Monday, August 31, 2009

Live in Concert: Green Day 8/15/09

It's rare I see a big name band at the top of their powers. I tend to gravitate to the nostalgia circuit in an effort to either catch one last glimpse of a former favorite (John Mellencamp, Steely Dan), or play catch up on someone I ignored back in the day, only to finally come around to their brilliance later (Def Leppard, Camper Van Beethoven). So, I was on the fence whether to bother with Green Day since, I'm sure, they'll be around long enough to see them in some package deal with the Offspring, Sugar Ray and Live in about 10 years (that's usually how it works).

But, I went against tradition and decided to see the real deal in all it's present glory. I'm glad I did. It was an especially welcome example of fan payback compared to the distant stiffarm from Trashcan Sinatras a couple nights earlier. If you want to see it done right, see Green Day. Surprisingly, I'm not even the world's biggest GD fan. I self-identify as a product of the 80s, while GD are totally and completely aligned with the 90s (no matter how crucial their more recent work is), so they never belonged to me. There isn't a moment in my life that's capped by a GD song (they were completely ubiquitous during my first days and months and year after my mission, but by then my innocence had been lost and songs didn't carry the weight they did during adolescence).

However, it occurred to my while watching the show that no band in the last 15 years have more effectively and exactly held a mirror to their generation than Green Day have. Let's explore the parallels.

First, they were birthed out of the early 90s grunge scene. While not being grunge themselves (I heard a lot of Social Distortion at first, which no one ever mentions), they were harder edged rock and that was in style (finally). Also, their attitude was that of a slacker who sat around their parent's house aimlessly daydreaming about what to do next, both in the macro sense (for a job) and the micro (what's on TV). Songs like "Longview" (a song about masturbating while stoned) and "Basket Case" (name says it all) perfectly summarized in clear and direct words how the youth of America were feeling at that time. The message was powerful, millions listened and followed. They had yet to lose their innocence.

As the indulgent 90s wore on, messages like that became less and less immediate (even the Clinton administration became mired in sex scandals, probably out of a lack of anything better to do). After a couple years of living the slacker dream, it was time to grow up and growing up can be hard, especially if you are ill-equipped. Green Day's next few albums, while trying to expand on the snotty punk that had painted them into a corner, made less impact and the band found themselves as irrelevant as a guy in his late 20s still getting high in the basement.

Then, suddenly in September of 2001, the country woke up. Woke WAY up. Shaken from their juvenile stupor, Green Day got wise. Feelings began to boil inside, like anger and skepticism and frustration, that weren't there before not pointed in this direction anyway. Matters became more important. But, this is the generation that gets their facts from the Daily Show. They aren't reading the New York Times, rather they're obeying their media heroes. Information funneled this way may not be complete, but it's potent and it sparked one of the most miraculous turnarounds rock has ever seen. And, once again Green Day were talking in a language their generation, as well as just about everyone else, could understand when they released American Idiot, the album that changed everything.

American Idiot managed to take the bits of facts and soundbites of the media and regurgitate them in a way that incited action. It gave words to the feelings of the less informed that the New York Times couldn't touch. It didn't have to. All this generation needed to hear was our President called an Idiot. That alone made us feel better and, God knows, no one else was doing it. It managed to direct that anger at the singular person who embodied the trainwreck our country was racing headlong into. Who is this idiot and why are we listening to him and what can we do about it? It was also a huge smash.

Fast forward five years and Bush is no longer in office and Obama has assuaged some of that anger, but now what are we left with? Christian fundamentalism. A new great depression. A whole ton of residual frustration. If American Idiot said "I'm pissed!", 21st Century Breakdown says "I'm still pissed because I still don't see any reason not to be!" If Green Day's career isn't the trajectory of, what Pepsi called Generation Y, I don't know what is. They go from uninformed slacker, to Daily Show educated, to media ingestion 24/7, just like everyone else.

The best part about the show was how they got the crowd involved, inviting people up to the stage to sing backup, play guitar, stage dive, you name it. The highlight was when a 12 year old boy came up to play "Jesus of Suburbia" with the band. Green Day made these people's lives better. That 12 year old gets to go to school and tell his friends (not to mention the bullies who may beat him up) that he got to jam with Green Day in front of a few thousand people. That is what being a true rock band is all about, knowing enough to give back to the people who got you there. Green Day know this. They live by it. And it helps to ease the anger.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Live in Concert: Trashcan Sinatras 8/06/09

This feels like blasphemy. One of my favorite bands and I'm speaking ill of them. I was even lucky enough to meet them once and they couldn't be nicer. It doesn't feel right, but neither did their show. In fact, neither does the trip they're on these days. I'm disappointed.

Here's some backstory. TCS burst on the scene in 1990 with their debut album, Cake (my 2nd all-time favorite album). Their popcraft was immediate and beautiful, their wordplay clever. It was the perfect sound for the time and completely in line with contemporaries like the Ocean Blue, the Smiths, and Aztec Camera. Cake was not the smash in America that it should have been (though popular on alternative radio thanks to the obvious perfection of singles "Obscurity Knocks" and "Only Tongue Can Tell" which if you don't like them, you don't know what joy feels like) and they followed it up with the comparatively darker I've Seen Everything, which also underperformed in spite of another infectious single, "Hayfever". Here's where things get dicey.

This was followed by A Happy Pocket, an almost glacially paced album of heavily hushed tunes that their record company refused to release stateside and remains out of print and hard to find to this day. Not that it's a total lost, despite a few pretty tracks (including their somber take on "To Sir, With Love") it is quite a bear to get through. Then, they disappeared without nary a peep for eight years before coming back in a major way with 2004's Weightlifting. Their fans rejoiced! The songcraft hadn't lost a step in the years off, but, if I'm honest, the songs got very delicate and soft. Still beautiful, in fact there may have been TOO high a premium on beauty, (as evidenced by "Weightlifting" and the gorgeous "Got Carried Away"). No one minded too much because we were so glad to have them back. I love that album, but that joy has been replaced with some sorrow and sympathy.

Ok, here's the point: the concert was almost completely dominated by new material. They just produced a new album called In The Music that has, so far, only been available online. If Weightlifting was soft, then In The Music is practically weightless. The show consisted of ZERO songs off Cake (I was so pissed), three from Everything, ZERO from Pocket (just as well), three from Weight and the rest new.

So, do the math with me on this. A beloved band returns from hibernation choosing (that's the key word here, bands don't forget to play those songs, it's a choice) to ignore the past and focus on the now. That works if you're a band like U2 or the Cure who have an extensive catalog of hits and crowd faves that people will forgive you for skipping some obscure early faves. But, TCS only have five albums and it was the early stuff that hooked us! You can't throw us a bone and just sprinkle a couple of them here and there? There was a section in the show of about seven sleepy new songs in a row (remember, the album has not even been officially released). You expect people to stay awake for that? Here's another sort of nervey thing, they kicked the show off with a new song (of course) and then played two crowd faves ("Hayfever" and "Easy Read") back to back and then didn't return to the classics until the end of the show. That's such cruel foreplay! It's like they wanted to get that stuff over with as soon as possible, yet satiate the crowd who don't know that's the last bite they'll get for a long time.
Bands will often try to distance themselves from their past because they get tired of playing the hits, or they were only that way in the first place because of label pressure (notice the descent of the Police, especially Sting, who went from angry, artful punks, to guys who write music for soccer moms). But when your career and output are as scattered as TCS's, ignoring a chapter of your history is ignoring half the story! Plus, it's the good part!

I'm afraid my TCS worship has fallen off the rails. I'll continue to get their music (the new album, which I bought at the show, is underwhelming so far), but I doubt I'll pay to see them live again. It's a shame, I was rooting for them. The world is a better place with them in it, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The weird thing is, I'm a "friend" of theirs on facebook and they post setlists and such every couple days. Well, I took it as an opportunity to tell them I was annoyed about the show. They didn't respond, but the other fans sure did. Some of them were on my side and felt similarly, others were calling for my head. My feeling is, if you're going to purposely alienate your fans like that, you deserve to get kicked in the nuts a little. I just hope they don't get their feelings hurt and disappear for another eight years.

The opener, however, was a band I had never heard of but now love called Brookville. No one knew them, they asked the crowd a couple times to no response at all, but people were impressed. Turns out, Brookville is basically Andy Chase's band and Andy is a member of Ivy, an excellent band that I like a lot, as well as the producer of some of the TCS's stuff. So, the night wasn't a complete waste. It's like I went on a double date and ended up with a crush on my date's friend. It ain't cool, but love is love and so is good music.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Live in Concert: Jonathan Richman 7/01/09

Here's exactly how this typically goes down. I've seen him three times now and every time it's the same.

Me: "I'm seeing Jonathan Richman tonight"
Someone: (very confused look on their face) "Who?"
Me: "He's the singer that pops up throughout 'Something About Mary'"
Someone: (the light just went on) "Ooohh!"

That's how JR is most widely known. He is best known, however, as the leader of the Modern Lovers, one of the seminal underground punk bands in music history. The Modern Lovers, who only really released one proper album under the original line-up, were important for a few reasons. 1) They were from Boston which set them apart from the hub of the scene in New York. 2) The band featured Jerry Harrison, who went on to the Talking Heads, and Dave Robinson, who went on to join the Cars. And 3) JR's heartfelt, almost childlike lyrics. Where most punk bands yelled about drugs and mayhem and desperation, JR was the nerdy punk who wore his heart on his sleeve. It set him apart from the rest of the pack. They didn't really have any hits, but they had some classics ("Roadrunner", "Pablo Picasso" and "I'm Straight")

Now, JR's solo stuff over the last 25-30 years bears almost no resemblance to punk. It's become almost performance art, a sort of comic/musical mix that sounds somewhat like the Violent Femmes and Flight of the Conchords. Sparse, emotive, lovelorn, and deeply serious about how unserious it is. He's been doing this thing for many many years (the guy's almost 60) and has it down. In fact, everything you could say about him live can be explained in this clip of him on Conan (a big fan) in 1992 performing one of his staples "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar". This is exactly what you get. It's like watching a child perform their first dance recital looking intently at their parents in the front row for encouragement. That child like innocence in his eyes is mesmerizing. He also makes up songs on the spot or adds new lyrics to existing ones or sings them in a different language. He doesn't have any hits he has to trot out, so it can all be as off the cuff as he wants. In fact, this time he made up a song about how he makes up new lyrics. He compared it to fresh baked bread. It's great for the first couple hours, but after 8-10 hours it's sold as day old bread. That's his philosophy. If he doesn't feel it, he doesn't perform it (his words exactly).

So, either he is a consummate performer with his schtick nailed down tight, or he's a total kook. This interview from 1978, where he actually gets emotional when the host mentions William Blake, implies he may have a screw loose. However, I saw him in the bar before the show talking to a friend and he seemed as normal and unassuming as anyone else. It's quite a trick he pulls off, but it's a good one.

I wanted to post the song and performance that turned me onto him in the first place. Like I mentioned, Conan's a fan (as are the Farrelly Brothers, hence the "Mary" and "Kingpin" cameos) and has had him on the show a few times. This performance of "Let Her Go Into The Darkness" was released on a cd of performances from the show that I purchased from BMG or Columbia House back in the day. I thought it was haunting and, not being able to see him perform it, took it to be deadly serious. Only now do I realize everything he does is with a wink.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Live In Concert: Doves 5/26/09

I feel sorry for those who don't know Doves. I feel even sorrier for the ones that don't get it. When they're on, their music is a spiritual experience on par with total rapture. How artists can cause a listener to feel sadness, beauty, gloom, and hope at the same time and within the same 5 minute song is a miracle brought only by God, or the Muses. Think about that. The literal sinking and soaring of your soul in a single, short journey.

Doves started out as more of a techno outfit, producing dance tracks in Manchester under the name Sub Sub to some local acclaim and success. After their studio burned down with all their stuff in it, they picked up proper instruments and found a groove symbolic with that fire. Dance music going up in flames and burning to a crisp might be the best way to describe their music. When Coldplay said "a rush of blood to the head" they might have been talking about their fellow countrymen and label mates.

So, why all the hyperbole? Because it can be that good. Because their song "Rise", off their first album Lost Souls, is my #5 all-time favorite song and, possibly, number 1 in terms of emotional response. Because few modern bands are imbued with this power. And because they're still fairly unknown among the general American population (though far from underground nobodies).

Notice I said "can be". When they're on, they set the bar for the power and weight pop music can carry. When they're off, as they have been on their last two albums, (the first two are near perfect) it sucks more because of what could have been. I've seen them live twice now and something is occurring to me: The best songs on the albums miss the mark live, while the lesser material really takes shape in front of an audience, which leads me to believe the studio is a crucial place for this band to get where it needs to go (or, rather, where I need them to go). They seem to live or die by studio trickery. It goes back to that dance music background. Groove and mood are their driving force. Production can either capture and organize that raw energy, or stifle it.

So, how was the show? It was pretty good. I heard several songs I was hoping for and not sure I'd get like "Words" (one of my favorite running songs. My pace and this beat are one), "Black and White Town" (one of the only songs I even remember from their last record), "There Goes The Fear" (one you might know if you heard it) and "Pounding" (the rallying cry for the battle at the end of the world and if you don't believe me, click that link and take up your arms!). They also played "Rise", but at, what felt like, twice the speed, thus ruining my ability to achieve total liftoff. I suppose I should be grateful I heard it at all, but just tossing off my favorite tune left me wanting. Click on the link for a live version that is a full two minutes shorter than the original which proves my point.

AND, they didn't play two staples that were sorely sorely missed. "Catch the Sun", the first song of theirs to make a splash in America, was nowhere to be found, as was "The Cedar Room" a live staple for years and the song most often yelled out by the audience this night. Skipping two of your fan's favorites doesn't make any sense. Doves create music that washes all over you completely. Omissions like these felt like a cold shower.

Still, I love them. I want everyone to love them. The good stuff is, pretty much, better than anything ever. I hold out hope that it can all be that good and will remain devoted as long as their is hope. Luckily, I have every reason to feel that way. They deserve it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Week In Mormons In The Media

It's been a while and this is hardly even news anymore, but it's an issue worth discussing.

The USA Today posted a story recently about the influx of illegal immigrants in the church, and our efforts to bring them into the fold. I promised myself I was done dwelling on the whole gay marriage issue, but I couldn't help but find numerous hypocritical statements made by church leaders in this article that remind me of Prop 8. I'll keep it all on the up and up, but here's a breakdown.

Unlike most of my Democratic brethren, I am passionately against illegal immigrants. I've mellowed out over the years a little, I get now that they do the jobs American's won't do, but I feel we are on the verge of losing our culture. So, the article makes the case that the church basically has a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to baptizing illegals. It also says we're sending more and more Spanish speaking missionaries into the country to convert them. I'll tackle these one at a time starting with the second issue.

I'm not aware of any additional efforts or specific marketing agenda laid out by the church meant to appeal to these people. The church has always been attractive to Latin Americans and, with more and more coming into this country, my guess is the effort has expanded as demand has dictated it. Latins are probably joining the church in America at rates that equate to their entrance into the country. The increase in Spanish speaking missionaries is, I suppose, a response to the need, as are the increase in Spanish speaking branches and wards in heavily populated Latin areas. So, I think they're stretching on that one.

Now, for the first issue. Why are we knowingly baptizing people who are breaking the law? Maybe it isn't seen as a "life or death" type of law, but we are still inviting people who are, basically, known criminals. I can't quite remember, but isn't one of the questions in the pre-baptism screening interview something about whether or not they're obeying the law? I remember it asks about abortions which, while not being favorable to any Christian religion, is not technically "unlawful" in most states, but is still raised as a red flag. It seems to me we're picking and choosing our own lawfulness. We won't allow you to be gay and married, whether you want to join our church or not, but we feel we have a moral obligation to help and support all the illegal immigrants saturating our country. What hypocritical BS. Granted, this article focuses on Arizona and not California, but where was your "so-called" compassion last fall?

My favorite is the quote from Mesa Mission President Mark Bassett, "We don't know what their immigration status is. We are not the government or the police." Riiiiiight. Pull this leg and it plays "Jingle Bells". (Name the movie!) The other gem comes from a Mesa Spanish Branch President, Pablo Felix, "The Lord doesn't look at documentation. He just looks at our faith as members." My guess is, the Lord does look at your criminal record. Maybe you just haven't been caught yet.

If we see this as an issue of compassion and helping families stay together, why are we stepping in when it was the family itself that tore itself apart when it chose to high-tail it for the border in the first place? It isn't like there was a war and we're looking after the widows. So, as long as moral issues aren't being compromised, it looks like we're happy to be on the front lines? But, if "perverts" are involved, we hang back judging and demanding repentance? Whatever.

If we truly handled this situation logically and fairly, we would teach them, but then expect them to make changes before baptizing them. That's what we do if someone is living in sin. You can't get baptized until you get married. We wouldn't allow it if someone hadn't quit smoking. We wouldn't allow it if someone hadn't quit drinking. So, again, we place our moral laws above the laws of the land. The 12th Article of Faith, which every child is expected to memorize, states emphatically that is not the way we claim to live. Yet, we're doing it anyway.

Bottom line: we're as full of crap as anyone else.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Icon Loyalty

These are people I just can’t say no to. I watch everything of theirs I can get my hands on. Well, that’s a bit strong. Makes it sound like I’m feverishly searching for every last morsel or bootleg copy. It isn’t that bad. Let’s just say, if one of their lesser offerings airs on Lifetime or Hallmark, I record it. This point was driven home this week by something currently in my DVR queue, which leads me to the first icon…

Anthony Michael Hall
He will always be the poster child for my inner sense of self thanks to his part as Brian the nerd in Breakfast Club. I’m pretty sure I saw that before Sixteen Candles, so it was the first image to burn on my brain. I related so well to his desire to fit in and make friends in spite of his lack of ability to do so. All of us growing up at that time would have to agree that whether it was Rusty in Vacation or Gary in Weird Science, he was our guy. Sadly, it all went very very wrong with Johnny Be Good (1988). Not only was that a lame movie, but his character was the stud! It went against everything he stood for and everything he meant to us. AND, to make matters worse, his “cool guy” personality, which he hasn’t shed since, was off-putting and unlikable. Sadly, he’s never shown the signs that he’s still the guy we all related to 25 years ago when he was Farmer Ted, nor has he chosen to utilize the comedic talents that made him the youngest cast member of “Saturday Night Live” in history. He doesn’t even look the same. His face looks like it’s been Mickey Rourke’d. Where his mouth used to have a certain horse quality to it, now his upper lip is always curled into a smirk and seems indented under his nose. Plus, his eyebrow looks permanently cocked.

This week I recorded some made for TV movie he was in two years ago called Final Approach. Whether it’s good or not isn’t the point. I don’t even care what it’s about. I just want to support him. Btw, seeing him have even a small role in the Dark Knight was one of my proudest moments of 2008. It wasn’t much, but it beats made for TV movies like Final Approach, I’m sure.

Justine Bateman
Shouldn’t she have gone further? One day she’s the hot, clueless older sister on “Family Ties” and the next she… disappears. She had so much more going for her than Tina Yothers did, yet she exacted the same fate. How did this happen? And don’t say it’s that terrible movie she did, Satisfaction. I just watched it again recently and it wasn’t all her fault. Julia Roberts and Liam Neeson were in that too, and they made it out unscathed.

Aside from some bad made for TV movies, all of which I watch if I see they’re coming on, including something currently on the DVR called To Have and To Hold, she’s been long gone. Maybe a little too much Leif Garrett rubbed off on her after their relationship ended in the early 90s. The sad thing is she’s aged beautifully! I purposely stuck it out with "Men In Trees" because she was in a few episodes. Also, she was in a very good, but totally forgotten, Showtime mini-series called "Out of Order" with Eric Stoltz a couple years back and showed her boobs! Why was Mallory Keaton getting naked not on the front page of the New York Times? Plus, her persona these days is very cool. She seems like this very smart, very accepting, kinda bohemian type that would always greet you with a hug. I like that. She’s a much deeper actress now with some miles on her than she was in the 80s. Time’s been good to her.

Her brother Jason is enjoying a renaissance thanks to “Arrested Development” (which she guest-starred on) so isn’t it about time for a Justine revival too? The guys at “Psych” might be keyed into this because she recently made a cameo, even though it didn’t remotely showcase her like it should have.

Curtis Armstrong
One word: Booger. That role in Revenge of the Nerds alone grants you the key to the city! Add to that Risky Business, Better off Dead, and One Crazy Summer and you have someone deserving of an 80s movie Mount Rushmore. If he never made another film, which many probably assume he hasn’t, he would live for eternity on those alone.

But, he’s still kicking. He had a small role in Ray (another one of those proud moments for me), and a decent little mainstream movie called Akeelah and the Bee. Most of it has been B-movie stuff though that plays on his 80s image. He did have a recurring role in “Moonlighting” back in the day. Too bad someone hasn’t casted him in a series that could play to his strengths as comic relief and as a good actor. Not the star, but the amusing sidekick. Think Paul Giamatti. He also showed up in an episode of “Psych” recently. I believe the Psych guys and I need to become BFFs because it’s clear we share the same brain.

I’ve always had a surefire idea for a TV series revolving around L.A. therapists called “Shrinks”. Think of it as the Melfi scenes from “the Sopranos” mixed with “Nip/Tuck”. You have an office of 3 or 4 therapists and sit in like a fly on the wall on the crazy lives of their patients, as well as how they manage their own lives which, naturally, are often more messed up than the people they treat. The contrast between their work and home mixed with the neuroses of L.A. wannabes sounds bullet proof, no? You also mix in legitimately academic prognoses like House does. HBO’s “In Treatment” is along the same lines, but way too highbrow. This is L.A., home of the self-possessed! Well, my idea was to have at least one actor playing himself as a patient and my ideal would be Curtis Armstrong. I think his bottled mania and roller coaster resume makes him the perfect person to have his id diagnosed every week. You’ll laugh with him, you’ll cry with him, you’ll feel bad for him, and you’ll root for him. I’m telling you, it can’t miss. Now, someone get me a meeting with Universal and show me how to copyright this idea so no one steals it.

Elisabeth Shue
The crush just never went away. From those first glimpses on the beach in Karate Kid, I’ve been as spellbound as Ralph Macchio was (remember him standing there staring at her for like 30 awkward seconds while the soccer ball goes whizzing by? Still can’t believe she dated him after that!). Her career slowly progressed from there with the occasional success popping up like Adventures in Babysitting (one of the few 80s movies I should like and don’t) until it topped off at it’s apex with an Oscar nom for Leaving Las Vegas in 1995. Sadly, it fell into freefall after that when she was unable to attract a following that paid money at the box office. She tried with roles in big films like The Saint and Hollow Man, but neither of those were quite big enough. And, the films that hung directly on her new movie star shoulders (Molly, Palmetto, Cousin Bette) tanked. Of course, this didn’t stop me from watching some terrible thing called First Born from 2007 that she was in and I recorded off Oxygen or something. Hey, she still looks great, even if her movies blow.

These days, she only works occasionally. I don’t know if that’s by choice or not. Her husband won the Oscar for Inconvenient Truth and they have a family. Plus, she produced a little seen movie called Gracie about girls playing soccer, so maybe she’s more of a behind the camera type now. It’s too bad, she should still be working. Maybe you don’t bankroll a 50 million dollar film with only her name attached, but guys from my generation wouldn’t mind seeing more of her. Until then, we always have our DVDs of Leaving Las Vegas which, blessedly, shows A LOT more of her.

Tim Matheson
He’s fairly new to the list and I can’t even give you a good reason why. Maybe it’s the fact that I bought Fletch on DVD a year or so ago and was reminded what a great flick it was. It certainly isn’t anything to do with Animal House. I don’t get the appeal of that movie at all. Or, maybe it’s that he’s been directing and appearing in episodes of “Psych” (see what I mean?!) and “Burn Notice” lately. Whatever it is, he’s just someone who has the kind of screen presence that puts me at ease. I see him and it’s like seeing my favorite uncle.

Because of this, I’ve been gobbling up all kinds of obscure films of his. Weird movie channels like Plex and Fox Movie Channel play some of his made-for-tv movies from the 70s and 80s and, of course, I sit through all of them. One, called Dreamer from 1979, depicts him as a small town bowler with a dream to make it big on the circuit. Yes, they made a movie about that and showed it on TV and I watched it. One thing I’m finding out now that I’m paying attention is that he’s been in the biz almost his whole life. He was in a couple episodes of "Leave it to Beaver"! The guy’s resume is a mile long. And, like Kevin Bacon who has that same uncle quality, most of what he’s done just isn’t very good like Drop Dead Fred and Black Sheep. Still, he’ll always be the “hey, I like that guy” guy. I guess that’s something to build a career on.

Ione Skye
She’ll always be Diane Court in Say Anything, my, at the time, dream girl. The funny thing is, that character is the anomaly. She followed that up with getting naked in The Rachel Papers (excellent British romantic comedy from the 80s) and in Gas, Food Lodging, and Four Rooms, the list goes on. Clearly, Diane Court was not who she was in real life. And, she was married to a Beastie Boy! It’s kind of like Mandy Moore now marrying Ryan Adams or Natalie Portman and Devandra Banhart. Your persona may say clean and sweet, but clearly you like the drugs, especially the weed. Now she’s married to Ben Lee, which makes absolutely no sense. He looks 12! I can’t deny there’s a part of me that feels like I missed out. You know when a hot chick marries a gomer, it’s natural to say to yourself, “man, if I’d known she was that desperate, I would have tried harder!” We don’t know each other, obviously, but I’m pretty sure she’d dig me because I KNOW I could take Ben Lee!

Another weird thing about her is she kind of disappeared too. After Say Anything, I only see a couple movies on her resume that were even a blip on the radar and she had small roles in them (Wayne’s World and Fever Pitch which was almost 15 years later). She also showed up in “Arrested Development”, but not much else. Where’d she go? Did she let her Beastie Boy do all the work? Is she going to tour with Ben now and leave celluloid behind? She looks as good as Justine does now too. Someone create a show where they play sisters in Berkeley or Austin or Savannah that own an antique second-hand store and the goings on of locals in an arty town. Kind of like "Northern Exposure" mixed with … something where hot sisters run a store in a cool town. Something like "Men In Trees" or "Gilmore Girls". I’d watch. Course, that doesn’t mean much. Obviously, I’ll watch anything.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

6 Years

Saturday was our 6th Anniversary. We were able to go out to dinner and a movie by ourselves and what was, when you're single, the least creative date idea in history, is now the most lavishly wonderful night ever created. Having kids does weird things to a marriage, as most of you know. You become more bonded as a team, but slightly more distanced as friends. Every day, from start to finish, revolves around schedules and trade-offs. There are those beautiful moments at night, when they're all asleep and you finally have time to talk or watch your favorite shows together, but by then you're often too tired or wanting to catch up on everything else you were putting off all day. It's all so necessary, but not very fun.

So, this year my commitment to Farrah is to make more time to spend together just the two of us. When we first had Graham, so many family members came to visit that we were afforded the occasional luxury of going out by ourselves. It must have spoiled me because I crave it every weekend now. So, we've committed to getting over our opposition to sitters (they charge like 8 bucks an hour to sit in our house and watch TV while the kids sleep. That is too easy money.) and splurge more often for our own sanity, if nothing else. I want my friend back. Too often now, I love the woman who raises my kids. I want to love the Farrah I had to myself first.

So, I wanted to list my 6 favorite things about her.

1) I wish it was something sexier, but, going back to what I've been harping on, the thing I'm most appreciative of now is her ability to keep our house in order. The bills are paid, the kids are fed, the house is clean, the laundry is done, it's miraculous. Mind you, I don't expect any of this. I'm not one of those husbands who feels entitled to a person like this. She's assumed the role on her own and I couldn't be more grateful. I'm amazed and truly humbled by it. In fact, the one downside is that I feel like a total bum now. I come home and try and do my part, but it never seems to be enough now. She has me beat by miles.

2) I love when she supports me when I need it most. She can be tough and it's often hard to know how she really feels about something. I, on the other hand, am an emotional wreck all day. I'm sure she's begun to lump me in with the kids as one more person to take care of. So, her support often comes from the school of tough love. I don't like it, but I know I need it and she pushes me to do better, toughen up, and quit crying. The best is when she senses it isn't the time for tough love and intuitively gives me the kid gloves. Either way, it keeps me on track.

3) I love that, for the most part, we love to do the same things together. Whether it's go to the movies, go out to eat, hit the gym, or just watch our shows on DVR, we always have that special little thing that brings us together. We're very good at just hanging out with each other. That's a major blessing, I think. It also helps that neither of us are the most overtly social people around.

4) Conversely, we also allow each other to do their own thing. I gave up trying to take her to concerts with me years ago and she knows I'm not going to be much help on shopping excursions. These may be the most vital pieces to a marriage that works. It's the balance of enjoying things together, and allowing each other to enjoy their time alone. That balance is crucial. Oh, and making sure that time alone isn't spent shopping with money we don't have or watching porn also helps a lot.

5) She's a great cook. We aren't a dinner on the table every night kind of family, but she makes thoughtful meals a couple times a week and she does it mostly for me and I'm always grateful. I haven't quite figured out the easiest way to tell her when I don't like the recipe she's testing out, especially not after she just spent an hour making it, but we're getting there. I hope by me doing the dishes every time, I'm earning my keep.

6) Her patience, which has improved dramatically since we first got married. Motherhood, being the Relief Society President, and being married to me would force anyone into submission, but she has matured gracefully.

I hope I'm worthy of another 6 years, babe!

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Final Thoughts on Prop 8 aka Gay Marriage

Friends are beginning to want to debate Prop 8 with me more and more these days as they discover my blog. People sense I’m angry, but wonder where I really stand on the issue. Rather than send long emails that say similar things to everyone, I thought I’d lay it out here and address the bullet points most often brought to me. Hopefully, this will be my final word on the matter and I’m not really interested in debating it any further, not because I’m narrow minded but because it’s exhausting and I’m not going to change and neither are you so let’s just move on. I completely admit everything I state here is my opinion. I’m not an expert on anything.

My guess is the Church will cling to this issue until they’re the last ones standing. By then, most people/states/governments will have grown to accept gay marriage leaving us as the last to come around. This is what I mean by a “black eye”, a principle that we cling to beyond a logical breaking point, only to regret later. Now, you may say we don’t regret polygamy or not giving blacks the priesthood until 1978, but I would argue we would all rather not have those still so glaringly in our history. Earlier adoption and conformity of those issues would have saved us many many headaches from a PR perspective. You can’t deny today’s church has tried desperately to distance themselves from those “black eyes”.

To answer my friend Jason’s questions directly: Yes, I wish the Church had not spoken out so aggressively (let’s be honest, they led the charge) on the issue. For whatever reason abortion, marijuana, cloning, you name it has not provoked the Church to action like this in the past, but gay marriage has and I believe the motives were financially based. I believe the Church is claiming spiritual reasoning, when really they are afraid of being sued and losing their license as a charitable organization if they aren’t in step once it’s passed. That, to me, is like using God and Godliness as reasons to start a war and we’re living with the repercussions from that twisted logic now (W, anyone?). It’s playing to one’s spiritual sensitivity to progress your own secular agenda. Just be honest and say “our reasons are politically motivated and we could use your help if your interested” instead of promoting it as a moral obligation. It isn’t like one day in ‘78 it was bad to be black and the next day it was ok. Those decisions (I can’t really call it a revelation because it clearly wasn’t) are motivated by other forces. My feeling is the church was finally ready for blacks, not that blacks were finally ready for the church. I think we’ll eventually make similar moves with gays.

And, I get that we aren’t the only Christian church fighting this fight, so it will make for a sea change in culture for everyone. However, we are putting ourselves out there as the leaders of the pack and, therefore, opening ourselves up to the most criticism.

I don’t see why the church can’t allow marriage to happen legally, but not allow it in our churches. We do it with baptism. Another church’s baptism is not recognized as being “legal” to us. We also discriminate when it comes to the temple. You have to obey a strict set of rules for entrance and most members can’t even do it. We perform civil marriages for members all the time that aren’t worthy or ready for the temple, so what’s the difference? You might say it’s because this couple is gay, well wouldn’t it also stand to reason that the couple who isn’t gay and wasn’t worthy for the temple has some stuff in their closet too? Is homo immorality worse than hetero immorality? It shouldn’t be.

I think eventually, and I’m talking a long time from now, we may reach this level of acceptance. While I personally wouldn’t care if gay couples could attain full fellowship and get sealed in the temple, I get that they probably never will or not for a while, much like women getting the priesthood. It just isn’t how it’s done ‘round these parts. What I don’t get is any one of us would say that if gay members or non members wanted to attend church and fellowship with us on Sunday that we would welcome them with open arms. So, why is it different if it’s a married couple? Don’t we welcome anyone and everyone and then maintain the temple recommend and worthiness interviews as the great equalizers? Remember the sign in front of the building – “Visitors Welcome”.

Of course, all of this is assuming gays actually WANT to become Mormon and be married in our church, which isn’t likely to happen. If you were gay, would you want to be Mormon and feel like an outcast all the time and have no one to identify with? Anyone seeing a ton of blacks in our churches these days? There aren’t many and it’s because of our very late adoption of them as equals. We pose very little attraction for blacks (this breaks my heart, btw) and we wouldn’t with gays either. You can say “but the truth is attraction enough”, but my response is, when you make the truth as unappetizing as we do/did for blacks, they’ll find their own truth somewhere else.

So, if anyone has an example of a gay Mormon married couple wanting to actually attend church, please let it be heard because my guess is they don’t exist. So the arguments that “if it’s approved we will have to perform gay marriages at church” falls flat because there isn’t even a demand for that as long as gays are not deemed worthy or treated as equals. And if the demand increased, then who cares if we do marry them when we say we would welcome them otherwise? Marriage is different than baptism.

Another one I get is, “if it’s passed then gay marriage will have to by law be taught during Sex Ed class in schools and I don’t want my kids subjected to that”. Tell me how that is different than learning about any other culture out there or even Evolution? If you think that learning about gay marriage is going to turn your kid gay, then you’re just a complete fool. Besides, the class isn’t going to be on “Gay Marriage”. The class (or chapter even, no child takes an entire semester of “Sex Ed” or “Marriage”, it’s more of a section) is going to be on marriage and should address all kinds of marriages. At most, they might learn about the history of gay’s fight for equality, but that shouldn’t be different than the civil rights era. It’s a part of our nation’s history now.

The one issue I won’t get into is “but the bible/prophet said so and that’s the same as God’s word”. If that’s true, God and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. The God I believe in doesn’t feel this way. His “followers” who perpetuate this attitude are just gravely confused.

The final argument I get is “if we don’t stop it now, it will eventually be an issue in all states, including yours” to which I respond “bring it on!” Believe me, I would like nothing more than to represent the Church how I see fit by marching with these people, donating my time and resources, protesting, calling people out, whatever it takes to give everyone their basic human rights. This is going to pass eventually. Understand that now and let it sink in. Pretty soon, probably in the next 10 years, gay marriages will be performed nationwide. You may think you want to be the last regime fighting against it, but, as a fellow member of your church, I don’t want to be at church with you if you are because I’m already tired of apologizing for our other “black eyes” and I don’t need another. It’s probably already too late, unfortunately. The damage has been done and our history of apologizing isn’t strong.

And finally, understand that gays aren’t sinful aliens that need to be exterminated. They’re human beings looking for the same thing as everyone else, to love and to be loved, they’re just geared differently. Some people have fetishes for opposite races, foreigners, tall, short, fat, athletic, blondes, whatever and it feels natural to all of us. This is no different. We don’t like being discriminated against for being Mormon, let’s not do the same thing to others.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lost Gem of the 80s #15: Level 42 - "World Machine" (1985)

This one holds a special place in my heart. When my family first moved to England in the summer of '91, this was the only cassette we could all agree on. So, it stayed in the player on repeat for that whole summer.

Level 42 has always been much much much bigger in the UK than the US. Like, sell out Wembley Stadium big. Here, they're one of those 2 hit wonders, but most people only remember one. That hit was "Something About You" which has the added misfortune of not being recognizable by name. So, no one remembers the band name, their albums, or the song until you sing a few bars (Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" has the same problem. You have to say the "Hey now, hey now" part before the light goes on.). The good part is, once the light does go on, it's usually followed with a "yeeahh, I remember that song" and a smile slowly creeps across their lips.

The band is made up of the two-man core of Mark King (bass/vocals) and Mike Lindup (keyboards/backing vocals). Their sound has always been this amalgam of African rhythms and percussion mixed with jazz and expert pop. King, who looks a little like Alton Brown, is an expert bassist and utilizes that thumb slap method, which you can hear in all their stuff. Lindup is fine on the keyboards, but his real strength, and an underappreciated gift to all mankind, is his singing voice. It's this beautiful high falsetto that is the perfect compliment to any song. I dare say, he may be the greatest back-up singer in the history of recorded music. Every song is given weight and made better by his voice. Every one. It's one of the world's most amazing instruments.

World Machine was their sort of coming out in the states, the first thing they released here that got any attention. And the album is deeper than just that wonderful single. "Leaving Me Now" is one of the great love songs of the 80s (be sure to get the version on this album, and not their greatest hits package, Level Best. That album cuts off the final piano-played coda, which is the best part.) "The Chant Has Begun" really showcases their African influences, and "Hot Water", the follow up single to "Something..." that went nowhere, is them on full tilt. That monster bass, the spastic percussion, and the righteous horns all come together for a major good time. Incidentally, all of these were hit singles in the UK. Here? Nada.

Truthfully, every 80s music lover should have Level Best in their collection. Not only will it bring back memories, but it's the sort of stuff that manages to put a smile on your face. And, the follow up album to World Machine, Running In The Family, might even be more consistent from beginning to end. But, this one has the sentimental value. Plus, it has that song!

Nugget: "Leaving Me Now". Seriously, that piano!

Monday, March 9, 2009

This Week In Mormons In The Media

It just got ugly out there, folks. Another rough week of stuff done to us and stuff we've done to ourselves.

First off, apparently "Big Love" is going to be showing a temple ceremony in an upcoming episode complete with temple clothes and rituals and everything. I would post the link or photos that are out there, but I'd rather not fan the flame. Needless to say, this is extremely hurtful. I'm completely against censorship and all for artistic expression, but I feel this is one of those times where it's really meant to provoke and make us look stupid. Figure this, a group of people gathered in a boardroom somewhere and decided to do this and knew that it would be salacious. They probably thought they would "blow the lid off" something. It isn't journalism and it certainly isn't respect. It's sensationalism. Whatever your feelings about the church, you would have to agree that showing our most sacred rituals is a bit like playing film of your parents having sex on the nightly news. It's inappropriate and it isn't fair. Why do people take such pride in knocking us down?

To their credit, the church has taken a higher high road than I would have ever imagined. In an official statement you can read here, they basically say these things happen all the time and, while we don't like it (not to mention it goes against the agreement HBO made with the church when the show first started), it doesn't seem to do long-lasting damage to the church. We get this stuff thrown at us all the time, and we're still standing. That's an amazing stance because I feel more like starting something on fire or picking a fight.

If you want to write in and complain (or encourage, it's a free country), you can go to this site to make yourself heard. I've always watched "Big Love" and kind of enjoyed it. Sure, the line between the real church and the polygamists is often fuzzy, but I still found most of it fascinating and the actors are excellent. We don't currently have HBO and I'm thinking now I'm going to have to forget about keeping up with the show in the future. Not just because I don't support it, I also don't want to see it.

Good ol' Chuck brought to my attention (via Perez Hilton, of all places) a recent study by Harvard in the Salt Lake Tribune that Utah leads the nation in people who purchase online porn sites per capita. In fact, the study showed that the states with the highest numbers were also among the most conservative and outspoken on issues like same-sex marriage.

You know, I'd like to fight against the stereotype that religious people are really just hypocrites because it never seems fair, but it's information like this that makes it hard to defend us. And, you can't sit back and say it's all the nonmembers that are looking at porn. Clearly, that won't float. To quote Bill Cosby, "Come on people!"

Here's why Utah is in this situation.
1) Obviously, the Law of Chastity constricts all kinds of sexual activity, and that's a good thing. The natural downside of strict rules like that is going to be curiosity and rebellion. It may be natural, but it doesn't make it right. People are finding ways around the Law and, I'm sure, rationalizing it to themselves by saying "I'm not technically cheating, so I'm still ok." Maybe not, but that doesn't mean you aren't a scumbag.

2) No strip clubs in Utah. There may be one or two somewhere, but, for the most part, there isn't a way to blow off that steam. Again, I see this as a good thing. But, again, if you oppress people they'll find alternatives for their desires, especially ones as strong and crippling as sexual ones.

3) We ARE hypocrites! It's so easy to do your pious thing at church on Sunday and then be as demented as you want in total privacy. The privacy factor is a big one. Members love to put up a front, especially in Utah. It's survival of the fittest over there and your standing in church is connected to your standing in the community, the money you make, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and your Stepford Wife's new boob job. Utah Mormons like to think they're the example of a Zionistic society that can be reached with righteousness and discipline, but what they're really doing is not being honest with themselves about life and the world and their own challenges getting through it. Utah wants to be California so bad they hurt! The article would also have you believe the numbers are skewed because of a large youth population, but are they not responsible for their actions as well?

So, cut it out! If you're one of these people, quit being so selfish! We love to stop gays from getting married, but no one can stop us from some good old porn? If this is you and you're reading this, you're an ass. There's no excuse, especially if you're married with kids.

(Note: When I googled "Big Love" to get a photo, for some reason one of the sites was Thomas Dolby's blog. Yeah, as in "She Blinded Me With Science" Thomas Dolby. Check it out because, apparently, his wife was an actress in the film playing at Temple Square. Crazy.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jimmy Fallon His Face

Ugly. Not car wreck ugly, but maybe “not-so-pretty girl at the prom with salsa dribbled all over her dress” ugly. More, “that’s a shame” than “that was lame”.

I don’t think I ever watched Conan from beginning to end the entire time he was on, but I’ve already watched the first two Fallon’s and they seem pretty unsaveable. The blame does not fall squarely on him, however. Jitters are to be expected, especially from someone who can wear his heart (and butterflies) on his sleeve. The problem was how unfunny the whole thing was. Nerves you can overcome, bad writing has a stench that lingers.

Jimmy is someone you want to root for. He seems like a nice enough guy, hip in a slightly nerdy way, so he may be given a grace period that grants him an entire first season. Conan and Kimmel got off to memorably bad starts as well before settling into their own brand of wack. Jimmy may do the same, if he lasts that long.

There are a couple more big problems.
1) He doesn’t seem to have much talent as a stand-up comedian. I don’t know much about him, is that where he got his start because it doesn’t feel natural on him. His monologues fall completely flat (there’s that stench again) and the clever bits thrown throughout the show tend to misfire. One skit had people from the audience on stage to lick something for $10 bucks. Not funny.

2) He sorta suffers from mush mouth. If you’ve ever watched an Elvis Presley movie, you’ll notice that all of his lines come out of his mouth as if they were one word. “Welldarlingmeetmebythepoolafterthelastsong.” This was, no doubt, the amphetamines talking. Jimmy seems to have a similar cadence where he starts to say something, giggles, cuts himself off with an “awesome” and then tries to regroup. Maybe it’s because his guests are so much funnier than he is that he can’t help himself. Maybe he can outgrow this tick. Maybe not.

I wish him well, but it doesn’t look good. As Lorne Michaels told him, “you don’t go from this to being the third lead in a movie”. It’s a career maker or breaker. Too bad no one’s planning a sequel to Taxi or Fever Pitch (I did love that movie) for him to fall back on.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This Week In Mormons In The Media

Worst. Oscars. Ever.

Too long, as always, and full of all the filler viewers usually complain about and are promised will be done away with every year like musical numbers and boring speaches. It didn’t help that there wasn’t a single movie or category I had any vested interest in. I had three hopes this year, that Richard Jenkins would get nominated for The Visitor, that Melissa Leo would get nominated for Frozen River, and that Robert Downey Jr. would get a nom for Tropic Thunder and all three happened with zero chance of actually winning. Knowing this was a foregone conclusion weeks in advance, I had no skin in the game. And, let me be clear about this, I HATED (yes, all caps) Slumdog. What a laborious piece of fantasy fluff. You know that agonizing gap in time on “Who Wants…Millionaire” between Regis saying “Is that your final answer” and “You are correct!” that feels even longer when you know the guy got the answer right? That’s what the entire movie felt like.

It was not a good night for Mormons as we, yet again, took a whipping for Prop 8. (Mark my words, the history books will mark that fiasco as our 3rd black eye after polygamy and not giving blacks the priesthood. We’ll never live it down and we don’t deserve to). Dustin Lance Black, who also writes for “Big Love” won for Best Original Screenplay for Milk. Of course, he thanked his parents, not for loving or supporting him, but for moving him away from a “conservative Mormon home in San Antonio” to California where he realized he was gay and could be himself. Then, he went on to, basically, say all gays and lesbians were God’s children and were beautiful people and that they should feel proud to be themselves. I totally agree with this, it’s just that the comments subtly came at the Church’s expense. Oh well, we have it coming.

Then Sean Penn won Best Actor, also for Milk, and basically called us out. "For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support." I’d like to share the blame with the Blacks who also voted against the bill, but I know he’s really pointing a finger at us.

So, Survivor’s back and includes Tyson, a return missionary from Utah County who is a professional cyclist. He hasn’t had much to do yet, but he was, as my good friend Chuck texted me the night of the premiere “the first to get nekkid”. (Note: Chuck did not write “nekkid”, but considering Chuck is Black, I felt the artistic license was justified since it’s probably how he would have said it in person.). I know many are horrified by Tyson's behavior, but consider the alternative: would you rather he was handing out Book of Mormon’s and baring his testimony? Not me! I’ll take this any day. Farrah and I have a hunch Spencer might be LDS too. He looks like one and his name is Spencer afterall. His bio does not seem to support this, but I’m curious if anyone knows for sure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Call Me Ted

Reading Ted Turner’s book I became acutely aware of something about my own life. I’m dumb.

I kid myself by telling myself I’m not or that I have “different talents”, but the truth of the matter is that I pretty much lack the genes necessary to be contributing member of society. Sure, I have beautiful children and I’m employed and I love my wife and I go to church, all those virtues it takes to be a productive member of society. But I lack the ability to be a contributing one.

I go through life with a major conflict on my shoulders. Do I not excel at certain things because I don’t try hard enough or because I lack the ability to do so? My core philosophy has always been that as long as I am aware of a problem/need/responsibility/dream then that makes it a “to-do”. “I know I’m out of shape, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it”. “I know the lawn needs to be mowed, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” “I know I’d really like to start a business, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” “I know I’d like to write a book, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” Etc.

Our culture, heck the human race, thrives on stories of the little guy who gave something their all and came out a winner, whether it be in sports, or business, or education or American Idol. It’s what fuels the spirit that our existence is based on.

So, again, my conflict becomes: what if I show no ability to start my own business or get a PHD or play pro baseball, would trying harder fix that? For instance, I was no better at math or science the day I graduated from college, than when I entered high school. I studied, I passed classes (barely), I even had tutors occasionally, but the information never stuck. Whose fault is that?

Now, back to Turner. The man is amazing. He’s brilliant. He’s savvy. He’s visionary. He went from taking over his father’s billboard business to becoming one of the richest, most innovative, most influential people the world has ever seen. I’m humbled, I’m awed, I’m jealous, and I’m frustrated. Could anyone be a Ted Turner, or do his unique talents, circumstances, vision, and luck make him the only one qualified to wear those shoes? Believing that you can is what gets most people up in the morning, especially in a capitalistic society. I, however, have no business acumen to speak of. I don’t understand stocks or venture funding or equity or any other buzz word associated with entrepreneurialism. Like math and science, I have a feeling a lot of instruction would only accomplish retaining some of the information and for only short periods of time. So, instead, I go through life wondering “what if”. Take a piano prodigy. Does he find the piano, or does the piano find him? In other words, could anyone be a prodigy if the correct vessel was placed before them?

Bottom line: read the book. It’s fascinating and quick. My only beef is that Ted’s personality doesn’t leap off the page like it does in person. Luckily, he has friends, cohorts, and family write sections throughout the book that provides an anecdote that shines better light on the man.
Life would be easier if I didn’t see someone like Ted Turner as a goal or ideal. If I let them be them and me be me. But, that wouldn’t work because all I want to do is watch TV and eat pizza. So, where do I channel my motivation? My shoulders are collapsing!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CA - CA - CA - Changes

So, if having a new baby wasn't enough change to one's routine, I recently switched jobs. I've told most people, but I wanted to get the full story documented so that I wouldn't have to keep going over it.

As most of you know, I've been with IBM for 4 years as an inside software sales rep. I've always liked the job, the people were great, the culture was casual and balanced and the job was rewarding when business was good. The problem has been that business hasn't been good for the last couple years and the job had become pretty rote. I've been going through the motions for a while, but because it offered such a quality of life I didn't think much about leaving.

Over the last year or so, layoffs have been going on in rounds and they kept creeping closer and closer to our group. Around November, I started feeling like I better look around because I could be next. Luckily, my buddy Jason, who introduced me to IBM, had recently left for CA (Computer Associates) and heard about a program they were starting where they would hire a bunch of associate sales reps with about my level of experience and train them to go out into the field and sell their best selling product, which is a Product and Portfolio Mgmt software called Clarity. The pay was better, the potential upside was greater and the change would do me some good.

Because we were about to have Graham and IBM pays 2 weeks of paternity leave, I didn't want to make anything official until I got back. My plan was to go back and quit shortly afterwards. Well, my first day back in the office a coworker who knew I was planning on leaving, told me about an email they accidentally saw that alluded to layoffs taking place the next week. So, the plan became wait and see if I got laid off and collect the severance and then quit if not, since I'd be taking off anyway. Well, sure enough it worked. About 20% of us were laid off that week and I was able to start my new job at CA a few days later. We've already cashed the severance check. None of my friends that have been laid off from IBM or anywhere else have been in such a prime situation.

Not only do I consider myself extremely lucky to have been recruited for a job in this economy, but it has managed to restore some faith in the Man Upstairs after years of feeling very alone. The way things worked out does not say "coincidence" to me and I can't really deny it. Not only that, but four great, but very challenging, years at IBM now make so much sense. Every challenge, every lesson, every experience had a subtext that is now the main plot. It's a relief to feel a sense of accomplishment being able to move on from that chapter of my life and know that I graduated.

I've been on the road almost since the day I started at CA. I've been in New York (Islandia about an hour outside Manhattan, not sexy NYC) for the last 2 weeks for training and I'm ready to go home this Friday. I'm forgetting what my kids look like and I miss my wife and my bed and regular food and the DVR and having a car and wearing clothes that aren't business casual, etc. One thing I'm learning about CA is they are WAY more hardcore and competitive and open about wanting to make lots and lots of money than anyone I met at IBM. The culture there wasn't like that at all. Now, I suddenly feel like "sales" isn't the bad word it used to be and that succeeding is nothing to apologize for. I do worry about the state of my soul, but that is a conflict I carry with me all the time (as has been mentioned in previous posts) and I can't let it hold me back from working hard and being confident about what I do. If you can't tell, this whole thing has caused some serious contemplation about my life, but the conclusions I'm coming to are all good and I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This Week in Mormons in the Media

In case you weren't aware, the current season of MTV's Real World features a member of the church. Chances are you weren't if you're like me and have ignored this now meaningless show for the last 10 years or so. This season takes place in Brooklyn and, so far, I haven't seen any hot tub orgies or in-house hook-ups yet, which sets it apart from most of what happens on the show nowadays.

The Mormon is named Chet and he's a real stud. I like the guy a lot because he represents the church how I wish it was shown more often. He's very hip and cool and funny and fashionable (he even wears eye liner when he goes out to the clubs), but the church has yet to be used as an obstacle or a hindrance either by him or the show. It's the antithesis of Julie who set us back a few years ago as the show's first Mormon. This guy gets it. His focus is more on morality than spirituality. I like that.

I know he's from SLC and he has referred to himself as a frat guy, so I assume he goes to the U. I don't see garments, so I don't think he's an RM and he hasn't said whether that's part of his plans or not. Many of his roommates think he's gay, or at least that was a running joke in the beginning. It's a comment he laughingly tosses aside. My only fear is that the season's big ta-dah moment will be him coming out only because it would turn his arc into a stereotype rather than just allowing him to be a cool member who's his own person.

There is another cast member named Baya (weird name) and she's also from SLC, but she isn't LDS. She's as lame as the rest of the cast is. I swear these kids are still in high school. I weep for the future.

This season's Biggest Loser has bounced back from last season's ugliness to feature some people worth rooting for. And, it appears a couple teams are Mormon. They haven't come out and said anything, but in photo montages of them at home with their families, pictures were featured of Blane and Filipe with their wives on, what looked like, temple grounds. Add to that the fact their both from Mesa, AZ and Blane's wife just had a kid they named Breckin (a dead giveaway given Mormon's penchant for stupid baby names). I say chances are pretty good these guys are part of the flock.

Former BYU football player Brett Keisel is now a Super Bowl Champion. His Steelers beat the Cardinals, unfortunately, and he even factored into the deciding play of the game by landing on the ball after Kurt Warner's "fumble" on the final drive allowing Pittsburgh to clinch it. While I'm happy for him, I'm really bummed AZ lost. They were such a great story. But, I knew when Larry Fitzgerald scored that TD with over 2 mins left that they were in trouble. You can't leave that much time on the clock.

Once again, a member of the church has been featured on Intervention. At least, I assume she is. Her name is Lana, she lives in St. George and she's one of 11 children. Plus, they kept showing family photos and they were those color-coordinated ones all members get. She never outright says she's LDS, but you can pretty much piece it together.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Best Movies of 2008 - Final Version

This year, Farrah and I have the same top 10 pretty much, the only difference would be the order. We went for means and averages for the Christmas Card, but I'm posting them in my preferred order since this is my blog and I can do what I want.

1. Changeling
I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did, but it reminded me of Shawshank Redemption and the villain deserves to go into the Movie Bad Guy Hall of Fame.

2. Bigger Stronger Faster
A fascinating documentary on steroid use and America’s need to be the best, while hiding the skeletons in our closet. I’m still thinking about it.

3. Role Models
Funniest movie of the year. With so little good in the theatres this year, it came as a real pleasure to just sit and laugh non stop.

4. Diving Bell and Butterfly
It technically came out last year, but with there being so little to truly recommend this year, and most viewers discovering it in ’08, it deserves a spot. One of the most perfectly directed films ever.

5. Frost/Nixon
Who knew a film about a famous interview could be so riveting.

6. The Visitor
A very touching movie about a man finding himself with the help of some young, immigrant friends.

7. Milk
In retrospect, it could have been about so much more. Still, the ensemble cast was perfect and Sean Penn is mesmerizing.

8. Iron Man
The better of the two comic book blockbusters of the year.

9. Dark Knight
Really good, but not a great movie. Before it feels too long and gets clich├ęd, it’s a really good ride.

10. Frozen River
That small gem you wish everyone with an open mind would discover.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Boy

We forced our big guy out of the womb on New Year's Eve after a long, tortuous day that made his arrival doubly sweet.
Farrah's actual due date was around January 4th, so our thinking was, since we're all paid up on our deductibles for the year and we'd like the tax credit, and he's breach, and it's only a few days early, why not schedule the c-section for the last day of 2008. The doctor was bristling at this suggestion, which forced a sort of loggerhead to see who was going to win this battle. Finally, on Dec 30th at around 5:30 pm, we received the go-ahead for birth the next day after an amnio showed the doctors what they needed to see. The surgery would be scheduled for 7 am, but we needed to be there by 5. Pain.

I had begun to feel bad that we were turning our son's birth into something that benefited us, rather than allowing nature to take it's course, so I was somewhat deflated when they said to be at the hospital that early. I had accepted the idea that we would let the experts win this battle. That feeling only got worse over the course of the next day.

So, we arrive at 5 like we're supposed to and Farrah gets in the bed and I take out my ipod and book and begin waiting those 2 hours before go-time. Then came one of those moments you wish you could have back. The nurse asked Farrah if she had had anything to eat or drink so far and Farrah admitted she drank a glass of water. Well, off went the alarm bells! Everything stopped and the nurse went scurrying down the halls looking for guidance. Our doctor had failed to mention no eating or drinking. Farrah assumed the eating part, but caved on the drinking. We were then informed it was off and that we'd have to come back later. The new time was 4:30 pm, but we should get there by 1 in case there was a cancellation. I was irate. Irate at the doctors for making this experience and our decision to do it early so regretful. Irate at Farrah for masterminding this decision and for drinking that blasted water. Irate at "the man" for keeping us down. And, irate at myself for not having the fore site to make my boy's day happier. We went back home and went to bed, and I was sick in my gut and had tears in my eyes feeling lower than dirt.

We went back at 1, but of course, there was no early window and then we got bumped from our 4:30 appointment. We sat there all day, Farrah hasn't eaten and thinks she wants a sandwich more than she wants to have this baby and me stewing and snapping at anyone trying to help. I was cursing the day my poor son was born and wanted to shoot myself for it, yet couldn't control myself. (Meanwhile, my poor parents are back at the house keeping Georgia entertained. A huge help.)

Then, it all changed. The nurses finally entered the room with some literal directives and the ball was finally rolling. At that point all was forgiven. By about 6:40pm, Graham Alan Lamoreaux made his entrance and the hell of the previous 14 hours was a distant memory.

He was 10 lbs (9lbs 15.8 oz) and 22 inches long. At first, he looked like a miniature James Gandolfini, same hairline, same slightly recessed chin, same almost pug nose and same barrel chest. Cute was not the first word that came to mind. Now, however, he's beautiful. Looks almost exactly like Georgia did (and she turned out perfectly), but with more masculine features and more hair. Farrah and I make the most amazing babies, I don't know why we deserve that, but we know we're blessed.

I'm proud of the guy. He's a great baby. Like they say, when you don't think you have more love to give to more children, it just blooms from nowhere, like vapor or dandelions or a miracle.