Monday, April 27, 2009


joel posted a list of movie plots boiled down into one-sentence summaries.  they were fun and clever and, at the bottom, he asked for any other suggestions.  my list kept growing so much that i decided to make it into my own posting.

2001: a space odyssey- space program doesn't run mac osx, has to reboot.

about a boy- socially-awkward youth is surrounded by poor role models.

adaptation- repulsive man doesn't finish book assignment.

aladdin- upper-class girl conned by street thug.

amelie- reclusive introvert stalks numerous parisians.

apocalypse now- boat travels through southeast asia; crew meets interesting people.

babel- everyone in the world is sad.

back to the future- anachronous teen steels car, almost destroy space-time, kisses mother.

casablanca- man commits theft, adultery, homicide, befriends police captain.

citizen kane- successful newspaper man loses toy.

close encounters of the third kind- delusional man deserts family, runs to wilderness with single mother.

crash- l.a. is full of racists.

the deer hunter- veteran doesn't want to play game with friend.

the departed- irish men achieve goals through lying, violence; woman perplexed.

doubt- paranoid nun ruins everyone's life.

dumb and dumber- devoted romantic travels cross country to return briefcase.

eternal sunshine of the spotless mind- doctor helps lonely man overcome heartache.

fight club- successful soap company expands interests.

the godfather- old man believes in family, instills values in children.

gone with the wind- high-maintenance girl stops being hungry, man doesn't care.

goodfellas- after thirty years, man leaves friends, attempts career change.

hero- terrorist lies to head of state, is subdued.

kill bill- stubborn woman refuses to forgive friends.

the last emperor- richest kid in the world isn't content.

lean on me- principal abuses students; parents outraged, students happy.

the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe- little girl not afraid of predators.

little miss sunshine- drug-addicted grandfather teaches little girl dance, makes family happy.

the matrix- internet geek uses cheat code in video game.

mr. smith goes to washington- overzealous visitor disrupts congress.

the muppets Christmas carol- lonely british man talks to puppets.

mystery science theater 3000: the movie- aimless man and associates make fun of others.

newsies- street gang attacks local business.

the nightmare before Christmas- foreign celebrity commits kidnapping, identity theft.

ocean's twelve- director promises entertaining sequel, audiences realize they're the ones being robbed.

pulp fiction- stolen briefcase is safely returned, clothing soiled.

punch-drunk love- romantic businessman visits hawaii, doesn't tell sister.

the rocky horror picture show- lost couple makes new friends, learns to dance, tries on new clothes.

the seventh seal- melancholy man plays chess, makes new friend.

shrek 2- fat man intimidated by rich parents, attractive younger man; donkey intimidated by adopted cat.

singin' in the rain- woman is ostracized by friends because she talks differently.

sunrise- man attempts to kill wife, finds marital bliss.

the terminal- confused immigrant accosted by airport official.

there will be blood- oil tycoon attends church.

this is spinal tap- reporter and musician have miscommunication about amplifier.

transformers- import vehicles difficult to control.

uhf- innovative young man runs successful tv station.

up- elderly man kidnaps boy scout, flees country.

x-files: i want to believe- paranoid man disrupts medical research.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

keep talking

for millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. then, something happened which unleashed the power of our imaginations and we learned to talk.
-stephen hawking

i'm comfortable with silences.  like mia wallace, i don't feel the need to continually fill the air with words; it's a special friends with whom you can just sit and be quiet.
but silence does make a lot of people uncomfortable, and i suppose it's good to not let that happen too often in most circumstances.

i am a believer in conversation in life, though.  talking is what keeps the air from going stale in a house, a car ride, an evening out.  not necessarily philosophical musings on existentialism, nor one-word answers lobbed from behind a wall, but simple and honest talking.  it's healthy to a relationship of any kind.  it feels good to talk with someone, and it's not always easy.   but i'm surprised at the differences in environment when words flow back and forth freely.  and i don't exclusively mean telling your innermost thoughts, hopes, and dreams, although i think i once did.

sharing who you are, what you're up to, what you're thinking about.  like flowing water, conversant talking helps our relationship stay fresh and clear.  it keeps us from becoming weird.

i'm not the best at this.  i partially credit my scandinavian heritage for part of it, but also an effort to be a better lister (as opposed to "waiting to talk") and, as a result, preferring to listen to others.  to quote sydney greenstreet in the maltese falcon, "i'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk!"
and then there are times when i won't shut up....

all we need to do is make sure we keep talking.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

big ideas in a small theatre

i don't go to plays much; i'm a movie guy.  what's nice about movies is that you don't have to be there at the moment to see it.  unless you're watching touch of evil or blade runner, what you're seeing is pretty much the same thing everyone else saw when it was released, even if it was released in japan fifty years ago (and let's all forget about the "special edition" of the lion king...).
with live theatre, it's much more of a gambit; the second night's performance will be different that opening night's, to say nothing of how a script's production is reinterpreted over the decades.

good cinema is much easier to propagate; thank you, home video and dvds.  good theatre is a little trickier; you kind of have to be there (the 1998 effort to record CATS on video didn't really work).  and i usually don't think of provo, utah, as having good theatre.  of all the plays i saw at byu, only a few were worth getting excited about, my favorite being smart, single guys (written by a student, no less).  i'd happily recommend it to you, but, i like i said, with theatre, you kind of have to be there.  when it's gone, it's gone.

amidst all these obstacles, i saw a really good play this evening.  on center street in provo is the covey theatre, and the main floor auditorium was hosting the miss utah pageant.  upstairs, in a room that was tiny even by "experimental theatre" standards, was a play called every day a little death.  i wouldn't have been there had my friend, who was starring it in, personally invited me.  that seemed to be the case for almost every one of the fifteen people there.  

two people, eight short scenes, one recurring theme: death.  the scenes followed a couple from their first date through their first few years of marriage, each time talking about death.  the writer-director's notes commented that there was no metaphorical death, no poetic death of an ideology or such.  these focused on mortality, the death of the living.  i wouldn't have noticed that decision had it not been pointed out, and i liked it.
that makes it sound morbid or grim, but it wasn't.  these were conversations about the events, the moments or years before or after.  sometimes these seemingly-mundane times can be as defining in our lives as the grand events of birth, marriage, or death.  i like that patient observation.

all of this is great in theory, but it can easily get mired in the actual production.  in that tiny little white room, everything worked.  the set consisted of a couch, a table, and two chairs.  they were rearranged between scenes to create a new environment and each scene's blocking was minimal; the actors mostly stayed in their spot for the time.
that could have been very boring.
it wasn't.

a small theatrical production about a young married couple talking about death on center street in provo: that's ripe for cheesy dialogue.  their discussions were interesting without being forced.  they weren't snappy-witty like everyone in juno, and, thankfully, they weren't trying to be.  it was genuine, not saccharine.  nor did they have screaming tirades of obscenities.  it wasn't an examination of life and death by lacerating humanity to the core.  there were no acts of infidelity, not exclamations of loathing or hatred.  it was two people working through big things and little things.  it generally seemed real, and there was enough hope underlying each situation that you believed one would catch the other when they fell.  
the acting was solid, with the couple giving a dynamic range of emotions that oscillated realistically.  while some scenes were stronger than others, most times, i would soon forget that i was watching a performance, becoming interested in listening in on their conversation and thinking along with them.

it was nice to see something different and something good.
in short, i liked it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

we tennis

cleaning out my hall closet last week, i found a tennis racquet.  my tennis racquet.  i bought it last year, possibly during a momentarily lapse of reason, as my history with organized sports has never been very lasting.  my best friend and i did have several excellent games of calvinball in his back yard, often involving the apple tree.  but the traditional experiences with baseball, basketball, soccer, and even tennis were little more than bored flirtations up through fifth grade, rarely lasting longer than a single season.  after fifth grade, i discovered theatre and that was pretty much my muse from there on out.

i wasn't naturally athletic, but it was almost more of an ideological issue.  just as no man can serve two masters, being good in school and being good at sports seemed fundamentally incompatible, and, given the choice, i  opted for academics.  and so this fallacy, despite being a gross stereotype and having plenty of contrary evidence, existed with me, more or less, through high school.  i loathed gym class and couldn't understand why anyone except refrigerator-shaped guys would take sports as an elective.
there was one moment of anomaly: during my sophomore year, i was friends with several of the school newspaper staff and was approached with the assignment of writing an opinion on why sports are better than academics.  my severely puzzled-look at my friend--whom i knew knew she was asking the wrong guy--elicited the reasoning: anyone who genuinely believed that couldn't write it well enough (her words, not mine).  as such, i had a hey-day with it.  so successful was it that i overheard one girl say, "who wrote this?  the knowledge bowl is going to attack him!"

by high school, it seemed that the die has been cast: if you weren't on the athletic train by  now, it was too late to jump on.  besides, i didn't like competition.  the "i'm better than you and i'm going to hit you harder" mentality seemed (and still does) immature and unappealing.  i was much more of a "let's all work together" team player.   ...which would have obviously been a very good trait for sports.  instead, i was happy throwing myself into math competitions, every theatrical performance i could get, and being captain of the knowledge bowl team.  all of which i was very competitive in, it just didn't seem as barbaric.
looking back now, the only sport that seems appealing was hockey, but, in minnesota, if you don't start by age 5, you may as well move to another state.

the greatest argument against my views was a friend named ashley jensen.   despite having the misfortune of being a boy named "ashley", he excelled in seemingly everything.  he was brilliant in academics and was aiming for med school.  ok, he had glasses and parted his hair; that fits.  he was masterful at the saxophone, seated several chairs up from where jon and i were assigned.  fine- music is arty.  but as we were spending more time talking about religion, he invited me to play tennis.  sure, i "played tennis", which amounted to a couple weeks in a summer activity and those few units in gym class.
at the tennis court, ashley took off his shirt and revealed that he was as physically fit as he was mentally.  our "game" lasted about three serves, at which point he charitably suggested that we just "have fun" hitting the ball back and forth.  i don't remember the whole event last very long.

over the past few years, i've accepted that sports are not the enemy, nor do they have to edge out other aspects of "jeff."  balanced athletics can help other areas of my life.  i like friendly competition.  i took weight training (twice) at byu, without any coercion.  and i liked it.

so, the tennis racquet.  the weather's warming up and i could either say "i should play sometime this summer" or i could go out and actually play next week.  becky and brady are pretty busy with graduating, parenting, and moving, so next on my list was jaime.  i didn't know if she actually played tennis, but she was my best bet.
thankfully, she was up for it and we went out this morning.

you may have noticed from the above story that i've never successfully "played tennis."  i've hit a tennis ball with my dad when i was younger, but an actual game?  no.
so when we were into our third or fourth game this morning, it occurred to me that i was actually playing tennis.   and loving it.  we played for about an hour and a half, and i could've gone for another hour (i think).  my most recent education on scoring comes from playing wii tennis and i can't keep straight the differences between games, sets, and matches, but it was a blast.

so, if anyone out there plays...  ; )

Thursday, April 23, 2009

see my vest

a year or two ago, express decided vests should be in fashion again.  maybe they've been around for a while, but the first time i saw them was on a mannequin at express.  and i thought they were awesome.  perhaps it reminds me of buster keaton in some way; i don't know, but i'm a fan of them.  however, the blasted things retail for $87.99, which is way too much for pay for a vest; you don't even get sleeves.
unlike stores that pander to kids with parents' credit cards and so rarely offer sales and clearances, express knows its target market generally pays its own bills and, as such, needs to shop economically.  i don't have to have the newest latest fashions and don't mind waiting for a little season for clothes (although, the day the seventh seal is released on blu-ray, it will be mine) after a few months, the vests move racks and the price tags are slashed with red once or twice.  coupled with a $20 off card from the mail, and, suddenly, i too can look like a plucky 1920's character.
(the new summer vests look pretty great, too)

i really like my vest!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

seven seconds per frame

a few weeks ago i posted my demo reel.  i thought i was pretty much done.  but, bit by bit, i found new ways i could make it better: adding another menu page with more examples; why not make those examples in HD?  maybe i can polish up that menu style?  hmm, if i can make those shots in HD, maybe i can redo the demo reel in HD....
my computer (my blessed, circa-2003 G4 computer) has been compressing my 2 min. 55 second reel all morning and is scheduled to be finishing up about the time movie night wraps this evening (compressing it in standard def took about two hours, but i had to have the h.264 compression).  
on the other hand, it takes pixar six hours or more for one frame.

all in all, i'll be really sad when this is over.  it's been a lot of fun plowing through this, learning how to use the program, realizing what it can do, wondering if i can do something more, and the whole process starting over again.

who knows what the future will bring?

(i just had deja vu as i was thinking of what to title this; sadly, i can't remember what i thought i'd titled it...)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

weakend update

as best as i can tell, somewhere around wednesday my chi went defunct.  i don't know whether i'm powered by cold fusion or a hamster or a wheel, but whatever's inside of me slowed down to a 2 and i stopped burning on my own.
i like blogging, but after not taking the time to write about the ducks i saw on tuesday morning, i felt little force behind anything to write.  life has continued on at 24 hours per day, i just haven't had the exuberance that i'm used to.
it's sunday, the start of a new week.  perhaps something will happen that will jump start me, or maybe the tide will simply come in again.
come what may and love it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

when turning the power off, hold in the reset button, or all data may be lost

dragon warrior 3 has always been one of my favorite nintendo games (old nintendo, two-button controller, blow-in-the-cartridge nintendo).  it's what we called a "role-playing game"; usually, you're a knight (or a kid who will become a knight), setting out on a quest--there's always a quest--to destroy some monster who is going to either destroy or rule the world or princess (or both).  often, you will meet other people who will join you on the quest, and you may or may not learn what really happened to your father.  you don't jump on flying turtles, but instead fight monsters in what boils down to a battle of numbers: hit points, magic points, and other nerd goo.  no mushrooms to make you grow, leafs to make you sprout a tail and fly.  instead, you collect weapons, armor, and water toys by visiting village item shops, exploring dungeons, or killing a metal slime.

i love these games and still dust them off with a smile at Christmas time; the blocky graphics and electronic sounds are old friends.  part of the joy of the game is finding every little item; of having maps of the dungeons (or cave or castle or lighthouse) spread out in front of me and making sure i found every treasure chest; of completing every side quest and exhausting every option (which is the same reason why i would mark every "choice" with a bookmark (or my finger) when reading a "choose your own adventure" book).  i like to have everything.
earlier this year i was thinking about this (tim and i went through dragon warrior 2 in two days at the end of the Christmas break) and i realized that, when i turn off the power switch, it's all gone.  no matter how much armor or how many healing herbs i'd collected, none of it exists once i turn it off.  none of it means a thing.

today is easter, the day when rabbits lay chocolate eggs (i've never actually researched it, but that's what i gather from the tv commercials).  today is the day we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  His resurrection is the culmination of His mission in mortality, the glorious finishing of His work that included suffering in gethsemane and crucifixion at golgotha.
His resurrection did not just break the chains of death for Him, but it extended to everyone without condition.  everyone who has ever died will be brought back to life, immortality, because of His resurrection.
my dvd collection, my car, my wall-e bed sheets: when the power is shut off, those are gone.  you can't take it with you.  it doesn't matter what or how much i had.  it's all gone.  
but i am not.  life and family continue.
how scary it would be to wonder if this were all we got; to be afraid of the off switch.
how wonderful to know it's not!  the Gospel is true!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

best movie of 2008

tim and i were out running around town on friday afternoon and stopped by wal-mart in search of cadbury cream eggs, the greatest by-product of the commercialization of easter.  while the store did not have any (future searches all over town would similarly be of no avail), we did stop by the "bedding" section, as i realized earlier that day that i have been living on one pair of bed sheets for quite some time now.
tim said he would buy the "super mario 3" hoodie we had looked at at f.y.e. if i bought the sheets.  it seemed like a win-win-win to me....

being that they're disney merchandise, they're about as soft as sandpaper, but i love 'em just the same. when i get married, i'll have to have some "grown-up" bedding, so i'm enjoying my time while i can.

mom, thanks for the easter money.  ; )

Sunday, April 05, 2009

spiritual clambake

(sung to the tune of "a real nice clambake" from rogers and hammerstein's carousel)
that was a real nice conference
we're mighty glad we came
the talks we heard were good, you bet
the company was the same

sitting in the conference center yesterday morning, all i could think was, "how cool it art!"  how seriously awesome is it that we have prophets and apostles who continually speak to us, giving us counsel and guidance in this crazy world, and that this occurs twice a year.  and that i had the opportunity to be at the conference center with president monson, his counsellors, and the quorum of the twelve.  truly, it is good for us to be here!

sitting with a group during a talk is interesting, because, so often, the speaker will say something, and we will all go for our notes at the same time.  some phrases stand out as worth writing down.  yet if we all compared notes, we'd all have heard different things.  like my brother said last week, that can only be because the Spirit is talking to each of us.  because it's true.
here's some of what i heard:

elder hales reminded us to say "get behind me, satan", and that there is love, not weakness, in saying "we can't afford it."  sister lifforth noted that often, the most destructive child (and we are all children) needs our love the most; brother neider nudged us that, as holders of the priesthood, the women of the Church should not be the only examples of virtue.  elder packer of the seventy told us to become acquainted with the voice of the Holy Ghost, but that if we have unrealistic expectations of how that revelation will come, we could miss it.  elder christofferson taught that when we have entered into divine covenants, the Holy Ghost will be our guide, our constant companion.  president eyring poignantly said that sometimes, the Lord calls on us to give to others what we hope He will give to us.  

we got to raise our hand in sustaining the leaders of the Church in mark's car, which i think is kind of cool, to be involved no matter where we are.  elder ballard taught that there are many, many questions in our lives, but the most important questions of our eternal lives have answers in the scriptures are words of the prophets.  i didn't take notes for the rest of the afternoon session because i was doing what i could to entertain my nephew, so that his parents could have a few uninterrupted moments to listen and maybe even take notes.  that was marginally successful.

i got to attend the priesthood session back at the conference center with my brother, which was very cool.  speaking in light of the current world situation, elder packer sagely said that we have moved from a generation of ease and luxury to one of hard work and responsibility, adding to take care of our possessions and property, to not be wasteful, and to be content with what we have.  bishop edgley reminded that continued guidance comes through fasting and prayer, while elder costa's talk about our responsibilities to our family, our employer, the Lord's work, and ourselves had so much to take in that all i could write was, "this is a good talk to study."  president uchtdorf cautioned us of focusing on the inconsequential at the expense of the profound, and asked what could be accomplished if we put away childish things?  president eyring reminded us that there are so many around us in need and danger, explaining that spiritual wounds are not easily visible except with spiritual eyes, and that we are to do for others, as best we can, what the Lord would do.  president monson told us to "be ye ready always" with the comforting reminder that this is not a time for fear, but a time for faith. 

this morning, president uchtdorf reminded us that the world is  continually offering up solutions for the problems we face, and, while some of them may contain elements of truth, only the Gospel can give us the lasting change we are seeking.  elder anderson wisely noted that we are nobody, and if we ever forget it, the Lord will remind us (and it won't be pleasant).  elder snow taught us to face a world of negativity with faith to go forward; to be of good cheer and to laugh.  sister thompson reminded us that at some time in our lives, each of us will be poor (in some way) and will need the help of another.  elder holland spoke to any who feel alone, encouraging us that, even though Jesus pleased His Father in every way, He, too, was left totally alone for a time.  but He held on.  He stood by us, and we need to stand by Him.  president monson spoke as the prophet to the world, telling us that putting the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of our lives will give us the strength to move on.

this afternoon, elder oaks described the contrasts between those who give selfless service, particularly in the temple, and those who live of the "me generation" with feelings of entitlement.    elder bednar spoke of what it truly means to take upon us the Name of Christ, an event that is expanded through the work in the temple.  elder stevenson encouraged us to make our home a Temple, reminding that we are never lost when we can see the Temple.  elder teixeira warned us about our conscience becoming dull and losing its guidance.  elder watson testified of the wisdom of prophets, reminding that their counsel may sometimes conflict with our political views or social life, but when we follow them, the evil around us will dispel.  elder perry cautioned us not to be missing in action when a friend, neighbor, or family member is in need.  and president monson closed the conference with admonition to study the conference talks, to ponder them, and to apply them in our lives.

there you are: ten hours of conference in five paragraphs.  i thought of making a "highlight video" of what i listed above.  instead, i second president monson: read the ensign.

in addition to what the stood out from the speakers, there were other things that kept weighing on me.  i wrote those down, too, as i think that what we think about during conference can be even more significant for us that what is in a talk.

yesterday i commented that the saturday morning session often had my favorite talks.  this conference, however, the talk that stood out to me the most was president uchtdorf's talk on sunday morning.  it was a good reminder to  stick with it, to scrub myself a bit and tidy up; to remember the basics of the Gospel, that prayer, going to Church, and reading the scriptures is the solution, reminding that discipleship is a journey.
now is the time to adjust our lives.

looking up elder anderson's press conference this afternoon (he's pretty great), i learned that the Church is on facebook and twitter, and had a youtube channel.  so there you go.

at times, i still miss president hinckley.

Friday, April 03, 2009

the alphabet of gustafsons

i've thought this would be fun to do for a while.
although, technically, i suppose it's "the gustafsons of nations."



vatican city

equatorial guinea



central african republic