Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Time For Another Exerpt

As before, the following is a segment of a larger work. This particular piece is the latter half of what would otherwise be a chapter so if it seems choppy that is why. I would have included the section in its entirety but that would have been both laborious to read and full of material that still requires editing. As always, feedback is appreciated.


Chance

I hate pencils; except for the rare cases that I’m taking a multiple choice test I outright refuse to use them. On the other hand I will not pay money for a pen. Pens are miniscule everyday things that come and go without a second thought, like toothpicks. These two facts put together causes me to stop and pick up just about any spare pen that I might come across; as a result, here on my desk next to my laptop is usually an assortment of 4-5 different pens that have nothing to do with each other.

Right now there is the black Papermate missing its cap, the white Alexander’s Print Advantage ball point, the silver nondescript click pen and a black sharpee. My personal favorite however is a white pen whose clip-half twists to protract and extract the writing apparatus. On its side are the words Continental Hotels.

If my life was a movie, and I were to die right now of suspicious circumstances, an astute police officer would notice this pen, wonder at it’s peculiar location in my house, and rush off with a squad of armed officers to the Continentals. They would barge through the door and uncover an array of villains and after a dramatic gun battle the heroes would emerge with my killer in handcuffs walking in slow motion while emotional music plays in the background.

True life, however, is much less exciting. I’ve never been to the Continentals, I don’t even know if they even exist, I have no recollection of where that pen came from or how it ended up on my desk, suffice to say that two hours ago when I wrote yet another rent check to my weasel of a landlord, I did so with my favorite twisty pen.

Life is boring. It is precious, miraculous, and amazing but for the average person altogether uneventful. More than any other people on earth we Americans live in an entertainment world. We escape the mundane by vicariously living the lives of our favorite glamorous stars. Through years of such saturation, certain aspects of life begin to blur the lines of fantasy and reality until we become unsure if certain norms are on TV because they happen in life, or if they happen in life because they are on TV.

Such is the case with relationships. The male asks out the female—dinner and a movie, they walk home in the rain, and he kisses her at the doorstep. You can picture it in your mind, you’ve seen it thousands of times, you can hear the music but you don’t know the words. It’s a magical scene, a blend of coloring, facial expression, atmosphere, location, and cinematic magic create the chemistry that has us screaming at the screen “kiss her you fool.”

In application we have this formula to follow. You merely plug in your own variables and let the scene roll. Dating, like all aspects of life, is much easier in theory than in application. We want, and expect to have, that mystical emotion-filled experience. When disaster strikes we see ourselves standing outside her window holding a boom box above our heads wailing Peter Gabriel, or climbing up the fire-escape and having that passionate apology. We assume under a false sense of security that our fairy tale ending is always just around the corner, and when it never comes we realize all too harshly that life doesn’t always happen like the movies. In that instance we make a choice, to take our own initiative or to fall into a self-pitying state of hopelessness.

People always talk about fate bringing two people together. We’ve all been at that immaculate dinner party where someone asks the prize question, “How did you two meet.”

The woman giggles, atwitter with the excitement that comes before a performance. The man cocks his eyebrow and puffs his chest, uttering a memorized line of dialog; they’ve done this before.

“Well Jim, now there is a story, you see I was drowning…”

“Oh honey stop,” she says, lightly hitting his shoulder, “he’s lying Jim that’s not how it happened.”

The man offers a chortle for effect, shrugs his shoulders, and leans back into his chair with a smile.

“Oh just tell it then,” he says, throwing a cavalier wink at Jim, feigning to feign disinterest.

The woman then launches into a polished monologue of close calls, near misses, and inescapable destiny. She was running for the bus, tripped on a stray dog and landed in his arms. Love at first sight. Sunbeams and dandelions. Violin music from afar. Fate.

“It was meant to be,” she says, and leans in for a kiss to seal the deal. The guests raise their glasses, everybody smiles. Life wins.

It turns out that if she hadn’t tripped over the dog she would have just barely made the bus, and the only available seat would’ve been next to a young chiropractor who was reading the exact same book that she was. Love at first sight. Rainbows and daffodils. Harp music from afar. Destiny.

“It was meant to be,” she says, and leans in for a kiss to seal the deal. The guests hoot and holler, raise their frosted mugs and then go back to watching the Super Bowl. Life wins.

In both cases the couple lives happily ever after; comforted by the memory of their magical encounter propelled by fate itself.

Timing and coincidence. Take two respectable adults with a mutual attraction and put them in a room together. Their success or failure depends little on their individual actions. Ultimately it’s the subtle, uncontrollable quirks of life that determine the outcome. Once they’ve passed the point of awkward introductions and interest has been established it is the fickle foolishness of human beings that ends a good thing; but in those early stages the creature is fragile, balancing on the cliff’s edge. One good push and it’s all over. In all reality it is ever so easy to fail; it is seemingly effortless to bring the whole scene crashing down. Statistically speaking it will fail over and over again, until for no particular reason – it doesn’t.

So here I sit, in my pajamas; solitary. And so I shall, until finally the chips fall right and suddenly what has been so difficult until now becomes charmingly effortless. The trick is getting to that point without becoming pessimistic, because you walk for miles and miles and in the blink of an eye you’re home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are--Review

I wrote this review for the Statesman but it got bumped because of space and will likely never see the light of day so I'm passing it in full form to my loyal readers.


I remember my mother reading "Where the Wild Things Are" to me when I was young. Even today when I visit my parent's house I see figurines of the Wild Things and Max, their king, engaged in a wild rumpus across the kitchen window-sill. The book's entire content amounts to a fair-sized paragraph, but it is not the words that have endeared the story to us but the images.

So too, with the movie.

Spike Jonze's understated film is essentially 90 minutes of nostalgia. The familiar children's story of a few pages is not so much added to as it is spread across a mosaic of ethereal scenes. There are names, actions and dialogue created solely for the sake of the live-action film, but they don't seem to matter in that the intent is not its plot. Wild Things is a tangible representation of a child's mind. All of the creativity, energy, recklessness, excitement and fear of youth are placed before us in the form of fairytale creatures simultaneously strange and familiar.

In the wake of recent film adaptations of children books (e.g. the abysmal "Polar Express"), Jonze's work is a breath of fresh air. Even compared to the productions of all that is Hollywood, the film is daringly unique. The Wild Things are no product of computer generated wizardry, and the film revels in its own simplicity. Each creature is given a distinct set of personality traits to collectively mirror the pensive and rambunctious Max (effortlessly portrayed by newcomer Max Records) and during every scene a precarious danger lurks beneath the carefree frivolity. In an instant, Max's de facto confidante Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) shifts from gentle giant to ominous beast. On first meeting the Wild Things, the mood veers from dark danger to flighty glee and immediately back, and the creatures encircle Max to eat him, decide instead in favor of coronation and then draw his scepter and crown from the charred remains of prior kings. This is no warm-fuzzy children's movie. Although there is nothing in the content to warrant more than a PG rating the tone is often and abruptly very dark and the threat of the Wild Things is present in the occasional violence, anger and even dismemberment.

Unfortunately, cinematic poetry and dazzling shots can only carry a film so far. Every scene is bursting with emotion – especially impressive considering that the bulk of the movie has one human character played by a child surrounded by oversized puppets – but it is all to easy for one's attention to slip through the story's cracks and wander.

Even so, this is a beautiful film that calls forth the child inside all of us. Credit is given and due for a film that shatters the mold and creates a world of its own. Jonze excels even more by creating his world of hard, tangible life in lieu of green-screens and million-dollar FX shots. Watching Wild Things you'll find yourself smiling and not knowing why, laughing when no joke is told and engaged when no sense of plotline demands it. Jonze reminds us of what it is to be young, when the world is simple, exciting and scary: run around, yell, build a fort, throw a snowball, make a dog-pile.

Let the wild rumpus start. A-

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Survey Of My Faults



In no particular order I:
  • am a jealous man.
  • am quick to judge people.
  • see the world in black and white.
  • am quickly and easily romantically smitten.
  • am stingy.
  • think that every male that I am not already acquainted with is a Tool.
  • think that every female that I am not already acquainted with is an enemy.
  • am overly competitive.
  • am quick to anger.
  • am generally not content.
  • am self-depreciating.
  • complain too much about my love life (submitted by Dave)
  • do not tan, only freckle.
  • am unlucky at love.
  • am unskilled at loneliness.
  • don't take good care of my shoes.
  • am bad with children.
  • am cripplingly introverted.
  • over-compensate for my introversion by being excessively loud.
  • am obsessive.
  • am compulsive.
  • burn bridges.
  • am spiritually dead inside.
  • am a cynic.
  • am snide.
  • am homophobic.
  • don't get enough sleep.
  • am cluttered.
  • am a shell of a man.
  • don't recycle.
  • don't floss.
  • am a cuddle slut.
  • meddle.
  • make too many innuendos.
  • am all talk.
  • can't whistle.
  • have allergies.
  • snore.
  • am technologically illiterate.
  • am a movie snob.
  • am a glutton for punishment.
  • am a glutton for pie.
  • sing in the shower.
  • sing at the bakery.
  • am a realist.
  • am a total nerd
  • have love-handles.
Feel free to add what I forgot in the comment section.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kudos to You USU

For year's now I have been complaining about the under-utilization of one of (in my opinion) USU's most noteworthy assets, the amphitheater.



I know it doesn't look like much, but this baby--a senior gift from the class of 1925--is nestled at the top of Old Main Hill and offers a great view of Cache Valley, Downtown Logan, and the Logan LDS Temple.

I met the amphitheater in 2005 as a USU freshman. Local SLC band Holloh was playing and I was blown away by what seemed to me the perfect venue for live and local music. Since that evening I've spent many a night there under the stars and the swaying branches of breeze-blown trees wondering "Why? Why does the university lets this go to waste."

Over the summer it seemed that Dave's and my impromptu jam sessions were the only activity occupying the stone steps. Believe me, the amphitheater deserves better than "Begging For Change" to be it's headliner.

This year however, that seems to have changed. In the 6-7 weeks that this semester has been under way there have already been a slew of activities held on the hill: movies, slam poetry by my fav Anis Mojgani and, of course, live music from USU's talented students. Just this Thursday there will be another free concert.

Somebody in ASUSU has noticed this wasted resource and its taking the steps to correct it and for that I applaud. Keep it coming USU.

Now if only they could bring back the secret lounge.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Music Spotlight--Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

Give me a movie and I will tell you intricate minutiae of why I do or do not appreciate the film, but with music I have trouble expressing what moves me.

All I can say then, is that Ted Leo rocks my world and thanks to my brother Jake I have now increased my Pharmacists musical library. I just spent the entire drive from Ogden to Logan blasting my ears off in Leo-tastic ecstasy. Enjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Surrogates" Movie Review


Here's the link to my review of "Surrogates." In case you want the abridged version, I give it a B. It's a good popcorn flick that raises questions of morality.