Monday, November 30, 2009

Anger to the Max

Unless you've been living on another planet, by now you know that the BYU Cougars and the Utah Runnin' Utes played their annual football game over the weekend.

It was a hard-fought contest, as it always is when these two teams meet. The Utes dominated the first and fourth quarters, while the Cougars dominated the second and third quarters. By the end of regulation, the score was tied at 20-20. In overtime, the Cougars edged the Utes 26-23 on Max Hall's touchdown pass to Andrew George.

If losing to BYU weren't offensive enough to Ute fans, Cougar quarterback Max Hall was interviewed afterward and said: "I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything. . . . I think the whole university, their fans and their organization, is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."

As a result, I have been spending much of the weekend reading comments on Facebook or otherwise hearing war chants from deeply offended Ute fans, calling Max Hall the spawn of Satan and saying that Max needs to die, preferably by being drawn and quartered at the earliest possible moment.

Let's face it; Max Hall is a good person. He got caught up in the heat of the moment and said some stupid things, for which he issued an apology the next day. But did anyone catch the part in which he said that last year Ute fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium were verbally abusive to his family, poured beer on them, and made vulgar and obscene gestures? Did these people ever apologize to the Hall family? Somehow, that seems to get lost in all of the hoopla.

I do not condone what Max said. But I can understand why he would say it.

In 2006, I sat in the stands of Rice-Eccles Stadium at that year's BYU/Utah football game, rooting for the Cougars. Throughout the game, the Ute fans who surrounded my brother and me - from teenagers and college-age attendees to men in their 50s and 60s - were verbually abusive to us and directed a slew of foul language our way. This handful of rowdy fans was definitely "classless"; I have never been treated so poorly as an opposing fan at any sporting event. (The only saving grace of attending that game, in fact, was John Beck's TD pass to Johnny Harline as time expired, capping a 33-31 Cougar victory. You could have heard a pin drop in the once-rowdy Ute cheering section as we filed out of the stands.)

As a closet Cougar fan, I also once worked in the ticket office at several Ute football games. During that period of time, I heard countless negative and classless comments uttered about the Cougars and the BYU organization as a whole.

Again, I don't justify what Max said. But having had a few personal experiences with rude Ute fans myself, I do understand why he said it. Most anyone whose family had been attacked in that manner would feel the same way.

Further, some Ute fans tend to forget that Utah standouts Alex Smith and Morgan Scalley - otherwise good and upstanding people, like Max Hall - each uttered hateful comments about BYU in years past.

My point, and I do have one, is that in the BYU/Utah rivalry, it's a two-way street. Players and fans on both sidelines have said and done dumb things in the heat of the moment. And I'm not saying that BYU fans are innocent of mistreating Ute fans, either; classless acts have occured on both sidelines.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the people I know and am friends with, both those who bleed blue and those who bleed red, would and will never act in this inappropriate manner.

How does that apply to us, then - the so-called "normal" people who go to these games and root at these events? I think what happened to Max Hall's family is an important reminder of the responsibility we all share to stop verbal (and other types of) abuse if and when we see it take place, either by intervening personally or by contacting ushers to have unruly fans booted. There is a greater need for civility and common decency on both sides.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Many Thanks

This was the year for my married siblings to attend their in-laws' Thanksgiving meals - we tend to trade off year after year - so there was no Thanksgiving Day meal at the Plowman household this year.

Instead, my cousin Scott and his family invited my parents, Steve, Becky, and I down to their home in Lehi for a Thanksgiving meal that included Claudia's (Scott's wife) parents, Tony and Margarita, and sister, Elizabeth, along with her family.

With 20-plus mouths to feed, Claudia and the others who brought food and goodies had their work cut out for them. Somehow, our plethora of pickings worked together very nicely, and we all enjoyed a good meal together.

It had been some time since I had seen Tony and Margarita, and it was good to visit with them as well as to dust off my Spanish.

It had also been about six months since I had seen Scott, Claudia, or their kids, and it was good to catch up with them. Steve and I both noted that 14-year-old Ashlyne and 12-year-old Meikayla had seemingly grown up by leaps and bounds during that time. Chantel just turned 19 years old and is in the process of finishing her first semester at UVU in Orem, and Eden is now a senior at Lehi High and continues to act in school productions and make excellent Lego-animated films on the side.

Ten-year-old Madison also challenged me to my first-ever game of Stratego and proceeded to mop the floor with me in that game.

Following the meal, Steve, Becky, and I stayed around for a few extra hours to play other board games with our cousins, including Sequence, Apples to Apples, and Imaginiff.

It was a long and busy Thanksgiving Day today, but I always consider time spent with family as time well spent. And that may the thing for which I am most grateful right now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

FHE Dance Party '09, Take Two

It was another great family home evening and another enjoyable ward dance tonight.

There was no theme this time, although cha-cha, waltz, and Lindy hop instruction was included, and new ward member Kyle handled the D.J. duties very capably. That left me free to "Y.M.C.A.," "Electric Slide," disco hustle, and otherwise boogie to my heart's content for basically the entire three hours.

Heck, we even ended the evening by doing the "Macarena" together. It had been several years. I found that the rumor is true - you can perform the actions to "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" in tune with the song.

I am already aching and sore from tonight's festivities, but it was well worth it. Good times were had by all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

RSL Wins the Cup!

This past weekend, our very own professional soccer team, Real Salt Lake, edged Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Posh Spice, and the Los Angeles Galaxy in penalty kicks following a 1-1 tie in regulation and overtime to win their first-ever Major League Soccer cup.

It was quite the amazing accomplishment, especially when you consider that RSL had a sub-.500 record during the regular season of play and that teams from our state, well, rarely win things like these - ever. RSL was an underdog in pretty much every sense of the word. If you listened to the ESPN commentators, they were basically rooting for L.A. to win, too.

Assuming you live in another galaxy, of course, this would be a news flash.

Taking home the championship to Utah is rather cool stuff, I must say. Having spent many years playing soccer while I was growing up, I have been a fan of the sport for a long time. Having also spent a couple of years working part-time in the Real Salt Lake ticket office when the team still played at Rice-Eccles Stadium, I have basically been an RSL fan since they became an expansion team five seasons ago.

Now, if only the Jazz could get on board this championship thing. . . .

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Shredder Buys a Shredder"

Here is a very funny short video recently posted to YouTube by Jeff Krammer, brother of my Improvables colleague Scott. It pretty well speaks for itself, especially if you are a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Improvables on YouTube: November 13, 2009

Here are three of the latest Improvables videos uploaded to YouTube, games that were played during last week's Friday the 13th show at Rodgers Memorial Theatre: "Musical Hot Spot," "Accents," and "The Dating Game." I was the M.C. of this show, which featured Bryan, Johnny, Keenan, Michael, Parker, and Shannon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Revenge of Twilight

Just in case you've been hibernating or living on another planet, the next installment of the Twilight so-called "saga," New Moon, opens in theaters at midnight tonight.

Who knows? Included among the throngs who will be going to see the film may be several single girls my age, salivating and audibly "ooh"ing and "ahh"ing over teenage vampires and werewolves.

Beer me strength!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Great Balls of Fire!

Late last night or early this morning, depending on how you look at things, I was working on the computer when crash! bam! alakazam! a very bright light shined in the sky to the west, lighting up everything I could see outside of my window for about two or three seconds, after which everything went dark again.

My initial thought was that another refinery in Woods Cross had exploded. That was followed by a thought - and it was not an altogether unpleasant one - that Las Vegas had been incinerated by a nuclear explosion and that Harrison Ford would soon come bouncing down my street in a lead-lined refrigerator.

Then, this morning, I learned that what I saw was actually caused by a meteor that landed somewhere in the western desert of Utah or the eastern desert of Nevada.

By now, this is old news if you live here along the Wasatch Front, but for the benefit of any readers outside of that sphere - assuming I still have any - it was pretty dang cool.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cold Dogs and Warm Hearts

For last night's family home evening activity, a handful of members of my ward and I braved very cold temperatures and ventured up into Mueller Park Canyon in east Bountiful to build a bonfire, cook s'mores and hot dogs, and drink hot chocolate.

In spite of the unseasonably cold temperature, which dropped somewhere into the mid-20s, we nevertheless managed to have a great time together. When you're surrounded by good people, just about anything can be enjoyable at almost any temperature.

At this point, my aforementioned tooth had not yet been fixed - I finally made it to the dentist this morning - so biting into the frozen chocolate of s'mores last night was no simple task.

Not surprisingly, it appeared that we were the only ones up in the canyon on a night like Monday night. In addition to cooking s'mores and hot dogs, the Bishop gave a spiritual thought, and we sang Primary songs.

We are, indeed, a "peculiar people," and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Good times were had by all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Toothless People

Yesterday afternoon, one of my front teeth became loose and began to wobble and wiggle. Then, earlier today, the tooth simply fell out in my hand as I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for church.

As of tonight, this is how I now look:

To say that the ladies at church today found my smile irresistibly attractive would not only be an understatement; it would also be a lie!

Today's incident was just another one of the many problems I have had with this same tooth over the years. It originally chipped back when I was in the sixth grade and I attempted to run up the slide on the playground at recess; a classmate of mine slid right into me, knocking me off my feet and face forward into the slide. (Whether or not he did it on purpose was a source of controversy for the remainder of the school year.)

A few years later, the tooth chipped again when I bit into a sucker.

Good times, these. Can't wait to go to the dentist this week!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's Beginning to Sound a Lot like Christmas

Here it is, mid-November, Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, and Christmas music is being played on many of Utah's radio stations - some on a 24/7 basis.

I love Christmas music, and I'm honestly ready to listen to it once the dust from Halloween clears. What I often don't love, however, is the song selection employed by many of these radio stations. It is often, well, boring - for lack of a better word. Every other song seems to be sung by either Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan, or Mariah Carey. As far as putting me to sleep goes, many of these songs work faster than, say, tuning in to C-SPAN or the Home Shopping Network.

I would love to be a radio D.J. for a day and shake up any one of these Christmas song lineups significantly. We all can dream, right?

Because I have nothing better to do today, and due to a discussion I recently had with some friends about the worst or most boring Christmas songs out there, I now present my Top 10 list of the worst Christmas songs:

#10. "All I Want for Christmas Is You," by Mariah Carey It's a Mariah Carey song - need I say more?

#9. "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas," by Jeff Foxworthy This song only serves to give me yet another reason to dislike country music.

#8. "The Little Drummer Boy" I don't doubt the Little Drummer Boy's heart nor his good intentions, but I think a drum is about the last thing a mother would want her newborn baby to hear.

#7. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band As a children's song this is harmless, but when Bruce Springsteen tries to make it sound funky, it just comes across as annoying.

#6. "Do They Know It's Christmas," by Band Aid In the mid-'80s, a group of pop and rock singers, including Bono and Phil Collins, got together and formed Band Aid with the intention of raising money for the poor in Africa. However noble that effort was, the result was this song, which at times sounds like a rejected Superman theme.

#5. "Mary, Did You Know?" by Kenny Rogers Everytime I hear this song, I want to scream, Yes, Kenny. She knew! She knew before anybody else!

#4. "O Little Town of Bethlehem," by Bob Dylan "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was one of my favorite Christmas songs until I recently heard Bob Dylan butcher it like no one else could. This one really has to be heard to be believed - it's that bad.

#3. "Feliz Navidad," by Céline Dion If you thought José Feliciano's original version of "Feliz Navidad" was bad, well, Céline Dion's is 100 times worse because of - well, Céline Dion.

#2. "Christmas Shoes," by NewSong Pretty much everyone I've talked to lately is of the consensus that this is a terribly annoying song in spite of its intention of spreading Christmas cheer and goodwill. I don't think anything further needs to be said!

#1. Santa Baby No matter who sings it, be it Madonna or Miss Piggy, this is a dirty, filthy song that sounds like nails on the chalkboard to me and is easily my least-favorite Christmas song ever recorded.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shout Out to the Veterans

It's Veterans Day - arguably one of the most underappreciated holidays on the calendar - today. All day long!

When I think of the many veterans who fought for our country, I think of my neighbor Frank Whittaker. Frank is someone I've spoken to only a few times over the course of many years of being his neighbor, mainly through accompanying my dad on home teaching visits. He participated in and lived to tell about the Battle of Iwo Jima, fought on the small Pacific island over the course of five grueling weeks in February and March of 1945 - some of the fiercest fighting of World War II.

I think of "Colonel Jack," as he is called by everyone who knows him, whom I met through a variety of circumstances in the summer of 2008. A handful of friends and I spotted him playing his trumpet, which he said he does each week to honor his fallen comrades, on Bountiful Boulevard as we arrived at the mouth of the canyon for a ward hike. A couple of weeks later, one of our leaders invited him to speak to us at an FHE activity, during which he told us about his many combat missions flown during WWII and Korea.

Additionally, I think of a man whose name I did not learn but who stopped to speak with me for 10 or 15 minutes earlier this year while I was at a physical therapy session. He was there with his wife, who was rehabbing an injury, and I noticed the "Proud Veteran of the Korean War" hat he was wearing - how could anyone miss it? I mentioned to him that my brother served his mission in South Korea and that it was probably due to the service of American and Allied forces in the war that Korea was even opened to missionary work in the 1950s, and I also thanked him for his service. Veterans, I have learned, do appreciate being thanked for their many selfless sacrifices.

Does this contradict my previous post, when I wrote that "wars not make one great"? Not necessarily! Wars made these three (and many others) great indeed.

If you feel so inclined, feel free to thank one or more veterans today. I'm certain they will appreciate it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Wars Not Make One Great"

At a recent fast and testimony meeting, a friend of mine came up to the pulpit to speak and mentioned that because he had not served a mission, he felt that he did not stand much of a chance of ever finding a girl who would want to marry him.

To that friend, I quote the immortal words of Yoda: "Wars not make one great."

But Jon, what does that have to do with serving a mission? you ask? I will explain what I mean.

When young Jedi Luke Skywalker meets Jedi master Yoda for the first time in the swamps of Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, he tells the little green Muppet - not knowing that he is already looking at Yoda - that he is looking for "a great warrior." Yoda replies, "Wars not make one great."

If we can apply that teaching to the real world, I would paraphrase Yoda's comments by saying that "missions not make one great."

Sure, missions help to build character, and they instill important principles that can guide you throughout the rest of your life - my mission, I feel, certainly did that for me. But just because someone served a mission, it does not automatically exalt that person nor make him Captain Moroni.

While I am on the subject, one of my mission companions comes to mind. He was an excellent teacher, a hard worker, and very dedicated at accomplishing the tasks he set out to perform. He also hated me.

There's no other word for it but hated. He criticized me constantly - often in front of other people or in public, he refused to talk to people he deemed "unworthy" of being taught, and he was otherwise mean, selfish, and a grade-A jerk. He was also openly rude to the members of our fledgling little branch. For 2½ months of serving with him, my life was a living hell. Needless to say, as a companionship we got very little accomplished during that time. The thing is, after serving with him for that length of time, I never did find out why he acted this way. Several months later, I came to find out that his behavior with every single one of his companions was essentially the same.

In a nutshell, some of the worst people I've ever known I encountered in the mission field. Conversely, some of the best people I've ever known did not serve missions.

I have often heard the saying that the "best two years" of one's life are spent in the mission field, but I do not believe that is true. I believe that perhaps the "best two years" of one's life may have been lived up to that point, but if we truly believe in eternal progression, then we should try to make the next year better, and the next, and so on.

Again, to my friend, I say, you're doing just fine.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Perils of Online Dating

Earlier today, I received the following message in my Inbox on one of the social Web sites to which I belong:

hay friend you very beautiful
my name is claryce i from brazil

I would remark that this kind of thing - flattering as it might be - is out of the ordinary, but it is not. Each month, I receive three or four messages like this on the aforementioned Web site, and they usually come from people who apparently learned their English by watching "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" or one of any number of other sitcoms produced in this country.

Why are the lyrics to "America" from West Side Story ("I want to be in Ah-mer-ee-kah, okay by me in Ah-mer-eekah . . .") now running through my head?

As a result of this kind of green card-grabbing attention - is there really any other name for it? - I suppose I am left wondering aloud whether there is a tactful way to deal with these unsolicited e-mails or if the best thing to do is just to ignore them or leave the site(s) entirely.

I have also found that many people who already live in this country and are seeking spouses do not so much have problems with being overly eager and perhaps giving "too much information" as they do with being, well, honest.

Over the years, I have been a member of a few different social Web sites with little-to-no success, though I have made a few friends and pen pals from the experience. At the same time, I have discovered that people will often put up different kinds of fronts on their profiles - inaccurate or out-of-date pictures being the primary problem.

I guess that's the chance that one takes. Everyone's chances are about the same, I guess - because I do have a number of friends who have met people who became their eventual spouses through this kind of thing (social Web sites, that is).

Then again, there are those who are of this opinion:

"As far as I'm concerned, the Internet is just another way of being rejected by a woman." -George (Steve Zahn), You've Got Mail

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Words of Wisdom from Pres. Uchtdorf

Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, was the speaker at the latest CES fireside, broadcast Sunday night from the Marriott Center in Provo. He delivered an excellent message that I felt contained good reminders and many important teachings that I needed to hear.

He started off by talking about the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Ugly Duckling." Just like the bird who thought he was ugly and good for nothing, we can often be our harshest critics and forget our true natures as children of God.

He then provided three examples of common questions he is asked as a Church leader:

#1. "I’m unhappy and depressed. Sometimes it seems like the world would be a better place if I weren’t in it. Why should I go on living?"

#2. "I’m so lonely. Will I ever find my soul mate?"

#3. "Can I remain faithful?"

His answers to these three questions - questions I think that perhaps we have all asked at one point or another - were spot on and contained some wise counsel. It was particularly entertaining to hear him relate the story of his and his wife's own courtship.

Regarding asking questions in general, I like that he said: "Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. . . . Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a precursor of growth. . . . God commands us to seek answers to our questions and asks only that we seek with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ. . . . Fear not to ask questions, but doubt not."

In a previous post, I mentioned that I met then-Elder Uchtdorf of the Seventy many years ago and enjoyed a nice discussion with him. Ever since then, he has been one of my many heroes among the General Authorities. In many ways, Pres. Uchtdorf's pleasant, warm demeanor and speaking style remind me of a previous second counselor in the First Presidency - Pres. James E. Faust - albeit with a German accent.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trunk-or-Treat Strikes Back

A handful of Millstreamers and I gathered at the stake center last night for our ward's Seventh Annual Trunk-or-Treat activity. It is one of my favorite events of the year - I have been to all seven! - and several hundred Primary kids in the stake and the surrounding neighborhood came by to pick up candy from us.

Many of those who dressed up for Monday's FHE Halloween party again reprised their costumes - I again dressed up as Pacha - including Adam (Ghostbuster), Mollie ('70s dancing queen), MaryAnne (Giselle), and Pepe (Robin Hood):

Alex (vampire); Gary (werewolf); Steph and her dog, Gus; Nadine (vampire), Lisa (schoolteacher), Kathleen (G.I. Jane?), and Cecily (hunchback); Mark (construction worker); Tracy (Tinker Bell) and Kristen (pirate wench?); and Ryan (Hello Kitty Darth Vader) rounded out the rest of our motley crew:

The Trunk-or-Treat wrapped up at about 7:30 p.m., but the festivities continued at the after-party at Adam/Brian/Mike/Ryan's house. Several members of the Improvables joined us there. Included among the many activities was Rock Band 2, and even Hello Kitty Darth Vader got in on the action:

I don't remember which song Scott was singing in the above picture, but his rendition of it was most entertaining.

And so, another enjoyable Halloween comes to an end. Only 364 until the next one!