Thursday, January 29, 2009

the 8-year old and the newborn

i sit here, typing at "my computer," staring at it with budding frustration and the foreknowledge that we will have to learn to get along.

you know when you're housesitting for someone and their pet dies? and you can go to the pet store and buy a hamster that looks like the one they had, but it still isn't the same hamster? (and, if you're my sister, the family comes home only to say that they didn't like the pet and were waiting for it to die, anyway).
well, that's my computer. it still looks like a nice, mac from the outside; the same that i've loved for the past few years. but on the inside, it's as blank and devoid of personality as the rebuilt "wall.e" at the end of the movie. so if anyone has a sleek and cute imac or ipod that can come and kiss my computer back to the one i love, please notify me in the comments section.

so far, this text composition is the most success i've had. safari either froze or crashed six times in a row, and the rest of the landscape here is so barren i haven't had the heart to start work yet. but, like the early utah pioneers, with a lot of cultivation, i can make this desert a blossoming rose.

until then, i'm living off of my dell laptop. that's right, the pc that my dad bought for me when i got off my mission eight years ago.
now there's a commercial for microsoft....

i seached the internet over for the picture i wanted. i couldn't find it. i had it on my old drive.  dag.  ; )

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"the only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing".

last night we watched bill and ted's excellent adventure for movie night- i enjoyed it from the bottom of my heart. not only was it a good choice because i just love the movie for so many reasons, but about a third of the fifteen people in attendance were first-timers. when i invite people, i let them know that these aren't your usual movies. but i never know what to expect when someone brings a friend who innocently wanders in and were watching wes anderson, or, worse, ingmar bergman. strangely, they often come back the next week. ; )
but last night the movie got more laughs than i've ever seen, and everyone had a blast. ...and most of the movies on february's schedule are relatively normal, should these newbies come again. (gosh i love punch drunk love....)

now, it's back to "the-project-which-must-not-be-named" (code name: nightmare).
things are looking hopeful for the moment, but everything that can go wrong, has.
i will not fully relax until the dvd is delivered and i will never speak of this again.

thank goodness for fried noodles, ikea dark chocolate, and the katamari soundtrack.

p.s. the mongols ruled china from 1206 to 1368.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the serial life

do you remember the "woody's roundup" show from toy story 2, where the episode ended with woody in mid-jump over the canyon to save jesse and the prospector before the dynamite exploded?  will woody make it??  of course he will, but it's still a lot of fun to go on the wild ride.

some things never change.

for years, 786 told me to get into 24.  it seemed that every time i stopped by his desk, he'd tell me again, "jeff, you've got to watch 24!"  i would thank him that he was concerned about my entertainment well-being, but i had no interest in television, and our conversation about movies would resume.

a few years ago, i was called to be the f.h.e. "dad" for (the dearly beloved) group 2.  our monday night activities were an idyllic time over the first few months, as attendance grew and we made new friends, until one night  when jen, my wife-in-calling, pulled me aside with a problem: the 2-hour season premiere of 24 was on at the same time as f.h.e.
good grief, was she one of "those", too??
i agreed to record it for her, so that she could watch it afterward, and life could resume.
after f.h.e., she came over and i watched the show with her.  this jack guy was in an airport with terrorists and jen was courteous enough explain who each character was.  still, when, after the first hour, she asked, "so, are you hooked?", i hardly saw what all the excitement was about.  i watched the second hour, had a dream that night that i was in an airport with terrorists, and the rest is downhill history.

each week, our group grew.  jen's roommate kristin came to watch.  it turned out that phil and scott were longtime fans.  mark got hooked.  trevor, nicole, collette, and corinne soon came too see what the ruckus was all about.  it was an unending snowball.  f.h.e soon became a meager holding time for the real activity of the night, and we would all be stealthily looking at each other with the unspoken unity of being "in" on something together.
and that's why i love it: we got into it.  every episode was a cliffhanger, with expected unexpected plot twists as often as the "wild mouse" ride at lagoon.  we talked to the tv like a harlem movie theater, calling out how long the recently introduced extemporaneous agent will last, who's really the spy and who's really a good guy, cheering and booing like a vaudeville audience.  i think it's no coincidence that my least favorite season was season 1, which i watched by myself because i was in japan when the rest of the group watched it.

the new season started this week.  with the exception of mark, it's a new group but the fun is still there.  theories are tossed around with joyful abandon, we yell with delight at the surprises, and cheer when old friends make dramatic returns.  
we're no different than the kids in the fifties, who ran to the saturday matinees every week to see if the cowboy arrived in time to rescue the damsel from the train tracks.  i don't think they ever feared he wouldn't arrive in time, but it's thrilling to see the adventure just the same.  there's something very cool about that.

Monday, January 12, 2009

what i'm listening to these days

"demon days" by the gorillaz
"prospekt's march" by coldplay
"autobahn" and "trans-europa express" by kraftwek
"modern times" by bob dylan
"human after all" by daft punk
"here come the ABCs" by they might be giants
"o brother, where art thou?" soundtrack
"kind of blue" by miles davis
"global underground #030: paris" by nick warren
"mass in b minor" by johann sebastian bach
"who's next" by the who

and tally hall.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

take a sad song and make it better

on the first friday of every month, downtown provo's art scene comes alive- who knew?  i wandered through with cheryl and julie last night and we came to a gallery with several landscapes. at first glance, it was nothing that caught my eye.   so i decided to give it my attention, instead of demand from it.
have you ever stopped to just look at a mailbox, a tree, or your desk lamp? to watch all the different colors and light and shadows? subtle shades of dark and tones of color bounced from another object start to come out (i really dig the blue shadows of snow). i knew that's what this artist saw, and i looked at a few landscapes for a long time, following the variations in color in the different brush strokes, to see some of what he was seeing after sitting there for hours.

earlier that day, kristin and i were out roaming a few blocks west of there, photographing "found typography." or anything that looked interesting.  we did some more today, when we were waiting in line in the basement of ehT leonardo.  
again, looking at things i probably wouldn't have looked at

Friday, January 09, 2009

the year in review: 2008 (a.k.a. "the sheepies")

106 posts in 2008.  as i look over them, i smile.  i think i would still read sheep go to heaven if i didn't write for it, and that's a good feeling.  still, some are better than others.

i tend to judge the success of a post based on how many comments it garners.  which is not really a good way to do it; sometimes i'll just scribble something down for the fun of it, and it turns out to be a big "hit".  conversely, some of my favorites don't get a single comment.
the following ten are my favorite posts, the ones that conveyed most clearly what i wanted to say, in chronological order.  
actually, i like le collection fabuleuse de jeff best.  it's fun and came out exactly as i imagined it.  that's #1.

jan. 5: bleach (dated dec. 30, 2008)

feb. 7-8: criterion pt.I and criterion pt.II- i hoped to write a glorious review of the collection and inspire people to discover new cinema.  didn't seem to happen. 

aug. 3: remember that one time- i posted it thinking, "it would be unfortunate if someone did this and no one comments."  i got two comments.

popularity contest a.k.a. most comments
tie: feb. 6: the dreams stuff is made of and feb. 14: amative me, with 11 each.  never would have guessed.

longest post
apr. 20: the illustrated trip to vegas- in lieu of my usual lengthy prose, i tried to be like posters who show a picture and write a brief caption.  instead, there were a lot of pictures and even more words.

who knows? post
feb. 10: learning from the past- occasionally, i will write obliquely, in a sort of parable for what's on my mind at the moment.  and i can usually look back and remember exactly what i was saying.  no idea what i meant with this one...
best post outside of sheep go to heaven
in search of a muse: salt- i thoroughly enjoy reading all of my friends' blogs, and there are several  posts that i really like.  but tim's essay on religion was spot-on in all respects.

i thought of giving a name to these awards, but then it feels even more pompous than it already is, giving myself awards.
still, if i was going to the name them, they'd be called "the sheepies."  
that, or "the cake-bakies."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

cold shower

date: jan. 1, 2009

the hot water was already partially gone when i got into one shower this morning and he got in the other.  he can shower much quicker than i can, and it was soon evident that there wasn't going to be enough to make it to the end.
and so i just huddled to the side of the tiled wall, and no matter how cold i felt, the water always seemed to get colder.  despite having twenty years' experience with this plumbing, i clung to a hope that i would find a secret reserve tank of hot (or even lukewarm) water.  there seemed no way out of this until i found myself under the water, rinsing off with no recollection of having given any sort of executive order.

i hope that's the coldest shower i have all year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

the skinny black pant

date: dec. 31, 2008

tim and i went out shopping during the glorious after Christmas sales, when one can get a $20 shirt for $5. walking past aeropostale, the big red window signs advertised "all jeans $19.99!!" that was what i was looking for, as most of mine were starting to develop holes, and the ones i bought with holes how had much larger holes.

i walked out of my first experience in that store with two pairs of denim pants, one of which are slender and black. wearing them today, i have to acknowledge that i don't have the style of audrey hepburn;  i look more like one of the ramones.

Monday, January 05, 2009


date: dec. 30, 2008

evidently a lot of noteworthy things happened in my life ten years ago, because i've been commemorating events lately.
it was ten years ago today that i went into the missionary training center,  called to the japan kobe mission.

i've never talked a whole lot about my mission.  mostly, i didn't want to be another byu student continually talking about his mission and how wonderful it was.

but, similar to one of laurie jayne's recent posts, i'm going to break the silence.
this has proven to be one of the hardest posts i've even written.  nothing has come out right.  perhaps the hardest reason to talk about a mission is that it can so quickly become cliche: "i grew so much;" "my mission president was amazing;" "i wasn't prepared for what i was getting into." anyone could say that.
i'm going to say what i want; they are my own words and not of anyone else.

i learned a lot things in japan.  skills across the entire spectrum.  learning to live on my own, to wisely buy groceries for myself, and how to actually cook some things.  i biked more than i even had, so much that my legs hurt for the first few months.  certainly i learned how to speak and read japanese, but that seems so narrow when compared with all other skills.  being placed around all sorts of people very different from the circle i grew up with, and learning how to work with them.  i learned to responsible, honest, and to value integrity.  i saw wonders of the world, and learned met people and friends from all over the globe.

in the mtc, we were once asked to write down all the things that we were grateful for.  i listed my friends, my family, my car, my cds.  i wasn't being materialistic; rather, i was trying to be grateful for what i did have.  the speaker then helped us review our list.  did we list our families?  yes.  the church, the priesthood?  i think i listed those.  Jesus Christ?  His name was on my jacket, but not my list.
that exemplifies how i grew most during those two years.  never again would i make that mistake, and not for fear of a social faux pas.  i had always held a testimony of the gospel and been active in church.  i went on a mission because it was the right thing do.  that's a good reason to go, but i came home with a much deeper understanding of it all.  the scores of bricks that made up my conviction of its verity were now cemented together.  i began to understand and really love the scriptures.  i was aware of what the gift of the Holy Ghost could do for me and how important that is.  and i held in much more hallowed reverence the Name of Jesus Christ and a solemn gratitude for what He did, with an active desire to keep following Him.

during a personal interview, a teacher described a serving a mission like tempering steel: people will look at you and remark that you're still the same person, but you know that you've changed.  walking through the byu bookstore a year or two later, i found myself thinking about something, and realized that i learned it on my mission.  it was something mundane, like how to shop for groceries or learning to read a map when you're trying to find an address in a big city (or old country village, for that matter); i don't remember what it was, but it was something i learned as a missionary in japan.  and i remembered how i once kept a bottle of bleach under my bed.  it only fit on its side, and despite the cap being tight, some had leaked out, which we didn't discover until the chris rearranged the furniture.  part of the spot had been turned white, but there was a hole where the bleach had eaten away entirely.  it didn't happen all at once; it continued to react with the carpet long after i'd stored the bottle somewhere else.  such is that black name tag.  
an elder in my mtc district came from a family long in the Chruch. as i commented on how cool it was to be carrying on the family legacy, he saw the glory of my situation, of being the first person to wear the "elder gustafson" badge.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

high school never ends

date: dec. 27, 2008

author's note: this post is a pre-destined failure.  tonight was so awesome, my best writing cannot capture it.  if you get me with a good hot chocolate and plenty of room to stand, jump, and flail my arms, i may come close.

i've been looking forward to today for several years.

moving to japan when most of my friends were moving to minneapolis expanded my horizons. leaving my circle of friends, my hometown, and my hemisphere to live on my own and work among strangers from around the world caused me to open up, to be friendlier to those i don't know, and to think differently about those i do know. and, when i came back, i was in moorhead for only a few days before moving out to utah, where i met more wonderful people and had a lot of really cool opportunities. i would come home at Christmas, as well as that summer in 2001, when i found summer vacation was different than in high school. by winter of 2002 or 2003, it was apparent that there wasn't much for me in moorhead anymore; one of us had changed.  it was still home (and always will be), but only in the past tense.

being away and seeing new changes had made me think about where i had come from, and what i'd seen along the way. and with whom. while it was not without rife challenges, i loved high school, and was soon interested in seeing those people again. i wanted to see my old group of friends and tell them what i've seen, and to get to know those people with whom i was too shy to talk until the last few months of my senior year.

2008 finally came around, and i looked forward to may for my 10 year high school reunion.  and didn't hear anything. no e-mails, no letters arriving at my parents' house, nothing on the high school website's "reunion" section. it seemed i was cursed with a lame class.

as december was rolling around and i started e-mailing my high school best friend, jon, to see when he would be in town, he mentioned wanting to do all that he could to avoid some horrendous event on the 27th. all i knew about that day was that it was tim's birthday, and, last i checked, he and tim had had no mortal feud.
inquiring, he told me it was our high school reunion, and was surprised i hadn't heard already, as i actually wanted to go to the blasted thing. once again, i was reminded that i am one of half a dozen people on the planet not on facebook, and therefore, am completely out of any and all "loops."

jon was decrying the reunion for a list of reasons, despite having been by my side for nearly every awesome memory since sixth grade.  during the reunion's preceding weeks, i debated back and forth with jon, hearing his reasonings and treating them, conceding them yet still insisting we go, or ignoring them altogether.  i like to think that i knew jon well enough that i would get him to go when the time came to it.
in the midst of this, he told me that one of our other friends was going, hoping to pawn me off onto him.  i counted myself grateful to have some re-enforcement on my side, until i found out that rob, too, was avoiding this as he would a plague.
man, how did i end up with all the wrong friends?

i r.s.v.p.-ed to the e-mail address, and the reply (from a name i did not know) said "excited to see you there!" and gave me two links, both to facebook.  which did me no good, as only facebookers can facebook.

today, the day that i had looked forward to for upwards of five years or more, i found a myspace page for the moorhead high school class of 98 reunion.  there were eleven people confirmed as going, and most were girls with pages of pink and glitter.  it was looking like jon may win and i wouldn't even care.
tim let me use his facebook account to find the "real" page, for all the cool people.  90 people were confirmed, with about 60 "unsure" and another 60 "not attending."  i always thought i knew my class pretty well, yet there were a lot of people i didn't recognize.  still, perhaps i had a chance to win jon over yet.  looking through the "no goers", i found most of the interesting people.  the "maybes" had a couple notables, and the "confirmed" had, at best, and handful that i would categorize in the fringe group "might be fun to see again." i was surprised at how many people were still living in the fargo-moorhead area, and a great percentage more were in the minneapolis-st. paul area.  and there seemed to be a loose pattern that those with more artistic profile pictures (often black and white) were usually the same ones living out of state.  as a bonus prize for oddness, however, there were two girls whose last names were now "gustafson."
nevertheless, the scales were tipping against me.
further lead was added when i noticed that "if you have not already purchased your tickets for $20 [this was dated dec. 22], admission will be $40 at the door."
the anticipation that had been deflating now sputtered its last breath.

out perusing the clothing stores for clearance clothing, jon and i realized we were on the same page, just different ends.  i wanted to go the reunion to see all of our good friends from high school again, and to talk with some i didn't talk with much before.  and if those people were going to be there, jon noted, it would be tremendous, indeed.  but they weren't going to be there.  that's what he'd figured and i just learned.

i suppose that, had i started working on this a few weeks (or a month) ago, i could have rallied all the cool troops; a sort of "i'll only do it if they're in" situation, not unlike producing a movie sequel.

with plans of attending the official reunion now defunct, and knowing the real reason for the reunion--to see people we like--jon offered to call and see who was still in town and get them together.  jon called because he lives in minneapolis and still sees people from time to time.  i haven't seen anyone other than him since two friends were married five or six years ago.

it was decided we go to "the bowler" one of the f-m area's aptly named bowling arenas, catering to the standard accompanying demographic.  tim and his friends came along, too, and only one person from our high school group, but it was the best person who could have come.

jill is awesome.

jon was one of two friends in my innermost circle; jill was in the next set, and, while i can't really remember when we became friends, she was part of our state-competing "knowledge bowl" team and is one of my favorite people.

in short, tonight could not have been better.  at all.

the big dude at the counter preferred we not pay individually, so i handed him my card, and everyone else paid me.  i paid for tim (birthday) and for jill (just thrilled that  she was here) and i still think i lost a few dollars in the process, but i didn't care; i saw it as money far better spent than  were i at the americ-inn with a room of married girls i never knew.
it took me a while to find a decent ball.  i found a mighty orb christened "thunderball", but soon swapped it when the too-widely-spaced holes left me with a sore thumb and gutter balls.  it was a shame that only the three of us were on the lane, as jill and i talked as fast as we could while jon bowled, only to have one of us get up, and then the other.  still, being there was unexpectedly refreshing, being everything that i had looked forward to at the reunion: talking with old friends in the light of new changes and understanding.

well, that, and the jukebox.
i was pacing out to shoot another strike when meatloaf's "i would do anything for love" came on (a song that connoted plenty of junior high memories for me) and i looked at tim, as he has recently developed an affinity for the singer.  he smiled and pointed to lee, saying he chose it on the jukebox.
they have a jukebox here??
people handed me a few dollars, and, after lee's 12-minute version of the 1993 mega-hit, everyone was singing along to r.e.m.'s "man on the moon."  not just our group; i looked down both sides of the alley and grinned as i saw bowlers united in song (i chose it because the video has everyone singing along in a bar, and i had a little hope in my heart...).  "sheep go to heaven" didn't have as many fans, but boston's "foreplay/long time" was for me, while journey's timeless "don't stop believing" was for my brother on his birthday.  and, because we were in a bowling alley, everyone else, too.

when our pre-paid hour ended, tim and his friends went off to rock band, and jon and jill and i went off to perkins.
perkins.  a 24-hour restaurant that was the place to go in high school.  not just for me, but for my sister and brother, too.  and a good chunk of the rest of the underage student population.  driving there, i was on cloud nine, thrilled and loving this with all my soul.

the appetizer sampler has gone up in price since 1998, but they've still got vanilla coke, and i downed three drinks plus two more waters as we talked until 2 a.m.  and it was there that i realized why i loved it so much: i was me again.  i didn't know that i wasn't me before, but i haven't felt so free, so open in a long time.  because i was with people i'd know twice as long as anybody i know in utah; because i didn't need to worry about looking like i have it all planned out, no appearances to keep up, no one to impress.  sitting with my best friends from high school in perkins, i could be 18 again.  i wasn't immature or a complete idiot--quite the opposite actually.  i shed the accumulated paste of the stresses being out of college, of being single in utah valley, of not having a clear plan of my life for the next ten years--i felt just like my old boney self again!  pure, undiluted, free and clear.  like when pepsi became crystal pepsi.  
and we talked.  we talked about everything, flowing wherever we wanted, free an open, everyone having different ideas and experiences.
i could have talked until the sun came up, but jill noted that she had to be at church in the morning, and i conceded that i did, too.

a few days later, my dad asked what were the three best events of 2008.  without a second thought, i answered:
*caleb being born
*the tally hall concert in march
*going to perkins with jon and jill

my ten year high school reunion was nothing like i imagined, yet it couldn't have been better.

a note from the editor

dear readers,

during the past few weeks, our senior reporter has been on location in northern minnesota.  while our policy here at sheep go to heaven is that the news does not stop, our correspondent seems to have thought otherwise.  jotted notes are all that we have to show in the place of missed deadlines.  that, and the (wholly un-consoling) knowledge that said unnamed reporter successfully helped guide his younger brother though several dungeons on the 8-bit nintendo classic, "dragon warrior 2".  indeed.
during the two weeks of the now-published "horrorshow diaries", we promised that such lag-posting would not again occur at a blog with such esteem as sheep go to heaven.  in light of such circumstances, i personally offer our official response:

dang it.

some readers may wonder how this sort of un-professional behavior can allow such a writer to continue working here.  i have to concede that he is, along with all other things said about him, the best darned writer we've ever had here, and we simply cannot afford to lose him.  such is the business.

now that he is back in the office, the notes of the past week will be developed into full posts appearing over the next few days.  such posts will be dated on those days, so that those following with rss feeds will not miss a posting notice due to its being listed as "5 days ago."  each post will begin with the date of its genesis, so that the immediate tone of the writing may be preserved.  it is our aim to have the first up later this evening.

if this happens again, he will be horse-whipped.

happy new year,

jeff gustafson
sheep go to heaven