Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Random Things about Me

I already posted this list to my Facebook account earlier in the week (with a few minor variations), so I thought I may as well post it here.

1. When I was just three weeks old, my older brother, Mike, hit me over the head with a wooden mallet. That should explain a lot.

2. I would rather have a pet rock than a pet fish. Above all other pets, I love dogs. Unlike humans, they have never said a cross word to me. My golden retriever, Rolley - who died last year at the age of 14 - was one of my best friends, and I still think about her and miss her most every day.


3. According to imdb.com, I have seen and rated over 4,400 TV episodes, movies, and video games. Yes, I have a lot of spare time on my hands.

4. I have been tested for allergies and have learned that I am allergic to about a third of the things floating around in Utah's air.

5. Though I have not come close to scoring a perfect 300 in bowling, I (according to my instructor) achieved the first perfect score - 25 out of 25 - on the written test final for my bowling class at the University of Utah.

6. Though I have never been a great basketball player, I am proud of a few accomplishments. For example, I once hit an estimated 75-foot shot to beat the buzzer in a church basketball game. My career high in a game is 14 points. I once grabbed 10 rebounds in a five-minute stretch of a game. I wear jersey number 31, when possible, because it was the same number worn by Utah Jazz player Adam Keefe, whose hustle play I admired a lot.

7. Though I have participated in all kinds of theater and have done a lot of public speaking, I was once in speech therapy, because I couldn't talk well.

8. I once sang a solo at an Institute choir concert, and, for my own sake and my audience's, I will never do it again. I also once won a karaoke contest by singing Elvis Presley's "(Let Me Be) Your Teddy Bear."

9. I taught myself to play the zampoña (pan flute), which I picked up in Peru, and, with it, played a duet of Simon & Garfunkel's 'El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" at a ward talent show. Ben backed me up on the guitar.

10. In the third grade, I played the black child in my school play, "The Safety Kids."

11. I am afraid of heights, marionettes, clowns, haunted houses, and the number 26.

12. There are 15 days' worth of MP3s on my computer.


13. I still have a box full of Garbage Pail Kids cards, but I doubt they're worth the paper on which they are printed.

14. In 2009, I will receive credit for co-authoring a book.

15. If I were a superhero, my "kryptonite" would be talking to girls on the telephone.


16. I have lived through multiple earthquakes, a hurricane, and a flood. I was out of the country when the Salt Lake tornado went through downtown SLC and next to my workplace, or I would have lived through that, too.

17. My two favorite NBA teams are the Utah Jazz and whoever plays the Los Angeles Lakers.

18. I have never been pulled over by a cop, let alone been given a ticket.

19. I may very well have met one of the Three Nephites in the middle of nowhere near Island Park, Idaho, when I was 15.

20. I once flew all the way to Georgia just to attend a "Weird Al" Yankovic concert with Clayton. It was worth it.

21. I have been cast in four TV commercials.

22. I have to use my thumb and pinky to be able to snap my fingers. I can't do it any other way.

23. I saw Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace seven times and Jurassic Park four times in theaters. Yes, I'm a nerd.


24. I once volunteered at an elementary school and taught a classroom full of sixth graders to dance the disco hustle.

25. Though I have never dyed my hair, I have had red, blond, and brown (auburn?) hair.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Love Poetry for Dummies: "The Canteloupe Tale"


For those who weren't aware of it, I am a bit of a poet. Or, at least, I like to say that I am.

As a senior, I was on the staff of my high school's literary magazine. Four or five of my poems (and one essay) were published in that year's magazine, too. I also took a couple of creative writing classes in college towards my English literature minor, for which I had often had to write poetry.

The results of my poetic endeavors may not always be that great. Honestly, the results are often cheesy rather than memorable. But it's still fun and challenging for me to try to compose rhymes.

I have kept a file of a lot of the poetry I've written over the years. If I were to ever try to get it published, I would definitely call it Love Poetry for Dummies - not that I'm qualified to instruct "dummies" in writing poems, but because I like to think of my poetry as "by dummies, for dummies." In other words, I realize it's not Shakespeare, and I make no secret of that fact.

From time to time, I will endeavor to publish some of these poetic efforts here on "The Epistle of Jon." Not all of them are love poems, per se, and not all of them are based on real-life experiences - although some of them are - but the category "dummies," as previously explained, almost always applies.

First, I present "The Canteloupe Tale," which I wrote when I was a student at Weber State University. (I actually entered this into a contest, at my professor's invitation; I'm not sure how I finished in the contest, because I was off on my mission soon afterward.) It is based on Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, part of which I had to read for said English class. The concept behind this is that Middle English is, quite often, a tough language to understand. Further, I have a cousin named Geoff who lives over in England, and the in-joke here is that even my own English relatives are sometimes quite hard to understand when they speak - despite the fact that we're speaking the same language.

The Cantaloupe Tale

And so it befell that on All Hallow's E'en,
to honor Geoff Chaucer, on whom they were keen,
the folks that were in the town's poetry club
gathered together and met at the pub.
Tonight, on the night of the goblins and ghosts,
they would call up his spirit and drink him a toast;
they would read from his tales and would speak of his brilliance--
his great contributions for millions and millions.

For this séance they went to the cantaloupe patch
and hoped that the spirit of Chaucer would hatch.
No passing out candy or costumes this evening--
they would see the great author before thinking of leaving.
The group was all those who had hobbies as poets:
a plumber, a waitress, and, wouldn't you know it?
A lawyer, complete with his briefcase and papers,
whose clients were never convicted in capers.

An actor, a yuppie, spin doctor, and the likes
of a disgruntled basketball player on strike.
Lagging behind them, now who could that be?
A sign-toting worker of the UDOT.
They waded through carrots, tomatoes, and peas,
found the cantaloupe patch, and got down on their knees,
held hands, and cast their eyes up to the sky;
for Chaucer to visit them, much did they cry.

All that remained was the short recitation
of a passage from Chaucer's own work--a quotation.
With all confidence and all his faith still intact,
the spin doctor tried, but he failed in the act.
The words were too strange and they made little sense,
befuddled, confused him, he went mad, and hence,
the others decided to give it a go--
but they failed, too, and what do you know?

Even the lawyer, with his vast expertise,
Couldn't make sense of the strange English-ese.
They struggled for hours and hours and then,
with no energy left and the hour at ten,
more likely were they to see a flying saucer;
no way were they going to get to meet Chaucer.
Their hopes were destroyed, and thus, with no meeting,
they stormed from the patch and then went trick-or-treating.

The moral of the story: Enjoy Halloween!
Don't try to call spirits at a vegetable scene.
And most of all, it's really not worth the anguish
Of trying to comprehend Geoff’s Middle English.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Absolute Turkeys

One of my guilty pleasures is watching bad (i.e. stupid, not vulgar) movies. I'll admit it freely.

Some of you may be thinking: Why, Jon? Why do you put yourself through that kind of torture?

I can think of lots of reasons. To name just a few, bad films (or "turkeys") are enjoyable to watch because:

1) They are easy to make fun of, in the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" tradition.

2) In the same sense, they are good practice for "Hecklers," an Improv game that I get to play from time to time.

3) At the very least, after watching a bad movie, I can then help warn my family and friends about how lame certain movies are and save them $7.75 (or a rental fee).

Of course, I like to see good movies, too. It's the films that are neither good nor bad that I try to avoid, for they are the least entertaining of all. (A good example would be pretty much anything Nicolas Cage or Renée Zellweger have been in.)

The latest offender on the bad movie list is Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, which I caught on TV the other day. This was one infamous cinematic clunker that I had heard about for a number of years, and the verdict is: Yes. It really is that bad. It may even be worse than you've heard, if that's possible.

Picture a future 991 years from now in which humanity has been enslaved by a human-like race of extraterrestrials called the Psychlos. Worse, John Travolta (who I'm left to understand picked up a $10 million paycheck for this piece of drivel) is at his most over-the-top as some kind of a human dogcatcher. Even worse, everybody's hairdo looks like Amy Winehouse's.

Humanity fights for freedom. The Psychlos fight back. And the hilarity ensues.

No need to thank me for the heads-up on this one. That's what I do.

Friday, January 23, 2009

We're Not in Kansas Anymore


A shameless plug goes out today for my sister-in-law, Jana, and my 11-year-old niece, Kylee, who have roles as Glinda, the Good Witch, and a munchkin/flying monkey, respectively, in Rodgers Memorial Theatre's current production of The Wizard of Oz.

I have not been to see it yet, but Biz (who works in the Rodgers box office) got me tickets for one of the upcoming nights. I am excited to see the show.

For more information, you can reach the RMT box office at 801-298-1302, or you can long on to: www.rodgersmemorial.com. Jana and Kylee are part of the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday cast. The show runs through February 7.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Weird Dreams and Faux Hawks

Lately, I've been having some weird dreams. I don't know what, exactly, my subconscious is trying to tell me, other than the fact that it has an overactive imagination and also way too much time on its hands.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream in which I walked into a barbershop and sat in a chair for a haircut. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and former Republican candidate for the presidency, then proceeded to give me a haircut.

I have wondered what it could possibly have meant. Maybe Rudy was trying to give me a guilt trip for not voting for him in the Utah presidential primary last year. (That's the best I have come up with.)

Then, last night, my dreams took me to the cliffs of Dover, which overlook the English Channel on the southeast coast of Great Britain. I have never been to the cliffs in person, though I have seen pictures. I also remember Kevin Costner making an idiot out of himself, playing in the sand on the beach in one of the scenes of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

I have two ideas about this latest dream. One, some of the members of my immediate family are planning a trip to the U.K. in the spring to visit our extended family members who live there. Two, I have played a lot of Guitar Hero III during the past week, which includes the tune "Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson.

I also have three types of recurring dreams:

1) I am back in Peru, for some strange reason, on an extension of my mission. But I can never learn what my "unfinished business" there is.

2) I am back in my least-favorite English class in college, way behind on my homework and failing.

3) I step on stage to perform my lines in a play, but I have forgotten what I am supposed to say.

Does this mean that I'm an insecure co-dependent and need other people to validate me? Huh? Does it?

I wish I knew how to interpret dreams. Maybe what I need to do is to listen to the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat soundtrack backwards while I sleep . . . or something.

This morning - I'm still not sure whether or not this was a result of the cliffs of Dover dream - I woke up with a bona fide faux hawk on my head.

For those of you who may not know what a faux hawk is, you're better off not knowing. Ewan McGregor can pull it off - sort of. I sure can't.

John Bytheway has claimed that there is a mythical creature named Ralph, the Midnight Hairdresser - he comes from the same family line as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy - who sneaks into your room at night and messes up your hair. I'm inclined to believe that he's right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Worst President in U.S. History?

Well, it's official. Earlier today, "Barry" Barack Hussein Lincoln Electric Boogaloo Obama was sworn in as our nation's 44th president. You can't turn on the TV without coming across all sorts of people going nutty about it. (I think I have heard the word historic uttered by commentators more times than I can count.)

Their enthusiasm for our new leader seems to rival only their contempt for our outgoing leader, President George W. Bush. Some are calling him "the worst president in U.S. history." (He was booed as he made his appearance at the inauguration, and a small crowd began to sing, "Na Na Hey Hey [Kiss Him Goodbye]."

Mercifully, Pres. Bush's eight years in office came to an end today, too. When I say "mercifully," I mean for his sake. Finally, this man gets to enjoy some peace and quiet in his life. He doesn't have to bear the burden of - if you believe what the media tell you - 300 million citizens who blame him for everything bad in their lives (the economy, the war in Iraq, the passage of Proposition 8 in California, potholes, scabies, and the early demise of "Pushing Daisies," to name a few) and wish that he would die a slow, painful death.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I think that George W. Bush was a good president. He may not be up there with greatest to ever lead our nation, and he clearly was not the best public speaker I've ever heard. But I admire the man's integrity, courage, and steadfastness. He wasn't swayed to act by polls, as so many politicians are. I got the feeling that we were seeing a real person, warts and all, and not a phony - which is something that I cannot say of his predecessor in office.

People also tend to forget that Pres. Bush kept our country safe for seven-plus years after the terrorist attacks on 9-11-01 (which took place when he had not even been in office for eight months and he had no real way of preventing).

As for the state of the economy, the fact is that Democrats, and not Bush, let Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae get run into the ground - and our country rewarded them in November by voting them into majority rule in both the Senate and the House.

Anyhoo, here we are with Pres. Obama at the helm. His fervent supporters seem to have some, well, unrealistic expectations about the next four (or eight) years. They expect him to solve the economic situation, our two wars in the Middle East, global warming, health care, the BCS, the Chicago Cubs' quest for a World Series title, and some really tough Sudoku puzzles. For all of our sakes, I hope they're right.

This is still the greatest country on Earth. God bless America.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Love Songs (with Arsenic Sauce!)"

I received a lot more feedback - all of it positive - on my last post than I expected. Thank you all for your comments, whether given online or in person.

I also had more than one person inquire about the track listing for "Love Songs (with Arsenic Sauce!)." For the curious, or those with nothing better to do, I present it here:

"Any Day Now" - Ronnie Milsap

"Barely Breathing" - Duncan Sheik

"Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend" - Lobo

"Easy Lover" - Phil Collins

"Femme Fatale" - R.E.M.

"I Forgive You" - Everclean

"I'm So Sick of You" - "Weird Al" Yankovic

"I've Been in Love Before" - Cutting Crew

"Lies" - Thompson Twins

"Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" - Eric Carmen

"Never There" - Cake

"No More Love" - Michael McLean (Johnny Biscuit & Ron Williams)

"No Myth" - Michael Penn

"No Time" - The Guess Who

"Poison Arrow" - ABC

"Shattered Dreams" - Johnny Hates Jazz

"She's Always a Woman" - Billy Joel

"Special" - Garbage

"This Grudge" - Alanis Morissette

"Ugly Girl" - Fleming & John

"You Give Love a Bad Name" - Bon Jovi

"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" - The Beatles

If you have any additional break-up tunes to add to the mix, please feel free to post them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Sometimes, I feel like I'm preparing women to marry other men. I have a history of seeing girls I have broken up with go on to marry the next guy they date. I have lost track of the number, but I'm relatively sure that it has now happened more times than I can count on one hand.


Recently, I learned that, once again, someone I dated in the recent past has become engaged to another guy. But I am not at all bitter. I wish the best for them both. I'm sure she will be very happy with Dorky McSnotface.

No, honestly, I hold absolutely no bitter feelings at all, and I really do wish them both well. Adding the "Dorky McSnotface" part served only to illustrate the fact that breaking up and "just being friends" is a hard thing for a lot of people, and I include myself in that group. A lot of people carry bitter feelings with them for years and years, which is not a healthy thing to do and accomplishes basically nothing.

Personally, I can't do the "let's just be friends" thing. I'm not going to be that person's enemy, but I can't be her friend, either . . . if that makes sense. I have had more than a few uncomfortable moments at church (and elsewhere) around girls I have previously dated, especially when they're with their next significant other (who often becomes a fiancé).

When it comes to breaking up, I take a page from Nephi. Yes, that Nephi.

As 2 Nephi recounts, Laman and Lemuel really started to get wicked once Lehi died. Nephi had already been through a lot with his brothers, but this was the final straw. He saw it was no longer safe there, so he and his family packed up their things and left. They were still his brothers, and he still forgave and cared for them. But he could no longer be their friend anymore, and he had to put distance between them.

This is essentially the approach I take to breaking up. I'm not saying that my "ex" is "wicked" nor becomes a Laman or Lemuel to me, but, as with Nephi, it no longer is "safe" for me to remain near her. I need space - lots of it. A part of me still cares for her and probably always will, but at a distance.

Something I tried last year, when I was going through a rough patch in my social life, was to make a CD of "breakup" songs. I called it "Love Songs (with Arsenic Sauce!)," and I listened to it quite a lot. I put some songs on the disc that had a kind of tongue-in-cheek feeling about breaking up in them, would have a good laugh when I listened to them, and would otherwise try to move on with my life. In the end, I feel that the CD helped me a lot.

So, how do you handle breaking up? Inquiring minds want to know. I don't particularly need nor expect a whole lot of response on this, but I'm curious as to whether people have better ways of dealing with it. (For the curious, I don't mind offering to burn you a copy of "Love Songs [with Arsenic Sauce!]," either.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Idol" Worship

Another new season of "American Idol" begins tonight. A lot of people I know are very excited about it and, I'm sure, will be glued to their TV sets.

My reaction is: whoopty doo.

I want to like "American Idol" (or, at least, I did when it first came on the air seven years ago). But, more often than not, I find that the kind of "talent" that makes it on the air is mediocre at best. (And, no, I'm not referring to the William Hungs of the world.) Most performances come across as style over substance, with far too much singing "up and down" (I believe it's called "trilling"?) on notes - something that I refer to as "loco on vibrato." An "Idol" winner sounds more to me like Captain Caveman than a singing champion.

The worst offender I can cite of this is Katharine McPhee and her rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow." She was on the show a few years ago, as far as I know, and finished runner-up. I'm sure she meant to sing a beautiful song, but the result sounded something akin to a billy goat being boiled in oil.

Please don't take any of this personally if you're an "Idol" fan. I love most every kind of karaoke contest. "Idol" is a bandwagon I haven't jumped on, and I'm sort of thinking out loud here, wondering what makes this show so well loved.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Phoning It In

Today's Random Question Out of Nowhere is: What is the "big whoop" about cell phones, anyway?

Don't get me wrong. Cell phones are good things. I have one myself. It's practically an antique. It makes and takes phone calls . . . and that's about it. Maybe I'll take it on "Antiques Roadshow" one of these days and see what it's worth.

I know, I know. I'm living in the Dark Ages.

Nowadays, it seems that people are no longer content to have phones that simply make and take calls. There are phones that take photographs and video, have Internet access, have full-size keyboards for texting, and perform X-ray exams.

Okay, I was kidding about that last one. Probably.

I wouldn't be surprised if we were to soon see cell phones that have (or claim to have) the capacity to perform lie-detector tests, brew coffee, file tax returns, remote-detonate mines, conduct exploratory surgery, and so forth.

Like I said, cell phones can do a lot of great things. My problem with them is when they start to mean more to people than other people mean to people.

Just the other day, someone who was talking on a cell phone while driving performed a spectacular feat, cutting me off twice in a three-block radius.

I also had a date not all that long ago during which my date, who shall remain nameless, spent a large portion of the evening paying attention to her cell phone rather than to me. I don't consider too many things to be deal breakers on a date, but that is definitely one of them.

So, what are your thoughts? opinions?

If you text them to me, I'll break your arm.

Just kidding. Probably.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I "Snow" What You Mean

I just took a few minutes to gaze outside the window toward the Great Salt Lake, and, out of the blue, one of my favorite hymns came to mind:
The wintry day, descending to its close,
Invites all wearied nature to repose,
And shades of night are falling dense and fast
Like sable curtains closing o'er the past.
Pale through the gloom the newly fallen snow
Wraps in a shroud the silent earth below
As though 'twere mercy's hand had spread the pall,
A symbol of forgiveness unto all.

"The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close," written by Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is not one of those hymns you will often hear sung in church at really any point in the year. Very few people (who I know of) have ever heard or sung it. But it remains one of my favorites.

There is a lot of symbolism in the song. The most important, I believe, is the comparison of newly fallen snow to the Atonement. After all, white is a symbol of purity, and snow, like the Atonement, seems to cover everyone and everything when you look out at it.

Despite all of the trouble caused by falling snow - after all, who really enjoys driving through that slushy, slippery stuff? - there are moments when snow is a thing of beauty.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mr. Abercrombie's Opus

A little "shout out" goes out today to my friend John "Pepe" Abercrombie for the recent release of his long-anticipated new CD, titled "Say It with Music: An Invitation to Linger a Little Longer."

For those who don't know him, Pepe and I have been friends since pre-school. He has been a self-proclaimed sing-a-holic for as long as I can remember, and he's been a member of the Mormon Tabernacle for the past nine years. For a couple of years, he served as one of the co-chairs of our ward's Friendshipping Committee. During that time, he would often make announcements for our monthly Linger Longers by setting the words to a well-known tune. It was always amusing to watch visitors to the ward as he sang these annoucements. The looks on their faces were pricless.

"Say It with Music" is a collection of those dittys, which Pepe recently recorded for future generations to enjoy. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I appear on one of the tracks, which the audio of our "Bulbous Bouffant" skit performed for the ward talent show a few years ago.

If you're interesting in obtaining a CD, just let me know, and I'll see that it comes your way.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fast the Way the Old Year Passes

Well! 2009 is now here. Now what? And can someone please tell me where in the world 2008 disappeared to so quickly?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I go through this conundrum every January, because I guess I'm in a kind of withdrawal.

I think I have previously mentioned on this blog that the whole Halloween-to-New Year's stretch is my favorite time of the year. On New Year's Day, a sad sort of reality tends to set in. Two-plus months of nearly constant "holiday" partying, of one sort or another, is over and done with. Halloween costumes have long since been put back in closets. Thanksgiving is just a memory. Christmas music gets put on the shelf for another 10 or 11 months, and wreaths disappear from doors. I cry the day that they take the tree down . . . so to speak.


In spite of the tendency to feel this way, my new mantra - at least for the time being - is becoming: Every day above ground is a good day. A good friend once shared this thought with me during a difficult time in my life.

In other words, you can always find plenty of reasons to enjoy life, no matter the date on the calendar. You can even feel this way in January, which often has almost nothing leaping off of the calendar to grab your attention.

Let's face it: One of the huge benefits of January's cold, cold weather (it is 11 degrees outside as I write this) is finding someone cute to cuddle up with. Am I right?

Bueller?

Incidentally, Adam and Brian's New Year's party, which I attended, was a blast. A good group of friends helped me to break in my new board game, "Quelf," which I received as a Christmas present. Tracy and I also teamed up to win a round of "Junior Trivial Pursuit." At midnight, Adam and Mike shot off some fireworks outside, while Brian ran around, banging on pots and pans and making a lot of noise. (I wish I had brought my camera.) Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I jumped in the snow and made a snow angel on Adam and Brian's front lawn. Good times, those.