Thursday, December 16, 2010

perfectibility is at hand

I came across this gem of a quote while I was doing some research for my forthcoming John Steinbeck blog:

"We have usurped many of the powers we once ascribed to God.

"Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed lordship over the life or death of the whole world - of all living things.

"The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand.

"Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have."

Given by John Steinbeck upon receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 (emphasis added). Full text here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Please don't tell me I can't make it

A few weeks ago a friend told me that I've done a lot with my life; I wish it were as easy to believe the good things that others say about you as it is to believe the negative things you think about yourself.

after. math
I'm fixin' to carve this out of wood

That must be what friends are for -- to believe those things when you don't.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

earthbound but aspiring

It seems like a lot of people I know have their first run-in with Mr. John Steinbeck in a high school literature class, usually by way of The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men, sometimes The Pearl, or if they're lucky, Cannery Row. I must've been enrolled in the dumb kid high school English classes because my first Steinbeck encounter didn't occur till age 24. I'm glad of this though, because I wonder if I would have appreciated or understood him in high school (in other words, I was appropriately placed in those dumb kid English classes).

This is probably my favorite photo of Steinbeck. There's just something about it that says, "I'm John Steinbeck, what the #@%$ are you gonna do about it?" Incidentally, if anyone can find a hi-res version or a poster/print of this photo I'll be your best friend.

For the past year and a half or so I've been searching... though for what I've never been quite sure. I've just had this urge to create something original, to share something unique. I try to not make a habit of comparing myself to others, but in some cases with the right motivation, it's not such a bad thing. So in my vague search for fulfillment I considered my hobbies, my talents, things I enjoy doing -- specifically music, writing, and photography -- to find out what sets me apart from my friends, family and peers. I didn't feel that I had to be the best at any one of those things, but I did feel like my natural abilities in each of those areas were dim at best when compared to certain friends. While I enjoy those aforementioned pursuits and I will continue doing them, I don't necessarily feel like I have something unique and significant to offer therein.

A few weeks ago I feel like I identified a trait that sets me apart from my friends and many of my peers -- something that only I bring to the table: my love of John Steinbeck. When you love something, you have a hard time understanding why others don't love it as much as you do; when you love something, you want to share it with others. So the next step is logical: create a separate blog devoted to Mr. Steinbeck.

Now, I couldn't just create a blog about Steinbeck and blog here and there, willy-nilly about random Steinbeck thoughts and readings. So I decided on a structure and made myself a schedule. The plan, starting December 2010, is to read one work (novel or non-fiction) per month in the order in which they were published until I have read each work (which, according to schedule, won't be until November 2012). Throughout each month, I'll post my thoughts on the book I read, along with two to three other posts having to do with thoughts related to the book or to Steinbeck in general. (Click here for my reading schedule. I'm not expecting anyone to join my quest but it would be awesome if every now and then someone read a book or two concurrent to my schedule.)

Because I want to do this right, I don't have the blog up and running yet (and I have yet to read Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold). I'm planning on having it up by January 1, 2011; sooner if I can manage.

Update, 2/14/2011: You can find this blog here: earthboundbutaspiring.com.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I owe you one, Harry

I remember it well. My senior year in high school. Ms. Tuzzino's mythology class. I sat in the front left corner of the classroom with my buddies, Jeff, Tyler, and Dave. OK, maybe I don't remember it as well as I thought because I don't remember how they got on the topic, but somehow Dave and Tyler started taking about Harry Potter. I was confused. I interrupted, "Wait, you guys read Harry Potter? My 12 year old brother reads that stuff."

They were two friends whose tastes and opinions I respected, so I was intrigued. I don't know if it was that night, but soon thereafter, I picked up my brother's copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I thought it was a good book, though I wasn't blown away, and I wasn't moved. But never had I been able to finish a book so quickly, and never had I been so engaged as a reader.

I picked up the second. By the third I was hooked. Forever. Reading the fourth was a milestone for me -- by my first reading, it was the longest book I had ever read, weighing in at 734 pages.

Only days away. Mere days.

Something magical happened after I read Harry Potter. I began devouring other books with the same passion. Prior to Harry, I had never considered myself much of a reader. Sure, I read here and there, but never with any consistency, taking months at a time to finish a single book. Through Harry Potter, I discovered that reading was not only enjoyable, but that it moved, inspired, and effected me in ways few things can.

So the least I can do is say thanks. Thank you, Harry and friends (and enemies) for so many great years, all seven of them. Thank you for helping me develop a love for reading, without which I would have missed out on so many great books that have influenced me so positively. Thank you for the movies too, which don't really compare to the books, but have nevertheless provided a way for my friends and me to grow closer as we celebrate you, the Boy Who Lived -- the boy who will always live on in my imagination and heart for years and years to come.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

old school

So a couple weeks ago I bought a scanner. I've been pretty busy so I'm just now getting around to using it.

I bought it partly because I have a slew of pictures to scan (mission, high school and otherwise) that I took before the advent of digital photography. But one of the main reasons I bought this scanner is because it scans film negatives.

About a year ago I started messing around with a couple old film cameras and it didn't take long for me to realize how expensive it is to shoot film. Film processing, a set of prints, and a CD of negative scans can easily run $12 or roll per roll of film. This way, I can shoot a roll of film, have it developed (sometimes the cheapest part of the process, depending where you go), scan the negatives myself, and have prints made if I so desire.

I haven't had a chance to scan any negatives I've shot recently but yesterday I scanned some photos that I've wanted to digitize for quite a while now.


There are several things I love about this photo:

1. My grandparents, these are my dad's folks. They're the elderly couple in the rickshaw. My grandpa passed away in 1997 and my grandma in 2009. I love and miss them, and I hope I live as long as they did.

2. The matching Hawaiian outfits. I inherited that Hawaii shirt when my grandpa died. I wish it still fit.

3. They're in a rickshaw.

4. The dude in the foreground looks exactly like Lando Calrissian.


My Grandpa Olsen was an educator and principal by trade. I'm assuming this is a school photo. I love everything about his ensemble -- the coat, the shirt, the tie, and the frames. I think I get my crooked grin from him. The date on the back of this photo is 1976.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

fall: eight & ten

A couple weeks ago I was vainly perusing photos of myself from yesteryear on the popular social networking site Facebook.com. I was surprised at how skinny I was. Or at least how much thinner I was back then compared to now.

Remember when you guys made fun of my fingerless gloves? I felt so vindicated when those were the only type of gloves Urban Outfitters was selling a year later. I'm such a trendsetter. (Photo that I stole from Facebook.com courtesy of Harper.)

I'm so used to Arizona either being a furnace (summer) or a paradise ("winter"). The last fall I spent here was four years ago; I'm not used to the in-between -- when it's warm during the day and cool at night. I handle these unfamiliar seasonal changes by grasping onto memories of the last fall I spent here. And the one before that. And the time between then and now.

Sometimes I'm too content to explore the past.

Friday, October 8, 2010

fall: two thousand five

I've been spending some extra time in my car lately. Not driving. I come home at night and park. I leave the car running even though it's finally cool enough at night to not need air conditioning. Sometimes I'll check Facebook on my phone. Or play Wordfeud for a couple minutes. But mostly I just think. Not about anything in particular or of great consequence. As if I wasn't already an over-thinker -- now I have a special time alloted for it.

* * * * *

I've had the year 2005 on my mind. About five years ago this very month my brother Matt got home from his mission. Some cousins from Utah came to visit for the occasion. I don't remember how we got on the subject but I remember my cousin Greg talking about how he had recently run a marathon. How long was a marathon, I asked. 26.2 miles. I decided that night that I was going to run a marathon.

A month later I ran my first race, a 10K, on Thanksgiving. My time wasn't that great, but I finished, and I felt great doing it.

Though I didn't realize it at the time, I started running to set myself apart from my friends and family. Sports never interested me in high school though I come from a family of athletes -- actually, a family of runners. But most of the running they did/do involves running short distances while jumping over hurdles. At the time, a 10K -- 6.2 miles -- was farther than anyone in my family had run.

Around the same time and not long after, some of my good friends got engaged and married. And they were farther ahead of me in school. I had to do something to catch up. I started running.

Speaking of marathons, here we are after watching all six Star Warses in one sitting, December 26, 2005. Man, I loved those pants. (This photo has nothing to with this post, other than it was taken in 2005. I didn't feel like digging out my external hard drive for a more relevant photo.)

One morning, a week after running my first 10K, I ran eight miles (well, it was probably closer to nine). Later that day I remember talking to this girl I had an enormous crush on and she was impressed that I had ran so far (which was also another great motivator for running).

The next day I could barely walk. Bad, worn out running shoes and overtraining had caused a stress fracture in my left foot. This was unfortunate because xyzebra had a show that night. And it spelled doom for my newly acquired running habit, for the time being.

This all happened during 2005.

Monday, October 4, 2010

unlimited wants

I kinda want this camera:

Olympus PEN E-P1 12.3 MP Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 17mm f/2.8 Lens and Viewfinder (Silver)

I don't know much about it other than it's a high quality point-and-shoot and is supposedly capable of taking DSLR quality photos (probably depends on who's using the camera in both cases).

I came across this type of camera one day on Flickr; I was impressed by a certain shot so I looked up that photo's EXIF data to discover what kind of camera the photographer had used. I was surprised to find out that he hadn't used a DSLR camera but a camera similar to this one made by Panasonic. The Panasonic camera employed the same "Micro Four Thirds" technology that this Olympus uses. I don't know exactly what "Micro Four Thirds" means other than it allows interchangeable lenses like a DSLR.

I also saw this type of camera all over the place in Hong Kong. In fact, a girl on the metro retro-fitted her camera with an old Nikon lens (from the film era, it appeared) by using a special adapter -- I'd love to try my dad's old Olympus lenses on this thing.

Anyway, I've really been wanting a new point-and-shoot camera for the times I don't feel like dragging my DSLR around or at shows where I'm not allowed to bring it in and just because it'd be nice to have a fun backup. Unfortunately, a camera like this is pretty low on my list of big-ticket items, which includes a new computer, a new electric guitar, an 85mm lens or a high quality wide-angle lens (undecided), an iPad (or Android tablet if such a thing exists by the time I have the money), and maybe a down payment on a house (?!?). In other words, it might be quite a while before I can afford one. So we'll see.

Any photographer types out there know anything about this kind of camera?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

fixin' to carve this out of wood

It kinda bugs me when artists and bands release a single months before a new album is released. Because I end up overplaying the single and I'm bored with it by the time the album is out. I swore this would be the case with Brandon Flowers' "Crossfire". Watch the video:


All a good music video needs is Charlize Theron and a few ninjas. It's that simple.

But I didn't get sick of "Crossfire". I still get pumped every time I hear the distant piano and delayed guitars in the song's intro.

Incidentally, the first time I heard "Crossfire" I didn't feel one way or another about it. I should've known that I would end up loving it because my feelings (or lack thereof) were the same on my first couple spins through The Killers' Sam's Town, the band's best album (I have to say though, Day & Age has grown on my quite a bit, more than I had expected it to).

The interesting thing about Mr. Flowers -- interesting to me, anyway -- is that we belong to the same faith. So when he releases a solo album, Flamingo, rife with religious allusions and spiritual insecurities, I'm bound to sit up and listen a little more than if, say, Rivers Cuomo were to start writing songs about the earthly limbo between "heaven and hell".

Maybe that's what has drawn me to The Killers, the fact that I feel like Brandon understands when I struggle to live up to my faith as completely as I should (see songs like "All These Things That I've Done" and "When You Were Young"). And while Flamingo offers its fair share of commiseration and empathy, at least one track offers something that I haven't found as much of in the Killers' releases: hope. It's one thing to say, "Yeah, I've been there," but it's so much better to say, "Here's how I got out." You can hear the latter on this song, "Magdalena":


I need that vest (although I'd probably have to lose about 40 pounds to rock it as well as he does). I love the key change after the bridge.

As an album, Flamingo isn't perfect. The songwriting sags a bit in the middle and album's closer is a bit on the weak side (this is remedied by buying the deluxe version -- bonus tracks!). But in the end, if Brandon continued to put out albums of this caliber at The Killers' expense, I might not mind.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

in pictures and words

About a week ago I got back from a two week long trip to Hong Kong and Beijing with my brother. Why Hong Kong and Beijing? My brother Matt served as a missionary in Hong Kong for two years. He's been meaning go back and visit for years now and I've always wanted to go with him. That and it was a good way of sticking it to all those people who travel to trendy places like Europe. JK but really.

The unique thing about Matt's mission was that he spoke Mandarin, instead of Cantonese which is the main language of Hong Kong. But this gives him an advantage outside of Hong Kong because more Chinese speakers speak Mandarin than Cantonese.

Anyway, rather than bore you with the details of what I thought was an incredible trip, I've posted photos (with captions in case you wanted to be bored by the details).

The process of flying to Hong Kong wasn't as bad as I anticipated. We flew from Phoenix to LAX, to Seoul, Korea, to Hong Kong. Korean Air is pretty nice; the seats weren't too small and there were plenty of movies to watch (so what if the movie I enjoyed most on the way over was Letters to Juliet). Anyway, on to the photos:

Left: I wish I could remember the name of this park. It had a few structures like this one and was across from a Buddhist (I think) temple.

Center: This water wheel was at the same park. I just decided that sometime in my life I'm gonna own property with a body of water that will power a functioning water wheel. And that water wheel will do something cool, like grind flour for a bakery that I will have someday.

Right: A Mong Kok market. This is what would come to mind when someone would say Hong Kong. This market is the place to go if you wanna buy a cheap rip-off. I'm kicking myself now for not getting that Ed Hardy t-shirt (JKBR).

We went to these places on our first full day in Hong Kong.

Left: This looks like it could be a modern art exhibit, right? Believe it or not, it's the wall of a restaurant where had lunch called Modern Toilet. As you may have deduced, it's a toilet themed restaurant: the seats are padded toilets, the food is served in small toilet shaped bowls, and the ice cream resembles poop (which isn't as bad as it sounds). The food was OK.

Right: The following day, Saturday, we took a ferry to Lamma Island with members of the Mandarin Branch where Matt served a big part of his mission. I loved this place. As we got off the boat, we walked through a row of outdoor seafood restaurants. This was a two-in-one experience because most of the seafood restaurants had small tanks filled with various sea creatures. Which was awesome because I love sea creatures, like the cuttlefish in this picture (click on the picture to enlarge); these guys were hanging out in front of the seafood restaurant we all ate at. Overall, I loved it -- the island, the food, the company -- I loved it.

Sunday for church we attended the Mandarin Branch (the same folks we spent Saturday with). Before coming to Hong Kong, the branch president learned that Matt was coming to visit so he asked him to talk at church on Sunday.

That day we visited the Hong Kong Temple. It would've been cool to do a session there; maybe next time.

 
On Monday we flew up to Beijing. Rather than fly from Hong Kong, we crossed the border north of Hong Kong to Shenzhen and flew to Beijing from there -- it was $100 cheaper and it allowed us to see a part of China we wouldn't have otherwise experienced.

We landed in Beijing in the early afternoon and took a train, then the subway to our hotel. Subway fares in Beijing were ridiculously cheap (as is just about everything else if you went to the right place), only 2.00 Renmibi (RMB) per trip, which converts to about 30 cents.

It took us over an hour to find our hotel. In other words, we got lost. But we enjoyed it because it allowed us to explore a non-touristy part of Beijing. Eventually, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and wandered south toward a dumpling restaurant recommended in Matt's travel guide. On our way we made a pit stop at a drum tower; we arrived just in time for this performance (left).

They next day before visiting the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, we stopped at a park to the southwest of the Forbidden City. Matt called it He-Man park because he thought it would've been the perfect place to play He-Man as a kid (I agree with him). The park had some pretty awesome architectural structures; I especially liked these beams (right).

This is just inside the Tiananmen Gate. The small arch in the bottom center leads to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was impressive, it was just a bit repetitive. It's something that would be more fun with a big group, I think. And it was pretty crowded the day we went.

Private Eyes
Left: Forbidden City lion. Lions in China? Is there/was there such thing?

Center: Private eyes are watching you, they see your every move. These light/camera poles were all over Tiananmen Square. It's stuff like this (and Facebook being blocked) that made me feel the tension of being in a communist country.

Right: These bikes were parked just outside the subway station by our hotel. It reminded me of Rexburg. Sigh.

The Great Wall of China. NBD. This was my favorite part of Beijing/mainland China. Climbing around was one of the best workouts I've had in a while. So steep.

my totem
Left: A Chinese Snickers (it has Chinese writing on the side, that's the biggest difference). American candy was my totem (Inception, anyone?) while I was over there. I had very few problems with the food we ate (other than, holy crap, I ate so much of it), but it's stuff like candy and Coke that gave me a sense of familiarity and anchored me to home.

Right: These guys were awesome, like a mix between empanadas and dumplings. The price was right too, four for 5 RMB (or about 75 cents US).

The next day, Thursday, we flew to Shenzhen and took a bus back to Hong Kong. Friday we went to Lantau Island (which I like to call Lando Island), a less populated part of Hong Kong. Lantau Island is home to Big Buddha (left), which used to be the largest outdoor Buddha in the world. We took a cable car to get there, which provided some great scenic views of Lando Island.

I'm not sure about the significance of the statue on the right but I thought it made a cool picture.

A view the from the platform where Big Buddha resides. I love gnarly trees.

We spent the following day in Macau. I didn't bring my DSLR camera because I was sick of hauling it around (I know, it's not that bad, but you get a little sick of it hanging around your neck for 10 days straight). I took my Holga (cheap plastic film camera) but I have yet to get the film developed so no pictures from Macau to post at this time.

I loved it there though. Macau is similar to Hong Kong in that it's a former Portuguese colony (Hong Kong was a British colony). And since gambling is legal there it's known as the Las Vegas of Asia. Thankfully, though, it wasn't as smutty as Vegas, but maybe I just didn't notice because we didn't get too close to the casinos.

We took a ferry to Macau with three of Matt's friends from his mission and met up with even more people when we got there. It was one of my favorite days because: a.) it was fun to do something in a large group and b.) Macau is awesome. Signage and such there is in Chinese and Portuguese; the Portuguese influences gives it a quaint European feel.

Going with Matt was great because he knew so many people over there. When we were in Hong Kong we always had a place to sleep and more than we were able to eat (I swear, Monday before we left we had two dinners -- with the same family). China's got a lot going for it but its people are by far its biggest asset.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lunch me yet?

I'm in Asia right now. (Asia sounds cooler than Hong Kong even though Hong Kong is awesome all by itself.) So far, so great.



This picture has nothing to do with Hong Kong, per se... it's just that I had a few copies of it that I put in my journal a few months back and I've been leaving the copies in public places for people to stumble upon and (hopefully) enjoy. (Vain much?) I wrote the web address of my blog on the back so if you've come to my blog as a result of finding this photo, welcome.

Be back in AZ in a few days. Word.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hugo Reyes

So, Weezer has been streaming their new album Hurley on Myspace.com, A Place for Friends, for the past day or so. I checked it this morning. I have to say, I quite enjoyed the second track, "Ruling Me" (I'm listening to it right now). It's poppy and fun and has some 'oooohs' reminiscent of "Susanne". Anyway, in the midst of the song, I thought to myself, what if this album is awesome; what if I can hang with every track. Then I got to the unsavory fifth song, "Where's My Sex." If you thought "We Are All On Drugs" was bad, well, Weezer have really outdone themselves with this jam, but not in a good way.

It's funny how every Weezer album can manage to get my hopes up then dash them against the rocks. Every time. It's funny how I keep thinking that Weezer will come out with something that I'll love as much as the Blue Album or Pinkerton. Sigh.

I need to give this album a few more spins before I can say really if it's good or not (though I can tell you right now it's better than Raditude; and, by good I mean, will I love 9 out of 10 songs on this album (I've already identified one that I hate)).

I can say this, though: I feel like Weezer didn't take too much time on this album. It's not that they rushed through it, they just left it slightly unpolished. The guitars are a bit more rough and Rivers' voice seems a little flat at times -- it gives the album a raw edge, something Weezer fans haven't really heard since Pinkerton. I like it.

Hurley is out next Tuesday, 14 September. Incidentally, I'll be in Beijing next Tuesday. So who knows if I'll be able to actually buy it until I'm back in the U.S. and A. Perhaps I'll have an update for this album review then...

(Sorry if you thought this post was about LOST.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

spoiler alert!

I finished reading Mockingjay last night.

[I'd like to preface the this post with this rant.]

I think I was looking for something other than what these books turned out to be. I was looking for an adventure story and, while there was plenty of adventure along the way, in the end it was more about who Katniss ended up with than what happened to the people she was fighting for. It was almost like reading Twilight dressed up and sold as Harry Potter. If it weren't for all the dying going on I'd feel cheated.

Or maybe I just hoped too hard and tricked myself into thinking that the Hunger Games wouldn't be another girl-loves-guy-but-then-this-other-guy-comes-along-and-it-takes-three-books-for-her-to-really-decide series. I was hoping the love story would end up as an incidental aspect of the plot, not the ending point of the final book.

[End rant.]

Despite this particular setback, it's obvious that I had to enjoy this series to have made it to the last book and read it in a matter of days (as much as I love reading, I'm really slow at it).

I feel like most 'real' sci-fi authors use a dystopian setting as social commentary -- which can be annoying. However, Suzanne Collins manages to create a post-apocalyptic world whose commentary is more subtle than overbearing.

I was always surprised by the deaths of certain characters -- characters you'd think the author would keep alive for the sake of continuity. Like Cinna for example. Or Finnick, you feel like he should've made it out alive to share in the triumph over the Capitol. These unexpected deaths add a sense of reality to the series.

If it's not too morbid of me to say so, the constant death is what makes these books meaningful and sets them apart from other young adult fiction (that I've read anyway).

But I feel like the author should've played up the death aspect even more. I always love it when books explore the nature of death (HP7 did a great job of that). I would've loved for the author to develop some kind of philosophy around death instead of leaving it an incidental although integral part of the story.

I think there are few books that I read and like that I would recommend to just anyone -- but The Hunger Games series just might have something for everyone.

Update 5/19/2011: Looking back, I think there are fewer people I would recommend this to due to how the series ended.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weezer 2010: too little, too late?

Whenever I blog about Weezer it always ends up being a long rant that I feel like no one would care about reading but me and I end up deleting it before I finish. This may turn into that. But so be it, because maybe I just need to get it out of my system.

- - - - -

Nostalgia is so in right now. And Weezer seems to be capitalizing on it. A few weeks ago Weezer released a single called "Memories" from their new album Hurley (this might be their best album cover yet), due out September 14. The song details the band's exploits during their early days and reaches levels of fuzz and rock rarely, if ever, seen in Weezer's past decade (could this be due to the band recently signing to Epitaph?).

If that's not enough, the band is set to release not one, but two throwback albums during the month of November. The first is called Death To False Metal... A Collection Of Unheard Songs From The Weezer Vault (previously titled Odds and Ends -- though I'm curious to know how much of this collection is actually 'unheard' -- old demo Weezer tracks weren't hard to find online in the early '00s).

The second album is a two-disc deluxe version of the fan favorite Pinkerton. Though I'm pretty positive I've heard every song that will be on the 'deluxe' portion of this album I'm nevertheless excited for it because a.) my Pinkerton CD skips like nobody's business and I feel cheap rocking a burned copy; after all, it is one of my top three favorite albums; and, b.) they might release it on vinyl (although I already have an import version of Pinkerton on vinyl). In addition to all this Pinkerton goodness, hardcore fans can purchase a three-disc 'superdeluxe' version of Pinkerton that includes the third installment of Rivers' Alone series (Alone is a collection of Rivers' home-recorded demos; two Alone albums have been released so far).

In sum, we're being bombarded with five albums worth of Weezer in the span of less than two months.

- - - - -

When Weezer's Pinkerton was released in 1996 I had just turned 14. I bought the album a couple weeks after it was released; I found it in the used section at Sam Goody for $9.00. I remember listening to the album the next day while working on my bike in the garage. I didn't hate it, but I didn't get it -- the rough guitars, the raw, intimate vocals, the raucous, bombastic drumbeats -- it was certainly a change from their debut Blue album. I wasn't surprised that it had ended up in the used section where I found it only a couple weeks after the album was released.

Pinkerton did have one pop gem, however, that kept me coming back to the album during the first year of owning that album: the album's first (and only semi-commercial) single, "El Scorcho." I listened to this song almost every day before school in eight grade. I know this song like I know few things in my life.

When I found out that Weezer would be stopping in Tempe during their Pinkerton tour on December 17, 1996 (I'm pretty sure of this date) I knew I had to go. But, my mom didn't agree with me. She said I was too young to attend such a concert. I was devastated. I remember walking around the block and crying (gimme a break, I was 14) when I found out I couldn't go.

I didn't see Weezer live till 2000 at the Warped Tour in 'lovely' Chula Vista, CA, with Danny, Joby, and Jeff, as evidenced in this charming photograph -- a story for a different blog post, perhaps.

Like I said, I didn't quite 'get' Pinkerton when it was first released. In time, though, I came to regard it as work of masterful genius and my love for it even surpassed that of the Blue album.

- - - - -

A week or so ago MTV News caught wind from Rivers himself of some news bound to excite even the most cynical Weezer fan: Weezer's plans for a Blue/Pinkerton tour to coincide with the release of the Pinkerton deluxe edition.

Attending a Weezer concert where they play nothing but songs from Blue and Pinkerton is something I've dreamed of since 1996. So why am I not jumping up and down and peeing my pants with joy?

I just revisited a blog post from almost two years ago wherein I describe my excitement and elation at the announcement of Jimmy Eat World's Clarity tour.

So why doesn't the announcement of a Blue/Pinkerton tour illicit a similar emotional response? Here I am, I'm not even a cynical Weezer fan and I refuse to let myself get excited. What did me in? Was the Raditude straw that broke the camel's back? (I do love a few songs on that album -- I just have an impossible time hanging with tracks like "Love is the Answer" and "In the Mall.")

Where was Weezer two years ago when Jimmy Eat World was announcing their Clarity tour and paying back the devotion of their longtime fans with the gift of a lifetime? Is Weezer's potential Blue/Pinkerton tour too little, too late?

Don't get me wrong. I still love Weezer. You know I'll be in the front row of whatever Blue/Pinkerton show I can get to (which will probably be in California because I doubt a tour like this will come to Phoenix). Maybe the Blue/Pinkerton tour is just what I need to rekindle my love for Weezer... a love that has been ever more fleeting in the recent years.

...maybe.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perseid power

Late Wednesday evening I embarked on a nocturnal photogging journey with my buddy Seanathon Tedwerd and a new friend, Caleb. The following photo resulted:



The purpose of the journey was to take star trail photos and view the Perseids meteor shower. We were successful on both accounts.

We ended up finding the perfect spot to take photos -- a small dirt road connecting Power Road and the Beeline Highway that passed at the foot of Red Mountain (is that even the real name of the mountain?). The headlights in Sean's van threatened to cut out several times but that only contributed to the spirit of adventure and camaraderie.

With work in the morning, I didn't get home to 3:30 a.m. -- it was worth it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

something for everyone

This album has been in and out of my CD player (yeah, I still listen to CDs) during the past couple weeks:

These Four Walls by We Were Promised Jetpacks

There are quite a few things I like about this band:

-- Their name. I'd like to know who has the ability to make (and keep) such a promise. And how one gets promised a jetpack.

-- I don't know what it is, there's just something raw, something a bit more manly, a bit more tough about this guy's voice. Maybe it's the slight rasp, maybe it's his Scottish accent, but it's probably both.

-- Electric guitars. Nothing searing, soaring or face-melting, just dirty and sometimes dynamic. More often than not that's all I ever need.

-- They're touring with Jimmy Eat World (more on them later) this fall. Not sure if they'll be playing at JEW's TBD Arizona show but a guy can hope, right?

*****

I kinda like it when Brandon Flowers makes religious allusions in his songs. He's LDS too so I feel like I can relate -- or at least I can understand where he's coming from. That said, I really enjoy the single "Crossfire" from his forthcoming solo album, Flamingo.



There's just something about the way Charlize puts her arm around him at the end there. It's cute. Flamingo is out September 14.

*****

Speaking of September, it's shaping up to be a good month as far as music releases go. My hometown homeboys Jimmy Eat World release Invented on September 28. This could be their best album in a long while for at least two reasons:

1. Producer Mark Trombino is back -- his resume includes prior JEW releases Static Prevails, Clarity, and Bleed American, not to mention a slew of albums by other 90s emo/indie/post-punk greats like No Knife and Knapsack.

2. Tom Linton -- JEW guitarist and former full-time JEW vocalist -- takes over lead vocal duties for one song on this album -- something he hasn't done since Clarity in 1999.

JEW has yet to announce a date in Arizona for their upcoming tour this fall but they have assured fans via Twitter/Facebook that they are indeed planning a show in their home state. To that I say, thank you Jimmy Eat World for not sweeping your AZ fans under the rug like so many other bands have because of SB1070 (for the record, JEW opposes SB1070).

*****

For me, blogging about movies would be sort of like someone who listens to the radio and occasionally downloads a song from iTunes blogging about music (OK, not exactly -- I like movies more than that, but I definitely wouldn't call myself a movie guy). Nevertheless, I encourage those who have yet to see this movie to go see it:

Here's why:

1. It's a good movie.

2. Cohesive cast.

3. Why is it that anything successful in Hollywood is either based on a book or a remake of another movie? Inception is great because it's an original story -- not based on a book, not based on another movie, but based on a screenplay -- and it's been successful at the box office. Hopefully, filmmakers will realize they don't have to regurgitate someone else's premise in order to make a few bucks (or a good movie). (Ironically, none of Christopher Nolan's other box office successes, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight, are not his original works -- but they're nevertheless very well done.)

4. Finally, financially, I hope it does better than the latest Twilight installment. (Which, by the way, was awful. This is coming from the guy who kinda liked the second movie, so I'm not just being biased or close-minded.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

duty of friendship

"I'd like to ask you something," Hazel said.

"What?"

"Well, this ain't none of it true. It's a kind of a--a whatchamacallit--"

"Hypothetical question?"

"I guess so."

"S'pose there's a guy and he's in trouble."

"Yes?"

"Well, he can't get out of it. But he got a friend maybe he don't know about."

"That's you," said the seer.

"No it ain't! It's some other guy. I forget his name." He hurried on. "Well, s'pose the guy's in trouble and there's one way he can get out but he can't do it. You think his friend ought to do it?"

"Certainly."

"Even if it hurt like hell?"

"Certainly."

"Even if it might maybe not work?"

"Certainly. I don't know what the situation is with your Doc, but I know how it should be with you. If you love him you must do anything to help him--anything. Even kill him to save him incurable pain. This is the highest and most terrible duty of friendship. I gather what you must do is violent. You must first make sure it can be successful, and you must, second, make sure within yourself that you know you will be punished. It is quite possible that even if you are successful your friend will never speak to you again. That takes a lot of love--maybe the greatest love. Make sure you love him that much."

Hazel caught his breath, "Hell, there ain't no such guy. It's hypa--it's malarky, a kind of riddle."

"I guess you do love him that much," the seer said.


John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Arizona's Eyjafjallajökull

I paid an unexpected visit to the Grand Canyon last Sunday night and all I came away with was this photo:



I'd've liked a more in-focus background but when you're in an empty, secluded parking lot late at night in Northern Arizona you start worrying about skinwalker attacks -- not a terribly conducive atmosphere for making sure your camera is in focus.

I was driving home from Utah when I was forced to make a bit of a detour because of forest fires just north of Flagstaff. Here's my route:

Flagstaff

Who needs a fancy Mac or Photoshop when you have Microsoft Paint? Best image-editing software out there. Period.

My detour took me past the Grand Canyon. I'm a pretty in-the-zone traveler and I was already behind schedule but if people come from around the world to see the Grand Canyon, I might as well stop and snap a pic. So I did.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Symptoms in Some Cephalopods Approximating Apoplexy

So apparently I used to blog. It's not that I haven't had anything to blog about -- AZ's immigration law, feelings on leaving Colorado and moving to Arizona, books I've read recently (I, Robot, The Trial, Catch-22), the LOST season finale, book(s) I'm reading now (Sweet Thursday -- welcome back Mr. Steinbeck), my new job, friends, family, et cetera and so on (strangely music wasn't included on that list... I need new tunes). I've been adjusting to some recent life changes and blogging has fallen by the wayside.

So be it. Life is good and if a good life doesn't include as much blogging as it used then, well, so be it.

I do, however, hope to blog more because in the past it's been a way for me to discover things about myself that I don't necessarily find out until I write them down (since I'm too lazy too keep a journal and vain enough to want others to know about the inner workings of my brain (or more accurately, the lack thereof)).

Arizona has been treating my well since I've moved back (already four weeks ago, wow). I'm glad I'm finally getting settled down enough where I'm starting to develop routines and itching to pick up neglected hobbies (sadly, I haven't touched my camera since I've been back).

I love the summer. Even when it's 107 outside (although this weekend has been supernal -- yesterday's high of 85 was downright refreshing and today's 91 felt wonderful). No doubt I'll be sick of the heat by August. But then I'll remember how the month of October in other states (*cough* Idaho, Colorado *cough*) is worse than Arizona's January and the sweltering heat won't seem so bad.

I hope I'm here to stay.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

we should all be alive

So apparently April has been a slow month for blogging.

Two Wednesdays ago during a particularly slow day at work, I was looking for a way to stream stream MGMT's new album. Amongst the MGMT related pages I found was a link to a cover of MGMT's "Time to Pretend" by Jónsi. The link took me to Jónsi's website. I listened; his version is better. At the beginning of April Jónsi released a new album -- Go -- which I hadn't bothered to check out yet. I had read somewhere that it was supposed to be a mellow acoustic album and the idea of such an album left me feeling pretty indifferent.

But since I was there at his website, it wouldn't hurt to listen to a few tracks, right? Especially after such a compelling version of "Time to Pretend". I could check the new MGMT album after listening to a song or two from Jónsi. But after 30 seconds of "Go Do", the first song from Go, I forgot who MGMT was and I certainly didn't care about hearing their new album.

Check this album cover. Jónsi at his indie superhero best.


Almost as epic as anything Sigur Rós has done -- and possibly more epic than Lord of the Rings -- it turns out Go is anything but a mellow acoustic album.

Naturally I made plans that day to see Jónsi in Denver the following week on April 21.

Mere hours after first listening to this album and making said plans to attend his show, I received a communication via text message from my buddy Abel. It read, verbatim:

"Hey do you want go to the jonsi concert at the paramount theater on the 21st... Ill get you on the guest list if you can give alex a thumb drive for me."

The only suitable response to this question was, "Yes yes and yes" (which, by the way, is what I said). Anyway, how Abel knows Alex -- Jónsi's boyfriend and guitarist in his touring band -- is probably too much to explain for now. Just know that it resulted in a guest pass to Jónsi's show last week at the Paramount Theater in Denver.

Epic: an adjective I've already used twice in this post. It's an adjective that I'll use once more in describing Jónsi's live set: epic. Comparisons would be helpful to describe this concert, but really there is nothing I can compare it to because it was unlike concert I've ever experienced, and most likely, unlike anything I will ever experience in the near future. It was like enjoying a live art exhibit -- that's the best I can come up with.



The guest pass Abel hooked me up with included a trip backstage after the show to meet the band. I shook Jónsi's hand -- he was quite the cordial fellow -- but I didn't say much, which is a pretty natural reaction for me in a room full of people (there were six other fans in the room as well), though my silence was punctuated intermittently by quick conversations with Alex.

Once "Gansta's Paradise" began playing on the drummer's iPod in the far corner of the relatively small dressing room, I knew the night couldn't get any better. I took that as my cue to leave, and with a quick thank you and goodbye, I was on my way back to Colorado Springs.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

miscellanea

& I just finished watching Return of the Jedi with some friends (&). I love that movie.

香港 A week or two ago my brother and I purchased tickets to go to Hong Kong (香港) for two weeks in September. This will be my first trip out of this continent/hemisphere.

≠ I went to San Diego the beginning of last week for work. I love it there. I spent the night in the Denver airport because of bad weather and cancelled flights, (≠) which turned out being kinda cool.

∞ I haven't been able to do any serious running for about four months (∞) now because I hurt my foot and it's not healing right. I'm worried I'm getting fat.

© Some friends and I started an online book club (©) on Facebook ("Miles & States: A Book Club"). We're reading I, Robot for the month of April. Right now, it's a closed group. If you want to join I believe you can send a request to join the group -- or just comment below and I'll add you.

! I'm going to Arizona for Easter. Couldn't be more excited (!). My youngest brother and sister are in the Easter Pageant as angels.

$ So many good shows in Denver the next few months. My buddy Justin and I devising ways to attend them for free ($).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

four for four

I went to a band show last night.

I seriously can't remember a time when I enjoyed every band almost equally (though for different reasons).

My buddy Justin and I showed up right as the first band O'Brother took the stage. Hardcore without overdoing it, discernible melodies and occasionally spacey guitars. Their last song rocked my face off. Justin and I hung for a few minutes after the show and made friends with a few of the band members (two of whom complimented my Yanni t-shirt) -- awesome dudes, I hope they come again soon. Purchased a t-shirt and a 7 inch.

Biffy Clyro from Scotland played second. These guys have to be bigger in the UK than they are here because they had a set of roadies setting up their gear before the actual band came on stage. I didn't know what to think of these guys at first -- all three of them took the stage with their shirts off. But in doing so, I think they were just skipping a step because I'm sure they would've rocked their shirts off one or two songs into their set. Such a full sound for a three piece, such a tight, together performance. I wish I would've bought their album at the show because it's currently only available in the US as an import (and therefore costs twice as much).

The Features. I had heard about these guys thanks to a blog post by Tori a few months ago. Short, simple pop songs without being trite. Refreshing, original and fun. I would've liked to hear these guys play longer than they did. Tried talking to these guys after the show but they were in the middle of doing merch inventory so they didn't have much to say. Which is cool -- they seemed cool enough (one did give me a compliment for Yanni), and regardless, the put on a great show. Bought a green t-shirt. I can't remember the last green t-shirt I've owned. I'm glad to have one now.

Manchester Orchestra headlined. Rocking set punctuated with a few quiet singer/songwriter jams, what I assume might have been Andy Hull (MO singer) solo tunes or Right Away, Great Captain (Andy's side project) songs. For the most part, the crowd was great, but there were a few drunk hecklers that upset both the band and the crowd. The band responded well enough -- which included Andy singling out and hilariously tearing one guy apart -- but eventually frustration overcame them, and from what I understand, MO refused to play an encore because of the few unruly crowd members. I don't blame them, it got so distracting during Andy's solo songs or when the band played quietly.

But despite the setbacks during MO's set, it was definitely one of the most solid shows I've ever been to. A great dynamic between the bands but still similar enough that no band appeared out place next to another. An A+ show.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

galilean moons

So about three and a half years ago I ended up taking an astronomy class. I needed two science credits for my associate's degree at MCC. I had already taken physical geography -- one of my favorite classes ever -- and I certainly had no desire to take something like chemistry or biology (although I had to take a life science class, i.e., biology, when I got to BYU-I, so this astronomy didn't really count in the long run). So for my second science class I took astronomy.

The first half of the class we talked a lot about physics a la Newton, Kepler, etc. I didn't really pay too much attention to this part of the class. Which I know regret because I think it'd be rad to know a thing or two about astrophysics. Anyway, the second half of the class we learned about the "geography" of the planets and their moons (since "geo-" means "Earth" I don't know if "geography" is the right word here but I think you get the idea). For some reason I think we started with Jupiter.

Jupiter has 63 moons. Not fair; Earth only has one. Most of them are pretty small, but four of them -- the Galilean satellites -- are comparable in size to Earth's moon. Behold:

From top to bottom: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

Said moons were discovered by Galileo around 1610-ish. They were an important discovery because the fact that these moons revolved around Jupiter helped prove that the Universe did not revolve around Earth. And they were important discovery because they're freaking awesome. Wikipedia them or look them up on Google Images. Seriously, they make our moon look pretty dull and bland.

Needless to say, these moons inspired me. I started doing a bit of research on my own and discovered that these moons were named for four of Zeus' lovers: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. (FYI: 1. Jupiter is Zeus' Roman name; 2. Ganymede is actually a guy; 3. None of these mythological characters were Zeus' wife.) I was so inspired, in fact, that I decided then and there that I would write a song about each of the Galilean satellites -- either about the moons themselves or the characters for which they were named.

So far -- in the span of three and a half years -- I've only managed to write one song, "Ganymede". It's about Ganymede the myth, not the moon. I didn't take long to find out that it's hard to write songs about astronomical objects.

Anyway, I've set a goal for myself to finish the rest of the moon-songs by my birthday (which is August 24th in case you were wondering; mark your calendar). I'm planning on writing a song for Zeus as well and maybe one for Galileo himself.

A song for Io is in the works right now... I don't have much, just a working title -- "Fire to Man" -- and perhaps one or two guitar parts. It's a start.

When I get 'em all done I plan on recording them demo-style, by myself or with a friend. Then if/when I get money I'd like to record them professionally and release it as an EP.

Ha, we'll see how far I take this. It's been in the works for three plus years now, but I've got a pretty good feeling about it this time around....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Let me tell you about the gods."

I've been listening to the audiobook Xenocide at work for the past week or so and the the other day I heard a passage that I really love:


"Gods again," said Wiggin.

"Always gods," said Ela.

"What do you mean?" said Wang-mu. "Quing-jao doesn't say that she's a god, and neither do I."

"Yes you do," said Ela. "'Quing-jao is wise and good,' you said."

"'Brilliant and good,'" Wiggin corrected her.

"'And I can never be like her,'" Ela went on.

"Let me tell you about the gods,'" said Wiggin. "No matter how smart or strong you are, there's always somebody smarter or stronger, and when you run into somebody who's stronger and smarter than anybody, you think, This is a god. This is perfection. But I can promise you that there's somebody else who'll make your god look like a maggot by comparison. And somebody stronger or smarter or better in some way. So let me tell you what I think about the gods. I think a real god is not going to be so scared or angry that he tries to keep other people down.... A real god doesn't care about control. A real god already has control of everything that needs controlling. Real gods would want to teach you how to be just like them."

"Quing-jao wanted to teach me," said Wang-mu.

"But only as long as you obeyed and did what she said," said Jane.

"I'm not worthy," said Wang-mu. "I'm too stupid to ever learn to be as wise as her."

"And yet you knew when I spoke the truth," said Jane, "when all Quing-jao could see were lies."


Wise words from Ender and friends.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy National Grammar Day!

A few weeks ago my friend Kayla emailed me and a few other friends a list of holidays and observances for the month of March. I was pleased to discover that March 4 is National Grammar Day. I developed a love for grammar as I learned French on my mission. Grammar is the mathematical side of language; it's all about nuance and detail. Which I suppose is why my accountant mind loves it so much.

Anyway, I really enjoy some of these observances/holidays and I love any reason to celebrate so I thought I'd share some of them. All during the month of March:

Expanding Girls’ Horizons in Science and Engineering Month - Because every woman scientist/engineer was once a girl.

International Ideas Month - What does this even mean?

National Cheerleading Safety Month - I don't think this is random/specific enough. I can understand a month dedicated to cheerleading. But they really take things a step further here to highlight safe cheerleading. For an entire month. Which is why I love it.

National Eye Donor Month - Seven Pounds anyone?

Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month - Not to be confused with Workplace Leg and Safety Month in September.

National Procrastination Week: 1-7 - AKA every week of my life.

National Professional Pet Sitters Week: 7-13 - Because giving them a whole month would just be ridiculous.

Act Happy Week: 15-21 - Act happy? Fake it till you make it, I guess.

Consider Christianity Week: 21-27 - You only need to think about it, that's all. Just give it some thought.

Courageous Follower Day: 4 - Giving all you sheep out there a reason to feel good.

National Grammar Day: 4 - Finally, something worth celebrating!

24-Hour Global Marathon For, By and About Women in Engineering and Technology: 10-11 - ... ?

International Day of Awesomeness: 10 - This holiday is really about me.

Genealogy Day: 13 - Family history is legit.

Forgive Mom and Dad Day: 18 - Let's face it, they had no idea what they were doing when they raised you.

Swallows Return to San Juan Capistrano Day: 19 - I don't even know what this means.

Kiss Your Fiance Day: 20 - What if you don't have one?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day: 20 - I love Fred "Mr." Rogers.

Corn Dog Day: 20 - Now we're starting to get to some of the more serious holidays.

Maple Syrup Day: 20 - Ah, how I wish I could find a cabane à sucre here in Colorado.

Grass Is Always Browner On the Other Side Of The Fence Day: 30 - Is it though?

And finally, saving the best for last:

National Fanny Pack Day: 13 - YES!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

semantics.

My life bears little resemblance to how I imagined it when I graduated college, when I got home from my mission, when I completed [insert life-defining milestone here]. Often this disparity is a result of mistakes I've made. Other times I've noticed the road I was on wasn't the the optimal path and I've changed accordingly.

But sometimes, there is this Omniscient, All-Powerful Being that controls the Universe and sometimes He likes to interfere with what I want. I don't know why I have such a problem with this because He always knows what's best for me -- better than I ever will.

"I struggle." A very general statement -- and here I mean it in nothing but a general sense -- it's probably one of the only statements that will always have a sense of verity in my life. (Say the word "struggle" over and over and it starts to sound really weird.)

Some days I feel like all I can muster is a struggle. But some days -- these are the good days -- the struggle becomes something greater:

"I fight."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

expatriate

Sometimes I feel like a man without a country.

I can feel them pulling away as I'm resigned to stay the same

I feel like there is a distance growing between my family and me. I'm the only one who doesn't live in Arizona. When I stop and think about it, it seems kinda random to realize that I'm in Colorado when my whole family is in AZ. When I retrace the steps that brought me here it makes sense and I understand why I'm here, but that doesn't always make it easy to be away.

I miss 'em and I sort of feel like I'm missing out on things, especially now that my brother is home from his mission. Sure, when I was away from home for school I missed them then but I thought that my being away from them was temporary because college is temporary. After each semester of school, I returned to AZ for a few weeks at a time, sometimes for over a month. When I was going to school, I didn't plan on moving back to AZ immediately but I just didn't realize that there would be a time when I wouldn't be going back to AZ every three months. Well, I did realize that, I just didn't understand the implications.

I have a buddy who is a cadet at the Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs. He graduates from the Academy in May and he's planning on spending some time in Tunisia with the Air Force to learn French before he heads to flight school in the fall in Florida. I'm kinda sad that I can't really get away with something like that anymore. I have a "career job" now and I think the time in my life where I have the freedom to go live somewhere random for a few months has passed. While the experience of living somewhere like Tunisia would be pretty rad in itself, what interests me more about such an adventure would be eliminating some of the ties I have now. Because I feel like cutting myself loose would allow me to feel close to my family and friends and everything I'm missing right now.

P.S. Happy 100th post, Myke.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

oh no, there she goes

Not sure how many of you have read Ender's Game. It's a sci-fi novel by Orson Scott Card. It's about little kid geniuses who head out to space to learn the ways of warfare in order to prepare for an imminent attack on Earth by, you guessed it, aliens.

I can't say I've met anyone who read this book and hated it. Which cannot be said for a lot of popular fiction out there.

As much as I love Ender's Game, it's its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, that really gets me.



Hanging with Brother Card at BYU-Idaho, November 2007. Yeah, he's LDS.


Be warned: if you read Ender's Game and decide to tackle Speaker for the Dead, remember that Speaker is an entirely different book. The things that you will end up loving about Ender's Game will be absent from Speaker. And be warned also that there are two (technically three*) books that follow Speaker. So if you want to find out what happens to the characters you will undoubtedly grow to love, you will need to read all four (five) books.

OSC is an interesting writer because he uses a science fiction setting not only to tell a great story but also to explore philosophical, psychological, emotional and moral dilemmas that don't exist in our world today. Which I think is a pretty rare thing to find in sci-fi nowadays (although it's abundant in classic sci-fi). And the characters. You fall in love with them. You wish you could be friends with them. You feel sorry for them; you cry when they do. And not all of them are human. When you start to sympathize with beings you know are not human -- I don't think you can develop more convincing characters than that. No sir, no ma'am.

Go. Read.

*There is an enormous gap of time between Ender's Game and Speaker. OSC recently wrote a fifth novel for this series that bridges the gap between these two books. Even still, it's better to read them in the order in which they were published, not the order in which they occur chronologically.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

absence makes the heart grow fonder

Today is a special day. Sure, today is Valentine's Day but you can hardly call a holiday that celebrates contrived love a special day. Today marks the 98th year of existence of our nation's finest state: Arizona.


Circa November 2008, 6:00 a.m., Billy, Dan and I, on our way from Rexburg to Las Vegas.


Saving the best for last, Arizona was admitted to the Union on February 12, 1912, as the 48th state.

I love my desert.


Here are some fun Arizona facts:

- The saguaro cactus -- the large iconic, tree-sized cacti in the picture above -- is native to Arizona (though very small populations have been found on the edges of New Mexico, California, and Mexico).

- Arizona has had more female governors than any other state.

- The cities of Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert were all listed in Forbes' "America's 10 Most Boring Cities" (although Gilbert is actually a town, not a city). Clearly, here there is more than meets the eye.

- Some of the greatest people in the world -- namely my family and many of my friends -- live there.

- The Grand Canyon. Yeah, that's in Arizona.

- Area-wise, Arizona is the sixth largest state.

- The official state neckwear of Arizona is the bolo tie.

- I daresay that Arizona has the raddest flag in the nation.

- The average high for Phoenix in January is 67°. I really don't know how to beat that.

Happy 98th birthday, Arizona! I love you and I miss you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

haiku

I was emailing back and forth with a few friends today and I decided to challenge myself by speaking only in haiku. For those unfamiliar with haiku poetry, an English haiku (apparently an English haiku is not a true haiku because of the differences in the English and Japanese languages) usually consists of the following:

-> A 5-7-5 syllable pattern
-> The use of season and/or nature words
-> A two-part juxtapositional structure (I don't know what this means)
-> Objective sensory imagery (I'm not sure what this means either)

This is a painting by Hiroshige, my favorite Japanese artist. Just thought it was appropriate.

Anyway, these are my favorites that I wrote today:


a chill snowy night --
hacksaw makes short work of bone
then, she boil'd a stew

chemicals, concrete
pharmaceuticals man-made --
not fit for haiku

silver floweth straight
wizened, weary, aged locks
shining bright like chrome


I think tomorrow I'm going to communicate using limericks. Or maybe epic poems. We'll see.

Now it's your turn... it'd be really cool if you left a haiku as a comment. No pressure though.

Monday, February 8, 2010

awkward stage

When your uncle fronts The Flaming Lips your band is likely to have certain advantages other bands don't. Like a spot as the opening act on the Lips' tour last fall. Or a stint as co-conspirators with the Lips' on a their collaborative album covering Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. And it almost seems like too much of a coincidence that Stardeath and White Dwarfs were signed by The Flaming Lips' record label, Warner Brothers. But Stardeath's greatest advantage might be that Dennis Coyne, Stardeath's front-man, shares something with his wacky Uncle Wayne that few in this world are privy to: that crazy Coyne DNA.

Dennis Coyne is second on the left.


I'll be honest, the my main reason I purchased The Birth -- Stardeath's debut album released last summer -- was because of the band's relation, musically and genetically, to the Flaming Lips.

When I was in a band in high school -- The Manhattan Project -- we had to do things the hard way. We didn't have Myspace or Facebook as a promotion tool for gigs and other band happenings (though I'd argue that our message board could've held its own against said social networking sites). And recording nowadays is so much simpler, any fool with Pro Tools and a few decent mics can make you sound so much better than most of our "professional" studio recordings turned out -- recordings that required hundreds (thousands?) of our (parents') hard earned dollars.

Yes, we were a few years behind the technology curve. It was the band equivalent of walking to school seven miles uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes.

Now, I'm not saying that Stardeath's success is based solely on their relation to the Flaming Lips or that bands today don't go through similar hardships before they "hit the big-time". I just feel like The Birth would be a more successful album had it been recorded and released under the circumstances that The Manhattan Project was subject to. I'll explain: The Birth sounds like an album from a new band that is still defining itself (aptly named album, eh?). A couple songs seem too calculated; sometimes lyrics are forgettable. And these things sound so out of place on an album so polished and pristine. Part of what makes albums like Pinkerton and For Emma, Forever Ago so great is that they're so rough and raw -- it's obvious they were self-produced, obvious that the artists didn't have to answer to a label-appointed producer. I feel like The Birth could have been better as a do-it-yourself album, like the two just mentioned. (It took me all that to say it's over-produced. Ha.)

But don't get me wrong here, The Birth is still a solid record and not every song bears the markings of an embryonic band. (Get it?? That pun works on two levels, actually.) The tracks "New Heat," "Keep Score," and "Those Who Are from the Sun Return to the Sun" are quite cohesive and original. What's more, the album manages to maintain a certain grit, albeit occasionally polished, that I find quite refreshing, especially in the midst of today's subdued, squeaky clean indie-pop trend.

I think most bands go through that musical awkward stage; the lucky ones pass through it before releasing a record. So with that, I look forward to Stardeath's emergence from sonic puberty.

P.S. You can catch a younger Dennis Coyne in the music video for "Fight Test". He's the kid who gets shoved around and eats dirt at the end.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

the big game

I've had this audiobook subscription with audible.com for about two years now, but recently I've been pretty picky about what I download and listen to. For example, if I think a book will be really good, I won't download it because I feel like really good books should be read. So lately I've been listening to some really mediocre books (which is why I'm quitting my subscription after this month).

Afton recommended I listen to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (though I can't remember when this was... when I was home for Christmas?). About a month ago I finally got around to downloading and listening to it. Disappointed by my recent, short-lived foray into young-adult fiction (Twilight, Percy Jackson, Uglies, etc.), I wasn't expecting much from The Hunger Games. I, however, was pleasantly surprised. I like being pleasantly surprised.

Here's what I liked about it:

Post apocalyptica: I'm getting tired of books with post apocalyptic settings, but I found The Hunger Games refreshing because the author uses the setting as an element necessary to tell an awesome story, not as a device to make some annoying comment on society.

Characters: While Ms. Collins may not be able to name her characters that well -- what self-respecting young man would go by Peeta? C'mon! -- she sure knows how to develop them. You're interested in their lives and you care what happens to them. This should be standard with every book, right? Sadly it's not.

Love triangle: OK, there is definitely a Edward-Bella-Jacob aspect to the book (well, more so in the second than in the first), though I won't say with which characters as not to ruin any surprises. And sure, it's a big part of the story, but it's not the entire story. (Sorry about that, things got ugly and I had to pull out that Twilight reference.)

The games: So you leave a bunch of teenagers to fend in the wilderness with more weapons than survival supplies -- the last one living wins. You televise the event and call it the Hunger Games. And that's the premise of the book.

From what I can tell, the author is planning on writing one more book in the series for a total of three books. I listened to the second already, Catching Fire, and enjoyed it more than the first. Conveniently, the third book comes out on my birthday of this year -- just be sure to coordinate with one another because I don't need multiple copies of the same book.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

If Skeletor had an accountant his name would be Accountor!

* * * * * * *

A few months ago a roommate of mine made a comment that was an answer to something I had been mulling over for quite a while; it was like he had an epiphany for me. He's an art major and while we were painting my bedroom we talked about art and artists. I don't remember his exact words but one sentiment he shared was similar to this:

"I don't think people should try to be artists. I think people should just do what they do with style."

Feel free to interpret that how you please; you'll probably read it differently than me anyway.

Just something that meant a lot to me I thought I'd share.

* * * * * * *

Monday, January 18, 2010

past tense of dream

Last night I dreamt that I was in Costa Rica with my family and we were staying at this resort/amusement park/hotel. I ended up going on this weird water ride with my dad... it basically consisted of riding a tiny motorized boat around this little dirty pond. At one point during the ride some Costa Rican guy told me that I was actually some kind of ancient sea monster that lived in the pond (there were also giant sea turtles living in said pond) and that they would need to kill me at the end of the ride. I'm pretty delusional in real life and more so in my dreams, but I know for a fact that I am not a sea monster. Not long after learning of my imminent death, the boat thing brushed up against some tropical bushes -- and it was through these bushes my dad and I made our escape.

The rest of the dream was spent hanging at the resort which, now that I think of it, bore an uncanny resemblance to Casa Bonita.

Probably the favorite dream I've had since the time I dreamt that Carl Winslow tried to eat me.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

everybody wants to rule the world

Last October I came pretty close to buying an iPhone. My two year contract with Verizon was up and I was thoroughly unimpressed with their selection of smart-phones. I hesitated though because I didn't know too much about AT&T's network. It's not that I'm all about Verizon... it's just that I've never had problems with Verizon's service: no dropped calls and more bars when my friends on other networks had fewer or none. If it ain't broke why fix it, right?

Anyway, I'm glad I hesitated. Here's why:


The Motorola Droid.

I digress:

I hate iTunes. OK, that's not true, I just hate the iTunes Store. I'll explain. A few years ago, when iTunes was somewhat of a new thing, I downloaded a bunch of songs for my mom's birthday. Fast forward to Christmas 2009. My mom gets a new iPod for Christmas. Well, being the loving son I am, I offer to my help my mother load up her new iPod with the existing tunes on her computer, among which were the tracks that I had previously purchased for her. So I drag and drop onto the iPod but I'm greeted with an error message. I couldn't put these songs -- purchased from the iTunes Store -- on my mom's new iPod because they were not authorized to play on my mom's computer, nor could they be because these songs had reached the maximum amount of authorizations (five computers).

Stupid, right? Did I buy these songs or did I buy these songs? Anyway, it took me much longer than needed to put those songs on my mom's iPod. Thank you iTunes.

From what I understand -- I don't really know because I don't buy from the iTunes Store anymore -- Apple has ditched the DRM mess and they now allow their 'special' audio format to be played on non-Apple devices and softwares.

So nowadays, it's not so much that I refuse to buy from iTunes, it's more that it makes more sense to buy elsewhere, especially when it comes to price. Embryonic by the Flaming Lips on iTunes costs $10.99. Not bad for 18 tracks, right? Amazon.com for same mp3 album: $8.99 -- two bucks cheaper and it comes with a bonus track.

And you really can't beat Amazon.com's sick sales:

*Deal of the Day -- I bought Raditude (mp3) by Weezer for $3.99. A few weeks prior, FOTC's new album (mp3) sold for the same price.

*Black Friday week -- During the week of Thanksgiving they sold over 500 mp3 albums for $5.00 each.

*Every month they have 50 or more mp3 albums for $5.00. And it's legit stuff too.

*Currently they have over 800 mp3 albums for $5.00. In conjunction with this sale, if you buy an mp3 album priced at $7.99 or above you get a $5.00 album free. Again, legit stuff here; I took advantage of this sale and got OK Computer for free.

(Of course, more often than not I'll end up buying the physical copy; support your local record store.)

Don't get me wrong, Apple makes great products. I love my iPod and I wouldn't mind owning a Mac -- for photo editing and other creative projects -- and I did come pretty close to buying an iPhone. I just find their incompatibility (hence my rant about iTunes) and smugness (see any Mac or iPhone commercial) quite off-putting. Ultimately, I'm not anti-Apple, I'm anti-monopoly.

Now, let's get back to the Droid. Here's why I'm glad I didn't buy an iPhone:

*Verizon: Luke Wilson will tell you that AT&T has (1) a faster network and (2) allows for simultaneous data and voice service, i.e., Internet browsing during a phone call. (1) What is the point in having a faster network when your coverage is inferior? Also, if I'm using the Internet on my phone, it's for something that doesn't require a great amount of speed, like checking my bank balance or Facebook or sending a quick email. (2) I don't really care. I can see the advantage of simultaneous voice and data but I just don't see myself surfing the Internet and talking to a friend at the same time. So again, if it ain't broke why fix it?

*Android operating system: Since the advent of Gmail I've been in love with Google products, and so it is with the Droid's Google operating system. The way it juggles phone contacts with Facebook friends is pretty impressive.

*Its name: The word 'droid' -- short for android -- was coined by George Lucas. Verizon/Motorola is under special license from Lucasfilm for the name of this phone. It just makes sense for me to own a phone that draws its name from the Star Wars universe.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

greens and reds

Soooo... I guess I'm a vegetarian. When I was home for Thanksgiving I thought about it and decided to give it a try. So on December 5th I stopped eating meat.

Let's face it, when you're a single guy you don't do a lot of cooking. Even if you like cooking, which I do. So over the past few months I've done more than my fair share of eating out. Weight gain ensued. Money was spent unnecessarily. How do I get myself to stop eating out so much? Well, since most of my fast food and restaurant choices contained meat, I would stop eating meat.

So I stopped eating meat. Et voila, I don't eat out as much. Problem solved-ish.

I certainly don't plan on going the rest of my life without eating meat. Or even the rest of this year. Originally my plan was to make it to June but right now I'm thinking of March. We'll see.

I really don't feel like a vegetarian though (not that I would what it's like to feel like one). To be a true vegetarian I feel like I should subscribe to a higher ideal or something, like opposing the killing of animals and such. But really I'm just trying to break bad habits. So if I don't eat meat I guess that makes me a vegetarian?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

make it mine, 2009

(I meant to post this before 2010 rolled around... better late than never, right?)

I don't think 2009 could've gotten off to a better start. Exhibit A:


The stern look on my face was hardly indicative of the general mood of 2008's New Year's Eve. Jackie's face (foreground right) is a fair representation of what was really going inside my heart/head. It's been so long since I've had such a fun-filled New Year's: rocking to Styx (!) with best friends, heckling drunks on the free light rail, consuming chocolate chip pancakes, and coining the official slogan of 2009... all in one night (this year was fun too, but let's be honest, it'll be quite a while before NYE 2008 is beaten). The following are how I will remember Make It Mine, 2009:

January: California
On the way back to BYU-I for my very last semester, I took the scenic route with Leah through California on our way back to Idaho (emphasis on scenic). We met up with Harper in Bakersfield and drove up through Salinas and Monterey... Leah and Harper were kind enough to humor my John Steinbeck obession, which resulted in this picture:


Relaxing on the steps of John Steinbeck's boyhood home in Salinas, CA. The next morning we made our way up through San Francisco, and we finished the day/night with a drive through northern Nevada to Utah (the only crappy part of the trip).

March: Jimmy Eat World Clariy Tour
No need for detail here since a perusal of previous posts will provide more than you would care to even read. What other band would devote a tour to playing one of their more obscure, less commercially successful albums in its entirety?

April: Graduation
Have you ever woken up on the morning of your birthday and your dad or whoever asks you how it feels to be a year older? And you think about it and you realize that you feel the same as you did the day before? That's what graduating college was like. Sure, it was nice, I got a few gifts and some extra attention -- just like a birthday -- but I sure didn't feel any different or smarter when I left Rexburg on April 9, 2009.

Had I known how much I would miss my friends and how much I would pine for college life in the months to come, I probably would've had to have been forcibly removed. Instead, I was all too glad to pack up my car with little regard of when I would see Rexburg again.

April: Wolverine Premiere
Hugh tells the best jokes.


May: Colorado
I moved to Colorado. For a few months I really hated my life.

August: Reunion Show and Emiglio Launch
I spent all of high school and a big chunk of my post-mission life playing in a rock band... so naturally I was excited that the stars aligned so well to allow a TMP/xyzebra/Felix/The Headline is Dead reunion show (TMP was my high school band; if a band could have a best friend then Felix was TMP's best friend; xyzebra was a synthesis of TMP and Felix, both in style and band members). While this show alone would be noteworthy in itself, it's how the night ended that really made it so memorable.


Earthbound but aspiring: When I tell people how we launched Emiglio (Whit's pet robot and xyzebra's mascot) into the outer limits of Earth's atmosphere with a weather balloon I generally get one of two reactions: a.) "Oh, that sounds like it was a lot of fun," or b.) "Why would you do that?" Regardless of how people react I've given up on trying to explain the bittersweet feeling we all experienced while watching Emiglio soar among the stars... the closest I can come to explaining how we felt is found in a song -- go listen to "Ara Batur" by Sigur Ros starting at about 4:45 till the end of the song... triumphant melancholy.

September/October: Sunny Day Real Estate Reunion Tour
I didn't go to too many shows in 2009 but the ones I did go to were some heavy hitters. A SDRE reunion had been rumored for some time so I was surprised -- and delighted -- when it actually happened. I was fortunate enough to attend two of their shows, in Denver and Seattle. During the tour they debuted a new song, "10"... perhaps a good sign that they not quite ready to call it quits again...

2009: Regret
I keep coming back to the lyrics of "Fight Test":
I thought I was smart
I thought I was right
I thought it better not to fight
I thought there was a virtue
In always being cool
So it came time to fight
I thought I'll just step aside
And that the time would prove you wrong
And that you would be a fool
Remember at the beginning of last year when everybody was posting those "25 things about me" lists on Facebook? The last entry on my list read, "I'm not one to regret much of anything...." People who have no regrets either have life figured out or suffer from chronic apathy.
For to lose I could accept
But to surrender I just wept
And regretted this moment
Oh, and that I was the fool
I certainly was the fool to think that I could live my life so perfectly that I would regret almost nothing. I'm so grateful for regret because it means -- hopefully -- that I won't make the same idiotic mistakes I made in 2009.