Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day

So, I know it's been almost seven months. I intended to come back after a summer sabbatical, like a new season of your favorite sitcom, but time got away from me. I'm going to make a point of blogging during breaks from work in 2012. But I had a great idea about Boxing Day: a Rocky marathon, except for Rocky V, which never happened. (Get it, boxing?) Unfortunately, I failed to implement it, despite ideal conditions (cold outside, day-after-Christmas blahs, a bit of stomach cramping and relatively low demands from the fandamily). But that led to an even better idea. Every December 26, we dispense with the feel-good peace-on-earth mumbo jumbo and box the ears of the person who has most pissed us off that year. You can only pick one, so it doesn't descend into all-out war. This also increases your chances for success in your 2012 resolutions (for those who are inclined to do such things), because if you play your cards right, you're ridding yourself of your worst frustration and have one less albatross dragging you down. I, of course, claim exemption for mine own ears, having come up with an idea that may revolutionize the holidays. Gina, please present your ears at 5:30 pm tomorrow. And to the rest of you, Happy New Year. See you again in 2012.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Song of the Sea

So, I just happened to find out this morning that the theme song from Southland is an actual song, with lyrics, and not only is it beautiful, but it's Portuguese, and the lady who made this version of Cancao do Mar (Song of the Sea) an international hit, Dulce Pontes, is from Montijo, a town I served in for four and a half months that is not much bigger than my hometown. I don't know how I missed not only this, but her. I was out from 1998 to 2000, when she was around 30 and had already had some success. I knew the Portuguese had some cool fados, songs of mourning and loss that, I hate to say, are basically Portugal's only music worth a damn. I went to Portugal figuring that, like the rest of Western Europe, they'd have some great singers and musicians. Not only did I play the piano in sacrament every week, including in the largest ward in the country, but the Portuguese have some very unfortunate singing voices (as well as some very unfortunate-looking women, but that's a story for another day). They belted it out better than most stateside congregations in volume, but pitch-wise, they sound about like badgers getting a proctology exam from Captain Hook. I am going to have to do some research to see if any of my old cohorts know this woman. I hope you enjoy, especially my friend Mary, who is of Portuguese descent and is much easier on the eyes, but has had a rough couple of weeks.

Also... Gina, don't lust too much after the naked guy who appears on the left at around 1:50. He does have great abs. There was a video on YouTube that I liked better, but embedding was disabled, so you'll just have to look at the paintings courteously provided by MariaSlide. Have a great Memorial Day!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Legacy of a Generous Heart

21 years ago today was the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson. This is the final song of a medley of Henson's favorite songs, sung at the end of his funeral in New York on May 21, 1990. I dare you not to cry. Richard Hunt, the voice of Scooter, died less than two years later, and seeing his face among other early Muppeteers who are now gone or retired makes it even sadder and sweeter. I grew up with the Muppets during what was possibly the height of their popularity when I was a very small child in the early 1980s, and was a regular viewer of the early(ish) days of Sesame Street. I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Jim Henson is responsible for many children's happiest moments. His vision and imagination rival virtually anyone born in the past century. My mother told me I had a particular love for the Swedish Chef, and would laugh uncontrollably when he came on. (In fact, he's still one of my faves).

Anyway, this month has been pretty good so far, breaking me out of my recent stretch of crappy Mays, but last week I was getting fed up with some of the shitty news out there (the Botox mom, among two or three other stories), and needed something to give me hope in humanity. Somehow, I stumbled across this, and I was able to break out of thinking that mankind is irretrievably damaged and think on the people who have been touched worldwide by one of my heroes, and put my focus back on the possibilities in the world that every single person represents. There is also a new Muppets movie coming out the week of Thanksgiving, starring and written and produced by Muppet enthusiast Jason Segel, with Amy Adams co-starring, and cameos up the wazoo. So really, that's a double rainbow. At any rate, I hope this clip brightens your day, and that our children, and children everywhere get to enjoy simple, innocent days with goofy Muppets cavorting and scampering across the screen and bringing pure joy with them.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

And now, some curmudgeonly grumbling...

Get ready for bitching, moaning, grumbling and grousing. Apparently I am much closer to old farthood than I thought possible. This morning as I was driving home from Burger King with my Croissanwich, I heard a classic rock station playing More Than Words. AND I OBJECT MOST VOCIFEROUSLY! What the hell? I have heard some 1980s tunes from U2 creeping onto the Arrow playlist (103.5, Utah's most popular classic rock station), but I have to object to this. Admittedly it's a little older than I thought; it was released on single in 1991 (I was thinking more like 1995, mostly because it sounds like most of the crap that came out after Kurt Cobain died during my freshman year of high school). And the band that made it, Extreme, definitely had the look of butt rockers. And I get that it's been twenty years, and I'm not that young any more (I'll be 32 on August 25), but I'm not that old, dagnabbit! And to be honest, More Than Words only barely qualifies as rock anyway. If I start hearing Breakfast at Tiffany's or Blues Traveler's Run-Around, or Kiss From a Rose, or God help me, anything by Green Day or Weezer on classic stations, I'm gonna start handing out compound fractures like a Chinese lady handing out free Szechuan chicken samples at a shopping mall food court. I will do it. I expect at least another decade before I have to start feeling middle aged. That is all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why I Love Barter

Most of you know what I do for a living... kind of. I own what's called a barter exchange (mine is called All Business Barter), which way too few businesses are utilizing, and many don't even realize exist. The short and skinny of it is that I help bring new business in that almost drops into my clients' laps because it's being offered on trade, and help them spend it on things they need that they're either using cash for or that they'd like to do and don't necessarily have in their budget. It's really quite magical. You can get a $1300 couch or a couple grand worth of dental work for much less in actual cash cost. Business used to be done that way almost exclusively (as in "I'll trade you that there mangy ole mule fer that sack of flour and a wagon axle"). I just use technology to facilitate the whole deal, safeguard against one party getting the short end of the stick, and broker their needs and wants. I've been in the biz for over five years, and in addition to making a real difference in the lives of others, have gotten some amazing things for myself and my family. Meals at restaurants, carpet cleaning, auto repair, furniture, and new tile for our kitchen, and more than I could probably even remember. At any rate, the video below is from Saturn Barter in the Seattle area and is a pretty good quick sum-up of what I'm all about. I'm hoping in the coming months to get a videographer to do a similar video for my website (on trade, of course). Hopefully this is something that will be of interest to many of you who haven't quite gotten a firm grasp of what I actually do, and be interesting at the same time. I promise, this post is not a phone-in. It's one I've been meant to do for a long while, and if even one person gets some ideas of the possibilities that are out there, and is able to incorporate it in some way, through an exchange or just being more active in trading on their own, I'll consider it very worthwhile. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tales of the White Trash

So there I was... last Friday, we got our tax refund, which had been due February 25. Amy had a hard week with Jackson home from school with a cough three out of five weekdays (and no coinciding sick behavior like sleeping and giving his poor mom a break). We were able to pay off a couple of significant debts, and I thought it appropriate to take Amy out. I had in mind something at least relatively nice... honestly, Texas Roadhouse is the one chain I love above all others, and my blood count was low on steak. Buuuuut, our babysitter arrived later than planned, and we didn't even leave the house until 7:15 (shut up, that's late. This will all come into play. Shut up). What I was really hoping for was to let Amy shop to her heart's content, since she seems to often get shafted on clothes and shoes in our family budget. And you should also know that everything in Layton, Utah, even our mall, closes insanely, inexplicably, retardedly early. Yeah, I said retardedly, and I meant it. Even on weekends, most of the mall stores are closed at 9. Anyway, we tried to get in at Outback, and there was a 45-50 minute wait. When I get hungry, it makes me 1. grumpy, 2. stupid, and 3. overly optimistic about potential deliciousness. So I did something terrible. I settled for the restaurant right next door. The Golden Corral.

I honestly don't know where some of these people come from. Outside what is actually a pretty good salad bar (and come on, as long as it's fresh and there is a selection, how do you mess up salad?), the Corral provides a smattering of fried food and obese patrons that can only be rivaled by state fairs. Dinner buffet is a little over $10 per person, but after taxes and tips for the so-called "waitress" who is responsible for nothing but bringing you drinks, we spent $28, and I find it amazing what a difference of maybe five or ten dollars would have gotten us at a real restaurant. There are a few less greasy options, most of them edible but none done particularly well. The most egregious offense was Amy's chocolate "truffle." Such lies! It had the flavor and consistency of chocolate frosting. Although to be honest, it had sprinkles on it, which is usually not the sign of gourmet anything. What can I say, Amy is a trusting person. There were a few similarly misled young couples and families, but for the most part, this is what the customers look like:

In fact, the woman pictured above is probably in the top 3 percent of persons frequenting the Corral. She at least has the appearance of respectability, and may be highly intelligent and very pleasant to interact with. On this gal, it's just the size and frumpiness I'm pointing out as a general idea of the Golden Corral dining experience. I truly don't have a lot of prejudices, but I have two exceptions I make no apologies for: gypsies (who are mostly in Europe, so I don't have to deal with them) and white trash (basically American gypsies). The reason? I believe you can be poor and dignified. On my paternal side of the family, I come from rural Southeast Idaho stock that definitely knew hard times, but they were also strong, clean, hardworking people. I suppose if I were being fair, I would expand the term white trash to include hatred for trash of all races, since we're talking mostly about behaviors here, although who am I to lie that appearance isn't a major component? It totally is. But there is definitely black white trash, and Asian white trash if you've ever seen the movie Gran Torino, and as I mentioned, gypsies could probably be considered Europe's answer to white trash, and other than geographical distance, as far as I'm concerned, we could use the two terms interchangeably. But it doesn't pack the same punch without the word white attached to it. Do I qualify as racist? And am I going to hell? Perhaps. Frankly, if hating white trash is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

At any rate, we ended up not shopping after running into Amy's sister at her workstation at the mall JC Penney, so the entire nice evening out I'd pictured came to naught. I am fortunate to have parents who volunteer to watch our kids once a month, so this Friday, I'll be able to get the Golden Corral experience rinsed from my mouth, and even if we get fast food, or go to enjoy the overt redneck-ness of Cracker Barrel, we can hold our heads high, and never see this brand of trailer cuisine again, at least until the next time I sell my soul for convenience and cheap steak.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Introducing Gangstagrass

I've got a treat for anyone with true musical taste. I heard about the FX show Justified last year, and was able to catch up on it when its first season came out on DVD a few months ago. It's now one of my personal faves, and I got amazingly lucky when FX was added to my cable package in February at no additional charge just before the start of Season 2. The show is good enough that I could blog about it, but it's actually the theme song and the band who sings it that I want to give some Amens to. The band is Gangstagrass, a group of musicians that combine authentic bluegrass (which is a natural fit with the show's Kentucky setting), and... wait for it... rap (!) into a new genre. It sounds like a potential disaster, but I dig it. This particular video is the full-length version of the song, with clips from the show interspersed. Elmore Leonard, the fiction writer who wrote the short story on which Justified is based, (and who is now 85 years old), says it best: "Rench (the vocalist and producer) and his friends have done nothing short of creating a new form of music. Gangstagrass takes two types of music that are opposites and mixes them together brilliantly in a way that is natural and enjoyable". I've heard several of their songs and have to tip my hat to people who are willing to think waaaaay outside the box. I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ode to the B movies

Time got away from me again. I was pretty sick for most of last week. This post is not going to be a masterpiece, but it's an entry I've been meaning to write for a while. I've run across a lot of B movies in the past few weeks, and not only that, but read a book by Bruce Campbell, the modern-day king of B movies, and saw a couple of movies about B movies and the people who love them. It's given me a new appreciation for not only the craft, but the people involved in bringing us their low-budget, sometimes trashy, but often brilliant and always resourceful visions.

A couple of months ago, I got a documentary from my Netflix called Best Worst Movie, about the cult following of the infamous Troll 2, culminating in a reunion almost 20 years later, and reflections from those associated with it. The real-life characters who were involved in that movie are as bizarre as those in any scripted film, and I had a ton of fun with it. The Italian director to this day clings to the delusion that he made a good film, and the actors today lead lives ranging from a pretty functional and well-loved dentist in Alabama to an old man who feels he's wasted his life to a couple of others with clear mental health issues who almost seem too weird to be real. If you are interested in a fairly lighthearted documentary about a subject that has no real importance, I'd put Best Worst Movie in the ole queue.

A few weeks later, I saw Bubba Ho-Tep on cable, featuring Bruce Campbell from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness (also played Brisco County Jr. and several small parts in more mainstream movies, for those of you who are too highbrow for Sam Raimi's early days), and loved its strange storyline of an aging Elvis and an old black man who claims to be JFK facing off against an ancient Egyptian mummy who is terrorizing their nursing home. I can't really add a whole lot to that summary. It's every bit as strange as it sounds, but the outhouse humor and performances hit me perfectly. I checked out Campbell's best-selling autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, a few weeks ago, and it was just as entertaining.

Last but not least, Ed Wood. Yes, that is Johnny Depp in drag, missing his front teeth. This is one of Depp's best performances, in the least-seen but by far the best of his collaborations with Tim Burton. Wood was the creator of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, and a host of others that have gotten the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. But his own story is even more outrageous, and I'd consider Ed Wood something of a hidden gem.

At any rate, that's largely what's been on my mind. Likely at some point I'll have the energy to say something important, but I don't much want to burn energy on that right now. I hope my readers are all well. Once again, toodles.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"My Humps" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Well, not quite. But still a pretty amusing example of seemingly incongruous performances. I hope you enjoy it enough to hold you until I have something to actually say again. Peace out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again

Today has given me some unusual nostalgia that came from a strange place. Jerry Sloan, the Utah Jazz's gruff longtime coach, very suddenly and unexpectedly resigned, partway through his 23rd season with the team. I am very much a sports fan, but am usually able to roll with whatever happens and not internalize disappointments and triumphs and magnify them to an unhealthy extent the way I see with the more fanatical fans out there. But today's news got me a little misty-eyed. In addition to being an outstanding coach and an amazingly low-ego person, and all the usual things that would make a fan feel sad for such a loss, Coach Sloan was the last remaining link to a piece of my childhood and adolescence that feels like it's now gone forever. Larry Miller died two years ago, John Stockton and Karl Malone are enshrined in the Hall of Fame and pushing 50, the Delta Center was renamed, and even Hot Rod Hundley is gone. I don't think many non-Utahns or casual fans across the country can understand how much the Jazz have meant to the entire state, or fully appreciate the combination of people coming together at the right time that made the Stockton/Malone years so memorable. It's one of the most compelling true-life sports stories ever, one that would make a fantastic movie. I consider it a Cinderella story, even without the NBA Championship. Not many fan bases can say that.

Perhaps the reason I'm so susceptible to such sentimentality is that over the past several years, I've had a twinge of pain at the realization that my hometown of Brigham City resembles the town I grew up in less and less. I had a complex relationship with Brigham. Unlike my brother Vance, who has more or less known since he was in junior high that he would live and die there, I never insisted on being a lifer. In fact, at some point, I realized that Brigham was a small pond and didn't have much to offer as I made my way in the world. But in addition to the normal growth and change in the businesses that came and went, and the faces that moved away, every school I went to for thirteen years is either torn down or no longer recognizable to me. Central Elementary was razed probably a decade ago, and making things even weirder, is the site of the soon-to-be Brigham City Temple. My junior high has undergone a major facelift, and I found out recently that its gym, which is straight out of the 1950s and I absolutely love for some reason, will be demolished soon. Box Elder High School has undergone such an extreme makeover that when I wandered over there last year to check it out, my jaw hit the floor. It was like an old janitor friend suddenly turned into an uppity, high-maintenance woman. I have no claim on the community, and it's unlikely I'll ever live there again, and it's not as if I was such a stud in high school that those were anything even close to glory days, but I can't help being sad, and kinda pissed at the school board who found it so necessary to make Box Elder look like Bel Air. The entire thing looks to me like a colossal Super Sweet Sixteen party, a misappropriation of public money during really lean times. The more I think about it, the more I hate the people who did this. It's like when Meg Ryan got the botox treatment. Meg, you used to be so cute. Now you look like a platypus. And my school looks like a wannabe Hollywood sexpot.

I should try to wrap up here, but I don't know if there is a main point to tie this all together. I know change is inevitable, and life goes on. And really, even if the landmarks had remained the same, you can't go home again. It just seems true on days like this that nothing gold can stay. To Coach Sloan, happy trails. I believe you're a good man, and hope that if my kids ever play basketball, they get a coach like you. To Brigham City, I will continue to smile and wave when I see you during visits to the fam, but will always have a place in my heart for the old you. And to the people who created that monstrosity on 6th West, I wish you pubic lice, incontinence, and an eternity of Rob Schneider movies.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet Paul

It's been a couple months, but I've decided to try to get back blogging. From here on out, come hell or high water, I'll be doing one at least every Monday, with other posts coming sporadically as I see fit. On this first one, I'm afraid I'm just gonna mail it in, but hopefully you'll find it worthwhile. This is a trailer for Paul, coming this March from my heroes Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two absurdly funny British imports that have gotten these guys a major following in the U.S. This might be my own most anticipated movie of the year, along with Cowboys & Aliens. Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy, and I hope I still have readers. Ciao.