Thursday, September 29, 2005

You Know You Love Chocolate When...

My grandparents used to take an old camper trailer up to the mountains and spend days on the riverbanks, breathing the cool air and relaxing with the family. As a young kid, these are some of the best memories: crawling all over the insides of the camper, skipping rocks, floating the river, bait-fishing, hiking etc. And every night at the campfire we would bust out the graham crackers, Hershey's chocolate, and marshmallows, then roast up as many s'mores as you could eat.

I may not have ever mentioned my love of chocolate on this site before. Perhaps that's kind of a girly thing to say, and no, I don't eat it when I'm feeling unhappy, or plump, or stressed. I eat it ALL the time. I eat my chocolate like a man, as much as I want, whenever I want, for as long as I want.

The camper was already in poor shape when I was little, and it wasn't many years before we just stopped taking it out anymore. We would go an entire year without hitching it up. It was always a crappy Saturday when "Clean the Camper" showed up on your chore-list, because you knew you'd be holding your breath while wiping up mouse turds, and and beating out pounds of dust, mites, and who-knows-what-else out of its insides.

It was on precicely one of these Saturday camper-cleanings that I was rummaging around one of its upper cupboards, trying my best to clean the thing out...when I found a stash of three or four uneaten Hershey's bars. The paper wrapping was worn and tissue-like, indicating that it may have been damp in the cupbords for a time during the winter, and when I unwrapped the foil and pulled out the chocolate bar it had the look of something old and white. I knew I held in my hand something potentially dangerous. This chocolate didn't look right, but at the same time I KNEW it was chocolate. I had just pulled it out of the wrapper myself for heaven's sake, and I don't care how white or warped a Hershey's bar looks, that's still chocolate.

I actually sat and stared at it for a couple of minutes wondering if I should take a bite or not. I vaguely recall going inside the house and asking some aloof question to my mom about whether chocolate can go rotten. Whatever the answer I found myself back out in the camper minutes later, mouth wide open and the chocolate bar in my hands. I took a big bite and tasted nothing that resembled the creamy warm Hershey's I normally ate. This tasted crusty, stale, and not chewey at all, more like a bar of week old cheese-sponge, crumbly and decayed. I promptly spit it out, and went on cleaning. I was relatively sure the mice hadn't got to it, so I just shut my mouth and went about my business hoping I wouldn't die.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wrestling

Saitiev waves after another big win

I’ve always loved watching amateur wrestling. It’s been in my blood since I was just a boy, watching my older brother compete. I can’t remember a time when the sport wasn’t a part of my life. Wrestling is great on so many levels. It is a branch martial art, full of technique, strength, power, and stamina. It is a one on one competition, and therefore it’s easy to determine where you stack up against those around you. Like all great sports the mental preparation and endurance is just as crucial as the physical, and supersedes it in the big matches.

Wrestling seems to be a dying sport, despite being one of the oldest. Title IX, the legal precedent that set standards involving discrimination on the basis of sex, is in essence very noble. But it has resulted in many schools cutting their wrestling programs because of the requirement to make room for an equal number of men and women’s sports, and since wrestling isn’t a real moneymaker, it gets the chop first.

Wrestling in the U.S. could and should be huge. In Russia it is the popular equivalent of perhaps professional tennis in the United States. The athletes who dominate in the sport come mainly from Russia, the former Soviet republics, Iran, Korea, the U.S., and several eastern block countries.

Up until recently it has been nearly impossible for me to actually watch our wrestlers compete, let alone foreign wrestlers. The competitions aren’t televised nationally, except for the NCAA Championship round, and a precious few Olympic Gold medal matches. Recently Real Pro Wrestling is trying to find a niche in cable networks, but for the most part viewing the matches must be done in person.

This week the World Championships (an annual event) are held in Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. For the first time they were broadcast in their entirety—Quarter, Semi-, and Final matches. Freestyle is my preferred discipline, and I’m always excited to see who the U.S. sends to the world stage to compete. I was disappointed to see that only two of our wrestlers made it into the Quarterfinals, and only one, Joe Williams, medaled (bronze). But the real joy was to see for the first time Russia’s Buvassiar Saitiev. This guy is the Michael Jordan of wrestling. He won his first World Championships in 1995, and the next year won the Olympic Games. Some years he has competed in the World Championships, others he opts not to, but he has tallied an impressive 5 World Championships and 2 Olympics Championships. In 10 years he has only lost one match, that came from USA’s Brandon Slay in a huge upset in the 2000 Olympic Games. Yesterday Saitiev won his 6th World Title.

Watching this guy is pure joy and excitement. He moves unlike any other wrestler I’ve ever seen. Graceful as a dancer, always poised, always controlled, effortless, smooth, humble, and totally unconventional. In each match I saw he did some trick, some move, some scramble where I said, “Whaaa? I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Congratulations to this phenomenal athlete.

Monday, September 26, 2005

This One Goes To Eleven

I have had unfortunately few athletic goals over the last year. One has been to gain 15 pounds, all of which I could place comfortably on my thighs and calves, but which will quite likely sit inner-tube-like on my waist and sides. That is unless I work out and put it to good use. I’m about half way there.

My other athletic goal is to shoot under 100 in 18 holes of golf, or under 50 in 9. I know what you’re thinking…golf isn’t athletic. Yes and no. It certainly doesn’t push the cardiovascular system like, say, and Ironman would. But it does require, I found out, a certain amount of stamina for a person to walk a full round while humping their own golf bag. You wouldn’t know it by looking at John Daley’s figure, but it’s true (his figure happens to be a circle, by the way).

I’ve come close a couple of times to making my goal, but continually fall victim to my own mental breakdowns. On Saturday, while playing 9 holes at the beautiful Hobble Creek in Springville, I was on course to accomplish my goal and earn the reward I’ve set for myself—a pair of bona fide golf shoes. The footwear can only improve my suffering game. I had played a so-so round, and had parred a number of holes, which is good for me. I’ve yet to make a true birdie in my life, and missed my 3 attempts at one during the course of the round, but was still on track. Going into hole number 9 all I needed to do was go even on the par 5. It was pretty straight forward, without much hazard, and shouldn’t have been a problem. My tee shot came off straight and went about 200 yds, so I felt okay. But I then pulled out a wood, which I never use, and topped it twice, then sent one sailing into a tree behind the green, hit that tree’s branch on the next shot, chunked it twice on the chip, then four putted to go out. ELEVEN!

The beautiful Fall scenery was something to behold—an array of streaking reds, almost as if the trees were bleeding, and the leaves seemed to say, as they let go of the branch for the last time, “Thank goodness I don’t have to watch that horrible display of golf anymore this season.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lisa

Your eyes are wonder bulbs
Always seeing for the first time
Pure
So disinterested in things
Only about the heart
You ask, and you ask, and you ask
about babies, and work, and a life
You'll never get to live

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Country's Admiration

My wife makes fun of me because I used to pray for Eddie Vedder when I was in high school. Sure, I didn’t know the guy and may have been a tad obsessed with his music (is it unusual to decorate a Pearl Jam Christmas tree in the school Christmas tree lane?), but I know the prayers were sincere, and who knows, they may have contributed to the goodness of both “No Code” and “Yeild.” I haven’t sent one up on his behalf since, and won’t go into the flatness of both “Binaural” and “Riot Act.” COINCIDENCE? Ha!

I would also wear a T-shirt, in those days, which had that classic picture of Jim Morrison with arms outstretched. On the front a caption read “An American Poet 1943-1971.” I went several months there where all I listed to was the Doors and Led Zeppelin. One of those musical phases that I just had to go through. I believed my shirt, and would later laugh at myself after reading Phillip Levine, Anne Sexton, John Ashbury, Larry Levis…real American Poets. This isn’t meant to discount what Morrison created, because no doubt it means a lot to some people—just not to me anymore. But the music did certainly contribute to the stirring of certain sensibilities, even if it is now obsolete for me.

Not long ago the Discovery Channel aired a program called “The 100 Greatest Americans” in which the results were chosen by Americans themselves via an online polling process through their website. There are obvious inaccuracies in the sampling of such a pole, because you can immediately exclude the opinions of everyone 60 years and older because of the overwhelmingly large percentage that just aren’t online yet. Nevertheless here are some names that made the list: Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. Surprised? How about: Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Brett Favre, Madonna, Hugh Heffner. Yup, all made the list. Mark Twain made the list, but no other authors (Steinbeck? Faulkner? Dickinson? Hemmingway?) In the end the list turned out to be the 100 Most Popular Americans.

The only reason I bring all these things up is because I watched a movie last night that got me thinking about who we esteem, why, and how that effects us. The movie was “Hud” starring the hunky Paul Newman, wherein he plays a reckless, unprincipled, womanizer who “doesn’t give a damn” about anything except himself. Part of the conflict in the movie is the influence Hud has on his nephew, Lonnie, and the audience wonders whether Lonnie will be sucked into his uncle’s loose-cannon lifestyle. At one point Hud’s dad approaches Lonnie with gravity and a strong caveat, “Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire.”

This struck me as something entirely true. Oft times we think we only effect ourselves, but that’s a lie. I know, “No man is an island” blah, blah, blah….but really. It took a lot of guts for me to eventually throw out my Doors CD’s because I knew it was all just a bunch of bunk, and really didn’t inspire me poetically or otherwise. At the risk of judgement it also takes guts for me to keep the R rated “Stevie” and “Good Will Hunting” in my collection because they do inspire me. I just hope that I admire the people I do for good reasons, and that those reasons are causing the country to change little by little.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

LOST

I’ll burn every bridge that I’ve crossed
To find some beautiful place to get lost
-Elliott Smith


“Crazy people don't think they're getting crazy. They think they're getting saner.”

Pop the popcorn, ice the beverage, set your Tivos. The best hour on television is about to begin again.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Building Blueprint

When I was in shop class in 7th grade one of our projects was to build a bridge out of balsa wood and green glue. I think that we were instructed in the dynamics of construction, trusses, and weight distribution, but were given free reign to apply the principles to our own designs. We spent several weeks constructing our bridges, and when our termination deadline was up we all gathered at the front of the class to test out the strength of our bridges.

I remember looking around at my competition, which consisted mostly of 8th grade rednecks, and thinking that there was no possible way that I was going to lose this contest. They looked something like this:

The teacher would suspend our bridges between two platforms and attach a bucket underneath to which weight was gradually added. I was disappointed to find that my bridge snapped in half in near record time. I mustn’t have listened too intently to the physics lessons that preceded the bridge building. Or perhaps I focused too intently on making the bridge look pretty instead of sturdy. Either way I was left to wonder how the mustachioed 13 year old in the Big Johnson T-Shirt was able to outwit me.

I couldn’t help but think of this experience as I listed to President Thomas S. Monson speak yesterday at a multi-stake conference, which was held in the Conference Center. “Jesus was a builder,” he said. “They called him ‘the carpenter’s son.’” He explained that Christ wisely counseled men not to build their house upon sand, but rather upon a rock, so that when the rains and winds came your livelihood wouldn’t be washed away. He then read to us from D&C 88:119

“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”

I’m not much of a builder, but when President Monson referred to this verse of scripture as our "building blueprint" I was inspired to take out a spiritual hammer and go to work. I hope I can fashion a new bridge with beams of faith, learning, order, glory, and fasting. Hopefully I can maneuver them with less awkwardness than I did with the sticks of balsa and green glue. Hopefully the bucket holds.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Movie Magic

I've been lazy this week, in terms of blogging, but I've been busy elsewhere. As many of you may or may not know (are there many of you?) I am in the midst of trying to make a film. What I hoped was a final draft of the script is about to enter into a rigorous, three-week rewrite process by an editor in LA. The business plan is virtually finished, and we are putting the finishing touches on an investment kit that should go out to printing here in the next few days. And inbetween putting those puzzle peices together, I am plodding forward on crafting a new story that will hopefully turn into a script over the course of the next five months.

I've often thought, "If Snoop Dogg can make a movie, so can I." We'll see. Perhaps Snoop is a gangsta of many talents and I'm just selling him short. But each time I go to the movie theatre and roll my eyes at the newest trailer for "Shark Boy and Lava Girl," I get the gusto I need to overcome my impatience with the movie industry beurocracy and trudge on.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Impressions

Thanks to the generosity of Addie and Jeremy, Christy and I were able to get into the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts free of charge to see the wonderful works of the impressionists. There were featured works by Renior, Millet, Pissarro, Troyon, Boudin, Corot, and others. Below are two paintings that I loved the most.


Claude Monet, Flower Beds at V├ętheuil (1881)



Vincent Van Gogh, Enclosed Field with Ploughman (October 1889)

It is impossible to truly appreciate these works of art without seeing them in person, to actually look at the depth and texture of the brushstrokes. They were amazing.

“It must be good to die in the knowledge that one has done some truthful work, and to know that as a result, one will live on in the memory of at least a few and leave a good example for those who come after.” Vincent Van Gogh, 1878

Friday, September 02, 2005

Pickin' on My Wallet

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is quite possibly my favorite movie. The writing is amazing, the acting superb, and the cinematography astonishing. The movie is polarizing, I’ve found out, because most people I talk to either dislike it or love it. One of the most amazing phenomenons surrounding the film was the soaring take-off of its T Bone Burnett produced soundtrack. All of a sudden pop country radio, usually specializing in ditties like “Save A Horse, Ride a Cowboy” and “Redneck Yacht Club” was throwing in classic old-timey numbers like “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “The Lonesome Valley.”

Things were looking up. Mainstream Country radio was poised to make room for less flourishing, gimmickless acts that actually had some songwriting ability and talent. Nickel Creek and Union Station began to sell lots of records. More attention was turned to the roots of Country music, roots that sprouted from the southern soil of the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the Blues.

But, like all good businessmen, someone spied a way to make a buck off this burgeoning revival. I hadn’t really thought about it until yesterday when I went into the record store and there at the listening station was a CD entitled “Pickin’ on Jack Johnson.” I almost started laughing thinking about how we made the jump from ultra chill, feel-good surf guru, to twangity twang-twang tributes of “Sexy Plexi” a’la banjo. I honestly don’t know. You’ve seen these albums for sure. The first ones weren’t that difficult to imagine in bluegrass form, “Pickin’ on Wilco,” “Pickin’ on the Eagles.” Yeah okay. But here is a list of albums that, believe it or not, these ingenious bloodsuckers at “Pickin On…” have actually released:

“Pickin’ on The Indigo Girls”
“Pickin’ on AC/DC”
“Pickin’ on Green Day”
“Pickin’ on Modest Mouse”
“Pickin’ on Creed”
“Pickin’ on R.E.M.”
“Pickin’ on Nickelback”
“Pickin’ on John Mayer”
“Pickin’ on Counting Crows”
“Pickin’ on Franz Ferdinand”
“Pickin’ on Def Leppard”

You guys probably think I’m joking, but check it out, for about seventeen bucks each at Amazon you could start a mean collection of bluegrass barf. Personally I’m holding out for a copy of “Pickin’ on Britney Spears.” (She already has a Greatest Hits out). Just watch. It'll happen.