out there, the immediate is naturally more gripping.
we are now in a much more politically volatile country and world, where stories need not be fantastic fabrications, but deal with the very same issues discussed on the news networks. terror, assassinations, and heinous cover-ups of treason, oil, and international conspiracy keep us glued to our seats every monday night [often yelling at the tv].
our heroes have become more intense, too. as much as we all loved fox mulder, he would have no chance against jack bauer. [in fact, no one anywhere would. maybe batman. maybe.] jack is the hero we want [even his name connotes a rugged everyman]; in a government and political atmosphere so ambiguous and uncertain as ours, jack does what is right no matter the cost or who's eye he has to threaten to cut out [please forgive the grotesque imagery; no one was actually hurt, and it was one of the most memorable scenes of the season]. in the very first season, pre-9/11, the character was chastised by some of his co-workers for turning in other ctu agents who were dishonest and unscrupulous. their sins were relatively minor, but jack bauer did not stand for even the smallest corruption. such commitment is sadly rare in our society, yet it nevertheless tastes good to us.

whereas 'the x-files' worked in the mid-levels of government, 24 goes for the top without apology, as that it where the current political environment is focused. in the first seaons, the president was one of the two or three people you could always trust no matte what. in the most current seaon, the new president not only looks similar to richard nixon, but is weak and incompetant, making mistakes and trying to then talk his way out of them, and is later revealed to be in on the whole conspiracy, a puppet of an unknown council. while none of this is a reflection of my political thought, it certainly does chime with the general public, doesn't it? and while we're at it, the president's closest advisor, a wise but somewhat stoic man, looks rather similar to dick cheney. not to be a complete political commentary on news media images, the character is generally a good guy and does the right.

but amidst all this mess, is it any wonder we love jack bauer so, the man who stops at nothing until the government has been cleansed and evil has been brought to justice?

the show is pioneering styles as well as themes.
the basic concept of the show is that each episode of the season is one hour of real time, so that the first episode takes place between 8:00 and 9:00; next week cover the events between 9:00-10:00, and so on for 24 episodes. this is risky, demanding that viewers see each episode to follow the continous plot. missing one week will guarantee lost events and twists. further, this creates a barrier for those wishing to jump in partway through a 'day'.
netither of these potential flaws present a problem for jack bauer and the counter-terrorist unit. the advent of tivo and other dvrs provide the perfect solution to the demanding schedule, allowing viewers to live their lives and then escape into fantasy when convenient.
second, the writing of 24 is such that, within two or three weeks, a new viewer can feel more or less caught up and away with what's going on. but once you are hooked, it is nigh-impossible to let go.
this phenomenon can be seen in other major shows as well, most notably 'lost'. 'lost' is not as intense as 24, but does have a major, over-arching plot and story that is addressed each week. yet it has a much larger ensamble cast [also a growing trend] and moves at a slower pace,
exploring the increasingly-interconnected web between the stranded and their pasts. the show demands more from its viewership, though, as nuances expressed from several shows earlier [or even a previous season] can provide the weight in a current story.

this trend of making each part integral to the whole can be seen flowing into situation comedies as well, notably in 'the office', where the latter part of the season began to lean
more on the continuing drama of the characters and the ensuing results [quite frankly, i have no idea what the next season will bring].
if viewers are going to commit themselves to a show, they want to be rewarded.

daily show vs. colbert report
the daily show used to be funny and clever, and even a moderate source of information. it requred some education and knowledge of current events to appreciate it. now they are just coasting on their laurels, relying on smart aleckey quips of jon stewart and the humor of bleeped words. and whereas crudeness arose on occassion, it is now a constant and unappreciated stream.

surprisingly, the colbert report is clever, funny, and less crude that it's predecessor [please note the 'less']. and the show is more fun, having the intimate and friendly feel of 'late night with conan o'brien', like staying after a big performance and the star giving an encore for you and your friends. and stephen seems like a nicer and much less cynical guy.

late night with conan o'brien
letterman and leno host their shows like performers, people up on stage doing their job and keeping a transparent fourth wall between them and the viewer. conan has no wall. the show is literally the feeling after the large crowd has died down and now there is less stress and more time to just have some fun with your friends. the other guys host as if they have to remain marketable to as many people as possible who may have stumbled across the show before going to bed. conan seems to have a die-hard legion of fans who are there night after night, because they know they will laugh and have fun regardless of what they do.
dealing with so many celebrities, conan has had a great variety of people sit next to him, many of whom are crazy, rude, improper, and/or insecure; yet he has a very rare and wonderful way of talking with these people and making them look at genuinely good as possible, never bringing up unpleasant mistakes they may have made unless it is something they would like to clear up [discussing with russell crowe his phone-throwing incident was very amusing], and yet he also deftly and subtly steers guests away when they are approaching inappropriateness or extreme stupidity.
he respects his guests and his viewers. he seems like a genuinely good-natured person, and is one of a few famous people i would be interested in having lunch with.
i think he should be an ambassador to some really touchy nation.

the simpsons were the greatest show ever until the seventh season, when the quality pointedly turned and began a steady decline. the change was not very apparent until years later, but it has yet to recover or even pull out of the downward spiral today.

i once saw a commercial for 'desperate housewives'. what a shame.

the cosby show still remains for me as the best tv show ever, able to be 100% clean without feeling sterilized and for making us laugh loud and hard 25 years later, and for seeing the humor in family life without cutting it, degrading it, or even looking cynically at it.

post script:: tonight on conan, stephen colbert said that he was a sunday school teacher. he was also a self-declared dungeons & dragons player and lord of the rings fan. and so he firmly
declared the difference between a demon and a balrog; a demon, he said, was an angel who followed satan down to hell because he would not serve God. now, i found this rather intriguing; that's rather similar to lds theology, and i'm curious what other faiths believe about the events before the creation of the earth and how the devil became who he is.
certainly not the kind of things you hear on conan most nights.
nor did i expect that from mr. colbert.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

sounds like teen spirit

i was listening to pink floyd's 'pulse' cd last night, perhaps because founding member syd barrett recently passed away, or maybe because it provided a nice background as i was beginning to clean my room. their live performance of 'dark side of the moon' still sounds wonderful, and the sound drifts me back to high school, when i would stay up late at nights in my stylish gray room in the basement, not sure what it really meant to have a girlfriend but liking the excitement all the same as my hamster ran frantically in his cage. the cd sounds like those middle years of high school.
i like that.

this made me wonder about other cds and their emotional associations.
early beatles music very easily takes me back to the cold winter of 95-96, when, despite having repeatedly told my dad that i would never like his dumb old-man music, my first girlfriend was a beatles fan and i fell in love with the music as i did with her.

r.e.m.'s 'life's rich pageant' will always echo that summer morning when our dog tasha died, because that was the tape i listened to that day as i did my paper route and pondered death.

spacehog's 'resident alien' carries with it the last day of our sophomore year; the songs are a generic snapshot of the 'alternative' music movement of that time, and with it the quasi-grunge styles of school; there was talk of a group of people going to see 'dragonheart' that night, the big draw being a movie where one of the main characters was a cg dragon--that was really impressive at the time.
i think me and jon went to go see 'contact' instead.

the trainspotting soundtrack is synonymous with the night driving escapades of my final years in moorhead, when jon and i would go out driving, hoping to find somewhere to hang out, until we realized that driving was not in search of a destination, but the journey itself was the reward. we would get off work at the grocery store around 11 and head out on the fargo-moorhead area, exploring downtown broadway and the back country roads. with a stack
of cds, nothing existed outside of the car as we sang along or let the music provide a background to our discussions of high school, life, girls, and philosophy. that will always be one of my favorite experiences, and the 'trainspotting' soundtrack was my favorite cd.

i look over my cd collection and see numerous cds that i have loved at one point or another, but it seems that those with the most affixed memories all came during high school, particularly around my sophomore year. that i find intriguing. i was 16, getting my driver's license and
my dater's license. so many experiences opened up before me; mobility opened the door to association with the upper classmen, and with that new people, thoughts, lifestyles, adventures, and our hangout spot, atomic coffee. [i wonder if those crazy 'brainwash' drinks had anything to do with this....]

as a missionary in japan, we were taught that the use of music during drastically increases the amount of information recalled from a lesson or experience.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

i like

i like being clean shaven and playing softball, despite our team, the 'prancing gazelle', losing once again and needing some serious practice on catching.

i like talking with the amazing phil in the outfield and making a nice play.

[i would like to think that i am the first person in the church to extend a calling in the outfield during the middle of a softball game]

i like playing monopoly.

i like watching mark hold his kit kat like a cigar as he collects more money from the rest of us.
and i really like watching corinne take $1400 from him for landing on boardwalk and then the timer going off, so that mark loses the game by that exact amount.

[i had over half of my properties mortgaged and almost no money, but i just like playing with my 'new' monopoly set that i got for Christmas.]

post script:: a few days ago, i noticed the gold record from oingo boingo's 'dead man's party' album up for auction on ebay. the $150 starting price was steep, but as i've thought about it, that would be really cool to have. and no one had bid on it for days, so i made up my mind to make it mine. i came to the library this morning and dismayedly found it to be past $250.
i was sad.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

anger management

i'm in the lobby at church today before our ward began, working on my lesson about journals, their importance and coolness. it's really a fascinating and exciting lesson, with president woodruff talking about how the events of our life seem mundane now, but if we will write them down, they will become valuable to us and even moreso to our children and future descendants. i especially loved how he counselled to write down God's dealings with us--while it is so easy to think that most days of life are mundane, if we but open up our eager eyes and see things like he does, we will see the revelations that the Lord gives us each day. to me, this was invigorating, reminding me of the grandeur of all that we do and what we can do.

behind me i could i hear some people talking. while i didn't see them, it sounded like two girls and a guy, carrying on a conversation that was apparently existing only as a reason to avoid going to sunday school in the room next to them, casually talking about what japanese restaurants they liked.
and this really bothered me.

church is wonderful. there is so much to learn each week, and if people will come ready to learn, willing to hear what is said and to take it into their lives, we can learn so much more. instead, there are people who just come and treat it like a hangout, a place to talk to girls because sunday school is kind of boring.
that sort of attitude is immature and irritated me.

thank you for listening.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

red v. blue

i'll go with you, and i won't whine, and i'll sew you socks, and i'll stich you when you're wounded, and i'll do anything you ask of me except one thing. i won't watch you die.
etta place

on the sad side, i couldn't play softball last night because i hadn't shaved. i was rather hurt, not only because i was looking forward to playing, but also because i support the honor code as well as anybody, and didn't like getting cut by the sharp letter of the law.

'how long have you been a red man?'
'fifteen years.'
'what were you before that?'

Friday, July 07, 2006

my date with amelie

next door to me live a nice couple about my age.
i talk to them sometimes, and when i gave them some leftover food from a munch-n-mingle, they invited me over for dinner. ephraim is studying neuroscience at byu and sabina is from germany, which caught me off guard; she speaks perfect english. they have two daughters; leoni is 3 [-ish?] and amelie is 18 months.

they were out on the steps as i was carrying some bulky hd equipment to my car last week and asked if i could do a favor for them: they were going to the shakespeare festival in cedar city for a few days and asked if could watch amelie for a few days.
'sometimes people seem normal but are sickos inside', said sabina, 'but you seem like a good guy.'

[i suppose i didn't need to tell them that i was going to ward temple night that night.]

this was kind of cool; i didn't have any work this week, and i was happy to help out.

until that night, when i realized i know nothing about babies.
how do you feed them?
what do they eat?
what do you do with them for a full day? what about two days?
and i've never changed a diaper...

but that's what i've been up to this week.

and you know who writes a blog and is an great babysitter?

this guy, right here!

[i also wrote a baby expert in indiana and got some great tips, which helped]

on wednesday afternoon, i was a little nervous, and sabina looked like she hadn't slept in days. she went over everything i could ever need to know about her little girl and i asked my questions, and by the end, we were both feeling pretty good.

so we took amelie into the kitchen and she and i ate some potato chips while mom and dad and her big sister slipped out the door, and that was it.

it was me and amelie.

tears almost came for a moment, but pooh bear can solve a multitude of problems.

i had some film left on my camera from japan and took some pictures of her, had my friend crystal come over with her knowledge of little ones [and to provide moral support for both of us], and mostly just had a blast with her.

she really liked to do laps around the parked cars, going around and around with her stroller, hugging as close to the car as possible.
that was kind of weird, but i didn't worry about her too much.

we took a trip to wal-mart [to have some pictures of her when mom and dad got home], played in the park, enjoyed some turkey jerky and a can of corn together, she screamed at the bath tub and so got a wet-wipe cleaning for two days in a row, has a wonderful smile after she sneezes, and likes to sing along to abba.

only one really stinky diaper, and only once did she wake me up in the night, and then fell back asleep before i could get to her.

now, i've always thought little kids were cool, but my life has never really brought me close to children, and i've never been particularly baby-crazy.
in fact, i've viewed them with a bit of suspicion, only in that they seemed to shift the established family paradigm when they come along.

but amelie will change your life.

it was absolutely fascinating, watching this little girl who has only been on this earth for 18 months, learning to use her hands and feet, grabbing things to explore and take in all around her, her clear blue eyes sparkling at all the colors and shapes and beauty about, her young mind learning an unbelievable amount of information, sorting it out and drinking from the great cup of life.
i wondered what was she was thinking, what she saw and felt with everthing that she did.

i also developed an immense sympathy and respect for single parents, people who have one or two or three [or more] children who live like this every day by themselves. heck, i even had crystal with me for nearly the entire time and my life still felt like it was on hold. as long as amelie was awake, she was my life. i had no time to write or to go running; i got up earlier than usual to make sure i could shower while she was still asleep, and when she was up, we not only together continuously, but it was all around her. still, mom and dad would be back on friday afternoon, and then my life would be back to 'normal'.

my hat humbly goes off to all parents who read this.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


darling you've got to let me know
should i stay or should i go

provo's parade was a ton of fun. we sat on the curb, shouted the names of all the city officials who rode by in cars, stood up and cheered loudly for the missionaries, and got soaked by the fire truck spray.

between that and walking through the festival on center street last night, it's made me be glad to be american. i like being in japan and enjoying the other cultures, but it's also nice to savor one's own.

a quick stop at target to pick up some new swim trunks proved far more difficult than i imagined.... sometimes they were labeled numerically like jeans, sometimes they were just 's' 'm' 'l'; but those weren't even consistant amidst themselves; depending on the cut and fabric used,
same sizes would fit differently.
but after 10 tries, i found a winner.

but what was really awesome was the service project we had today.
i love how things work when they work like they're supposed to work:
i hometeach a girl who's dad is doing a lot of yard remodeling.
i ask her if there is a day that we can come by to help.
i tell my friend, who is the service chair.
the next thing i know, we have 15 people out in her yard today, working in the independance sun.
and we did almost the entire sidewalk done, dirt dug, sand laid, brick cut and placed.
service rocks.

as is common with probably all missions, my sister would often teach people who liked the Church, liked the activities, and liked the missionaries; they just didn't want to get baptised.
and so the missionaries have to stop teaching them.

i turned up the music and sang loudly on the way home.

thanks, laurie.

life lessons from a balloon:

a few years ago, my sister got me volunteered to help carry one of the giant balloons the provo 4th of july parade. there were probably fifteen or twenty of us each holding a rope. i remember holding very tightly onto my line, pulling down hard to balance the pull of the giatn helium eagle. i was a little frustrated why everyone else wasn't holding on as tightly, making me have to hold more weight.
then i realized that i was pulling down more than i needed, and that if i let go and just held my rope, together we held the patriotic eagle without any great stress on just one person.
...i think there's a lesson there....

Sunday, July 02, 2006


i used to love macy's buttermilk bread. it was so light and fluffy.
then one night i was shopping with my sister, who was spouting knowledge from her nutrition class; she told me about the glories of whole wheat bread and how good it is for you. but make sure you get 'whole wheat flour'. the 'enriched wheat flour' is just lacking all around.
[i recommend 'grandma sycamore's' whole wheat bread]

i didn't notice much of a difference outside of the expected changes when switching bread sources.
but, when i one day had a sandwich made from the former white bread, i couldn't believe i used to eat the stuff. there was no substance to it; it was all fluffiness! then did i realize how much more nutrition was in grandma sycamore's whole wheat bread.

last saturday night i was on a date with a girl recently back from her mission. she commented on how she went to 'lagoon', and while it was indeed a heck of a lot of fun with her friend, that was really nothing when compared with the fun and joy of missionary work.

i thought about that as she talked excitedly of the work [see jacob 4:18] and knew i knew what she was talking about, and had felt that joy recently myself, but it took me a few moments to remember where it had come from, as it's been a few years since i was in the field.

i heard a quote attributed to harold b. lee, saying, 'missionary work is just hometeaching to those who haven't yet been baptized, and hometeaching is just missionary work to those who are members of the Church.'

and so it is.

that is why i love sundays so much.

i've had a wonderfully ecclectic week; two days on a fun commercial, two days to ship my sister off to africa and take care of some of the necessities of life [still didn't make even half of my week's goals....], and two days having an absolute blast at the stadium of fire. and while it is good and worthy work and really quite enjoyable, it does not carry with it the depth of joy and fulfillment that comes from Church service.