Saturday, June 28, 2008

Whispers in the dark...

Actually, make that talking at full voice in the dark. Prepare for a minor venting session.

This afternoon, Elise, Jeff, Lacie and I went to the matinee of Wall-E (which was a pretty good movie, but not up to par with Pixar's other films as for me). It was nice to see a Pixar movie in a theater again, since it's been since The Incredibles for me, I think, but then there was the surrounding audience. The movie would have been a lot more enjoyable if the every action weren't being narrated before-hand by the kid in the row behind us. He announced to his dad everything that was going to happen before it did (I imagine he read it in a book or something), which wouldn't have been SO annoying except for the fact that he was hardly whispering. In fact, he was even talking above full voice (so as to make sure he was heard over the noise of the movie) and sometimes even repeating himself to make doubly sure dad heard. Elise has even lower tolerance for things such as this, and we considered moving to a different spot, but we were lucky to find four seat together as it was. I know it's a family/kids movie, and I know we went to a Saturday matinee, but seriously, is it unreasonable to expect the guy to tell his kid that he's not watching TV at home, he's watching a movie in a public theater and you can't talk like you do at home? Crying babies are one thing, I can totally handle that generally, I mean, they are infants, but this kid was at least nine. Maybe I'm overreacting and if it were my kid things would be different? But his dad just sat there and nodded "mm-hmm" at everything his boy had to say, and then fell asleep near the end. I cast a few meaningful looks at them, and Elise even gestured for him to shush his child, but eventually he did stop. I think it's because the book he read only covered the first half of the story, so his area of expertise had run out.

Anyway, it was eventually okay, but the moral of the story is to avoid Saturday matinees of family movies unless you want to risk having a play-by-play account of the plot before it happens.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An interesting conversation

After reading Matt's series of bizarre and interesting messages left on his phone obviously for someone else, I was quite surprised when I had my own series of misdirected text messages! Here is the dialogue, between me and Mystery Texter:

MT: Hey bro guess who?

Me: Erm... Walt Disney?!?

MT: Umm...starts with an h.

Me: Harry Potter! Of course, that was my next guess.

MT: I was thinking down the lines of hot stuff...

Me: Oh, of course... Also know as?...

MT: Hata

Me: I'm not a hata!

MT: Are too. What u doing?

Me: Working, getting ready to mow the lawn. You?

MT: Who dis?

Me: You tell me, you texted me first.

MT: I think i got the wrong number.

And there you have it. This is somewhat amusing, but mostly annoying because it cost me some of my precious reservoir of allowed texts! I never know when people call or text me, because they could be mission friends or something, whose number I don't have yet.

But snaps to them for use of the words "hata" and "dis", and of course for referring to themself as "hot stuff."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An artistic post (for a change?...)

Okay, after the uber-athleticism of the last two posts, I thought I would balance it out by posting two unrelated artistic items in addition.

Last night I watched Crash with my dear friend Liza. I had seen it years ago, but I told her I would only loan Love Actually to her if she watched Crash too, so I decided to join her to make sure she did. In some ways I think Crash is like an equally beautiful, complete opposite to Love Actually, hardly about the different types of love. In fact, I like to call it Hate Actually. But I had forgotten what a powerful, affecting movie it is. I hate when movies with a message are heavy-handed and obvious, so Crash is a refreshing moral movie. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it's a 2004 film (that won the Best Picture Oscar, thankfully beating out Brokeback Mountain) with an ensemble cast that features several characters with interweaving storylines. Set in L.A. in December, it's sort of a series of events that teach about hate and racial prejudice, etc., which, like I said, could be really contrived if not handled carefully, but Crash is so poignant and moving, about humanity and trying to eventually do the right thing. If you haven't seen it, do. Quite good, quite good (though, if you're like me, you might want to find an edited copy... I have it, you can borrow mine). I know movies are primarily to entertain, but the ones that really stay with you, the ones that really mean a lot are the ones that make you feel something, the ones that teach you something about yourself or your faith or the world. Personally, I feel it's a totally wasted opportunity to just sit in front of the screen and learn nothing (even a seemingly mindless comedy can still teach you something). "It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

Secondly, I've been meaning to post this for a while, though I'm not sure why. Just because I think it's cool that I'm totally on youtube now. This was an experiment, trying to upload material from DVD onto youtube. Apparently it worked, and the subject of said experiment is me on vocals, Jared Johns on violin and Andrew Wilson on piano at the Missionary Training Center, May 2006.

My, don't I feel well-rounded now!


The above was my reported time for my first 5K ever! (I have done one other race, Thanksgiving 2005, and it was actually longer by a mile, but this is my first official 5K.)

This morning we all went down to Pleasant Grove (to my old alma mater actually, unrecognizable these days with all the added structures) to run the annual Strawberry Days race. Funny, a decade ago I was also heading down there early this morning, but to march in the parade with the band. My stroll down the streets this year was a little less... in straight lines. I was glad to be around to participate this year, and had a great time with Mom, Grandma, Amber, Melody, Jonny (and Julia), with Dad as the ideal "athletic supporter," riding alongside with his bike now and then, and a couple of other friends. The weather was nice, the run was smooth (mostly downhill-so nice), and a good time was had by all. I am pretty sure this is a record for me. This time puts me at an 8+ minute mile, which surely is my best. Probably ever. So that was pretty exciting. (Oh, what would I have given to run a 9 minute mile in Junior High? Which we also ran past...) The thing is I think I might even have been able to do it a little faster. Maybe next time. It's so funny, I've only been into running for a few years, but I find it really therapeutic and even, in its own way, relaxing. And fun! Next step: the MARATHON! HA. Whatev. Go #110!

Random statistics

iPod 5K Mix (which I put together on the way down, and worked out perfectly):

Pre-race (warm up)--
  • I've Just Seen a Face (from Across the Universe)
  • Behind These Hazel Eyes (Kelly Clarkson)
  • I'm Still Alive (from Portal)
  • Breakaway (Kelly Clarkson)
  • In Her Eyes (Josh Groban)
  • The Call (Backstreet Boys)
  • You Can't Stop the Beat (from Hairspray--the best running song ever)
  • Wordplay (Jason Mraz)
  • The Spider-Man Theme (Michael Buble)
  • Falling for the First Time (Barenaked Ladies)
  • Pop! Goes My Heart (Hugh Grant)
  • Lollipop (Mika)
Post-race (cool down/finish out the list)--
  • She's So High (Tal Bachman)
  • Never Again (Kelly Clarkson)
  • Before He Cheats (Carrie Underwood--I know it's a girl song, but I like it still)
  • Make Your Own Kind of Music (Cass Elliot--Thanks to LOST for my love of this song)
  • Grace Kelly (Mika)
FYI, I just selected the songs, then let them run at random. I thought it was fitting that Breakaway was the one for the actual start of the race.

Total time: 26:58.0.

Miles run: 3.1.

Minutes per mile: 8:42.

Rank overall: 96.

My number: 110.

Number of times running toward the finish line: 3 (once for me, once for the above photo, and once with Grandma).

Side cramps endured: 1 (which appeared almost immediately after starting. Dergh).

Blisters developed: 1 for real (in a most bizarre location, in between toes), and a couple which were well on their way.

Strawberries eaten after: 5.

Buckets of sweat dripped: 42.

Happy Strawberry Days!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kuab Ci, the Athlete?

Okay, so as for my first quarter of a decade of life, I have been a rather decidedly unathletic person. It didn't really bother me (after junior high) that I wasn't worth much on the basketball court or the football field, and really, I have other interests that I would much rather pursue than watching the game or ESPN. So why, then, in my later life, am I finding myself ever so slightly more drawn to the sports that had for so long held no interest for me whatsoever? I blame the months spent as a missionary.

As you all probably know, once a week is Preparation Day for missionaries, which usually consists of laundry, letter-writing/emailing, car-washing, and then various and sundry activities, most often resulting in a game of basketball with the other elders. Not wanting to be a stick in the mud, especially since it would most often make the teams uneven, I would play along, even though I didn't feel entirely comfortable with my skills. After several minutes, however, I would lose interest. Enter Elder Hood in Sheboygan, and with him a sudden inexplicable and ever so subtle liking of athletics. I even went so far as to buy some exercise clothes and almost looked forward to our weekly volleyball/basketball nights with the Hmong kids. Elder Hood was even able to do the impossible and not only get me to play one-on-one, but even enjoy it a little. I think it's because he took me relatively serious, and was able to give me pointers and advice without seeming frustrated or annoyed at my lack of skill. He even said I made "leaps and bounds in the basketball department (no pun intended)".

Anyway, the interest in basketball itself didn't really last, and really, sports in general don't really float my boat, but every area I served in after that had some sort of regular volleyballing. I was okay at the start, but like anything, the more you practice, the more you improve, and Hmong kids are REALLY good at volleyball, so it was great practice to play with them. And now, to this day (perhaps it's the Hmong-ness that has been infused into my blood), I could play volleyball all day. I never thought I would feel this way about any sport whatsoever, let alone admit it aloud and as publicly as can be, but after tonight's weekly Singles Ward volleyball night, I felt like it had to be said. One of the "Movie Moments of my Life" happened when I served the winning point at Hmong Conference in Appleton. Also, when playing with the young single adults (as opposed to the Hmong), I'm considerably, relatively more apt. So there you go, I love volleyball. I still get annoyed at the importance that society gives sports in general, but at least now there's one in which I enjoy participating. One unexpected lesson from the mission. Who am I these days anyway???

Plus, I've always been good at keeping score. I always felt like I had to be an asset in some way, and counting is easy, as long as you pay attention.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Over the brink...

Okay, I'm ready to report. But first, the catalyst behind the controversial rentals.

Yesterday I finished reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I wished many times on the mission that I had read it before I left, especially since with the movie release came a lot of discussion and controversy, and I wished I could contribute informedly on the subject, so when I came home, it was on my list of to-read books. Here, I only want to give you a somewhat brief review, just a glimpse of my feelings after reading it. And they are these: Line-blurring pseudo-historical fiction with a not-so-subtle agenda. I have a problem with historical fiction in general, but especially when they start to bring religious doctrine and theology into the mix (don't get me started on The Work and the Glory...). And, let the reader recall that Dan Brown has made claim after claim that the book is "99% accurate", and even provides a disclaimer at the very outset claiming that the contents are historically consistent. I understand that this is a work of fiction, but it just gets too close and takes too many liberties with too many important facts to be overlooked (and yes, people ARE taking this book more seriously than it deserves, which is the cause for any concern I might have about it). It IS well-written, which makes it even that much more convincing, and thereby that much more dangerous (as it were). In the end, I resent the novel's authoritative claims that Da Vinci was a "flamboyant homosexual", that Noah was an albino, and that Walt Disney was a rampant Freemason, not even getting into the Holy Grail/goddess worship/Christ as mere mortal (or rather, Christ's divinity being the result of a vote) issues. While I understand how they can enjoy this book, I really don't know how people, especially Christians, can read it and miss the blatant anti-Christ overtones. Some say that you find what you want to find when reading something like this, but there are some things that are inherently there, whether or not you want to find them. (FYI, my sister Cami has written an excellent essay on the book, which can be found here.)

And now, onto the movie reviews... Spoilers naturally abound.

First, I straightaway watched the film version of aforementioned novel. I thought the whole thing was rushed pacing-wise, and also that the characters came across as wooden and caricatured, rather than layered and interesting, as at least they were portrayed in the novel. But at least some of the easier mysteries were solved more quickly (which annoyed me in the book... If even I can guess what something means, surely these geniuses can). In the film, a lot of the mystery was lost and the denoument/ending was mutilated beyond recognition. I will say that the film was decidedly less propagandistic, and even considerably less controversial in its theories and claims (for instance, the myths and legends of the Grail were not readily accepted and celebrated by Langdon in the film as they were in the novel, rather they were most openly espoused by Leigh Teabing, who of course is portrayed as a bit of a fanatic). It's almost like the filmmakers wanted to make a slightly more Christian-friendly version of the story, a little more politically correct or something. Langdon even makes some relatively redeeming comments throughout the film that, incidentally, his character would never have said in the novel. Anyway, it was a relief when it was over, and while I found the novel more exciting, action/mystery-wise, I found the movie a little less unsettling as far as its smug, authoritative claims go.

And now, for tonight's addition to the marathon of questionable material, I watched the film adaptation of the first novel in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, The Golden Compass. Again, I had read a lot about this, including Pullman's unashamed admission that the books have an anti-God allegory intertwined (think of it as the antithesis to the glorious Narnia series, in nearly every way). I decided, after a couple of recommendations and of course my own curiosity and desire to maintain an educated and informed opinion, to watch, and have to say that, just as a film, it was disappointing. Disjointed, confusing, and I just kept wondering when it was ever going to end, and how it could end satisfactorily (which it didn't). The film was less blatant in its propagandistic quality (seems like a trend...), but it was still there. The thing is that any atheistic slants just made the whole project seem sort of... bitter and vindictive. Like, the author was saying, "I'm so sick of God and Christianity that I'm going to make a story that is SOOOO anti-God that it will shock people and offend Christians everywhere!" Kind of childish, and not creative enough to validate such an attitude. It was left WIDE open for a sequel, but it doesn't seem like this film made enough to qualify for a sequel. Just another fantasy film trying to catch a ride on the wave of the far-superior recent book-to-film successes of the works of Rowling, Lewis and Tolkien. I should have known this thing would be a joke when, mingled with the previews at the start of the disc, a completely propagandistic ad about global warming and its negative effect on polar bears played, featuring Lyra (the main character) and other characters from the film. I almost wretched right there.

Anyway, that's all, really. At least all that I want to say here and now. I'm not about to start picketing or anything, I just am glad to know what the hullabaloo is about. Maybe if I were a Catholic, I would take more of an issue with both issues in question, but I'm mostly annoyed that those four hours of my life were spent satisfying a sort of morbid curiosity.

I guess they can't all be Narnia, can they?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On the brink...

Just so you all know, I'm standing on the edge, about to watch two of the more religiously controversial movies in recent cinematic history. Details to follow...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I know the last post is still pretty fresh, but I came across this when looking at Elise's favorite videos on youtube, and was blown away! I mean, I can understand that Corinne's talent took me by surprise, I really just don't know her all THAT well, but I have no excuse for not realizing Cami had it in her! Fantastic! Especially for a ward function. It reminds me of when Cami played Sister Mary Leo in Nunsense. I just burst with pride every time I watched her dance ballet in a habit.

It is also a pleasant surprise that Cami is enough a fan of Wicked to put this together. Well done, both of you, and good job for the nice intro, Jake.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The agony of defeat...

I almost never post things about actual politics-politics, but here goes...

So, over the weekend, Hillary Clinton announced her concession from the presidential race, and urged all of her supporters to turn and support Obama in her stead. Now, I don't pretend to know uber-amounts about politics, and I was absent for a lot of the beginnings of this political drama, but I have caught up enough to know that: 1) I'm glad that Hillary is out; and 2) It seems kind of churlish to suddenly ask her friends to support the person who has been her primary competition for the last several months. All she's done for ages is debate with this person as to why he's an unfit candidate for President, and now she's telling everyone to vote for him. I guess that's how it goes, when you bow out of the race, but seriously, the whole game seems so contrived. Unfortunately, there's not a clear good choice this time around, but I'm pretty sure that Obama would be a veritable political mess in office. No matter what he does, if things turn out sour and people criticize him, everyone will pull the race card, whether or not it has anything to do with the issue at hand. People always say his candidacy has nothing to do with race, but then bring it up anyway! (Especially his wife, oh pur-lease!)

Honestly, I don't think I ever really took Hillary seriously as a presidential candidate. She seemed like a teenager running for student body president rather than a senator running for President of the United States. Some of the Hmong people I talked to about this really had quite a few good points as to why this woman could not run the country, but I won't post them at the risk of igniting a flame of indignation, especially for the super-feminists among you. Besides, Hillary has already basically served two terms as President, it wouldn't be fair for her to get another go!

Here's hoping she doesn't brown-nose her way into a VP spot in the Obama campaign. That's just what we need, Obama AND Clinton in the office...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Back to school?...

Well, after a long talk with Mom and Dad last night, I think I have pretty much come to the conclusion that I'm going back to school. I do want to work in the animation field, but as yet, it doesn't look too promising, at least not right away. I lost a lot of graduation momentum taking two years off right after I left school, and my demo reel is sadly lacking for the standards that most studios require, even smaller local ones. So, at the risk of finding myself a completely unmarketable person in the world, especially in the future when a family might be involved, I have decided to study in the field of Psychology. I feel like I have certain artistic skills that could be put to good use in the world, but I also want to help people, and because of my background and history, and my interest in the amazing nature of the creation of the human mind, I think this is up my alley. I would want to study family psychology, and eventually have a degree in clinical work and therapy. (Incidentally, I had in the past considered law and medicine, but I don't know if those are really for me.) In some ways, I feel like this is a concession, giving up the dreams I've always had, but at the same time, I can't help thinking this might be a reason things aren't quite working out so far. In the arts, I've always felt I was good at a lot of things, but not really GREAT at anything. Maybe it's time to study something a little less visual... I did take the Intro to Psych class for a general requirement way back when, and really enjoyed it, I even considered continuing a little more into psychology for some electives. So, today I've been on the phone with Admissions at BYU, figuring out if a student with a BFA can go back to school before getting into a graduate program, and they said that I should be able to, all it requires is an abbreviated version of the admission application, a renewed ecclesiastical endorsement and a letter of explanation, telling why I need to go to school in between degrees, etc. They even waive the application fee for such cases! They said if you have a 3.0 and you went to BYU before, the chances are pretty good of getting back in. There are just a few prerequisites required to apply to the Psych graduate program, and if I get accepted for the post-BA status, I can start taking classes as early as Summer term this year, and maybe be done with the prerequisites by January.

So, I think that's what I might do. Yea? Nay?

I mean, really, if I could make a living singing, I would do that in an instant, but you know, I need to think about the future.

Monday, June 2, 2008

iPod Update

So, as for update #2 (in re: this post)...

As yet, my iPod is still woefully unresponsive. As directed by several sources, I let it sit for several days (nigh a week), even in front of a desk fan for added circulation and drying, but even then (even now, actually), the poor thing just will not turn on. I hear from many people that sometimes a month, or even months later, the thing will just suddenly start working again, when its parts are all finally dry, but you know me... I can't wait that long. Dad was ever so nice enough to loan me an extra little mp3 player so I can go on my runs, but I still held out hope for my beloved iPod. And I still kind of do.

But then, in a strange and surprising turn of events, an elder still serving in my mission contacted me to let me know that he had by a series of circumstances come to own a new 16 gb iTouch (at a bafflingly reasonable discount, due to a damaged product previously purchase), and was no longer in need of the player that he had bought back when we were in Appleton together in December. In the end, he offered it up to me, and I ever so eagerly accepted. In return, he sent me his iTouch so that I could load it up with all the missionary-appropriate music that the boy could ever ask for. I even put a few church videos on there (heaven knows the thing had enough space). I still felt like I should pay him something for it, since it is practically new, so I sent some cash when I sent back his fully-loaded iTouch.

So now I am the proud and happy owner of an 8 gb 3rd Generation iPod Nano video!

Elder... You know who you are. You know I already loved you, but now I add my thanks. You're a life-saver!