Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Jazz Have Been Lucky and I Think The Refs Have Been Paid Off Using Tithing Funds

As glad as I am that the Jazz are up 3-1, it hasn’t felt like they’ve outright dominated once in this series. In fact, I dare say they’ve been lucky. At no point do I think the Rockets have outplayed them, but they have underplayed this whole time.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually feel like the officiating has been terrible because it seems to be favoring the Jazz! Poor Luis Scola has received a couple fouls a game, including a couple crucial ones that impacted the outcome, that were as ticky-tack as they come. If I were the Rockets, I’d swear there was a conspiracy going on somewhere.

Actually, I DO swear there is a conspiracy going on, but that’s an entirely different post. Basically, the refs are what’s wrong with the NBA and I believe it’s total collusion. But, we’ll table that for later.

Plus, where have Boozer and Korver been? For being such key factors to the Jazz’ success, they have been almost completely non-factors. Korver can’t hit a 3 to save his life, practically his only real value, and Boozer hasn’t hit much of anything. Williams has emerged as the obvious star, completely eclipsing any illusion to it being a joint effort with Boozer. In fact, if anyone has taken up the slack, it’s been Okur. Thank goodness he’s doing alright.

Interesting sidenote on Okur, a friend of a friend lives in Detroit, where he used to play, and they claim he smokes like 3 packs a day. Athletes and doctors that smoke make no sense to me. Imagine what it must be like guarding Mehmet and having to smell the nicotive ooze out of his pores. Nasty. Actually, that’s probably true for most actors too. Think about how terribly Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt must reek.

I predict the Jazz in 6. The Rockets will probably win the next one at home, and then the Jazz will finally step up back in SLC in game 6. It didn’t have to be this difficult, but, like I’ve said, the Jazz love to make things hard for themselves.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I Hate People Who Hate Oasis

A very good indicator of whether I’m going to like someone or not is how they feel about Oasis. If they don’t like them, I can feel the blood and heat rush to my face and my fists clinch.

There are only two reasons anyone EVER gives for not liking them. They are:
1) The brothers are a couple of clowns.
2) They copy the Beatles too much

Both of these reasons drive me crazy because neither one is based on actually listening to the music. It’s based on an impression they’ve acquired from the press that they’ve adopted as their own when they have no idea. Simple mindedness like this is one of my biggest pet peeves in people. So, there’s no sense pursuing a relationship. If they’re knee-jerk about this, they’ll be knee-jerk about other things. Knee-jerking is for jerks.

The first reason is the one most created by the press. Yes, the Gallagher’s fight and argue and can act immaturely. However, Ray and Dave Davies did the same thing and no one wrote off the Kinks as being a bunch of hacks. Plus, has anyone ever actually watched a Noel Gallagher interview? He’s one of the most clever, candid, and humorous rock stars out there. I recently watched a doc series called The Seven Ages of Rock and the episode on British Indie Music was the best installment. The best scene, and I’m trying to find it online, is when Noel says that "Wonderwall" made him a millionaire four times in one week. He then, for emphasis, holds up four fingers and mouths “Four times!” as if his own mind was blown by it. So honest and hilarious. Another moment was from the film Live Forever, a doc on the same subject. Noel is slouched in a huge desk chair and says, after defending their opus Be Here Now, “Take it to the shop, you might get 2 quid for it. Come ‘round and I’ll sign it. You might get 5.”

Reason number two is the lamest. Show me one band NOT influenced by the Beatles, and I’ll tell you it’s actually jazz. Blaming them for copying the Beatles is like vilifying a Christian for copying the Bible. I can only think of one song that has any remote Beatles rip-off and it’s the intro to “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, which has a piano part that sounds a lot like “Imagine”. Other than that, they write some of the greatest, straight up, power drenched, rock songs of all-time. How anyone can listen to “Champagne Supernova”, “Live Forever”, or “D’You Know What I Mean?” and not be blown away by the sonic ferocity makes no sense. You must have pear and mango moisturizer running through your veins.

I will admit they aren’t the most inventive lyricists in the world. Noel’s words seem to be there to fill space between power chords and solos. The one bonus of that is that lead singer Liam is one of the greatest singers/interpreters in the biz and can make nothing sound like something. I’ll sacrifice lyrics for sheer sonic force.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lost Gem of the 80s #2: Blow Monkeys - "Animal Magic" (1986)

Remember horns? Whether real or synthesized, the 80s were full of them. And it wasn’t a big deal. Most bands employed a brass section.

Well, other than the occasional Clarence Clemons sighting, I can’t think of a rock band that uses a horn in any current bands or hit singles. Sampling horns for "Crazy In Love" doesn’t count.

I was a big fan of the horns back in the day. They seemed to liven up the party. This brings me to the Blow Monkeys, who used them better than most. Their one and only American hit, "Digging Your Scene", incorporated them seamlessly into their loungey, sophisti-pop sound and no one batted an eye.

The surprise of Animal Magic is actually the guitar. Scrape away the horns and the strings and you have some legitimate blues guitar going on. Whether it’s the acoustic strum of "Wicked Ways", or the clippity-clop underlying "Burn The Rich", which, in Dwight Yoakam or the like’s hands, would have been a total barn-burner. In fact, I remember “dubbing” (remember that?) the album off a friend and being disappointed because the guitars were so prevalent. My tastes were geared more toward the Thompson Twins at that point, and this was not that.

The only thing keeping an album like Animal Magic from catching on with now people is the fey voice of leader, Dr. Robert. It’s only as I listen to the album now that I catch on to the veiled homoeroticism that I was too young to catch onto before. Plus, let’s face it, who DIDN’T seem gay in the 80s? It was such the style that my gaydar still doesn’t work right because I was never faced with a difference. He’s since traded his status in as Lounge Lizard to Torchsong Troubador, but it doesn’t fit him like this does.

Animal Magic is an album that deserves to be rediscovered today. Almost every song is a winner and, when you can listen without prejudice (thank you, George Michael), the musicianship is solid. It’s shrouded in that 80s production that drowns out such things in favor of that lush sheen, but it’s there.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I am finally placing this album in my all-time top 5. If you even remotely liked "Digging Your Scene", do yourself a favor and investigate the rest. There aren’t that many albums out there that deserve to remain on repeat for days on end.
Sadly, this masterpiece is out of print. But, I have a spare copy if anyone wants to buy it off me. :)

The Nugget – "Aeroplane City Lovesong". It’s got all the best of the various elements that make this such an incredible record; bluesy guitars, emotional strings, sexy brass, bongos and congas, and that unsung element of any great song, Black backup singers.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Jazz and My Religion: Practically the Same Thing.

It’s that time of year again. The time when the Jazz break my heart, just as they do every year.

I suffer from extreme loyalty. It’s a condition I wish I could shake, but I can’t. When I take assessment of this and weigh where my loyalties lie the most, it comes down to, in order:
Utah Jazz
And, much like my religion, the Jazz never seem to pay the dividends my loyalty deserves.

I’ve been a fan since I was about 8 when I lived in the Bay Area and my grandparents had season tix to the Jazz, back when they practically had to give them away, and they would send me care packages of Jazz goodies and autographs. It’s true what advertisers say, if they can get their hooks in you at a young age, they have a customer for life.

Then, we moved to SLC when I was 10 and would often go to the games with them, back when getting tickets near their seats was no problem at all. After my grandpa died, my grandma would trade off taking me and my cousin Rick to all the games. From then til now, the Jazz have been, more or less, a perpetual disappointment. There were the Mark Eaton and Adrian Dantley years that barely brought respect, let alone a title. Then, there was the Stockton and Malone era, which were the salad days of Jazz devotion. They got better, they won, they became household names, they even made it to the finals two years in a row. But, they couldn’t get it done. Every year, they come back like prodigal sons, and we take them back because we love and believe in them (and because there isn’t much else to root for in Utah) and they continue to embarrass us.

I’m not saying Utahn’s have it as bad as Bostonians, but it’s tough to be a sports fan in Utah. In addition to the Jazz, BYU and the UofU have never really broken through to the elite either. In fact, what they do is tempt us. The U’s basketball team, led by Andre Miller and Michael Doleac, got to the National Championship in ’97, I think it was, and managed to give Kentucky a run for their money. But, they couldn’t hit a shot in the second half (no surprise) and ended up losing. Even though I went to BYU, we all lost when that happened.

BYU has had some success with their football program, but the bowl games they get invited to are never the big ones and, even though they’ve been doing well in whatever bowl was willing to have them lately, there were many years that they couldn’t be counted on either. See, Utah teams don’t just lose, they lose dramatically. They defeat themselves first and watch as the other team takes advantage.

Wins and losses mean more in Utah because each team also represents Utahns and, more specifically, Mormons. When a team does well on the national stage, it makes Mormons seem ever –so-slightly less strange. See, Mormons are very much the same way. We rarely compete on a national stage and win either. Maybe it’s a fear that success will bring corruption. Maybe it’s because we’re too naïve. Maybe, we’re afraid to compete in the real world. Personally, I believe it’s pieces of all 3 and can attest they all live, in various degrees, in my psyche.

The paradox here is, most sports teams, other than BYU’s, are not made up of members of the church. There are no Mormons on the Jazz. I can only think of a couple ever. The U isn’t stocked with them either. But, the perception outside of Utah is that Utah is a small market, it’s full of Mormons, and no one outside of Utah cares how good we are because they assume everyone in Utah is LDS. And Mormons are weird right? And isn't Utah where the polygamists live? And I heard you can't have alcohol in Utah, etc.

It is funny though how much the Jazz resemble a team Mormons would make if they could. I guess, since Larry Miller, the owner of the team, is LDS, that’s what the team is, but nevermind that. They play hardnose, never complaining, never showboating, team before individual, always adhering to a strict behavioral code that is unwaveringly stressed by a noble leader (Jerry Sloan) who walks it like he talks it. They are the embodiment of Mormon values and have been as long as Sloan’s been at the head, and will continue as long as he’s there. He even has a reputation for benching guys who don’t follow his rules, kinda like being disfellowshipped. Not to mention, like the church, they have a disproportionate number of white men.

I’m about to watch game one of the Jazz/Rockets series and, while I have high hopes that the Jazz can seriously compete this year, I’ve learned not to delude myself into believing they have a chance to go far, let alone win it all. In fact, there is one thing I CAN count on this postseason. We will manage to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Just like every other year.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Good Ol' Rick

Last week I finally purchased Rick Springfield's 2 Disc Anthology, Written In Rock and I needed to annouce that it's brought me a lot of joy.

He's an underrated artist, let's be honest about that. The guy can write a hook, tons of them. I'm getting to the point in my life where I'm a lot less interested in being cool musically. All those bands I wrote off in my twenties (REO Speedwagon, Motley Crue, Styx, Kenny Loggins, Journey, Poison, John Denver, Steely Dan, the list goes on and on), I'm happy to embrace now. It's like delayed gratification. I put off then what would make me happy later.

I do have one complaint. It gets old that Rick has to perform "Jessie's Girl" every day of his life when he has 10 or so other songs that everyone also knows. Give Jessie a rest and pull out some "Human Touch" or something. I'm sure it isn't his fault, poor guy. Those of us who know him though, know he's better than that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lost Gem Of The 80s #1: Robbie Robertson - st (1987)

It’s easy to decide how you’re going to feel about Robbie Robertson. You just have to look at the credits.

We’ll start with Robbie himself. We know he’s the esteemed guitarist and songwriter for The Band (a band I never liked until I saw Scorsese’s Last Waltz). That alone brings a lot of trust and respect. Now, this album doesn’t veer toward the lean country blues the Band were so steeped in, but these are the 80s afterall.

Then look at the guests. The first names to pop out are going to be U2 and Peter Gabriel, and both contributions are pretty noticeable. These make sense considering the album is produced by Daniel Lanois, who also produced U2’s Joshua Tree and Gabriel’s So (two seminal albums of any era), as well as Bob Dylan’s comeback (and best album in my opinon), Time Out Of Mind. And, like U2 and Gabriel, he has a style that’s easy to spot. It’s sweaty and atmospheric. If you do the math, you could easily see the songs on this album as extensions, or even outtakes, if you will, of Joshua Tree and So. If two of the greatest albums ever hooked up and spawned, wouldn’t you be interested in the results? U2 are more than guests, they’re the band for two tracks “Sweet Fire Of Love” and “Testimony”. You know it’s them the second a guitar is strummed or a drum is hit.

Also on board, though less of a headline, are The BoDeans and Ivan Neville (son of Aaron). Round that out with various members of the Band, and it's obvious what this is going to be about and sound like. While these may not mean as much to unfamiliar listeners, rest assured they are in keeping with the quality of the others. Overall, some pretty good genes.

It’s tempting to think the guests almost steal the album right out from under Robertson, but that isn’t the way to look at it. They lend their talents to compliment his. All of the songs are powerful, in that 80s Reagan/Bush Sr. kind of way, and vaguely political, also in that 80s Reagan/Bush Sr. kind of way. One of the singles, “Showdown At Big Sky”, got some airplay and MTV played the video a few times. It best sums up what you’re in for. Also on the album is the original version of “Broken Arrow”, a song made famous a few years later by Rod Stewart, albeit in an inferior version.

It took Robbie 11 years to release a solo album, and he’s only released 3 others since, but this is an excellent piece of music from any era. If you don’t believe me, check out #77 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Albums Of The 80s.

The Nugget - "Sweet Fire Of Love". Again, it's that great lost track any U2 fan, and there are a couple, needs to be aware of.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fat Man Running

Farrah and I set a goal in December that we would run a 10k this year. The obvious choice if you live in Colorado is the Bolder Boulder, an annual event attended by thousands. It’s a huge deal.

Up til now, the furthest I’ve ever ran without having to walk is 6 miles, which I did twice about 4 years ago. There was a path by our apartment in Sacramento that was exactly 3 miles. I got to where I was running it pretty regularly (about 3 times a week) and one night I still felt full of energy after doing it once so I ran it again. The next night I tried again and made it. The night after that I struggled to do the regular 3. At 6’8, 265, I’m not exactly built for this sort of thing.

Anyway, my running has dropped off the last 3 years. It’s mostly been replaced by racquetball or nothing at all. So, we are following a program Farrah found online, specifically structured for those training for the Bolder Boulder. If I were doing it to the letter, I would be running 5 times a week, but I’m doing more like 3. Plus, I was sick for about a month and am now playing catch up.

Initially, the plan was pretty easy. Walk 2 mins/run 1. It’s advanced over the weeks to today, where I ran for 15 mins straight. Sounded easy, but it wasn’t like I thought it would be. Or, walk 1/run 5. Still, I’m making progress, slowly. It still isn’t fun going to the gym and, while I’ve lost weight (about 20 lbs), that has mostly been due to my diet, I think. Plus, I’ve done most of my running on a treadmill at a pretty slow pace (between 5 and 6 mph or 10-12 min miles). Running on a track, which I did tonight, is harder.

People are often asking me to make them good running mixes, so I wanted to post my fave 15 running songs in the order that I would listen to them for maximum impact. My running playlist has like 45 songs, so if anyone wants more info, let me know.

Gary Wright – Love Is Alive This is the perfect first song if, like me, you start off with a minute or so of walking. By the time it gets to the chorus, you’re ready to burst. Believe it or not, this funky piece of soul from the 70s is by the same guy that did "Dream Weaver", the most unfunky song of all time. You would never know that if I hadn’t just told you.

James – Born Of Frustration Until recently, this was my very favorite song to run to. The Tarzan yelps and climactic finish are the perfect things to get your blood pumping. Plus, this song makes me want to direct a movie, just so I can play it over the perfect scene. It’s a classic.

Doves – Words This is a good one to set a pace to after you’ve gotten up and running. My feet tend to hit the ground to the down beat in almost perfect syncopation.

Fire Inc. – Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young This is the guilty pleasure of the bunch. All you need to know is that it’s written by Jim Steinham, the man behind Meat Loaf and classics by Air Supply (Making Love Out of Nothing At All) and Bonnie Tyler (Total Eclipse of the Heart). It’s of the same ilk. Sweeping and overdramatic, when the motorcycles rev around the 2 minute mark, you’ll be ready to kick it into high gear. This song is from the 80s movie, Streets Of Fire, which also spawned the ubiquitous hit, I Can Dream About You. (The album version is about 7 minutes. The single version in the link above is more like 5.)

Silverchair – Straight Lines A song made for running to, judging strictly by the pace and build up. Also, it was released last year, so it’s a good one to get your mind back out of the cheesey 80s song you just secretly loved.

Bob Mould – Shine Your Light (Love Hope) This is my new fave running song. It’s perfect for me. Rarely would I put a song on repeat and get as much out of it every time, but this is the exception. Backstory: Bob Mould is considered one of THE guitar gods, but a few years ago he decided he cared more about DJing and vowed not to make anymore rock albums. He lost most of his audience. So, the album this song comes from, Body Of Song, bridges the delta between these two sides of his personality. Unfortunately, I can't find any youtube links to it. Check it out on itunes or amazon or something.

Arcade Fire – Wake Up I’m a sucker for rock songs that sound like gospel tunes (I call it Rockspel). These guys are one of the most passionate bands out there. If you don’t know them already, this will convert you. Bit of trivia: a couple of the members were raised Mormon.

The Dears – Ticket To Immortality This song holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of Georgia. Listen for the part at around 2:45 when, after repeating “The world is really gonna love you” lead singer Maury Lightburn says, ever-so-subtly and in a high falsetto, “I promise you. Just like I do”. The way he sings that one line is EXACTLY what I say to Georgia in my heart every day. The words are good, but his delivery makes them poignant.

Longwave – Wake Me When It’s Over This is sort of a chill out song. It isn’t slow, by any means, but it’s got an emotional weight to it. By this point in your run, it would be nice to tone down the blood pumping and let your mind wander. This is the soundtrack to that. Incidentally, this song may be my #1 track one ever. In other words, it's the first song on the album it came from.

Mark Ronson and Daniel Merriweather – Stop Me The next few go back to the blood pumping, but tone down the guitars and focus on the dance floor. This song was my pick for best song of last year. Plus, it’s a cover of a Smiths classic. You can’t go wrong.

Gorillaz – DARE Keeps the party going.

Duran Duran – Shelter Same. Not sure what this video is, but the song is playing in the background.

Mute Math – Typical The guitars return. I'm betting this one is most likely to become “your new favorite song”. Very cool video too.

Sleater-Kinney – Let’s Call It Love This one is a challenge. It’s 11 minutes of total gut-wrenching chaos. I call it “open wound” music because it’s unrelenting. Not in a metal kind of way, but in an out of control, pounding, merciless kind of way. If you dig it, you won’t notice the length.

Nick Cave – There She Goes My Beautiful World This is the one to take you over the finish line. After spending what energy you had left on the previous track, this one has so much spirit it practically lifts your listless legs for you. By the time you’re done, between the song and the exercise you will have had an exorcism and your spirit will be singing. The link looks like it's for some sort of Guitar Hero game, but I prefer it to the live versions that were out there.

There are plenty more. In fact, I just made my buddy Eric a great 80s mix to run to. Hope people get turned on to some of this stuff.

My Holy Terror

It was Farrah’s turn to take a vacation this last week and leave me home alone with Georgia, as I had done to her in March when I went to Spring Training for a few days. Not only did this sound like a breeze, I was looking forward to it just being me and G.

Farrah left on Thursday afternoon and the rest of the day went swell. We took a bath together, my favorite new pastime, read some books and generally hung out. Friday was more of the same. I worked from home the first half of the day, which consisted of mostly conference calls and then checked out for the rest. It’s a pleasure to just look at G’s face for hours at a time and watch it change and figure stuff out.

By Saturday morning, at exactly 6:31, I was beginning to feel the drain. She always wakes up early and goes back down two hours later, but it started to hit me that it would be difficult to get to all of the productive projects I planned for myself over the weekend. I was naïve enough to believe I could do it all. It wasn’t looking good.

She did go down for her nap (as did I), but that would be the last of her naps for the day. From 10:30 to 6:30 it was nonstop and unrelenting. We ran some errands, watched Dora about 5 times, went out to eat, and eventually ran out of songs to sing. There are three songs that we share: Patty Cake, …Doggie In The Window, and that great mid-section of “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers (I try to sing all the parts at once). This may be bumped to four after watching a piece on Ashford and Simpson on CBS Sunday Morning. I started belting out “Solid” and got a smile. Luckily, Georgia (who I just heard make her first yelp after a nap, time to get her up again) is a good natured girl and never fussy. The one drawback to that is she thinks it’s a game when you’re trying to tell her no or punish her. Plus, she’s just really curious and likes to touch (and taste) everything.

She has a routine. If she’s sitting in my lap, she’s either going for my glasses or playing with the chord for the blinds. The glasses thing is annoying as all get out. I tell her no or pry them from her hands, and instead of getting the picture, she flashes her glorious smile and all that venom melts away. I don’t know how she’ll ever learn anything from me.

(Just this morning, I decided I would slap her hand the next time she went for them. So, she did and I slapped it, and then watched that smile contort into a grimace of hurt, the tears well up in her eyes, and that scream slowly come to life and all I can do is squeeze her tight and tell her I’m sorry. I’m not sure she even learned a thing. Not sure that I care anymore.)

If she’s on the floor, she’s trying to eat everything. The plants, the fireplace stuff, her toys, the garbage from the garbage can, the doormat, etc. After the millionth time telling her “NO” as she would put my shoe in her mouth, I decided I didn’t care to stop her anymore. Let her eat the dust-bunnies. She’ll live. Or, she’s crawling from room to room tearing things down, ripping paper out of books. It's like a dance. I yell "No". She stops. Turns to look at me. Waits a beat. Smiles. Looks at the thing again. Starts to put her hand back up. Thinks twice. Then goes somewhere else, only to return a couple minutes later.

So, Sunday was much better because she took a wonderful 3 hour afternoon nap when we got home from church. It’s easy to remember how much I love her when she let’s me do my thing every now and then.
By the time Farrah got back Sunday night, I hadn’t been able to complete every project, but I watched everything I had DVR’d over the four days (which included about 15 movies) and got to bond with my girl. Now, I had to call my boss that night and switch my work from home day from Monday to some other day because I wouldn’t have been able to handle another one alone with her, but today is Tuesday and we’re home alone and she’s been an angel and life is never better then when that happens.

I like to think I never lose sight of how hard Farrah works and how much effort she puts into keeping our house and lives in working order. But, it still drove it all home how much work is involved with entertaining a toddler for 12 hours a day. I love my girls so much.

I’ve got to get her up from her nap now. I hope I still feel the same way a few hours from now.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I See Dead People... Two Weeks In A Row

A few weeks ago I was playing cards on a Sunday afternoon with my wife’s family who was visiting from Utah. I was listening to my ipod and had randomly decided I was in the mood for The Jeff Healey Band – Hell To Pay, an album I haven’t listened to in about 13 years.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Jeff Healy Band for 3 reasons
1) He was blind.
2) His music was really solid, but sounded like it may have a short shelf-life even when it first came out. Even at their peak you could tell the novelty would wear off soon.
3) They played the bar band at the Double Deuce in Road House, one of the greatest films ever made. (So great that it deserves its own posting some other time).

Their biggest hit was Angel Eyes, but I was always partial to their cover of Mark Knopfler’s I Think I Love You Too Much (which was on Hell To Pay). It wasn’t as wussy as Angel Eyes. In fact, it rocked pretty hard with some amazing guitar acrobatics and pulverizing drums.

The next day I see in the news that Jeff had died the day before of cancer. This means, I could very well have been listening to him either just before he died, while he was dying, or just after. Trippy!

So, the very next Sunday it’s about 8 at night and I decide I’m in the mood to watch Car Wash, which I had DVRd, earlier in the week. That movie always takes me back to college. TBS played the heck out of it back in the mid-to-late nineties and it became a running joke with me and my buddy/roommate Dave Haughey because we swore we saw those orange jumpsuits almost every night around 2am. We had countless conversations that went something like this.

I couldn’t sleep last night.
So, what did you do?
Got up and watched TV. Thought maybe Car Wash would be on.

Or, after a late night Denny’s run.

You ready to get back to the apartment?
Yeah, maybe Car Wash is on.

Or, while staying up late to study.

Man, I’m spent.
Me too, maybe Car Wash is on.

I hadn’t seen it in about 10 years, but I had a serious jones that night for some big afros and funky music.

While watching, I was really taken with the character of Lonnie, the cigar chomping ex-con with the strong moral code who’s trying to go straight and raise a family. I look him up on imdb and see that he’s played by Ivan Dixon, who also used to be on Hogan’s Heroes. Now, I never watched that show, but I knew who all the actors were from seeing the opening credits a million times.
And, what happens? The very next day I see that Ivan Dixon died the day before. For the second week in a row, I had been in the mood to experience something from someone who would die the next day.

There's a couple minutes left in this Sunday. Maybe I’ll see if there’s a speech from President Bush running on CSPAN.

Where's God When You Need Him?

I’m sitting here watching General Conference and, as always, a common theme is the urging of all of us to ask the Lord in prayer for guidance and that he will be there to hear and answers our prayers if we have faith. I’ve heard this message my whole life and it’s becoming more and more obscure.

Recently, I’ve had two conversations with friends who have come to me confused and tired because they can’t decipher what God is telling them they should do with their lives. Like most of us, they can’t tell the difference between their own voice and that of the Spirit. It’s caused me to determine my feelings on the subject. I’m learning that I’m just as lost.

We recently had a lesson in Priesthood about prayer and the Elder’s Quorum President made a comment I couldn’t leave alone. He said that we should not have expectations of God, and that he will follow his own schedule. This got stuck in my craw and I had to disagree. The scriptures, as well as every Christian theologian no matter the religion, has said, “Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened up to you”. They’ve also stressed the necessity of morale cleanliness, obedience to the commandments, unceasing faith, and abundant blessings for doing such. My experience is beginning to tell me that this contract between us and God, while seeming very straightforward, is the cause of much confusion and heartache. The reason being is that it feels as though it’s rarely being honored on His side.

Why he chooses to be mysterious, I have no idea. Sometimes, the answers come like a falling anvil, others they come much later, quietly and subtlely. And sometimes, the clarity doesn’t arrive until after you’ve carried on. But, most of the time they never seem to come at all. It seems paradoxical that the source of “Light and Truth” could work in such dull shades of gloomy grey.

I try not to let it ruin my belief in Him, but it’s hard not to feel very, very alone sometimes and wonder where He is when you need Him most. We are encouraged to pray day and night and keep a prayer in our heart at all times. Yet, I have gone months or longer without ever feeling as though I’ve heard a word from Him.

The one thing I do feel strongly about is that God helps those who help themselves. Granted, if we always proceed to help ourselves, we almost edge out the need for his guidance at all, which poses a conflict. However, I do know that those who ask the Lord what they should do and then sit back waiting for an answer are missing the point. Doctrine and Covenants Section 9 lays the blueprint out better than anything in scripture. The bottom line is, I think sometimes God wants us to be more selfish and to follow our own wants and desires. If we manage to keep Him informed along the way and seek confirmation (as opposed to direction) we may be more satisfied with where we end up and even have a greater sense of accomplishment since it was largely us moving this forward.

I wish I had more answers and I my frustrations mount as the years go by. I don’t know why He seems to leave us along so often. But, I do know that we can’t wait for answers at the detriment of our own progress. Just get moving in some direction and He’ll probably right you while in motion.
Just for the record, I'm not the pray-er I once was. After a few times of feeling left out to dry, I fell out of the habit, unfortunately. So, I don't claim to be an expert at it. All I can say is, I feel I've put the promise to the test and it hasn't always worked out. I usually put blame for that on me, I'm not doing something or need to have more faith. Hopefully, I can work on this issue as well.

Why Kevin Costner is Dumb

Quick, name the last good Kevin Costner movie you saw. Chances are you might mention Dances With Wolves or JFK or Fields Of Dreams. Do you realize those films are all almost 20 years old? For a guy who started so idealistically and so full of promise as a man who could humanize the best the American male could be, his fall from grace is a perfect example of ego overcoming talent.

I watched The Guardian this weekend, another in a long line of so-so films from a guy who’s lost his way. I won’t get into reviewing the film, as it doesn’t merit the effort, but I began thinking why it was that he means so little now. The answer is this: he has no sense of humor about himself and it’s obvious to anyone who watches him. He appears to embody the most annoying trait a person can have, the inability to acknowledge their weaknesses.
How many times have you stared annoyingly at a coworker or friend who is oblivious and delusional. Who doesn’t seem to “get it”. Who can’t admit when they’re wrong or need help. The effort they put into their image is too strong to puncture. This is Kevin Costner.

For some hard evidence of this, track down his appearance on Inside The Actors Studio (the whole show can be seen in installments on youtube, but this section is the one where he starts standing up to address the class). He seems to forget that this is James Lipton's show and he’s just been invited there to discuss his craft. The guy takes it over. He’s constantly standing up and passing on righteous advice to the crowd. While the effort seems altruistic enough, it reeks of piety.

So, let’s look at his last 11 films.
Mr. Brooks – so-so, actually
The Guardian – inconsequential
Rumor Has It – terrible
The Upside Of Anger – his single bright spot of the last 10 years and it’s because he’s basically playing himself, something he should do more of
Open Range – an underrated Western
Dragonfly – never saw it
3000 Miles To Graceland – this either
Thirteen Days – great, but that has nothing to do with him
For Love Of The Game – a lame attempt at getting back his baseball mojo
Message In a Bottle – sappy pap
The Postman – his “jumping on Oprah’s couch” moment

Is there a single one in the bunch that can even come close to Bull Durham (THE greatest sports movie of all-time), JFK (one of THE greatest political thrillers of all time, as well as the boilerplate for anyone trying to decipher the Kennedy assassination mystery), or The Untouchables (where his potential as an American hero was first born)? Keep in mind, I haven’t even mentioned dreck like The Bodyguard, Robin Hood or Waterworld, the initial chinks in his armor.

Much like Tom Cruise now, those films and several appearances, began to cause his audience to try and put a finger on what’s wrong with the guy. “Yeah, we’ve liked him for years, but there’s always been something a little off that we’ve ignored because the movies were good. I can’t see the movies for what they are now, because the weirdness is so glaring.”

Here’s hoping Kevin can stop taking himself so seriously.
Btw, I'm not the fan of Field of Dreams and Dances With Wolves that others are or else I'd spend more time slurping them.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

CDs vs. ipod

We recently received some tragic news. The day before we were to embark on a 10 hour road trip to St. George, UT to see my family, the cd player in our Escape died. We had to take the Escape on this drive because it’s the car with the baby seat in it. And, it’s 4-wheel drive and we had to drive through the mountains to get to where we were going. The thought of 20 total hours in the car without access to a cd player made me feel like a dead man walking. I expressed this to my friend Chuck at work, to which he replied, “So what, you have an ipod”. Good point, let me address why that doesn’t make me feel better.

My cd collection is around 1500 these days. My ipod is an 80 gig and is full all the time and there isn’t enough space on it to house everything in my itunes. You would think that would be just as good, but to me it isn’t because it hits upon two very sensitive nerves of mine.

1) I have this fear that inanimate objects have feelings and get sad when they aren’t being used. Like those jeans that you’re too fat to fit in, that pillow on the other side of the bed, and especially the cds you never listen to. When I look at my collection, I can almost hear them weeping and wailing, craving some attention. They were created to bring joy into my life. I must help them meet the measure of their creation. Long drives are ideal to bring some of them out for some fresh air. A broken cd player would only prolong their agony.
2) For me, the true value of music is not the song on the cd, but the tangible product in my hand. The case, the liner notes, the exercise of taking it out, putting it into the player. Like a fine wine, it needs to breathe once in a while. Obviously, I bought the cd in order to have the songs, but their value becomes intangible when it’s turned to 1’s and 0’s and lives on my ipod.

So, being armed for a drive with only the ipod eliminates one of the most valuable steps in the process. I can still hear the music and I can still experience it, but I’m detached from it.

It’s my opinion that this is the true crux of the problems faced by the music industry right now and will, ultimately, lead its demise. Yes, cds are overpriced, but they are also undervalued. The industry did this to itself. After beginning as an artist focused business, they eventually went the way of the movie industry and gave up long-term investments for quick dollars. So, they promoted singles. No longer did an artist have 4 or 5 albums to build a career with, it was now one shot and it would likely be their only shot. So, when your business model pushes singles, and those singles are then available for free, you’re stuck. Then it begins to feed into the nagging sense you’ve always had that you were being taken advantage of all along by paying $18.99 for 12 songs, 4 of which you might like. Consumers got wise and are now taking matters into their own hands.

On top of all this chaos infecting my dome, there’s an added layer of frustration. I’ll get more into this on a later post, but I almost never just break out my fave cd to listen to. I’m always working on some project that requires a very detailed list of what I can and can’t listen to. These days, I am currently going through my collection, from ABBA thru Zwan, to decide what cds I don’t need anymore. Itunes makes this easier, because the music can still live on, though in a lesser form, on my computer. But I need to determine which cds I can truly live without. I’m currently in the Fs, so I was looking forward to “getting some work done” on the trip and eliminating some cds. That stung, but thankfully I have a 45 minute commute to work everyday so I guess there will be time for that later.

As it was, I managed to research some of the newest stuff I’ve added to my ipod lately (the latest Raveonettes, Black Crowes, Ray Davies, and Devotchka) as well as the stuff I just hadn’t gotten around to yet (the new Radiohead, some Who stuff I borrowed recently). It ended up still being productive.

But, I won’t last for long. That cd player needs to get fixed PRONTO!

PS By the way, listening to music in a Ford Escape is torture. There must be no insulation in the cab because it is so loud in there, you hear everything. It’s impossible to truly hear your music unless you turn it all the way up and even then it’s like spraying air freshener after a dump, both things (cacophonous white noise and loud music) live together equally. It sucks.