Monday, August 31, 2009

We Have the Tools, We Have the Talent!

Earlier tonight, the ward's Family Home Evening Committee hosted a talent show. I don't know how the rest of y'all feel about talent shows, but I love 'em! There's rarely, if ever, a dull of boring talent, and I always learn many new things about people whenever I attend one.

True story: I once attended a ward talent show in which one person's talent was to walk on stage and pat his head while rubbing his belly for a few seconds, after which he promptly walked off of the stage.

Anyway, ours was definitely a very enjoyable talent show tonight. A vast majority of the talents presented were musical in nature, i.e. songs played on an instrument or sung. Among the many highlights were Darren's retelling of the Millstream Ward history, Jill's alternate-lyric version of "Part of Your World," Kathleen accompanying pretty much everyone's numbers and playing the French horn to boot, Mandy's potpourri of rejected Primary song lyrics, and Pepe's two Broadway numbers.

I have always wanted to try my hand at Beatnik poetry (think Mike Myers in So I Married an Axe Murderer), so my contribution to the night's festivities was a dramatic reading of Duran Duran's "The Reflex," accompanied by my brother Ben on the guitar. I think it turned out great. Ben, Pepe, Steve, and I also sang a barbershop quartet number, "Red River Valley," a cappella.

Thanks, fellow Millstreamers, for letting your candles give light to all in the house.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Meaning of Being Lonely

Earlier today, I came across an article that discussed the concept of loneliness. Specifically, what it focused on was the fact that in spite of all of the many forms of communication that are now available to us as a society (e-mail, instant messaging, social Web sites, cell phones, text messages, speed dating, etc.) people are actually more lonely than they used to be before these things came along.

Among some of the article's findings:

- About one-fourth of those surveyed said that they felt "frequently lonely."

- Frequent feelings of loneliness were more likely to cause people to become depressed, while depression was not proven to cause loneliness.

- Those who are lonely, for example, will often be seen talking on their cell phones and/or texting others while in public or in the presence of groups of people. The message sent by these actions is that other people are far more important than the people with whom one is physically present.

- Loneliness is all about the quality and not the quantity of one's friendships.

- Just as happiness is contagious, loneliness is also contagious.

This article gave me a lot to think about, since I posted on the idea of spending time alone not too long ago. It's one thing, I suppose, to spend a little time now and then by one's self, but it's completely another when this kind of thing becomes a habit.

As I look around me, I see many people who are lonely and don't seem to know it, while there are others who appear to have gotten so used to being lonely that they have become comfortable with it and are afraid to step out of that comfort zone when any sort of opportunity to change their state of loneliness may present itself.

Is it possible to be in a room full of people and yet to feel completely lonely at the same time? I believe that it is. I have been in relationships in which it feels much more like two lonely people spending time together than two people making any sort of connection with each other. Needless to say, these relationships don't last long. It makes me think of the Ben Folds Five song "Brick," in which the singer utters the line, "Now that I have found someone, I'm feeling more alone than I ever have before."

I guess I don't really have any conclusions or concrete opinions on this matter but have rather been wondering what my readers, assuming I still have any, think on the subject. Feel free to post any comment(s) you might have.

Just don't be doing it between 4:00 and 5:00. That's Willie's time!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Improvables on YouTube: "Singles Bar"

Here is a link to a new Improvables game called "Singles Bar," which we created on our own (i.e. did not "borrow" from other Improv troupes) and debuted during our August 7 show.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We Got It All on UHF

Last night, several friends and I gathered to celebrate the awesomeness that is the 1989 cult-classic comedy UHF, which stars (and was co-written by) "Weird Al" Yankovic and a pre-"Seinfeld" Michael Richards.

This was the second time in three years that I have helped to organize one of these kinds of shindigs, and judging by the positive feedback that people gave, I suppose we will have to make it an annual movie party.

Adria and Julia volunteered to host the festivities in their backyard. They set up a large white screen so that we could watch the movie outside. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and gave us a cool summer evening.

Ryan was the only one to come dressed up as a UHF character. Once again, he chose Philo, the mad scientist and host of "Secrets of the Universe."

The evening's events included a few movie-related activities, such as playing one of my favorite board games, "Encore" (a singing game, which included a few "Weird Al" references); mashed potato sculpting, which references a scene from UHF that spoofs Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and the consumption of Twinkie-wiener sandwiches (hot dogs on Twinkie buns, covered in Cheese Whiz), which was no doubt the highlight of the party for many people.

Just look at the facial expressions of Christie, Pepe, Jared, Matt, Laureen, Nadine, Adam, and Kristen, which I think say everything about the experience:

Of course, I had to join in on the fun.

Sometime after the movie ended, Ben borrowed my camera and took a bunch of pictures of himself. This one is definitely the best of the lot:

I wish I knew how he does that thing with his tongue. (But don't quote me on that!)

It was a fun-filled evening spent with good friends and good entertainment.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Dog Days Roll On

Whenever August rolls around, as it is wont to do each year, I am reminded why it has typically been one of my least-favorite months. No offense is meant to those of you who celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, getting to send your kids back to school, or bar mitzvahs or have any other good thing to look forward to during the month, but it's generally one of those blah times for me.

In the first place, there aren't really any holidays to look forward to. Once Independence Day and Pioneer Day are over, the next holiday of any real substance is Labor Day - and August stands right in the middle of this time period.

Secondly, I will admit freely and honestly that the summer is not exactly my favorite season of the year. I am first and foremost an autumn person, followed by spring, then the winter. And August is traditionally when the hottest of the hot weather comes along.

The only time of the year I enjoy making gravy is on Thanksgiving, if you catch my drift.

But Jon, you're probably thinking. You're handsome. Do you really prefer the cold, cold Utah winter over the summer? Also, do you enjoy having brownies delivered to your doorstep by cute girls?

The answer to both questions is: Yes, I do. I would much rather bundle up (or cuddle up - I'm not picky!) on a cold summer night than sweat like Richard Nixon did during his presidential debates with John F. Kennedy. You can always put on another sweater or turn up the thermostat a couple of degrees, but in the summer, you can shed only so many clothes. Additionally: Brownies are delicious.

For those of you who weren't aware, I served my mission in Lima, Peru, which is one of the hottest cities on Earth, given that it is just a few hundred kilometers (they use the metric system there, which partly explains why they're still in the Third World) south of the equator. How I ever survived in that climate for that long, I may never know.

Nevertheless, the summer has been pretty good to us this year along the Wasatch Front. The first couple of weeks of June were marked by unseasonably cool weather, and so far it has been one of the coolest Augusts I can remember. So, I may be warming up (no pun intended) to August after all.

I don't want to be one of those people who looks at the weather forecast each day and screams in frustration or throws up his arms in despair, because I know a few people who fit that description. In the summer, they hate the heat; in the autumn, they hate the cold; in the winter, they really hate the cold; in the spring, they hate the rain. Essentially, they choose to be unhappy at all times. When you think about it, there are things to be enjoyed in the weather and in nature every day - if you look for them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We're Number Two! We're Number Two!

I'm not the kind of person to toot my own horn that often, but HONK! HONK! As of last night, I now belong to "the second-funniest Improv troupe in the state of Utah."

Last night at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City, four members of the Improvables (Bryan, Ian, Johnny, and Parker) represented our humble group in "The Battle of the Improvs," a statewide competition of head-to-head Improv performances by troupes across the state. The audience and a panel of judges picked the winners, and apparently they liked our guys better than all but one of the competitors.

Our gang, which has been together for barely nine months' time and includes several rookie performers, beat out some Improv troupes that have performed together for many years. We finished second only to the Thrillionaires, based in Provo, many of whom are seasoned theater veterans and moonlight at ComedySportz, just like Biz and I do.

Unfortunately, though I can claim membership in "the second-funniest Improv troupe in the state of Utah," I did not even get to attend the evening's festivities. Ben, Michael, Ricky, and I were representing the Improvables for a show at a youth conference the same time the Battle of the Improvs began. Nevertheless, the four us had a fun time performing for the Young Men and Young Women of the Bountiful 18th Ward, as did our audience, and I would like to believe that what the four of us were doing was no less important.

Earlier in the week, I had a conversation with Biz, as we are two of the co-captains of the group, about the Battle of the Improvs, whether or not we should sent a group to take part, and whether or not we were ready for it. I told her then that I did not honestly think we were ready to compete with some of the other bigwigs of Utah Improv. Nonetheless, Bryan, Ian, Johnny, and Parker gave it their all and represented our group well - proving me completely wrong. I am glad to admit that I was wrong.

I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to perform with such talented, funny, clever, and good people on a weekly basis.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Autograph Hounds

Earlier today, I ate lunch at a fast food place that I used to work at years ago when I was a teenager. Every so often, I will visit this establishment to relive old times (notice that I did not write good times.) The name of the place is not important; suffice me to say that it rhymes with "Flurger Hing."

As I was in the middle of eating my Whopper sandwich, a couple of (I would have to guess) 15- or 16-year-old girls came up to me. One of them said: We (giggle, giggle) love you in Improvables, and we (giggle, giggle) were wondering if we could (giggle) have your autograph (giggle, giggle).

She then handed me a pen and a Burger King napkin. Not having a whole lot of experience signing autographs - in other words, none - I wasn't really sure how or in what style to sign my name. But I did the best I could to give them their autograph, thanked them, and they then walked away with their napkin, giggling.

The thing is, I don't think I could remember ever having seen those girls before at any of our Improvables shows. After each performance, we make it a point to meet and greet the people in the audience, and I was drawing a blank as to the identity of my two autograph hounds. But it did not matter. It was one of those experiences that made my day, if not my week.

It's nice to know once in a while that people appreciate you, ya know?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Little Old Lady from Pasadena

Every Friday night after we wrap up our Improv shows, many of the members of the Improvables go out to eat together at the local Dee's restaurant in Bountiful. It is has become our unofficial local hangout. We're now on a first-name basis with most of the waiters/waitresses there, and many of us can order "the usual" and they'll know what we mean by it.

Well anyway, as we drove over to Dee's last week, one of my friends in the troupe followed behind me in his car along Main Street. As we arrived at our destination, he proceeded to inform me of his observation that I "drive like a grandma."

I didn't know whether to laugh or to kick him in the face. I ended up doing neither, and fortunately the subject of my driving did not come up again the rest of the evening.

Over the past week, I have reflected on my friend's comment and wondered exactly what he meant by it. What does my driving have in common with a grandma's? I have wondered. I can see over the steering wheel with ease. I don't just pull out in front of other cars whenever I feel like it but check my mirrors and blinds spots first. And I don't drive a Cadillac.

The answer was clear: Apparently, I "drive like a grandma" because I don't drive as fast as other people think that I should.

The truth is, I usually drive about 5 MPH over the speed limit wherever I go. In today's can't-get-there-fast-enough society, however, this is the equivalent of grandmother.

I don't understand why people are always in such a hurry to go places, no matter how much time they give themselves to get to their intended destinations. People who are otherwise law-abiding, honest, friendly, temple recommend-carrying people will intentionally speed and make all sorts of zig-zag patterns all over the road - except for, of course, when police cars are in the area.

Some time ago, I was in the passenger seat of a car driven by a different friend of mine. I squirmed and winced uncomfortably in my seat as he proceeded to drive right up the tailpipe of nearly every car that crossed his path in the fast lane, sometimes exceeding speeds of 85 and 90 MPH on the freeway. To try to take my mind off of the several near-death experiences I feared I was facing, I engaged my friend in a conversation about, well, driving. He mentioned to me that he had received 16 tickets for speeding and that he had come close to losing his driver's license on more than one occasion due to all of the points he had racked up.

I don't pretend to know everything about driving, but one thing I know for sure: I always try to obey all traffic laws, use my turn signal when I should, be a courteous driver, and never exceed the speed limit by 5 MPH, whether or not I think the cops are watching me. As a result, I have never once been pulled over by a policeman, let alone have I been issued a ticket.

If that's what "driving like a grandma" leads to, then it's good enough for me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Shameless Plug: "More Than Air"

A shameless plug goes out today for my Improvables colleagues Grant and Michael Gibbons, who I recently discovered recorded a CD of rock/pop tunes, "More Than Air," together with their brother Guy (who is currently serving a Church mission).

If you've been to see any one of our Improvables shows at Rodgers Memorial Theatre in Centerville, then you most likely have already seen and heard a sampling of the musical talents of the Gibbons boys. Grant's piano and trumpet abilities, together with Michael's guitar-playing skills, provide an added and much-appreciated dimension to our performances.

I was at Seagull Book a couple of days ago when "More Than Air" caught my attention. The CD, it turns out, was on sale for a bargain price of $9.99. (It can also be downloaded on iTunes.) I have already listened to "More Than Air" several times, and it is full of some well-written and energetically performed music. In other words, the kind of thing I have come to expect from the Gibbons.

Oh yeah - "More Than Air" also won three Pearl Awards at last year's ceremony.

Good work, fellas, as always.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What Women Want

Today's Random Question out of Nowhere is: What do women really want?

The reason I pose this question is twofold:

(1) I recently watched the 2000 Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt movie What Women Want for the first time. It got me thinking about what women really do want. As far as I could gather, the movie answers this question with: Women want Mel Gibson - not just somebody who looks like Mel Gibson (sorry, Steve), that is, but the Mel Gibson. Or, at least, they did back in 2000, which was a few years before drunk driving destroyed his career.

(2) After all of these years of dating, I have absolutely no clue as to what women really want. (Any girl who's ever been on a date with me is somewhere nodding her head in agreement right now.)

My experiences with the last girl I dated, I must admit, also warped my mind, to some extent, as to the answer to this question. It is a long, complicated story, but in a nutshell: After our first few dates, she began to ignore and avoid me. A year-and-a-half later, she suddenly decided that I was worth talking to again, straight out of the blue. Following a month of dating, she asked me to please leave her alone. The next day, she showed up at my doorstep and asked me to reconsider. Three weeks after that, she said that it "wasn't working for her" and then proceeded to ignore me again. Two months later, she pulled me aside after a ward activity and explained that she had broken up with me because she feared it was hurting the feelings of a friend. A month later, she flaked out on me again like so many bits of dandruff. Like a dog who follows his master anywhere and everywhere, I went along with the whole ordeal gullibly, too.

Too much information? Too late. The point is, I could never figure out exactly what it was that she wanted and could never tell at any given moment whether I was coming or going. Suffice to say, I learned that (1) she wished to spend time with me and (2) she couldn't stand to spend time with me.

Years ago, when I was in the Young Men's program, we would have those "qualities that Young Women look for in Young Men, and vice-versa" lessons once a year. This was the lesson in which leaders would write all of the desired characteristics listed by men and women, respectively, on the chalkboard. I always tried to take good mental notes during these lessons and would try to develop said characteristics.

The Relief Society in my brother's singles ward recently had one of these lessons. I I had a conversation with him about it, discussing which kinds of things the sisters (the 2009 version) desired in a mate. Among the items they listed, they desire someone who is: thoughtful, goal-oriented, patient, educated, a worthy priesthood holder (has a testimony, attends meetings, etc.), service oriented, hard working, has a good sense of humor, is good-looking, attempts to communicate, and shares common interests.

Questions for Discussion: What does "thoughtful" mean, exactly? People with O.C.D. are the most "thoughtful" people I know. Isn't "goal-oriented" just code for "has muscles and a jeep"? When women say that they find a "sense of humor" appealing, does this mean that they like guys who are funny or just those who will laugh at certain kinds of things?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Note: Before I receive a slew of angry comments comparing me to Attila the Hun's toe jam, I should state for the record that I ask this random question not to criticize nor to complain but because I honestly am wanting to know what it is that woment want.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Even More Improvables on YouTube

Because you clamored for them, here are some more YouTube links for the Improvables, featuring Biz, Bryan, Ian, Johnny, Ricky, Shannon, and Steve, from our July 17 performance.