Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010: The Year of the Half-Marathon ...

Last year, one of my goals was to run four half marathons. For various reasons (all of which boil down to the fact that I am, apparently, weak sauce), I only ran one.

This year, I'm kicking the goal up a notch to five (and possibly a marathon ... still deciding about that one).

And to make sure I reach that goal, I've already done the research and selected the races. So, in chronological order, here are my half-marathons for 2010:

(1) Garden Spot Village Half Marathon, New Holland, PA (April 10);

(2) Trail Triple Crown Half Marathon, Newark, DE (April 24);

(3) LEAD Strong Half Marathon, Freeland, MD (May 1);

(4) Double Creek Half Marathon, Dover, PA (June 19);

(5) Suncrest Mountain Race Half Marathon, Draper, UT (Sept. 12).*

Farewell sweets; hello asphalt ... just call me Rocky.

* NOTE 1: This last half marathon may be switched or postponed if I decide to run the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan, UT (Sept. 18).

UPDATE: Half-marathon #1 is paid for and ready to go. Boo-yah!

Friday, December 11, 2009

At the Back of the North Wind ...

There is something truly, breathtakingly exhilarating about winter winds.

Though these cold blowing breezes may sting your toes and bite your nose as over the ground you go (to Grandfather's house, of course), I tend to take Shakespeare's view of things (at least the part about letting that ol' winter wind blow):
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.
In all honestly, I love to feel the chill air ... to let the northern breeze gust around me. At those moments, I feel wonderfully, truly alive and connected to the world. It's just so rare to be able to experience such a sensory explosion.

And that, my friends, is one of the reasons I love Winter!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sexy Vampire, I'm Falling in Love ...

The books were a phenomenon ... the movies have become an epic, record-setting event ... love 'em or loathe 'em, you just can't deny the raw emotional effect of the Twilight series.

But you can mock it.

Oh, how you can mock it.

And that's just what Peter Segal and the rest of his ever-ready pack of pop culture cronies (I say that with deep love and respect) did on last week's episode of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" (Best. Radio News Quiz. Ever.).

So here, for your reading pleasure, is that lovely little send-up:

Peter Segal: With Twilight movie number two, New Moon, the series continues its redefinition of vampires. Instead of horrible monsters of the undead, they are unemployed Abercrombie & Fitch Catalog models who sparkle ... They SPARKLE!

And instead of human blood, I believe they drink Red Bull and Vodka.

In this new movie, the vampires are opposed by some monsters from a rival modeling agency. It ends when all the creatures of the night realize what they've been repressing and move in together in a loft in Chelsea.

I'm worried because I'm afraid for our children. What if they ever run into a real vampire? You'll find them lying there on the ground, drained of blood, and they'll be saying, "But I thought he would sparkle ... "

Crony 1 (Old "Never Heard of Twilight" Crony): These Vampires don't bite, is that right?

Crony 2 (Twilight Roadie Crony): Well, they do, yeah ... they have to use restraint with those who they love not to bite.

Crony 3 (Clueless Blonde Crony): What's the sparkle part? I'm so old, I don't ...

Crony 2: When they're in the sun, they sparkle ... What's the matter with you?

Peter: Apparently, these vampires, they don't disintegrate and die in the sun ... as vampires should!

Crony 1: Well, do they have that whole element of driving a stake through the heart ...

Crony 3: ... and garlic and crosses ...

Crony 2: No, they don't have that.

Peter: You see what I mean? Look, you've got to feel bad at this point for, like, the traditional vampires, like Nosferatu ... I mean, he can't get a victim. All the girls are like, "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't let you bite my neck. I think of you as my best, horrific-looking friend. You're the vampire I can talk to ... you know ..."

Crony 2: I think, really, that position was already taken by the Count from Sesame Street, don't you?

Oh, the joys of impromptu mockery.

As if that weren't good enough, though, the segment ended with a clip from a nice techno vampire love fest of a song that included the following lyrics (click here for Youtube music video*):

I forgot to wear my cross tonight, I left my garlic at home
It's so dumb, but it's so fun to wander 'round the city alone
I'm runnin', fallin' down, chase me all around this town
And now you've finally got me ... what am I to do?

Sexy Vampire, I'm falling in love
So just bite me, baby, and drink all my blood (oh yeah)
Sexy Vampire, I'm falling in love with you
So do what you want to do

Let's hear it for Team "Whatever I Can Get!"

* NOTE 1: I haven't watched the Youtube video yet, so no guarantees.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It Feels Like Christmas ...

I love Christmas. I love the smiles, the laughter, the singing, the dancing, the gratitude for gifts given and received, the joy of friends and family, and the opportunity to celebrate the "good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people." It is the season of the Spirit ... the Spirit of Christ.

One of my greatest joys at this time of year (among many) comes from watching those good ol' heartwarming and chuckle-inducing movies that foster a desire to bring peace on earth and good will toward men. (Or, at the very least, spread a few smiles ;). Among those happy films are such classics as White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, Scrooge (The Musical), A Christmas Story, Holiday Inn, Elf and ...

The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Oh, how I love the Muppets and their take on one of the most beloved Christmas tales ever told. And what's not to love? Lines infused with wit and good humor ... music filled to the brim with infectious melodies and inspiring lyrics ... and Kermit the Frog.

In the spirit of this show (which I watched recently ... the first of multiple viewings this season, I'm sure), I decided to share some of my favorite quotes.

And so, in no particular order, here they are:

Rizzo: There are two things in life I hate ... heights and jumping from them.
: Come on, I'll catch you.
Rizzo: God save my little broken body.
[Jumps and falls to the ground. He looks at Gonzo]
Gonzo: ... Missed.
Rizzo: Oh wait ... I forgot my jellybeans.
[Slides through the bars to retrieve them, and joins Gonzo back on the other side. Gonzo is staring at him]
Rizzo: What?
Gonzo: You can fit through those bars?
Rizzo: Yeah.
Gonzo: You are such an idiot.

Ghost of Christmas Present: Did I mention I'm the Ghost of Christmas Present?
Ebenezer Scrooge: Yes ... you did.
Ghost: Well, then come in and know me better, man.
Scrooge: You're a little absent-minded, spirit.
Ghost: No, I'm a LARGE absent-minded spirit.

Rizzo: That's it ... how do you know what Scrooge is doin'? We're down here and he's up there.
Gonzo: I told you, storytellers are omniscient; I know everything!
Rizzo: Well hoity-toity, Mr. Godlike Smarty-Pants.
Here are some of my favorite lines from that old 'n ornery duo, Statler and Waldorf:
Fozziwig: Here is my Christmas speech. "Thank you all, and Merry Christmas."
Jacob Marley: That was the speech?
Robert Marley: It was dumb!
Jacob: It was obvious!
Robert: It was pointless!
Jacob: It was...
[turns to Robert]
Jacob: ... short ...
Jacob & Marley: I loved it!
Scrooge: You were always criticizing me.
Robert: We were always heckling you.
Jacob: It's good to be heckling again ...
Robert: It's good to be doing anything again.
In closing, I just wanted to add the lyrics to my favorite song in the show: It Feels Like Christmas:

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
It's true wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas

A cup of kindness that we share with another
A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother
In all the places you find love
It feels like Christmas

It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the spirit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year

It's in the giving of a gift to another
A pair of mittens that were made by your mother
It's all the ways that we show love
That feel like Christmas

A part of childhood we'll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
It's true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
It's true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
Well, that's it for now my friends. I love you all and hope that this season brings joy and merriness and a renewed desire to ease the pain and troubles of the world.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Julie & Julia ...

Saw the movie. Enjoyed it (Adams and Streep = fantasticfulness at the box office).

More importantly, though, I want to start really learning how to cook ... especially French foods. Let's see where that adventure takes me.

UPDATE: I just reserved a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" at the library.

UPDATE 2: I realized last night that I have never owned a cookbook. Ever. This is odd, considering that I love to cook. It's less odd, though, when I remember that every time I need a recipe, I either get online or call my mother or sister (who could kick the pants off any chef on the Food Network). Maybe this cookbook thing will start a new era of delicious, hitherto unknown food in my life ... then again, it may just be a phase I'm going through.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Importance of the One ...

This morning on my way into work, I happened across one of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin's last talks before he passed away on Dec. 2, 2008. How dearly do I miss his sweet and unassuming presence; his kind heart; the affable twinkle in his eye. What an amazing servant of God he was (and is).

Elder Wirthlin began his April 2008 sermon with this insight into the life of President Monson (who had been sustained as the Prophet that afternoon). He said:

While it is a compliment to [President Monson] that many of the great and mighty of this world know and honor him, perhaps it is an even greater tribute that many of the lowly call him friend.

To his core, President Monson is kind and compassionate. His words and deeds exemplify his concern for the one.

I've always thought President Monson to be the walking epitome of charity ... but oh, the volumes more it speaks when Elder Wirthlin says, "Many of the lowly call him friend."

How often are we only willing to become (and remain) friends with those who have something to offer us? Prestige, power, money, thrills? Squishy feelings of love and acceptance? So often we effectively say to others, "bring these to the table, or don't bother sitting down."

But how rarely do we reach beyond our own thoughts and needs and instead of asking "what can this person bring to our friendship," ask, "what can I bring"?

If we desire to be "kind and compassionate" to the core, Elder Wirthlin suggests that we must change the object of our human relations from concern for the self and concern for the many to concern for the other and concern for the One. We must be willing, as the Savior said, to leave the ninety-and-nine that prosper so that we may seek out the One that wanders.

In this talk, Elder Wirthlin chose to focus, in part, on the Ones that are lost or feel out of place in this Church (for whatever reason). As he said:

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

Two thoughts from this amazing quote:

First, one of the greatest things we can do in this life is to help each One of God's sons and daughters realize their place in the grand symphonic Plan. Each One of us has a part to play ... sometimes we're just not sure what it is or are too timid to pipe up. When we stop spending all our time with the majority of the orchestra - who each know their part - and instead seek out and help that oh-so-crucial player who sits shyly, unsure of her part, how much better will the song become? How much more beautiful will life be for this new player that adds her tenor to the "complex beauty" of the Plan?

Second, if you're a piccolo of the world and get to feeling a little bit haughty, high, or mighty ... stop it. Now, don't get me wrong. Each piccolo is needed (and is most certainly loved) ... but at the same time, know that people can usually only take your shrill little whistle so long before they go running for the earplugs.

Instead of seeking to impress others with the rapture of our song or trying to make others switch instruments to play the part of the piccolo, we should withhold judgment, take a look around, and reach out to the One that sits apart ... to the One that sits alone.

The amazing thing is that, as we do this, we will come to understand our own part in God's symphony all the more clearly. After all,

He that findeth his life shall lost it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
- Matthew 10:39

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Legendary Florida Road Trip '09: Part I ...

Every picture tells a story ... but some of those stories become slightly more awesome with a little literary license.* In that vein, I've selected a few random un-photoshopped wonders from Legendary Florida Road Trip '09 to share with a (hopefully) welcoming world:

(1) So I said to Bonnie, "how great would it be to get our picture taken in front of this ancient Mayan temple (conveniently located in the exact spot that would later become the Epcot center world tour)?" She agreed and up the stairs we went.

But what I didn't tell her was that I really just wanted to re-enact the ancient Mayan tradition of sacrificing the most senior member of a road trip to the largest male member of that road trip ... tee hee hee ...

(2) One of the most amazing things about road trips is you get to learn SO MUCH about the people you're traveling with. For instance, here we learned about Janelle's long-lost childhood dream of being an astronaut ... and about Deana's undying hatred for all things "NASA."

All I can say is, Neil Armstrong better watch out ... after all, you should have seen what Deana did to the life-size statue of Buzz Lightyear ...

(3) Now, by all appearances, this picture looks fairly normal ... a NY-hearting Matt, a camera-clad Bonnie, a sausage-and-sourkraut-filled Deana, and a root-beer swizzling Janelle. But look closer. Four glasses in the picture ... three filled with sweet, sugary nectar (otherwise known as Root Beer) ... but one is COMPLETELY EMPTY. Turns out Bonnie is quite the drinker, especially when you get her in an all-you-can-drink German Restaurant.

How many drinks did she have over the course of our trip? Ich nur Bahnhof verstehen!

(4) So you're probably all thinking, "I could have sworn he said all these pictures where 'un-photoshopped' ... I mean, he even made up a word to get that point across."

Ahhhh, but what you don't realize is that this ISN'T photoshopped ... as part of our magical visit to Florida, we all had a lovely visit to the "Sorcerer's Apprentice Do-It-Yourself Plastic Surgeon Cartoon Face Factory" (patent pending). During the visit, one of the nice trinket-selling attendants invited us to try on a new face for the day. As the attendant told us, "[h]ere in Theme Park World, we strive to give every visitor a slap-happy glance into the wacky world of Disney ... go ahead and go crazy!"

Looking back now, I think it may be an improvement.

(5) Not much to add here ... as far as I can tell, it's just three happy people enjoying the endearing magic of a runaway East Coast road trip.

Two points for randomness!

* NOTE 1: Most of this is true ... but literary license, after all, presupposes a certain amount of falsity, no?

Wii Dance ... and We're Adorable ...

About a month back, I headed home to Utah for the wedding of one of my bestest buds in the whole-wide, ever-living world: Monsiuer Eric Boyd Vogeler. He and his lovely sweetheart, the Erin formerly known as Roundy, were sealed together for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake Temple in an absolutely beautiful, tear-jerking ceremony.

I love weddings. They make me cry (of course, this may not be saying much ... a particularly poignant episode of Duck Tales may make me cry).

While I was home for the wedding, though, I had the chance to join my sister Amy in the ever-wonderful task of babysitting three of my nieces - Katie, Maylie, and Maddie. Golly bob howdy, ain't they cute? I mean, they are mindblowingly adorable. Just look at this picture of Maddie:

They are so cute, in fact, that the annual (and completely unbiased) "Cutest Nieces in the World Competition" found these girls tied for first place along with the always darling Libby Locks and ever lovely Emma. If you overlook the German judges' score (who knocked off two points for inability to "sprechen" the "Deutsch"), they were flawless.

And so it was with excitement (driven by an uncle's love) that I arrived to babysit (while my brother and sister-in-law went to play dodgeball ... such a cool idea). The evening started out beautifully as we all sat and watched Jimmy Neutron (see below).

After it ended, I asked the girls what they wanted to do and they pointed to the little platform in the corner. I recognized it as the platform used in Wii Fit. Having played the game once before with my good friend, Kyle Woods, I thought it would be fun to try it with my nieces. Little did I know the cuteness I had in store.

Here are just a few of the pics from that blessed evening:

And that, my friends, is why life is so good. Every time I feel the semblance of a frown or ornery disposition coming on, all I have to do is think of little Katie and Maylie trying to do Yoga or Ski down electronic slopes as I watch from the wings of a lovely home in Eagle Mountain.

Oh, what a great ride!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pedro was here ...

The signs begin almost 200 miles away.

Most of these irreverent (and frequently incomprehensible) signs feature the same extravagantly stereotypical sombrero & poncho wearing Mexican bandido cartoon character . . . and with each billboard, we are brought more fully into the world of Pedro.

The miles tick on, the strings of the trap tighten, and unwary travelers find themselves - almost as if driven by an unnatural force - pulling off at the first exit beyond the borders of North Carolina.

The Place: South of the Border.

The Purpose: To redefine the meaning of "multi-colored roadside hell."

The happiest place on earth this is not.

I mean, I've been in half-century old Southeast Asian bathrooms with more general appeal (and fewer insects) than SOB (the acronym for the town, as featured on the nearby water tower). Far from the slightly racist, kitschy, and kid-catching cartoon character the signs make him out to be, Pedro is more a modern day Virgil, guiding you carefully through various creative and fiery tortures before finally setting you lose to claw your way back to purgatory (i.e., the rest of South Carolina? Not sure about that analogy, but I'm sticking with it just to give Dante a well-deserved shout out).

Beginning life as a beer stand in 1950, SOB once had enough tourist-trap energy to power its own police and fire department. It's been a part of I-95 road trip lore for ages ... trapping and tricking tourists with its large contingent of ill-spirited plastic poltergeists.

How many people have been permanently scarred by over-exposure, we may never know (and the body count keeps rising). At the very least, though, we can number Ben Bernanke among them. Though he is now Chairman of the Fed, ol' Ben worked there one summer as a poncho-wearing waiter to help pay his way through Harvard.

From what I've been told, he's still working it out in therapy.

Having been to SOB and having unwisely partaken of its unrecognizable "foods,"* I fear that I may be required - as was Persephone - to return each year and pay penance for the only truly unfortunate decision of Legendary Florida Road Trip '09 (look for more on that later).

But regardless of what happens to me, it's not too late for you. So please ... heed the warning of one who has been down that road ... stay away, my friends, and always beware the wicked face of the Smiling Bandido.**

* Think "meat" smothered in fifty year old nacho cheese ...

** Legal Disclaimer: Consider yourself warned. If after reading this post, you still decide to stop, I cannot be held accountable for the consequences (i.e., subsequent recurring nightmares and medical bills).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Just call me Esquire ...


Date of Birth: 05/82

The New York State Board of Law Examiners congratulates you on passing the New York State bar examination held on July 28-29, 2009. An official certification notice has been emailed to the email address currently on file with the Board. The email will include an attachment with your official bar exam results, which will be in Adobe pdf. A copy of the Notice of Certification must be filed with the Appellate Division as part of your application for admission.

Three years of law school ... three months of laborious study in dark corners of the law library ... two days of testing surrounded by other panic-stricken would-be lawyers ... and three months of waiting ... AND I PASSED!

All I can say is, what a relief. Hallelujah! If you were here, you'd hear me singing:

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine heading my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Mister Bluebird on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actch'll
Ev'rything is satisfactch'll
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!

I thank my family and friends and anyone who had to put up with me during the entire month of July. And especially, I thank my Heavenly Father, without whom I would be nothing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Caught in the Act ...

As many of you may realize, I like music. A lot. We're talking Himalayan levels of like here.

And what's more, I like to sing and dance ... often at the same time.*

On occasion, though, my love of music and dance has ousted me to the rest of the world as a true blue, dyed in the wool crazy person.

Yesterday was one of those times.

See, at the end of a long, mentally-exhausting day interpreting the law and fashioning equitable remedies in the Court of Chancery, I grab my suit jacket, say goodbye to those poor souls still slinking about the office, turn on my iPod, and head to one of the most solitary and sacred of urban high-rise locales: the Elevator.**

There's something absolutely invigorating about stepping into an unoccupied elevator at the end of the day knowing that, for the next eleven floors, ain't nothing nor nobody gonna intrude upon your metal-sided sanctuary. And it's that same something that gets my toes a tappin'.

After all, when you get songs like "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates pumping through those little white earbuds, you can't help but want to bust a groove. (Of course, by "you" I mean "I"). And so I do. Frequently.

Like this guy.

Now, most days no one is the wiser. After the doors close I begin an epic Astairean tribute that continues through each successive floor until, sadly, those doors open again on level 1.*** Most days, I then step out, mind a'jive with musical mojo but body back to being all business (part of that whole "responsible lawyer" image I've been cultivating).

Sometimes, though, the song is too good ... or the ride is too short ... or the Courthouse seems too empty ... and my toes twinkle a bit longer as I glide across the well-tred linoleum and into the always unoccupied bathroom.

I emphasize the word always. After 5:30 p.m., I have NEVER seen another soul in that bathroom. EVER. That is why, if the groove is really too good to give up, I will sometimes just keep on keepin' on (After all, it's actually kind of fun to watch yourself dance in the mirror).

But yesterday ... well, yesterday, the unthinkable happened. In the midst of one of my particularly flamboyant "Twist and Shout" moves, in walked an after-hours janitor. Caught off guard almost as much as I was, he looked somewhat flustered - sort of the look you would expect from someone who had never seen someone dancing by themselves to (apparently) non-existent music in an otherwise unoccupied bathroom.

There I was: The crazy guy in a suit. But you know what? Despite my mid-routine halt ... despite the keen sense of embarrassment ... I just had to laugh. In fact, I grinned and chuckled the full half-mile back to my car.

After all, sometimes the absurdity of the moment is just too great not to.

* NOTE 1: I, of course, do not claim to be good (or even decent) at either.

** NOTE 2: As a would-be lawyer, I long ago embraced the serial comma (or Oxford Comma as it is sometimes known). I try to do this unpretentiously. In fact, even when using it, I tend to think to myself some lyrics from "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend - namely, "[w]ho gives a $^@#&@ about an Oxford Comma?"

*** NOTE 3: I recognize that many elevators - including mine - have cameras and that there is the distinct possiblity that someone, somewhere could be watching these Gene Kelly-esque shenanigans ... but I figure that if your job is to sit around monitoring the elevators for signs of danger or terrorism, you'd probably appreciate a large, goofy-looking white man dancing alone to some (apparently) non-existent music from time to time. I know I would.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I've Been Missing Out ...

I can't believe what a schmuck I've been. For the past several years now, the Church has been holding annual General Relief Society Meetings ... and I, being the non-RS male that I am, completely ignored them. Until today.

This morning while deciding what Conference talks to listen to on my way into work (nothing inspires a better day than listening to the words of the prophets and leaders of the Church), I stopped on the talk by Sister Beck given at the last GRSM.

It was phenomenal. I've always considered Sister Beck rather astounding, but this was particularly excellent.

Two points from that superb talk:

Point 1: Sister Beck quotes a talk by Pres. Uchtdorf where, as Sister Beck recounts, Pres. Uchtdorf told BYU students:

'A wise man once distinguished between "the noble art of getting things done" and "a nobler art of leaving things undone." True "wisdom in life," he taught, consists of "the elimination of non-essentials."' President Uchtdorf then asked: 'What are the nonessential things that clutter your days and steal your time? What are the habits you may have developed that do not serve a useful purpose? What are the unfinished or unstarted things that could add vigor, meaning, and joy to your life?'

Ok ... so I don't have an answer for that one yet. But I'm going to. How amazing will it be to cut out those non-essential activities that do, in fact, clutter my life? I mean, how much time have I been wasting on things that in the grand scheme (or even just in this earthly scheme) don't matter a two-pence or a hey-nonny-nonny?

Answer: Far, far too much. Fortunately, thanks to Sister Beck, I now have a new goal.

Point 2: Actually, this is more of a question. Part-way through the talk, Sister Beck mentioned certain RS meetings formerly known as "home, family, and personal enrichment" meetings. I know I am admitting far more of my daftness than I should, but I nevertheless must ask, what are/were these meetings? Are they just the RS "enrichment" meetings that I hear about from time to time?

I can't believe I haven't been listening to the GRSM until now. Purposefully depriving myself of amazingly spiritual and uplifting talks inspiring me to a better life? Silly Matt ...

Kids Say the Darndest Things ...

Several weeks ago, my sister-in-law Dede posted a story about my little niece Mayli (who is three years old and a spitball of fire and fury . . . independent and amazing). I thought it was too good not to share:

Mayli fell down and scraped her knees today. While I was cleaning her up, she said, "Mom, I'm missing a piece of my leg! We need to fix it! Where is the glue?"

I laughed and said, "the glue?"

She responded, "Yes mom, the glue that you put on Kay's stiches!"

I said, "oh, the Neosporin?"

Mayli replied, "Yes mom, the evil-sporin; I need the evil-sporin to fix my leg."

Without question, one of the funniest conversations of the year.


Note: Mayli and Katelyn (her older sister) also happen to be ridiculously cute when they do just about anything . . . including playing Wii Fit. Click here for pictures.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The New Invisible Man ...


No, really ... it will blow your mind.

And all I can say is Waldo better watch out ... Liu is on the rise.

Liu Boilin, a young photographer and artist from Beijing, received the ridiculously awesome moniker "The Invisible Man" for his artistic ability to blend his body into his surroundings. A true-life human chameleon (not to be confused with The Chameleon, a notable entry in the pantheon of Spiderman super-villians), Liu blends in with almost any surrounding.

I was so astounded by the work that I just couldn't help but post a few of the pictures I've been able to find:

What makes this interesting to me, though, is the reason behind Liu's work. As he stated to the telegraph, a British newspaper:

Some people call me the invisible man, but for me it's what is not seen in a picture which really tells the story. I experienced the dark side of society, without social relations, and had a feeling that no one cared about me, I felt myself unnecessary in this world.

Reading that, I have the greatest desire to expand my efforts, caring about people more and (what's crucial) showing my love so that far fewer people will have to feel the way Liu felt.

Mucho thanks to Josh Law for his electronic tip-off to this phenomenal talent.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Those wacky bankers ...

I recently came across a whiz-bag-guffaw-a-minute-gem of financial comedy written by British funny-man and "Hottie from History" designator extraordinaire, Andy Zaltzman.

(actual photo ... he really looks like this ... I mean, fire shoots out of the back of his head)

The book is titled, intriguingly enough, "Does Anything Eat Bankers?: And 53 Other Indispensable Questions for the Credit Crunched." As far as I can tell from the short snippets Amazon lets me view free of charge (never enough ... NEVER enough), it looks to be ... wait for it ... tear-inducingly hilarious. My favorite quote (thus far) is included below:

High street banks began behaving increasingly tittishly towards their customers, offering their savers lower rates of interest than a 50-volume encyclopedia of socks, and fining them for being financially unsuccessful – when Muddy Waters bluesily mused that “you can’t lose what you never had,” he had clearly never been £1 over his overdraft limit for twenty minutes

In a further blot on Waters’s already minimal reputation as a financial adviser, the Credit Crunch has now proved conclusively that: (a) you quite clearly can lose what you never had; (b) you can also lose what no-one every had; and (c) the time has come to try to stop losing stuff as a general rule. Waters may have been the ‘Father of Chicago Blues,’ and to listen to a single wordless murmur of his voice may be to imbibe liquefied elemental truth, but the time has come to reassess the economic reliability of his lyrics.

That Zaltzman is such a kidder. Golly bob howdy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Jumps the Shark ...

President Obama was sworn in as the 44th president on Jan. 20, 2009. The list of Nobel Peace Prize contenders was compiled February 1, 2009.

Despite doing nothing more than a one-term junior senator from Chicago or week and a half president could do to bring peace in his limited sphere, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning.

In the words of one news report:

Obama was selected not for substantive accomplishments, but for his "vision" and inspiring "hope" at the beginning of his presidency.

"For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman," the committee said, explaining its decision.

All right. Stop. Say that again?

So apparently, what won Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was ... wait for it ... A SLOGAN! After all, "Change We Can Believe In" shouldn't just be enough to win a presidency. Oh, no. It should bring with it all the treasures of the earth and honors we can think of (Grammy anyone? We'll see if Kanye can introduce the award for "Best Presidential iTunes Playlist").

It's official, the Nobel Peace Prize just jumped the shark ... and now has the reputational impact of Time's Person of the Year.

Next year's winner? Well, let's just say that now that the preemptive precedent has been set, I'm throwing my hat in the ring.

NOTE: I like Obama. Really, I do (even though I may not agree with a number of his policies or approaches to government). The above is more a slip-slap, jib-jab at the prize givers than anything else. I actually like what Obama said when he found out (probably more shocked than any of us) that he had won the Prize:

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

Let's just hope the award does spark the peace and prosperity it was meant to honor.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lost Souls ...

While reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" (TGL&PPS) as part of my book club - the Far-Flung Bibliophiles - I came across a rather interesting quote by Thomas Carlyle on man's relation to the Soul. As quoted in the book, Carlyle writes:

Does it never give thee pause, that men used to have a soul — not by hearsay alone, or as a figure of speech: but as a truth that they knew, and acted upon! Verily it was another world then … but yet it is a pity we have lost the tidings of our souls ... we shall have to go in search of them again, or worse in all ways shall befall us.

The author of TGL&PPPS then suggests a profound follow-up:

Did any of you ever think that along about the time the notion of a SOUL gave out, Freud popped up with the EGO to take its place? ... It is my belief that men must spout this twaddle about egos, because they fear they have no soul.

Nearly all of the traits society has neglected in its swaggle through modernity - including virtue, sobriety, civility, and love - find the beginning of loss in a refusal to believe in or tend to the soul. Society, as Elder D. Todd Cristofferson said last Sunday, has exchanged the once inviolate internal controls that, based largely on religious thought and civil upbringing, used to ensure proper behaviour for a mess of external ones. Instead of an inner moral compass - that derives automatically from recognizing the reality of the soul - society now relies on ever-changing, pliable "regulations" to keep us in check.*

But no matter how many rules are written, unless humanity again learns to recognize the soul (not as hearsay or naive mythology, but as eternal truth) and act accordingly, we will never be able to prevent the nearly inevitable slog away from decency and toward degenerative degradation.

* Interesting Side Note: E. Christofferson seems to suggest that the effectiveness of a free market model depends not on an unbreakable tome of rules and regulations (as many in Washington seem to believe), but instead on a system of internal ethical and moral controls that must be imbued into the very nature of the people who work within the market.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Too. Many. (Brilliant). Lawyers.

During Supreme Court week last June, each of the sitting Supreme Court Justices participated in interviews on C-SPAN. Though the transcripts aren't available yet, thanks to the WSJ, we have a snippet from that easily-mocked, neocon originalist, J. Scalia:

Well, you know, two chiefs ago, Chief Justice Burger, used to complain about the low quality of counsel. I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.

I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.

Too many lawyers ... that I've heard. But too many BRILLIANT lawyers wasting their significant talents in the law, when they could be using their genius to produce things?

What say ye, my friends, should I go back for my engineering degree ... or just start writing a book?

I wonder what he thinks of Investment Bankers ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A private Hall of Fame ...

I received an e-mail from a friend recently with a quote from President Monson. In this quote, the Prophet talked about driving through New York with a friend on a cold wintry day and passing by an understandably deserted Yankees stadium. As he did so, his mind immediately drifted to the heroes of his youth - Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, and others - who had become legends of the sport and had their legacies safely enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pres. Monson explains why those men deserved such honor ... and then asked a rather thought-provoking question: Who would we place in our own personal Hall of Fame? Which men and women would take a place in the hollowed rooms we reserve for those who have truly shaped and molded us?

I'm not going to share the people in my personal Hall of Fame right now. Maybe, someday, I'll feel comfortable sharing that. But in the meantime, I wanted to close this little post the way Pres. Monson ended his story. After asking what good it can do for us to build our own Hall of Fame, he says:
When we obey as did Adam, endure as did Job, teach as did Paul, testify as did Peter, serve as did Nephi, give ourselves as did the Prophet Joseph, respond as did Ruth, honor as did Mary, and live as did Christ, we are born anew. All power becomes ours. Cast off forever is the old self, and with it defeat, despair, doubt, and disbelief. To a newness of life we come--a life of faith, hope courage, and joy. No task looms too large. No responsibility weighs too heavily. No duty is a burden. All things become possible.

Sounds like a pretty amazing promise to me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

On the passing of Elsie Mae Wright ...

Last week, my dear step-grandmother Elsie Mae passed away after suffering a stroke. She married my grandfather on my father's side shortly after I was born (this was the grandfather from whom I take my middle name). Though I will miss her - as I do both my grandmother and grandfather on my father's side - I love her and know that, after years of alternating difficulty and delight, she has moved on to a better world, to await the glory of the resurrection. Below is the main part of her obituary.

Our dear Elsie Mae Rhodes Blood Evans Wright, 80, passed away September 18, 2009 in Salt Lake City after a challenging but fulfilling life. She was born October 18, 1928 to Anna M. and William Arthur Rhodes at her grandmother’s home outside of Monticello, Utah and was raised in Ferron, Utah. On February 11, 1946 she married Adren Wayne Blood, and their marriage was later solemnized in the Salt Lake Temple. Elsie Mae and Wayne were called by President George Albert Smith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and faithfully served together as missionaries in the Northern States Mission (Iowa and Illinois) between 1951-1953. Upon returning home, they were blessed to adopt two wonderful children, Wendy and David. After Wayne’s untimely death, Elsie Mae remarried Arthur John Jr. (Jack) Evans, the father of four children on November 29, 1973. Elsie Mae cared dearly for Jack who later passed away from cancer. Elsie Mae continued her genealogy work and service in the Jordan River Temple where she later met and married Gordon Wright, the father of 12 children, on May 10, 1986. Shortly after their marriage, Elsie Mae and Gordon fulfilled a mission to the Manila, Philippine Temple where Gordon served in the Temple Presidency. After returning home, Elsie Mae and Gordon served in the Jordan River Temple until Gordon passed away April 10, 2003.

Elsie Mae withstood and overcame many challenges in her life, especially including the loss of loved ones and the dehabilitating effects of two strokes. Elsie Mae was a beloved daughter of God and an elect lady. She was called to many church callings and faithfully served with all her heart, might, mind and strength. She possessed the gift of friendship and loved the many people she met and over her lifetime. She looked after and cared for the lonely, the sick and the grieving. She was a teacher of truth with faith in and a firm and unshakable testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. She was beloved by many. Elsie Mae fought the good fight and finished her work here upon the earth.

Farewell, dear Elsie, Earth's day is done,
Your spirit now to Peace is gone,
And with you to our God we send,
Our love ... Until we meet again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Searching for ticks ...

I have rarely been so freaked out in my life. Sitting in the car a few days back, some of my new Delawarean and Marylander friends hit on a rather interesting and life-changing topic: Lyme disease.

The name certainly rang a bell ... in the distant, rarely used quadrant of my mind. I mean, I've heard the term before. But I didn't realize just how CRAZY INSANE it really was. Apparently, according to wikipedia - that know-it-all internet-based friend - Lyme Disease causes "severe and chronic symptoms affect[ing] many parts of the body, including the brain, nerves, eyes, joints and heart."

And do you know the worst part? It's all caused by ticks - ticks that are very common in the part of Delaware where I live. I'm getting creeped out just thinking about it.

This all came as a horrible and uncomfortable surprise. I mean, up to this point, my only actual knowledge of ticks came from "The Tick" - the most amazing cartoon (and live-action) superhero satire ever created (sorry "Mystery Men" ... that includes you). He made ticks seem somehow ... well, awesome.

But now, thanks to ticks and well-meaning-but-incredibly-freaky-knowledge-sharing friends, on top of male pattern baldness, spontaneous dental hydroplosion, and high blood pressure, I have to worry about a disease that could cause "[m]yriad disabling symptoms ... including permanent paraplegia."

Fffhfhwhfwh ... thanks a lot.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tired at Ten ...

This isn't right ... I should be bouncing off the walls with the sheer exuberance of youth; I should be so high on life and/or sugar that the very mention of sleep would make me double over in scornful delight; I should be ready to pull an all-nighter just to watch the sun rise over the coastal sands.

But I'm not.

I'm tired.

And, as soon as I write in my journal, I'm going to bed.

God save my aging body.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trogging ...

Hallelujah and Pass the Tax Rebate! After months of anticipation, preparation, and ________tion, I finally made it the big "Back East." (I still think it's slightly odd that we speak of going "Out West" and "back East," but never "out East" or "back West." It's almost like we just can't escape the East as America's birthplace ... ). Last Friday after three glorious days of asphalt and amazing good times (in Nauvoo, Kirtland, Hershey, and other places), my father, sister and I finally pulled in to the land I'll be calling home for the next year. And boy was it humid.

Now, though I've been here for a full five days, tonight was the first time I was able to go about exploring the area next to my house ... and I'm kickin' myself that I waited this long. Turns out that right next to my new apartment is a 600-acre State park called White Clay Creek - a Godsend for a nature lovin', Utah-mountain-missin' boy like me.

I actually stumbled across it while jogging through the neighborhood. Noticing an oddly placed trail off the side of one of the roads I was running on (which afforded very little space between me and oncoming traffic), I decided to try it out. Two seconds in, I was in a different world. And now that I've been there, I'm not going back anytime soon.

See, I love to jog. Have for about two and a half years now. It's fun; it's energy building & releasing (quite a lovely combination); and it's just what the doctor ordered to keep my weight at a manageable level. But more than that, it really puts me in touch with my surroundings. My senses are always at their fullest during a run ... I see better, I hear better, I feel better and I smell better (at least in one sense). But now, after traipsing across the trails of White Clay Creek State Park, I've decided that in my heart of hearts, I'm actually a Trogger.* That's right, a Trogger ... a Trail Jogger.

Honestly, I'd like to be a Trunner/Trainner (Trail Runner), but I'm a little too slow and pudgy (some would say cute, cuddly, and stuffed with fluff ... and who am I too quibble). So, for now I'm just gonna have to enjoy the beauty and love of the great outdoors in Delaware via the occasional morning Trog.

* After thinking about the word, I Googled it ... and oddly enough, it turned out someone else had already coined the term, albeit with an entirely different definition: According to the web dictionary, "trogging" is a verbal portmanteau (thank you Mr. Carroll) created by combining Trust + Blogging. That is, to "trog" is to "use blogs to build trust and transparency."

I like my definition better.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

So close ... so close ...

I couldn't help but laugh.

As I walked through the muggy parking lot at the Desmond Hotel, 1.5 miles from the Albany airport, I saw a girl's face as she sat in her car talking on a cell phone ... and I couldn't help but laugh.

All of the sudden, the whole, sadistic hazing-on-a-grand-legalized-scale just smacked me in the face. I mean, the girl looked like she was about to cry. Now, it may not have been because of the bar. She might have been experiencing some other tragic, painful, drawn-out and confidence smashing event I didn't know about; but then again, res ipsa loquitur* ... ha, ha.

But even if her near-tears were entirely unrelated to the exam, seeing her face made me realize the tremendous silliness of the whole process. And I just had to chortle a little.

As I write this, I still have one-fourth of the bar left ... the second half of the Multistate portion. It's not over yet ... and if I don't pass, maybe it never will be ;)** Still, I can't help but feel a little relief that even in the midst of the most sorrow-inducing academic event of my life, I was able to detach myself, look back at everything unfortunate that's happened over the past few months - the craziness, the anger, the frustration, and the hopelessness - and laugh.

And if I don't pass***, that may be one heck of a consolation prize.

* Latin meaning "The Thing Speaks for Itself." A little legal joke ... very little ... so little that ... oops, there it goes ...

** Knock on wood ... knock on wood ... find me a piece of wood, dang it!

*** More wood ... MORE WOOD!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Avian Nightmare ...

I woke up last night in a cold sweat (literally ... cold ... sweat). * For the first time in a score of years, I had a fully cognizant, heart-wrenching, scream-until-your-voice-gives-out Nightmare. Like most things in my life, though, it was far from typical and, hence, I thought I'd share the highlights.

Apparently sick of the insanity that bar review brings, I must have decided it was time for a vacation because in this dream I found myself in Australia. That's right, Australia. Walking around what I can only assume was the "Outback," I came across a cute, cuddly Kookaburra.

It sang lovely little songs, danced lovely little dances, and in all other ways exuded lovely little cuteness (and fluffiness and all that is good in this world).

Things remained rather pleasant for a few more minutes as I moved on to examine some of the other animals that call Australia home (and to eat something the may have been grilled Toad). When I turned back to look for the Kookaburra, though, I discovered that it had been transformed into a sixteen-foot tall Cassowary.

Excuse me ... a really pissed off sixteen-foot tall Cassowary.

With the presence of mind that only dreams can bring, I knew - immediately - that the Cassowary wanted only one thing: To pound my head repeatedly with that large, sharp beak from Hell. Having a fairly keen survival instinct, I did the best thing I could: I fled like a cubbed-out Swede being chased by Finnish bullies. In the end, though, the Cassowary caught up. And it did not end well. My head became the nail to it's hammer beak.

If only I had had a table.

Of course, it's hard to tell what the inspiration behind this dream was (or any dream for that matter). I can only speculate - and mind you, it is pure speculation - that the dream was a devilish combination of "Up":

And Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds":

Not sure. Still, it made for one heck of a memorable morning.

* This is a lie: Actually, there was no sweat involved, cold or otherwise.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

(Nearly) Universal Appeal ...

Waltzing into Barnes and Noble a few months back, I happened across this:

Truly, one of the oddest literary concepts I've seen in recent years. After guffawing heartily at the gruesomely appropriate cover art, I nearly squealed with devilish glee after reading a few of the books passages.

Here is the beginning of the plot summary found on Wikipedia:
["Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"] follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but places the novel in an alternative universe version of 19th century England where zombies roam the countryside. The undead are generally viewed as a troublesome nuisance, albeit a deadly one, and their presence often affects the plot of the story in subtle ways — messages between houses are sometimes lost when the couriers are captured and eaten; characters openly discuss and judge the zombie-fighting abilities of others; women weigh the pros and cons of carrying a musket (it provides safety, but is considered "unladylike").

Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters live on a countryside estate with their parents. Mr. Bennet trains his daughters in martial arts and weapons, molding them into a fearsome zombie-fighting army. On the other hand, Mrs. Bennet plans to marry the girls off to wealthy suitors.

If the novel lives up to even half of the tremendous potential inherent in the title (and concept), then this may be a book to unite the genders, bring us all together in a euphoric, Utopian literary world. After all, what man or woman could turn down a tale filled with (1) unflinchingly true romance AND (2) hordes of the undead.

I may cry.

Update 1: I just purchased a copy of PPZ on Amazon. Through the virtue of Amazon Prime I'll have it in two days. I tingle with anticipation.

Update 2: A old friend of mine (with whom I have recently reopened correspondence after years of silence and neglect ... and whose Facebook profile re-sparked my interest in PPZ) alerted me to another fascinating exercise in Austen-esque imagination. The series, "Lost in Austen," gives us a rather witty, surreal glimpse at one young woman (Amanda Price) whose Austen obsession opens a door to the world of Pride and Prejudice.

Favorite quote (thus far): "How lovely to have the society of ladies who are not promiscuous with speech."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bar Break

Covering dozens of topics, asking hundreds of questions, forcing intense review of books upon books of legal rules, and requiring the testing endurance of a Nobel prize winning economist, the bar is the single most daunting academic experience of my life thus far (makes the first year of law school seem like a stroll down cherry tree lane on a warm day in June).

Most of my days are spent crouched over a review book, taking practice tests, or watching any of the dozens of (inane?) lectures covering every legal topic imaginable in order to prepare for that "special day." Nine times out of ten, I probably look (and feel) like this:

But sometimes, there are reasons to laugh.

Where else, other than bar review, would I find questions focusing on the religious rights of "The Lucifers," a Druidic religious group that likes to hold bonfires on mountains to expunge the sins of the world? Or where would I find cities passing statutes to keep their streets from turning into "strip mall jungles illuminated by neon signs from Hell"? And where would I find such fun, diverse, and interesting names as Dryden, Knepper, Yancy, Wapner, Pru, Prell, and Snoop "Piggy" Pigpen (the lead singer for the Deadheads, a popular Santa Cruz rock band)?

So I guess despite all the ick, uck, eck, and arrrggghhh that is bar review, sometimes you just have to take a moment, grab a cold root beer, and enjoy the ride.

Update 1: Funniest. Question. Ever.
Question: A woman with a bladder control problem lived in State X and was angry about the state legislature's rejection of a proposed "Women's Restroom Equity Bill." The legislation would have required all new public buildings to maintain a two-to-one ratio of women's bathroom stalls to men's stalls and urinals. the woman believed this legislation was vital to eliminate longer lines that often form at women's bathrooms. To express her frustration and to attract attention to the issue, she went down to the state capitol building one afternoon, armed with a toilet plunger and a roll of toilet tissue. She held the plunger and roll, as she delivered an angry speech on the capitol building's front steps. "Members of the legislature, shame on you! Judgment day is here for you, and you are doomed! I will strike you down with my mighty plunger, and I will bind you with toilet paper until you can no longer breathe! Legions of warriors for 'potty parity' are ready to do whatever it takes to pass the Women's Restroom Equity Bill! We will put firecrackers in every toilet in this building, until they all overflow and a mighty wave sweeps every legislator out of this building and drowns them!" If the woman is prosecuted for violation of a state statute which prohibits "the making of any threat to the life or safety of a public official in any way related to that official's public duties," what will be the likely outcome of the prosecution?

Answer: The judge will chortle, chuckle and guffaw for a few minutes ... and then throw the case out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Art of Website Biography ...

While perusing an Immigration Law Firm Website, I came across a true gem of legal auto-biography. Seriously, if I had the cojones to put something like this online (for all my clients to see), I would consider myself a real man. The first paragraph of the biography is reproduced below (remember ... this is the biography people read when deciding whether to retain his services):

"Jerry Z. Zhang was born in Nanjing, P.R. China in 1957 and grew up in a small town called Hua Nan in the Heilongjiang Province. Jerry was a mischievous and naughty teenager during his early years of middle school and high school. Although Jerry did not steal with the other hooligans, he always fought with his fists as well as his teeth; showing a great promise for being a lawyer in the future.

And if that wasn't awesome enough, check out his 1970s-era-Chinese-farmer caricature. Jerry, my hat goes off to you.

And someday, my friends, someday, I will be half that cool.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Billboard in Action

"If it's life or death, call 911 ... if it's not, don't." - Utah Billboard

Dispatcher: Police operator 3332, what is your emergency?

Hello? (static) Hello? Are you there?

Dispatcher: Yes, ma'am, I'm here. What is the nature of your emergency?

I'm ... I'm trapped. We're stuck inside of a small tunnel.

Dispatcher: Ok, stay calm. Now ma'am, I must ask you a very important question. Please, answer as best you can: Is this a life or death situation?

Caller: What? ... What?!

Dispatcher: I mean, as far as you can tell, is this the type of situation where somebody could end up dead?

Caller: What are you talking about? I'M TRAPPED IN A TUNNEL! We can't get out of here!

Well, yes, I know. But ... do you have enough air? Is there a source of water around you? Could you survive for a while in there if you had to?

Caller: Are you insane? What part of trapped in a tunnel are you missing here?! My daughter and I are stuck ... trapped ... we can't get out!

Dispatcher: I wouldn't even bring it up at all, ma'am, but you see ... due to the recent financial crisis, we've had to cut back on our emergency support staff and what not and, well, if this isn't life or death, you have to call another number. So you see, I just have to make sure this is really a life or death situation ... and I'm just not sure being trapped automatically qualifies.

Caller: What the hell is wrong with you? Yes, this bloody well is a life or death situation ... GET US SOME HELP!

Ok ... if you say so, ma'am. I'll transmit this call to Search and Rescue. Please remain on the line.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Songs that Speak to Us ...

"Music has the power to cause emotions to well up within us. ... These feelings color our moods [and] affect our perceptions ... Music has the ability to tap the still, mysterious deep well of our emotions."

We live, and we love. We live, and we laugh. We live, and we sing. And ain't it just amazing? No matter the difference in creed, color, culture, or continent, we are all drawn to music. It's powerful, it's emotional, it's rather a lot like an addiction ... and we can't help but keep coming back for more.

I can't even begin to list (much less analyze) all the songs that have come, for one reason or another, to represent pieces of me and my life (some good ... and some not so much).

Of course, most of them are tied to love ... often the lack (or unrequited nature) thereof. And it makes sense, if you think about it. After all, love is one of the most powerful emotions out there. It controls our moods, our schedules, and even our eating habits (just try eating when you're pining away for that perfect someone ... tough going at best). Combine that with the fact that there are approximately 3.6 dekillion (10 to the power of 30) love songs out there and you're bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart (or the hole where it should be).

Even the toughest among us are prone to the love song jitters. Case in point: Have you ever seen Tommy Boy? Remember the scene where Chris Farley and David Spade are driving along and the radio begins playing "Superstar" by the Carpenters? Both Farley and Spade feign non-interest ... then we cut to the a scene where they are both singing at the top of their lungs weeping like fat Swedish school boys who've just lost their chocolate bars (I know, a Tommy Boy reference? Still, I think it proves the point).

Because of our different experiences, there are songs that speak to us more than others. There are those (often in the unrequited love category) who seem fairly drawn to stalker songs. For instance, I once knew a girl who, after realizing that the boy she loved wouldn't return the favor, clung like a life raft to the lyrics from Dido's "White Flag":

"I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I'm in love and always will be."

As far as I can tell, that's not typically the kind of song you'd want in your "it speaks to me" repertoire ... but sometimes, that's just the way we feel and there ain't nothing that's gonna change it. In truth, though, there are lots of songs like that ... one's we connect with but feel ashamed about.

Recently, the songs that have been speaking to me fit into that category. The "I'd rather not have those lyrics EVER describe any part of my life" category. (And they're all by Death Cab for Cutie). The music, per usual, is lovely ... but it's the lyrics that really seem to be making sense to me. See, these songs seem to reflect a rather sizable problem on my part in the realm of love ... and I'm only just realizing the full extent of that problem.

Even though I won't be going into why I've connected with these songs, I thought I'd finish this post off with the pertinent lyrics from two of them. So, without further ado, here they are ... for your viewing (and psychoanalytical) pleasure:

"I was Once a Loyal Lover"

I was once a loyal lover
Whose lips did never seek anothers
But now each love's more like a match
A blinding spark that burns out fast

And they all conclude with the same sentence:
"I've never met someone more self-centered
Who thinks that life with a nice girl's like
Waiting for a bus to work"

And you can't even begin to know
How many times I've told myself 'I told you so'

"A Diamond and a Tether"

Pity, take pity on me
Because I'm not the man that I should be
I'm always turning to run
From the people I should not be afraid of

And darling, you should know
That I have fantasies about being alone
It's like love is a lesson
That I can't learn
So I make the same mistakes at each familiar turn

I know you can't hold out forever
Waiting on a diamond and a tether
From a boy who won't swim
But who will dip his toe in
Just to keep you here with him

I've got this habit I abhor
When we go out, I'm always watching the door
As if there's someone I'm going to see
Who could out-do the things that you do to me

I know you can't hold out forever
Waiting on a diamond and a tether
From a boy who won't jump
When he falls in love
He just stands with his toes on the edge
And he waits for it to disappear again.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A brief rant ...

Sometimes people just need to get away ... a hike, a run, a drive up the canyon. Something. Anything. Well, last night was one of those times for me. And so, at a quarter to midnight (local time) I grabbed my camel pack, threw on my hiking shoes and headed up Y mountain trying to get to this particularly picturesque, solitary spot in Slide Canyon I have been known to visit from time to time(for those who have yet to experience the joy of Utah Valley hiking, Slide Canyon is located just south of the Y).

I'll admit it ... I was angry. I felt misused, somewhat betrayed, and woefully misunderstood. And no, I won't go into the details, though, as you might have expected, they involve a representative of the somewhat misnamed "tenderer sex." Suffice it to say, the hike was just what I needed ... a moderately hard, uphill climb to solitude where I could listen to music and tune out. But as my iPod flicked through a particularly enjoyable playlist, a song by Ben Folds popped on that, believe it or not, actually seemed to sum the situation up (I know ... who wants ANY part of their life captured in a Ben Fold's song?). I listened to it three times. And while not entirely on point, the song did seem to capture a lot of my thoughts:

You Don't Know Me At All

"I wanna ask you - Do you ever sit and wonder,
It's so strange that we could be together for
So long, and never know, never care
What goes on in the other one's head?

Things I've felt but I've never said
You said things that I never said
So I'll say something that I should have said long ago:

You don't know me at all

If I'm the person that you think I am,
Clueless chump you seem to think I am,
So easily led astray,
An errant dog who occasionally escapes and needs a shorter leash,
then why the #%^@ would you want me back?!

Maybe it's because ... You don't know me at all."

Last night, I didn't get what happened. In reality, I still don't ... but I'm not about to waste any more time on the matter. A man can only do what he thinks is right; what others think about what he does is entirely beyond his control (and should be beyond his concern).

So say we all.

Well, thanks for reading. It does feel good to get that out there, though it is kind of funny that my first blog post in three months turns out to be nothing more than an elusive (though brief) rant about an obscure moment in my life largely too personal for anyone else to relate to. Funny.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Little More Song and Dance Please ...

If you follow the Oscars (and there aren't as many as there used to be ... though things are looking up) then you know that this year was dominated by two things:

(1) Slumdog Millionaire; and
(2) Hugh Jackman.

Slumdog took home a bevy of statues including (1) Best Picture, (2) Best Director, (3) Best Original Song, (4) Best Original Score, (5) Best Film Editing, (6) Best Sound Mixing (7) Best Cinematography, and (8) Best Adapted Screenplay. And not a single acting prize among the lot! (though things are looking good for Dev Patel and Freida Pinto). You want remarkable? That is remarkable. And it just goes to show how far a movie of unknowns can go when you've got a good story (Salmon Rushdie can go eat his own head) and a lot of heart (I mean, did you see Danny Boyle's Tigger Dance as he accepted the Best Director award? Or his constantly grinning face? If he's as infectiously fun in real life as he was on the Oscars last night, I would work for that man in a heartbeat ... as the coffee guy ... or the trash guy ... or the guy who gets the coffee for the trash guy ;)

All I can say is Bravo, Slumdog. Bravo.

But the real news of the night was the return of Entertainment to entertainment's (traditionally) least entertaining awards ceremony (though the Grammy's are right up there). And that is all thanks to one man:

No longer just Wolverine ... no longer just the Boy from Oz ... no longer just the Sexiest Man Alive ... Jackman has rightfully jumped his way to best Oscar host of the decade (Sorry Billy ... I love you too). As one commentator summed up the night's festivities:
Rather than the typical routine of stand-up comedian type monologues, Jackman did a sort-of song and dance that not only drew in the audience, but really entertained like no host has done before.

Get that ... he entertained. Makes sense, right? I mean, why wouldn't a show honoring entertainment's most palpable medium (the silver screen's been the entertainment vehicle of choice since the mid-1920s) actually try to be entertaining?

Time and again (and as long as I've cared about the academy which, admittedly, isn't that long), the Oscars have turned helplessly to would be comedians and ended up with flop after flop. I mean, I love to laugh (and comedy is good for the soul), but do we really need to see Jon Stewart mocking Hollywood off of the Daily Show? No, my friends. No.

Jackman was just what this recession-weary nation needed. A good, old-fashioned, entertainment extravaganza so darn happy that, at one point, it made my roommate John jump up and start dancing.

And Jackman's good-time show stoppers were capped off with wonderful segments by Ben Stiller (doing a lovely send up of our friend Joaquin), Seth Rogen and James Franco, and Steve Martin and Tina Fey.

Now it wasn't all smiles and laughs. Parts were downright boring or nauseatingly self-righteous (Sean Penn ... Bill Maher ... Dustin Lance Black). But though not perfect, the Oscars were quite an entertaining telecast. So, if you missed the live version (shame on you ...) or you just want to see the good parts again (and again and again and again ...), check out Jackman's fantastic numbers here and here.

Hopefully, with a little luck, this is the sign of things to come.