Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Boy Who Lived



Yes, that's right, today is Harry James Potter's birthday, and to commemorate, I am going to try to get myself through another chapter or two in my reread of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (it's taking me some time to get through it again for some reason, but I want to so I can get some drawings out of my head and onto paper). I used to try and do a birthday drawing every couple of years, but this year I'm going to stick with one (above) from a few years ago.

Also, for those who are unaware, in the past couple of days, a lot of Half-Blood Prince news has been released, including the official, substantial trailer! There was a ridiculous semi-teaser released a week or two ago:



...but it's just a generic set of titles with audio and no pictures that could have been an advert for any of the previous films, so the fans are glad to finally have a real teaser with clips from the new film:



It looks pretty promising. I like Tom so far, and am intrigued by the brief appearances of Ron and Ginny (although Hermione is curiously absent...). The fans are pretty excited to have anything though, since according to past film schedules we should have had a trailer weeks ago.

Update: Interesting side note--The young actor playing Tom Riddle is Hero Fiennes-Tiffen. Yes, that's right, he's actually the nephew of Ralph Fiennes, who played rejuvenated Lord Voldemort. Now that's an interesting bit of casting! If only Ralph had a teenage son who could play Tom in his school years...

Happy birthday, Harry! Oh, and J.K. as well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

American Idol 8 Auditions

As expected, here is the report of the madness and mayhem that was the events of yesterday. This is going to be long, but since many of you don't really know how AI auditions are run, the details might interest you. Here we go:

The events of these twenty-four hours in many ways mirror the similar events that took place October 2005 when Dad and I drove to "nearby" Las Vegas for American Idol auditions, but in many ways were also quite unique. On Monday evening Elise, Jeff, Lacie and I drove up to the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City to register (incidentally, am I the only person who thinks that is the most retarded rename of a public venue in recent history?), and found little to no line. Of course, the crowds on Sunday morning, when registration began, were historically insane, but we didn't want to deal with the crowds, plus, you know, previous engagements on Sunday morning. So we each had a wristband, ticket, and instructions for the following day.

I don't think any of us had enough sleep that night, not necessarily because we stayed up really late (although I did), but because were up around 4 to get ready and head right back up to SLC. We parked a nice, free distance away, and then, in the pre-dawn hours of the morning joined the thousands (in truth, reportedly 6000, which probably includes chaperones and guests) that were already queued outside of the arena. We were informed the day before that the venue wasn't allowing a line to begin forming until 5 am, and also that your place in line has nothing to do with your audition order, since our tickets detailed seat numbers based on order of registration which would indicate the order in which we would sing. We made ourselves comfortable in the line, having a light breakfast, playing a little Wackee 6 and listening to iPods. The local news and Fox camera crews were around, but looking for interesting (read: freakish) people to display on TV, and we also saw all-but-forgotten AI alum Justin Guarini. We weren't entirely surprised to find that we were in the second-to-last section, but we were glad that after only a couple of hours we were inside, away from the fast-approaching mid-day heat and sitting on the floor, although they wouldn't allow food of any kind or pillows and such into the venue (which Jeff and I ran them back to the car, sure the line would barely move in our absence, and it didn't). Unlike in Vegas, everyone was immediately ushered into the main arena and sat in their appropriate locations (in Vegas, there were several rooms of standing/waiting to get through, and I never really even had a good look of just how many people were auditioning).




Once inside, the crowd was directed in a series of promotional shots of cheering, welcoming viewers to American Idol, saying gaggy taglines ("Welcome to Happy Valley!" and "Archie did it, I can too!", the latter of which I refused to say), group singing, etc. (Honestly, if you want to be seen on TV, make a sign. It won't guarantee you get past round 1, but it will probably get you some momentary national exposure.) Then the auditions began. Although we were near the end of the group, from our unique perspective, we were able to actually see and watch (and for the most part, hear) the auditions down on the floor. For those who are unaware, there are reportedly two or three rounds before you actually audition before the three famous AI judges, in which hopefuls sing very briefly (no more than 30 seconds) for one of many "producers" sitting at nondescript tables, separated by black curtains. They line you up, four-deep in front of the tables, and four at a time you approach the table, sing one at a time, and then the producer will ask you all to approach, and then give you their decision. At the start, they set up five tables of producers, leaving space for the camera and crew, auditioned the first few people who had won local competitions/contests, etc. and then started the herding of the masses from the bleachers to the floor.


In a few minutes, a crew member introduced a very special guest, which I presumed would be a reappearance of Justin Guarini, but who turned out to be none other than the host of American Idol, that's right, Mr. Ryan Seacrest himself. I was genuinely surprised, since I don't remember seeing hide nor hair of him in Vegas. But there he was, and we were shamelessly and unapologetically acting like total fans, or at least I was. He seemed like a very nice person and interacted very casually and comfortably with the fans. Either he's a genuinely nice person or a very good actor, or some combination of both, but we were sufficiently impressed. We shot a few more group shots of show intros, this time with host in place, and when we were finished, Ryan did a little more in-front-of-camera work and eventually peaced out, and they set up an additional six tables for auditions, which moved the process along considerably, although we still knew there was a long wait ahead of us...

OMG!!! It's Ryan Seacrest!!

SEVEN HOURS LATER (which actually means 11 hours from the time we first lined up)...

Three of us made our way to the floor, at least in the final queue to audition. The preceeding hours were largely uneventful: Watching each and every auditioner; taking note of the surprising lack of weirdos (although there were a couple--the girl with the large and hideous hand puppet, the guy making an obvious show of being a crappy singer, the sequin-clad Tina Turner-wannabe); trying to guess who was in and who was out, being amazed at the number of Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood songs chosen to audition; trying to figure out what they're "looking for" this year; playing Phase 10 in the hallway while listening to painful rehearsal and warmups; calling into work places saying we were unable to make it to work; saying goodbye to Jeff who had to go for a job interview, for which we thought we would surely be done in time; etc. Elise, Lacie and I made our way to table 1, along with Charlie who was assigned also to our row. We took our turns singing (Charlie--no idea, me--Open Arms by Journey, Elise--I Know the Truth by Elton John, Lacie--You Were Loved by Whitney Houston), and then received a seemingly canned response from the producer ("This is season 8, and you all saw the show last year, so you know the bar is set very high, we had the Davids, Carly, Michael Johns, Brooke and everyone, we're looking for someone very poppy, someone with stage presence, high energy, great vocals, etc., and none of you quite fit all of those things, but you're all talented, and all really cute, so I'm sorry, but thank you for coming, if you weren't here, we wouldn't be, so thanks, etc." She kind of lost some credibility with me when she mentioned Brooke though...). She was actually really nice, and said almost exactly what I expected, so no way any of us could be disappointed. By that time, we were all so exhausted anyway, we didn't really have it in us to be nervous, and we realized halfway through the day that it doesn't really matter if you mess up your audition, since crappy people are obviously let past the first round anyway, so no reason to be nervous.

We were just glad to be done by this point. It seems like I just wasn't that exhausted at the end of the day in Vegas, but I think there were considerably less people auditioning there. Twelve hours after lining up outside, we once again saw the sun after going through the "non-winners exit" and weaving through the labyrinthine underbelly of the arena, at least reaching the fresh air of the outside. We were amazed to find that our food was where we had left it in a tree planter outside where we entered, and after eating only a measly, though inordinately expensive hotdog, I was glad for the warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fritos we had left behind.

A long drive home, a nice dinner, and then we all absolutely crashed. We were thinking of auditioning for the Scera production of Seussical, but I don't think I could take two rejections in one day, though our chances at the Scera are admittedly much better, and the wait would be considerably shorter.

Random statistics:
  • Hours on Tuesday from start to finish: 15.
  • Seconds allowed to audition: 37.
  • Average number of takes for each shot: 3.
  • Number of people in the venue: 6,000.
  • Number of auditioners allowed to the next round: 150 (give or take, boy:girl ratio about half and half).
  • People recognized in the crowd: A LOT (including three from the local singles ward, two from the recent Scera Celebrity event, one mission friend, several high school and college acquaintances, of course celebrities, and others).
  • Number of hours slept straight to recoup: Approximately 14.
So there you go! More than you probably wanted to know, but if you read all the way through, you win a gummi coke bottle, payable when you come to visit.

We always felt like the system wasn't entirely honest, and after seeing many talented people denied, and many questionable people allowed, our doubts are slightly more validated. We're not bitter, we really went just for fun, but now, having at least seen almost every single person to audition, if when we watch the SLC auditions episode we see some insane amount of freakish people, we will know SOMETHING is up...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another competition audition...




Well, I always said if American Idol came to Salt Lake City I would audition...




Apparently, and at long last, everyone's favorite televised singing competition will be plumbing for talent right here in Utah tomorrow. Elise, Jeff, Lacie and I are pretty determined to audition, just because it's right here, and it will be a fun time to join the incredible crowds and feel the hype and energy. I do think it's rather about time, since everyone knows Mormons are quite musically talented, it seems like LDS-central would be a prime location for decent singers (not to mention the obligatory weirdos that AI just loves to exploit, at the risk of actually letting more good singers through...).

For those who don't know, this will be my second time auditioning for American Idol (in 2005 I decided Las Vegas wasn't an unreasonable distance to travel for auditions), and while it was fun before, I didn't make it past the first round. This time I am pretty much resigned to the idea that none of us will make it past the first phase (of which there are reportedly several, before you actually audition in front of the three famous judges), but they are here, so we are definitely going.

As for me, I'm kind of tired of auditioning for everything and winning nothing. Maybe this will be my turn! Whatever the case, this will be my last chance to audition for AI, since the age ceiling is 28. It's now or never!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

If anyone deserves to be parents...

...these two do.


This is my younger sister Emily and her husband of 2 1/2 years, KC. They have been trying for years now to have a baby and, for many reasons, aren't meeting success. Emily posted this on her blog last week about their hopes for future adoption. If you read or follow any of my family's blogs, you may have read about this already, but I wanted to help spread the word. Apparently the adoption process is very expensive and difficult, and even the most capable and qualified parental candidates have trouble starting a family. They say word-of-mouth among the best ways for these things to happen, so please read Emily's blog and let me or her know if you know of any adoption possibilities.

Like I said, if anyone deserves to start a family, these two do. They are financially stable, morally sound, and want only to raise a family to the love of God. Honestly, in these days when moral-less he-shes can be inexplicably impregnated and become celebrities on top talk shows, and when skanky teenyboppers can get kicked off their highly-rated kids' TV show because of their unplanned pregnancy and then be featured on a sickeningly and inappropriately adorable People cover, it is just painful when people who are ready, able and willing are unable to start a family.

Emily and KC, I know this is going to happen for you, I just feel it. Somehow, it will happen.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My first IKEA visit

So I guess while I was away, IKEA came to Utah. The family all really love it, and today they were heading up and finally managed to get me to tag along. I didn't have anything particularly against going, I'm just not a big shopper, but they promised it wouldn't be long (Elise and Jeff had a couple of exchanges and returns), and they also promised cinnamon rolls. Plus, after the good folks at IKEA were kind enough to hand over to Elise free tickets to an early private screening of Mamma Mia!, so I thought I should pay a visit.

It was pleasant as expected, a fun time and a lot of interesting, posh furniture. Mom and Dad picked up a few small and hip items for the T@B, and Elise and Jeff looked for a bed frame and made their returns. We had lunch in the upstairs food court (great Swedish meatballs and chicken alfredo) and then made our way out. As much as I dislike shopping in general, I didn't mind meandering through the labyrinthine setup, taking in the semi-themed decor and learning to handle the shopping cart (with FOUR swiveling wheels!). I had a seat a few times on the cushy beds while Mom and Dad shopped, and eventually we did have the promised cinnamon rolls (which were good as expected as well) and drove home.

So, though this seems an uneventful post, I thought I should commemorate my first visit to the famous IKEA somehow, and after all, that's what blogs are for.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Celebrity Video

Here's the video, courtesy of Dad and his hardware. Quite a process to get it from the camcorder to online, but I figured it out eventually. Enjoy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Celebrity Report

Well, I was waiting until the video was available, but pending some technical difficulties, I have decided to write my little report of the Scera Celebrity event for those who were unable to attend but are still interested to know what happened. The video will be posted forthwith, but for now, I will give the report. Here goes:

So, after receiving my confirmation emails, I arrived in plenty of time to see what things were going to be like. It was a little... confusing, mostly because we didn't have a dress rehearsal or practice with the band beforehand, so we were pretty much performing on the fly (which is fine, I'm familiar enough with the song I chose, and the band was quite good). The 15 performers all went backstage about fifteen minutes to starting time where we at last received some instructions (performing order, directions on using microphones properly to maximize sound, rules, ugly t-shirt distribution, etc.). I was assigned number 5, and was actually pretty surprised to see the difference between performers. They ranged from 12 to mid-(late-?)50s, but probably more than half were under 18, which I think is a hard thing for a competition like this because how do you judge fairly? Also there were only three boys. We were briefed on the guest judges (local "celebrities" of sorts, though you would never know them by name, and in fact they never showed themselves except up in their booth) and told us three people would be announced to move onto the semi-finals next month.

So the competition started. There was some Kelly Clarkson sung by girls way too young for those songs, a lot of repetitive, average country, some pretentious performances of late-90s songs, some very karaoke throwbacks to the 80s, and one or two classics. When my turn came, I walked out and did my thing. My song choice was the classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water", and it went pretty well, not my best ever, but I was satisfied and the band were really complimentary throughout and after. I would sing with those guys anytime, they were funny and pretty good musicians.

Such a cheeser on stage.

It begins...

Starting to get into it...

My personal favorite photo of the night, courtesty of Matt:
My awesome right flip-flop-clad foot.

Awesome dutch-angle photo by Matt,
and awesome grip on the microphone cord in several places by me.

Getting into the last verse...

After the next ten performances (ranging from the amusing to the passable to the painful to the bewildering), Emily Noxon, last year's winner, performed a totally and completely original and not at all in the least bit sounding like anything else country song (sarcasm...) while the guest judges deliberated, and then they presented the finalists. As I half-expected (until the performances began...), I wasn't included among the three. I guess I can't compete with a so-so wunderkinds, the relatives of a famous musical Mormon and the token PC entrants. I was surprised they didn't even pick one of the boys though. Ah well.


As an interesting side note, as promised, today I received an email containing the judges' feedback! Observe:
Drew Graham
  • Nice voice. Even though it’s a slow song don’t be afraid to show emotion.
  • Good choice of song just make sure the notes and breathing are there.
  • Feel free to move more on stage.
I actually sort of agree about my pitch in parts, if I'm being picky (though I worked on breathing), but as for emotion, I only have one thing to say, or rather, show:


If THAT is not showing emotion, I don't know what is! But as Jared said, perhaps the judges stopped listening halfway through. I know I picked a song that starts a little soft and slow, but that's because I wanted to buuuuuiiiild! Which I did. A friend who came to watch was sitting near the judges and actually said one of them was texting during my performance. ZUH?? How unprofesh!

In the end, it was fun to perform with a live band in an outdoor venue, and it's good practice. I was uncharacteristically nervous before going onstage, but it faded once the music started. The outdoor viewing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix afterward was a swell consolation prize, though most of the singers didn't seem to stay. And I was very pleased that so many kith and kin came to watch and support me! Thanks to all who were able to make it, and to those who weren't able, for whatever reason, I don't mind. It was nice to have fans there, but I know sometimes it just doesn't work out, so no worries whatever. A bundle of joy and gladness to Lacie and Jared for the respective high-end equipment and award-worthy cinematography of the video (coming soon), and special snaps to Matt for the AMAZING photography! I never looked so good! The entire collection can be found here. I mean, over 100 pictures for a five-minute performance? Brilliant!

Next year... Elise? Jeff? Lacie? Jared?

And also, I didn't even get my ugly t-shirt! It was orange and said, "Yeah, I'm pretty much famous." What a rip! My own fault I guess, I just forgot... Or didn't care.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tonight's the Night!

Hello everyone. Tonight is the big night! I keep having mixed feelings of what it's going to be like (on the one hand, it might be hopelessly cheesy and embarrassing, on the other hand it could be really fun and turn out quite well). I received my final instructions, including song choice verification, and at this point I'm mostly just praying it won't rain!

So, check back tonight or tomorrow morning for a full report, hopefully with pictures (eh, Matt?) and maybe even video!

Stay tuned...

UPDATE: I didn't win. But at least it didn't rain. Details to follow.

Missus and Mister

My oldest BYU friend Spencer and his wife have written and produced a song together, and he asked me to post it on my blog. Click here to listen to their new song, "No One Knows."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Celebrity Update

Well, I was a little worried that I hadn't heard any instructions from the Scera regarding this week's events. I thought maybe my registration hadn't been saved or something. Anyway, unfounded fears because this morning I received an email from the Production and Programs Manager at the Scera with all the instructions I need. Hurrah, I'm signed up for sure.

So, here's my (probably) final blog reminder, although I sent out a very exclusive, elite (global...) invitation on facebook last night. I invite any and all to come and watch. Unfortunately, there's not public voting, like other well-known singing competitions, there is a reported panel of "judges", and it would still be fun to come and watch a live talent competition like such and thus. This event takes place at the Scera Shell Outdoor Theatre on Wednesday, 16 July, beginning at 8. 15 people will compete this night, and the singing order is predetermined, though they won't tell us when we'll be singing until we arrive that night. The email I received indicated it will go for 90 minutes, after which the included screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will begin. It does cost $4 per, although I think with a student ID it's only 3! Sit on blankets on the grass amphitheater and bring snacks and cheeses on which to munch.

"Join us for the 3rd Annual Celebrity... [singers will] compete before judges looking for Utah’s hottest talent! The winner will have multiple opportunities to perform throughout the year, including a TV appearance on ABC Channel 4’s Good Things Utah. Competition dates are June 11, June 18, July 9, July 16, Aug. 6 and Aug. 13. Three winners will be chosen each night and those eighteen will perform in the semi-finals on Aug. 22 prior to Dancing Under The Stars. The Top Six will open for Boyz II Men on Aug. 28...

Not a singer? Come cheer on the performers as they rock the mic to some of your favorite tunes. Then stay and watch an outdoor movie @ Dusk."
Information taken from http://www.scera.org/events/view/56 .

Friday, July 11, 2008

What do you remember about me?

Inspired by Emily and Cami. Funny how these things have sort of become the chain mail of the new generation. At least it's not invading someone's email box, and reading is purely voluntary.

Be brutal (ha ha).

1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember!

2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. It's actually pretty funny to see the responses. If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you.

There you go. Cheers!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chickens, Ducks and... ?


This is an "analogy" I read recently online, regarding homosexuality and its "genetic causes". It's a little blatant and heavy-handed in its convoluted moral, but I present it for your perusal.
One day there is a chicken called “straight”. A born chicken. One day when he was a young adult, he began to fantasize drifting across the lakes with the ducks. He watch some “documentaries” on it. So he made his move and dives into the lake. He felt good for that fleeting moment. Then his legs began to struggle paddling across the lake. It was then he realised it is just not for him. He climbed out exhausted, and with deep pain and the realisation that the lake life is just not for him. Then all the chickens rejoice for him for he had left the lake. He felt good, he felt pleased. So he began to go around spreading the news to every chicken community that the lake lifestyle is horrible, damaging and life threatening. Little did he know that he is disrespecting a duck who was around there.

That duck is called “gay”. He is a born duck. No one believes he is born that way because on the chickenville the land is huge but the lake is small. But he had lived his entire life as a duck, among the small community of ducks nearby. Some of the ducks had ventured into chickenville with the same disasterous consequences of trying to live like a chicken. But they realise they will never be a chicken and returned to the lake. These ducks were scorned by the majority chicken community for not trying hard enough to be a chicken. But the duck saw what happened and realised, ducks will be ducks, chickens will be chickens.

The moral of the story? A duck called gay, even by the pressure of the majority of chickens, can never be called a chicken, and must accept himself in that full affirmation. A chicken called straight may try to venture into the lake lifestyle for curiousity, but can never be a duck. Straights and gays are but two sexual orientations. Respectfully, all must accept what they are born as, and can never attempt to cross over. The evidence is all there. The day ducks and chickens were born, they were born distinctive in characters and will face life as who they are. There may be confusion along the way, but the true self always will mature.

Yes, I found it quite amusing, but at the same time so completely weak and hopelessly flawed as a fable that I couldn't help writing my own (by the bye, in mine ducks mean something totally different):

Once there was a chicken. He was born a chicken, he thought he would always be a chicken. His friends and family were all chickens. One day he saw the ducks floating and swimming across the nearby lake. The idea attracted him, and he found himself innocently drawn to the ducks. Some of his fellow chickens started to tease him, scornfully calling him "ducky" and "duckboy". They ridiculed him for wanting to join and spend time with the ducks. He spent his days thinking about the ducks swimming in the lake and flying overhead. He thought maybe chicken society was right and he was more like a duck than a chicken. After all, he liked the feel of the cool water on his feet and was so captivated with the ducks' beautiful coloring. Once he jumped in the lake and tried to swim. He tried to quack like a duck. He often associated with the other ducks. He started to feel confused.

Eventually, he started to believe the things the other chickens said of him, and started to think that he was actually BORN a duck, or at least with duck-like tendencies and interests, and that God had just made a mistake by putting him inside a chicken's body. He decided to join the ducks. He tried to look and act more like a duck--to make his feet webbed so he could swim with the other ducks; to make his wings stronger so he could join in flying with the other ducks; to adjust his voice box so he could sound like the other ducks; to color his feathers to look more like the ducks. He enjoyed his exciting, if counterfeit, new life as a duck. He met a lot of other chickens who also had realized they were supposed to be ducks, and they became his friends and powerful allies against their former chicken selves, often reminding each other that they were meant all along to be ducks. They flew in interesting patterns and spent their hot summer days in the cool pond. He felt like he belonged, and the other chicken-turned-ducks didn't make fun of him for wanting to be a duck, they welcomed him openly, reaffirming that the other chickens were wrong about him, and unfair to ridicule his new, "true" self.

Then one day, after many years of living as a chicken-duck, the chicken looked at himself and realized that he was simply not happy. He had a lot of fun, but the happiness it brought wasn't lasting, and he saw that he was being dishonest to himself and others. He looked back at the chickens and realized that they were wrong about him. Just because he liked the feel of the water or appreciated beautiful colors did NOT mean he was a duck! He knew he was not being true to himself. He couldn't change what God had made him, no matter what he said or did, and even though the appeal of being one of the ducks had at one time been strong, it began to fade as he discovered and learned to appreciate his true self. All the things chicken society had told him were just not true. He looked at his chicken feet and his chicken wings and knew that he was wrong about feeling he was meant to be a duck. He realized that he was created a chicken, and even though he at first thought it would be more fun to be a duck, he knew that is not who he truly was. It took him a while to change all the chicken-ducklike thoughts he had, but gradually he began to feel those old desires fade. He went back to the chicken colony and finally felt like he truly belonged. The fleeting happiness he felt with the chicken-ducks was soon overshadowed as he contributed and helped the other chickens realize that it's okay to be different and still be a chicken. His old chicken friends were surprised, but learned that he was right. To the chicken's surprise, his former chicken-duck friends turned on him viciously, snapping at him whenever he tried to tell them how happy he now truly was, and beating him with their wings when he said that he was trying to help other confused chickens. They called him a traitor, a liar, a coward and insisted he was even more confused than before--that he was still a chicken-duck. He was surprised and annoyed that these so-called friends who were so supportive of his decisions before were now so unfair to him, ignoring his rediscovered true identity, but demanding he accept theirs.

The chicken soon had to avoid the company of his old, fair-weather friends, and while it hurt him, he knew he had to be true to himself, even if there were a lot of loud, persuasive and powerful birds who tried to convince him otherwise. He knew ducks are ducks and chickens are chickens. Ducks and chickens complement each other, and they naturally are what they are, and they can't pretend to be what they're not. He was more of a chicken than most of them would know, and he had reclaimed his true identity.
There you go! And I didn't even have to explain what mine meant as I went along or include a labelled moral--hopefully it made sense on its own. It's still a little flawed, but much more coherent. And to the one behind the muddled original, thanks for the inspiration!

Banned!

It has happened! I am yet again banned from an online discussion forum! Only this time it was totally undeserved--last time it was only partly deserved. They thought I was posting under multiple names (I admit I did use another name once, which was an admittedly silly thing to do, and after the first and only time, I haven't reposted since, but after being discovered, do they REALLY think I would be stupid enough to post with yet ANOTHER pseudonym? Goodness, give me some credit!). This is always such a revealing practice. Silencing the truth strikes again!

Even if it is the result of a foolish misconception, it's kind of fun to be an outlaw.

Art

I did this last night in just a few minutes on Corel Painter. Lacie wanted to see what cool art programs I had on the computer, and I decided to throw together this for fun:


This is a very common scene in a Hmong household-usually a very poorly thrown-together PhotoShop job of mountains in Laos, complete with river and opium fields. It was fun to work with the watercolor brushes and have a perfectly unlimited supply of colors. The words across the top are the Hmong translation of "Laos". I thought I should post some original pieces of art once in a while.

A few late-night thoughts

Lately I have been involved in yet another cyclic series of online arguments. This time they do their research, too! In fact, they've visited my humble blog and even quoted it in their amusing barbs against me (in fact, they're probably reading this even now--Hello, XGWers! Thanks for visiting!). I'm always amazed, though I couldn't really care less, at the outright meanness of it all. I mean, people are just uncivil sometimes (I admit I can be not very nice myself, though I try to be). Anyway, this time it's been the same thing that I've seen time and again, with slight variations; for instance, this time my initial post was sincerely and honestly 100% polite and well-intentioned, though it probably wasn't taken that way. I usually avoid these sort of things, because these people are nearly impossible to reason with, and I'm also generally outnumbered, and like I said, it's cyclic and redundant and often goes nowhere. I don't usually mind, because I'm fairly resilient and quite immovable in my beliefs, and most of the time it's somewhat bewildering, but mostly amusingly baffling. In the past, I became defensive and personal, allowed myself to become upset and offended, and felt very unhappy and bothered. This time I was upbeat and mostly smiling, just bemused at the acidic responses and personal barbs. It was kind of interesting how unfazed I was. In the end I decided to have my final say and bow out, because the whole conversation turned so many corners and hit so many walls, it was pointless to proceed, as is often the case. The funniest part is that if my life went a certain unfathomable direction, these same people who apparently hate my guts would change their tune completely and kiss my feet with sickening sycophancy, and would become my best friends. Who needs friends like that?

People are so afraid of another point of view. Well, strike that. People are so afraid of certain points of view. There are actually a lot of popular perspectives these days, but the ones that really matter are sometimes just not well-received. The interesting thing about these sort of arguments is that my very existence threatens the entire worldview of certain persons (always with them telling me who I "really" am, how I'm "confused" and how my life and direction has been decided for me by my family or parents--isn't it possible that I walked my path and found myself on my own?). I read Mom's latest blog post tonight and found it surprisingly apropos. Sometimes we think we can't (or think we don't need to) do something when really we just don't want to. And then when we meet someone who HAS done what we are so against doing, it totally goes against our natural desire to be validated, even though validation is unnecessary if you have a proper perspective. Why is it so hard to allow another perspective? Heaven knows the world is having its say. It seems only right that there should be a little balance. Then again, I think it was C. S. Lewis that said (paraphrase), "There are very many points of view until you find the truth. Then there is only one."

Anyway, yes, I have a book that's almost ready for publishing. And yes, it IS going to be published. And yes, it is going to help people--it already has. My story is common and unusual, and for that reason I feel it's worth telling. And yes, I am willing and ready to stand up as a public example of this. I don't feel remotely like a martyr, and I CERTAINLY don't feel like a victim (Good heavens, some of the people I've spoken to in the past... you might as well paint a big old 'V' on their shirt front). I feel like someone who has a right to exist and to tell a story.

I really look forward to meeting my Maker. I think it will be such a wonderful feeling. And I'm so grateful for the knowledge we have of Him, His laws, His love and His plan for us.

I know who I am and I am happy. Some people try to decide for me (incomprehensibly) that I'm not, but check it out--I'm a son of God. In a way, thanks to my online opponents, more than ever I'm not confused in the least. What could make me happier?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Oh, and so you know...

My favorites of the below photos are these:
  1. Scarlett! I love her. And there is something quite stunning about the photo. Although Cinderella isn't exactly my favorite, I think she's gorgeous and that the photograph is expressive and artistic.
  2. Aladdin. Although I don't really love Marc Anthony or J.Lo per se (although I kind of like Lopez in some of her movies and such), I DO love Aladdin, and this photo just really evokes a totally Aladdinesque feeling. Plus, at least they look like they belong playing the characters (*cough*Beyonce!*cough*).
  3. The Little Mermaid. I'm fairly fond of Julianne Moore, and I have always loved The Little Mermaid, and I think the picture is so interesting. I like the overall blue tone and the contrast of her hair, and I think it's cool to see merpeople swimming around.
To be fair, I like the Phillip and Arthur ones as well, very striking and visually interesting, but the aforementioned ones strike me more. I think if I were more a fan of Snow White, the dramatic and beautiful Rachel Weisz piece would strike me a little more, and I like the fairies one, though it seems a little unnaturally-posed. And speaking of uncomfortably-posed... Pocahontas? She looks like a taxidermist had its way with her! I actually don't hate the casting of Jessica Biel as the gorgeous and elegant Pocahontas, but the posing isn't doing it for me. I seriously have no comment about Whoopi as the Genie, and I actually do like the Peter Pan one. I think it's a very interesting and varied trio of a cast, and as we're sort of used to seeing an adult cast as Peter (almost always an adult on stage, and usually a woman), I thought a dancer was a decent choice, and it was at least refreshing to see a man playing him. Step aside, Mary Martin! Probably my least favorite is the treatment on Alice in Wonderland. Beyonce (or, "Affirmative-Alice") is lovely, but terribly miscast, and her vacant expression doesn't tell much of a story, and that Mad Hatter/March Hare combo is borderline disturbing! I'm all for mixing things up, but that is really odd.

So there you go, my top three and thoughts on the rest. Matt was dead-on about Scarlett, but Lacie was closest to guessing overall.

Application Status: Admitted

After a certain bothersome amount of rigamaroll (sp?, and which I will certainly not bore you all with here), I am at last accepted back into BYU as a post-Baccalaureate student, so I can now enroll in the fall for my Psych prerequisites, and hopefully by Christmas, apply to the graduate program. I guess getting back into BYU was the easy part, and getting into the actual program will be the challenge... There are some pretty sobering entrance statistics, but I'm confident if I do well in the prerequisites, my chances will be as good as anyone else's. Surely I'll be able to focus on just a few classes, especially since I'm not having to worry about taking any ridiculously difficult GE courses!!!

So anyway, that's the update on that. I'm sure moving back to Provo (hopefully rooming with some old mission buddies) and going back to college will give me plenty to blog about, so look forward to the debut of Kuab Ci: The (Further) College Years!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Didn't we exist before?...

Today at church I heard a few things that always annoy me for some reason. I know for the most part people don't really realize they're misspeaking, or they're using archaic terms, or just don't think about what the things they say actually mean. I will outline the three most annoying church-related terms that we commonly hear:

Pre-existence: This term was admittedly used for many years before people realized it was rather a misnomer. We always existed (at least as far back as we know). If you refer to your recent edition of the divinely-inspired missionary tool, "Preach My Gospel", while you will find much reference to the Plan of Salvation, you will not find the term "pre-existence" used once. What you will find instead is the more correct "pre-earth life", or occasionally "pre-mortal existence". Like we talked about in Sunday School today, it's important to realize that before we came to earth, we DID exist, we lived and walked and talked with our Heavenly Father, and this is important to know because it helps us better understand our purpose on earth and our potential hereafter.

Free agency: Again, this was used for years and years, until someone must have realized... Agency isn't free! It's been paid for by the all-encompassing atoning blood of Christ! Someone had to pay in order for us to have freedom of choice and agency. Again, perusal through recent church publications for use of this term in its entirety will not yield many results.

Enzun: This mispronunciation of "Ensign" seems totally incomprehensible to me. It looks like one of the most phonetic words ever to be produced by the english language! En-sign! It's just that easy, folks. I suppose there could be an alternate pronunciation, based on your dialect or whatever, but it seems obvious how it's pronounced. Enzun indeed!

Anyway, that is all for now. Just a couple of my pet peeves. And if you can't rant on your blog, where can you? Maybe I'll do a series of random pet peeves of mine, ha ha.

Year of a Million Dreams indeed!

I ran across a few of these when I was in Appleton, actually, but there have been a couple more released since then, so I had to find them online.

These are a series of (mostly) stunning photos by the apparently famous Annie Liebowitz featuring celebrities as classic Disney characters, in connection with Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" theme park campaign. Some of these images don't seem entirely natural (in pose or casting), but I thought it would be fun to post the series anyway. If you can find any of these in hard copy, or in bigger digital format, you should take a look because they are gorgeous (and the detail of Tina Fey as Tink is hilarious). So, enjoy! See if any of you can guess my top three...

Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella

David Beckham as Prince Phillip

Beyonce as Alice, Lyle Lovett as the March Hare and Oliver Platt as The Mad Hatter

Tennis player Roger Federer as Arthur

Rachel Weisz as Snow White

Julie Andrews as the Blue Fairy and Abigail Breslin as Fira (of the new Disney Fairies series)

Jessica Biel as Pocahontas

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen as Wendy, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov as Peter Pan and Tina Fey as Tinker Bell

Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony as Jasmine and Aladdin

Whoopi Goldberg as the Genie

Julianne Moore as Ariel, featuring swimmer Michael Phelps as a merman

Here's detail from the Peter Pan photo. Tina Fey is a great Tink, expression and all!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

All right, all right, I'll do it.

These were posted on Cami's blog, as well as Emily's, and I thought it seemed fun when I read through. Here we go!

Three things I'm looking forward to this year:
  1. Going back to school.
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in theaters.
  3. Making some money.
Three joys in my life:
  1. My family, one and all.
  2. Music (my iPod is a prized possession), and media in general.
  3. Brownies.
Three movies I've watched multiple times:
  1. West Side Story.
  2. The Hudsucker Proxy.
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Three fears:
  1. Loneliness.
  2. Disappointing people I care about.
  3. SHARKS.
Three favorite foods:
  1. Fetuccini Alfredo.
  2. Pizza.
  3. BCE (if you don't know, you haven't lived!).
Three goals I've set for myself:
  1. Get a job.
  2. Pray morning and night and do daily scripture study (I will borrow this from you Cami!), and study Hmong occasionally.
  3. Get married.
Three TV shows I watch:
  1. LOST.
  2. The Office.
  3. Survivor.
Three current obsessions:
  1. My computer (I'm thinking of taking Minesweeper off of it... But never iTunes).
  2. Running.
  3. Blogging.
Three places I've visited:
  1. The Eiffel Tower and Montmartre.
  2. Green Bay.
  3. Ensanada.
Three places I'd like to visit:
  1. England.
  2. Disneyland Paris.
  3. Thailand.
Three random facts about me:
  1. I have a selectively "photographic" memory.
  2. I don't really sing in the shower that much (unless I'm listening to something, then I sing along).
  3. I always wanted braces and glasses as a kid. (One out of two so far!)
Three embarrassing facts about me:
  1. I still listen to music from my childhood sometimes (Muppets, Chipmunks, etc.).
  2. I like boy band music (some...).
  3. I have an irrational fear of frogs (muppet and cartoon frogs are fine, just not real ones).

NEXT!

20 years ago I:
  1. Was getting ready to be baptized.
  2. Was wearing my sisters' clothes on occasion.
  3. Was starting to catch the animation fire (via The Little Mermaid).
  4. Was just getting into readin (My Father's Dragon comes to mind).
  5. Made cassette taped game shows with Cami ("I wanted de eggo!").

10 years ago I:
  1. Was a senior in high school.
  2. Was student body artist (unopposed in the elections).
  3. Was "dating" the "love of my life".
  4. Was in and out of life-changing troubles.
  5. Was leading the marching band.
5 years ago I:
  1. Was plodding (and animating) my way through college.
  2. Was made used to the idea of never serving a mission.
  3. Was getting into the Harry Potter hype like you wouldn't believe.
  4. Was working on and off at the BYU Bookstore and living at the Glenwood (still my favorite college ward).
  5. Had long since left the life-changing troubles from high school behind for good.
3 years ago I:
  1. Was in Pirates of Penzance for the third and best time (first time as a Policeman).
  2. Graduated from BYU.
  3. Was "dating" the "love of my life".
  4. Received an unexpected mission call.
  5. Watched one twin get married and the other get engaged.
So far this year I:
  1. Have returned from serving a mission.
  2. Have watched approximately 81 movies.
  3. Have married off my baby sister.
  4. Have decided to go back to college.
  5. Have grown to love volleyball.
Yesterday I:
  1. Tried forever to fix the internet, leading to a minor meltdown (until, success at last!).
  2. Read over 100 pages in my book (due to lack of internet, no doubt), and did some consequent drawings!!!
  3. Played the piano.
  4. Made some nachos (wow, I actually made myself lunch).
  5. Ran to the church for volleyball.
Today I will:
  1. Do 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups.
  2. Hopefully read some more.
  3. Go for family festivities in the mountains.
  4. Listen to Chloƫ's CD.
  5. Text Lacie and tell her there's no LOST tonight.
Tomorrow I will:
  1. Attend the pie bake-off bonanza (first time in several years!).
  2. See if we can have a LOST night tomorrow after all, then end up recalling it's fireworks night anyway.
  3. Look for a hefty paycheck in the mail, only to realize it's a national holiday.
  4. Think of my foreign land friends with sadness that they can't have a day off.
  5. Listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "Spirit of America" CD.
In the next year I will:
  1. (Hopefully) have been accepted to graduate school.
  2. (Hopefully) have a healthy and fun dating relationship.
  3. Become somewhat self-sufficient.
  4. Have published my book.
  5. Have visited Wisconsin again.
Huzzah, there you go! This was fun, though sometimes surprisingly hard to come up with the proper answers. You win a BCE if you read it all the way through.

The G


So on Monday, the Singles Ward hiked the G for the Family Home Evening activity. (For those who are unaware, "the G" refers to the giant white letter that appears on the mountainside in Pleasant Grove, near the high school. When I was a kid, Dad told me the G stood for Graham, and I totally believed it. It was even lit up for Homecoming at the time, and I thought, "Wow... someone really likes us.") I had hiked it before, but it was easily a decade ago, and although I remembered it being somewhat strenuous a hike back then, I thought I'm in much better shape now, I'm sure I can handle it. So we went, and I pushed myself up that mountain. Though only under a mile in length, it is WAY steeper than I remember it being, and by the end, I was ready to pass out, which I almost did against the white latticed sheet metal that gives the G its color visible from the valley below. I don't know why I pushed myself so hard up the mountain... Maybe it's because there was another fellow immediately behind me and I didn't want to get passed up. In any case, it was a pretty fun time, and the cookies waiting for us at the trailhead were quite tasty and well-earned. Luckily they also provided bottled water for those who didn't bring their own. My word, two hikes in one week! Summertime indeed. It's better at night, it seems the allergies don't act up quite as much as during daytime hours.


So I learned all you have to do is push yourself as much as is safely possible and there will be rest at the end. Almost an allegory, that. And the view WAS spectacular.


P.S. Three posts in one night?? I guess that's what happens when my internet goes away for two days.

T@B

I know that Mum will probably end up doing a full-fledged blog post about the joys of their newest acquisition, but I think I will post a picture of it anyway, to whet everyone's appetite for coming attractions. They were both so cute and excited for their new hobby and home-away-from-home, and in fact, have spent almost every night since they bought the thing sleeping in it up in the mountains. Dad has a brand new hobby, learning everything about how it works and its many features, and Mom is enjoying giving it homey touches. Already they have used it more than the previous owners.


It was a great deal, and the couple who owned it before were very nice indeed. So here it is, teardrop-shaped and with yellow trim. All right, Ma, let us all know of your adventures! (Or misadventures?...)

Incidentally, the thing is called a T@B (read: 'tab'), for some reason, hence the title of this post.

Back online at last

Okay, so it's only been two days since the internet went out inexplicably. Well, not exactly inexplicably... There was a split-second blip in the power on Monday night, which was apparently just enough to completely screw up the wireless router on the main computer in the house. For a while at least that computer was online, though it wouldn't let any nearby computers latch on. Anyway, after that, last night and all of today neither the wireless nor the main computer would log on. We were all at a loss, and today I was seriously losing it, home alone and off-line. I felt positively prehistoric! I am so spoiled and dependent. But I was just annoyed because a silly little blip in the power shouldn't cause such drastic ramifications! (And yes, there were actually two blips that night, so good thing I didn't get it up and running only to lose it all again!) And it was also annoying because the router software seemed to indicate that the wireless was working, and all of our computers should be recognized by the signal. Bleh. So then tonight I went running and to play volleyball with the singles ward, and then, came home, and decided to take good old Roy's general advice ("Have you tried turning it off and on again?"), even though I had tried this method many times already to this point. But I rebooted the computer, unplugged and replugged the internet router, and imagine my surpreeze when the internet appeared to work! Almost afraid of what would or wouldn't happen, I went and tried to connect mine, and voila, here I am, back in action.

It's funny how important things such as this become to you. I mean, work, school, play, so much depends on being connected in this way. What DID they do in the old days? And funny, for all my time-filling, I still feel like I didn't really accomplish that much...