Thursday, July 30, 2009

More Improvables on YouTube

Here are three more Improvables games ("Musical," "Spit Take," and "Don't Make Me Heckle,"), featuring Ben, Biz, Ian, Michael, Parker, Scott, and yours truly, from our July 10 show:





Monday, July 27, 2009

The Improvables on YouTube

Our self-proclaimed Improvables "superfan" Josh Levitre filmed our troupe's July 10 show at Rodgers Memorial Theatre and has put up several videos on YouTube, each featuring a game we played that night. If you haven't been to see us in action yet or would like to re-live moments from what was for me one of my favorite shows in a long time, feel free to check them out.













Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Box"

My cousin Eden does it once again with this short Lego film, titled Box.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting Lost in Labyrinth

I finally achieved a lifelong dream last night by getting to see the 1986 movie/acid trip for kids, Labyrinth.

Okay, well, it wasn't a lifelong dream, per se. But at least I won't have to wonder what it's all about anymore.

The subject of watching Labyrinth came up a few months ago in an Improvables show. During a game of "Musical Chairs," I was randomly assigned to make up a song on the spot about (what else?) Labyrinth. The only problem was that I hadn't seen the film, and I fudged my way through the song as best I could. Some friends and I discussed it and agreed that I needed to be shown the movie at the earliest possible convenience.

Well, that earliest possible convenience became last night's movie party. Needless to say, I am no longer curious. I was definitely entertained.

Before last night, I thought that The Dark Crystal, a film that haunted me throughout my childhood (and still does, in many ways), was hands-down the creepiest thing Jim Henson had ever made. If Labyrinth isn't creepier, it's definitely a close second.

Also, I don't know what a real acid trip is like, and I don't plan on finding out, but I have been given nitrous oxide, Lortab, and Oxycotin at various times for medical reasons, and I think those qualify as being pretty close. I think you would have to be on one of those things to get the most out of this movie.

David Bowie . . . umm . . . What can I say? Besides looking like a castoff from the '80s band Kajagoogoo, he wears very tight pants for a goblin king.

As far as goblin movies go, I definitely enjoyed it more than Troll 2.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning to Say Yes

Last night, I watched Yes Man, a relatively new movie that was recently released on DVD and that arrived through my Netflix this week.

Jim Carrey movies, as far as I'm concerned, tend to be more hit than miss, i.e. I have disliked more of them than I have liked. But I was intrigued by the concept of this film. It is based on a true story about Danny Wallace, a British author and journalist who spent a year answering yes to any and all questions and offers and cataloguing the results of his experiences.

I should further add that I do not necessarily recommend this film, as it has a couple of those "uncomfortable" parts that I found myself fast forwarding through. In fact, the only Jim Carrey movies I would recommend would be The Truman Show and The Majestic, both of which feature Jim playing it straight.

What I did like about the film was its message of being willing to break out of one's shell and comfort zone to try something new, because you never know what the (hopefully positive) results may be.

Jim plays Carl Allen, a man who goes through the motions in life and really doesn't feel inspired to do much of anything outside of his routine. He lives vicariously through the DVDs he rents at the video store, all the while brushing off his friends, who encourage him to join them at various social activities - never picking up his phone when it rings or saying that he's always too busy. His best friend warns him that if he keeps this up, he will look back at his life in a few years' time and will realize that he has been completely lonely.

Then, he attends the "Yes Man" seminar, during which he is put on the spot in front of the entire audience. He agrees to begin saying yes to opportunities that come his way, no matter how ridiculous or strange they may seem.

At first, Carl is very skeptical of the "Yes Man" approach. But the more he says yes, the more positive things begin to happen in his life. Saying yes to a homeless man who asks for money and a ride indirectly leads him to meeting someone who becomes his girlfriend. Taking a chance at work ends with his being promoted. He learns to speak Korean and picks up the guitar. He goes bungee jumping. The Mormon missionaries even knock on his door, and he lets them in and listens!

I guess the message is an obvious one: When we say no to the opportunities that abound all around us, whatever they may be, we close ourselves off to the possibilities and to potential happiness. When we say yes, however, we give ourselves the opportunity for growth and reaching our potential.

That is a reminder, I think, that we all could use.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Date with . . . Myself?

Last night, I made the monthly trek down to Provo to perform Improv at ComedySportz. This is a trip I usually make along with with my sister, Biz. Since we both have to commute about an hour each way, the powers-that-be are usually good enough to schedule us for the same nights. But last night, she was not on the schedule, and I made the journey all by myself.

I have found that I am a much different person when I am in the car by myself. Yes, I perform Improv, but I am still somewhat self-conscious when it comes to doing certain things in the car. When I'm alone, I often turn up the volume of the CD player and sing along to whatever I'm listening to. I often hit the buttons on my Stress Elminator (if you've been a passenger in my car, you've probably seen it), which makes machine gun, grenade, and other noises that I "aim" at the bad drivers who surround me on the roads. If it's late at night, I also talk to myself to keep myself awake, often quoting lines from plays I have taken part in or my favorite films. I rarely do these things when one or more people are in the car with me.

Yes, a person talking to himself may not be crazy; he may just be an actor rehearsing his lines. Then again, he might be both.

I am also someone who spends a lot of time alone. At work, I communicate with most co-workers through e-mail or the telephone. I can spend most of a day at work, in fact, having hardly spoken to anyone else. It doesn't mean that it's something I enjoy doing, per se, but that it's something I've gotten used to doing.

Such was the case (spending time alone) as I drove to and from Provo last night. On a more than 100-mile round trip, I think I learned some things about myself. The thought occurred to me that I'm still learning things about myself. I'm still getting to known my own person. There are things I don't like about myself, true, but everyone has those things, and I'm working to overcome those things and to become a better person - warts and all. The thought then came to me that spending time alone isn't such a bad thing; that is, if you like whom you're getting to spend time with.

I enjoyed this "date," of sorts, with me, myself, and I. And I'm thinking of asking "him" to do it again a second time, and we'll see how the relationship develops from here.

Speaking of which, many of you have asked me about it over the past few days, so I'll come right out and state that an actual dating relationship I had over the past few months came to an end this week. I am confident that it was the right decision for both parties involved. As a result, I am alone again, naturally.

Earlier today at church, I discussed the matter of dating with a good friend who is, coincidentally, also going through a breakup of his own. I mentioned that I felt like I had absolutely no idea what women want.

"Just be yourself" was his response.

That's good advice, and I thanked my friend for it. "Yourself" is someone I can get along with, and I guess it starts there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Nerd Fest of Nerdiness

Late last night, I braved the crowds of Potterphiles and traveled down to the Megaplex 12 at the Gateway in Salt Lake City to attend a midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film in the boy wizard franchise.

I knew I was in for a long night when the parking attendants kicked me out upon arrival. (Yes, really.) Before last night, I had been to the Gateway several times, and until then I had always been able to pay for parking on the way out. Last night, however, I realized on the way in that they were charging $1 for parking - in advance. Well, I rarely carry cash. I had a debit card on me but not even a whole dollar in change. Fortunately, Ben came to my rescue and went out the curb to hand me a dollar bill so that I could get into the parking garage.

If you thought that $1 wasn't worth anything anymore, I now know a few people who would beg to differ.

Anyway, it was quite the entertaining experience to attend the midnight showing of the movie. I do not consider myself to be much of a Harry Potter fan, at least not in comparison to my siblings and many of my friends, but it is nevertheless amusing to sit among so many devoted readers as they cheer, applaud, and laugh over every little detail imaginable. I've seen the nerds come out for multiple Star Wars midnight premieres, but I never saw as many people dressed up in costumes for those films as I saw wearing Gryffindor colors and carrying wands last night.


Then again, maybe I am a little biased.

A few random observations from my experience viewing the film:

- Many of the girls in the audience screamed like banshees as what's-his-bucket - the wimpy-looking albino with the bedhead haircut - first appeared during the trailer for the next film in the Twilight series. (This was my second clue that I was going to be in for a long evening.) Well, I say: Meh! My favorite trailer was actually the one for the disaster movie 2012, which included a shot of the White House being destroyed by a massive tidal wave - as if that event could ever really destroy our nation's government! The current administration is already doing more than a tidal wave ever could. (I was the only person in the audience to applaud this part of the trailer.)
- Rupert Grint is - How can I put this nicely? - not the best-looking guy in the world. His haircut in this movie is something akin to Susie Derkins's from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. Yet in The Half-Blood Prince, he had not one but two girls pining for him. Proof positive yet again that the Harry Potter franchise is all about nerdiness.
- The Half-Blood Prince certainly upped the snogging factor for the Hogwarts kids.
- Professor McGonagall looked like she was about 110 years old, give or take 30 years. That observation is not necessarily relevant; I'm just sayin'.

Well! You don't have to take my word for it. After all, I once took an online Sorting Hat quiz and was (really) sorted into the house of Slytherin. So, what do I know?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Software Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clowns Trailer A

This is a trailer that we made for Software Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clowns back in the spring of 2003. Adam posted it on YouTube earlier today.

Monday, July 13, 2009

FHE Dance Party '09

For tonight's FHE activity, our ward held a dance in the gym. The theme was "Black and White" dance, meaning that those who came were invited to wear black and/or white clothing. (A mime, for example, would have been right at home.) At the planning meeting, I lobbied for "Enchantment under the Sea" but was voted down.

If I need to explain that reference, I would invite you to rent Back to the Future and watch it again.

In this neck of the woods, we don't hold dances very often. It's just not something we do as frequently as YSA groups in other parts of the country and the rest of the world. I was worried that attendance would be quite sparse. Surprisingly, somewhere from 50 to 60 people attended, filling up our gym and contributing to an enjoyable evening for all who came.

When I mentioned that I was part of the planning meeting, that was not a fluke. I have not belonged to the FHE Committee for a few years now, but I was asked to help play music for the dance, as someone who has experience as a DJ - something I do once a month at ComedySportz down in Provo. Josh Ferrer and I took a tag-team approach to playing songs, and I think we were able to play a wide variety of Top 40, ballroom, swing, Latin, line dances, and such to keep the gang happy.

Even the members of the bishopric and their wives were out on the floor dancing alongside us. At one point, Bishop Jensen requested - and who was I to refuse to play it? - Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman." Really.

Of course, you can't go to a dance in Utah without playing or dancing to the theme song to the movie Footloose. During that high-energy Kenny Loggins number that we all love, most of the group out on the floor formed a circle in the middle of the gym as individuals stepped into the middle to perform solo dance moves. The highlight for me may have been watching Dave Fallon doing "The Worm."

You can really learn a lot about people by observing their behavior at a dance, with the chance to see another side of them. Tonight was one of those times when I was truly proud to be a Millstreamer. My only regret is that I didn't bring my camera along to snap shots of my friends and me out on the dance floor.

After the dance ended, the feedback from those who attended was nothing but positive - especially from those who claimed initially to have gone to the dance not expecting to enjoy themselves too much. Sooner or later, most everyone was able to let loose and have a blast.

Dave Barry once wrote, "Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance." That was definitely the feeling at tonight's activity.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Larry the Pizza Guy"

Here is a link to Eden's latest effort, "Larry the Pizza Guy."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Problem of Indifference

Recently, someone who had read through some of my older posts noticed that I used the word indifference a couple of times and then asked me what the word means. I realize that it is not all-that common of a word, and I work with words all day long, so maybe sometimes I use terms with which others are not familiar.

Though the rest of you didn't ask for it - and since I have nothing better to do at the moment - today I will explain and elaborate on what I mean by the term indifference.

The attitude of the indifferent may be best summed up in the words of Emperor Kuzco - before his change of heart - in The Emperor's New Groove: Essentially, they "don't know, don't care."

Indifference in people is one of my biggest pet peeves about dealing with others. Why? It is, in its essence, selfishness. It's rejecting someone twice by not even responding to an offer or invitation, for example, let alone responding to tell them no. It's in not lifting a fingernail, let alone a finger, to care about others' needs or concerns.


Regarding the topic of indifference, allow me to quote President Howard W. Hunter, who once said:

"Indifference is the most hurtful affront we can give people. They crave personal recognition. It is ill-mannered to ignore people in the home or office, to pass others without greeting, to look at them with blank eyes, to talk around them as if they were not there. Here is one way everyone can contribute to the pleasantness of life: by recognizing people as fellow human beings with a greeting or a good-bye or a wave of the hand. Courtesy, after all, consists of little things. It is lacking in any masterful quality, but it wins friends in the collisions and minor adjustments of daily life. No one is likely to say 'thank you' too often" (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p. 57).

Manifestations of indifference are all around us. You see it in people behind the wheel who are far more interested in sending text messages or running through red lights than being courteous and careful. It's in ignored or unreturned greetings, phone calls, text messages, and/or invitations. I believe it also manifest by, say, people who may raise their hands in church to welcome and fellowship a new ward member and then subsequently don't make any kind of effort to meet or get to know that person - just to give an example.

Indifferent attitudes belonging to those people who aren't friends or acquaintances don't bother me. You expect those people to not care a whit about your or your concerns or your problems. It's when loved ones and friends - those you expect to and hope will be on your side - show indifference that it's disappointing and frustrating and dare I say even heartbreaking.

Fortunately, I find myself surrounded by many good people who, for the most part, don't fit this description at all. And I am very grateful for them.

Monday, July 6, 2009

White Elephants on Parade

At tonight's ward FHE, the theme was "Christmas in July." Since we celebrated Independence Day just two days ago, I suppose, the feeling was that one good holiday deserves another.

Well, who am I to complain?

Anyway, to celebrate the halfway point until we reach next Christmas - yes, 2009 really is slipping away on us that quickly - we all took part in a white elephant gift exchange. My contribution was the Deseret News Darrell Griffith statue I walked away with at the last white elephant exchange I attended, approximately a year-and-a-half ago. It just sat on my shelf, collecting dust, so I guess I could bear to part with it.

(For those who don't know who Darrell Griffith, aka "the Golden Griff", aka "Dr. Dunkenstein" is, he played his entire 11-year NBA career, from 1980-1991, with the Utah Jazz. I grew up watching him play with the Jazz in the Salt Palace.)

My good friend Pepe, who is an even-bigger Jazz fan than I am, walked away with the Golden Griff statue this time. Yes, it is in good hands.

Some of the other gifts that were passed around (there was a lot of "Yankee swapping" going on) included a mini-foosball table, Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs, many types of candy, toys, and other knickknacks. My brother Ben took home a zip-up coconut filled with candy and a $5 bill to boot.

As for me, I ended up with a Big Mouth Billy Bass fish - one of those toys that was quite popular a decade or so ago. I must say that I'm quite pleased with it. On command, it plays/sings one of two songs: Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and Al Green's "Take Me to the River."

I have wanted to own a Big Mouth Billy Bass ever since I saw one as portrayed in the movie Wall-E.

There's nothing wrong with dreaming big, right?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day, Plowman Style

My family and I celebrated the 233rd birthday of the United States today, as Dave correctly noted, by blowing up a small piece of it.

Independence Day is one of those holidays that, for me, has lost a little bit of its luster over the years. Fireworks are not as big of a deal for me as they were when I was younger; I am content to sit back and let others indulge their pyromaniac tendencies and set things on fire. But my nieces and nephews absolutely adore the fireworks, and watching them squeal at the bright lights and loud noises is always the highlight for me. Today was no exception.

Our family shindig began in the early afternoon with us going to see a matinee screening of Disney/Pixar's new film, Up. I don't know how they do it, but Pixar somehow manages to top itself and make an even-better movie with each new project. It was both funny and touching, with astounding animation. A large part of the film is set in the Andes of South America, which made me more than a bit nostalgic for the good old days in Peru, I might add.

If you haven't been to see Up and are the least bit curious, I would highly recommend it.

After the movie concluded, we adjourned to Mike and Jana's home in Layton for a barbecue and family games. My cousin Scott and his family; their friends Celeste and Mark; and Mike's friend Jason and his family joined us there. In all, there were close to 40 people taking part in the hoopla.

One of the favorite games that most participated in is called "Ladders," during which players score points by throwing and wrapping cords, connected by plastic golf balls, around ladder rungs. It's hard to explain, but it looks something like this, as demonstrated here by my dad, Dave, and Steve:



As dusk approached, the fireworks - and there were many of them - came out in full force. Dallin contributed to the chaos by throwing snaps at people's feet.



The babies, 15-month-old Jackson and nine-month-old Kira, enjoyed themselves quite a bit.





Luke proudly carried around his glow stick.


Kylee and Jenna were among the crowd trying to catch the parachutes that were shot high into the sky.



A couple of the parachutes landed up on the roof.

Meanwhile, Dallin and McKenna (doing her Statue of Liberty imitation) were among those who carried around sparklers.



Last but not least, here are many members of the gang, in a sort of Lord of the Flies-esque tribute, doing their powwow dance (it's a family tradition):


God bless America - still the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Knights of the Old Republic: Revan"

My friend Isaac recently posted this trailer for his Star Wars-themed film on the Atom Films Web site and has entered it into their filmmaking contest. If you feel so inclined, watch it and vote for it. I'm sure that he would appreciate the support.

Knights of the Old Republic: Revan