Friday, December 26, 2008

the mega mall

last night as i was fighting to stay awake while tim and my high school best friend, jon, were playing zombies ate my neighbors on the super nintendo, i didn't think i would be going to minneapolis today. as had happened a few years ago, scott was at his sister's in
wisconsin and suggested we meet up at the mall of america, coloquially known as "the mega mall."
it wasn't that i didn't want to go; i did. it was more a combination of it was becky and brady's last day in town (not that i don't see them often in provo; it's just... different in minnesota), they were staying the extra day because the roads were looking bad, and, perhaps the deciding factor, it was already 1:30 a.m. and i didn't look forward to getting up 6 hours.
surprisingly, the sleep issue was overcome, although the road concern was not frivolous. i checked numerous weather report sites, and chose to disregard the bold red line on the map, running from my house to the twin cities, signifying "severe road conditions", deciding that the other three reports that don't show any dangers can't be wrong.

3 out of 4 websites were right; i went 77mph the whole way.
the roads were wet, and when the sun broke through, landscape in front of me became brilliantly blinding. i've let owning glasses exclude me from owning sunglasses, and now i was paying for it. so much, in fact, that i gave way to complete humilty and fumbled around for my father's "old man" sunglasses--the over-sized kind that fit over a pair of standard spectacles. the tragedy is that, despite my having only ever seen them worn by aarp card holders, they are actually very convenient and effective. and, since i wasn't trying to impress anyone on the now sepia-toned great plains, i didn't mind like looking like willy wonka.

driving past the town signs, it's easy to see that this is indeed the land of 10,000 lakes: detroit lakes (great swimming), pelican rapids, fergus falls (they were "the otters", and our pep band would cheer for them, too, because it was fun).
i love this state, and every year that i come back, that feeling deepens. i want to photograph it as i see it, the magic what i grew up with and now appreciate, and i drove though beautiful cold fog this morning. i wished for a camera and a place to shoot the trees diminishing into the white atmosphere.

in my mind, the trip takes four hours. but that was under "60 mph" rules. now, it takes three. to get to the belt route, anyway. another 20 minutes to the mall, and then 40 minutes to move from the off ramp to the mall parking ramp, the distance of a ten-minute's walk. we used to stop here the day after thanksgiving, and i loved the energy of it all.
patience provided me a parking spot, and i texted the location of my car to myself, knowing i would otherwise forget the cartesian coordinates: "P4-D8-florida".

i found scott and his wife near the entrance to bloomingdales, looking over the shirts and asking why anyone would pay $247 for a t-shirt. i didn't have an answer for him, but i did want to grab something to eat. as with every other aspecy of the mall, the mega mall boasts two large food courts, epitome's of the mall rat culture in all it's fast food glory. we opted for the fifties-nostalgia burger joint, "johnny rockets", and paid three times what we would for the same meal deal available at in-n-out burger. so be it.

i've never been a mall junkie, yet i often enjoy seeing the great commercialism that makes up so much of who we are, and i like to dip my feet in it. and if you're going to do that, why not enjoy it at its best?
the mall was surging with people. people, people everywhere, and still everyone seemed to fit and make room. every store was advertising sales, usually 50-70% off. i wandered into a jeans store and came out twenty minutes later with what are now my favorite pair of jeans. lucky, indeed.

scott was a great roommate for several years, and got married after he graduated and moved to texas. there's so much to like about him, and his steady and stable disposition make a good addition to any group. i had the chance to briefly meet his wife, angela, over some cheap chinese food earlier this year, but it was fun to get to know her more in the mall. they are perfect for each other, having a nice balance of matching corresponding attributes while alligning together in other traits. being with cool people like that makes me smile.
angela noted that gamestop always smells like smelly boys. i had never thought about this, and wandered in. and then wandered back to her and promptly agreed.

we met up with scott's older siblings and their respective offspring and found the disney store. the youngest got excited over the camp rock paraphenelia while i got excited over the wall.e paraphenelia. the nylon wall.e doll almost won my $9.99, as did the equally-priced eve notebook/journal. i think had wall.e been plush, i would have gone for it. he's a robot, but he should be tactile.

it was a bit of a shame that i drove for fours only to spend three with my friends, but the roads were becoming potentially precarious. i was enjoying the mall so much that i would have liked a friend to go meandering with for another hour or two, but now was not the time. i said goodbye to scott and soon realized that, despite have the location written down, i could not find my car.

ten minutes later and one level down, i was in the car and out on the road. i took 494 west to get here, so i would take 494 east to go back the way i came, right? made sense to me, but either i misunderstood or the civil engineering committee of minneapolis disagreed, because i took a different and longer way back to I-94. don't get me wrong, this was the scenic route, and i got to see the unniversity of minnesota, augsburg college, the state capitol and catherdral in st. paul, and much of the downtown area; it's just that a four-hour drive can get long without anyone else to sing along to the ipod with.

and i got lost again in elk river when i stopped for gas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

eve

certainly the most magical night of the year, anyway.

a few years ago, my friend sent me this as his family's Christmas greeting.
i think it's wonderful.

merry Christmas = )

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas card rejects

for whatever reason, i ended up with my hands on the keyboard when it came time to write the caption for the family Christmas card. after much deliberation, we went with listing our names.
my favorite (serious) suggestion was "the gustafsons: so much more than just a Christmas card."
other ideas that didn't even get that far:

we like you.
love, the gustafsons

a lot of effort for a little card.

the frozen chosen

warmest wishes from 20 below

who knew so much could happen in 365 days??

another without police involvement;
there's so much to be grateful for!

what a long, strange trip it's been...

the people we don't like got an
envelope of coal.

we're sick of doing Christmas cards.
enjoy this one.

everything we thought of was boring
or immature.

how many of us can you name?
(middle names are double points)
answer key next year.

we've made it another year!
did you?

happy hanukah, kwanzaa, festivus, and tabernash

join the mormon church

you never visit.

a lovely new mom, an eligible bachelor,
and, well, we love jeff.

photography by the cats.
they're getting better.

bah weep granah weep ninni bong

love, the stevensons

a picture's worth a 1000 words.
write what this says to you.

jeff and tim's lovely wives took
the picture.

tim's not wearing any pants there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

chungking express shipping

the short before the show: i was in a crabby mood today. i don't like being in crabby moods. i'm trying to work on that.
but i went to see wall.e in the dollar theater here. there's so much i love about that movie... at the core, i love wall.e for the same reason that i love ducks: he's just doing what he can do and being the best at it.

the feature presentation: when we arrived here on friday night, i was expecting to have a few packages waiting for me. one was in my room, but nothing else had arrived. strange, but i decided to give the shipping industry some more time.
today i checked my criterion order and it said that it had been delivered on the 16th. to the office. and signed for by "muller."
i had had criterion change my shipping from utah to minnesota the day it shipped (turns out it would have arrived in provo before i left), so sent them an e-mail to find out where they had shipped the box and were things got mixed up.
i thought about it.
ok. "office"/"house", tomato/tomato, fine. whatever; it got delivered. and with their electronic signature thingers, maybe "valerie" read as "muller."
i mentioned to my mom that the tracking number said it had been delivered here days ago. she asked what movies they were, (criterion's first blu-rays, chungking express and the third man, for those of you interested), and then said that they had arrived. but, in the flurry of package activity that is Christmastime at the gustafsons, it seemed that they had been wrapped and were probably under the tree already.
i had a good laugh about this and smiled in the false sense of security akin to when a movie seems it's over, but there still 20 minutes left.
i came home from some friends' that night and there was chungking express, shink-wrapped and lovely on my desk. everything was solved and it was a happy ending.
like an fbi detective rushing in with new lab results, criterion had returned my query. the address they had shipped it to lacked the starting "2" of my parents' house. they had called, and found that this muller character had, indeed, signed for it at the office, which was probably two miles west of here. the criterion rep offered to do further research and track down the fedex driver and find out just who gave it to whom.
to quote alice, "curiouser and curiouser...."

where did this disc on my desk come from? mom said she must have ordered it for me, but i never told her that i wanted it. is the third man wrapped under the tree? what is "muller" doing with my movies?

my mother is very good at keeping track of all the Christmas inventory, and she has it all logged somewhere, we just haven't bothered to check yet. afterall, nothings going to change much in the next few days anyway. so i'll wait until everything under the tree is revealed and go from there.

further, my dad's present that i ordered on dec. 2 hasn't arrived, and i haven't heard back from the company on that one. maybe he's on the naughty list and santa intercepted it?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

warmed up to zero

in my junior high health class, there was a kid named paul. i don't think i ever said much more to him that "hi", if that, even though he was in my grade through high school.
when i walked into sacrament meeting today, amidst a pleasant flurry of excited greetings from friends, i noticed paul, sitting in the back. i hadn't seen in him ten years, but it was unmistakeably him. it seemed as if he was meeting with the missionaries, and i made it a point to talk with him, even though i didn't know what i'd say.
the ward's Christmas program ended, and my time was taken up with laughing with old friends and new babies; a good while into sunday school, actually. and paul was gone.
coming out of sunday school, i about walked right into him. i didn't think he'd remember me, and he didn't, but when i asked him what he'd been up to, he said that he and his dad had been baptized in may. i've sometimes wondered what it would have been like if someone from school (of 1500 students and 2-6 mormons) had joined the Church, but never did it occur to me it would be paul. probably because i never talked with him.
there was something very cool about the whole thing.

a few years ago, becky and i got to accompany my dad on one of his high council visits out to a little branch about an hour from here. we got to speak along with him, and i really enjoyed that. (so did the branch; they liked having new people around) while it certainly wasn't going to happen, i have a secret desire to teach a week of sunday school here in fargo. ...a secret desire publicly posted on the internet. it would be fun to come back to my old ward and preach.

i'm home. and i love it.
the longer i'm away from the area, the more i notice and appreciate the culture here: a staunch community adapted to cold, harsh weather, kept warm by kindness and hospitality. i loved being at the mall yesteday, bustling with Christmas shoppers. the snow is so cold that it doesn't stick, but blows in great drifts across the parking lots and yards. i grinned as i wrapped my long coat around me and ran to the car: this is what winter and Christmas feel like, and it's wonderful. today i found out that tim was similarly elated when he stepped out of the airport last night. it's part of being minnesotan.

i like being in my home, too. my mom is being an excellent hostess to everyone, and as she was exlpaining to me that she had set out a towel and where to find a washcloth should i need one, i reminded her that i'm not really a guest--this is my house.
which souded a little weird. perhaps it isn't my "house", although it still feels like home. mom has been excellent in redecorating and remodeling over the years (so much so that, when i got a picture of becky's graduation reception during my mission, didn't recognize the house until i noticed the dishwasher), and some room looks new everytime we come home (this it's the main bathroom).
but with a little memory and imagination, it's easy to slowly wind back time, to remember the children that used to run through the halls, the furnace room that was scary with a sense of imagined adventure, the laughter and fun of being with my friends. i've lived in each of the three children rooms, so much that it's getting pointless to say "jeff's room", because we're not sure which one that is anymore.

it's home. it looks different, but it feels the same, and i like it that way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

813 mile car trip*

i'm in nebraska.
i slept for about 2 and a bit hours last night, which made me a more docile co-pilot that i usually am. but brady and i crossed wyoming without any forboding snow sightings. actually, that's not accurate. we did see some snowy, stormy clouds, and, with the sun breaking through, i got some good pictures. i was wishing i had someone else's lens, but i made due with what i had.

if you've ever ridden in a car with my sister, you will know that you will invariably be made to play "the atlas game", whereupon she will grab the discount wal-mart atlas and begin testing your state trivia. becky will be riding with us tomorrow to minnesota, and even though brady and i fancy ourselves as knowing our geography, we decided some practice wouldn't hurt.
not only do we not know our world capitols, but my knowledge of state capitols is shameful. i'm embarrassed.

carrots are another staple on car trips (at least, in my family), and, for much of my childhood, were cut into neat sticks by my mother. then the baby carrots were invented. different, but still comfortable and bite-size. and that's what i was expecting when brady said he brought carrots. i reached behind my seat and hefted a large plastic bag stuffed with what i termed, "bugs bunny carrots"; large, whole carrots, with the ends chopped; washed, not peeled. true to what my sister says, they were very "crunchy." and fragmenty; i choked on one as i was getting my pre-payed change at the truck stop.

brady and i chose all truck stops. perhaps it was because we were on I-80, the transportation industry artery of the country (try saying that ten times fast); passing all the semis along the way, brady noted how they aren't as refined as other professions, but all of us depend on truckers. the friendliest truck stop was in nebraska, with a few patrons saying "hi" to me, along with a sign on the door advertising "rifle cases for $75." this is the real deal, folks.
in contrast to the log-like carrots of earlier, i hunted down a pair of pink snowballs. i found not the hostess kind, but mrs. freshley's. tim and i conducted a taste test earlier this year and found that "her" cupcakes beat out hostesses, although i'm still split on the snowballs.

not only does nebraska boast a billboard advertising "fun and recreation on jeffrey lake in brady, ne", but they seem to have a love with museums. the history of kool-aid, paperweights, plains pioneers, germans from russia, and military vehicles; all in nebraska. not good enough? how about a museum that is built over both sides of the freeway? it was dark, so i couldn't see what it housed, but i did noticed a painting of a wizard on the side.

and, due to an ice storm, i will be here until friday. thankfully, we've got singin' in the rain....

lastly, i recently washed my "minnesota" hoodie, since it smelled like campfire. it shrunk, and now is just slightly too small. that's only relevant in that i'm wearing it and it's been bugging me all day.



*it was actually 894, but then it wouldn't match the song. strictly a creative decision.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the weekend update

i really haven't felt like posting this week.  or, rather, i've wanted to post, but haven't had anything to say.  now that the week is over, i see that a fair amount of things have happened, worthy of mention.  nothing stellar, but the stuff of life nonetheless.

monday.  ok, i lied: monday was stellar.
stellar A: when i scheduled the annual "muppet+nog party", i explicitly told my sister that i would deny any work offered to me that day; i would not miss this party.  and, lo and behold, i got a call from cosmic pictures on saturday in need of a good camera assistant.  man, sometimes the stars align against you.  or, perhaps not.  it turned out that the shoot was not only an awesome position (me sitting behind the camera, instead of next to it), but it would be 8 hours at most.  ...meaning i could work a good day and still make it in plenty of time for that party.  man, i love it when the planets align and the tumblers of the universe fall into place.
the shoot rocked so severely that i was in a great mood as i stopped by macey's to buy a lot of eggs, cream, nutmeg, and whole milk.  i even remembered to use my trendy canvas shopping bags (thanks, criterion!)
which leads to...

stellar B: the muppet+nog party went more or less as planned.  last year i made just enough for everyone to get one glass full.  this year i bought enough to make two for everyone, but the first batch was a quadruple recipe, which had even my largest bowls brimming to the top with noggy goodness.  suffice it to say, that was enough work that we didn't make the second batch.  everyone got one glass of seriously dang good nog, and i've still got a ton of dairy products in my fridge.
michael caine sings, "if you want to know the measure of a man, you simply count his friends!"  such being the case, i am worth 15 awesome friends and two babies.  i'm pretty happy about that.  we sang along as best we could, we laughed a lot, and ate homemade oreos (thanks, jaime!) and ginger snaps (thanks, natalie!)

tuesday.  i've decided i'd like a blu-ray player.  a bit of research revealed that a playstation 3 was actually the best blu-ray player out there and tim helped me find a great deal on ebay (did you know that if you use microsoft's new search engine to buy things on ebay under certain conditions, they'll give you money back?  100% for real!), and my ps3 came today.  hooking it up is an evolving nightmare, but i've already watched wall.e twice.  i have an unabashed crush on that movie for so many reasons....
we also watched the childhood favorite, a claymation Christmas, and tim showed us dr. horrible's sing along blog, about which he wrote a good, insightful essay.

wednesday.  after the chris's photo-endorsement of the hogle zoo's Christmas lights, mark and i decided to ask some nice girls on a zoo date.  i like monkeys.  and the porcupine.  and the poison dart frogs.  and we saw some cougars, too, who didn't mind my camera flash.  and we stuffed mark inside an egg.  all followed by some seriously good pizza at stoneground pizza, our very favorite (and possibly hexed) pizza joint.

thursday.  another day of work at cosmic, more awesome times had by all.  and, miracle of miracles, i made it to mandy anderson's wedding reception.  i wanted to, because a) mandy's great and b) i wanted to keep my resolution to attend receptions, and an insider tip let me know that people were still in line when i was getting back in town.

friday.  i had a fine list of things i needed to do today.  then mark called and suggest we go to ikea to buy some furniture.  mostly, i went because of the meatballs.  that evening was our ward Christmas party, for which I was not too eager.  nor did i have a skit, and, when they said "each committee should prepare a skit", i suspected that "sunday school" may be included in that.  the party was actually great, with robust attendance, plenty of food, and a couple of really good skits, the best being the brower family doing a puppet performance about the joys of fun-sounding words like "blubber", "macadamia", "gazebo", and, my favorite, "tuberculosis" (the chris, i thought of you from the start).

saturday.  i ran errands in the wet snow while listening to the soundtrack for a charlie brown Christmas.  itunes had it as part of their $4.99 sale this week, and i'm absolutely enraptured with it.  i went to the byu bookstore and mailed a package that i should have mailed off yesterday, and another that i should have mailed off in, oh, september.  and i picked up ratatouille on blu-ray at best buy on sale and marveled at its beauty as i tossed together a noodle stir fry that i'd rate about a 6 out of 10.  
that night i went i filled in with bekahjo as she set up some friends on a date to the lights at temple square.  had i known we were going to ihop, i wouldn't have eaten beforehand.  i ordered a hot chocolate, which was nice and rich (think heated hershey's syrup).  two cups was enough for me.  the rest of the evening, the lights, the company, the conversation, was, true to form, pretty much great.  except for the roads; they were really icy.

sunday.  because i had a meeting with the stake presidency smack in the middle of my sunday school lesson, i only taught for 15 minutes, then passed the torch to another teacher.  i wanted to talk, ever so briefly, on one of the more misunderstood (or simply unknown) topics in the Church, the house of israel.  but that's really hard to do in 10 minutes.  and harder still when it seems everyone is talking.  in short, it wasn't so good.
hometeaching, however, was good.  great, actually.  but, sad.  see, when i moved into the ward three and a bit years ago, i was given the best hometeaching companion ever.  and i never would have expected that jonpaul would be so great.  we seemed so different: when i drove, we were listening to general conference.  when he drove, we listened to rap.  but we complemented and clicked.  for the year and a half that i was in charge of hometeaching, i made sure to never change us.  when the new elder's quorum presidencies came, i threatened old testament-style consequences if we were ever split up.  i can't remember all the people we hometaught, but, just as group 2 taught me how great f.h.e. could be, together we learned how truly wonderful hometeaching is.  jonpaul moved his records to a new ward a few weeks ago without telling me.  today, as we were making our final visits, he said that the reason he had stayed in the ward as long as he had was because of hometeaching, and he didn't tell me until the change was final because i was the only person who could have convinced him not to go.  i'll miss him dearly.  i've had some great companions (my manfriend jack, the chris, that guy named mike...), but i don't think i will ever have another companion like jonpaul.

as i finish typing this, i'm enjoying the charlie brown soundtrack and savoring a bowl of berries and yogurt.  i'm stoked that jess comes into town tomorrow, and brady and i drive to minnesota on wednesday.  and becky's updated me that caleb seems to really like people who sing in the car....  : )
this isn't a great post, but it gets you caught up.
and that's why you read this, right?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

"trust visions that don't feature buckets of blood"

on wednesday i went to byu to sneak into a piano room for a bit.  sadly, they were all full of legitimate students, leaving me wandering through the main lobby of the hfac as i wondered where on campus might have a private piano for a nice boy like myself.  the bfa show on display wasn't doing much for me, and as i looked up at the displays on the higher floors, i remembered hearing on classical89 about the museum of art's show on "searching for meaning in art in the late-60s."
the title of the exhibit led me to think that it was rebelling against the uber-esoteric styles of the stereotypical "modern art": a plain white canvas, a four-foot steel cube, or a page from the phonebook, all being called "Art."

the exhibit was, in fact, those sort of items, the first being a seven-foot industrial-made "X".

i had learned about these movements of "minimalism" and "conceptual art" in my art history class.  these were the days when dr. magleby would display a painting by mark rothko and the dudes in baseball caps behind me would mutter, "you've got to be kidding me--that's art??"  to be fair, the giant, partially-eaten cube of chocolate entitled "gnaw" took a little explanation, but once i saw where the artist was coming from, i quite liked it.

be it a movie by andrei tarkovsky or a series of sculptures by sol lewitt, art of this sort is better appreciated when you learn about the environments and movements they had come from, and to understand what they were trying to evoke in the viewer.
there was a 13-minute video that helped give an introduction to what was going on in the art world at this time.  the rolling stones' "gimme shelter" led way to a narration by campbell grey, the museum's director and former member of our stake presidency back in the day.  president grey often gave the best talks at stake conference, and i loved meeting with him for temple recommend interviews, as it was encouraging to talk with someone strong in the Gospel with an appreciation for art.  instead of decrying the cussing in "o brother, where art thou?", he praised the film for its allegory.
in the video, he explained that as art forms were expanding, painting had lost much of it's uniqueness to photography, leading the artists to ask, what can painting do that nothing else can?  the essence of painting was "flatness", and pure, perfect flatness is what these works strove for.

conceptual art, like the best movies, realized that art cannot exist without a viewer, and so the viewer is an important part of the work.  therefore, the piece does not do all of the creation, but part of that is left to you: what do you think when you see that?  what do you feel?  one work was two parts, a small, white, square canvas, and a second frame, with a written guarantee that in that canvas was a 10" circle; it's up to you to see the circle.

as for the giant X or the series of open metal cubes on the floor, the environment becomes part of the work, and there is no mark of the artist.  no brush strokes or weld marks.  but look at how it takes up the space in the museum, how the light in the room reflects on it.  it looks different depending in the angle you are standing (or sitting) when you see it.  it takes more thought and effort, but once you understand how to approach these works, it's some pretty cool stuff.
as i was walking through the gallery, i caught a glimpse of the "religious art" wing down the hall.  after all of this, those paintings of people seemed so... straightforward.

i think i'm going to visit minneapolis' museum of art over the Christmas break.

one final thing; a lot of museums have little headsets you can carry that will give you a guided tour of what you're seeing.  the moa has a cool idea: pull out your cell phone and dial a number, then enter the number next to the work you're looking at, and right there you get a brief lecture on it.  neat.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

the living Church

the loftiest tree in the forest has fallen, leaving us bereft of its shade.  a powerful voice, undiminished by the ravages of pernicious disease, has spoken its last great sermon, testifying one final unforgettable time of Jesus the Chrst.
an era of leadership under spencer w. kimball, n. eldon tanner, marion g. romney, and bruce r. mcconkie is fast drawing to a conclusion.  we are bereft of our great ones.
but hearken, and see--mighty leaders are among us and will rise; and lo.

so wrote elder john k. carmack of the seventy the day after the passing of elder bruce r. mcconkie (quoted from his talk given at a byu fireside may 5, 1985).
i thought of that when the first presidency was reorganized earlier this year.

from 1995 to 2004, the first presidency and quorum of the twelve were unchanged.  it was the era of president hinckley, the time when all of my friends and i were in high school and college.  those fifteen men guided us as we learned to step out of our nests and grow into our own.  for nine years, those names and  their order were so familiar: president gordon b. hinckley, president thomas s. monson, james e. faust.  boyd k. packer, l. tom perry, neal a. maxwell, david b. haight, russell m. nelson, dallin h. oaks, m. russell ballard, joseph b. wirthlin, richard g. scott, robert d. hales, jeffrey r. holland, and henry b. eyring.  they issued the proclamation on the family.  they signed their names to the testimony of the Living Christ.

i remember hearing that this was the longest time in the modern history of the Church that the leadership was unchanged.  then, one morning, i heard that elder maxwell had passed away, and jack wrote a small tribute to him on our apartment white board.  a week or so later, i woke up to find him writing about elder haight.
"did he pass away?" i asked, half jokingly.
"yes."
it was pretty cool that they left so close together.

a few years later i was loading film in the dark room on a movie when mister west on 101.9 announced that james e. faust had passed away.  during the general conference a few months later, we were listening to elder wirthlin's talk on the radio in car ride home.  as we sat down in front of the tv, i remember the very powerful image of elder nelson standing silently and firmly behind him.  i didn't know what had happened, but elder wirthlin was giving his talk with all the energy and determination he had.  recently, elder holland said with such love, "within the ranks of the general authorities of the Church, there is no man more beloved than joseph bitner wirthlin."
four months later, our beloved president hinckley returned home to marjorie pay.
and, last night, elder wirthlin was called home, having been a good and faithful servant.

within four years, five of the fifteen apostles finished their work on the earth.

the first presidency is now thomas s. monson, henry b. eyring, and dieter f. uchtdorf, who wasn't even in the twelve five years ago.  we've come to know and love elder bednar, elder cook, and elder christofferson.  and we'll learn to love another new apostle in early april.

we are part of a living Church.  president monson and his counsellors and the twelve, down to elder d. todd christofferson (and whomever is next) will lead us and carry the Church forward in ways that president hinckley could not do, but will do so only because of the immense work that was performed before them.

"come what may, and love it."

Monday, December 01, 2008

resolute

i was at a friend's house and saw her list of resolutions tacked on the wall.  what i thought cool about them were that they were divided into different categories (financial, social, personal, spiritual) and that they were half-yearly.  it seems common to set what we'd like to do, then figure we'll just be doing it by september.  if you've got until july, that's an easier time frame to get going.
thinking about what i want to do better, i wondered, "why wait until january?"

some of mine:
  • attend and/or give gifts to the weddings to which i am invited (i'm off to a good start!)
  • practice the heck out of my accordion and piano
  • travel somewhere big (china, turkey, sweden, antarctica, mongolia, chichen itza)
  • buy an atv
  • read like i wanted to this year (one book a month; i finished my 88-page january book in august)
  • learn photoshop (iphoto's nice and all, but i was meant for bigger things)
  • start an internet rumor
  • take other adult education classes: car maintenance, sewing
  • direct a commercial or movie
  • learn investing
  • become first aid certifide
  • learn to ride a horse
  • do a triathlon with my sister and/or brother-in-law
  • learn a little about html
if i can do that, it should be a pretty good year...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the horrorshow diaries, vol. II of II

it is not our standard policy here at sheep go to heaven to publish numerous posts simultaneously.  such practice is unfair to our readership, potentially overwhelming to the point that some may not read the full accounts.
at times, however, circumstances necessitate operations outside established protocol.  in this case, our correspondent was in a remote location where daily updates were impossible.  we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

and we'll try not to do it again.

jeff gustafson
editor-in-chief
sheep go to heaven

nov. 22: the final countdown

we did it!
a feature-length movie in eleven days, and most of those in a mine!
today was the final stretch, the anchor leg, and as such, everyone was in good spirits, even as things were dragging and taking far too long.
i ride to work with ian, the camera operator i'm assisting, and he loves photography like i do.  we've been leaving fifteen minutes early every day to take pictures on the way to work.  this morning i saw the best shot i've seen all week, but we were already pushing it for time, so i didn't say anything.  oh, how i wish we could have stopped for two minutes....  (editor's note: we got the shot from a better angle on the way out of the valley the next morning.  happy times.)
shantell the awesome wardrobe girl gave me a "thanks for being awesome" card today, noting that she only gives them to her favorite people.  that helped get me going through the rest of the day.
despite it being near the very end and a crazy decision protested by nearly all the crew, we moved to another mine for our final shots this evening.  as i was coming out of the war eagle mine (where we'd been all week) and loving the idea of never having to go back in there, i realized that it was about the time that the coldplay concert was starting in utah.  so i did the next best thing and volunteered to drive the four-wheeler to the next cave.  racing that through the desert under the stars was a pretty great consolation for missing chris martin singing "clocks" and "life in technicolor" and "42" and.... well, anyway, it was a blast.

at the wrap party tonight, the best idea for a crew shirt i heard was to list all of the hazards, dangers, and wrong things we did on this show, starting with shooting 120 pages in 11 days, including one 17-page day.
this is one we'll be telling stories about for a while.

nov. 21: hold on to what we got

it's like being in a vacuum bag down there.
it's been a while since i've been a on a show that's beat me as hard as this one.  a movie set can very easily become a pressure cooker on any location.  putting us in a mine on a schedule on third as long as a normal movie can cause things to get pretty rough.  for the most part, everyone is getting along, though at times it's hard to keep going.  i can endure it, sure, but i'd like to endure it better.
it seems like the great test of life is to have faith and optimism when the hard times come, whatever they may be.  some days i'm great and can go forth unphased.  but there are times when i get tired and quiet.  i think i'm better when i'm not quiet.
that's one reason i love going out to eat afterwards--the stress and weight (and dust) are gone and we can laugh and talk and tell stories.  it feels so good.
tonight the b-cam assistant was looking at one of the other guys' keychain and asked about his vial of oil.  he muttered something about "i think it's got oil in it," but didn't really know what to say, until the other guy gathered that it was some mormon thing.  a few minutes after, i thought of what a good and simple moment it could've been to explain what it was.  missionary moments don't have to end with giving away a book of mormon.

tomorrow is the byu vs. u of u game, the coldplay concert, and our last day!

nov. 20: jeff vs. the mine

when i was in sixth grade (i think), my mom and i were coming home from school one afternoon when we noticed something shiny floating above the grassy field behind our house.  it was slightly elliptical and silver, though we really couldn't tell how far it was or how big it was.  but it sat there in the sky, and we kept an eye on it as we drove the streets home.  we parked the car and walked through the garage out to the back, and it was gone.  it was a u.f.o. in the midday sky.
coming home tonight, ian saw an orange u.f.o.  it hovered in the sky, swelled bigger, then shrunk until it was gone.

the dusty air is irritating my nose.  i wear the breathing masks as much as i need to, but i've still been stuffed up today.  i suppose that's a sign that everything's working right, which is good.

we've been in some pretty cool places in the mine; today we went down the stairs that lead to the next level (there are eight levels below us and three above).  part of the fun of being on the camera crew is always being in the middle of things and getting to be in the coolest spots for the best shots.
but with that comes stress.  i usually don't notice the stress, but i've had several discussions on this show about how the grips and electrics are more fun guys than the camera crews.  camera involves a lot of delicate precision, and it very soon gets to you on set.
which is why i'm learning the great benefits of going out to dinner with your crew after a day of shooting.  we went to the wonderful crowbar cafe and swapped our own u.f.o. stories (weirdly all similar) over big frosty root beer floats.

balanced on a dusty, gravely incline today, i was caught in the midst of a conversation between a cute young actress and a much older man.  they were sharing the different self-help books on positive thinking that they'd read.  i couldn't think of any such books that i'd read and wondered why, as i like to think i'm working to make myself better.
tonight i got out of the shower and grabbed my highlighter and recent conference ensign.  i would rather have that than all the self-help books at barnes and nobles.  i really believe president packer's statement that true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behaviors better than a study of behavior improves behavior.

no matter how long or hard the day, i still feel thrilled to look up at the rich, starry sky when i come out of the mine at the end of the day.


"faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision."
neil l. anderson
ensign, nov. 2008 p.14

nov. 18: back down the hole

i'm not very good at flirting.  i try, but the girls on set mostly talk with the grips and electrics.  not that i'm looking to date any of the girls here, it's just that girls are cool.  perhaps it's for the best: the camera crew requires samurai-like focus.  we can't be standing around telling stories.
shooting in the california mines is much easier than in utah.  the biggest difference is the temperature; working while bundled up and being able to see your breath certainly slows things downs.  here it's 70 degrees and we're in jeans and t-shirts.  and while the mine is much, much more gravely and dusty, it is also more spacious than ophir.  it's not as precarious, but it's not as cool, either.
despite the crew being spread out over three "towns", there's only one place to eat: the crowbar cafe.  when we walked in, there were only two other camera guys there.  within fifteen minutes, our movie had packed the place and we kept the cheerful waitress busy for the next hour.  i can really see how going out with people after work helps you bond.
i was very tired (and still am) and have decided that showers that don't get very hot are on my list of things i don't like.

i wonder what tim showed for movie night...?

nov. 17: the land before time

7:36 p.m. shoshone, ca.  no cell phone reception
the notepad that i'm writing on already says so much about this town.  shoshone has already given me several things to write about, adn i was wishing i'd brought the journal that my sister gave me for my birthday a year or two ago.  she suggested it could be a travel journal, but i've been using it as a way to remember special experiences throughout my day.  in short, i didn't bring it.
my room at the inn has no complimentary stationary, nor did i find any in the front office.  the chevron station next door looks far more like an old west general store that a convenience store.  as i was the only customer in the place, the man refilling the drink cooler politely asked if he could help me.  i said i was looking for any sort of a notebook or writing pad.  he apologized for not carrying anything like that, then offered to see what he could find.  rummaging through the shelves behind the counter, he pulled out a zippered leather planner and set it in front of me.  he leafed through it until he found the notepad section and tried to pop the rings.  they were zip-tied shut, so he grabbed a pair of scissors and clipped them, all while i watched in touched amusement.  he smiled and handed the book's entire notepad to me, declining anything that i could offer him.  and he said he would pick up some real legal pads tomorrow, since he knew how important they were to us for taking notes and such.  i thanked him for running the most helpful gas station i have ever been to, and as i walked back to my room, i couldn't help but smile at the warm fuzzy feeling growing inside of me.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"the little lights aren't twinkling..."

i'd like to do this with my place next year.
obviously, my house isn't as big, so i'd scale it down accordingly.
and i'd replace the "amazing grace" part with something by nat king cole.
perhaps i could have different music and light choreography every 15 minutes, like the bellagio fountains.
at any rate, i've got a year to think about it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

back to square one

in the very early nineties, my dad once asked what my favorite tv show was, and i told him, "square one."  perhaps as a concerned parent, he inquired what sort of a show it was.  "i've seen it," my mom defended.  "it's really a good show."
i remember taking silent umbrage at a scout activity, when i overheard two leaders discussing the show's "mathnet" segment as "cheesy," although he was saying he liked it.  i wanted to stand up from sanding my kayak and declare "it's not cheesy!"

looking back now, it's way cheesy, but i loved square one, one of pbs's edutainment shows around the same time as where in the world is carmen sandiego?  square one was a sort of variety sketch show all about math aimed at preteens.  i recently discovered that youtube has several clips, and i remember nearly all of them.  i've got a great amount of respect for those actors; a lot of it was really goofy, but they did it with all their hearts and, at the same time, were fully aware of it and poked fun at themselves (as in the case of "common multiples man").

fractions, angles, multiples, negatives, roman numerals, percentages, and mathnet, cops who solved crimes using math.  i loved this show.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

thanking of you

once, there was this day... this one day when... everyone realized they needed each other

thanksgiving began at macey's, where i picked up ingredients for the orange whipped jello salad that i should have made last night. i also grabbed two cans of black olives--to be eaten at will without reservation in the kitchen--and a can of cranberry sauce, dog food style. i always thought that everyone liked the perfect maroon can-shaped delicacy until two years ago, when becky and i had one of the tastiest dinners ever with some friends in salt lake. i offered to bring it and got looks as if i suggested a can of alpo.

the meal itself went down at brady's grandparents'. it's a stark contrast to my brother and friends living it up in vegas right now, but this was a good, solid, american thanksgiving dinner. only recently did becky and i discover that cranberries (fresh) are to be eaten with the turkey.

as becky and brady and caleb were off to vernal, i came home and did exactly what i wanted: watched fanny and alexander (Christmas, family--it's perfect) and slowly savored numerous circular slices of cranberry sauce. there's still about a third of the last in the fridge.

i was planning on jumping into the black friday foray this year (i saw four tents lined up in front of best buy at 5 p.m. yesterday), but it's looking like amazon still beats what all the other stores are offering.

i've got my glass of egg nog, kicked things off with adam sandler's chanukah song, and am cleaning my room to david sedaris's santaland diaries.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

if you ask me

the five greatest silent films
1. sunrise
2. the general
3. napoleon
4. battleship potempkin
5. metropolis

the ten greatest films
1. citizen kane
2. 2001
3. the seventh seal
4. the rules of the game
5. fanny and alexander
6. sunrise
7. rashomon
8. the general
9. singin in the rain
10. pulp fiction

my personal top 10
1. fanny and alexander
2. the lion king
3. 2001
4. bill & ted's excellent adventure
5. singin' in the rain
6. the royal tenenbaums
7. amelie
8. the rules of the game
9. the general
10. wall.e

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the horrorshow diaries, vol. I of II

i'm on an 11-day pg-13 horror movie. we're off to california until next sunday. i like to think that a film set is rife with good stories and bemused musings. and i do, in fact, compose a fair amount of essays in my head as i'm working. but keeping that spirit is one thing, and even with notes, it's hard to write with any degree of panache after a long day of long weeks. i'm really saddened when i have a good idea, but when i'm finally able to write, the spark is gone. i believe that these posts could have been really pretty good. but i don't think they quite achieved it.

nov. 15: mojo no go

today my mojo was off. i don't directly attribute today being the sixth day of a long week to it; i've been good and great for the rest of the week. but, today, i was just off. i did my best to work hard, to be polite, to get everything in focus and make sure the crew was staying ahead of the game. but i did not want to be there. i wanted to be home and calm and warm.
but i made it.

nov. 14: alone in the dark

criterion is having a 40% off sale. do you realize how tremendous this is? i was late for work this morning because i was spending too much time on their bogged down website, trying to decide what to get.
and i sold my coldplay tickets this morning. the tickets that i've had for five months, the concert that i was looking forward to until i realized that i come back from california and this movie the day after their concert. so i sold all three tickets to our visual effects guy for exactly what i paid. that's pretty great.

there's still a fascination of being inside the mine, yet there's also the coolness that comes with this just being another day at the office, walking in through the cave entrance like it's no big deal.
usually we walk in in groups, but on the occasion that you're alone, try turning off your headlight. complete, total darkness. and that's great for about five seconds, then the thoughts of ghosts and being lost and whatever else is in the darkness strikes and my hand flies back to the switch. and there, in the lifeless cave, i realize that rodeo cowboys can stay on a raging bull longer than i can stand in the dark.
walking out is another matter, too. because of the way the walls are, sound echoes oddly. it echoes in such a way that it sounds like someone is walking behind you. when someone is coming up behind me, their light shines ahead past me. so when i hear the sounds but see no light, i'm faced with two possibilities: one is that it's a grip or electrician sneaking up behind to quickly scare me. so i clench my hand, ready to fight back if necessary. this has never happened. the second possibility is that it's just an echo, and obviously not the ghost of some past miner. still, my hands tighten up, and i'm tempted to suddenly swing around, punching, hopefully hitting one of my friends. because if i hit my friend, then it certainly wasn't a ghost behind me. but i don't swing around, because, if i don't hit anything, and find i'm the only one there, then i just swung at the sound of my echo. and not a ghost. right?
so, instead, i relax my hand and walk more quickly to the exit.

nov. 13: the dark at the end of the tunnel

previously published.

nov. 12: moria

i've been in a lot of situations due to filming a movie that i never thought i'd be in. today i can add "deep within a mine." walking in, it feels like the line to a rollercoaster at disney's "frontierland", going down a long rocky tunnel, except that it's actual rock all around you, and the wooden support beams actually prevent cave-ins. as we were loading our equipment in, there were the natural concerns: what is the possibility that we would become trapped in here? since there is a small generator working down the way, will we asphyxiate? if we awaken a balrog, then what?
it's a hard rock mine, not a soft coal mine, so no worries of cave ins; we've got a mine safety guy with an atmosphere monitor that beeps; and, while my balrog question was never addressed, i decided that if i saw the smoke and flame from the old world, i was running without a second thought.
it seemed that working in a mine was a new experience for most of the crew, young and old. and when i saw in the mine, i mean way the heck inside the mountain. after a few hundred feet straight it, the entrance behind you is only a small speck of light at the end of the tunnel. but the path continues on, over rail tracks that have since been leveled with dirt. there were iron doors for the antiquated power rooms, with porcelain brackets mounted in the wall to carry the electric wiring, and old shaft lifts and gutters still hang off to the sides of the tunnels. and while they look great, it's amazing to remember that they are not the worl of a good set designer, but were actually used a century before. following a bend in the track leads to a large cavern, where the rock slopes down into darkness on one side, while while a wooden slope leads up to a second story, where an old wooden structure still stands, with a second ramp leading back down. another few hundred feet leads to a second cavern, where we spent the day shooting.
all in all, i'd guess we were half a mile into the mountain, only because, coming out after we'd wrapped, that's a very long walk once the novelty has worn off and your steel-toed wal-mart boots are feeling heavy.
i wrote this post one night, with the intention of rewriting it again later. i must be equally tired, because it seems fine the way it is.

nov. 11: notes

i forgot the keys to the camera truck this morning.
luckily, i was only half-way to set when i realized this.
thankfully, it didn't cause any delay with the show, and the cinematographer and sound guy were in a shouting match before we were even needed, anyway.

the second day is harder than the first.  i don't remember the last time i was this tired on a show.  that's partly because i haven't done a show this big with this small of budget in a while; small shows knowing they're small shows are fine.  it's the little ones that try to be big shows that wear you out.  it feels like the second week.
still, things are good.  i like driving the camera truck down the street while i've got the dropkick murphy's' "shipping up to boston" playing on my ipod; it just sounds right.
the house we were shooting in was probably 80 years old and was scheduled to be torn down today; the locations manager was able to convince them to push it back to tomorrow.  so we'd better get the shots we need tonight.
tim and i decided not to go to l.a. for thanksgiving, but i did get offered a good job right around the time that brady and i were going to drive home for Christmas; why do things always overlap?
i made myself a hot chocolate during some down time, and added a little powdered irish creme.  and some more.  and a little more.  then it was too much.
the day ended in a whirlwind, with us racing to get some shots and me being right in the middle of it all.  i was calling for lens, grabbing focus, and making sure everything was in order and prepared so fast that i would've been dizzy had the adrenaline stopped.
and once they called wrap, it did.
i was wiped out.  and oh so grateful for my electric blanket.

nov. 10: in a rainy graveyard at 5:45 a.m.

there aren't many jobs that give one the opportunity of being in a graveyard at 5:45 in morning.  i'm pretty sure that "gravedigger" isn't even one of them.
however, "camera assistant" certainly is.
and there's something pretty awesome about that.  i sent a text out to my friends, for them to have something to wake up to.  and i got a reply a few minutes later.  the awesomeness just kept going up.

i'm starting work on an 11-day feature, where i'm the A-camera 1st assistant; this is the biggest crew i've been in charge of before.  we went over everything on friday, checked all of the equipment as best we could, and i know my crew, but i was still more anxious last night than i have been in years.  when i was first starting on professional shoots, i wouldn't sleep well the night before the first day, hearing in my mind the crew calling, "jeff! jeff!" and me never being where i was needed.  then, by the second day, i would be so exhausted, i could sleep fine.
last night i was unsettled to say the least, afraid we wouldn't have some vital part, that some configuration would be requested that i wasn't prepared for, that i would drive the truck off the road, whatever.

i got up at 4:17 this morning, and drove the camera truck out to cedar fort, quite a ways past lehi.  i've never been a fan of driving big things, but i've been forced to grow into it, and it's kind of fun.  and the $13.97 i spent on itunes for david sedaris's "me talk pretty one day" has already been some of the best money i've ever spent.

today went great.  in fact, it was one of the best days i've ever had.  first, there's a fun thrill of being in charge and doing it well, and that happened today.  it's nice being in the middle of things, instead of on the fringes.  everyone is pulling together to make everything work, so even in the cold and the rain, we made it.
one of the greatest secrets i've learned in the business is to use the same people again and again as much as possible.  most of the crew knows each other from years, and i happen to also know the other half of the crew, too.  the only person i don't know is the director.  he called for everyone to be quiet today so we could get ready for the shot, then proceeded to "moo" to the cows in the pasture on the other side of the fence.  i can't blame him, though; he sounded a lot like cow.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

as time goes by

stepping from the mine 
into the night's deep moonlight 
the sky full of stars

Friday, November 14, 2008

the dark at the end of the tunnel

editor's note: the following post is an excerpt from day 4 of the horrorshow diaries, the first volume of which is expected to be published this sunday.

this morning i decided that today would be a good day on set. i stated this to kristin the script supervisor, who promptly disagreed with me, citing all that we had to cover. i mentioned my good day intention to shantell the wardrobe girl and she responded in kind. i think the difference was that shantell had glitter on her face. finding my cell phone in my gear bag was a great was to get this good day off to a start.
at lunch i was sitting on the back of the camera truck (which is not a real camera truck, but an empty cube truck that reads "portland times" on the back) when shantell came to by, perhaps to see the footage that everyone else was watching inside. i invited her to go in and see for herself, but she politely declined. i assured her that it was ok, and she again deferred. her reasoning was that "the only girls who hang out in the camera truck are either drunk or [of questionable repute]." this left me speechless for a moment, until she asked about the confused expression. i explained that it had often bothered me that no girls ever came to visit me when i was a loader on the truck, but, on the rare occasion when i would be on set outside of the camera department, there were often one or several girls hanging around the camera truck, leaving me to wonder what was un-inviting about myself. she assured me that her statement was based on experienced observation, and i realized that maybe my character kept me from knowing about my own world. so i stayed seated on the tailgate and she stood beside as we cloud-gazed under a full moon (my favorite was, "a monster with no head, holding an umbrella") and discussed halloween costumes.
inside the mine, i watched my breath turn to steam in my headlight. the air was full of dust particles as it was, and i wondered if the much-more particled exhaled breath was simply water droplets, or if my lungs were really that full of dust.
as we were making the long stretch of cavern toward the exit this evening, i ended up walking with the grips and electricians, good guys and fun friends. tromping down a tunnel in a mountain, dirty and carrying gear, our path lit only by the lamps on our heads, i felt like a good old-fashioned proletariat. and there was something really fun in being able to enjoy that working class joviality. the night air was cool and fresh, the moonlight was strong, and the sky was clear and sparkled.
there's no cell phone reception in ophir; not until you leave the canyon does it come. after not having my phone for a day and a half, i was looking forward to a barrage of text messages from all of my friends; quips of daily observations, questions about how work is. as i turned on to the main road, the buzzing static interrupted my ipod and my phone ding tallied the incoming text messages one at a time.
three.
and i figured one of them was a voice mail.  whatever.

i tried to pay attention to my david sedaris audio book, although i must have been more tired than i realized, because i couldn't coherently follow the essay. and, pretty soon, my phone was dinging again. then it started for a third time. evidently i was so popular that, like santa claus, i had more text messages than could be delivered before i left the pocket of reception.
my car was low on gas this morning, and i was becoming a little nervous that i wouldn't make it to the station before i ran out. but that was partially because i'd given myself certain restrictions. i noticed last night that, at the city limits of lehi, there was a gas station with $1.99 gas. i think i was a sophomore in college the last time gas was below $2.00. as i was watching my needle drop closer and closer to the red line this morning, i passed a station in cedar fort, but the were still ridiculously high at $2.39/gallon. so tonight i risked running dry in the middle of a desert for the chance to stand a pump that read "$1.99." i made it, and filled my car up with premium for $2.19. i looked at my phone: 15 text messages, 2 picture messages, and a voice mail from my sister. it was, indeed, a good day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

off the grid

i'm pretty sure my phone is sitting with my camera gear, deep in the ophir mine.

i feel cut off from everyone.

Monday, November 10, 2008

my sister tagged me

"display the fourth picture in your fourth picture folder" it said.

i did.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

aru yume o mita... "one night, i dreamed a dream..."

a few nights ago...
i was on a transit bus with my two best friends, a non-descript black kid and a stereotypical orthodox jewish kid, complete with glasses. these two are based on nothing in my actual life, as growing up in minnesota rules out either ethnicity. the bus was traveling down an l.a.-style freeway, with overpasses and underpasses interweaving like spaghetti. my jewish friend started messing with the bus driver, to the extent that the bus got out of hand, causing such chaos that even the airplane routes above us were disrupted. the bus pulled over on the road and the three of us got out. above us, the sky was full of large commuter planes, going every which way like a scattered flock of seagulls. and they were quite low to the ground, too. one plane actually had to do an emergency landing not far behind us. this was our cue to get our of here, and we scrambled back on the bus. i jumped in the driver seat, as the bus was nearly empty before, and the driver was now gone. we sped down the freeway like a bus with a bomb on it, weaving in between cars until we came to a bus station that looked more like a new york train station. still desperate to avoid being caught, we parked and immediately bolted from the bus, scattering to hide wherever we could. i ran up a narrow brick stairwell, where i could easily see the train tracks. when the coast seemed clear, the three of us ran back to the bus and took it back down the interstate to safety.

my alarm went off at 7:46, and i lay in bed, listening to the morning show, eventually drifting off again.

i was sitting in my basement bedroom, circa high school. seated in the floor with me were a 12-year old boy and clint eastwood. we turned to notice that an extremely large and vicious dog had snuck in through the window. all of this would never have happened, had the window been where it usually was all those years. the boy quietly asked for his cap gun and loaded it, while mr eastwood and i were too polite to explain that it's very difficult to shoot something without actually firing a projectile. the boy put the little red plastic ring in the gun and fired, and the dog vanished; it just blinked away.
in fact, the dog looked more like a "warg" from
the lord of the rings, which makes sense, as i was now in the midst of the warg battle from the two towers, only now the battle was scaled down to fit on a small hillside park in san francisco, not far from the ghirardelli choloclate store. i held two swords and fought as best i could, while aragon and legolas fought a short distance from me.
we had defeated our attackers when someone yelled "get down" and we all dropped to the grass. a camoflauged car drove buy, full of military men looking for us. the guy in the back seat had a camera, although whatever production designer had given him that prop obviously didn't do his research; it was an older 35mm movie camera, completely wrong for this scenario.
when the van left, we stood back up and i wandered around the street corner. my left leg seemed numb, and i looked to see a small stain of darken blood on my calf. it was only a small scratch; not enough to be of any concern. then i noticed a much larger and brighter area of blood on my camo pants, near the back of my knee. someone again yelled, "get down!" and i
 dropped to the cobblestone street gutter. a pair of black boots came to a stop in front of me, and i looked up to see a man who looked not unlike esteban of the "anyone can play guitar" infomercials. he helped me up and led me to a nearby shop keeper who could sharpen my swords. i handed them to the smith, and he noted that my sword blades were, in fact, snow skis, and that the left one was made of extremely flimsy plastic. he offered to trim them both for me.

there was a third dream, but i can't remember a spot of it.

i dislike sleeping in so late, but getting dreams like this in return doesn't make it so bad.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

the day after Christmas

*editor's note: this post has been completely re-written at least three times. our senior political correspondent has been pre-occupied with several projects yet still managed to waste a fair amount of time. we apologize for the delay and do not condone such behavior here at sheep go to heaven.
tuesday felt like Christmas; everything about the day just seemed different.  the big election that we had being hearing about, talking about for... how long?  a year?  a year and a half?  was here.  this was the big day.  and i thought it was really cool.  it was fun to have so many people with so many opinions (yet the wise or rational opinions were still a little scarce), and to have so many people interested in voting.

i voted on friday--halloween--and got to stand in line with witches, vampires, raggedy annes, more witches, and girls with pink wigs and cat ears.  it's a wonderful way to see democracy in action.
as such, i stayed home and kept the tv on, until i realized that the day was dreadfully uneventful from a news channel's perspective.  breaking news at 11:00 a.m. was that the lines in north carolina weren't too bad and that, apart from one machine that didn't work for about 30 minutes, everything was going well.  i turned off the tv and worked on some projects around the house.

i remember watching election nights from way back when george bush defeated mike dukakis.  it was fun to watch the states go red or blue as the electoral votes went up like a sports scoreboard.  truth be told, i never knew about the numbers; i was much more of a colors person.
tuesday was not like watching a game, it was like unwrapping a present.  you've waited so long to find out what it is, and, even though you were pretty sure you knew anyway (and, in this case, it was what i asked for), it was still exciting to find out for sure.  
watching cnn, they had some impressive graphs and graphics (including ever possible permutation of statistics that could relate to the night, probably leaving a few stats majors slightly upset that they researched and compiled so many numbers that were never used), and
as the numbers were coming in around 7:00, a commentator updated the blue states and showed that, even if all but the most democratic states went red, there was still no way for mccain to make it.
the wrapping paper came off pretty fast.

but after it's all done, well, now what?
some things are changed, and there's that odd void: we've waited all that time for it to come, and now it's gone.
what's next to look forward to?
i'll tell you what:
the annual muppet Christmas carol and egg nog party!!
i'm already very excited.  = D

Sunday, November 02, 2008

things have changed

john bytheway quoted this once:
our great-grandfathers called it "the holy sabbath."
our grandfathers called it 
"the sabbath."
our fathers called it "sunday."
and, now, we just call it 
"the weekend."

good sabbath to you all.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

jaime's tag: six lesser-known things about me

jaime tagged me a few weeks ago, and now my sister's already tagged me with another one.

1. since living with my brother, i have purchased a snowboard, a tennis racquet, hiking boots, rock band, an r.e.i. membership, a wii video game, and i cook more, too. (he brought me some fried potatoes as i type this--they're amazing) 

2. i'm a contributing member of classical 89. the pledgeline number is 800.321.8911, but i was evidently not the first to mistakenly dial 801. the law firm receptionist on the other end was polite, but i suspect that their fundraiser week is a nightmare for her.

3. stick shifts and safety belts: i never learned how to drive a stick shift until i moved out to utah and my grandma gifted me a 1986 ford bronco II.  even after a few hours in a church parking lot with a very patient stake patriarch, i was still very inept at it.  the drive from his house to my apartment seemed very long and the roads very steep as i wondered why i had to learn out in utah.  the car continued to stay in my parking lot, driven only when i made my roommate drive, until one sunday morning when i had to be to church early and had to face the beast.
now, if ever given the choice, i will always take the stick.
i'm also very good about wearing my seat belt.  if i'm in the car and moving at all, it's on; it's simply a reflex.

4. punctuation: i'm very picky about punctuation.  i never actively studied it, though i suppose we learned it on school.  but it's stuck with me.  and i love it.  punctuation is like the string on a kite or the commandments of God: it's not restricting, but liberating. apostrophes, commas, semi-colons (love semi-colons!), hyphens and dashes: they give life to writing and add nuance to words like salt in cooking.  and i still remember the night that the chris introduced me to the joys of a dash.
as for capitalization, i love to use it in formal settings.  but with my friends and my blog, i am casual.

5. i've never had an energy drink of any sort, and never intend to.  i don't think that anything that does that can be wholly good for me.
6. i don't have (and never have had) either a myspace page or a facebook page.  myspace was all the rage for a while, then suddenly everyone jumped over to facebook.  and now everyone except me and my sister are there.
why don't i do it?  i've got nothing against it.  i occasionally feel a little backwards when everyone else is talking about what's on their facebook pages; i could connect with old mission friends and high school pals; i could put a link to my blog (which i do love).
so why not?  well, for one, i don't need another reason to spend more time on the internet with more things to keep up on.  but i think the main reason is simply, "i don't want to."  in a small way, it's akin to having a wood-burning stove in the midst of electric ovens; there's a little "walden" part of me that likes not being on one more techno-trend.  i've got my itunes, my blog, my e-mail, my ipod, my amazon account, and internet tags.  i think i'm good.

i tag em, kristin, jack, and brady.

and laurie jayne's husband, adam, if he ever gets out this way.

Friday, October 31, 2008

boys and ghouls of every age...

you know, i don't feel like writing this post.
the events that happened in it were truly awesome, to be sure, but i don't feel like writing another play-by-play account of my hallow's eve.  (and there's most likely a large part of the readership who won't miss it, anyway)

so, here are the highlights, snippets, and nuggets:
  • for three years in a row now, i have seen the nightmare before Christmas in 3-D and i intend to keep up this tradition every year that i can.  two years ago i managed to organize a ward-wide post-fhe activity wherein half the ticket was subsidized and our old farmer bishop and his wife sat with us in their 3-D glasses and thought it was "pretty neat."  last year we went with the peterson sisters and had a great time (and good costumes!). 
  • this year included jack and natalie and their boy jackson, who had the honor of this being "baby's first movie."  his mom was good about covering his eyes for the frightening moments.
  • nightmare is pretty much the most perfect movie to see in 3-D (though, if i can, i want to see bolt in 3-D.  just for the hamster).  it works so well, and with being completely immersed in the movie, opens up the world for inspection of all the small details in the background.  i could wander through it again and again, soaking up the imagination of it all.
  • kristin and i made muppet faces.  like always.  in a seriously awesome orange coat.  that's new.
  • aaron and his wife also came.  i miss hanging out with aaron, so i'm glad we did.
  • singing "dead man's party" in a car on halloween night is dang.
  • becky and brady and caleb joined us at my place, where i again understood how "babies" can be a form of entertainment.
  • we drank a lot of pumpkin nog and apple beer, ate a lot of chips and mango salsa, and natalie provided some kicking chocolate chip pumpkin cookies.
  • after everyone left, i did what any single guy would do on halloween: turned off the lights and watched carl theodor dreyer's 1932 classic vampyr.
  • the next morning i watched it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown.  while it's not the calibre of merry Christmas, charlie brown (and nothing is), my understanding of calvin and hobbes has helped me appreciate charlie brown's halloween special more.
  • i think it is solely dean duncan's fault that i analyze charlie brown holiday specials like that.  still, any cartoon that is being replayed 50 years after its premiere must have something more to it, right?
  • i do wish garfield's halloween special would air again.
  • someday, i hope that someone gives me a butterfly in a bottle.  ; )