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.  ; )

Monday, October 27, 2008

jeff is...

dancing with himself to the high school musical 3 soundtrack in his room and loving it.

just the cool songs.  
not the lame mushy duets.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

music for a sunday evening

at our teacher training meeting this evening, one of the instructors made an interesting point.  he noted that when we a taught something we already know, we know we know it and stop listening.  we also tend to stop doing what we know, because we already know it.  and so we stop going forward entirely, because we already know it.
if we let ourselves instead be inspired and do it, even though we already know it, we will continue to move forward.

i went to a musical fireside this evening.  coming from the above meeting, i arrived late and slipped in the back.  in a way, i felt like someone coming in from a cold december evening to listen to the choir of an old church.  anywhere i can hear "a poor wayfaring man of grief" on the violin is a good place to be.

(i desperately wanted a nice shot of the choir in the church where kevin talks to the old man in home alone, but my search to find one was to no avail...)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

honest to goodness sunshine fun

i'm listening to coldplay's viva la vida right now, even though i don't want to be; i want to be listening to the high school musical 3 soundtrack and nothing else.

let me say, the movie is a blast!
more on that in a moment.

as our group was meeting at my place tonight (two guys, six girls, not bad), we were counting up and realized that, despite me saying "eight people are coming", we had nine accounted for. i couldn't think of who wasn't on the list i'd purchased tickets for, and excused myself to my room to check. and promptly bought one more ticket online (thankfully the show wasn't sold out. and this will not be the last time it's beneficial this evening).

the teenager who took our tickets at the theater told us that the show wasn't seating yet, but that we could wait at theater 13 around and to our left. this was odd, because 1. we weren't too early (looking back, 40 minutes is early enough to not yet take tickets), and 2. theater 16, directly in front of us, was listed at a 9:00 showing of "high school musical 3." our showing. i checked my handful of tickets. one said "9:00". the other eight said "9:40".

waiting in front of the ticket window, i saw a skinny teenage guy pointing and laughing at my official "east high wildcats" hoodie. everyone masks jealousy in their own way, i suppose... 
i smiled at the ticket vendor and explained how my one ticket was not like the others, and soon i had my own 9:40 ticket. then i dawned on me, and i collected everyone's tickets and went to another window, where i was (again) grateful that the show was not sold out, and we had nine tickets for 9:00.

surprisingly, the theater was only about half full at max. i trusted that 9:00 was too late for the show's prime demographic, and that this was not representative of the general weekend. i want the show to do well; it deserves it.

movies are best seen with their target audience; it adds immensely to the experience. nevertheless, while it was only a partial house, this was still a different crowd than the usual "bergman" crowd that fills up the international cinema. and, you know what, it was a lot of fun. i liked be around people who laughed at the trailer for paul blart, mall cop. and i was personally happy to see a new trailer for bolt, bookended by rhino the hamster (in his ball) sitting in a theater, getting excited for high school musical 3. although, i'm very happy that madagascar 2 opens in a few weeks; i've been seeing trailers for that for months and it's never looked interesting (by the way, check out coraline).

high school musical 3? awesome. it is what it is, so love it for that and that only and you will be happy. it's the exact same story and plot as the first one and the second one; these kids learn life changing lessons then forget them before the audience does, it seems. but we learn life lessons from subtitles movies. the disney channel is about energy and fun. so do it! it's impossible not to tap your foot and bop your head during the big dance numbers. and afterwards, you want to clap and cheer, again leaving me wishing i was in a packed theater of excited girls. we weren't but after a while, our half-filled auditorium clapped because, dang it, we wanted in on it, too.
how good are the songs? like any musical, they come in a variety pack: the slower duets we tolerate only because the progress the plot (a few sappy moments got some unintentional snickers, and there a couple of lines so "good" i wished i had a pen) , a necessary element in a movie that brings us big show-stoppers like "i want it all" and "the boys are back." and those songs are good enough that, after hearing them over and over for three 16-hour nights, i knew i wanted to hear them again. and now that i have, i want more. the junkyard dance was correctly summed up in kenny "i choreographed newsies, dirty dancing, and thriller ortega's encouragement speech one night when he said, "we're making history here, people."

i've been asked numerous times already, "what's it like to see something that you worked on?" it's a few things, really. sometimes it a refreshing surprise that it all worked together (as in rescued and turnaround). sometimes it's a little jarring, because those scenes were not filmed in that order, nor all at the same time, or even the same location. i know that we finished "i want it all" on night and then did a couple of shots for "scream" and called it a night. that the whole party scene had a few more shots (and a scene) that were cut out, and that the whole night's work was about three minutes of film time (think about it: 45 days to get a 100-minute movie), and that the majority of the tree house scene was not filmed in the backyard but on a stage in an industrial part of salt lake. it's interesting watching the big dance numbers while they're being filmed, having take after take to take in all that's going on, then to see it through the lens and cut together; the angles are often cooler, but i know all the neat things going on that didn't make the cut. and it's fun to point out the little nuances in the background that you only know if you're actually part of the group.

"this is something that's iconic to its generation" said our producer at the start of the final week, encouraging the crew the endure to the end of a grueling shoot. it was grueling and it is iconic. and even if you aren't of that generation, you can still ride the ride.

p.s. if you're looking for my name (and you won't be; they've got out-takes playing that are a lot of fun; i almost missed a lot of my friends' names), you won't see me.  but mine wasn't the only one; i didn't see any of my camera crew. so just enjoy the gag reel.

Friday, October 24, 2008

tender lumplings everywhere

the pre-party 
i decided i could make a fun "jack skellington" costume in september, even though i didn't know of any halloween places to wear it. that's one more benefit of being a latter-day saint: you've usually got a place to for holidays. after allison used me as a test subject for her make-up class last month, she jumped at the idea of helping me with my costume (another benefit of membership in the only true and living Church: hometeaching). it came together from various friends and donors: a trip (or two) to tailor maid supplied "clown white" make-up, a bald cap, and a bat ornament that would become a sort of "bolo tie"; my sister provided a short haircut; cheryl provided the pipe cleaners; jack provided (many years ago) an old suit that was the just the right amount of "too small"; jaime provided the contacts; and allison provided the artistic know-how.

work went late (i was impatient on our last shots because a) the sun was going down and we were losing light, b) the halloween party was starting when i was leaving set, and c) i really had to use the bathroom) so allison and devin snuck off to costco and i arrived with them not there. to save time, i started to put my white make-up on while waiting on their stairs, taking pictures of my face with my cell phone to check my progress. one can look pretty creepy pretty fast with a $4 jar of whiteness.
the whole process took about 40 minutes, with allison making me look like jack skellington, the joker, or a panda, depending on the moment. it was the first time either of us had done a bald cap (and painted it white) and the whole thing looked pretty dang.

the party
i had a tragic fear that i would arrive, all done up, just as the party was ending: it began at 6:30, i left allison's at 7:50, and why oh why was it in american fork?? i also had a fear that i would get pulled over whilst looking this way.  to sooth myself, i switched my cd changer from tally hall to miles davis. that helped some.
the party was into full swing when i got there and i was glad i came when i did. to be honest, i was a little surprised that people recognized me so quickly: no hair, no glasses, and make-up is surprisingly concealing. still, i had told my friends i was coming as jack skellington, though i think a lot of people thought i was just a weird dead guy of sorts (which is technically correct; if i do it again, i'd make the eyes much bigger and upturn the mouth to make it look more smiley).  similarly unexpected was the number of exclamations, "that's an awesome bowtie!  and it's so perfect for you!"  it never occurred to me that i was wearing a bat for a bowtie because i always wear a bowtie; it was just the best i could find for the costume.  i took the praises just the same.
the party was in a way cool big ol' barn, there was great food, and a good turnout, yet part of me made me yearn for the 122nd ward halloween parties of five years ago: people danced and danced a lot then. that was a great time that has since come to pass...
still, i found a nice scarecrow who could easily have been the "sally" to my "jack", and we danced a few songs. i can swing dance just enough to show that i know a little, and the awkwardness of the small suit provided a nice alibi for my lack of prowess (not that a scarecrow costume is ideal for cutting a rug, either). i like dancing, that's all there is to it.

the post-party
as the music was proving that it was not going to leave the hip-hop realm (though it should have, for a few reasons), an 80s-alternative guy in me decided i'd had my fun and said my goodbyes. walking down the driveway, i had a thought to go back. not a pointed idea, not a dull feeling; i just felt like i should go back. my first aid knowledge is dated, so i didn't think that anyone was about to have a heart attack in there. nor did i see any potential wifes in there. in fact, i couldn't think of any reason why i should go back. but, what the heck, i did anyway. 
i had a bread bowl of soup and danced to one of the few hip hop songs i like. then the elder's quorum president announced that he just got a text saying that there was a bad accident on I-15 and that traffic is completely stopped, so take another way home. then some more hip hop started, and i wondered how much longer i "had" to stay. i decided i wanted to go, and walking down the driveway again, i realized that, had i just left, i would have spent who-know-how-long stopped on the freeway.
nothing miraculous happened. that prompting to go back didn't bring forth any miracle; it brought forth traffic advice.

how cool is that? so often, i think that the little thoughts i have to do things (or not do things) must certainly lead to love or death. instead, i suspect that the vast majority are simply little "inside tips" from God, simply because He's watching out for us.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

jeff walked

coming back from "run lola run" at the international cinema tonight, i noticed a beetle on the parking lot.  a three-inch beetle;  not something one sees around utah often.  i think it was dead, but i didn't feel like prodding it, either way.  i'm not sure where it came from, but it was in front of the john a. widtsoe laboratories, so that leaves plenty of space for the imagination to roam.

bonus: whomever can write the best story of where the beetle came from on the "comments" area gets to be "ruler of everything" for the day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

here's to a great week

i recently bought they might be giants's "here come to the 123's", their second cd for children.  and while i haven't played it for caleb yet, i thoroughly enjoy it myself.  the cd comes with a dvd of videos for each of the songs, some of which i find far more delightful than the songs themselves.
here's one that makes me feel warm and smiley.
maybe you'll feel it, too.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

and it came to pass...

i flipped through a prepare with honor missionary book at byu one day.  the author noted how the book of mormon often uses the idiom, "and it came to pass." (so often, in fact, that mark twain reportedly said that if you removed all such phrases, the book would be a pamphlet.)  yet, consider it literally: it does not say, "and it came to stay."  it says, "and it came to pass."
we move through life.  sometimes we are coasting, sometimes we are pressing forward.  and sometimes we are simply trying to endure it well.  in our progression, we come across things, some good and some bad; some painful and some joyful.  when we wonder how we got in a mess, or why everything went wrong, remember, it came to pass.

that's also important to keep in mind during the good times: they came to pass, too.  at any point in our lives, there usually some great things and some things we'd really like changed.  and it all will be, so savor the ups while pressing through the downs.  when i lived in 104, i knew that was a wonderful moment that would eventually move on.  i knew that the unity with had with f.h.e. group 2 a few years ago (and the accompanying "24" fan club) would inevitably change.  my opportunity to teach sunday school to my ward now is one of my current moments that i savor, because it, too, will one day come to pass.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

preachin' in the rain

i love conference weekend.  and i love rain.  needless to say, this weekend has been pretty much great.  (i'm also loving this cool weather, while we're at it.)  10 hours of "near-perfect mormon cinema", as dean duncan used to call it.  (thinking about it: moderate production design, basic lighting, camera work as static as wes anderson or yasujiro ozu, use of "non-actors", diegetic music, and the best writing you'll hear in six months).
i liked elder perry's talk on thoreau and the essentials of food, clothing, shelter, and (spiritual) fuel; i liked elder anderson's talk, that we "don't know everything, but [we] know enough", and that faith is not only a feeling, but a decision; elder aidukaitis's note that to pray with "real intent" includes acting on the answers received from God; elder oaks gave a wonderful talk on the importance and sacred nature of the sacrament; i loved president uchtdorf's tak on the infinite power of hope, manifest in optimism, determinism, and patient perseverance.  against hope, we believe in hope.
elder wirthlin's advice to learn to laugh, and that everyone must experience sorrow; elder holland reminded us that angels, seen and unseen, heavenly and worldly, are all around us, to bear us up. 
elder scott reminded us of the holy honor of holding the priesthood, and the importance of remembering that at all times; elder hamula taught that the more earnest the prayer, the more frequent the revelation; president uchtdorf told us to "stand close together and lift where you are", reminding that, in the end, titles other than "husband", "father", and "hometeacher" mean nothing to the Savior; president eyring talked on service, knowing that assignments can leave us unsure if we can do it.  we can't do it alone, but we can with the help of the Lord, and knowing that is the start of meaningful service; president monson told us to be prudent in our planning and conservative in our needs. 
elder hales spoke of peace and kindness, noting that Christian courage is not retaliative, but continually forgiving, that meekness is not weakness; elaine s. dalton reminded that virtuous men and women possess a quiet dignity and an inner strength; elder ballard counseled us that that Lord isn't asking us to die a martyr's death, but to live a disciple's life; president monson echoed a principle that president hinckley lived,  saying this is our one and only chance at mortal life: find joy in the journey now!  don't let stresses get in the way of what is most important--the people around us. 
like elder hales, president packer told us to not be consumed with revenge, but to celebrate all that we have; elder nelson taught that celestial marriage brings greater possibility for happiness than any other relationship in this life; elder cook reminded us that unexpected challenges often come; and, at the close of it all, president monson counseled us to study the talks that we heard, to be good citizens and good neighbors, to listen for His voice, and to live so that we can hear His knock.
and, afterward, em noted, "what good is perfect counsel if i don't do something about it?"

did you know that the rain clouds carved on the salt lake temple symbolize the need for continuing revelation?  pretty cool stuff.