Monday, February 18, 2008

with my ipod selection and the ice's reflection i'll be running with myself

for Christmas i got a little nike ipod thinger.  one part i stick on my shoe and the other piece connects onto my ipod.  being that this was one of the first mornings without a snowfall, i ventured forth to give it a whirl (thus determining if i was wise to keep it instead of returning it for some underarmour).

this thing is really cool!  i can choose if i want to run for a certain distance, a set period of time, or if i want to burn a certain number of calories.  i typically like to run for distance, an imprint left from the traumatic years of the 'mile run' in grade school.  since it's been a while, i went with 3K.  i flipped through my 'nrg shuffle' playlist until i found my current favorite song ('shipping out to boston'; it used to be 'living on a prayer', but i'm a sucker for the irish accordion rock) and took off.  what makes this especially rad is that a nice lady notifies me of every .5K, which not just a helpful gauge of how to pace myself, but it's also a morale boost ('i've gone 1K already?')

the 'calorie-roasting' option is intriguing to me, due in part to my fascination with the mcdonald's nutrition facts.  i really can't think of a better scale.  for example, knowing that i burned 193 calories doesn't mean much; knowing that i burned over a third of a big mac, that's something i can understand.
my next goal is to burn a full cheeseburger.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

about nothing and everything all at once

I. a few days ago i was in the hbll studying for the gmat.  my laptop is from the turn of the millennium and, unlike modern-day laptops, does not have the fan and disc drive silencer; it sounds akin to a jet engine.  on the ultra-quiet fifth floor, this can seem almost deafening, and i opted to move down to the 'no shhh' zone on the main floor.  (i have since decided 'to heck with this' and can again be found on my favorite level; someone has yet to complain)
i found an open table and revved up my kaplan cd.  as i was doing my darnedest to master the 'data sufficiency' section, a couple of guys sat down across from me.  i snuck a look and saw that one of them was reading a speech called 'the seven deadly heresies', by a man named bruce r. mcconkie.  i'm a fan of the talk and was mildly curious what class this was for.
around question three of the practice quiz, the guy tossed down the booklet and, in an air of frustration, declared, 'he's wrong'.
that caught my attention.
it was the speech's stance on evolution that sparked a strong debate between these two friends.  while i futilely concentrated on whether statement a) was alone sufficient to determent whether y was greater than the negative square root of x, claims of misinterpreting scripture and the vast amounts of concrete, irrefutable scientific evidence versus faith, scripture, and words of church leaders were strongly exchanged like a wimbledon tennis ball.  several times i wanted to step and straighten out these two undergraduates, but neither side was going to move.
when the pragmatist had to leave for his class, i was finishing the last question on my quiz.  6 out of 20.

II.  mark and some friends  went to san francisco for the weekend.  i came home on friday night, looking forward to a few pleasant days with the house to myself.  
last night the kitchen was clean, but i wanted my roommate back.

III. i like roses.  i also like lotuses and lilacs, but that's another story.  i once bought my sister a pink rose; the experience eventually helped her get a good grade in her freshman english class and you can ask her about it sometime.  i've learned that different rose colors mean different things; red is love/affection, obviously, while yellow is friendship.  but those were the only two colors i knew.  for all i knew, pink could be for celebration of your cat having kittens.  here's what i found:
  • red: love/affection/romance
  • dark pink: thankfulness, gratitude
  • regular pink: happiness
  • light pink: sympathy
  • white: innocence, purity (i've often given white for a generic celebration; i was relieved to find out i wasn't offering to be someone's godfather or something)
  • yellow: friendship
  • lavender: enchantment, falling in love (i like that)
  • orange: fascination 
  • coral: desire, be it 'i desire you' or 'i desire to get to know you better'
  • black: typically connotating death, it's generally not good to give these to a girl.  
  • blue: mystery or achieving the impossible.  very hard to find, i think this is pretty cool.

IV. having the weekend to myself, i stopped by the orem library, hoping to get 'berlin alexanderplatz'.  it hadn't been cataloged yet, so i put in a request to speed up the process and instead grabbed 'ali: fear eats the soul', as well as 'au hasard balthazar' and 'pickpocket', deciding to introduce myself to robert bresson.
i remember thinking in film history that the 'new german expressionism' was, unquestionably, the most boring and esoteric movement i had ever seen.  given that fassbinder was the center of the movement, i'm not sure what made me think i'd like it.  simply put, me and him aren't going to become friends anytime soon.
i've never felt more empty after watching a movie.  i just wanted to hug someone.  even the 'happy' characters are sad in his world.  he was certainly influenced by bertolt brecht, who thought that theatre/cinema shouldn't try to hide that it's a movie, and nothing is glossy or polished here.  still, there were some very interesting and powerful shots, and i liked how he did convey so much with so little in terms of location and production value.
i watched an interview on the bonus disc, talking about his style and theories.  fassbinder felt that if the 'revolution' occurred within the movie, then the real world would remain unaffected.  'ali' was about prejudice and racism, as we saw the two main characters stared at, outcast, and avoided by their former friends.  at the end of the movie, nothing was solved.  the idea was that a happy ending would have left the viewer feeling the problem had been fixed.  but if the movie ends without any resolution, then we are left with the responsibility and will go out and make the changes in our own lives.  it's an interesting theory, but i don't know how practical it is.
i was recently thinking why i prefer 'fanny and alexander' over 'the rules of the game'.  in 'rules', renoir keeps us at a distance; we are in the middle of these characters and all their antics and skewed world, but we never develop an emotional attachment to them.  bergman, on the other hand, let's us become friends with the ekdahl children.  we come to know everyone in their large extended family, so as tragedy strikes, we fall from the nurtured highs to the abandoned lows with them, and are rescued when they are.  we experience the wonderment and imagination with alexander.
fassbinder leaves us in the middle of the characters with an emotional straightjacket.  their world is so closed, we can't develop a connection with them; we just watch.
i'm still curious to see 'berlin alexanderplatz', but if it's like 'ali', i'll be done with it after the first hour.

V.  i don't much care for baseball caps as casual fashion.

VI. the concept of choice has been coming up in a lot of conversations today.  what's stood out most to me is the concept that by small and simple things are great things brought about.
i've rewritten an expansion on this three times and it never sounded good.  so you're on your own.

VII.  busy sundays are seriously awesome.

VIII.  most week's i have a good idea of what i'm going to show for tuesday's 'classic movie' night.  last week i showed 'lost in translation', which had a good discussion afterward about what choices were good and what weren't.  and that's what i was hoping for. we've recently watched 'rashomon' and '32 short films about glenn gould', which were generally well-received.  
this week i'm thinking about the marx brothers' 'duck soup', buster keaton's 'sherlock jr.'  i'm also considering 'fanny and alexander' (the theatrical version), but nothing is really standing out right now.

IX. today is my half birthday.  i'm halfway to 57.

X.  i wanted to find a picture of mr. dufayel on the television at the end of 'amelie', but couldn't find one anywhere.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

taken for a ride

i saw this in my into to film class and really liked it.  i'd forgotten about it until tonight.  it's simple and neat.  if you have 10 minutes, please enjoy.  (obviously, the only source i was able to find has timecode burned into it; it seems to be a demo for an aspiring film scorer.  it sounds good.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

amative me

in first grade,i liked katie.
in second grade, i liked abby lein.
i didn't like anybody in third grade.
in fourth grade, i liked heidi hennegar.
in fifth grade, i liked erin swetland.
in sixth grade, i liked alisha johnson.
in seventh grade, i liked sarah brant.
in eighth grade, i liked tami niswander.
in ninth grade, i think i still liked tami.
in tenth grade i liked karen bresee.
in eleventh grade i liked marissa maritato.
in twelfth grade i liked brittany coverstone.
at byu, i liked renee elmer.
then i liked sariah devard.
after that, it gets kind of fuzzy.

and if we don't try too hard, we might start falling in love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the appropriately floating standard

i was reading a book of essays a few months ago.  it was very well written, but occasionally had stronger profanity than i care for (when i comes down to it, i don't care for any profanity--  language is an immensely effective meta-medium, but that's another post for another day), and i'm working to be more discerning about what i accept.  
as i thought about the book, i thought of how i wouldn't watch a movie, or, perhaps even moreso, listen to a cd with similar language.  language and lyrics are more acute in music than in film because that is the only road of communication available.  watching a movie, we spread our perception between aural and visual means; in music, out attention is focused solely in listening, be it beautiful or coarse.

the byu bookstore does not sell any r-rated movies (or several pg-13 movies) or cds with a 'parental advisory' sticker on them.  i've never heard a complaint against that, as i would guess those are critical standards similar to most of their patrons.  and, i would venture to guess that if they ever did carry an r-rated movie, there would be an outcry from a vocal percentage of the student population.
yet, up on the main floor, one could find a book with r-rated language within minutes.  heck, the book i was reading was, at one time, on their 'recommended' shelf.  further, i have been flipping through movie books and seen nude stills from movies that the bookstore would not sell.  i haven't spent much time in the photography section, but i presume it is similar.
(i should acknowledge something here, and that is the prominence of the item.  when the daily show's 'america: the book' was on the byu shelves, it wasn't long before a student loudly protested it and it was soon taken off for it's profanity and nudity.)
is this a hypocrisy on byu?  is it careless management?
it is neither.
consider the art history section.  better, consider an art history class, at byu or any college or high school.  from classical greek sculpture through the renaissance and classical eras, up into the nineteenth century, nude figures are abundantly represented.  sometimes it's accurate of the event, such as the greek olympians.  later, the nude form represented a sort of immortality in history, such as statues of david, either by michelangelo or donatello.  nude subjects in the were often representative of the muses, naked women enjoying a nice day in the park with fully-clothed men.  edward manet's painting of 'olympia' was a bold statement on sexuality of the famous prostitute, comfortably disrobed and posing for the artist.
all of these were discussed in my art classes at byu and i don't know of anyone who ever complained about what we were seeing [some guys behind me complained about the rothkos during the 'modernism' section, but that's a different story].
in the nineteenth century painting began to face severe competition and potential extinction: photography was invented.
while its initial impression was a sort of 'painting perfected' (thus forcing painting to express visuals in a way that photography could not), people immediately sensed that something was different about it.
a very early photograph featured a nude woman, although her back was turned to the camera and a blanket was loosely draped around her waist in an attempt at modesty.  the relationship between the photographer and the model was no different than with a painter, yet there was something about the medium that had changed: photography was a little closer to reality.  
this sort of thinking is essentially a universal observation that holds true across art forms.
few people would have issues with a nude painting (within reason).  a nude photograph would be more divisive, though black and white would not be as problematic as color.  a movie is a motion picture, even closer to reality, and people are more sensitive to what is shown.  further still, while the majority of the public has little issue with nudity in a movie, similar content in live theatre is rarely seen in 'mainstream' works; the person is actually in the same room now.
i've heard of similar reactions to language; coarse and crude language in a movie is sadly abundant and common, almost to the extant that its absence is more noticeable.  but theatrical productions with can cause more agitation because, again, we are less removed from the offensive source.
bringing this back around, i think the byu bookstore has, for the most part, struck a good balance of what they will carry and what they will not.  while there is need to keep with the standards of school, an overly-sanitized criteria to the point that none could be offended with the content would reduce any sort of choice.  further, complete avoidance of such work does not equal righteousness but rather ignorance of the world around.  there is a line that each of us need to choose about what what is good and what is not.  fortunately, there are many helpful sources and guidelines helping us choose, but ultimately we choose who we want to be.
nice work, byu bookstore.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

the world wide web

i was browsing some stats about the wonderful world of 'sheep go to heaven' and the people who populate it.

here are some of the highlights:

the top six states who visit my blog:
1. utah
2. new jersey*
3. arizona
4. north dakota
5. louisiana
6. california

*i was intrigued by the prominence of new jersey, although further inspection seems to show it's a sort of glitch and that the readers are actually coming from salt lake.
i know of people who regularly read my blog, and the listed states represent them.  the additional hits coming from those states i attribute to friends of my friends, reading their blogs and following the links to here [see the following list].
except for louisiana.  i haven't a clue about louisiana being on that list.

the top referrers:
1. no referring link [the vast majority]
8. google searches for '

interesting that my last year's valentine's day post somehow brought a notable number of people here.  how they found that page on its own, i know not.  to all my friends who have promoted me on your blogs/sites, my dearest thanks.  

70.5% of visitors stay for less than 5 secs
19.7% stay for more than an hour
the remaining 9.8% are somewhere in between that.

68.8% are first time visits
15.2% have come 1-5 times
4.3% have come 5-10 times
11.6% have come more than 10 times

google searches that have brought people to 'sheep go to heaven':
byu fotokem color char
waynes world under airplanes landing taking off
ocean pacific sandals
ocean pacific walmart
bbc planet earth - kauai
tally hall shirts
size 11s actor
sheep go to heaven essay
john and john puppets, they might be giants
sheep go to heaven liner notes
i do like the color of yellow
turkish juice
did joseph do to heaven
elanor rosevelt
sheep ba's video
movie dog eats everyt [sic]
ocean pacific rain hat
island is the clouds
they might be giants apollo 18 redone
dimes pommegranate juice
woman wants to strangle
fat boy tape measure
chronic town movie deal
where to buy little tiny boxes
fridge and freezer stink when opened

all of this information came from signing up at  there's more information available there than i understand about my blog; i'm sure if were selling hamsters or whatchamacallits from here and wanted to track isolate the demographics, those numbers would be very helpful.
i'm content to ponder the 'recent visitor map', wondering what someone in helsinki, finland, or durgapur, india, was searching for that brought up my blog.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

learning from the past

in the winter of 2003, i signed up to take 18.5 credits.  i was averaging 15-16 per semester and figured a few more wouldn't be too much more trouble.  and it was kind of exhilarating to be pulling of such a feat, considering that this course load included a black and white photography class and the formidable american heritage.
in an average semester, student film shoots would start about five or six weeks into the semester and be in peak activity a few weeks after that.  that meant that by mid-march i was getting steeped in classwork, but i could tread it well enough until the end of the semester, pray hard, and emerge feeling victorious.
carrying these 18.5 credits, i was feeling that drowning feeling by the middle of the second week.  the photography class was fascinating and something i fought to get in to; american heritage was a beast of a class and demanded a lot, but, although my professor held high expectations, he was also very good, and i wanted to stick with it.

i was sitting in the living room one night with books piles at my feet, talking with jack.  it soon became apparent that, while it would be really cool if i could do this, it really wasn't a smart idea.

the next day, i dropped american heritage.
i took it a year later during the summer.  it wasn't as interesting, but my photography class that winter proved so demanding that i was still fighting a good fight by the end of the semester.

Friday, February 08, 2008

criterion pt. II

i've been browsing the criterion website more frequently, getting a rush similar to walking through a fine bookstore, that feeling of being immersed in art and culture. and, like walking through a bookstore, i'm often awaken by the realization that instead of dreaming of feasting on what's around me, i may as well get home and actually take in what i have.

one of the features on the website is a series of 'top 10 lists' by people on the artsy edge of film, asking them to name their ten favorite criterion movies. reading the various choices and their reasons behind them is like being in the 'finer things' club; my eyes are opened to so much more.  and since criterion probably won't be asking me to submit a list for while, i'm going to do so here and now.

1. the rules of the game- the first time i saw it, i walked away wondering what all the fuss was about.  each subsequent viewing has deepened my love and admiration for it exponentially.  renoir is famous for his compositions and blocking, for placing the camera and letting us watching the foreground then sneaking a peak into the shenanigans going on behind them.  i'm glad i didn't fall in love with this until after it was already on dvd; i don't know how i could have lived during that dark age.  it's cinema at its most near-perfect. and it has jean renoir in a bear costume.

2. fanny and alexander- when i first saw the three-hour theatrical version, i left the theater speechless. actually, i could make noise, but i couldn't form a coherent sentence to describe what i'd just seen. every element of cinema is used to perfection, and, like life, you don't often understand or appreciate everything that is going on until the end, when bergman somehow causes you to emotionally step back and, like having previously viewed painting at nose-length, now see the immense canvas in all it's glory. why this isn't on more world top 10 lists is a genuine mystery to me.

3. rushmore/royal tenenbaums- 'rushmore' is a better movie. the style was fresh and clean, working so lyrically in a bizarre yet universal love story. everything fits so well, it's always funny, and i can't help but feel cool seeing max walk out of that elevator carrying a hive of bees in slow-motion.

but 'tenenbaums' is my personal preference; maybe it's because i saw it first. the style is perfected but not as fresh; the ensamble cast is brilliant, and despite having to shoot in that tiny cramped house, this would have been a fantastic set to work on. in the end, this gets my nod because i fall in love all over again every time i see the 'goodbye ruby tuesday' scene in the tent in the middle of richie's room. 
and i really dig criterion's cover designs.

4. traffic- i once tried making a list of the ten greatest films of the last ten years.  after 'saving private ryan', 'babel', and this, i started to have trouble. there were plenty of worthy movies, but to find films of this calibre, it got a little harder. i've never seen a soderbergh movie that wasn't great, but this is his masterpiece. i love that there is no opening sequence other than the title appearing briefly in the corner, that the guns don't fire like hollywood sound design, and that luiz guzman holds every scene with don cheadle. pardon my soapbox, but this is a much better movie than 'gladiator' [which took the 'best picture' oscar that year].
thank you.

5. solaris- gosh, i was starting to worry myself; there were too many recent american movies on this list.... 
yes, it's three hours long and in russian. yes, the people mostly just stand around and talk. yes, armageddon is also on my shelf if this isn't your idea of watching a movie. but if it is, you're in luck, and the time actually flies by. philosophies of what it means to really know someone and the risks that come from letting yourself connect with another person are far more fulfilling than lasers or aliens. this should come with soderbergh's version; not so much a 'remake' as a 'reinterpretation', the two movies complement different facets of the story and philosophy. [as i write this, i can't help but wonder how they got financing for the american movie; did the studio really think they would recoup their $60 million with such an esoteric movie, even with george clooney?]

6. M- i think it's sometimes easy to think that human culture and insight had to be re-invented with cinema; that it took us until the sixties to start telling complicated stories equal to the centuries of our literary legacy. then you see M again, and suddenly that fallacy is dashed to pieces. yes, it took a few years to learn the new art, but not decades. ripped from the headlines of the day, a child killer haunts the streets, causing paranoia and panic, bringing both the police and the 'reasonable' underworld after him.

7. the seventh seal/ rashomon- i combined these because they're rough equivalents, landmarks of their nation, signals to the world that movies were no longer just escapes into the dark. instead, it was time to think about life and death, about truth and reality. i also combined these because i already have a bergman movie listed. and because i wanted to fit 'rebecca' on here.

8. rebecca- one of hitchcock's lesser-known movies [despite having lawrence olivier], the director's only best picture oscar, and some of the most luscious black-and-white cinematography ever.

9. the battle of algiers- this is the kind of movie i was talking about when i said i liked discovering movies i'd never heard of before. everything was staged, yet it feels like a 100% verite documentary of a revolution, following both the calculating government and the tenacious rebels.  i watched it by myself in the middle of the afternoon and i was still on the edge of my seat.

10. f for fake- orson welles: he made 'citizen kane' when he was 25.  a year or two later he made 'the magnificent ambersons' [hopefully that will be on criterion some day soon!].  and 34 years later, after 'touch of evil', after 'chimes at midnight', he took everything he knew [and invented] about film-making, turned it upside down and backwards, and ran it through the 'post-modern' machine.  out came a documentary about forgery.   ...i think.  this isn't a forgotten gem of cinema, it's a forgotten penny whistle.  sometimes we see him in the editing room, editing the footage we were just watching.  sometimes he's talking about ufo's.  and picasso somehow shows up.  i can't tell you what to expect, and if you go in knowing that, you'll enjoy the ride.  

and movies i'd like to see on the collection:
1. metropolis [with the optional 80's soundtrack]- one of the legends upon which modern cinema is built.  there so many versions out circulating, and kino has finally put out a very good and solid edition.  but to give it the criterion treatment would be grand, with the optional 'disco' soundtrack [as em calls it]
2. 2001- a very good two-disc set was just released a few months ago, but i love this so much, i want it to be canonized.
3. stalker- supposedly tarkovsky's most 'difficult' movie, i found it more accessible than 'solaris'.   that probably means i missed the point entirely, which means i need to see it again.  and who better to bring it to me?  [if not 'stalker', then how about 'primer'?  anyone?]
4. anything by zhang yimou- anything, though my votes go to  'to live', 'hero', or, preferably, 'raise the red latern'.
5. bill & ted's excellent adventure- i'm dead serious.  please.

next on my 'to watch' list:
*ali: fear eats the soul
*berlin alexanderplatz-- i left film history knowing almost nothing of fassbinder except that darl couldn't show any of his movies in class; i've read that this is one i could probably watch, and i'm a sucker for long, artsy movies, so i'm up for the 15-hour challenge.
*army of shadows- how did i leave film school without ever hearing about jean-pierre melville?
*stray dog
*the bad sleep well-- kurosawa made movies without samurai.  'the bad sleep well' is 'hamlet' in a japanese corporate setting; i'm sold.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

criterion pt. I

'the janus film icon--the black-and-white image, the lettering, the two faces on the seemingly ancient coin--meant that you were going to see something special, something new, something completely different from anything you'd ever seen before.'
-martin scorsese

when trevor and i were sitting down to see 'fanny and alexander' last fall i saw the 'criterion collection' appear above that thin white line before the movie began and felt that thrill i always feel. i leaned over and said, 'i love seeing that, because it means i'm going to see something amazing.'

i had the same feeling when i got the two-disc set of 'M' in the mail last month.  every package is a stylish design, growing from the style of the movie and its time; the picture and sound quality are pristine and clear, even on prints from half a century ago; the bonus features bring people from around the world to give the greatest insights into the history and influence of the film.  a criterion dvd is the armani, the bmw, the rolex of the film world.  i felt like i was holding a new work of art.  this is what makes me love movies.

janus films is a distribution company that began in the fifties, working to bring international art films to american audiences.  as the notion that moving pictures could be art and not just entertainment began to emerge, janus saw to it that american audiences were introduced to kurosawa, renior, bergman, and the marvelous world of cinema across the oceans.  
nearly thirty years later, the criterion collection was created, very closely related to janus, bringing 'important classic and contemporary films' to the home video market on video disc and, later, dvd.  the criterion laser discs pioneered the ideas of audio commentaries and bonus features with the release of a movie.
criterion's laser disc catalog is markedly different from their dvd library.  they have the expected world classics, 'the seventh seal', 'hidden fortress', and 'grand illusion', but they also have a strong core of american films: 'citizen kane', 'casablanca', '2001: a space odyssey', and everyone's favorite, 'singin' in the rain'.  that makes for a right solid list, and a great syllabus for a film appreciation class.  but what is really cool about their laser disc catalog is that they also have several movies that a neophyte 'film lover' would be embarrassed to admit are great.  'the princess bride'?  'ghostbusters'?  

when i began building my dvd collection to be a worthwhile collection, i was rather frustrated that so many movies i would have loved to have bear the 'criterion' name weren't available on dvd.  getting rights to release a movie on laser disc wasn't too difficult.  i never knew anyone outside the public school system who owned a player, although i have met the odd film student who likes to pick them up.  but when dvd's exploded in popularity [and collectability], the studios weren't so keen about giving out 'dr strangelove' to some company who would slap a $40 price tag on a single dvd, regardless of how clear the transfer was.  a few 'popular' movies made it through, including 'armageddon' [which was also released in a 'non-criterion' edition with different bonus features.  the same was done with 'rushmore'.]
wait, 'armageddon'?  what?  did they throw open the gates and let anyone in now?  
hardly.  seeking out the best movies of their genres, criterion proved they were not snooty/snotty and saw that, just as 'the seven samurai' is the quintessential samurai movie, 'armageddon' is the apex of the popcorn blockbuster.  good for them.  i haven't seen it yet, but i managed to pick it up for $5.

with so many 'standard' american movie classics unavailable, criterion turned back to their roots, and has managed to survive and thrive in way that is far more beneficial to the film community.  they reached deep into vaults around the world and have brought to light movies that have been forgotten and unavailable for years and decades.  movies i never would have known that are amazing, original, fresh, insightful, and inspiring.  'the battle of algiers'?  'army of shadows'?  'f for fake'?  break out-- it's a whole new world.

don't get me wrong, it would be fun to have 'close encounters of the third kind' from criterion.  but sony's new three-disc release is beautifully done, and that leaves criterion room to put out jean renoir's 'the rules of the game'.  i'll take that over the aliens any day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

the dreams stuff is made of

my mom and i were out watering the flowers in front of the house one night.  the sky was dark blue and most of our light was coming from the open garage.  one of mom's neighbors came walking up the driveway.  while it's kept quiet from most people, britney spears and her mom have a small house down the street and around the block, not too far from my elementary school, for when they need to 'get away', and she and my mom have become friends.  i'd forgotten this, but sure enough, here was the pop star, looking nice that evening.
she needed help bring in some groceries, and since mom was caring for her flowers and i really wasn't of much help, i offered to lend a hand.  we hopped in my dad's new white pickup and drove down the street to her house.
i consciously decided to not lock the truck, knowing i'd only be here a few moments, and this is moorhead, after all.  i helped her and her mom unload the groceries into the house and we talked for a few minutes.  they had bought a little white house that an older couple lived in when i was younger, and we used to ride our bikes by their house on the way to the little strip mall in the summer.  i'd never been inside the house before, and britney and her mom were good people to talk with.  when it was time to go, i walked outside and was horrified: the truck was gone.
i felt dumb for not bothering to lock it as the three of us began to look around.  we looked in between the houses and soon found the truck parked by a small old green house, tucked away from the street.  dead leaves covered the dirty ground and the porch light was on as we knocked on the door.
inside, we found ourselves talking with exactly the kind of guy i'd expect to live there: skinny and shirtless, wearing a dirty baseball cap over scraggly hair that needed a wash.  a single light hung over a round table, lightly scattered with junk, a small pistol, and the truck keys.  i told him i wanted my truck back.  i forget what he said but he dove for the pistol.  
i've sometimes wondered what i would do if placed in this sort of extraordinary situation; would i do the sensible thing and take the safest route to not getting hurt, or would i try to be a fictional hero?
i guess i went with being a hero.
i countered and dove for the gun.  he reached it first and we struggled, but somehow i ended up with it as we then scattered apart on either side of the table, me pointing the gun at him.  starting to come off the adrenaline and realizing that i was pointing a loaded gun at someone who wanted to point the same gun at me, i relaxed my aim and released the magazine, letting it drop to the floor.  i tossed the gun aside, grabbed the truck keys, and walked out the door with britney and her mom.

*  *  *  *  *

i've noticed i usually dream most vividly in that interim time when i should be getting up but manage to sleep for another hour or so.  this morning i drifted through my radio alarm  and didn't get up until two and half hours after i planned.  
but i got an unusual post out of it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

the voterocker

i looked up the voting and registration guidelines for utah county this morning, wanting to stand forth and make my voice heard.  the website said that voter's must be registered 30 days before the election, leaving me crestfallen, as i don't remember ever voting here [when i officially became a resident is a blurry area, though i'm pretty sure i am now] and so am likely not already registered.  searching the 'am i registered' link proved my worries.
not to be daunted, or, rather, being one who hopes for a loophole, an escape, or sheer mercy, i called the office, where the recording told me that election days were especially busy for the operators and that i should really try to find my answers on-line.  i weeded my way through the numerical button-pushing menu, hoping to reach a tired government employee who may offer me some hope.  instead, i was quickly connected with a pleasant lady who, upon my asking if i could still register, offered to look me up and see if i was already in the system.  be it my internet ineptitude or the grace from up Above, i know not, but i was registered and in the system; i'm in precinct pr31, and vote at the high school just down the street.
oh boy.

i donned my thick knit socks and almost out the door when it occurred to me that i should really know who i'm voting for.  during my days of merit badging, one lesson from 'citizenship in the nation' always stood out for me: when you vote, make sure you are informed.  if you vote for a candidate for an arbitrary reason, that vote will, in effect, negate the vote of someone who did their research and deliberately voted for another person.  kind of rude, really.
and i've wanted to be more informed on the issues of the race this time around.  being politically cultured is something i want to improve on.  sure, i've been reading the reports on, but that tells me who's doing what, but very little about who stands for what.

on 101.9 this morning, they were inviting people to call in a say who they were voting for and why.  i don't recall hearing much about immigration reform or education policies.  most people were moving on gut feelings or important image issues, such as 'degree of toothy smile' or 'how weird is their neck?'
now, this isn't really as shallow as it may initially appear.
first, a candidate can take whatever stand on as issue they want during the race, but how well they will follow and uphold their platforms [if at all] is an issue of character, not just policy.  that's why we don't like politics in the first place--people don't do what they say they will.  heck, that's really why we don't like a lot of things.  for instance, i thought hulk would entertain me.
second, leadership in general and politics in particular are largely a matter of presentation, appearance, and persuasion.  exposure to the market is of paramount importance, and a positive image/appearance is the best way to win the target's favor.  obviously voters sway that way, and so does the world after election.  i haven't bought a can of 'shasta' in years for that very reason.  

after the phone poll, the djs mentioned that there are some websites that present you with statements from each of the candidates on different issues and let you blindly choose with whom you agree.  why didn't someone tell me about this before?  the whole world talks as if they all know the issues.  ah, sophistry.

'dear google, how do i choose a candidate'?

i'm often amazed at how effect googling can be at times; this was one of those times.  i  opted for the washington post quiz.  if you have time, i suggest politically informing yourself.  it took me just under an hour and a half, but that was because i went through and read the full responses from each candidate.  using the snippets, you could move a lot faster [although they can sometimes sound the same when abbreviated].
not only are the questions blind, but the results are blind, too, meaning that i could see i could agree some candidates more than others, but i didn't know whose side i was taking.
this began to raise some questions for me.  following the race, i had people i liked and people i wasn't too keen on, but that was based largely from their media appearances.  i really didn't know who stood where on issues of iraq or gay marriage, and and began to wonder what the results would be.  would my score align me with someone i didn't like?  do i vote with my opinions or with my perceptions?  do you go with the best smile, the most media friendly, the person that's ahead?  the person you just seem to like?  if the issues you believe in are supported by someone you didn't really like for some reason, which side do you take?  

when the quiz was finished, i was quite surprised with a lot of the results.  i would have liked to see go back and see who made each statement on a question, because some were very close, and my decision was swayed on rhetoric or attitude as much as minutia of policy.

in the end, i was happy to see that the candidate whose image i liked and who seemed to be of good character was the same person with whom i agree with on almost 60% of the issues.
go democracy.

Monday, February 04, 2008

light and knowledge

'yellow is the printer's color.  it's the color that gives life to all of the other colors.  i think it's interesting that we'd all have nothing but blue grass if it were not for yellow.  but also, it's the quickest color to fade.  i haven't figured that one out yet.  but i'll see a picture on the wall and i instantly know whether the yellow is starting to fade from that picture, because all of a sudden the tones of the other colors aren't as bright at they should be.  i do like the color of yellow.'
president thomas s. monson, sixteenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, press conference, february 4, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

7 fitter happier

i can't count how many times in the past week i've opened the door or looked out the window and been surprised once again at the quiet snowy world, and my car buried beneath.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

dignity. always dignity.

i realized this evening that i don't sing and dance nearly as much as i used to.  maybe it's that i don't live with jack anymore or that i've become a boring old man or that it's been too long since i've watched 'singin in the rain' or that my current couches aren't as supportive, but i don't like it and i'm going to change that.

Friday, February 01, 2008

praise to the man

it was just after 8:00 on sunday when gina called the room to be quiet for a moment.  'sarah just got a text that said that president hinckley has passed away.'

we turned on the tv and saw a 'breaking news brief' on fox that confirmed it.  we all went for our phones, sending out texts and receiving phone calls.  i've since heard rumors of phone networks seeing a surge in activity for about an hour that night.  it was the top story on yahoo, yet i found a one-line statement on after a brief search.  within a few minutes of telling my brother, he said it was already on wikipedia.

the news was a surprise, but not a shock.  it was sad, but not tragic.  he was 97 years old and his wife had passed away almost four years ago.  whenever we heard him speak, it was evident that he missed the woman he loved so dearly.  jack's text put it best, saying, 'we just heard.  what a happy day for him and [his wife] marjorie pay.'  that was how i saw it.

i don't know of another multi-billion dollar corporation that would install an 84-year old ceo and expect them to serve for 13 years, but that is what president hinckley was for the church.  he saw membership grow from 9 million to 13 million;  he traveled close to a million miles, visiting people around the world again and again; he headed the construction of the 21,000-seat conference center and oversaw the number of temples grow from 47 to 124 around the world; he was the first president of the church to start his ministry with an open press conference, and continued this theme of public relations, making himself more accessible to the media than any prophet before him, including appearing with mike wallace on '60 minutes' and with larry king.

but any obituary or press release can tell you that and more.

for myself and most of my friends, he is really the only church leader we have known.  he was sustained as prophet and president of the church in 1995, but had been serving as a counsellor to the presidents since 1981.  i was twelve when i started paying a little more attention during the general conferences of the church, when it was often president hinckley conducting the meetings, as president benson's health was weakening at that time.  it was similar during president hunter's service as prophet.
my spiritual awareness has largely come since 1995; president hinckley has always been there.  he was the prophet when i went on my first temple trip.  he was the prophet when i went to my first stake dance and danced with tami niswander.  he was the prophet when i went on my mission.  he was the prophet i taught about when i told people in japan that there was a prophet on the earth again.  he was the prophet when i was in college; his name is on my diploma.  

in high school, i had a framed picture of him in my room, which confused some of my friends ['jeff, why do you have a picture of lee iacocca on your wall?' was the most notable comment].  he was never an old man--he knew what was going on in the world and was someone you could turn to for advice; he was a dictionary example of what it meant to have a twinkle in your eye; he cracked jokes that made us genuinely laugh; his smile made you feel comfortable, loved, and encouraged; just hearing his voice brought peace and optimism; when he spoke, the worries and fears around you were forgotten, and the choices to doing good were suddenly so clear.  he taught us to be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble, and to be prayerful.

this morning, jessica and i went up to the conference center for his viewing.  the line moved faster than we expected, so we stood by the doors as we sipped our mcdonald's hot chocolate from cups that said 'fresh coffee' and received a good number of odd looks.  
we waited in the main auditorium until it was our turn to go upstairs.  sitting there, i thought of  how much i loved being in there at the start of saturday morning session, when the room was alive with the murmurs of a large crowd.  shortly before the meeting began, president hinckley and his counsellors would enter.  the lights would brighten, the entire room immediately became silent, and we would all stand to our feet as the prophet came in.  he would wave his cane at us.  we'd laugh, smile, and wave back, then sit down.

we made our way up the escalators and down the hall to the viewing room, and i gave jess a hug, grateful to have a friend with me at such a special moment.  we passed displays of flowers from his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, one reading, 'it's been sad not having grandma at Christmas.  it'll be sad without you, too.'

walking into the room itself quickly became a more tender and merciful experience than i had expected.  tears welled up.  jess and i stood back and just looked for a while.  she gave me a hug.
we stood on hallowed ground.

i couldn't have asked for a better day.

p.s.  president hinckley, if you see him, please say hi to elder mcconkie for me.