Sunday, December 27, 2009

for a quarter of a century

the first time i saw the royal tenenbaums, i was largely confused. the humor was so dry and subtle and offbeat that i wasn't sure what to even laugh at. when dudley walked out and looked at the gypsy taxi and profoundly declared, "that taxi cab has a dent in it," suddenly the humor clicked with me and i laughed hard. over time, it's become one of my favorite and funniest movies.

i forget what it was like for me when i first saw it, and when i introduce my friends to a wes anderson film, i need to remember that it takes some getting used to. once you understand the style and what's supposed to be funny, it can be pretty awesome. but it takes some getting used to to understand the world.

a few weeks ago, my brother and i were out driving around town. we were talking back and forth in our usual manner, tossing about comments and thoughts in keaton-esque deadpan tones. i looked over at tim and i saw the slightest bit of a smile break before he returned his comment, and that's when i understood our relationship a little better.

we appreciate wit. and often, for whatever reason, we admire the ability to volley comments and musings subtly. often it can be like watching a christopher guest film where it seems completely straight, but if you understand that there's humor and bemusement laced throughout it all, it can be a lot of fun. i'm not sure how the game got started, but that's a lot of how my brother and i get along.

there are times when we're more extrovert. when i came home for Christmas a few years ago and met him while working at barnes and noble, he strode over gave me a great big hug. when we were bowling for his birthday last year and our choices of boston and r.e.m. were loud on the jukebox, we were having a blast all around. and there are countless times where we laugh ourselves silly over a tv show or video game (even a few days ago on Christmas eve). and that's a lot of fun. but we both apprecaite the serious awesomeness of knowing you're both in on something without ever having to say it. that we can both toss around observations and opinions that are laced with irony and humor felt only to us and our closest friends.

it's this subsurface understanding that flows even under our frustrations and disagreements. because of it, actually, that we trust each other enough to get mad at one another at times. underneath it all, we're still friends, still brothers, still the same two kids who would bike down to the video store together in the summer time with the $2.12 stuff in our socks. we can disagree, argue, and annoy each other thanks to that safety net down below. and on those times that one of us has fallen, we've caught each other.

tim is the most enigmatic of us siblings, a trait which saddens me but which he protects. he loves being well-versed and well-read on all subjects he finds interesting. he eschews any sort of posed photography, prefering the charm of a spontaneous snapshot of the moment. he respects the stories and plot of a well-designed video game the same way i do with a good film. he does not care in the least for social facades and pleasantries, valuing instead openess and honesty. like a cat, the best way to persuade him is not by pulling and prying, but with a little nudge then letting him do what he wants. and in the world of hogwarts, he'd be in ravenclaw.

happy birthday, t. i love you more than either of us would ever admit.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a part of a goat

it's only Christmas eve and i've already received what i daresay will be my favorite present this season.

since our flight to minnesota was at 5:47 a.m. last thursday, tim and i spend the night at my sister's. that evening, we exchanged gifts, and becky and brady proudly handed me mine in a gift bag. a very light gift bag. i pulled out a handful of tissue paper and felt a small envlope inside.

opening the envelope, i felt like i was in a seinfeld episode: "a gift has been made in your honor!" the cardly proudly declared.
really...? i was kind of thinking more along the lines of a best buy gift card, or maybe some homemade certificate of me being a cool uncle. trying to appreciate the joke, i opening the card. if this was a joke, they went all the way with it. "to uncle jeff, from becky, brady and caleb", i had been given a share of a goat. a share of a goat.

my polite confusion elicited their explanation. becky had received a catalog in the mail from some charity called "heifer international" (yeah). she laughed at it and was about to toss it, then looked through it. the organization turned out to be legit (after some internet sleuthing) and works to provide impoverished third world families with animals for nutrution and additional income. a goat, for example, can provide several quarts of milk a day, and the excess milk can be used to make yogurt, butter or cheese. better still, goats can help fertilize a garden. : )

the more i thought about this, the more i loved it. becky and brady said they were first going to give it to me as a joke before a real present, then reconsidered on the likelihood that i would rather have a share of a goat than another dvd on my shelf. after a few moments, they were definitely right. initially, they wanted to go for part of a cow (i like cows) but cow shares were costlier; a share of a goat was a more viable option. over the next day, this whole notion of helping out with a goat kept getting more and more awesome.

"with all the money donated to help fight famine around the world, with all the grandiose plans concerived to cnquer poverty, sometimes all it takes to save a child is a goat."

sheep go to heaven. goats, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

it's the mormon tabernash!

today is tabernash. it's a mormon holiday.

as i understand it, tabernash started when my brother was in high school. a classmate had heard a rumor that mormon's don't celebrate Christmas and, curious but not wanting to show ignorance, asked one of my brother's friends. and, being that my brother ran in circles with too much creative energy, recieved the answer that no, mormons don't celebrate Christmas, but rather, "tabernash." as school was ending for the Christmas break, a student passed my brother and courteously wished him a "happy tabernash."

so it began and so it continues.

the date was randomly chosen to be december 23rd, coincidentally coinciding with joseph smith's birthday. celebration is pretty much whatever you want, though it's customary to sing "it's the mormon tabernash, tabernash tabernash" to the tune of "in the hall of the mountain king."

you can read tim's personal account of it here. it's a slightly clearer (and better) telling of the post above.

it's a takes a bit of searching, but please join the tabernash event on facebook.

happy tabernash!

as a bonus along those same lines....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

why i love 60hz

editor's note: this post is unnecessary and overly technical. however, our lead writer is a man possessed of impassioned opinions about certain subjects and, like a mississippi leghound, sometimes it's best to just let him finish.

jeff gustafson

sheep go to heaven

a few weeks ago, our layout team lead had invited us to his place to watch chungking express. we'd discovered that all of us on the layout team were fans of the movie and decided to invite other animation students come watch it with us.

shortly after the movie started, a few of the girls asked what was wrong with the picture, since it looked like a shaky camcorder home movie (granted, chungking express is a verite-style handheld movie, but that's not what they were seeing). my friend started explaining that it was because it was a on a blu-ray player and so the higher definition made it look that way and that a lot of directors disliked the blu-ray technology for that reason.

we were not watching a blu-ray movie and it had nothing to do with blu-ray.
it was because the tv was set a 120hz instead of 60hz and it drives me nuts everytime i see it.
and in the world of best buys and hd tvs, it is becoming a problem.

i am a visual guy. a few years ago, my sister's apartment borrowed my casablanca dvd from me. i stopped by the their place on night while they were watching it and had a mild coniption. their tv had the contrast turned all the way down, so that the grey scale from the darkest black to the brightest white was not very different. for my neurosis and for the beauty of rich black and white cinematography, i showed them how much better it would look with the contrast at a more normal level.
i'm not an audiophile. i had a roommate once explain to me the difference between a movie's dolby digital soundtrack and a dts track. a day later, i couldn't tell you which was which. i have surround sound speakers, but just set the somewhere behind the couch and left it at that.
but i see night and day difference between blu-rays and standard dvds.

since the introduction of sound, film has been run through a movie camera a 24 frames per second. because the film is held in front of the open shutter for 1/48th of a second, there is a slight blurring of objects moving fast enough. this motion blur isn't something we notice, but it's something our brain knows is there. more importantly, it's part of what we associate with movies. cinema.

video cameras shoot at a different frame rate (that's a mess of a topic alone) and, in the past, have projected the image 60 times a second. this produces a much crisper look as there is less motion blur. this is one reason why soap operas don't look as good as jurassic park.
in the past ten years, video cameras have advanced in quality enough that they started becoming viable options for shooting feature-length movies.
one of the biggest hurdles was getting that 24 frames per second look, that motion blur. this is a big, messy mess that actually started because someone didn't feel like making a change back in the days of radio and haunts editors to this day.

why? why so much headache and research into softening the image just a bit, to trying to capture motion blur? because movies have that. movies are shot on film. but they are also shot with big actors with great scripts and very talented cinematographers and production designers, all who work to make the whole production excellent. and that excellence has been coming to us for decades on film at 24 frames per second.

what doesn't have motion blur? what is crisp and smooth? daytime talk shows. sitcoms. telemundo. and even if you can't pinpoint it, you know there's a difference when you see it.

so, the soft motion blur of movies looks good. we like that.
and, following the great advent of the dvd, where movies were now offered in the same widescreen aspect ratios that they were shown in theaters, we are now offered wide screen tvs. blu-rays offer high definition resolution and the tvs come in 1080p to match. it's a cinephile's golden age.

the dark side is that, in the ever-escalating race to progress technology, companies have been so caught up in whether they could that they didn't stop to ask whether they should. tvs come with the option now to project their picture at either the standard 60hz or twice as fast at 120hz.

and this is what this all boils down to: a scan rate of 120hz show the image twice as often in the same amount of time. it removes the motion blur. every movement is incredibly crisp. it doesn't look like a movie anymore. up now moves like a video game. the dark knight looks as if it was shot on your neighbor's handycam.

there are even tvs that do 240hz. why? what is the point of it all? i've heard it argued for sports, and i can see that. naturally, sports are shot on video in the first place, and the crystal clarity of 120hz or even 240hz (wow) would be better for watching the cougars make a 40-yard pass.

nearly every tv in best buy, costco, wherever, is set to 120hz, advertizing the amazing clarity of hd and blu-ray. the quality of high difinition tvs and blu-ray players has nothing to do with setting the refresh rate at 120hz. they try to sell people on that, and it must be working. still, the girls sitting next to me at my friends house could soon tell that chungking express looked wrong, and i hope that they aren't the only ones.

post script: like my editor noted, this is superfluous. this has nothing to do with political reform, bringing water to africa, or proclaiming the restored gospel. please don't think that i consider it of any greater import than my pet peeve regarding the settings on television.

Monday, December 21, 2009

and i want to be a paperback writer

i've been meaning to jump on the literary fad wagon for a while. the easiest is the gothic teen romance and mummies are going to be the next big thing: beautiful but shy college freshman works as a nurse at the local hospital. she meets a quiet man who seems to be a burn victim but is actually a millennia-old mummy, possessing a kingdom's fortune but simultaneously carrying the burden of the attached curse. plus, you've got fuel to the fire as she gradually unwraps his bandages....

today at barnes and noble, i discovered an even better way to reap the literary gold: the "X and philosophy" books. no longer are founders socrates and aristotle sharing shelf space solely with with marx and sarte. pop culture from many walks (though generally those appealing to the twenty/thirty-market) is flooding the shelves.

granted, "the simpsons and philosophy" isn't exactly radical, though i hope it's better than my "simpsons and religion" book i got a few years ago that turned out to be little more than an index of religious mentionings in the show. "watchmen and philosophy" is also a no-brainer, and "buffy the vampire slayer and philosophy" is mash-up that i've been hearing about for a while.
but it doesn't stop there.

batman and philosophy
stanley kubrick and philosophy
south park and philosophy
pink floyd and philosophy
stephen colbert and philosophy

it went on and on.

tim noted that many of these are likely collections of research papers, cohesively compiled by an editor. sure, i could do that, but i'd rather write my own. a few ideas:

"tally hall and philosophy", with chapters including
  • the ruler of everything: balancing a wonderful wife and a powerful job without criticism
  • w.w.t.h.d.: carefree attitudes in white middle-class suburbia
  • the bidding: a woman's guide to choosing the best guy before they're gone
  • seconds tick like boulders: anger management during romantic separation
or "they might be giants and philosophy"
  • the blue canary in the outlet by the lightswitch: needs for both a conscience and a night light in modern society
  • that's nobody's business but the turks: fostering intercultural understanding without historical prejudices
  • fingertips: breaking your life down into ten-second moments
  • triangle man fights universe man: religion and science battle for the attention of mankind
  • my dog and youth culture: canine cautions toward night life and white funk
actually, i could easilly fill a book with chapter titles from the philosophy of john and john. their work pretty much writes itself. but in case those demographics are too small (when tally hall hits it big, then random house will return my e-mails), i've got one more for the mass markets:

"chocolate chip cookies and philosophy"
  • chips: melt with your surroundings without losing your identity
  • raw eggs and flour: becoming delicious from unappealing beginnings
  • strength comes in pairs: finding your glass of milk
  • the joy of raw cookie dough: enjoying the journey before the destination
"all we are is dust in the wind, dude."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

best white elephant gift ever

a friday or two ago, i was invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party at my friend kristin's house (other kristin). this made me regret not pouncing on one of a handful of amazing Christmas sweaters i had been following on ebay early in november. for a while now, i've wanted a moderately bad Christmas sweater, preferably akin to the the knit one with reindeer that kevin costner wears during the montage of seasons in "field of dreams."

the day of the party, tim and i went to check d.i. for such a textile monstrosity. the provo d.i. is such a gamble, becuase in a town with 30,000 byu students, anything remotely amazing that shows up there will be gone almost immediately. in the 104 days we found our best disco skating clothes at savers (jack, i still have your sequined shirt, should you ever have an excuse to wear it agian). as such, this visit turned up little more than another guy and his wife also perusing the "knit sweater" rack with equal futility.

while i did not find any appropriate Christmas sweater, i did strike gold with for the other part of the party, the white elephant gift.
in the front of d.i. is where they keep most of their "valuables", anything particularly unique or interesting. it also costs more than most things in the store (i.e. above $6), but you can find some real treasures in there.
piled on a rack against the front window, still in its re-taped together box, from the 2000 world tour, was a set of five n*sync marionette dolls. strings and everything. it was incredible. and for $10. i swiped them up and proudly took them to the cashier who unsuccessfully tried to suppress confusion until we explained that they were a white elephant gift.

i was so proud of myself.

thankfully, at the party, the person who drew my gift had an equally fine sense of humor, as her friend shouted out "that's the best white elephant gift ever!" by the time i was leaving, they were using their cell phones to film their own music video on the kitchen table.

Monday, December 07, 2009

jeffrey and the long, crazy, cold, tiring, hard-working, hard-rocking, ploxiest and awesome day

editor's note: those of you familiar with our writer's long-winded style will not be surprised at the length of this post. years of writing for "sheep go to heaven" have not been entirely sufficient to teach him brevity. our staff regrets this and apologizes. if you are one who has far more better ways to spend your time, i would like to offer you the highlights of the following epic prose:
worked in fake snow, it was cold.
left after sun went down and concert started.
missed show, found friends.
took pictures with band, awesomeness all around.
hello good day.

jeff gustafson
sheep go to heaven

i used up all of my karmic fortune not getting any calls for work on the day of the they might be giants concert. thus, the sinister planets aligned and left me crestfallen the day when i was offered work on a honda commercial for friday, december 4th (see two posts previous if you the backstory).
i was crushed. we would be shooting outside, so i could still likely make the evening concert. but i would miss the elementary school concert. the one that i helped organize. the once in a lifetime one. blast.

after being crushed, there wasn't much else i could do about it, so i was glad to have work (and held a secret hope that the commercial would be rescheduled). i got a call from the production at 10:30 on thursday night while everyone was downstairs watching the pixar shorts. call time was at 6 a.m. at someplace called "wolf creek pass", which, according to google maps, meant i would need to be waking up in about five and a half hours. i loaded my gear into my car that night and, as an afterthought once the lights were out, grabbed by tally hall shirt and ticket, just in case.

work hard, play hard; that was my plan. the concert started (strangely early) at 6:30. by 4:30 the sun should be down in the mountains and we'd be wrapping. a 45 minute drive down to provo to pick up brooke and kristin+friend, 45 rocking in the car as we drove to salt lake, and we'd be there in time to see our five favorite guys in ties. cool.

wolf creek pass is not 45 minutes from provo. it makes kamas look conveniently located and took about an hour and a half to get to. around 5:52 a.m., i was certain i was going in the wrong direction, that i had missed a sign or a turnoff or something. i was driving down a lonely forested mountain road, with no sign or signal that i was even close to the location. for all i knew, i had missed a turn 20 minutes ago. i pulled over, checked my map again, which unfortunately looked like i was on the right path. less than a minute later on the road i came to the base camp. that's a story i'll probably use as an analogy in a sunday school lesson sometime.

we had a great camera crew, which, like any job, pretty much makes all the difference (mario's breakfast burritos are also packed with awesomeness). i loaded up plenty of film in the back of the production motor home then loaded all of my gear into a van and was shuttled to set half a mile away.

the title of the spot was "honda minnesota", and the first shot of the day had a guy helping his family and their cross-country ski gear into their suv then addressing the camera: "i love my [whatever car this was] because i live in minnesota!"


my guess is that utah is closer to california than minnesota and that we seem to have a stronger film community. they were lucky to have me there, because a few shots later we'd moved to another angle of the family cross-country skiing and i was able to counsel them that those mountains in the background were "not minnesota" and that they were pushing their luck with those hills in the midground. we ended up having to have the camera pretty much on the ground to get away with the shot.

with four layers of pants and five upper layers, i managed to keep warm. carrying cases through shin-deep snow helped, too, although the 9,500' air was counter-productive in all of that. the snow was actually "snow", created by shoving 5'x8'x1' blocks of ice through what looked like a mutant cotton gin. i later found out that the original plan was to shoot in soldier hollow, but there's no snow anywhere. that would have been more convenient for me.

we worked hard and it was a good day. soon, the sun began to set (not that it ever got very high in the sky). and that meant we started moving like crazy. two cameras getting different shots, pulling sleds of lens cases and really big lens cases through the snow, trying to get another take before the sun goes away completely; that's my day at work. soon it became a blur, me working to make sure that the camera had enough of the right kind of film ready and then unloading the rest of the magazines so that when they did call wrap, we could all get out of there as fast as we could.

the sun went down and the big lights came up. all of the insert shots in the car were saved for the end, when a 12,000 watt light could look light daylight. my gloveless hands were numb as i worked as fast possible, in and out of my little changing tent, hoping to stay one step ahead.

in the back of my mind, i wondered what would happen. if i could call kristin and brooke, i'd tell them to go up to salt lake and i'd meet them there. tragically, neither of them had the other's number or even knew each other. i had no idea what time it was, only that it was pretty much dark outside and that the 90 minute drive to provo would destroy our timetable. there was no phone reception anywhere near here for me to coordinate anything with anyone. if i missed the concert, well, i could live with that. but i hated thinking that my friends would miss it, too.
still, there was nothing i could do about this then, so i set it all in the back and focused on work.

they called wrapped. i worked as fast as my lifeless hands could, trying to warm myself beside the propane heater that was as close as i dared put it without harming the film. it felt like it must be 10:00. kindly, my car told me it was just after 7:00.
at around 7:30, i got phone reception as i was flooded with texts and voice mails. i was wasted from the day already and sorted through them, looking for any information about what had happened about the concert.
through a miracle of miracles, brooke and kristin had somehow gotten in touch with one another and had gone up to salt lake. i'm still not sure how that happened, but that was precisely what i had dreamed would happen and was a great relief! i came to find out that tally hall had not yet come on stage and that i should most certainly get myself there. i wanted to go home and collapse and be done with this day, but went at the admonition of the text.

i didn't know where i was or what was the best way to take, but around the time i was passing cars through parley's canyon, i got a call from kristin. i almost said "hello?", then realized what happens when one of us is at a concert: i held the phone to my ear and heard the entirety of "spring and a storm", my favorite tally hall song. it was bittersweet that i missing it, but a much-needed warm fuzzy that i still got to hear it. (i'm also grateful that i safely drove with one hand).

i parked in the same spot as i did when we first saw them there two years ago, changed into my blue tally hall shirt in the car and ran nonstop down the block to the venue. i got in just a minute after they'd finished their set, but found kristin, brooke, and allison and exchanged elated hugs all around. the stress of day, coupled with sitting in a car for 70 minutes then a desperate sprint left my legs shaking uncontrollably but i was just happy to be there. kristin said that she'd recorded all of their new songs on her camera for me. it's so nice to go to concerts with like-minded friends....

having missed the guys, i sauntered over to the merch table and looked around. there was a nice dark blue "tally hall" shirt that i dug, and i thought about it as i bought three "tally hall" stickers. kristin joined me and we looked through the band's guest book. i signed it then kristin produced an extra set of the wallet-sized pictures of us and them that were to be used later. being that we are the self-appointed tally hall fan (ed. note: "fanatic") presidents of the utah chapter, we borrowed some tape and attached our pictures to the insides of the front and back covers and somewhere in the middle, writing short memories alongside about each concert.
referring to the nice blue shirt, kristin asked if i would like an early Christmas present. let me just say it's pretty much my favorite tally hall shirt.

the main band at this show was a band called "rooney." i'd never heard of them, but after seeing enough bland bands open for tally hall, i knew that these guys were actually pretty good. i stood in the crowd with my girls and danced for a bit, but noticed that i was right in front of a couple of shorter girls and that they probably couldn't see very well. and as it was likely they were here to see these guys, i stepped out for a bit. plus, i needed a break from it all.
i was hanging back by the bar when i looked over and saw jared, whom i haven't seen in years. i walked over to him and he moved to let me by, then recognized me and gave me a big hug. it was nearly impossible to talk in there, but i asked him who he was here to see. he said that jason schwartzman had told him to come, since his brother was the lead singer in the band.
so there you go.
kristin came over and jared introduced himself, then we stepped out to get some water.

rooney ended the show and some of the tally hall guys were already appearing by the merchandise table in the back. we talked with andrew (green tie) for a while, then ross (slick grey) joined us. i had forgotten that kristin had gone to the elementary school concert that afternoon and had lunch with them (so so very lucky...), which explained why they all seemed to know her so well. we irritated the staff members by being in their way as they put away equipment from the concert and tried to ready the place to open as a club in twenty minutes. joe (red tie), rob (heterophonic yellow) and zubin (blue) looked to be pretty solidly trapped by a gaggle of girls as we tried to stall while the staff yelled for us to leave.

i took this time and had andrew and ross sign my shirt and managed to grab joe, too, who had managed to sneak away and was looking much more mellow than when we'd first met them two years ago. the big scary club workers shooed out the groupies and stared at us (also groupies) as we were finally getting to talk with rob and zubin about taking our traditional picture.
at the first concert, me, kristin, allison, and her friend steve took a picture with rob. it was awesome. next time, steve was gone, so rob wrote "steve-o" on his hand and zubin joined in. after that, allison was replaced with a sharpied palm and ross was in, too. we had to continue the tradition (perhaps the most important reason that i came), but it looked like we would be doing it outside (after accidentally walked into the bathroom).

in the orange light of the sodium-vapor streetlights, we arranged ourselves and took the picture. and then several more. i talked with rob about the concert that day and introduced everyone in our group. at the end of the kristin-and-the-guys (except for the mysteriously absent joe) picture, andrew hung up his phone and in polite seriousness said, "we have to go."

i sang through their cd on the way home as i reflected on the day. sitting at a freezing table with my hands in the middle of the changing tent in that dark and open snow field seemed days ago.
there's another lesson here, too. when the shoot had wrapped, it had been a long and full day. i was on very little sleep. it would have been so nice to go home and be done. but, with a little enthusiastic encouragement, i added another five hours on to my day. and that extra helping turned it from a banal day into a seriously great time.

and before the girls got back to my place, i snuck a tally hall magnet sticker on the back of kristin's van.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

how to be like darth vader

editor's note: the story of our writer's self-ascribed "craziest day of 2009" is scheduled to be posted tomorrow, monday, dec. 7. that is, if he gets his act together.

today was my last time teaching the doctrine and covenants this year and it was a great way to end.
the lesson in the manual is entitled "put upon you the whole armor of God" (or something like that). reading over it last sunday, i started thinking about darth vader. i wrote to my mom and asked her to send out my 12" darth vader doll that i got for Christmas many years ago. if i couldn't get it in time, i had a little 4' action figure on my desk, but this 12" one is very cool: essentially a ken doll with a sweet mask for a head, all of his armor is removable, a good visual for the contrast being in and out of the armor.
vader arrived friday. thanks, mom. : )

because of numerous mix-ups before class, i had less than 30 minutes to teach my lesson that had almost twice as many notes as usual. thankfully, when you write "how to be like darth vader" on a sunday school white board, it grabs people's attention pretty well.
pretty much everyone in class had seen "return of the jedi" (except for a small group of girls), and i talked about how cool darth vader is. when he's fully suited up, he's just about the toughest guy in the galaxy. from head to toe, he is armored completely. and for good reason, too: outside of his armor, he doesn't stand a chance; he will die pretty quickly. at the end of "jedi", when luke takes off his mask, he's a weak and crippled man.

so are we. it's a very rough world out there. we read from D&C 76:25-28 and Moses 4:4 about the fall of lucifer. darth vader is my favorite movie villain and a pretty mean guy, but satan is much, much meaner. and he's out there with his fiery darts to take us down (1Ne 15:24). he's got millions of them and he's watching us for any opening in our armor.

at this point, my friend in the back raised his hand and asked, "but doesn't his power come from the dark side of the force?"
yes, yes it does. we're going to ignore that part for the analogy. parables are such that you cannot get too detailed with them, but need to look at the facets of the story that are used to teach, and i fully intended to adopt that license here.

D&C 27:15-18 the whole armor of God. most video game boxes and fantasy art show male and female warriors wearing not very much. sometimes the guy is in mostly full armor, but usually the girl is wearing little more than a steel swimsuit. that may sell games, but i would never want to be dressed like that in battle.
so, too, do we need to wear the whole armor of God:
  • loins girt about with truth
  • breastplate of righteousness
  • feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace
  • shield of faith (in darth's case, it was the "cape of faith")
  • helmet of salvation
  • sword (lightsabre) of God's Spirit and His word through revelation
"you are unwise to lower your defenses!"
so says vader during his final battle with luke. and he's right. satan is watching us for any weakness, any moment that we take off a glove or a boot. darth vader has no part of him exposed.

in my centennial ward many years ago, our hometeaching supervisor asked us to ask our hometeachees five questions when we visited them, and i've done it ever since. i think these are an excellent checklist for us to see if we are wearing the armor:
  • are you reading your scriptures every day?
  • are you saying your prayers, morning and evening?
  • are you attending all three of your church meetings?
  • do you do your home/visiting teaching?
  • do you attend the temple as often as you should (being a personal question, we don't ask them to answer)
these won't directly solve all of the problems in our life, but they will help us stay strong, able to defend and avoid the fiery darts and fight the good fights in our life.
and i heard john bytheway reference elder maxwell in two ways that we can gauge where we are, to test the strength of our armor, and i think these are good questions:
  • what do you think about during the sacrament?
  • how do you keep the sabbath?
the rest of the lesson was about three ways that satan attacks us, hoping to find gaps in our armor: chastity, honesty, and language.
i won't recite everything here, and we had to skip over a lot of it (honesty was touched on for about one sentence), but we had great comments and a meaningful lesson.

the next time i teach, it'll be the old testament. : D