April 20, 2005
I have to recognize that by writing this blog, I'm disqualifying myself from complaining too much about living in a society that is suffering from a technological overload, but I can say that I think we are taking things a bit to far in some areas. One idea I hear over and over is that through cell phones and wireless networks, we are strangled by the very noose of our own accessibility. No one can really "get away from it all" if their cell phone is still at his or her side. But I think it's even worse than that.
The other day I was in a public restroom, for obvious reasons. I noticed that a stall near me was occupied, which by itself wasn't an unprecedented event. I'm sure it's happened many times before. No, what was weird was the mechanical clicking noise coming from inside.
Now, I'm not interested in vulgarity, and I don't need to remind anyone of the noises you can hear in a public restroom. But this sound wasn't biological; it was mechanical, man-made.
It was a cell phone. He was sending a text message.
On the can.
It reminded me of the "Seinfeld" a few years back where George was forced to buy a book from a bookstore because he had taken it into the restroom to read. I wondered if even in our intangible world of bleeps and blips, the same concept applied. My phone doesnt actually get text messages, in fact, I think it's the last one on the planet with a two-toned display. But I don't know how I'd feel about getting a text from someone in the bathroom. That's just weird, man.
Enough potty-humor. Here's another thought to dwell on: is the artist's "prime" an irretrievable commodity once it is passed?
Here's what made me think of this. I was on iTunes yesterday, and I saw that they're offering a featured track from the new Star Wars soundtrack from John Williams. I listened to the clip, and yeah, it was nice. But to be honest, I just don't think the music from the new movies is as good as that from the originals.
I LOVE John Williams. He is easily the greatest soundtrack composer ever, if not one of the greatest plain old composers of our time. The last thing I'd ever want to do is rag on the guy, since he wrote some of the music that shaped my youth. But that's just the thing: I don't know that today's stuff is as good as the stuff that came through the 70's and 80's. I mean, try to stack up anything against his repertoire: "Jaws", "Star Wars", "Superman", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "ET". I'm sorry, but "Harry Potter" and "Jurassic Park" never grabbed me musically the same way you get hit every time Elliot and ET jump that canyon on their bike and the theme busts in. Maybe it's because the Star Wars films themselves haven't been as good. Maybe there is no "magic bullet".
It's not limited to him, though. I hate to admit it, but all of the new stuff all my favorite 60's and 70's musicians put out is pretty lame. Really. I still like to think the Stones stopped recording back in '71. But what I wonder is whether I like the stuff because it connects me with my youth, or because the quality itself is tangibly superior. Jonathan Richman asked this question in his song "That Summer Feeling" when he sang, "Do you long for her, or for the way you were?" My answer? I don't know.
Maybe that's just one of the challenges of mortality: acknowledging the fact that you can't do all of the things you used to do. It certainly makes the Resurrection more appealing. I won't have to shave my head anymore. I think that this bugs me because I'm hoping my prime is still ahead of me, even despite the fact that I can't jump as high as I used to. My guess is most of this can be chalked up to shortsightedness.
April 18th, 2005
For some reason today I didn't feel like watching FOX News over lunch, so I popped on an old VHS copy of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock". A few thoughts:
- What exactly was it that compelled the producers to bring in Christopher Lloyd as the Klingon bad guy in this one? They had just come off using the greatest Star Trek villain of all time with Ricardo Montalban in "Wrath of Khan." (In fact, I wrote a paper on Montalban two years ago. Read it here.) Actually, Lloyd does a good job, I just can't figure out what gave them the idea.
It was like a bunch of execs were sitting around at lunch, going, "well, we just made a killing using Ricardo Montalban, but he died at the end of the movie. Any ideas for a new bad guy?"
"How about 'Jim' from 'Taxi'?"
Keep in mind, this movie came out right in the midst of "Back to the Future" fever, too. Anyone who didn't know his "Taxi" character knew Lloyd as "Doc" Emmitt Brown. I just find this fascinating. A true triumph of acting range.
- Of course, "Star Trek III" did make the contribution of introducing one of the coolest looking ships in Sci-Fi movie history. The Klingon Bird of Prey made the Enterprise and every other ship in the series look like a piece of garbage. I'd even take it over most "Star Wars" ships.
- Lastly, I can't begin to describe the brilliance of the line Spock's dad uses when he's talking to Kirk at the beginning of the movie:
"Kirk, I must have your thoughts. Can I join your mind?"
Do you have any idea how useful this would have been on dates? Forget the DTR, where's the Vulcan Mind Meld? No more games, no misdirection, no signs, no signals, just pure telepathic clarity. I'd pay good money to see a guy drop this line on a girl, just to see the reaction. It would have equal impact whether used over dinner, playing mini golf, or on the doorstep.
The trouble, of course, is that there aren't a lot of big Star Trek fans that would find themselves in such situations. (See last entry). At least fans dedicated enough to remember obscure lines from Spock's dad. Once again I have risked the stereotypical label that comes with publicly acknowledging that you both watch and enjoy (Star Trek/Star Wars/X-Files/Insert cult TV show or film title here). As Kurt Vonnegut might say, "so it goes."
There is a bit of a double-standard operating here, though. I've caught a couple of episodes of this new show on ESPN called "Stump the Schwab." The whole thing is a bunch of young sports nuts in suits and ties trying to out-trivia this heavy set goateed guy in a hockey jersey named "Schwab". This guy knows everything about every sport. It's kind of disturbing to hear some of the questions he gets right. And this is coming from a guy that usually gets the weird looks during "Trivial Pursuit" and "Scene It".
Here's the thing: If I tell you that the reason "Empire Strikes Back" is because George Lucas had Irving Kirshner direct and Lawrence Kasdan write the screenplay, I get labeled a geek. But if I tell you that back in '89 the Raiders trailed the Broncos 24-0 at halftime then came back to win 30-27 in overtime on a Chris Bahr field goal, I'm just a typical guy. Sci-Fi nuts get called geeks; Sports nuts get Budweiser commercials. It can't just be that sports are macho, either. Just watch this Schwab guy. No one is going to confuse his knowledge with machismo when he's listing off the last ten female winners of the French Open.
If one's a geek, they're both geeks. And I qualify on both counts.
April 15th, 2005
I think I'm going to start a support group for insecure Star Wars fans. We're about a month away from the release of the last Star Wars movie ever, the last in a series I literally started seeing when I was a toddler, and because of my "distant relatives" in southern California I'm embarrassed to tell anyone how excited I am.
Whenever I tell someone that I've been a Star Wars fan all my life, I feel like I should preface the statement with "the last time I dressed up as a character was in the Second Grade for Halloween." Just so no one mistakes me for this bizarre segment of society that has taken fanatic adulation to unprecedented heights of idiocy. I just about fell on the floor when I heard about what happened at Mann's Chinese Theater. Over a month before the movie is due to open, these guys start showing up to camp out until show time. Nothing new of course, except for the fact that Mann's isn't even planning on showing Star Wars there. But does that deter my fanatical brethren? Nope. They refuse to give up their places in line, and prove once and for all that for them, Star Wars even supercedes logic itself.
The closest I've ever come to camping out for a Star Wars movie came when the Century Theater in Salt Lake was getting ready to sell tickets for the first prequel back in 1999. My buddy Breto wound up camping out in line with another friend of his, but I had already scheduled a date for that evening. And with all apologies to George Lucas and the "true" fans, the Code* explicitly states that given the choice between a date and pretty much anything else, you go with the girl.
Of course, six years later, Breto is married with a kid and I'm still single, so I guess turnabout is fair play. And I can't completely condemn the people out there that are taking their enthusiasm to levels I think are over the line. This is the last one, after all, and who knows how many people will still be showing up at conventions ten years from now. So if this is the last hurrah, so be it, young Jedi's.
Besides, even though the last two prequels haven't even approached the level of the first three movies, I have to say that I can't wait to see Episode III. Even if I don't order knock-off Jedi outfits out of Medieval costume catalogs, the six-year-old that saw Return of the Jedi on opening day twenty-two years ago is alive and well. And when he saw the Episode III trailer last month, he crossed his fingers and prayed that George would have the Force with him at least one more time.
*Refers to the unwritten but universally understood "Code of Guys in Reference to Female Relations," which is a really lousy title acronymn-wize.
April 14th, 2005
A little Déjà vu for the Spurs last night. Does anyone else find it ironic that after losing eighteen straight games to San Antonio, the Jazz decide to beat them twice THIS SEASON? Wow. Maybe it's Memo's fault. He's the guy that hit the last second winning shot both times. Of course, to deepen the irony, he did it after Robert "What the?" Horry blocked Giricek's first try for the win. Has there ever been a more unlikely last-second hero than Horry? Game winners are supposed to come from guys like Jordan or Reggie Miller. Whenever he beats someone with one of his threes, everyone stands around in a daze, almost like if at the end of Godfather II, Fredo had snatched the rifle from Al Neri, jumped out of the fishing boat, swum to shore, shot Michael, and taken over the Family.
It's almost as improbable as someone deciding to make a movie about soccer during WWII, then managing to cast Pele, Sylvester Stallone, and Michael Caine to play against the Nazis. Wait, that did happen
It's sure good to hear from old friends sometimes. The other night I called up my old buddy Arash from my framing days last summer. Arash came over here from Iran a few years ago, and the two of us wound up as rookies on the same framing crew last summer. Both of us had come via strange paths, actually. A week before I started I was still teaching in USU's English Department. Less than a week after graduation, I went from coworkers who had founded careers on diverse vocabularies to coworkers that over the course of their careers had managed to eliminate all adjectives, verb, and most nouns except for one single word.
Arash made it great fun, though. It was great to have someone around that was as clueless as you were. Huge sideburns and either a big grin or an "are you an idiot?" stare on his face most of the time. He is one of those few guys I know that fit in a very special category for me: guys that always put a smile on your face whenever you see them.
He was pretty shy at first. I remember trying to cut through a sheet of plywood with a tiger saw one time. I could swear that I heard this strange sound whenever I turned the thing on, but the sound wasn't coming from the saw. It was too smooth, but it was in a minor key, kind of like Yoko Ono. But whenever I would stop the saw, the sound would stop too. Then I'd fire up the saw and the sound would start again.
Finally I realized that Arash was singing. Over the next few weeks, he became more and more comfortable with the idea of public performance, and by the time we had finished framing the house up in Eaglewood, he would look me straight in the eye and sing at me every time we walked past each other on the site.
He's not framing anymore. I'm not sure either of us was destined for that line. The job, weird as it was at times, was a great experience. There's something cool about the kind of work that leaves tangible evidence behind. For the next forty-odd years I'll be able to drive past that monolith up there, point at it, and tell my little Josh's, "I helped build that thing." Same for Arash. He's taking some computer classes now, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't serenading someone in a computer lab at this very moment.
April 12th, 2005
"Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol."
And with that, I hereby start "The Wounded Mosquito".
First, a bit about me. I'm a 28-year-old career Utahn who's been spending his nights teaching college composition and his days eating tacos and listening to a budgeted two-song-a-week download from his iTunes account. I also teach Sunday School every month or so on the weekends while attending the infamous University 32nd Ward up on the U campus. More on that later.
This whole blog thing is a pretty new idea to me. As far as I can tell, it's halfway between a journal entry and a column, the differences being that it's a journal you want other people to read, and a column that doesn't really have to focus on anything. Sounds good to me. Sounds perfect, in fact.
I'm listening to Pat Boone and staring at a wallpaper of former Gonzo Journalist and recently deceased ESPN columnist Hunter S. Thompson while I write this. I don't know, that just felt significant enough to write.
Back to the University Ward. Last weekend we had our Fast Sunday meeting, and for some reason the projector screen was pulled down the whole time. I kept waiting for someone to go up and turn on a projector so they could bear their testimony via PowerPoint. Somehow in the midst of our technological expansion, it seemed like a logical step. "I know that
the Church is true
the Gospel has been restored
Incidentally, before we get too far away from the religious theme, does anyone think that ESPN could be persuaded to stop showing Poker games all the time now that the Church has made a formal statement on gambling? Logging competitions are more of a sport than four couch potatoes sitting around wearing expensive sunglasses and staring at bad Poker hands. Come on.
I'm really dreading the moment the NBA Finals are over and it collectively dawns on all of us that all we have for the next two or three months is baseball. Last weeks Yankees-Red Sox game was pretty interesting, though. Their whole rivalry is playing into my developing theory of a professional sports Axis of Evil. Right now, it includes the Yankees in baseball, the Raiders in football, and the Lakers in basketball. I've been a confessed Raiders fan for years, but I've always hated the Lakers. There's nothing I love more than being in the Delta Center when the Jazz beat those guys. That's because there's nothing worse than being in the Delta Center having to listen to a bunch of bandwagon-jumping Utah Laker fans cheering against the home team. This may have been a tough season, but beating the Lakers still makes it easier to take.
Hunter Thompson, Pat Boone, the professional sports Axis of Evil... Sounds like a decent start for a blog.