Wednesday, January 31, 2007


since i been gone:

becky and i went to washington d.c. and philadelphia, where she interviewed for grad schools while i saw many cultured things, including the very cool jefferson memorial, ran the steps at the philadelphia museum, and enjoyed a cheesesteak with emily [who inspired me a year ago to start writing this thing] and got meet her very cool new little boy and talk with her husband, who's really a great guy; saw the barenaked ladies from the second row and loved every minute of it, standing next to beej and his wife [almost two years ago to the day, we were in the same place cheering for r.e.m.]; enjoyed one of the most delicious thankgiving feasts ever with my sister and kirk and his wife; went on a very fast trip down to burbank then up to boise and back to slc all in two days for a rather weird little documentary, but learned that southwest airlines doesn't have assigned seating but does have the friendlist attendants i have ever met; surprisingly had the funding pulled for the movie i had spent the last two months producing and worked through the mess that followed; was let down with 'the pursuit of happyness' but really enjoyed 'rocky 6'; enjoyed a brown Christmas in minnesota [the first in 50 years] where i got hooked on 'mah jong' and had an absolute blast playing tennis on my brother's wii; got digital canon rebel; watched 'primer' and 'shrek 2' and was again reminded how amazingly awesome both of those movies are; took a trip to the mall of america and finally visited the hard rock cafe in minneapolis; indulged in a bit of my childhood and bought a 3rd printing of 'teenage mutant ninja turtles' #1 off of ebay; and even got to go to a moorhead spuds hockey game [and they whalloped the other guys];

trying to 'save up' old postings isn't really the best way to do things. so now you're all caught up.

in one year, i wrote 164 posts; a little less than one every two days, and never more than one per day. and some of those were actually kind of interesting.
thank you for reading.
comments are always apprecaited.
here's to another year, and hopefully 200 posts [or at least one in each month!]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

one more thing i swore i'd never enjoy

as far back as i can remember, i've never liked country music. i'm not entirely sure where that notion came from, but by sixth grade i was sure country was about the worst music ever. no, i had never really listened to it, but i didn't like it.
in recent years, i've met some nice and charming ladies, midwest farmer's daughters, and even my current roommate, who have helped me to see that country music could actually be kind of fun.

over the past few months, my sister has been spending time with a nice boy who is a very good country dancer. they go out on saturday nights and have a wonderful time, and a few weeks ago invited me to go with them. it was really an unfortunate experience on my part, as i got there in a rather sour mood and after learning some basic steps, did not feel like dancing. it wasn't one of my brighter moments.
but i wanted to go back and try it again, when i was in better spirits.

becky said she and her nice boy would make dinner, i called a nice girl and she was excited, and suddenly i had a rad saturday evening planned. looking at my closet that afternoon, i knew the cowboy hat was a must, but instead of a 'country' shirt [which i don't even own], i had a thought. i called kristin and said but two words: 'shiny shirt'.

well, not only can she sing along in the car, her wardrobe came through in spades. her shiny shirt gave mine a run for the money, and her mom and i got a bit of a fashion show highlighting the other amazing thift store finds she has.

becky and her nice boy have been dancing for a while, so they gave us a quick lesson on the country cha-cha or something: we watched a 'how to country dance' video and ended up dancing into the wall without learning much anyway.
but no worries, they give lessons at the center if you get there early [admission is less, too].
i did musical theatre for five years in school and was pretty good at singing, but usually ended up in the back for the dance numbers [my brother has fared much better at dancing on stage]. college wasn't much better for me: i took social dance and passed the tests only because my partners would often quietly count the tempo for me; tap dance was really rather fun, but i also got my worst grade at byu there.
the lessons given at the... what kind of a place was this, anyway? center? ...were very helpful, and by the end, kristin and i were looking pretty good--we could even do a couple of dips.

yes, we danced the night away.
we hung around becky and brady [he's a nice boy], because i easily forget steps, moves, and anything related to dancing, and he was happy remind me what i learned fifteen minutes before. there were times when i would look over and see him throwing my sister around in seemingly-precarious fashion, yet she always landed safe and sound. ...which is not to say that i always did the same; i was dancing with becky for her to show me something new and accidentally dropped her on her back. hooray for tough sisters.
had you come that night and seen us, you'd have thought we'd been coming there for weeks--it's easy to learn and a blast when you do. kristin is one of those hyper-social people who knows at least five people wherever she goes, and we got to give her friends a couple of pointers. that was a confidence booster.
being out there on the dance floor with my sister was a rad little experience. as close as we are, we don't do a whole lot of active social outings together, particularly in the dating scene. seeing her out there, dancing it up and getting thrown around, laughing and line dancing [by the way, this wasn't your easy-to-do byu line dance], was something we'd never really done before and was a blast.
and i want to go back.

Friday, January 19, 2007

of dumplings and curry

in the summer of 2003, i went up to preston idaho and worked on a goofy little movie called 'napoleon dynamite'.
in the summer of 2004, 'napoleon dynamite' was the crazy surprise hit of the summer and i'm sometimes in bafflement even to this day.
in the summer of 2005, a lot of the 'nappy d' crowd got together in the beautiful [and rainy] forests of oregon to make a movie called 'the sasquatch dumpling gang'.
in the winter of 2006, 'sdg' played at the slamdance film festival in park city, but i didn't find out until it was too late. i heard mixed reviews about it.
in the winter of 2007, 'sdg' played at the lds film festival in orem, ut, and i saw it.
it was better than i feared it would be.

in the middle of december of last year [i.e. last month], we had a reunion of film friends from byu, and i had a fun chat with stacey snider. we decided we should get together sometime and do whatever people do when they get together. on this particular evening, that included a movie staring a guy who is now a mac and a some bigfoot poo. we then added thai food and a game of mah-jong, for good measure.

it's always an interesting experience, seeing a movie that you worked on, because we shot it out of order and context, the actors are the same guys you have dinner with, and all those names in the credits are your friends.
i liked the parts of the script that i had read, and i thought i could see where they were going with the script; it was very much akin to 'nappy d', but if anyone was allowed to follow that, this group was. but i felt that the casting for 'gavin', the lead kid, was inaccurate; instead of an awkward kid with glasses and a crew cut, they got a teen hearthrob. i'd never heard of him, but kohl, my friend and hotel roommate, told me that if you google his name, you get a lot of sites devoted to him. i have no reason to doubt that, as everywhere we went, groups of teenage girls would gather, just hoping to get a glimpse of jeremy sumpter. this casting decision yielded different results than what i, as the camera loader, invisioned for the movie. couple that with the difficulties we had in meeting our daily schedules and i was feeling worried for this script that held potential.

it's a fine movie. it won't sweep the nation by storm, but i think it could do well in theaters and make its money back. the 'rashomon' structure works nicely, showing different branches of the story develop, and so adding dimension to the movie. justin long, now famous as the 'mac', was a joy to watch on set, and that charisma holds on the screen. he plays a 30-year old white trash neighbor, and balances the line dividing character and caricature with ease. his energy and enthusiasm carry the movie.
i was surprised at the other character that stood out to me: sophie. in a movie of six main characters, five guys play distinct varieties of nerds, freaks, and geeks. yet sophie, 'the girl', manages to avoid any exageration or hyperbole, and instead deveops a nice girl who we believe is real; she is not the drop-dead attractive girl who likes the nerds only because the script tells her to, nor is she bland and one-dimensional. delicately played by addie land, she fits like a welcome breath of fresh air amidst all the skewed boys around her. she was quiet on set, but stood out on screen without being distracting.
somehow, the whole thing worked. despite being contrary to my presupositions, gavin's character fit into the fictional world of clackanomah, oregon, although it may be that the world fit around gavin.

the provo-orem area is ripe with thai places, but my personal favorite is the thai ruby, just south of byu. and while i am trying to branch out and try new things, i really couldn't see any reason to not get the green cury yet again. and the conversation was as exhuberant as the food, if food can be called exhuberant; stacey and i told stories of world travel, swapped elephant stories, and discussed the structural and thematic elements of 'the office'.

comfortably full, as thai food often does to one, we went back to the house and i taught the peoples how to play the ancient chinese game of mah-jong. i really do love this game, and, after a few rounds and a little help translating the chinese characters, i had a made three more fans who could differentiate between a 'chow' and a 'pung'.

a few 'office' psa's and we called it a pretty awesome night.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

the hard rock fridate

orlando, new york, philadelphia, seoul, osaka, bangkok, minneapolis; it sounds like a collection of 'global underground' cds. i've been to hard rock cafes all over, but never to the slc. so what a better way to throw down the new year's dating gauntlet, right? i called a nice girl and she agreed to go on a date with me, and when i found out that there was an organ-accompanied showing of buster keaton's 'go west' at 'the organ loft' in salt lake, well, that finalized the requirements for a wonderful night. [incidentally, this was the same girl who went to see keaton's 'college' with me a few months ago; but she was very happy to go--hooray for cultured people].

racing north on I-15, we sang along to countless random songs, and all the while i was impressed with kristin's knowledge of music that i thought was obscure. i've said it before, if you can sing along with me, you are a step above the crowd. mark and erin were in the back, not singing along. but they're 'dating', so i don't know what official couples do.
despite having the address for the venue, i had a hard time finding the place ['the organ loft' is a little tiny building that is tucked away on a small street and looks like a non-descript bar from the outside], so we were a few minutes late. walking in, we saw a room like a small community center with chairs set up on the floor. and, since we were ten minutes late, we pulled up some chairs in the back, putting us far enough under the second floor mezzanine that we could only see the screen by slouching in our chairs similar to that of a very bored seventh-grader. then, to add confusingness to it all, up on the screen was not buster keaton but charlie chaplin. now, i know chaplin is the more famous of the three great silent comedians [can you even name the third?], but in the general concensus of cinephiles, keaton is the master. and i most certainly agree with that.

i suspected that maybe this was just a short we were watching, and after it had gone on long enough that i began to wonder otherwise, it ended, and they introduced the night's feature, buster keaton's 'go west'.
seeing any buster keaton movie with a live accompaniment is a treat, but this was the weakest of all that i have seen. the plot followed the standard structure of the down and out but lovable hero trying his darnedest to fit into a culture not his own, all in a effort to win the girl; nearly every movie of his is the same, tried and true, and beloved by the fans. what was missing, however, was the unbelievable physicality that leaves us not just amazed that he did it, but that he survived the fall, train, bull, house collapse, bridge collapse, car collision, etc.

the slchrc, apart from being a little tricky to find, was the emptiest i have seen just about any hard rock cafe. this proved advantageous as the evening went on.

our waitress was hip and told us about the coolest memorabilia to be found throughout the establishment, the ok go 'treadmill' video played, much to our pleasure, and the food was quite good. when the girls were asking for take-home boxes, the restaurant had cleared out enough that we were told we could stand on the tables to take pictures if we'd like [and i was quite happy that my sister had agreed to loan me her camera]. so we did. we stood on tables. and chairs. kristin and erin were dressed almost identically, so we got a picture of that. mark and i posed as best we could in front of the wall of 'kiss' artifacts. we saw madonna's pointy-braziere thing. kristin and i made muppet faces. we got our cool waitress to join us for a picture in front of a bust of elton john. and then danced in the booth. kristin is a much better dancer than i. at least, she can keep a straight face longer than me.

the evening ended with the four of us back at our place, sharing favorite videos off youtube, including the charlie brown Christmas special set to outkast's 'hey ya', live performances by k.t. tunstall, the white stripes' 'denial twist', and the family guy's parody of a-ha's classic 'take on me' video.

some nights, you just can't go wrong.

Friday, January 12, 2007

on 'kill bill'

a few days ago, alyssa left a comment on 'all these things that i've seen part II'. it was quite interesting, and my reply got so long that i decided to put it up front, instead of buried in the archives.
so there you go.

Alyssa Rock said...
This comment is deeply buried in your blog so I doubt you'll ever see it, but I just wanted to offer my empathy on Kill Bill. I had to watch both Kill Bills for my "Intro to Graduate Study" class at the University of Kansas. My prof thought it was a brilliant example of post-modernism. And yes I agree with him that they're quite brilliant from a post-modern perspective. For one, they're so packed full of references to popular culture and Asian camp that it would take many, many days to annotate all of the other films that Tarantino references in this one. And yes, Kill Bill 2 is much better than 1 in my opinion.

That being said, I strongly regret having seen them. I watched them unedited and they were pretty difficult to stomach. It's being required to watch films like that which made me leave my PhD program. I don't mind violence if it has some sort of transcendant purpose. But Kill Bill just felt *so* post-modern it was just self-indulgent. Anyhow... thought I would offer some validation for ya.
3:59 PM

-->jeff * said...
first off, i do browse older postings to see what comments do get left. of course, i can't help but wonder if you'll see this reply....

tarantino is perhaps the film critic's poster child for the post-modern film of the last 20 years ['annie hall' is a great example of inter-textuality from 30 years ago, by the way], and i think he has become overly conscious of that trait, though perhaps not to the self-destructive extent that shaymalan did with his own style.
talking with darl larson shortly after the movie came out [and long before i had seen it], he commented on the massive amounts of nods and homages to the kung fu movies and obscure asian films [and i'm sure darl has seen more of them than anyone else i know, even dean].

yet referencing your vast personal knowledge of film does not make your movie a masterpiece. perhaps if i could recognize what godzilla movie that sunrise shot was from i might get a few of the movie's winks and nudges. i've read before, in reference to adaptations [particularly comic book to movie adaptations] that a movie should stand on it's own; if i have to have read a fair amount of the 'fantastic four' canon to appreciate the movie, then the movie cannot stand on it's own and is therefore not a good adaptation.

all that being said, i don't think that knowing those references would make me appreciate the movie more [knowing that uma's yellow jumpsuit is a nod to bruce lee hasn't done a lot for me], although if i had seen hundreds of kung fu movies, i would most likely have developed a taste for it and therefore enjoy the movie more on the basis of a love for the genre.

i do not think, however, that the majority of movie-goers did not like the movie because they recognized motiffs from 'tokyo showdown.' rather, i think they reveled in the obscene amounts of gore. as several friends told me, 'yeah, but it's so over the top it's hardly even real'. perhaps, but if a movie is finding its strength on absurd shock, that's not much a of movie, even if it is 'done well'.

now, there is the argument that perhaps the film maker was making a commentary on how extreme violence has become in our society [i've heard that a few times in regard to 'natural born killers']. ok, though i again would be surprised if even 'most' of the audience left thinking that society was too violent and that they needed to make a change [if that were their train of thought, they probably wouldn't buy the dvd when it came out].
so then the argument becomes a kind of 'caveat emptor', placing the responsibility on the viewer, saying that we, as viewers, need to be educated and aware of what we watch, not sitting back for a rollercoaster, but keeping our minds awake and considering what the director is saying.
and if the intended audience was for darl or dean, i would concede to that.
but it's not. tarantino is a film maker for the masses [although the bergman/renoir crowd likes him, too; the circles are not mutually exclusive], and that carries responsibility [no, he is not the culprit, just the topic at the moment]. true, guns can be used well with responsibility, but that does not mean they should be given to the careless or the youthful.

i didn't think 'kill bill vol.1' was a very good movie, and that it gleaned its power from extreme shock violence. surprisingly to even me, i quite enjoyed 'vol.2'. but that's for another post.
4:09 PM

Monday, January 01, 2007

wake up (it's 2007)

Christmas is really my thing.
new year's, not so much.
i don't have anything against it, but i'm not one who looks forward to the party and all that jazz.
however, i have made a couple of changes that make me cooler for the new year.

first and foremost, i now have a gmail account, after repeated insistance by my sister that i sign up so that we can chat on g-chat.
i've been feeling the need for a new email address for a while, anyway; when i got back from my mission six years ago, signing up with yahoo as 'macavity_0' seemed pretty cool--a nice reference to t.s. elliot.
but now, well, it seems a little sophomoric, not to mention confusing on a couple of levels. so i often give out '', which ends up in my yahoo account anyway.

the chance to get a new account was a fresh idea--and becky pointed out that it's cool to just use your name with a gmail account anyway. i was planning on just doing 'jg@gmail' and leaving it at that.

after several rejected tries, i was beginning to wish i had signed up with google a few years ago, when they were still new-ish, and there were still choices available.
'jg@gmail' was too short.
so was 'goose@gmail'--it has to be at least six characters.
'jeffgustafson', 'jeff.gustafson', 'jeffreygustafson', 'jeffrey.gustafson', 'j.gustafson', 'jeffreyg', 'jeffrey.g'--all were taken. ....and i really liked that last one.

but, like most e-mail services, gmail offers you possible suggestions based on your crushed hopes. for example, 'gustajeff' was available.
but my favorites were 'gustafsonmeister' and 'gustanator'.
now, i've always held google in the image that they were 'cool', leading the e-world pack.
and i think that still stands, which makes the '-meister' and '-nator' suffixes so baffling; those were barely cool in 1992 anyway....

after much frustration [and giving up once, until i got another sisterly-invite to gmail], i finally came upon a name that i liked and was actually not taken:

'gustafson' isn't as difficult to spell as a polish name, but it's always been a little frustrating to give, because i usually have to spell it out for someone and then tell them how to say it [but without any great stories like 'bytheway']. after over two decades of this, i finally realized the perfect trick to pronouncing my surname:
'it's like a 'gust of wind', but a 'gust of sun'.
that works like a charm.

and so that's what i chose: gustofsun@gmail.

i've also been introduced to the quintessential chinese pastime, mah jong. reportedly quite popular with old jewish women, i'm adding myself to the ranks. friends of mine bought identical sets for one another for Christmas, and after having me and becky over to play, i was hooked. they offered to sell me their extra set on an installment plan [$5 down already], so i now have my own very nice mah jong set [complete with very poorly translated instructions]. i know the rules well enough to play a game, although we find ourself wondering about certain aspects everytime we play. so we make up our own rules and press on.

if you're interested in learning to play, stop by my house sometime. i'll be happy to teach you.

maybe i should have chosen itslikeagustofwindbutagustofsun@gmail.