Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Now with more quality!

Have you ever seen a product in a store that advertises when it's changed its packaging (usually with the words "New Look!" somewhere on it)? Or a commercial that says something like, "New look, same great taste!"

Well, here's what I think of that:

There are probably two kinds of people in the world: those who care that the stripe on the Doritos bag is now more horizontal than before, and those who don't.

The first group (those who care) doesn't need to be informed that the font in which "Lunchables" is written is now even zanier, because they already saw it. As they reached toward the shelf at Food 4 Less, they paused as their eyes beheld something strange, yet somehow familiar.

"It looks like the Suave brand shampoo I normally purchase, yet the bottle is a slightly lighter shade of blue!" they thought to themselves, excitement building. (I admit, I don't actually know anyone like this, but that's not going to stop me from proclaiming that such people exist.)

Meanwhile, the second group (those who don't care) doesn't need to be informed because they don't care.

It reminds me of something my dad once said. At breakfast one day, he spotted a box of Lucky Charms, which purported to have a New and Improved Taste! "You know," Dad said, "they've improved the taste of this so many times that when I was eating it as a kid it must have been made of sawdust." And Dad knows a thing or two about sawdust.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Crisis averted

On the last episode of Devin's blog: The guys found themselves in limbo after being kicked out of their home by El Landlordo, the unpleasant and dislikable villain of our story. Would they find a new place to live? Would they survive in the harsh Logan summer? Would Will find love at last?

And now, the exciting conclusion:

We narrowly averted homelessness. Whew.

As the days passed and the date we were supposed to be out of the house approached, our devotion to finding a new place intensified. And as our search intensified, so did my dislike for the landlord.

He gave us 30 days to find a new place, which is all well and good, until you consider that he sent someone over to look at the house back in May. He knew at least two months before he told us that he was going to put us out, yet he waited until exactly July 1 to call and let us know that we had exactly until Aug. 1 to be out.

I could go on about my anger, about how we had to rent a storage unit for our stuff because he wouldn't give us even two more days to get out of the house while we waited for the new one to become available. I could talk about how he said he wouldn't let us stay two more days because people were moving in immediately, and then the house sat vacant for three weeks. I could talk about how the landlord's wife blamed us for leaving stuff in the house that was there when we got there. I could mention that she then bad-mouthed us to the neighbors and the new people moving in. I could talk about how they're giving the new renters a cheaper price then we had. I could mention all of that stuff. And I just did.

Anyway, we found a good place to live, but not before we had to spend several days sleeping at relatives' houses. Luckily, Chris and Randi, who lived right across the street from us, were out of town and we had a key to their apartment.

But we're in now, and I'm officially done complaining.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My own personal housing crisis

We're getting kicked out of our house.

It sucks.

I came home from the Green River on July 6, feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. That feeling was promptly given a punch in the throat when my roommates Will and Jer told me our landlord had called that week and said we had 30 days to be out of the house. Fortunately, I was out of cell phone range at the time, which kept the news from worrying me on the river, which left me more brain power to calculate how much blood I had lost with the 200 mosquito bites (I really did have a good time, mosquitoes aside).

Since then, we've been searching for a new place to live and it's been rough going. It's not that there aren't plenty of places available around town, it's just that our standards have been raised over the past two years living in this house. It's a perfect size, it's old and has character, but it's also been well maintained over the years. The tiles in the bathroom are checkered black and white. There are wood floors and a fireplace and ivy growing on it outside and it's next to a cool old creepy barn that people come from miles away to have wedding pictures taken next to (really).

Over the time we've been there, we've gotten it just how we like it. We managed to fit our three abnormally long thrift store couches, Saga, Hater and Mom, in a perfect configuration (with Mom raised up to the right stadium-seating level using cinder blocks). Decorations from cool parties we've thrown over the years adorn the walls, including a ghost and pumpkin from the 2006 Halloween Party, the paper weapons from Violent Times Day 2008, and the Light Brites and tournament bracket from March Sanity '08 (when I narrowly defeated Andy in a winner-take-all round of Intellective Plank to claim the tournament title).

Needless to say, we're a little annoyed at the landlord. When people ask why we're getting the boot, I'm not even sure how to respond. In the message he first left me, he said something about maybe renting to someone else and maybe renovating. It seems to me he should know exactly what he plans to do with the house before he decides to put three guys out. I don't think he's being completely honest with us about it, which is too bad, because I had always thought we had a good relationship with him. He never complained about us or tried to cheat us out of hundreds of dollars (like a previous landlord did).

In any case, I have spent several recent evenings slowly cruising up and down the streets on my 10-speed looking seeking For Rent signs, calling the numbers on the signs, swearing when voice mail answers, and leaving messages.

We went on a tour of three houses for rent yesterday. In each house, an impromptu game of Name That Smell began almost immediately after entering. The most frequent winners were cigarettes and animal pee, though many strange and new smells existed in those houses.

The smells alone were enough to drive me away, but there was also just the fact that they were in disrepair. I don't want to live in a house where parts fall off unexpectedly, or where the paint is sagging 10 inches from the ceiling because of water damage or where burglars can sneak in through the crack in the wall and steal my record collection.

It's not like we'll be homeless. If it comes down to it, we'll live somewhere less than perfect. Maybe even an apartment complex, though the asocial curmudgeon in me would prefer to receive a punch in the throat every day. There is plenty of student housing around the University, but the thought of sharing a wall with some 19-years-old who just needs to blast hip-hop music late at night to get her through the latest breakup with Taylor makes me shudder.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More photoed graphs

Some photos from my recent rafting trip on the Green River:

Moonshiner's cabin. Unfortunately, the hooch was all gone.

Rocks rock.

That's called a bicep everyone.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The devouring female

I've had a series of dreams over the years about cats. I'm always fighting the cats. I don't think I've ever had a dream with a cat in it who wasn't trying to chew me apart.

I once had a dream in which a cat attacked me and latched onto my knee with claws and teeth. I reached down and grabbed it by the neck and yanked it out, expecting it to hurt like crazy. Thanks to the magic of dreams, however, it didn't hurt at all. I then drop-kicked the cat about 50 feet.

Most recently, I had a dream in which a cat was attacking me so I grabbed it by the head with both hands and spun it around and around and threw it, but it ended up landing fairly near me, which made me sit up instantly in bed, and wake up, so it wouldn't attack my head.

Don't ask me why I have these dreams. I don't hate cats. I kind of like them, actually. I was never one of those kids who made himself feel tough in junior high by making up lies about all the horrible ways he tortured cats (I had other ways of making myself feel tough, like playing Oberon, king of the fairies, in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and being the best hacky sacker out of any of my friends).

Anyway, my point is, lay off, I'm not a cat-hater. I also don't hate guys who look like Chuck Norris, but that didn't stop me from having a dream in which I stabbed one through the head with a steak knife.

I decided that maybe the internet could help me interpret my dreams. So I found this site and looked up "cat." Here's what it says:

To see a cat in your dream, signifies much misfortune, treachery, and bad luck [oh crap]. However, for the cat lover, cats signifies an independent spirit, feminine sexuality, creativity, and power [well, I wouldn't consider myself a cat lover, so that can't be it. Especially that bit about feminine sexuality]. If the cat is aggressive, then it suggests that you are having problems with the feminine aspect of yourself [uhh ... okay? What does that mean? Should I start frequenting scrapbooking stores? Reading those vampire books?]. If you see a cat with no tail, then it signifies a lost of independence and lack of autonomy [whew! My foe-cats have tails, which means at least my independence and autonomy are in tact].

And here was the best part:
To dream that a cat is biting you, symbolizes the devouring female [I don't know what that means, but it can't be good.]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tee Vee

#206 on list of beliefs held by TV station executives:

There is no such thing as a show that can't be improved by a panel of three judges, including a spacey woman and a British person.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some unrelated stories and photos

Story #1:

I was at a party last year. It was an ugly sweater party, which was odd because it was July, and the entire summer was basically one long heat wave. I stopped at Deseret Industries after work to pick up an ugly sweater (which, I was later advised, was actually a rather attractive sweater. I was happy to be looking sexy — if a little sweaty — but disappointed to be out of the running for the ugliness competition).

At one point, we were sitting around outside (after ditching the sweaters in a sudden inexplicable case of sense), listening to the several self-styled musicians among us strumming a guitar and singing, and I was watching the host's border collie as he roamed around the yard. He wandered up to where four people were sitting on the grass, with drinks before them in paper cups.

The dog, apparently thirsty, stuck his snout into one of the cups, and drank vigorously for a few seconds before wandering off again.

None of the four people noticed. Every single one of them was gazing intently at their tiny cell phone screens, their thumbs moving swiftly.

Photo #1

Story #2:

I drove along a beautiful Utah road. To my left I saw for miles; past verdant fields shuffling in a breeze; past decades-old barbed wire, still dutifully taut between gnarled and dutifully erect faded logs; past the silhouettes of mountains; through molecules of air that shaved the light down to a toothsome creamsicle hue; through 93 million miles of space, past the trajectories of Mercury and Venus, to where the sun had been eight minutes earlier, when the light striking my eyes had begun its journey to Earth.

As the creamsicle turned to magma , I passed a minivan. Inside, a few children gazed up, past the polyester seat back, to the eight-inch LCD screen, where Nemo's dad was hard at work to find him.

Photo #2. Something to help get you through the heat wave.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Everyone needs to move closer together. I can't see you on the end."

I walked by the LDS temple near my house one warm Saturday morning. Wedding season was just firing up and the courtyard in front of the building was full of well-dressed people, including a few in white dresses and tuxedos. Near the front gate, a photographer bossed around a newly married couple as she worked, inflicting a variety of poses and expressions on them while she took pictures.

People often say the bride is in charge on the wedding day. From what I've seen, this is true, but the photographer is sort of an all-powerful regent of the bride, who is allowed complete power to boss around and, if necessary, destroy people, all for the sake of making sure not a second of the day goes by without a photo of it existing.

The bride, the groom, the best man, all wedding guests, and any innocent passersby are all subject to the whims of the wedding photographer. Group shots, family shots, shots with the subjects ordered tallest to shortest, shots with funny faces, shots with only the bride's former roommates, shots with the brides friends whose last names end in A through K, shots in which the groomsmen all hold hands and kiss each other. Anything the photographer wants, it will be done. And no one can leave before it's all over, because otherwise, they won't be in the picture which will mean that that person has been erased from existence.

If the photographer thinks it might be cute to have a photo in which the best man lies in the mud while the maid of honor inserts the tiny heel of her shoe into his eye and both families make funny faces, it will be done. Then, two weeks after the honeymoon, the couple's friends will see the photo and dutifully talk about how cute it is when they are compelled to sit on the new faux suede couch the bride's parents bought for them (as part of a whole living room set), and look through the wedding photos. Then they'll go play Halo with poor Brandon, who can't drive for another two weeks because he's lost depth perception with just the one eye.

On this occasion (the one where I was walking by the temple watching the wedding-day photo shoot), the photographer said something to the couple I couldn't hear from across the street. He nodded and moved toward his new wife. He then bent at the knees and put an arm behind her knees and the other behind her back. He clearly was going to try to pick her up and hold her in front of him. She wasn't a large person, but then neither was he. They were about the same size. As he went to hoist her up, nothing happened. She remained standing, unmoved, and he struggled and laughed nervously.

I walked on, laughing, and didn't see what happened next. But I'm willing to bet that, somehow, that couple's photo album contains a shot of them in front of the temple, with her hoisted into the air. Even if it meant forcing the groom to do six weeks of weight training on the spot — while each of the wedding guests waited in case they were needed for more photos— she got that shot.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rill perty

Happy two days after flag day, everyone.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The right people can make even marching band cool

Editor's note: Going to get slightly sentimental here. Look out.

I just got back from a weekend in my home town hanging out with some of my friends from high school. Most are married, and some have kids and live hundreds of miles away, but we still keep in touch and try to get together whenever we can. Friends I made later in life are sometimes surprised that I keep in touch with people from high school after all these years, which reminds me how rare and important our friendships are.

Talking about how much you hated high school seems to be a popular hobby for many people, but I just can't join in, and it's almost entirely because of the friends I had. During those years, I managed to find something many people don't find until well into adulthood (and some don't find at all): A group of people who cared about me and made me feel important. They helped me see that popularity and other common adolescent gods weren't worth worshiping.

So, to you guys (you know who you are), thanks.

Now, as requested by my friend Missy, here are links to some things I've written (another reason my friends are cool is that they tell me they like what I write, and I'm pretty sure they mean it):

A newfound respect for moms and dads

The (herbal) essence of advertising

Major changes come from major changes

News flash: BYU made waves

The Preemptive Critics:

Resident Evil:Extinction

Bee Movie

Monday, June 9, 2008

Speaking of helmets

I bought a bike helmet and it came with a 17-page "owner's manual." Nine of those pages are just the same thing repeated in French, which leaves us eight pages.

This seems useless. Anyone who actually needs eight pages of small printed type to tell them how to use a bike helmet probably won't have much use for a manual. If you can't figure out, just by looking, that the top part of your head goes in the bowl-shaped part of the helmet and the black things go around your chin, you're not going to figure out that those little black shapes on the page each make a sound and when you put the sounds together in a row, they make words.

Here are some of the important things from the manual:

"A helmet protects only what it covers. It does not protect the neck or any areas of the head that it does not cover."

But what about my torso, hands, legs, and financial investments? Will it protect them?

"Parents: a helmet is NOT a toy. DO NOT allow your children to play with it. They can accidentally damage it or hurt themselves."

While you're at it, DO NOT let them play with toys either. They could accidentally damage them or hurt themselves. Toys are NOT a toy.

"Pretend you're invisible. Don't assume automobile drivers can see you."

I like it. My hope is that this leads to a sudden increase in the number of incidents of naked bicyclists being arrested for naked bicycling.

Action Will, back in action

Kids, always wear your protective gear. (If confused, please read June 3, "Gravity versus Will.")

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Photoed Graphs

Ever since I finally battled back my tendency toward frugality (also known as my cheapness) enough to buy a digital camera about eight months ago, I've been snapping away left and right. It's got me thinking about photography. So, here are some of my photos and some of my thoughts.

I live in a beautiful place, where beautiful things happen, like seeing a moose in the mountains after it's just stopped raining, so all the colors are a bit more contrasted and bold. At times like that, I don't really think twice about snapping a photo, and I don't think most people would either.

But in my attempts to move beyond being just a guy with a camera and become a photographer, or maybe even an artist, I sometimes feel a need to take pictures that not everyone would think to take. Some days, every little thing seems somehow beautiful, and I feel like I need to capture the moment and show it to the world, and everyone will know what a deep-thinking, tormented artist I am. On such days, I end up with stuff like this:

Then, I get distracted trying to find out all the neat little features on my camera, and the next thing you know, you feel like you're getting ready to relieve yourself in the old west:

One great thing is that taking photos has got me noticing a lot more tiny details.

I now ban myself from photographing sunsets and beautiful skies. Whenever a big, beautiful, color-soaked sky comes around, I always find myself scrambling for my camera. The resulting photos are almost an insult to the sunset. My SD card promptly fills up with flashes of orange and silhouetted mountains, but it's like trying to capture the image of a face and showing nothing but the corner of one cheek. I don't have the skills to really show it for what it is, and I end up spending more time messing with the settings on the camera than looking at the display before me.

From now on, I'm just going to watch. It's just too big and grand for me to try to hold onto. Besides, much of the beauty of a sunset is that it brings with it a feeling of closure to a day. Or the way your skin reacts to the cooling air as the sun leaves. No photo can give you that. Even so, here's one anyway:

I also think smashed cars are cool:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A thought

It would be cool if doctors sometimes gave patients really poor prognoses for minor ailments just to inspire them and make them feel like a miracle had happened.

A guy with a minor broken ankle is told he's never going to walk again and spends the next few weeks in a cast feeling sad and trying to plan out how he's going to live without walking. Then, when the cast comes off a few weeks later, he takes a few steps and bursts into tears because he's been miraculously healed. Then he'd spends the rest of his life telling people how he beat the odds to live a normal life. He even names one of his sons after the doctor.

Then again, growing up as a kid named Doctor would probably be pretty hard.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gravity versus Will

Hello. This is my blog. Enjoy.

I'm going to start with a story that happened two days ago. My roommate, whom we'll call "Will" (we'll call him that because it's his name), was out riding his mountain bike with a few friends, including my other roommate, whom we'll call Jer (for the same reason).

Will is an enthusiastic man. He's the kind of guy who is always excited about something. You could pick up a piece of cheese off the ground that had been run over twice by a car and drooled on by a rabid fox, and he would eat it and gush about how good it tastes as it disappears into his mouth. Playing video games while he's in the room makes you feel like the hometown quarterback who just won state, cured cancer, and passed legislation banning those Geico caveman commercials on his home field in front of thousands of fans. I never heard a man cheer so loudly about someone else's first place finish on MarioKart until I met Will.

One of the things he gets really excited about is his bike helmet. Sometimes he just puts it on walks around the house. Once he wore it on a ride in my car, and he always rode it biking.

That's why it was almost humorous to me (in the same, strange, sick way it's humorous to lie to a child) when Jer and the others came walking in the door without Will and told me they'd found him lying tangled in his bike at the bottom of a trail, semi-conscious, with a head wound. He hadn't been wearing his helmet. (That's the funny part, okay? Yeah, I was concerned about my friend, but I knew he was a big strong guy who would bounce back from it eventually and what didn't kill him would make him stronger, etc. Besides, I think it's possible to be simultaneously concerned and amused, so back off). He was now at the emergency room with a suspected concussion after a ride in the ambulance.

We drove to the emergency room, where we waited for a while for the nurses to come tell us what was going on. Looking around, we all realized how boring and unlike the show "Scrubs" this place was. It was basically empty. No one was having romances or making witty banter (except us, of course), and no perfectly-chosen, poignant indy/pop song came in from out of nowhere right at the end. Oh well, at least SpongeBob was playing on the TV.

Eventually, we were taken back to his room, where we saw him on a table, flanked by nurses and with IVs in his arms. He was not conscious, but he was also not holding still. He fought the nurses, squirmed, and moaned about everything. It was still kind of funny, but also a little disconcerting. Weird, how someone can be strong and vibrant one moment and one pop to the head from a big, mean log can change all that. It was strange to look up at the machine with the green line, peaking and emitting a beep with each heartbeat. If years of TV and movies had taught me anything it was that the sooner you started looking at one of those machines, the sooner the line would go flat, emitting one long beep and doctors and nurses would come running, shouting things like "We're losing him" and demanding cc's of things, stat.

After a while, he was taken out again for an x-ray on his shoulder, which was bruised and cut from his impact with the ground. We wandered back to the waiting room to sit some more. Because the person in charge of ordering waiting-room magazines seems to believe that the waiting-room clientele consists entirely of stay-at-home moms with 3.2 kids, I soon found myself reading an article from "Parenting" magazine, the most interesting reading material on hand.

(Note to parents: any product you buy for your children can lead to injury and death for those children. Remember that stroller you bought? The changing table? They are even now conspiring to destroy little Kyson while your back is turned. I wouldn't trust the crib either.)

Anyway, to make a long story slightly shorter, eventually we went home because what else were we going to do? His parents had started from their home on the two-hour drive to get to the hospital and he was clearly in competent hands. A few hours later, he and his parents showed up at our house, where he was gathering a few things so they could go stay for a day or two at a relative's house in town (they had been directed not to let him be alone for at least 24 hours). He's now back home and doing pretty well, though several hours of memory following the crash are missing.

In the end, it got me thinking about friendship and stuff like that. We all genuinely cared about Will, but what could we do? I don't think we quite knew how to respond. Freaking out and crying might be something a girlfriend or a mom could do, but that would be weird if a bunch of his tough, twenty-something, male friends did that. Sitting and staring at the ground in a somber and respectful way would probably have been okay, but that somehow didn't seem to fit.

So, as I so often do, I resorted to sitting around and making wise cracks. And why not? If Will had been awake, I'm sure he would have been joking as well. He probably would have tossed in a few well-places swears and somehow found a way to include the word "boobs" in the conversation. I suppose the moral of the story is to wear your damn helmet. That's what I learned anyway.

It's good to have you back, Will.