Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Buckling Down

This semester, I have had the worst case of Senior-itis I have ever had. I am normally a good student, all As and Bs, who likes to learn and likes the challenge that school brings. But I'm worn out. I just want/need a break. I have always been a procrastinator but I've always got the job done when it came down to it. But every homework assignment seems ten times harder this semester because I have to work ten times harder just to motivate myself to do it. Naturally, I've already fallen behind with all the work I need to get done before its over. May 6th is the last day I have to turn anything in. So, I'm buckling down and holding on for dear life. Roughly two weeks more and I can finally see the fruits of five years worth of work. And it couldn't have come any sooner nor at a more suitable time.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Epitome of Cool

Tom Waits, at the ripe old age of 58, has more awesomeness in his pinky than most people do in their entire bodies. The old musician/innovator/actor/composer has transcended more musical genres (and more importantly managed to stay relevant) for four decades.
If you don't know who Tom Waits is, don't feel bad. Most people don't despite the fact that he has somewhere around 15 albums, almost all of which have received wonderful reviews from the best critics in the business. Tom Waits has a style all his own. He started out playing rock and blues songs that you would expect to hear at a bar at 3 o'clock in the morning, right about the time the bartender is taking the last call for alcohol. But over the years, he got tired of playing that kind of music of and branched out to a new style of music which brought him the most acclaim. A mix of bluegrass, folk, and vaudevillian compositions, Waits came up with a style of music that sounded like the kind of creepy carnival you would expect to stumble upon in a nightmare. However, he never only plays that naturally dark kind of music. He also has a very gentle side to his music, where he usually sings about the things that most matter to a person when they get older (which if that sounded like an underhanded bash at his lyrics, it wasn't...they are actually more enlightening when they are coming from someone who really has seen it all).
One aspect of Waits' coolness is his voice. It sounds like Waits was born in the backwoods of Arkansas in a junkyard under a carburetor that was badly rusted. You think thats an overstatement? Wait till you hear his voice. I have posted two videos so you can fully grasp the scope of his music.
The first is the darker style of music, and the song is called Chocolate Jesus. My favorite part of the video is where he starts to dance around the stage in the middle of the song with more style, charisma and originality than artists half his age. The megaphone he uses in front of the mic is an example of how much of a musical innovator he is, as the megaphone makes his voice distorted and makes it sound like you're listening to a record on vinyl.
The second song is his gentler side, a song called Take It With Me. Its a song about a man who is spending time with his wife at the end of his life and he is contemplating all the beautiful memories he will take with him into the afterlife. Its a sad song for everyone but the man who is passing on who seems optimistic about his passing. It is beautiful. The video isn't much to look at but it was the only one I could find that had the song. Hope you enjoy.

One of my all-time favorite songs

I have decided to write about music when the mood strikes me. It just so happens I am currently in the mood. When thinking about what to write about, I had no idea where to start. So I decided to start at the top, with my favorite songs.
The song, I am writing about (and which I have posted a video of) is by a band called Sigur ros. They are from Iceland and they (hands down) write some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard in my entire life. A lot of people complain because they can't understand what they are saying, but it doesn't matter. I like to imagine its what I'll hear as I'm entering heaven, and a chorus of angels is singing to me in a language I cannot understand. Sometimes it is better not to know what something means, because then it could mean ANYTHING. Your mind has the freedom to imagine that whatever is being said could apply to whatever you're going through in your life. This particular song is from an album that is titled ( ). Thats right. ( ). Its called "Untitled", as nothing except the bands name was written on the album. The album art was an amalgamation of white shapes, but none of them were clear enough shapes to be anything. It was almost as if Sigur ros was trying to differentiate themselves from the Beatles by saying, "this is not the white album", "this is the untitled album". Sigur ros also went as far as to not titling any of their songs. There are 8 songs on the album and each song is just referred to as "Untitled #1", "Untitled #2" and so on. This song is "Untitled #4", however someone along the way called it, Njosnavelin, or The Nothing Song, so it is now referred to as all three names. The song is so gentle, like it could break like a piece of glass. I put it on a mix of songs I made to help me go to sleep a few years ago as the starting song to the mix. No matter how tired I was, I could never fall asleep during the song. Even though I've probably heard it at least 50 times, it never ceases to entrance me with its elegiac sound. In this video, look for the lead singer to start using the bow on his guitar. It makes an amazing transcendent sound that almost makes you believe that you're being translated into heaven. (The cd that the host holds up is the not the right cd. Somebody must have given him their previous album instead of their current album (at least current at the time) with the song that they play on it).

Monday, April 7, 2008

Soccer is Cool Too....Right?

I have become a big soccer fan. It started like all things do with me; a video game. I think any sport can be fun to watch if you know who the best teams and the best players are which is what makes a video game an informational gold mine.
My two friends and I started playing the 2006 World Cup Soccer video game as a (healthy) alternative to going to priesthood meeting when I was attending the singles branch before I was married. As all things do, when they involve Mormons and competition, the game playing quickly turned nasty as winning became highly important. Since that game is now outdated, we have started playing Fifa '08 which helped me learn all the professional teams in Europe and other places as opposed to World Cup Soccer which only had national teams. This new love of soccer is good because it gives me something to watch in the offseason of football. To help everyone embrace soccer, I have composed several key facts about soccer that will get you on your way to being a fan.

1. Manchester United is the British equivalent of the Yankees...they have the most money, which means they (usually) have the best players, which means they are hated by everyone who doesn't live in Manchester or by people who think they are being cool by liking a team few people in America know about but really are just being uncool because lots of other people already had the same idea.

2. David Beckham is not a striker (the position in soccer whose job it is to foremost, score goals) and therefore is not famous for scoring all the time. Beckham's soccer skills have to do with his kicking ability (free kicks and corner kicks) that seem to always allow him to put the ball in places that seem impossible. (see video below)

3. Ronaldino of Barcelona (and the Brazillian national team) is arguably the best player in the world right now. He's also weird looking. I'm serious.

4. Flopping, the act that many professional players do by pretending to fall down and be hurt in order to draw a penalty against the other team, is highly annoying or really funny depending on how much you care about the game and how poor the player is at acting. Whats even funnier is when you thought the player was faking but then they bring the stretcher out to carry him off the field.

5. The faux-hawk is a popular hair-style among soccer players as well as being a hair style I wish I was cool enough to pull off. (see below)

Well, that should get you started. Don't be afraid to watch a game or two. And if you don't know whats going on, don't worry. The person next to you probably doesn't either.
P.S. My favorite team, Chelsea (from Britain) has an important game today. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Invasion of Privacy OR Out of One Construction Zone and Into Another

For those of you who don't know, my wife and I are currently living with my mother-in-law. It happened because we waited too long to look for an apartment before we got married and so we needed a place to stay till we found one. Then, we got lazy and stopped looking and now we figured we've been here for so long that we will just stay a little while longer and we should have enough money to buy a house. But I digress from the point of this blog.
My mother-in-law has a nice house. It is three stories and has 6 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. When she and my father-in-law bought the house (and were still married) the bottom floor was just one room for a basement. For reasons I won't go into, they had to convert the basement into three rooms for three kids who were going to come live with them as well as building a full bathroom as well. Naturally, such a big house is hard to keep up with. My mother-in-law has been doing her fixer-uppers to the house in phases (sound familiar?). First, she got new tile in the kitchen. Then she got new furniture for the den. Then new hardwood floors for the den. And it has continued like that for the past four or five years (though my wife and I have only been married for 6 months, we started dating a little over 5 years ago).
Tomorrow, she is replacing the windows. All of them. Its going to take the window people three days to finish. This bothers me. I really don't like construction people. I know it is wrong to feel this way but they sure don't help me change my perspective of them. At my parents house, some construction workers, after finishing the job at our house, came back in the middle of the night and stole our ATVs. So, naturally, I'm always a little hesitant around construction workers. But it goes deeper than that. Its not just that I'm worried they're going to steal my stuff. Its that I don't want them to see my bedroom. And it has nothing to do with the stuff in my bedroom either. Its that my bedroom, to me, is almost borderline sacred. Its my sanctuary. Its where I go where the rest of the world cannot. Its where I feel safe. Its a special place. And whenever a stranger goes into my bedroom, its almost like they're desecrating the place, as if it will take a few days before I can feel safe in there again. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I'm overreacting. All I know, is that when I have my own house, I'll do the work that needs to be done in my bedroom. Not some stranger.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reflections on a Friendship

My friend is an idiot. He just is. He wasn't always this way. But in the last 6 years, he has substantially made wrong decisions over right ones. When he started to make a lot of bad decisions, I was the one who stood up to him to tell him he was being an idiot because no one else would. But he never listened to me. He doesn't listen to anyone. Because of who I am, I could never let someone I loved make wrong choices without me saying something (and from my viewpoint) try to help them. But as his choices got worse, so did my advice to help him which he quickly got tired of hearing. And this damaged our friendship to a point where I'm not sure it will ever be fully repaired. He's so bad now that I'm not sure I even want to be his friend anymore. I don't think I should feel partly responsible for who he is today, but I am positive that I drove him away. Perhaps if I hadn't, things would be different. But I'll never know now, and I have to live with that.

"Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question. 'We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything is needed?' It is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or more often than not, the part we have to give...is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us...but we can still love them. We can love completely without complete understanding."
-from the movie
"A River Runs Through It"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Final Thoughts on a Road Trip

Our last day in Denver, we went to the Natural History Museum. It was absolutely packed. We saw an IMAX movie about a guy who climbs the Eiger. It was really good except for the cheesy heavy metal guitar music that was contributed by Brian May from Queen. I actually wanted to leave after the IMAX because we had been to the museum on a previous occasion, and I still remembered most of what I had seen. Stace-Ghost and her friend wanted to walk around some more though so I was out-of-luck. We went through the dinosaurs which was boring. Looking at a bunch of bones has never been too fascinating for me. We then went to the Life/Health section which was really cool except for the fact that there was so many people there. You are given a card, and you do various exercises and other small tests and at the end, you are given a print out of how healthy you are in various areas. The lines were really long for all the exercises though, and I had done it before so I let the girls do it and I went and watched a lecture about the human brain which was really enlightening (you know how people say we only use 10% of our brain? Its not true. Its just you don't use your entire brain all the time. Like right now, you're not trying to recall what peanut butter smells like. Well now you are. But you get the idea).
I came back and the girls were still in line and so I just found a bench and waited for them to be done. After they were done (they were both very healthy), we left and went to a Thai restaurant. There wasn't anything else we wanted to do in Denver so we went back to the house and stayed in for the night and played cards. I didn't want to come back. Stace-ghost didn't either.
I drove the whole way back home because Stace-ghost was scared to. We stopped in Raton because it is almost exactly halfway between Denver and Albuquerque. We decided to eat
at McDonald's because we ate at Arby's last time we had passed through. It was packed. After we ordered, it took us 20 minutes to get our food. I got the chicken nuggets because that is all I ever order at McDonald's because that is all I trust there. They forgot to give me my sauce but there were so many people I didn't go up there and ask for some. Have you ever eaten nuggets without sauce? Its not very good. I was mad. I was even more mad because I had to use the bathroom and there was a line right outside the stall. I'm not very good at going to the bathroom when I'm pressured to hurry. I was mad. Being in Raton for the whole half hour we were there was the worst part of the whole trip. I floored it home cuz I just wanted to get home. I didn't want to come back, but Albuquerque is a whole hell of a lot better than Raton.

Thoughts on a Road Trip Continued

Denver is a beautiful city. If you haven't gone before, you should definitely make plans to do so. Its uncanny how clean the city is for how big it is. On our first day in Denver, Stace-Ghost and I went to the 16th street mall, which is an outside mall in downtown Denver. Even though there are only a few cool shops (Virgin Store, Nike Store) the best thing about being at the mall is just being downtown and seeing all the cool buildings and skyscrapers. We ate at the Cheesecake Factory for lunch (they do serve food other than cheesecake-to be honest, they actually had the biggest menu I have ever seen) and for dessert we split a slice of Fresh Banana Cream cheesecake, which is still the best cheesecake I've ever tasted. We then went to the Capital building and then the art museum. All of the art was amazing until we got to the contemporary art, which made me a little angry with the things they try to pass off as art (a giant ash tray with hundreds of used cigarettes and discarded cigarette boxes? Designer chairs? 4 halogen light bulbs in a box? Come on). Not all contemporary art is bad though, especially one painting called Release Your Plans that was painted in 2001 (see below).
We took the light rail home, which is kind of like a subway except it doesn't go underground and I was surprised at how clean it was for being a main source of public transportation. It wasn't without some crazies though as we quickly found out when a woman started yelling, "God Bless America! Go ahead and smile. Life ain't all that bad. You know, I died under this bridge and was reincarnated in this body so it ain't all that bad." She got off the train shortly after and everyone including myself breathed a sigh of relief when she did. But after having the day that I had, I couldn't help agreeing with the crazy lady. Life ain't all that bad.

Release Your Plans