Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wisconsin Teaser

Well, I really meant to do a day-by-day report each night at the hotel, but for various reasons, I haven't been able to write much except for the first night here! Things have been so amazing, and Mom and Dad have been such great sports, taking it all in as I cart them up and down the state. SO, I have decided to post this just as a teaser! When we get home tomorrow (too, too soon) I can organize my thoughts and photos (and rest, for an oh-so-very-short period of time before moving and starting school the next day!) and do my day-by-day then. Until that time arrives, please enjoy the following tantalizing teases:

Interest sufficiently piqued? Hold that thought.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy 100th Post Day!

Hurrah! 100 posts since I started my blog... not even six months ago. Wow. Anyway, I thought I would commemorate by posting the 100 Things list that I created when I was in Sheboygan. By that time, almost my entire family had been bitten by the blogging bug, and they had all made lists of 100 things about themselves, and Matt sent a copy of everyone's to me. I so loved reading everyone's lists that I decided to make a list myself (Hood was incredulous that I could think of 100 different things about myself, but it wasn't that hard, in fact, I thought I could probably think of 100 things to say about HIM as well!), and although I think Matt posted it on his blog or somewhere for all to see, I'm going to post it again here in honor of my 100th post. It just seemed appropriate. If you've read this already, definitely no obligation should be felt to re-read.

I'll just quote the whole affair (some minor edits made for grammar and clarity, as well as to make some points more current and relevant):

All right, based on the recent interest nearly my entire family has expressed in writing 100 things about themselves, I guess the time has come for me to make my contribution. Some of these might be kind of... touched by a missionary? considering my current situation, but whatever, it's still me. So, here goes.

1. My favorite color is blue (of any kind), though as a child I claimed green (blue was Matt’s, Amber’s was pink, Cami’s was yellow).

2. I have a fear of change, but at the same time, desire and recognize the necessity of it (for example, on the one hand, I have done my hair almost the same way my entire life, and wear the same watch I wore in grade school, but also sometimes do things like grow a goatee and try really hard to lose my tummy).

3. I hate shaving, but I have to do it all the time, and recently, more than usual...

4. I have made some of my best friends ever in the last year. I am sure Elder Johns and I were desined to be BCFs.

5. My best friend in the world, however, is and will remain Elise (NOTHING PERSONAL, I love and have a special, invaluable bond with all of my siblings, for which I will be forever grateful). I owe my relationship with Harry Potter to her.

6. I am a musical snob. Sometimes, I'm sure, to the frustration of those around me. But really, I can find something I like in every genre of music (almost--as far as I'm concerned, rap is not considered music). Musical theater and soundtracks are my favorite genre, and I can find something I like about almost every musical, but get mad when people claim to be fans when they only know Phantom and Les Mis.

7. If I could make a living singing, I would. In a heartbeat.

8. I have kept an on-hand, take-with-me-everywhere sketchbook ever since Grandma Julie gave me one when I was 12 or 13.

9. Brownies are my only weakness.

10. I also make amazing cookies. It's the only thing I really bake. Though, I once made an amazing chocolate cake at Cami's house (don't you dare say it was from a box!).

11. My top 10 favorite movies are (in no particular order): The Lord of the Rings (counts as one), Harry Potter (also counts as one), The Passion of the Christ, The Prince of Egypt, Aladdin, West Side Story, The Hudsucker Proxy, Brigham City, The Sixth Sense (and anything by M. Night) and... I reserve the right to skip the 10th. On second thought, I’ll add Sleepless in Seattle, the quintessential romantic comedy, just to make it an even number.

12. Some crazy combination of Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, Klaus Baudelaire and Edmund Pevensie is my literary hero.

13. I was inordinately happy when the new Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD (Showtime!) was released, as well as The Testaments on DVD.

14. I can never eat egg rolls again without comparing them to Hmong egg rolls (just so much better).

15. I only eat rice with a spoon nowadays.

16. I have an unhealthy crush on Jasmine. I even currently have a Pez dispenser of her that sits on my desk. I have since given a Belle Pez dispenser to Elder Johns, and an Ariel one to Tom Strawn.

17. I hate basketball. I just cannot like it. I like shooting, but I hate playing. Edit: Elder Hood has done the impossible: Not only did he get me to play one-on-one, but actually kind of enjoy it.

18. I still miss my cellphone. A lot. (Current edit: I depend on my cellphone. A lot.)

19. My favorite author is Thomas Hardy (thanks a lot, Cami), though he's hopelessly depressing. I think that's why, actually. Until Harry Potter book the sixth, he was the only author to bring me to tears (in Jude the Obscure).

20. I love being at the beach but hate the summer, and I don't really care for being in the mountains but love the winter.

21. When I left for the MTC, I was DETERMINED to learn to be a good letter writer. I think I've done well so far. (Current edit: I think I did really well from start to finish.)

22. I have an unusual admiration for and reliance on the dictionary. There's even a song about it in one of my favorite contemporary musicals.

23. I spent a semester drawing on napkins, flirting with Disney characters and dodging accusations about my sexuality while serving popcorn and ice cream at the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.

24. I have a BFA in animation from BYU (and it only took me six years to earn!). (Current edit: ...And I am working toward applying to graduate school in the Clinical PhD Psychology program at BYU.)

25. All through junior high and high school, I could never use a planner, no matter how many I bought or tried, until now, which I currently use every day. (Current edit: ... until the mission, where I used one every day.)

26. I like to think I have a relatively extensive vocabulary. This sometimes extends to my writing, making it pontificatious (might be a fake word) and verbose (which explains the length of this list).

27. I have been to Europe (Belgium and France), and adored visiting Notre Dame, Marseilles, Montmartre, The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

28. I have kissed six girls. I have (honestly) loved two of them.

29. Whenever I see a play, particularly a musical, I have an intense desire to be on stage.

30. I have a secret desire to be famous, if just for a moment. This has led me to apply for Survivor and audition for American Idol (Current edit: twice) and the Young Ambassadors.

31. I love being in plays, but I hate the audition process. I have never wanted anything more (in this field) than to be Frederick in BYU's Pirates of Penzance or to make the top 12 on American Idol.

32. I have in recent months developed a desire to audition for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when I get home (you only have to be 25).

33. Although I have learned to love the Hmong people, it has never been a desire of my heart to visit the Asian countries, especially Thailand and Japan. I may try Hong Kong Disneyland one day, and do a Laos/Thailand Hmong trip, but it's just so foreign.

34. I have never cared for video games, although I have in the past had mild obsessions with Minesweeper and Solitaire (on the computer), if those can qualify as "video games".

35. I am convinced all the world's problems would be solved if the UN leaders all sat around with a nice helping of ice cream.

36. I was relentlessly teased in elementary school, which I was promised by my siblings would end when I entered junior high school. It didn't. I was promised it would end in high school. It didn't. It ended in college.

37. Mom says I have a high tolerance for pain. When I was a baby, I didn't mind having minor surgery, and I can only remember twice feeling like I was in so much pain I would I would die (both events, incidentally, having to do with my teeth). Of course, this tolerance doesn't extend to my emotions (oh, the drama).

38. In high school I joined the clogging team to get out of taking a gym class and to earn the necessary PE credit.

39. I love classical music, and think some of the best composers in the world are Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven, and, more contemporarily, Gerswhin, Copland and the untouchable Bernstein.

40. I love the Oscars (shallow and petty though they are). I threw a huge party the year The Return of the King was up for everything and did a run for joy up and down the hallway of the Glenwood apartments when they announced it won Best Picture. I’m still upset Beauty and the Beast (the only animated feature nominated for Best Picture) was beat by the Silence of the Lambs in 1991, and also that Shrek beat Monsters, Inc. for the first-ever winner in the Best Animated Feature category.

41. I know an exorbitant amount of Beatles music, though listening to it growing up was rarely my doing. I fell asleep for much of my childhood to the tunes of the Beatles and the sound of a computer keyboard typing.

42. I did two Eagle projects. One counted for the award.

43. While some collected baseball or football cards, I collected Disney cards, convinced they were excellent reference material for drawing practice and that they would be very valuable one day. I never intended to sell them. I still don't.

44. I have only ever participated in minor scuffles in school. I usually ended up in trouble, though he usually started it. I'm not much of a fighter.

45. There are only a couple physical features on me that I am really fond of. My eyebrows and my hands. I am also vain about my hair, which may be my downfall one day. I also think I have a kind of nice voice. See #7.

46. I am slightly OCD (who isn't though, really?). I may keep a messy room, but some things I just like to be organized and in order.

47. I have recently developed an affinity for volleyball (Hmong kids love it, and are quite good, although they're generally rather short).

48. I think Snape is working for himself, and will claim loyalty to the winning side in the end, whoever it may be (let it be written, 20 March 2007). (Current edit: Not exactly right, but not exactly wrong either.)

49. My heart of hearts thinks that Snape will be redeemed somehow, regardless of #48. (Current edit: I guess this is true.)

50. My experience with keeping a journal is vast and varied, from the mundane to the implicating, from the ridiculous to the sublime. I look forward to Giant Journaling again, and I am keeping regular mission journals. (Current edit: I kept regular mission journals from start to finish, and have since been documenting important events through blogging.)

51. Glen Keane's animation of Ariel changed my life.

52. My family is my most prized possession, and my fondest desire is to live with them in the Celestial Kingdom in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

53. I have a very personal witness that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and (quite literally) life-changing.

54. Through the years, I have had methods of always keeping a pen on my person. For a while, it was in my sock, then often it was behind my ear, and currently, in my white shirt pocket. (Current edit: No longer in my white shirt pocket. Most of the time I just keep it in my pocket.)

55. My medium of choice has for years been what Elise would call a "delicious, blue pen", an ordinary, blue-barrel, blue-ink Papermate pen.

56. One of my favorite places on the face of the earth is Disneyland. I would rather be there than almost anywhere in the world. Some of my fondest memories (of childhood and adulthood) took place there.

57. I am very horrible at small talk with people I don't know very well. I hate trying to keep a conversation going, and I'm not really good with awkward silences.

58. I love reading, and I love writing. Part of me wants to "be" a writer. Some of this desire was realized when I spent a few months in 2005 writing a book.

59. I like being a living mystery (20 at BYU, 26 on a mission). People will think what they think, it's just kind of fun to watch the gears in their heads turning.

60. Elder Hood says that I am a mystery in many ways (one he cites is my "quick maneuvers" in the car). He is the one person who has expressed the most, open curiosity in my past, probably ever.

61. I have tasted beer. It was an unpleasant experience.

62. I am (almost) the only person in my family that has broken a bone. It was, ironically, my right wrist, falling off a tandem bike with my cousin Cody. I had to learn to draw with a cast, then relearn to draw without it.

63. I will spend three birthdays as a full-time missionary. (Current edit: I spent...)

64. I love TV, but I don't channel surf. I just have "shows". They are: 24, The Office, Survivor (it's NOT a reality show, it's a GAME show), American Idol, Prison Break, House, and last, but oh, so not least, LOST (!!!!!!).

65. I have been in many plays, including Pirates of Penzance (three times, twice as a pirate, once as a policeman, much more fun the last time), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Fiddler on the Roof, In One Basket, A Christmas Carol, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (a trainwreck), and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

66. My favorite role was Charlie Brown. Although it was a shortened production with a limited run, I felt I became him on stage.

67. I love Christmas music, and had a hard time when Elder Johns refused to listen to it until after Thanksgiving (he relented a little a week or two before, with little or no pressure from me). I am willing to listen to seriously saccharine music in the name of Christmas festivity.

68. I never really thought Asian girls could be pretty until two things happened: I started watching Lost (Sun is stunning) and I served among the Hmong people. I don't think I could marry one, but I really see how some of them are quite beautiful.

69. I love both coasts of the US, for different reasons.

70. I have long since accepted the fact that I will be the last of my parents' children to be married. (Current edit: Good things I came to terms with this, eh?)

71. My Hmong name means (roughly translated) "power shine".

72. I often have celebrity crushes. My most consistent include Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Natalie Portman, and Scarlett Johanson. Also, relatively obscure actresses like Claire Forlani (Mystery Men, Meet Joe Black, Antitrust) and Monica Bellucci (The Passion of the Christ).

73. Some of my heroes include Walt Disney, J.K. Rowling, Nephi, Abinadi and my parents.

74. I will be a first tenor forever.

75. I prefer altos. There is just something about a girl singing in her lower register.

76. I try not to take pride in my accomplishments, but in high school, I learned to play Peter J. Wilhousky's hairy arrangment of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It runs about seven minutes long and pounded it out hundreds of times at home. I was allowed to accompany the choir for it for the final concert of the year (but not for graduation, my real dream). I can still play it.

77. One of the proudest moments of my life was watching Elise as Fantine in Lone Peak's Les Miserables. I daresay I was as excited she landed the part as she was. I cried when she walked on stage and didn't stop until curtain call.

78. In junior high I had a crazy obsession with the Muppets. I had a copy of every audio recording from them available. I still laugh my head off when I watch those movies.

79. I was extremely critical of others in high school, but it was just a reflection of my own insecurities and frustrations. I have since (I hope) become much more charitable and thoughtful.

80. When I live away from home, I usually eat things that are easy to make, and come in a box or a bag.

81. I am politically outspoken, and have wound up in trouble on more than one occasion in more than one venue/forum. I was once banned from an online forum (undeservingly). (Current edit: TWICE banned, both times undeservingly.)

82. I have taken second place twice, and sixth place once in school spelling bees. For the first two, I still remember the words I was eliminated on ("lozinge" and "hydrolic"--Elder Johns also lost on lozenge when he was in grade school).

83. I shop too much. In the past, sometimes I would spend money I didn't have, especially online. I'm a packrat for CDs and DVDs. I'm getting better, though my church music and DVD collection is quite extensive.

84. I love horses, and have since I was very young. I hate frogs, and have since I was very young (I had a VERY vivid nightmare as a child which probably contributes to this).

85. My childhood fear is Freddy Krueger. I once saw Matt watching him one night and it has haunted me ever since. Also, don’t get me started on that one episode of The Twilight Zone…

86. I feel like I have a problem with pride, but I also feel like if I recognize it, I'm on the path of overcoming it.

87. I have sustained some bad habits from my early childhood into my adulthood. I am very close to giving them up for good. (Willpower is not enough!)

88. I own a model of the Golden Snitch (thanks Elise!), a couple makeshift wands, two Gryffindor ties, and three Gryffindor scarves. (Current edit: I now also own an official wand as well, also thanks to Elise.)

89. I claim Gryffindor as my house, mostly because Harry is in it and I relate to him.

90. I think it's weird when people claim they're Slytherins or Hufflepuffs.

91. I always pick a part in every play that I would want to be cast as, and it's not generally the lead.

92. I was the school artist my senior year. I was unopposed in the election.

93. I was in choirs and was drum major for the marching band in high school. Band camp was almost canceled due to lack of interest and organization of the band director, but I decided to teach the band how to march instead. Also, halfway through the season, the other drum major quit. We weren't good, but I was still defensive of us. In college, I had to choose between choir and band. I decided I would rather sing. I was in Men's Chorus for six years straight (except for the one semester I was abroad).

94. I have crashed one car, and killed at least two other cars. My Trooper, Moses, will forever be my favorite automobile.

95. I prefer Italian food over almost all others, though Hmong food is growing one me...

96. I have always been insecure and introspective. This has led me to a lot of trouble in the past, including struggles with my very identity, until I learned to rely on the Savior.

97. I speak five languages (counting Pig Latin and Mongese-different from Hmong. Ask Matt).

98. I'm a hopeless romantic. I so wanted to be in love like they are in the movies, that I had to learn and relearn what it's like to actually be in a relationship.

99. I'm very dramatic. If there's not drama going on, I usually create some or exaggerate what little there is.

100. I have recently developed a more involved interest in getting in shape, including lifting weights, although in past years I have enjoyed swimming a little, and running as well.

101 (bonus). I'm a work in progress.

WOW, that was fun. But hard. But rewarding. And therapeutic. I'm sure there's a lot more, but whatev. What an idea, who doesn't love to talk about themself?

That's Right...

My tomatoes are actually starting to go red!

They've taken their sweet time, and I was wondering what I could do to make them turn, and then one of them finally did, and not a moment too soon... It's almost September! I also picked two squash and a zucchini today! Too bad about those peppers and cucumbers that just never picked up. So my thumb turned out to be ever-so-slightly green after all! Surely not nearly as green as Melody's, but not bad for a little summer project.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dr. Horrible

It's about time I said something about this.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a short film made by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity fame) and starring Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, a wannabe supervillain (alter-ego non-descriptly known as 'Billy') with his heart set on taking over the world and proving himself a super villain, while at the same time getting Penny (Felicia Day), the cute girl at the laundromat, to notice him. Things turn messy when Dr. Horrible's plans are foiled by the egotistical "superhero", Captain Hammer and all attempts at villainish nobility by Dr. Horrible are thrown out the window! Traditional superhero roles are reversed and drama (nay, even angst) ensues! I won't give everything away, but if you haven't seen this, check it out. I'm not too terribly fond of the Buffy writing/story style, but something about Dr. Horrible connects with me, and I'm always glad to see people putting out musicals, even in this relatively small a scale, and especially through the medium of the ubiquitous internet. Note: There are a couple of PG moments, just so you know. Special thanks to Megan for introducing me to this gem.

My favorite line: "Four sweater vests!" You'll know what I mean when you see it in Act II.

The music is just so catchy.

Post-Olympics Past Blogpost Update

Regarding the casting of the following photo by Annie Liebowitz for Disney:

I posted this and a bunch of other gorgeous Disney photos several weeks ago, but only this afternoon did I realize who had been cast as the merman in the foreground (after hearing it reported on a Disney news podcast). In light of his undeniably incredible performance in the most recent Olympics in Beijing, who wouldn't recognize Michael Phelps's name? At the time I posted these photos before, he was all but unknown by many (maybe even most?), but now he's a record-breaking world champion. Just thought I would point that out, mostly because I thought it was amusing what a difference a couple of weeks can make in cases such as these. I suppose the other swimmers are supposed to be well-known athletes as well, but I don't recognize them either.

So whaddaya know? I thought I had never really bothered to blog about the Olympics, and I blogged about them after all! Sort of. And for the record, I think it's very strange when fangirls go on and on about how "hot" Michael Phelps is. He's really cool and extremely talented, but actually quite a goofy-looking fellow. Someone gets a little spotlight, and they suddenly become attractive! Rather an amazing phenomenon actually.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

It is My Great Pleasure to Introduce you to... UPDATED

Sheng Milicent!

It arrived late afternoon yesterday, and this is my first blog post written using it. It's a Compaq Presario CQ50, and its name was a subject of much internal debate and back-and-forth (both names are kind of a long story, but if you really want to know, maybe I'll tell later...). It was a really good deal (and even included free shipping!), and arrived in quite a timely manner. 200 GB hard drive, 3 GB memory, DVD/CD LightScribe burning drive, Windows Vista, 15.4" screen, etc. I'm loving it so far and having a good time transferring pertinent files from my dear desktop, which I still love and which is actually running quite well to date, to my new and portable notebook. Vista is taking some getting used to, but I think it's still cool, and undeniably gorgeous. Oh, how many times did I wish in undergraduate school that I had a laptop? I think it will be so convenient and make things a lot easier, but I'll also have the advantages of keeping a base station here at home.

Now all I'm waiting for is my wireless mini mouse and itty-bitty webcam to arrive from China or wherever.

Yay for a new toy. It's entertaining, and practical!

UPDATE: A few more specs, as were requested:
  • AMD TurionX2 RM-70 Dual-Core Mobile Processor (2GHz)
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1
  • 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • 15.4" (diagonal) WXGA high-definition BrightView widescreen
  • HP Imprint finish with integrated microphone
  • Integrated 10/100Base-T Ethernet LAN modem
  • 802.11b/g WLAN network connection
  • 200GB (4200 rpm) hard drive
  • Six-cell Lithium-Ion battery
  • Double-layer DVD±R/RW SuperMulti drive with LightScribe capability
  • Nvidia GeForce 8200M graphics
  • 5-in-1 digital media card reader

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Clash of the Titans

The Clash of the Titans is a film from the very early 80s about Perseus and his battle against a lot of opposing forces, such as the Kraken (pictured in the DVD cover, above). I remember it quite vividly because of the then cutting-edge special effects and stop-motion animation, particularly the flying horse Pegasus, and the "snake-lady" Medusa. But today my thoughts on clashing titans are different. It's something I've been learning as I've been working (even in a slight capacity) in the art industry.

I realized this a little in college as well, but in the real world it's different, and I've felt this from the last several projects I've worked on, including pieces for different clients/companies. A lot of times someone has a vision--something they would really like to have done, a clear mental image of what they want it to look like, specific instructions. Then, the trouble lies in transference of ideas. I think most people realize that when you commission a piece of work, you trust heavily in the artist to come as close as possible to your vision, and then tweak it a little, but then realize it's going to be a compromise, since things can't look exactly as they do in your head sometimes (even my own drawings have a hard time being transferred directly from mind to hand to paper). This is one reason films have such extensive crew and take so long to produce, especially animated films. It's hard to communicate one person's ideas to another's work. The point is that sometimes you compromise and work things out until it's close enough to how each side envisions it. Another point where the clash comes is when people from different mindframes and backgrounds meet in the middle and try to find middle ground. I've also been working with a lot of techie people, which has been so interesting. They have these ideas for the actual programming of something, but with the artistic assets available and the technical requirements of the project, some of the things just can't be done without serious adjustments to the art that you're given. It can be difficult as an artist to communicate the trouble I'm having so the technicians can see the point of view. I realize techies are artists too, but it's just a different type of art, a different side of the brain as it were. It's been challenging to work with the technical aspects while trying to get them to understand more of the aesthetic side of things, but it has also been rewarding and a real learning experience.

So yes, just some random musings about my work experience as late. Lots of good portfolio builder work, and people skills experience too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Productive Day -- UPDATED

Things I have taken care of today:

So, I guess I'm back on my way to Provo again for sure. I really hope my mission friends are still planning on moving there with me, because it took some real searching to find a place with more than one opening for a decent price.

I also freed myself of a project that I am unable to deal with at the moment. I feel like I accomplished quite a lot today! Now and then I just feel driven. Could be by unnecessary panic.

Update: So the apartment I had turned out to be a bust. Luckily they didn't process my application so there was no need to deal with refunds or broken contracts. I found a house for me and a mission friend to move into. Good location, reasonable price (they have just gone up since I was in school!), and it looks like a nice place! The landlord even threw in a nice giftcard from Target for both of us! As if he needed to provide incentive... There were a lot of people interested in the spots. I'm glad to live in a house instead of an apartment for a change, should be fun.

Bad Art Alert!!!

"We must recognize that excellence and quality are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and about life and about God. If we don’t care much about these basic things, then such not caring carries over into the work we do, and our work becomes shabby and shoddy."
-- Spencer W. Kimball (Source)

So, lately I've been exposed to a lot of bad works of art, and specifically that produced by LDS artists, including a grotesque novel and a painful theatrical fireside experience. This seeming trend of LDS artlessness concerns me for many reasons. The excellent article by President Kimball quoted above indicates that Latter-day Saints have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility and obligation to produce good art (or, art that is "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy", etc.), as well as the possibility to do so, considering our relationship with the Spirit. It concerns me when Mormons continue to churn out mediocre or even shamefully bad art, from literature to films to music to theater. I don't think we can expect everyone to be the next Handel or produce the next "The Last Supper", but I also think we should be able to expect not to have to trudge through the tripe that is splashed over the shelves of Deseret Book and permeates the inventories of online LDS stores with bright, vibrant advertisements and glowing reviews. Once when working at the BYU Bookstore, a woman visiting for an on-campus conference bought a DVD copy of the outrageously ridiculous movie based on The Book of Mormon. I asked her if she had seen it before, and she said she hadn't, but she wanted to support it because "it's Mormon" (incidentally, how a DVD can BE Mormon is beyond me). I so wanted to warn her of how hideous it is, and I may have mentioned that I didn't care for it, but the fact remains that people are falling for things like this, based sometimes solely on the fact that it's made by LDS (while ignoring some of the smaller titles which are actually quite good). Can you see why I feel like we have a responsibility to produce good art? It is uncharitable to bank on the relative artistic ignorance of the average LDS. How many more warblings of Kirby Heybournes, Kenneth Copes and any number of LDS boy bands must we endure? How many more of the lyrics of the Michael McLeans, Janice Kapp Perrys and pretty much any EFY artists do we have to bear? How many more simpering, golden-glowy Simon Deweys or Greg Olsens do we have to be subdued by? How many more breathy Mindy Gledhills or Hillary Weekses are we going to be exposed to? How many more Jack Weylands, Stephenie Meyers and Anita Stansfields are going to overrun our bookshelves? How many more The Singles Wards and The Home Teacherses are we going to suffer through? How many more arpeggio-fraught, identically-styled pianists' cookie-cutter new age versions of hymns are we going to listen to before realizing they all sound the same? Even the quality of many of the Church-produced films and music/pageants is questionable. Granted, many of the above listed artists do produce some good things, and it makes people feel warm and fuzzy and all that, but it's so often derivative or only "okay". Shouldn't we strive toward artistic excellence? According to President Kimball, the quality of classic art didn't necessarily die with the classic artists. We can and should produce virtuous, lovely praiseworthy art that is of good report.

For the record, I do believe there are LDS artists who are, at best, saying something, or, at least, doing it artistically (such as Walter Rane, Minerva Teichert, Brett Helquist, Greg Simpson, the 5 Browns, William Joseph, Gladys Knight, Mack Wilberg, William Whitaker, Richard Dutcher, Orson Scott Card, the BYU choirs in general, etc.), but I only wish these were more the rule than the exception.

Oh, and the meadowlarks are NOT still singing, by the way.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

HP Fans... You're Not Gonna Like This...

Okay, so Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's release date has been pushed back eight (yes, 8) months. Instead of being released this November, we will be waiting until July 2009. Wow. Real cool.

Story here.

So much for "98 Days Left" as previously reported by MuggleNet.

Coming Out (and Related Stories)...

Well, I hesitated for a moment before posting this, but I figure it's going to be pretty much public knowledge by the weekend anyway, so...

A few related incidents concerning relevant events have happened in the last few days. First, on Monday, Dad went to the Affirmation press conference in Salt Lake City. For those who are unaware, Affirmation is a group of GLBT LDS people which insists that the Church change its time-honored and God-inspired doctrine on homosexuality in the LDS Church. This apostate group promotes false ideals, maintains that the Church is incorrect in its standards on this issue, and are trying their darndest to pressure the General Authorities into changing true doctrine so they can validate and rationalize their indulgent lifestyle and the anti-Atonement doctrine of accepting sexual abnormality as natural and even preferable, rather than believing in the power of and ability (and necessity) to change. They believe in the Church, somehow, yet insist they are mistreated and that the light by which the Prophet et al. are working is incorrect (??). They apparently had a meeting scheduled with Church leaders, and even though it was canceled (could be just postponed), they decided to hold their whiny press conference anyway. Here, as predicted, they responded to press questions and spouted loaded rhetoric and overblown statistics. Dad was in attendance, and was able to observe their false and half-true statements, as well as ask some questions of his own, and they actually revealed a rather significant part of their agenda--the eventual allowance of gays and lesbians to be married and sealed in the LDS temples. As shocking as this may be for some people, remember that this has been a goal of theirs for quite some time, and they truly believe that President Monson is the chink in the armor that they need. With new leadership came a renewed effort to pressure the Lord's kingdom on earth into accepting errant sexual behavior as normal. I feel for these people, and can actually even understand part of their point-of-view, but they need a reality check--it's not going to happen. Read for yourself. Later in the day, after Dad handed out his card to some of the audience, including press, he was contacted by Katy Carlyle of Fox News to do a short interview on the street in downtown Salt Lake (apparently the Church was either unwilling or unprepared to present a statement on the subject at the time...). Part of it appeared on the 9:00 news that night, in a short but positive segment,which can be seen here, and the interview in its entirety later appeared online, which can be seen here. I think people are starting to realize the seriousness of these groups, as well as the ludicrous nature of their demands.

Second, as a result of Dad's appearance at the press conference and on the news, he was contacted by Brandy Vega from KJZZ, asking him, me and Mom to appear on their Sunday morning show, Utah Matters. Apparently, they had a fellow from Affirmation on last July, and it was time to show the other side. Let me say here that such a show of balance is all but unprecedented, as far as we've experienced. We've been interviewed for radio and newspapers and such, and once even were interviewed at length in our own home for TV, but the powers that be always seem to cut us at the last moment ("too controversial", they bleat). Now, at last, it seems that our side is going to be heard! It was a slightly disconcerting decision to remake, trying to decide if I'm going to "come out", literally as out as you can be, appearing on public TV, but I decided that it's worth it. And besides, with the book coming soon, the revelation is ultimately inevitable. (For those who still don't know, our story can be read here.) I think it's time to step out from the shadows, as it were. Heaven knows the Affirmation fellows aren't hiding out. So we had just a short amount of time to get across a lot of our thoughts, but they inform us that we will definitely be aired on the Sunday morning segment at 9:30. For those who are otherwise occupied and are still interested in seeing quite a revealing and truthful bit of TV, it will surely be available soon after on the website for our foundation, The Standard of Liberty. Brandy was quite lovely, and really wanted us to have a chance to get our main points across (refreshing, from the press), and even mentioned the possibility of having us back for future appearances. She was sensitive to the subject, but we assured her we were ready to discuss it. A few plugs for our books, and we'll be on the air! An interesting coincidence is that one of the guys behind the cameras at the studio was Chase Cheney, a longtime family friend. It made it even that much more personal to talk about everything in front of a camera.

And finally, on the way home from the studio, we heard that the Church has released a new official statement on the divine institution and true nature of marriage. It is great to read, and is definitely a step in the right direction. A clear, unambiguous statement regarding the nature of homosexuality is still somewhat absent (meaning, one that groups like Affirmation couldn't possibly twist and manipulate, which, believe me, they do, to further their causes), but it will eventually just have to appear. Elise also found a website that states uncategorically that no one (period) has ever changed from gay to straight. Uh... yeah, do your research.

Again, I really hope the best for people who are troubled by this. My views may seem harsh, but I'm talking about behavior here, not people. And make no mistake--there is help for those who want it, and don't you dare tell me I don't exist.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Breaking Dawn (or, "Renesmee Carlie?!?")

The time has come... Stephenie Meyer, you have some 'splaining to do...

Yeah, so spoiler warning and whatever.

So, I finished the latest book in the Twilight saga in the wee hours of the morning. I just had to get it done. As with a lot of other reviews I've read, my thoughts continually contained the word "gag". I found myself tearing through the pages, but not because it was so captivating, as is the case in general with a "page-turner", but because I couldn't wait one more second to have it out of the way. A lot of people have wondered why I continued reading when it was causing me such nausea. This is a VERY good question, and I have a few answers: a strange sort of morbid curiosity, wondering just how she's actually going to end it all; the compulsive need to finish a series, and not end partway through; to try and understand the hype and the "phenomenon"; the desire to have an informed and educated opinion so I can discuss it with strangers online (so important, I know); etc. I have so many thoughts about this trainwreck, it's hard to tell where to start. But I'll try. First, though, there are two things I would like to point out. A friend has posted some thoughts outlining some of the many inconsistencies between these books and the Church's standards on her blog, and Cami has also posted a lengthy and BRILLIANT review about the danger behind the hugely popular books with such salacious content. As far as the explicit content goes, let me just say that I was startled several times. I really don't mind if the characters get married and go on a honeymoon, but for heaven's sake, do we need to be treated to a detailed description of the activities involving the bridal bed and the magical cottage in the woods? It eventually became sex for sex's sake (violent and nauseating to boot), which is tacky and tasteless in a book that pre-teens are reading (apparently, Meyer asked that a warning and age limit be printed on the book--oh, how magnanimous--but the publishers declined). While I wouldn't classify this book as pornography, per se, I will say it has some pornographic aspects (yes, I totally went there, because, after all, so did the author). She did try to throw in a muddled moral statement at the end (delivered by a bland, faceless, underdeveloped character no less), but it just didn't come across.

Okay, now I'm going to talk just a little about the problems I have with the fundamental nature of the book and style of writing, which seemed completely like something straight out of the fanfiction vaults, all moral mish-mash aside...

First, and I know I sound just like everyone else, but... RENESMEE?!? It has Mary Sue written all over it! (Although, upon reading the wikipedia definition, Bella herself is a canon Sue.) The second I hear of a baby named Renesmee by a fangirl, I'm going to seriously lose it. Nessie isn't much better, but it's infinitely preferable to the other. And then, as if to add insult to injury, her middle name is Carlie (cross between Carlisle and Charlie, her two "dads"). Heck, if she's going the make-up-stupid-names route, adopting the idiotic practice of mashing names together, why not 'Charlisle'? Besides being hideously named, while Renesmee was supposed to be irresistibly charming and magically endearing, I found her creepy and annoying, bothered every time she opened her freakish mouth. Wups.

Second, as has also been said, the rules and standards of the Twilight world that have been built up since the very beginning are now out the window, instead leading to a lot of drippy, fanfic-ish events put in there just in attempt to make it more dramatic. The characters are completely different than they started out, and it's almost like SM went to fansites to glean ideas about what would happen, and then tried to contrive reasons they could be possible, since she has already stated they couldn't be (interesting also that there's a chapter near the end called "Contrivances"). Some examples: The smell suddenly doesn't really bother the werewolves all that much--sorry, shape-shifters, my bad; Jacob and Edward suddenly become BFFs (and yes, that term IS used in this book); some vampires have a virtually painless transformation; vampires actually CAN sire a child, despite the fact that they have no bodily fluids whatsoever; etc. Bella suddenly becomes the most typical of fanfiction characters: A character who is unprecedentedly remarkable, even for the world they are placed in, who suddenly and without preface gains powers that are beyond everyone else's and saves the day, and while being written poorly, is adored by all. It's just poor character development. And how convenient that Jacob imprints on Bella's child, cutting his bothersome obsession with the mother and switching it to the child, so everyone can be one, big, happy family. To quote a friend, "Imprinting: My loathing knows no bounds." And as for the all-important and oft-discussed topic of what happens to a vampire's actual eternal soul? Oh, just sweep it under the rug.

Next, the writing is just sub-standard. So many times I found myself absolutely lost, for whatever reason, and not caring in the least what the characters think or feel. SM has been lauded for her ability to write the mind of a teenage girl with realism and depth, and while that might have been somewhat true in the first one or two novels, now the twisted mind of Bella Swan Cullen is a complete and total mess to try and understand. She is her usual self-depracating self, at least in that way true-to-form, but now she has troubling shades of ever-so-endearing masochism, insatiable sexual "cravings" and violent moodswings. What a darling girl. Even worse, when SM switches to Jacob Black's point of view in the second part of this novel, she tries (bless her) to switch gears and write the mind of a teenage boy, and trust me, that is another animal altogether (pun intended), which animal SM almost seems not to even pretend to understand. Jacob's Book, while totally randomly written and placed, was more interesting than Bella's sections before or after, but only because we were spared the painful, gushy, ubiquitous descriptions of Edward and his freakin' lips every five seconds. We get it... Edward is just amazing. And for some inexplicable reason, so is Bella. Next time, try to actually get into the characters' minds instead of focusing on their anatomy. (For this reason, among many others, I don't think I can handle Midnight Sun... A poorly-written Edward gushing about Bella's scent and hair and eyes and lips and WHO KNOWS what else??) Inconsistent characters, laughable, unnecessary, unexplained plot "twists", I kept finding myself quite grateful when I was reading along and something even minimal and uninteresting FINALLY happened! Well, at least something happened!

Also, this book could also have EASILY been 200 pages shorter. There were so many parts when some shocking event was hinted at or threatened (Abortion! Wife swap! Premeditated murder and requested homicide!), only to be mused about or anguished over, and then forgotten. But why? Shock value? Well, some of it WAS shocking. Many events that took dozens of pages could quite easily have been condensed to one paragraph, and sometimes even one sentence--example: Bella goes to Seattle to buy forged legal documents for Jacob and the child (I just can't write the name again), and then back to Seattle to pick them up. These events could have been trimmed rather simply, or even cut completely! Instead, they are long, drawn-out passages where Bella whines and broods even more, and thinks of the unbearable hell that would be living without Edward's lips. And I didn't even terribly mind the ending (the neat wrap-up and half-baked conclusion was to be expected, after the rest of the contrived plot, even though they spent pages and pages building up to something I just had a feeling would never happen, which it didn't), although as with all the other books so far, nothing REALLY happened until the last 75 pages, and even then, nothing REALLY happened. At least that much was consistent. She threatened to make things happen, however horrific, but then, alas, she decided to brood and pine and muse instead.

*sigh* So, I didn't like it. There were one or two moments when I thought there was an interesting turn of phrase, and I do think Jacob USED to be interesting, but the rating on the right is impossibly higher than it deserves. There is a certain type of people for whom this book seems directly aimed (you all knew them in high school), and it's just a hopeless, gothic, morally askew fantasy of what they wish would have happened to them in school. I guess dissatisfied fans are trying to persuade large groups of each other to return their books to the stores, and SM is "hurt" by this. Perhaps she should have thought about this before she wrote a stupid, trashy book. What can this woman be thinking? Where are her standards? Literary AND moral? Did editors even get their hands on this thing? If so, they missed quite a bit. And if the Jacob/Nessie chronicles make themselves present, I'm going to throw things. AND, if I hear/read one more person comparing these nightmarish books to Harry Potter, I am likewise going to lose it. The only ways they can possibly be compared is in hype and popularity, but in style, story, content, anything else, it's just a joke! And surely SM must feel a bit embarrassed when they call her "the next J.K. Rowling". Gag. A lot of people (yea, even LDS) are calling this book harmless and exciting. To them I say: Dare to actually think about what you're reading! Just THINK about it!!! And think about who else is reading it. Do you really want your young loved ones to read a book with the following sentence?: "The only person I'd ever had sex with was a vampire, for crying out loud." Yikes. So wrong for so many reasons. If I have anything to do with it, my future children will not touch this book while under my roof. So many misdirected morals, it's scary.

After I finished, I picked up a random Series of Unfortunate Events book, and immediately the frustration I felt vanished. I laughed, I smiled, I slept soundly.

It feels really good to get all of this off my chest. Now I'm going to start reading something more worthwhile (read: anything else).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A New Record!

I wanted to post this on Saturday, but I wanted even more to wait until I had the photo from Melody to post along with it, and thanks to this post, I now have said photo (seen below).

On Saturday, against the will of my desire to sleep, I decided to join Mom, Amber, Cortnie, Melody, Jonny and Julia for the Alpine Days 5K. It was hard work, but I had a good time, and I really tried to push myself a little harder this time. I still don't know why they decided to have the race at such an obscene hour, but the good thing about it was that it was only five dollars! That's what I'm talkin' about. So, my new personal record: 27:27 (just under 9 minute mile, if my calculations are correct), and I was 10th place in my age group (which, I guess, is a pretty big-sized group perhaps?). Sometimes I think running is a form of prolonged suicide. But I still love it. Does that make me a masochist?...

P.S. Try to ignore that I look kind of creepy in this photo. I promise I don't have a mullet. And how about that farmer's tan??

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Today at church I observed the following: A girl who couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 years old reading Breaking Dawn during Sacrament Meeting at the Young Single Adults Ward. There are so many obvious things amiss with this situation that I'm not going to insult your collective intelligence by pointing them out... That is all, for now.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ib Hnub Tshwj Xeeb (A Special Day)

Today I watched my best friend sealed for time and all eternity (yes, that's right, ALL eternity, not part of eternity, or half of eternity) to the love of his life, 45 days after she returned from serving a mission, and 138 days (give or take) after he did. It was so lovely, and a really nice ceremony and luncheon. That's about it for tonight, all I really wanted to do was document this day and say that I'm really excited to have a brand new nyab. Jessica is an awesome, beautiful girl and I've never seen Chiv Keeb so happy!

I call this my "Sirius at the Wedding of Lily and James Potter" picture
(see this drawing for reference).

Jared and Jessica Johns

P.S. "Nyab" is a general term for "[female]-in-law".

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Upcoming Visit to America's Dairyland

Whoooo, yeah! Tonight, we bought plane tickets for me, Mom and Dad to visit Wisconsin for Labor Day weekend! I've been threatening that I was going to get them to come with me (read: take me) for some time now, but tonight we finally actually sat down and planned it out. We found some pretty good prices that coincide almost perfectly with Mom's first day of class, as well as mine. We're leaving on the afternoon of Thursday, 28 August, and coming back on Monday, 1 September. This will fall exactly on the weekend of the big Oshkosh Hmong tournament (annual get-together for thousands of Hmong people from all over the country, where they have volleyball and soccer tournaments, but also lines and lines of booths of vendors and non-profit organizations, including one manned by the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission Hmong elders), so I'll get to show Mom and Dad a real Hmong gathering, and a LOT of people at it. It will nice in the fall, and I'm way pumped to see everyone again! There are those who will be upset that I'm going back to WI already when I haven't gone to visit other family in other states for much longer (I can hear Cami now...), but I figure a trip back is kind of going to be now or never. Or at least now or a long time from now. So now it is. Hurrah! Three weeks!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Tidbit from the Work Files

As far as a work update, for those who don't know, I've been blessed with a LOT of work from Jandaco lately! Sometimes I wonder if they like what I do for them, but today I had a meeting at the office where they told me that they really like the work I've done so far, and also what they need for the latest client. So I have more work to do!

Anyway, here's a random image that I recently worked on. They gave me this description of the desired deliverable:
We need a carton of milk and a glass of milk for the Fitness Squad. I'm thinking it should look like a carton v. a gallon (I'm thinking with some color and maybe say "milk"...not just plain white carton). This does not have to animate.
And this is what I came up with:
I still have issues with the shadow, but you know. And they liked it. Hurrah.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Allow me to present a dissenting opinion...

Recently a friend told me that I have interesting and "unpredictable" taste in movies. (You can gauge your ratings with those of the movies listed on the right to see if you agree.) I decided to take this, as I'm pretty sure it was intended, as a compliment. I don't usually watch movies JUST to be entertained, although that is an important factor. I'm more interested in being moved and even learning something. The movies that mean the most to me are the ones which taught me something about myself or the world, my faith or life. I'm not ultra-easily swayed by popular opinions or reviews, although I generally do take certain elements of them into account either before or after watching a movie. I take what I hear, good and bad, and apply it to what I've seen, and see if I agree. I guess everyone does that, but for some reason, I guess I've incited indignation in some people because of my sometimes unusual movie opinions (heaven forbid I call out the more ridiculous aspects of, say, Pirates of the Caribbean or Spider-Man 3!). I guess I feel like I have a somewhat informed and educated opinion when it comes to film, having studied it quite a bit at school. When I was in my last BYU ward, I would occasionally send out a movie review on the mailing list when I was particularly moved by a movie, one way or the other, and even if people didn't agree, they seemed to appreciate reading a well-thought out review by someone they actually knew, rather than a faceless byline in the paper. So, continuing in this tradition, after hearing countless (and I do mean countless) glowing reviews of the latest Batman installment, I decided it's time to offer a differing opinion...

I didn't really like it. I didn't hate it, and it was 100X better than the hopelessly villain-confused Batman Begins, but I did feel like it was a three-hour headache, and afterward wanted to just close my eyes for a long time and let them rest and recoup from the grimy, yellow-tinted barragement of discomfort that had just impaled itself upon them. I think one of the main issues is that I don't like Christian Bale. He's okay as Bruce Wayne (that character is relatively bland and wooden in general, so Bale had no trouble with that aspect), but every time he spoke as Batman, I couldn't help but laugh. Why, OH WHY does he have to do that voice??? He walks in and says something totally nonchalant and casual, but sounds like The Thing from the Black Lagoon or something. I don't know how they or anyone else could take it seriously. And yes, he does have a slight lisp. Pay attention next time you see him on screen... Heath Ledger, in his much-lauded final role as the Joker was believable and well-acted compared to most movie villains, but (dare I contradict the masses??) fairly one-dimensional as a character. He had one mode: insane. He played it well, but there was little to no conflict to his character. The best villains in movies are the ones with at least a little humanity and a little internal struggle. And I do suspect his popularity in reviews may have at least a LITTLE to do with the recent unfortunate events surrounding Mr. Ledger. If he wins a post-humous Oscar, I will probably suspect current-event-political sway. I did rather like the Harvey Dent storyline, although his character also somewhat one-dimensional, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was a distracting replacement as Rachel. I do generally like superhero movies, indeed the X-Men and (first two) Spider-Man films are among my very favorites, and I am completely ready to suspend disbelief to enjoy a little bit of escapist action drama, but this didn't do it for me. The script wasn't all there, there were some attempted moral themes that didn't quite seem to arrive (though heaven knows they tried), and some of the casting was questionable. There are those who are easily entertained by the cookie-cutter big-name summer blockbuster offerings, but I guess it takes a little more to impress me. Which makes me wonder, what IS the film I've found most enjoyable this summer so far?...

There... Just had to get that off my chest. All of the saccharine reviews that kept popping up were giving me a toothache.

While I'm offering up completely unsolicited movie reviews, yesterday I watched the legendarily-out of print Song of the South, as well as the relatively new film starring those oddly ubiquitous penguins, Happy Feet. If you ask me, they banned the wrong film. Song of the South was slow at times, and not an entirely solid film in many ways, but in theme and methods of morality, it was far less offensive than the gag-inducing, shamelessly political-correctness-drenched Happy Feet.

Friday, August 1, 2008

HA HA HA!!!!

I really had no intention of blogging anything in any way pertinent to the release of Sister Meyer's new book, but when I saw the following I was quite amused. Thanks to Mandy for pointing this out to me:

Cliffs Notes of Twilight (borrowed from this blog)

Edward: I hate Bella.

Bella: I love Edward. Oh his eyes! What should I do? Whine, whine, whine.

Edward: OK, I don't hate you, I just have no self-control (typical guy), oh, and I want to kill you.

Bella: I love Edward. Oh his eyes! What should I do? Whine, whine, whine.

Jacob: I love Bella too, but I want to kill her. And Edward.

Edward: I want to kill Jacob.

Bella: I love Edward and Jacob. Oh their eyes! What should I do? I know, I'll lead both of them on and just whine the entire time.

Edward: Look, I'm shiny!

Jacob: Look, I'm strong!

Bella: Whine, Whine Whine.
Brilliant! "Oh, their eyes!" Ha. For the record, I AM planning on reading Breaking Dawn, at least eventually. Elise and I talked about it earlier today and even she didn't have an interest in going to a bookstore release party. I'll get around to it, and when I do, you can probably count on a review of it here.

Another exciting trailer released

Hot off the tail of yesterday's post, last night I saw the first official trailer for Disney's upcoming The Princess and the Frog. This film has been rumored and hinted at for months and even years, so while I was surprised, it's good to finally see an official trailer, with a release "date", though vague.

All silly, reported racial controversy aside (including major story and character changes), this trailer has me waaaaay pumped. I always said it was only a matter of time until Disney made a smart move back in the 2D direction, which means bringing back at least some variation of the formula that has worked so many times in the past--fairy tale, musical, princess, small, cute comic relief creatures, etc. It seems also that Disney has released a Pixar-styled trailer, in that it's sort of a tease toward the style and tone of the film and characters, rather than actual clips from the film itself. The characters have some instant appeal and charm, the look and feel is lush and gorgeous, and the music is tantalizing (apparently they switched from Disney standard Alan Menken to Randy Newman, who will reportedly be writing music for the characters in the style of classic New Orleans jazz). I am just so happy to see concept art and character sketches floating around the internet again. This could very well be a flop, but I think it has potential to do for Disney in this generation what The Little Mermaid did for Disney in the late 80s. Who says that 2D is dead?!?

So, while you can visit the Disney site to see a nice, big, clear version of the trailer, here's one posted on youtube as well.