Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Of Mice and Men

The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar*.

I have a t-shirt of this book cover. It's a size too small but it was on sale so I bought it hoping to shrink myself into it. Hasn't happened yet. I stole this image from here.

I feel like most people who have read Of Mice and Men, read it in high school or junior high. (I specifically remember classmates giving away the ending when I was in junior high.) The first time I read it was a good six years after graduating high school.

I'm glad I read it when I did. Who knows if I would've enjoyed it, or even finished it, back in high school; such is the nature of compulsory reading. (And English and literature were some of my worst classes in high school. But in those days the only thing I got consistent A's in was ceramics.)

The first time through, I liked it. The second time, just last May, I loved it**. When you read Of Mice and Men a second time, it's such an aching book. You already know the characters, and you know how it ends. You hope that this time, George and Lennie will succeed in their dream, which is something so many of us take for granted -- having a place of their own. But in the back of your mind, you already know of the imminent tragedy to come.

== == == == ==

George said, "Guys like us got no fambly. They make a little stake an' they blow it in. They got nobody in the worl' that gives a hoot in hell about 'em--"

"But not us," Lennie cried happily. "Tell about us now."

George was quiet for a moment. "But not us," he said.


"Because I got you an'--"

"An' I got you. We got each other, that's what, that gives a hoot in hell about us," Lennie cried in triumph.

Knowing what came next, I might have cried a bit as I read this part (which is why I like to finish books in privacy).

== == == == ==

Within the last few years, I've talked with friends who read Of Mice and Men in high school. Quite a few didn't like it. I can't say that I've matured much since then, but my choices in reading have. For those who didn't like it in high school, I wonder if their minds would change after a second reading.

Of Mice and Men is a story that "lets the heart soar" -- it's the crash at the end that makes your hopes fly so high.

== == == == ==

*This quote is from the superlative East of Eden.

**I tend to judge books by the range or depth of emotions they evoke. That's probably why I can love a book as sad as this one.

== == == == ==

I'm curious of the thoughts of those who read this in high school (or beyond) -- did you like it?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

just the other night, at a hometown football game...

Matt and I never did find our passports. I looked everywhere. Four times. I'm pretty sure this was my logic when I last saw and stowed my passport -- which was probably right before I moved to my current residence:

Well, I don't have a permanent spot for this thing (a mistake I will correct when I find it) so I'll stick inside this book/notebook/folder/other object. That way, when I move I won't leave my passport behind.

I do this with other things all the time. For example, when I was looking for my passport, I came across my ticket stub from Star Wars: Episode III -- I had stashed it in this book about the Arabic alphabet. I don't keep ticket stubs but I wanted to keep this one and had nowhere to put it. (Maybe I should get into scrapbooking??)

So in a year from now, I'll crack open some forgotten, dusty book and out will fall my passport.

But then, Matt couldn't find his either, and he's usually way more together than me, so maybe there's some other force at work here. Hmmm.

We were supposed to head to Montreal tomorrow. From what I hear (from my Canadian boss), getting into Canada sans passport isn't tough, but getting back into the US is. So tomorrow we're driving to Concord, New Hampshire, and staying the night (we're in Palmyra, New York, right now). Monday morning we're driving to Maine (and seeing the first showing of HP 7.2 we can get to) and hanging there for a few days.

Why New Hampshire? Why Maine? Because none of us have ever been there and when are we gonna get the chance to go to Maine.

After Maine, we'll head down to NYC via Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (again, when are we gonna get the chance to go to any of those places). I'm currently trying to convince my family to make a stop in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York, to check John Steinbeck's home (where he lived later in his life -- not to be confused with his boyhood home in Salinas, CA).

So what all of this really means is, I need to find another time to go to Canada. Making it its own trip (instead of combining it with other destinations, like this trip) is probably a good idea -- then I could see beautiful Ottawa and other parts of my beloved Quebec. I still dream about going to live there for a summer. Lately I've been all about following my dreams.

I need to start having some less costly dreams.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

passport prayers

I'm going out of town on Thursday. My sister is performing in the Hill Cumorah Pageant, which takes place every year in Palmyra, New York. So I'm flying with my mom and brother to Rochester, New York, and we'll drive to Palmyra and hang out in Palmyra for a couple days.

On Sunday we're supposed to head up to Montreal for a few days, but there's just one little problem: I can't find my passport. Neither can my brother Matt. While I know it's not the end of the world -- there is plenty to do and see in that area and in New England -- I really want to see Montreal. I served my mission there, and I have been back since, but that was seven years ago. That's a long time to go with a real smoked meat sandwich or a decent poutine.

So if you're the praying type, please say one on the behalf of my passport, and on behalf of Matt's, that they will find their way back to us. Please.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

adventures in facial hair

Most people who know me know I have a penchant for growing facial hair, and luckily, it's something that as man, I'm not too bad at. I grew my first beard during my senior year of high school -- it was an Abe Lincoln-style chinstrap. It's barely visible in this photo:

Who are these kids? At the time we were collectively known as the Manhattan Project. This was taken during the recording of our terribly mixed album, The Night Was Sultry (a high five to the person who can tell me what movie that is from -- no Googling).

It wasn't until the mid-'00s that I dared growing a full beard.

This wasn't my first beard but it's from that first beard era. Notice the matching bass guitar (christened the Bumble Bass) and bass drum.

A year or two later I ended up attending a college with a strict honor code that severely limited my facial hair options. But the honor code didn't prohibit all types of facial hair; it did leave me with one option: the mustache.

Here I am with Jeremy Enigk (on the left), one of my musical heroes, at a show in Pocatello, Idaho, of all places. I forget the dude's name on the right (Jeremy's guitarist for that tour).

I started growing the mustache as a joke. But after some time it grew on me (get it?!) and I began to legitimately like it. I remember getting so many compliments from guys, "Dude, awesome mustache!" To which, my response never varied, "Thanks, why don't you grow one?" "Oh, I can't grow a mustache," or, "I could never pull it off like you."

I posted this photo on and my good buddy Jeff (light blue t-shirt in the top photo) left the following comment, "It looks like you're having a vision of the day when everyone has mustaches... and you're liking it... a lot." From my Colorado days. I miss that hair.

Now, I understand that some men out there, bless their hearts, cannot grow facial hair. To these men I extend my sympathy: you're missing out. But to the latter, those who can and have wanted to, but are scared because they "could never pull it off," I extend this invitation: just try it. Maybe you can't pull it off, but you won't know till you try. (You might look like an idiot or chi-mo for a few days, but at least you'll know.) If you're worried about what others think, if you're worried what girls will think, remember this: if someone is judging you by a piece of transitory facial hair, they're not worth your time (such was the wisdom imparted to me by a fellow mustachioed student when I lacked mustache confidence).

One of the greatest things I acquired from adhering to the BYU-Idaho honor code was a deep love for the mustache (which, I admit, was not the intended effect of said honor code).

In closing, one of my favorite beards (circa 2008), and one of my favorite people.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

earthbound but aspiring, revisited

Those of you with a greater attention to detail will notice two new tabs located directly above this here post (until this post is superseded by a newer one, that is). The first is a self-explanatory home page link and the second is a link to my Steinbeck reading-blogging project, or blogject, if you will. As mentioned in previous posts, I've decided to move said blogject (that's the last time I'll use that word, I promise) here in hopes that doing so will raise the quality of Steinbeck-centric (Steinbentric?) posts.

I almost lost my lens cap near Steinbeck's grave when I visited last March. I daresay it would've fit the eclectic collection of mementos. Those barely discernible tiny green frogs make sense (read Cannery Row with me in a few months), but a golf ball? A guitar pick? Maybe by the time I finish reading all his stuff I'll understand the other objects (doubt it).

The biggest change I'm making is in my reading schedule. While I was Steinblogging on the separate Earthbound But Aspiring site, I created a timeline that had me reading one Steinbeck work per month. I will try my best to keep that pace but I am no longer constraining myself to that schedule; sometimes schedules add just enough stress to make things less fun, and that's what was happening here.

So if you are interested in following along -- there are still so many great books to come -- befriend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (@threechordmyke) and I will post or tweet about a week in advance of starting a new book. Hopefully that will give you enough time to procure that book in the off chance you feel like joining in.

Friday, July 1, 2011

an appeal to speakers of English

As practitioners of the English language can we lay off the word "epic" for a while? Unless we are careful, epic will soon suffer the same fate as the the ubiquitous and trite "random" and "awkward", two words whose true meanings have been obscured by overuse.

In an effort to preserve the word's meaning, let's re-familiarize ourselves with epic's definition. As a noun, an epic is:

1 : a long narrative poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero

2 : a work of art (as a novel or drama) that resembles or suggests an epic

3 : a series of events or body of legend or tradition thought to form the proper subject of an epic

By that definition, one would be remiss to refer to the Twilight Saga as an epic (and it may not fit the definition of a real saga either but we'll tackle that another day).

As an adjective, what does epic mean?

1 : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an epic

2 : extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope

Thanks, Merriam-Webster.

Now, here are some helpful examples of when to use the word epic and when to refrain:

Your most recent bike ride: Not Epic (unless you just won the Tour de France or that bike ride took place in the Rocky Mountains, particularly the Canadian Rockies)

Sigur Rós: Actually Epic

A book found in the "Teen Paranormal Romance" section at Barnes and Noble: Definitely Not Epic (see the note on Twilight above)

Launching a robot to the edges of the atmosphere using a weather balloon: Yep, Epic

Anything involving outer space or the Grand Canyon: Most Likely Epic

Sporting Events: Possibly Epic, depending on the game and only for those involved in the athletic struggle (i.e., the actual players); while spectating is enjoyable, there is nothing epic about it

Let's all use a healthy dose of skepticism when employing the word epic. If there is some debate to whether or not it is epic, it's safe to say that it's not. If it's truly epic, you'll know.

Post Script: I fully realize the contradiction of my having used that word at least 19 times in this post. I promise you won't be hearing that word from me for quite some time, unless I'm using it as part of a proper noun. For example, the new thrift store that just opened up down the street from my place, Epic Stores (that is exactly the overuse I am trying to combat). OK, now I've used it at least 20 times. I'm done.