August 23, 2005
Yesterday while returning some videos to Top Hat (does my addiction to Top Hat's "50 cent rental after 9pm" policy qualify as a vice?), I found myself tailing a balding guy on a slightly-chopped bike. He wasn't wearing chaps, or even a leather jacket (still too hot for that, I'm afraid), but judging from the custom flames on the gas tank and the way he'd crank the engine and shoot forward on straightaways, he certainly qualified as a pseudo-hot dog Fiker in my book.
But this is the best part--the only reason I'm writing about this: I followed this guy for about three miles, and his emergency flashers were on the whole time.
Now I would be the last person to try to suggest that I haven't had my share of boneheaded embarrassing moments. In fact, many of them have been documented here. It just strikes me that this is a perfect example of the irony of mortality: if we try to look bad, something will usually backfire. Yesterday's biker is the road equivalent of the beefcake striding the beach in a speedo with toilet paper stuck to his heel. We've all had it happen before, and it will probably happen again.
In fact, while I'm at it, just to show that I'm on the Fiker's side, here's a perfect example: ten years ago, while preparing for a round of DMBA* one winter holiday morning, my buddy Breto and I decided to do doughnuts in the church parking lot while waiting for the guy with the key. I was rolling around, spinning out, hot dogging it as much as possible in my 83 Accord, until Craig showed up and opened the door. In dramatic fashion, I hit the gas and made for a parking space, planning to hit the brakes and slide to a stop with the flair of a high-speed Hollywood chase. Unfortunately I forgot that the reason I was still in the car in the first place was the ice on the parking lot. So instead of stopping I slid forward and rammed the curb/snowbank in front of me at high speed in dramatic but less-than Mel Gibsonesque fashion.
Happens to the best of us.
*Dick's Market Basketball Association. On random holidays Dick's employees would gather at a predetermined church gym to play basketball.
August 22, 2005
MUSING ON THE ORIGINS OF "YAHTZEE"
Last night I made a dramatic return to a beloved game of my youth. I have only played "Risk" one time in my entire life, and every time I play "Uno" I have to have someone re-teach me how to play*, but "Yahtzee" is one game that will remain as firmly entrenched in the annals of my brain as the lineup of the short-lived 1969 supergroup Blind Faith **.
For years my family played "Yahtzee" religiously at our annual trips to my grandparent's place in Island Park. While all the fruits of mother nature basked around us in splendid sublime beauty, my family crouched around a small folding table, vigorously shaking a small red plastic cup***, trying desperately to roll five matching dies inside of three tries.
Unlike my friend Emily, my family hasn't gone so far as to keep track of our all-time highest scores, let alone post them in a prominent kitchen location. Yet through the years, "Yahtzee" has held a place of significance in my heart that few (if any) games have ever matched.
I really don't know what it is. It's not that the game is easier, in fact, there's a bit of strategy to it. It could be the game equipment (the new deluxe edition boasts a leather-wrapped cup and a velvet "arena" to roll the dice into). Perhaps it is the name of the game itself, "Yahtzee", a seemingly unrelated term affixed to the game only for the sake of marketing differentiation. It must have come out of a meeting like this:
GAME CREATOR #1: This game is going to be huge. But we need a name
GAME CREATOR #2: "Barrel 'o Dice"?
GAME CREATOR #1: No. People will think we're bandwagoning the Monkey people.
Game Creator #1 runs his hand through thinning hair. Tension abounds.
GAME CREATOR #2: How about "Five Dice, a Scorecard, and a Dream"?
GAME CREATOR #1: No, too long.
Game Creator #3 stirs in his chair after staring silently at a wall for the previous fifteen minutes.
GAME CREATOR #3: How about "Yahtzee"?
GAME CREATOR #1: Where on Earth did you come up with that?
GAME CREATOR #3: It's the sound my little brother would make when he would straddle the electric fence.
Game Creator #1 begins to weep.
And thus it was
*I begin cheating approximately fifteen seconds later.
**Ginger Baker - Drums, Eric Clapton - Guitar and Vocals, Rich Grech (deceased) - Bass, Steve Winwood - Keyboards and Vocals.
***Curiously, the "Yahtzee" cup is the same size and color as the "Barrel 'o Monkeys" barrel, another lost passion of my youth.
TWO VERY LOOOOONG DAYS
In the "new addiction" department, I just wrapped up season 2 of "24" on DVD. A couple of brief thoughts:
- Good to see Uncle Rico in a cameo spot. (Word is he also has a bit role in "Real Genius", one of the classic "Weird mid-80's movies notable for the presence of Val Kilmer" films.)
- I understand that in recent seasons her part has been whittled down (if not eliminated), but I have to admit the Kim Bauer role was getting a little tired. Seriously, every single person this girl meets tries to kill her/molest her/abduct her/use her as a hostage/make her live in an underground fallout shelter with them. Is it really this dangerous for teens in southern California?
- Has Senator/President David Palmer ever picked a morally upright person for his staff?
- How many people does Jack kill in a single day/season? Does a beheading count as an extra one?
On to Season Three
August 17, 2005
"CALLING OFFICER JAMES HETFIELD-"
For the most part I have spent the last several years avoiding "reality" television at every opportunity. Then last night I watch the last twenty minutes of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" on A&E. Was I intrigued? Yep. Was I converted? Nope.
At the very least, "Dog" can be counted in the RT category that isn't based on unethical exploitation. The star of "'Headbanger's Ball' meets 'Cops'" is trying to do something productive with his air time. A couple of weeks ago, everyone in Bountiful went ga-ga because they were filming an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" off of 5th South. These guys also seem to have a sincere desire to use their fifteen minutes of fame to help people. Call it the redemption of reality television.
But even though "Dog" spends a lot of time trying to show the human side of its marquee bounty hunter, the real issues underlying the show live beneath the surface, namely, "how would it feel as a criminal to know you had Metallica hot on your trail?"
Last night Dog and his crew picked up a dope dealer in Hawaii. The guy is wandering the streets, making his deals, when suddenly a black SUV pulls over and empties a bunch of guys in tattoos and black tank tops. All followed by cameramen. The tattoo brigade also seems to be carrying big cans of Raid (Dog doesn't carry guns for some reason). The target is so stunned by this dramatic entrance that he doesn't even try to get away. He looks more like he's been caught by Candid Camera than that he's headed to prison.
The next thirty seconds is packed with deleted "f-bombs", most of which come from within the blond permullet of Dog himself. Others come from the man in cuffs, of course, but the informant that turned him in gets a few licks in as well. Apparently it doesn't occur to her that by documenting her treachery on a TV show she has made herself target #1 for the dealer when he gets released in a few years.
Two minutes later Dog is playing disappointed father to the dealer in custody. Two minutes after barking him down with a series of taunts and profanity-laced insults at the scene of the pick-up. Maybe Dog really does have a "soft spot deep down" for these guys, as his sidekick indicates, but I don't know that it really qualifies for the "reproving betimes with sharpness, afterward showing an increase of love and affection" idea.
Oh well, at least he's not trying to boost the guy's self-esteem through plastic surgery.
August 8, 2005
STILL WAITING FOR MY RINGS
Yesterday Steve Young and Dan Marino were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as further evidence that my childhood took place a long, long time ago. I think the first such evidence came when I read a quote by former Seattle Supersonic point guard Gary Payton in reference to the youngsters in the league. Gary, in my mind, was one of those youngsters himself, one of the guys who's SkyBox rookie cards were quite desirable back in junior high.
Nowadays there's really no one left from my own personal "golden era". It pretty much ended with Stockton retiring. I'm still a fan of both the NBA and NFL, but these days there is a clear gap generation-wise, especially since most of the guys playing today are my age.
My connections to Steve Young should be obvious, but I couldn't help feeling a little sentimental seeing Marino inducted as well. Even though I wasn't a Dolphins fan, Marino played a big factor in my athletic life thanks to my best friend, Greg. Greg worshiped Marino and his gun arm, and we spent a lot of hours on random fields acting out our heroes token moves in a series of undefeated faux-Super Bowl victories.
From time to time Greg and I were able to get enough guys together for a real game, but most of the time it was just the two of us. He was almost always the quarterback, and I would dutifully run pass pattern after pass pattern as we marched up and down the field in pursuit of football immortality. Each of us owned an official NFL mini-ball emblazoned with the logo of our favorite team. His was the Dolphins; mine was the Raiders. Greg would always pump his ball up extra hard so catching one of his passes would feel as much like a genuine Marino throw as possible. Despite the aspirations of those days, I'm no great reciever, but I wouldn't be half as good as I am without that tutoring.
Years later, I'm a college professor and Greg owns a doughnut shop in Downtown Salt Lake. We last spoke at our ten-year reunion, and probably haven't thrown a ball together for fifteen years. But I imagine, if he's still paying attention to the sports world, our 12-year-old masterpieces may have crossed his mind when he thought about his old hero. In fact, I hope he still owns that ball. I'm always ready for a good pass.
BEWARE OF LOG TRUCKS
All that musing on "Superman II" the other day got me thinking about movie endings again. I've already discussed some of my favorites, from "Butch and Sundance" to "The Graduate". But when you look at it, "Superman II" holds it's own.
Of course, it is done in a different sense than the others. While "The Graduate" and "Tootsie" are just well-written endings, "Superman II"'s ending excels by virtue of what Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons would call "Unintentional Comedy". In other words, it's a classic ending for all the wrong reasons.
Despite what first impressions may reveal, this is pretty much what happens at the end of "SII": After defeating the three super-villains, Superman strands Lex Luthor on the North Pole, dumps Lois Lane, and goes out of his way to beat the crap out of some poor trucker shmoe he'd had a run-in with earlier in the movie.
That's really it.
The Lex Luthor thing is debatable: missing scenes that turn up in TV versions of the movie show some inexplicable arctic police squad picking him up. But even without that, we have to wonder if he managed to conjure up another snowmobile to get home the same way he conjured up the first one he'd used to get up there in the first place. (Remember this? One minute, fresh out of prison, Lex and Miss Tessmacker (sp?) are floating over the arctic in a big balloon. Then suddenly they're blowing across a glacier in a snowmobile. Did they hold up some remote vacationers or something?)
Still, here's my point: "SII" is a classic ending, but it doesn't take the top spot, at least in terms of unintentional comedy. That nod goes without reservation to "City of Angels". This is the one Nick Cage playing an angel that falls in love with Meg Ryan. The one I've always felt was inspired by a bunch of guys that were sitting around in a room one day thinking, "what kind of story could we build around a shot of Dennis Franz running naked into the ocean?"
Anyway, after about 90 minutes of Nick weighing options in over-dramatized romantic fashion, he finally decides to revoke his angel immortality so he can fornicate with Meg Ryan. (Yes, there are "SII" similarities here. Heck, there are even "Lord of the Rings" similarities, too.) So Nick gives in, they get it on, and the next morning Meg celebrates her fornication with a refreshing bike ride. She's cruising down this winding mountain road, arms in the air, eyes closed, and I'm thinking "this has to be one of the dippiest movies I've ever seen." It might even take "Somewhere In Time" out of the top notch.
Then, brilliance happened.
Fifty yards ahead of Meg, to the shock of romantics and the utter joy of guys like me everywhere, a logging truck pulls out across the road. "No way," I thought. "There's no way they could really be doing this."
But they did. El Smacko. Meg pegs the truck and dies in the middle of the road. Nick gave it all up for a one-night stand. So what does he do? He takes up body surfing. The end.
This may be the greatest example of unintentional brilliance ever concocted by a Hollywood studio. I still wonder how the whole thing came about sometimes. It is EXACTLY what I would have done.
August 6, 2005
STILL A SUPER-SEQUEL
Watched "Superman II" with some friends last night. Of course, I've already written an entire article about this, but after last night's viewing, I noticed a few points I left out the first time around. So
- After Lois "Einstein" Lane figures out that when Clark Kent takes off his huge glasses he bears a striking resemblance to the guy that regularly saves her life, the "ungoggled" Superman takes her to the Fortress of Solitude for lunch and a DTR. After flying to, I assume, South America to get some exotic flowers, he returns--with a bag of groceries in tow. Did he make a pit stop at Albertson's on the way? Did he use the express checkout line? Did anyone else notice him flying around with a bag of groceries? Maybe the Eskimo's are used to seeing Superman this way
'There goes the Son of Jor-El again. Looks like the case lot sale is on."
- He may not have been that conspicuous in the grocery store, after all. It seems a power I missed out on was "magic turn your gray suit into blue tights and a big red cape" power. The standard operating procedure seems to be "pull open shirt to reveal "S" for maximum dramatic effect, then rest of clothes will dissolve on their own". What I really don't get is how Superman comes up with all these powers (teleporting, throwing his logo, x-ray vision, etc.) when the only apparent difference between earthlings and himself is his "dense molecular structure".
- Is it the dense molecular structure that causes Superman to pass on 1 billion + eligible females and go for a chain-smoking scatterbrained reporter with poor spelling abilities that suddenly doesn't recognize him when he puts his glasses on?
- Not to harp on Lois here--remember, these are the same reasons I love this movie, a veritable pinnacle of the Hollywood system--but how on earth does she wind up with that massive penthouse in downtown Metropolis on a reporter's salary? It seems that between I and II she graduated from sharing a desk to having her own cruddy tucked-away office, but I doubt even the Chief could dream of a swank pad with a foliage-infested 1,500 square foot patio. Maybe she comes from money.
- When Ursa (female super villain) kills the first astronaut on the moon, did you notice he has a moustache? Has there ever been an astronaut with a moustache? None of the "Right Stuff" guys did. And am I the only guy left that noticed that the lady that plays Ursa is also the lady that plays Pamela in "V: The Final Battle"? That has to put her in contention for runner-up to Sigourney Weaver for "Early 80's Sci-Fi Gal" supremacy.
- There's still one thing that bugs me more than anything else, even more than the fact that the now-mortal Clark Kent walks from (Michigan?) to the North Pole in a windbreaker. Remember the grungy kid with dirt on his face that the three super villains meet up with in the hick town at the start of their reign of terror? The one that pleads with General Zod to "let my daddy down"? Why does this kid have a British accent? He lives in a town with rednecks named "Boog", for crying out loud! It's like they grabbed him off a PBS set and said, "here kid, can you handle this line?"
STILL A SUPER-TRILOGY
I know I'm going to rub a few people the wrong way with this, but I have to say it. Yesterday I was watching part of "Fellowship of the Ring" with the Peter Jackson commentary on, and after the scene where the eagle rescues Gandalf from the top of Saruman's tower, he makes an interesting point.
He brings up the question many readers have had about "Lord of the Rings" over the years, including my old roommate Brandon: how come the eagles didn't just fly Frodo out to Mordor and let him drop the ring in the Crack of Doom? End of story. 300 pages instead of 1000. It was a question I had tried to ignore myself.
First answer: "The eagles aren't a taxi service." Huh? So when approached about the impending doom of Middle Earth and the emergence of reigning evil and a resurrected Sauron, the eagle's reaction is, "What do I look like, a taxi? Get bent, wizard."
Then Jackson laughs that one off, and instead says that Tolkien himself provided the reason: The eagles are a race of their own, with their own culture and priorities.
Huh? So? Isn't that pretty much the same thing as saying "what do I look like, a taxi?"
The bottom line is that it would have been entirely plausible to do it that way, save for two reasons: number one, it would have been a dramatically anticlimactic "Top Gun" style ending to the story. Second, and more importantly, it keeps in line with another theme of the trilogy: when you're really in need, most people are going to tell you to blow off. I didn't see any dwarves besides Gimli fighting in those big battles, and the elves only sent a few guys down to Helm's Deep. Heck, there was that whole army of ghost-dudes in "Return of the King" that were in that state because they had chickened out. That's one of the points of the whole trilogy: sometimes you have to man up and do the right thing even when no one wants to help you.
And I think that's a valid explanation.
August 5, 2005
A COMMITMENT PROBLEM, ME?
Big news for Team Terry yesterday. The powers that be must have figured that I had demonstrated suitable levels of responsibility by taking care of the bamboo plant I got for Christmas last December. Now I am the proud owner of a beta fish and a little frog.
Basically, what happened is my sister got tired of taking care of them, and in the interest of clearing some space in her room, bestowed them upon me. So now, between my new pets, my bamboo plant and my crocodile head (acquired in New Orleans last summer), my bedroom is a virtual biosphere of activity.
My new fish and frog are my very first pets (Otto, our dog, has always been a family pet by definition). At the moment I haven't come up with concrete names for them, though I am leaning towards Confucius for the fish and River Man for the frog.
Besides their standard responsibilities (floating around and fighting each other for food), Confucius and River Man will also be taking over "Dream Interpretation" duties on the Smooth Jerky page of the Planet Venison site. "DI" is a concept I've been mulling over for a while now, and after I dream I had a couple of days ago, I'm thinking that with two brand-new ready vehicles for the project, it's time to give it a green light. Look for it in the next week or two.
A CUT ABOVE?
While writing this, I am preparing to have my third meal in as many days featuring steak as my main course. Now, complaints of ingratitude and gluttony aside (they've been small steaks, if that helps--we're talking 7-9 oz., here), it brings to mind a constant question of deliberation: where does one find the best steak?
The steaks of the last two days have come from the grocery store, placing them under the "homemade" category, a category I tend to favor if only for monetary reasons. The first one was a 12 oz. sirloin I enjoyed at the Ruby River Steakhouse in Sandy in the company of my friends Tyler Godfrey and Brett Gehring. It was a good steak, but not a great one. Not that I expect peak performance out of a sirloin, it's just that in long-term comparison, I think it would have to come up short.
For years my all-time favorite, at least in terms of commercial restaurant steak, would be the Maddox Steak House in Brigham City (Actually in Perry, a small community immediately south). Maddox has long been a family favorite, both for the Steakhouse itself and the "fast food" drive-in appendage on the facilities north end.
But while the drive-in maintains its unquestioned dominance, I think I have to give the new steak nod to the Five All's near Foothill Village in Salt Lake. Within a period of two months, I enjoyed Filet Mignons at both establishments, and the Five All's was the determined winner. It is truly the kind of steak that needs no steak sauce.
And yet, I may still be persuaded to admit that my preferred steak of choice will more often than not come from my own grill, or from the grill of a good friend (see "Jones Kamikaze Filet Fest, 1995"). The bottom line, of course, is that if I dont want to further incriminate myself in terms of clueless American gluttony, I'd better find something else to eat over the next few days.
In fact, to redeem myself, I will provide a link to the "Mormon Kosher Menu" as a token nod to responsible dining.
There, I feel better now. Time for lunch.
August 2, 2005
REVENGE OF THE PRE-CALCULUS LAB
Two nights ago I had what is becoming a sporadic recurring nightmare. I'm out and about, doing my usual thing, when suddenly I realize that I haven't been attending the math class I registered for at the beginning of the semester, and I am now a dozen assignments behind. The thought of dropping or withdrawing either isn't an option or simply never occurs to me; I am merely gripped with horror to think of having to return to my neglected class and face the truth of my inattention.
At some point after this I realize either in the dream or after waking up that not only am I not in a math class currently, but I haven't had one since AP Calculus in my senior year at Viewmont High School over eleven years ago. That, in fact, is the only reason I can come up with for the recurring dream: the math gurus of the world resent my apparent escape from their grasp, and have conspired to channel the fear everyone else feels through my subconscious instead. Because whenever I have this dream, the course I've neglected is always math, never gym or social studies.
It's funny, though, because I never struggled with math in school. I didn't choose the humanities because I hated math, or couldn't do it. I miss it in some ways, honestly. With the obvious exceptions of the higher conceptual disciplines, I always liked the fact that math pretty much produced straight answers, as opposed to the endless perspective arguments of the humanities.
The math dream is one of two recurring nightmares I've experienced in the last couple of years. The second has to do with driving. It doesn't mimic the same plot each time, but essentially boils down to the same problem. Usually I'm driving, and for no apparent reason my brakes don't work. I might be in a driveway or on a road, but suddenly I can't stop my car from rear-ending someone, despite leaning on the brake as hard as possible. Another variant is that I'm driving a bus and can't see in front of me because the driver's seat is too high up. So I just drive around running people over here and there, with no power to stop the vehicle. One dream was specific enough that I knew I was heading down Haight street in San Francisco, running down panicked hippies all along my path. In another, I was actually piloting a bus on the University of Utah campus via remote control, with similar results.
I always figured myself for at least a decent driver
A NEW SYNDROME FOR THE MASSES
A week ago my most recent band finally had their public debut at the University 32nd Ward FHE Freak/Talent Show. I dubbed us "The Tony Danza Experience", mostly because I thought "Groin Pull" was probably inappropriate. I was especially excited because we had tried to play about a month earlier at a 2nd Stake function at the Sunnyside Ampitheater, but had to cancel at the last minute. Anyway, the performance went pretty well, I managed to cover up most of my screw-ups, and we got a decent reception.
Still, when it was all over, despite our success and the inclusion of a knife-juggler and Jeremy Paddock's immortal rendition of "Amazing Grace" on his bagpipes, I felt a little disappointed. Sometimes I wonder what I really expect out of these types of things. Do I really think I'm going to graduate to the level of Rock Star after an FHE performance? Are people really going to riot in my honor, and are random girls going to suddenly see something in the bald drummer they never saw before?
"Gee, Josh, I always thought you were a regular guy. Now that I know you can play the drums to 'Back In the USSR', I have this strange compulsion to have your children."
I've concluded that what I experienced was the performance-version of what I now call "The Prom Syndrome". For weeks previous, a particular event is built up with a high degree of promotion and anticipation, moreso than the event by itself is capable of fulfilling. Despite the limited nature of the event, it is expected to be a life-changing experience for all involved. The prime example, obviously, is Prom and school dances in general. For weeks ahead of time students make massive physical and psychological preparations, fretting about tiny details and feeling paranoid that if they don't get the date of their dreams to attend with them, they will be consigned to a life of depravity and disappointment.
Then, when the dust clears, a muted neutral feeling pervades the spirit despite the fact that the event went perfectly well. They weren't beset by any great tragedy, yet they find themselves pretty much in the same station of life they entered the event in.
It's not a plea to lower our expectations, it's an acknowledgement that sometimes we make too big a deal out of regular things. Prom Syndrome.
Past Wounded Mosquito!
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