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Some Shout Outs

January 18, 2010

I recently went through my blogroll and deleted the blogs I read just because I hate that person and want to feel better than them. You know the types. The people you barely know anymore but still bother to keep up with, examining their photos for blemishes and mocking their blotchy newborns. I decided that this is probably a sentiment I could do without. And now it turns out that I hardly have any blogs to check up on.

Some, but not enough, of my friends have blogs, most with blogs do not post often enough for my liking (my liking would be twice a day, so I don’t expect everyone to comply, but you should at least post once a week, right? Keep me entertained!) and others with blogs only post about their business. And as much as I like your business, throw in some personal shit once in a while. (Lady Danburry does a great job with combining the personal with the professional. Thanks, Lady!)

Does anyone who reads this blog read strangers’ blogs? I’m not really expecting an answer in the affirmative here since I haven’t done any promotion for this blog and my stats reflect that. How do you find those blogs? Why do you find them interesting? I tend to scan through a few film blogs (Film Experience and Final Girl are a couple of my favorites), but for the most part I stick to friends. And I just don’t have that many interesting friends.

Oddly enough I really like reading the blogs of my friends that have kids. It’s such a foreign experience for me since those friends with kids have always moved away (I don’t blame them, Utah isn’t a great place for child rearing, I’m sure) and I never ever ever ever plan to have one of my own. Samantha‘s blog is fascinating to me, and so is Natasha‘s, because one kid is one thing, and two kids seems to be quite another. The shit those women have to deal with when they enter that Mother world baffles me! They also seem to be a lot more candid than my other blogging friends…I don’t know if it’s because they’re constantly being pooped on, barfed on, etc. so there’s just no more dignity left, or if they just want a more honest recording of their daily trials. Either way, it’s pretty cool.

Heather Conover‘s blog is a good mix of informative and personal and funny. I also love Heather Adair‘s crafting blog when she actually posts on it – which is rare, and that’s stupid, since I keep checking it every day and wasting my precious time. Aaron/Brian/Gavin/Dusty/etc. have Killer Buds, but I really miss when they all had separate blogs they also maintained with simpler formats and more gossip…ok, hardly any gossip, but I gobbled up whatever I could.

I used to have family members that blogged, but the only ones left that do it consistently are Stephanie and my sister Madison (I won’t even bother with her link because it’s private, which is another thing I think is stupid). Stephanie always has great pictures of my favorite cousin-once-removed and Madison always has good dirt on the boys she thinks are cute (could that be the reason for the privacy??).

So if you have a blog you should leave me a comment, you should add me to your private little lives. I’ll rarely comment on your blog, but you should know I’m probably checking it 5, 6, 27 times a day. Don’t disappoint me.

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X-Phile phor Liphe

January 18, 2010

The other day Scott asked me what I knew the most about in high school. It’s a hard question because:

a) I don’t really remember high school. My best friend Heather and I will be walking down the street and bump into someone she knows from school and who I have never seen before. But Heather and I both went to Timpanogos. I hated high school and I’m sure some of my gaps in memory were self-induced, but it’s strange how little I remember about even the good times, whereas elementary seems crystal clear.

b) I didn’t know anything in high school. That being said, I was a know-it-all. I think I pretended to know a lot about punk music, the 1960s and the vietnam war, and literature, but when I really consider what I did in my spare time, I realize that I barely knew anything about anything except whining about boys.

So at first I told him that it was probably pop punk music. I spent a lot of money on CDs and I usually knew about bands long before they became popular. But wait, that was the side I projected. The “cool” “punk” kid that wore those plaid pants and put patches on her backpack. In reality, I was kind of an obsessive geek. So I delved deeper and quickly came to the conclusion that the thing I knew the most about in high school was The X-Files.

If this magazine didn't just give you a huge hard-on, don't even bother with the rest of this post.

Remember when Krycek lost his arm?!?!

Badge numbers, witty Mulder lines, side plots involving Skinner and Krychek, every episode where Mulder and Scully touch, these facts are still very easy for me to retrieve. And of course they should be, since I spent most of the summer before my freshman year reading fan fiction, printing out scripts, and writing my own script (about a magician that causes your greatest fears to kill you!). My locker was covered in printed out photos from fan sites. Anytime a magazine featured Gillian Anderson or David Duchovny in any way I would either buy the magazine or someone familiar with my obsession would cut out the article for me. I was there first showing, opening day of the film, waiting in line, wearing my “I want to believe” t-shirt. And, most embarrassingly – and a fact I have revealed to few before now – when we first got the internet I would tie up the phone line for hours, staying up late into the night, RPGing in X-Files AOL chat rooms.

Scott and I went out to lunch the other day with Brian, Greg, Aaron, Heather, and Luke and for the first time I realized how comfortable I am with that group of friends. I’ve always been willing to talk about storm troopers or cross stitch with them, but this time I busted out the X-files trivia. And it was awesome! Luke remembered “Triangle”: the episode that came out right after the movie in which Mulder and Scully finally kiss (because in the movie they were about to, but then Scully was stung by a bee carrying the Black Cancer. And even in “Triangle” they don’t really kiss, because Mulder is stuck in a time warp in the Bermuda Triangle and meets a jitterbugging gal that looks exactly like Scully, but it’s not really her. Sort of a let down, really).

Walking in Memphis is my favorite song.

In a few weeks I’m headed down to New Mexico to present at the pop culture conference. And you better believe I’m taking the four hour side trip to Roswell. I’m going to go to a cafe where they serve sweet potato pie, I’m going to the UFO museums, and I’m going to live out one of my long-time Phile fantasies. And so is Scott.

Oh, Lucius Hartwell, you stole my heart, big Texas teeth and all.

Next stop: Berlin.

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Revolutionary Road

January 6, 2010

I started Revolutionary Road with the same misgivings I had when reading The Reader. It’s hard to read a book – even one hailed as a modern classic like this one is – when you disliked the movie adaptation so much. And it’s only this combination of readership that I have a problem with. I can read the book and then see and like the movie, like the movie then read the book, and read the book and dislike the movie. I can’t deny that my experience with one narrative form heavily influences how I view the other, but I tend to stay, I think, more objective than most people about adaptations. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to create that distance between seeing a bad movie first and then reading the book. My reading experience is so influenced by the casting, delivery, setting, color, frame, etc. of the movie that it becomes almost an entirely different book.

I became more aware of my bias when reading Revolutionary Road, so I think I was a bit more successful with my processing (which still continues. I only finished the thing yesterday) but I still have no idea how I might have felt about Yates’s novel had I not been so – almost – indoctrinated by the film.

That said, I managed to like the novel. Love it, in fact. DiCaprio and Winslet’s voices echoed in my head during all the pivotal – and frequent – fight scenes, but it was the inner dialogue of these characters that made the book so much more successful. The setting Yates paints is as idyllic and cliche (these days) as the movie presents, but each character is more than the cookie-cutter image they portray. Somehow – and I’ll have to see it again to really analyze this, probably never figuring it out – the movie never captures the real conflict in the Wheeler home.

I have never hated a character in the book more than I hate Frank Wheeler. And while I don’t think Yates intended Wheeler to be the monster he comes across as in 2010 (after all, he based the character on himself), there is certainly a level of disgust in the narrator’s depiction of Frank. Both Frank and April have unrealistic expectations while selling themselves completely short, are obsessed with what society thinks of them while pretending to shun society, and are stuck in gender roles that neither of them can ever live up to. But it’s Frank’s false sense of self-assuredness that ultimately causes everything to crumble. I mean, the dude forced his wife to have his baby (rather than aborting it, like she wanted to) because he has some idea that she wouldn’t be a real woman (or “female” as John Givings calls her) if she didn’t have a natural motherly instinct. THEN…oh my God…then as soon as she decides that she will, indeed, keep the baby – giving up all her dreams as a result – he goes and sleeps with a woman in his office because that cements his proper place as a 1950s Man. Blech.

But Yates has such a detachment from the plot of the story. His bounces from character to character in the suburban neighborhood (mainly focusing on Frank’s perspective), describing all of their actions as a omnipotent narrator, that I don’t think he intends to embody. At the same time, there is one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve read since Where the Red Fern Grows where Frank cleans up the bathroom where April, essentially, killed herself. The narrator remains descriptive and detached through it all.

Creepy. The whole novel is creepy, because it’s just as relevant today as it was in the 1950s. Yes, some of the images come across as cliche at this point (the unfulfilled housewife ironing in front of the television), but the brilliancy of the novel is how it indicts every reader who thinks they might be above the Wheelers. Aren’t you, then, just heading down the same road that lead them to tragedy?

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Radio: A Personal Biography by Whitney

January 5, 2010

When I was a kid I loved the radio. I’d listen to it on my walkman as I did my paper route, I’d record my favorite songs and morning shows onto tapes so I could wear the tapes out with repeated plays, I even stayed home from school pretending to be sick, just so I could listen to the radio all day. My parents were never really into music (We owned two records: an inexplicable compilation of songs that included “We’re Coming to America” and “Barbra Ann,” and the BYU acapella group singing show tunes) so I was never pushed in one musical direction. In elementary school I was mostly into oldies: Oldies 94.1 introduced me to Herman’s Hermits, The Turtles, The Monkeys, and other bands who celebrated the animal kingdom. These days I can sing along to songs my parents have never heard of, let alone my peers. Then in jr. high I started hanging out with friends that had older brothers and discovered pop and alternative rock. These were the days of staying up until 2 a.m. just to record the new Cake song off Hot 94.9 or X-96.

Unfortunately my radio listening led itself to its own demise. It introduced me to bands like Rancid, The Offspring, and – probably most influential, considering their “radio sucks” campaign – The Ataris, who pointed out the commercialism of radio (ignoring their own million dollar records) and I started spending every penny I had on CDs instead. In some ways this detour was helpful to my musical development. I avoided some of the more painful elements of pop culture. Like Nelly, for example, or Madonna and Bon Jovi’s comebacks. These things angered my growing little pop punk soul, but they didn’t effect me nearly as much as they could have. I spent my high school and then college years blissfully unaware of what the kids were up to these days.

Which paved the way back to pop music for me. Dog walking, which involves more driving than walking, has reintroduced me to the joys of radio that can never be found in an iPod or CD. The randomness of the radio can be beneficial to a cynical music listener like I was. When you’ve been hearing nothing but The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” and Taylor Swift all day, you get a little pumped up for the Bananarama song (God, I hate that Cure song). Suddenly Ace of Base’s “The Sign” doesn’t seem quite as bad…I mean, compared to the Pearl Jam on the neighboring station it’s not.

The cynical listener might also be introduced to songs they’ve never heard before. Still. Even after 20 years of music listening, you may suddenly hear the amazing line, “I wear my sunglasses at night,” and be blown away…by it’s mediocrity! Likewise, songs you never would have given a chance, like Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind,” that are really fucking good. Only the radio can musically surprise you like this.

But my all time favorite radio moments are when those all-encompassing songs come on the air. The song that has the ability to perfectly fit any mood, even if you haven’t quite realized it until this moment. A song so epic that everyone you see on the street must be listening to the same thing. That song that describes every life decision you’ve ever made, every food you’ve ever tasted, and – most importantly – every relationship you’ve ever wrecked. “Free Bird,” people.┬áIt’s a goddamn masterpiece.

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Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and his Girl

January 3, 2010

Would there be anything better than owning a pet owl? I could replace all my little wall hangings and figurines with the real thing. Me and my owl would be the best of friends. Actually…I might rather own a miniature donkey or a pet orangutan or even just a dog would be nice. But my point is that owning an owl sounds really cool, which is why I read this book.

It’s not that cool. Mostly it’s just a lot of hard work, like taking care of a perma-infant for twenty years. But according to this Stacey person, it’s can be very rewarding work. Her stories of cuddling with her owl, blow drying him after his self-imposed baths, and learning his complex system of communication are fascinating. Most interesting of all were her stories of the biology department at Caltech, a group of people she presents as being as alien to us as the professors who populate Hogwarts School of Magic. In fact, this author has an annoying habit of continuously comparing things to Harry Potter and other popular sources so her audience will really understand her life.

The book is written at about a fourth grade reading level, which isn’t always a bad thing if the prose manages to still be interesting. Here it’s just too simple and repetitive. Even though I was learning a lot about owls and the caring process for a wild animal, I still felt like during the actual reading process I might have been getting dumber.

I should probably give her a break since this is her first, and probably only book. It doesn’t seem like her life has been devoted to literature in any way and there’s nothing wrong with simple prose. Still…it was annoying. I can’t deny that I was annoyed, right? The best part about this book was the subtitle.

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Working for the Weekend Pt. 1

December 31, 2009

I love my job, but there are hazards. The inversion lately, for one, which they say is just as bad for you as smoking cigarettes. Then there’s the snow, rain, hail, and sun. Those weather conditions are all no good. Being outside in general has never really been my thing. But for these little guys, it’s totally worth it.

I haven’t seen Ozzy in a long time. This is a picture of him with Flat Stanley when I was house sitting (we were asked by some second graders to take pictures with Stanley around Salt Lake City. Coincidentally the other poodle I walk is named Stanley.). Clearly the best part about Ozzy was his mustache. The second best part was that Scott loved him, too. Scott isn’t a huge dog fan, so I’m constantly introducing him to the dogs I walk in order to feel out which kind of dog I’m eventually going to force him to own. I think we’re leaning towards a standard poodle. They’re smart. Well, except Ozzy has a tendency to eat socks, which he then poops out in turd-shaped cotton bundles. Adorable.

Annika and Chaz are fucking insane. They whine all the way to the park, then spend the entire hour/hour and a half running like mad in and out of the creeks and lakes. Chaz especially is obsessed with fetch, to a fault. We can’t play too much in the summer because he’ll literally fetch himself to death. I started walking Chaz as a puppy, and his energy has only gotten more and more spastic. I kind of hate him, actually.

At Tanner park one day I was trying to leash up six dogs and herd them into the car. Chaz had a ball he kept dropping down the hill and then lurching against his leash to go retrieve, pulling my arm and the rest of the dogs along with him. Eventually he wriggled his way out of his collar and I screamed at him “Chaz, you little fucker!” I look up and a five-year-old little girl is standing in front of me with her mother. Nothing I could do at this point except mumble I’m sorry, wipe the copious amounts of sweat of my forehead, and continue on to the car. They’re actually really good looking labs, and they are so eager to please, they’re just dumb as rocks.

Chaz. Trying to "fetch" the camera.

Pepper is the sweet King Shepard I walk. No one ever wants to play with him because he’s so big and intimidating, but when a pit bull or a bull mastiff is around, Pepper plays exactly like a puppy would, pouncing paws first. Pepper loves kids, which freaks parents out. But I’ve noticed most kids are cool with big dogs. Even when they’re barking or running straight at them, kids seem to have a confidence in their skills with animals that adults don’t have. That confidence makes the dogs I walk much more comfortable with a huge group of first graders than any adults.

Chubs (officially named Mr. Chubs) is probably my favorite of the dogs I walk, though, like children, picking a favorite is kind of pointless. He’s a GIANT golden retriever, who is constantly running up to strangers and leaning his full weight against their legs in order to get all of their attention. He always has a smile like this one on his face. His paws are enormous – the size of my hands, probably. When his sister, Olive, loses her ball, Chubs will go find it, bring it back to Olive, and drop it at her feet. When I was stuck in an eddy last summer, Chubs was the first dog to jump in after me…only to get stuck himself. Oh well. It’s the thought that counts, and Chubs’s loyalty is complete.

Besides his mediocre picture, there’s nothing not to love about Olive. She’s a tiny little lab that loves playing and loves her ball. She’s one of the only dogs that dares to play with Stanley, my standard poodle, and Pepper. She’s fearless. The only time I’ve seen her intimidated is when I wear my big, poofy hat and she can’t figure out if I’m her dog walker, or a serial killer.

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Mr. Hornby’s Reading List

December 31, 2009

Lately, instead of reading on toilet I’ve been playing games on my brand new iTouch or killing our bathroom’s brand new ant infestation, which is why it took me longer to read these last two books in Nick Hornby’s Believer series. Oh, and also because they get pretty repetitive and boring.

Obviously, all of Hornby’s columns are not meant to be read within a week. I can imagine subscribing to the Believer (which I wouldn’t because it’s way too expensive) and being excited each week for the two or three pages of book reviews by someone so clever and goodnatured. But reading them all in a row, you notice how each column in Shakespeare Wrote for Money gets progressively lazier. When he starts writing about “stuff he watched” instead of stuff he read, it becomes obvious how sick of writing for the Believer he really is. And he’s not a great film reviewer (says the girl who writes for filmthreat.com, which has apparently been down for the last three weeks).

I finished the series for the frequent funny jokes and the great book recommendations. I know very little about contemporary fiction, and it’s nice having someone who knows a lot about it sift through to find the good ones. Hornby is a lot more reliable source than Oprah. Here are some of the books I’m most excited about (see my Good Reads account for the complete list):

Death and the Penguin – Andrei Kurkov
What Good are the Arts? – John Carey
A Krestrel for a Knave – Barry Hines
Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement – Rodney Rothman
The Pumpkin Eater – Penelope Mortimer
Skellig – David Almond
Citizen Vince – Jess Walter

Oh, and it was great to read a funny bit by Sarah Vowell, since I’m reading her first book, Radio On, and it’s painfully boring. I liked being reminded of how great she is now.

Also, I wrote this on the toilet.