Sunday, November 29, 2009

through being cool

driving down eighth street on our way to the dairy queen in moorhead one fall night a few months ago, i was talking with my sister about facebook. about how it seems like a good thing, about how i sometimes feel left out, and about how i like not being on it.
really, it all stemmed from a comment she made a few years back about not being on it and not seeing the point, and i liked that outlook. i liked not riding yet another technological wave, but keeping a little piece of "walden", so to speak.

but facebook has moved from a funsy fad (like myspace was) to something you were presumed to have, akin to an e-mail address. essentially the seventh largest nation in the world, it is not just another website to text message your friends. networking in my business happens there. my high school reunion (the official, lame one) was organized there. i'm currently coordinating work for the sundance film festival there as i type this.

and that night on the street, talking with my sister, i realized that, yes, there was something cool about not being on facebook. but it had gotten to the point where i wasn't on it solely because i liked being different for not being on it, which was as impractical as jumping on it just to be part of the crowd. so, as becky and i ate our soft serve ice cream in the cool autumn air in one of the best parts of moorhead, i decided i'd get me a facebook page when i had some time back in utah.

what i didn't plan on was a) school getting extremely busy and b) my friends setting me up a facebook page, anyway. so, the hard work was already done for me. and now that i have 102 friends, i'm commandeering my name.

as some astute friends have noted, yes, that is me writing on there now.

my one question is, what's so great about it? i'm not really sure what i'm supposed to do....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

welcome to skinner hall

those of you who know cheryl know that she doesn't do anything halfway, and her job as a teacher is not excluded in that. her classroom is decorated in a theme that permeates the lessons for the coming year and is so thorough that the design stays for a few years. a couple of summers ago, she asked me for suggestions on a new theme. i suggested "pirates", since her adoration of captain jack sparrow was already evident throughout the room. "or tally hall," i said as a throwaway comment.
she picked that one up and ran with it.

the room colors became yellow, red, grey, green, and blue (corresponding to the guys' ties, for those of you not in the know). banana tokens were given for good behavior. the tables were arranged into colored "tie" groups. the room's entrance greeted you with "i'd like to say 'hello' and welcome you, good day." the by the games, a sign read, "we like to play it all." leaving, you saw, "miss skinner would like to say, 'there's no one better than you." and so it went, throughout the room. there was even a small "shrine" to the band itself in the back corner of the room.
it was perhaps more eccentric than most classrooms in the school, but it was fun. and that year's fifth graders became tally hall fans.

i don't go to their website or myspace page very much, except to find concert information when someone tips me off, but i once noticed an unusual announcement: tally hall would play at your school if your principal was cool with the idea. this seemed a little strange to me until i realized that they probably meant high schools, since that would be a good chunk of their fan base.
yet it didn't explicitly say high schools, or "only high schools" or "no elementary schools."
so i pitched to cheryl the idea of having tally hall come to her elementary school. she loved it and pitched it to her principal who also loved it, thereby winning him the "coolest principal of the year award." we decided we should take pictures of her classroom and send those along with our idea to the guys.
then we didn't do anything for months. occasionally cheryl would remind me and i'd shrug it off. finally, she got me in and we took pictures of everything. and they sat in my iphoto library for some more months.

about a month ago, i decided that it would take roughly seven minutes at most to send an email to rob, joe, ross, andrew and zubin and see what they thought of playing a concert to an elementary.
to my surprise, they wrote back very quickly and very excitedly. and by "they" i mean whatever management company they were with. tally hall was scheduled to be in salt lake on dec. 4 (yea!!) and they could come by that afternoon. regardless of who answered the "" emails, they dug the idea and soon asked me to fill out a form with information about my venue.
seating capacity? cheryl said the gym held about 900 kids.
private or public event? it's at an public school for the kids only. ....?
advertising? um, tell the teachers to come at 1:00 over the p.a.?
ticket pricing? yeah, about that....

i put them in touch with the principal and waited. they were willing to come for the lowest end of their rate, which was still more than a public elementary school had to spend on an afternoon activity. the principal took the matter before the p.t.a. (coolest principal ever, second year in a row) and raised some money, but still far short of what was needed.

cheryl told me this, and unless we could come up with some more money, this was pretty much it. i wondered if we could have each student in the school bring $2, or maybe i could just go door to door; if i was just asking a dollar, people would be willing to give, right? a few weeks of that and we'd be there.

mostly, it looked like the idea was dead. but it was pretty cool that we'd gotten this far.

a week or so ago, the (world's coolest) principal emailed them, saying that they hadn't been able to raise the funds, but that if the band was coming by again next year, to let him know, and maybe the school would have gathered some more by then (so cool).
the planning people wrote back, saying that the boys loved the idea so much that they were willing to do it for what the school had.

that's right: tally hall is playing a concert for the elementary school kids.
(and then another one for us big kids in salt lake that night)
seriously dang.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

be like the squirrel

when problems overwhelm us and sadness smothers us, where do we find the will and the courage to continue?
well the answer may come in the caring voice of a friend, a chance encounter with a book, or from a personal faith.

for janet, help came from her faith, but it also came from a squirrel.
shortly after her divorce, janet lost her father, then she lost her job.
she had mounting money problems.
but janet not only survived, she worked her way out despondency, and now, she says, life is good again.

how could this happen? she told me that, late one autumn day, when she was at her lowest, she watched a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter. one at a time, he'd take them to the nest. and she thought, "if that squirrel can take care of himself for the harsh winter coming on, so can i. one i broke my problems in small pieces, i was able to carry them, just like those acorns, one at a time."

take all your problems and rip 'em apart...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the bidding

i was part of a tri-ward date auction last night. using canned foods as currency that would be given to a food bank, each ward offered up five guys and five girls to the highest bidder. in what i took be a compliment, i was one of the eligible bachelors from the 89th. along with our stellar selves, we had to supply the date activity so that the winning bidder wouldn't get stuck with some aimless evening. i went with dinner (either thai, chinese, or japanese, to make things a little more interesting) and country swing dancing, something that gives us a chance to talk but doesn't rely entirely on conversation.
i was excited and nervous, 2:1.

overall, it went well, along with a few "kinks", as my friend daniel noted at church this morning.

i arrived with my bag of cans from my recent trip to macey's, and saw that i had more than most people seemed to have brought. according to the exchange rate based on the size of the cans, i had 33 and a good chance of winning a date. there was a "menu" printed up of all the people up for bid and their activities. tragically, several of the guys' dates were more interesting than most of the girls'. our cute relief society president was offering a horseback riding date. i decided to save my cans for her.

the auctioneer was an extrovert from our ward who did an excellent job, keeping things fun and lively, avoiding any potential awkwardness that can arise from humans being sold for canned goods. the bidding followed numerically from the list and i was #21 out of 27, which i wasn't sure was an advantage or not. most people seemed to be waiting for "big ticket items", namely the guys with the byu football tickets and the jazz tickets. bidding generally started at 10 cans, and if you broke 20, you could consider yourself a success.

i fought for the horseback riding, so much that our executive secretary was going around to affluent others and procuring additional funding for me. she ended up being the most popular of the girls, and i was competing with daniel, whose roommate gave him all of his cans and surpassed me around the 40s. then, some guy in the back yelled out "100 cans!", and we found out who owned those boxes stacked by the wall. i wished i could have ran to macey's for a moment....

taken too seriously, the flaw in the event is that it's all superficial. pretty girls and cool guys with exciting activities went for a lot. those with less flair went for less. no master's hand here. the biggest fiasco of the night was over the byu football tickets, with two girls bidding over 100 cans. the catch was that one girl, who passionately wanted to go because she'd never been before, didn't really have that many cans, too busy with winning the bidding to care. people kept passing cans to her table, but no one really knew how much she had. eventually, the bidding had to be called and the matter was settled between the two of them. i was up on stage, seated on the waiting couch next to daniel but it sounded it like got a little intense down there.
in the end, i think the girl who legitimately had the cans won it.

watching this from the auction line on the stage, daniel and i were talking about how much we might go for. i would be happy to break 20, i said. he noted how much he was spending on his date, a homemade five-course gourmet meal and seemed pretty excited for the whole thing. by this point, the auction had been going on for a while and people were a little worn from the football incident. he was called in to the hot seat and bidding opened.
he got one bid.

i about died inside for him, and we exchanged looks as he went off stage. before me were a few girls, and i bid for the girl who was taking us shooting. again, daniel and i were competing, and he bested me. still, i held nothing against him. after his disappointment, he deserved it all the way. i bid on a few other girls, but was beat every time, often by a guy who must have filled his car with cans, as he won about five dates.

what am i worth? in the muppets Christmas carol, scrooge sings that, if you want to know the measure of a man, you simply count his friends. my brother then noted that i was worth 15 people. i'm cool with that. but, up on stage, in front of everyone, i sold for 18 cans, which i deemed respectable and worthwhile. and, strangely, was only one can less than the guy with the jazz tickets.

our horseback riding relief society president texted me afterward, saying she had to leave but asking how much i went for. she said she would have made sure i went for at least 20.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

someone else but me

i wasn't feeling so hot late last night and couldn't sleep. and while i'm not one to fall asleep to a movie, watching wall-e was the only thing that sounded good.

and it was. the first 30 minutes were all i needed.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

power to save

we all know that the saving power of the scriptures is infinite in matters of our soul and salvation. but what is their saving power in regards to seating?

last night was our evening session of stake conference. elder m. russell ballard of the twelve was coming, so mark and i arrive about 40 minutes early, hoping to get a good seat and not a folding chair. we walked into the chapel and were happy to see a plethora of open seating.
or so it seemed. walking up to the rows, it became evident that all of these empty pews were reserved. not through official signage, but through customary mormon means: jackets, church binders, scriptures. i'm all about saving a seat or two or three for your friends if you get there early, but to see most of a chapel blocked out only through evidences that you were once there, that's on the lower end of mormon culture for me. we could have pushed some things aside and sat down and, likely, no one would have stopped us. still, society runs not just on rule of law, but acceptance of customs as well.

disheartened but not defeated, we walked to the front and looked around. there had to be some part of a row that could share with us. about a third the way back we noticed a row of reservations that terminated in a scripture case about three to four feet from the end of the seat.

what is the range of a set of scriptures?, we wondered. a one foot radius? two? do they reach all the way to the end, or did they have space for an outsider on the end? if they could fit one of us, they could fit two, right?
we decided to risk it. for two guys being the only people in the row we were sitting rather close together, and i was just barely touching the scriptures (so i scooted them down a touch, hoping that they didn't belong to someone practicing in the choir, watching me this whole time).

it seemed that most of these row items belonged to bishopric members and their families. i suspect the people whose row we had joined were slightly miffed with us, as we were all sitting a little closer together than we normally would, but they courteously handed me a hymnbook, so they were trying.

who knows, maybe they didn't mind at all?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

this one's for you, joel

when they might be giants came to salt lake two years ago, joel hilton somehow got ahold of some v.i.p. passes while we were all waiting in line. he and his group were invited in, leaving the rest of us standing in the queue, still hoping to get in. i texted him a "cold prickly" text in jealousy. an hour later, as nathan and i were standing delightfully close to the stage, waiting for the show to start, joel appeared beside me holding a large foam "#1" hand, the sort usually seen at sporting events and not alt. rock shows. not only did it say "they might be giants" on it, but it was signed by all of them. he handed it to me, smiled, and walked off. my heart melted.

last night, the johns were in town again and joel couldn't go. in asking if there was anything i could do to repay his gracious favor from last time, he asked me to 1) have double the fun and 2) write a very detailed blog post.

i certainly fulfilled the first request. this is my attempt at the second.

if you aren't a huge tmbg fan who wants a play-by-play recounting, then let me just say, it was the best. thing. ever. i could not have asked for a better concert from them.
and you're done with the post.

the full version:

two years ago, the venue had a very long line outside before the show, and, as i was determined to get as close to the stage as possible again, i wanted to get there an hour before the doors opened. I-15 traffic was horrendous, and we up at the depot after people had gone in. excitedly, we ran up the stairs and i made it to the very front, essentially one person away from the stage, standing with similar people who are evidence that "fan" is short for "fanatic". apparently the masses aren't so eager when the radio station isn't giving away all of the tickets. talking with the fellow tmbg die-hards, i learned that tonight was a "flood show", meaning that they would be performing the entire album of flood in honor of them recording it 20 years ago on this date.

in case you've decided to read this far but aren't a devoted tmbg fan, let me explain what flood is. most people who have heard of they might be giants know up to three songs: "istanbul", "birdhouse in your soul", and "particle man." all three of those come from flood. it's the album that people usually suggest when a friend asks where to start with them. it was not only the first tmbg cd i owned, i think it was very well the first cd i owned. to see them perform the whole cd would be like seeing pink floyd do all of dark side of the moon.
in short, it's seriously dang.

the opening band was a pair of irish folk guys called guggenheim grotto. they were very nice and played very good music. my brother bought a shirt from them after the show, while brooke picked up both of their cds. supporting cool struggling bands on tours is cool. what else is cool is that they came out early and were finished before 9:00. anyone at the last show will remember that we waited forever for everything to start. as such, i was expecting the main event to begin sometime around 10. while the roadies were setting up the stage, we did our best to dance along to the music being played, ranging from "the ballroom blitz" to some 70s funk song about a bucket with a hole in it.

before too long, the blessed moment arrived. they might be giants took the stage, opening with"meet the elements", one of the strongest songs (and videos) from their new here comes science album. it was awesome, i danced. and that was pretty much the way things would go for the next hour and a half. after the song, flansburgh announced that this was, indeed, a very special episode of they might be giants, one in which they would be performing the entire album of flood in sequence*. they fully meant it, too, starting with "the theme from flood." so, three songs into the show and we were already getting "birdhouse in your soul." they shot off the confetti cannons during "lucky ball and chain", and opened "istanbul" with an awesome clarinet solo from their horn player in the back. you've got to love a rock band that has a platform on the back of the stage with three different kind of saxophones. after the song, mark leaned to me and said that, after that, he was good to go. i told him that "particle man" was coming up in three songs.

police lights started flashing as a siren went off, announcing "escape from flood!" instead: sock puppets. the "they might be giants avatars" sang "what is a shooting star" then "shoehorn with teeth", during which the percussionist stood completely focused by the mic, successfully dinging the bell three times during the song. we cheered for him. and we also got a song about the eleventh president of the united states (from an early flood single), with the horn guy playing a giant split reed, changing the pitch by varying how much he pressed together. so cool.

they came back to flood with "we want a rock", leaving me wondering if my memory of the track order was off. *it turned out they decided to move around a chunk of the cd, since most of the rocking songs seem to come in the front of the cd. laurie jayne, i tried to call you during the song, but it ended before i got to your voice mail. but the thought was there.
we got to hear so many songs that are probably rarely played in concert: "minimum wage", "hearing aid", "letterbox" (which was so cool), everything.

"new york city", "cowtown" (which i went nuts for)(and for which kristin showed up just in time). they told a story of playing an early show and having to come up with new songs, taking the words from a science textbook and coupling them with an irish folk tune. it was the first time i had ever heard "why does the sun shine" in it's original style performed live. they then noted that 60 years of science has confirmed that most of the song is true except for it's actual premise, and began singing "why does the sun really shine."

"your racist friend", "particle man", and "twisting" came, along with the rest of flood. i'd never thought of "twisting" as being a particularly rocking song, but doing the twist with mary joy was one of my favorite parts of the show. after the melancholy "road movie to berlin", flansburgh said "thank you" and they left the stage.

the first song of the encore was the first (and only) song i didn't know. they did the band introductions (at the end of the show), had us sing along with "drink!" and the oh-so-wonderful "mesopotamians." the second encore included "the famous polka," one of their most obscure songs and leaving me wishing there had been enough room to actually polka . they ended the eclectic show appropriately with "fingertips." yes, all of "fingertips", delighting the fans and leaving the rest of the crowd to wonder what the heck was going on.

and they gave out bumper stickers afterward.

i could easily name another show's worth of songs i would have also liked to hear, yet i wouldn't have changed a thing about last night.
wish you were there.

i'm still walking on sunshine, that same elated feeling that comes the day after an awesome date.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

i am the otter

in junior high, my friends were all about "totem" animals: what animal embodies your characteristics. jon was a weasel, jaime was a something, and they christened me an otter.
"because you like to play and have fun," they said.
hey, that sounded good to me, and it seemed to hold through high school and beyond (my fascination with cows was a separate matter).

cut to last week. while i haven't taken the time to calculate it, saying that we spent 40 hours in the lab seems to little. i'll speculate somewhere in the range of 50+? it was enough devotion that i did not attend my uvu class at all that week, that i was there until past midnight most nights (sometimes much past), missed two of the movies i most wanted to see all semester at the international cinema (as well as missing "the nightmare before Christmas" in 3-D for the first time in four years), and did not do a thing for halloween.

but i did make it to one i.c. movie with a group of friends, hosted movie night, came home one evening in time to let everyone in and watch "the office", spent a few hours with the harry potter book club, took time to visit with my sister and her family, squeezed an hour to go costume shopping with my brother, and stumbled home after midnight one night and stayed up to watch "transformers 2" with some friends (and riff trax).

and today i realized it: john lennon may be the walrus, but i am still the otter.

Monday, November 02, 2009

new life

we worked really, really hard last week. sacrificed a lot. and, miraculously, got all of act two laid out with animatic motion (animation was one of many things i learned through force over the past few days). we had the strongest presentation today, and the important people liked it.

it feels good to have accomplished that.
and it feels really good to turn things down from "11" and to breathe. to begin work on that three-foot pile of clothes on my couch. to go shopping for food. to remember that i have a uvu class, too. to watch a criterion movie.

and that's not all that feels good.

there is some odd cosmic link between the names i give my computer drives and the fates that are thrust upon them. behold:
on my original mac G4 hard drive, the icon was that of hal 9000, the malevolent computer from 2001. we watched the movie for movie night and within a week, that drive went bad, taking everything with it.
my new drive was christened wall-e, in an attempt to entreat the gods for better prosperity. further, i learned my lesson and backed things up. my back-up drive is called plant, that which brought rebirth to the world in "wall-e".
as you know, wall-e died earlier this week, but i still have the plant. i was sad that my wall-e was gone (it wasn't totally complete back-up, plus that was a perfectly good 500gb hard drive), but i was coming to acceptance that me and the plant were going to have to carry on.

at the simply mac store in orem is an employee who looks like rob "yellow tie" cantor from tally hall. so much so that i tend to gravitate toward him, and if he were paying any more attention, he might get a little weirded out. i took wall-e in to see if there was any lingering chance.
in a combination of hope beyond hope and a poorly designed external hard drive case, my surrogate rob (and surrogate e.v.e.) brought wall-e back to life.

in celebration, please enjoy this cartoon. feel free to sing along at the end, substituting "the cheat" with "the hard drive".

and if that weren't good enough, they might be giants are coming to salt lake on friday.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

there are places i remember...

i've pretty much lived in the animation lab this week, and have listened to a quilinod of music, and have decided that both the white album and abbey road have edged out sgt. pepper as my favorite beatles album.

i'm frustrated with this animation project. i'm sad that my "wall-e" hard drive is dead, and sadder still that i accidentally killed it, like a little boy who didn't know to "be gentle." and i was going to add the meager state of my fridge and cupboards, but when i hosted ward prayer tonight, everyone was so impressed with the awesomeness of my place that knot in my tail has kind of evaporated.

in the midst of these aforementioned knots, i took some time during church today to think about happy things:
  • the blue fleece blanket, folded and stacked by my couch, that my mom got me for Christmas when i was in high school. she thought i could take it with me on the cold morning buses to knowledge bowl meets. until that time, blankets and thing like that were things that your family owned, not you personally, and i've always felt like that pushed me a little further into adulthood.
  • reading the harry potter series again. not only is it a blast to go through it with my friends, but i remember when i was first reading the series, my sister borrowing the books for herself then loaning them out to her friends, us talking about them so intently that people thought we were talking about real people. we were sophomores at byu and Christmastime was intertwined with the magic of hogwarts.
  • the ps2, and how tim and i would laugh and laugh as we'd play tekken together when i'd go back to minnesota for Christmas.
  • the small wallet-size framed picture of the salt lake temple that i have on my desk, and the remembrance that i have some pretty stellar friends through thick and thin.
on monday night, the last night that my wall-e drive was seen alive, i decided to take the opportunity to back it all up to my second drive, prophetically named "plant."