Sunday, January 31, 2010

Real-Life Disaster Dates

Today as I was surfing through TV channels, I came across a program on MTV titled "Disaster Date."

The premise of this hidden-camera show, as far as I could gather, is that people purposefully set up their friends on really terrible blind dates. Cameras capture every groan-inducing moment, and everyone involved is an actor and is in on the joke with the exception of, of course, the person being set up. As soon as the date ends, which usually happens when the victim walks out on the person or on the situation, he or she is given a dollar for each minute the date lasted.

Sounds like real entertaining and high-quality TV programming, huh? I suppose this is all meant to be humorous, but I found myself sympathizing each time with and feeling sorry for the poor, unsuspecting people being set up on these bad dates.

Keep in mind, MTV is the same network that has brought us other TV classics such as "The Hills" and "The Real World," to name just a few.

Why did this show bother me so much? In the first place, "reality" TV, I have found, is mostly a waste of time and nowhere near to actual reality. In the second place, friends and acquaintances have set me up on several disaster dates of my own over the years.

I know that my friends don't intend to create these bad dates, but more often than not that is the result. Chalk it up to a number of things, perhaps: a lack of careful planning and just needing two extra bodies, whoever they may be, to double-date with; overzealousness that two completely unalike friends might hit it off; trying to emulate Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse; etc. Also, you can really learn a lot about how people view you by the kinds people with whom they choose to set you up.

Even-more disastrous, I have found, is when people want to set you up with someone, they give you that person's phone number and/or e-mail address, wash their hands of the matter, pat you on the back, and say, "Good luck!" Due to several bad experiences after having been given only e-mail addresses/phone numbers, I now have a strict policy that people wanting to set me up need to either introduce me to that person personally or need to accompany me on a double-date, no exceptions.

This very week, a friend of mine who has in the past set me up with less-than-stellar matches is again wanting me to meet a friend of his. Is there any tactful way to tell him, "Thanks, but no thanks"? Just wondering if anyone has any helpful input and/or what your thoughts or strategies are on the matter.

As for me, I am changing the channel.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tea Time!

As Project 52 continues into February (can I get a what-what?), I am now into the herbal tea stage.

This stage involves downing herbal tea every night as the last thing I consume for the day. The purpose of this is to help cleanse my insides, which apparently have been messed up somewhat and contain remnants of Dr. Pepper, Gobstoppers, and undigested gum still in them.

At first, the herbal tea I tried was this nasty-tasting beverage, which I can compare only to having the savor of dirt, only worse. Now, I have moved on to another kind of tea that tastes somewhat like the wassail we are wont to consume in the holiday season - quite an improvement.

To satisfy your curiosity: Yes, it is really as exciting as it sounds.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"In the Quiet Heart . . .

. . . is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see."

These words from the hymn "Lord, I Would Follow Thee" ran through my head earlier today as I sat listening to one of the sisters in my ward speak to the boys in elders quorum.

Yes, you read that correctly - a person of the female gender in elders quorum.

For today's lesson about home teaching, she had been invited to come and speak about the support and comfort that her home teachers have provided her over the past several months while she has been fighting an unjust dismissal and a sexual harassment suit that came about as a result of some unfortunate incidents that occurred at her workplace last year.

I sat in awe as I listened to her recount this story, mainly because this is an individual I have known for several years, and I previously had absolutely no idea that she was dealing with anything remotely close to these kinds of difficulties in her life.

"In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see."

Isn't that the truth? Today's meeting was an important reminder to me that there are people all around us who are struggling with problems we cannot even fathom, and that's why it is so important that we treat others with kindness as much as we are capable of doing so.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Honesty: "Such a Lonely Word"?

Over the holidays, I watched the Reese Witherspoon/Vince Vaughn movie Four Christmases.

Does mentioning that I watched this movie immediately destroy my credibility? Perhaps it does, but I'll risk it.

Four Christmases honestly wasn't that great of a film. (Go figure.) I watched it mainly because, well, I'm signed up with Netflix, and it was the holidays. I don't recommend it by any means. But there was one scene, in particular, that stood out with me.

In this scene, Reese Witherspoon's character and her father, who has been married multiple times and is preparing for yet another marriage, are having a conversation. She asks him if he has any regrets about those relationships. His answer to her is that he has just one: He wishes that he had been more honest.

Admittedly, it was a simple message from a forgettable movie, but it was something that has remained with me since then.

It made me begin to reflect as to whether I am entirely honest in my daily communication and my social interactions with others. As a society, I don't think that we are always entirely honest with each other, even though we claim to "believe in being honest, true," and all of that good stuff. Consider the following kinds of messages we tend to give each other:

What We Often Might Say: I like your haircut.
What We Really Mean: It looks like you wrestled with rabid wolverines and lost.

What We Often Might Say: I''m just too busy to do that.
What We Really Mean: I have 24 hours in a day, the same as you, but I prefer to fritter away my free time by playing Farmville on Facebook and watching "Friends" reruns on TV.

What We Often Might Say: I'm just not looking for a relationship right now.
What We Really Mean: I am looking for a relationship, but not with you, Puke Face.

What We Often Might Say: Maybe I can come.
What We Really Mean: There's no way that I plan on coming to your stupid party, but I'm far too "polite" to say no.

What We Often Might Say: It's not you, it's me.
What We Really Mean: It's you.

Why is it that so many people are afraid to "just say no" (remember the anti-drug campagin from the '80s?) when they don't want to do things, to talk to you, to spend time with you, or to date you? A Swiss friend of mine pointed this out to me a few years ago when a mutual friend of ours said that she would "maybe" come to an activity that my Swiss friend was hosting. This friend then went off on this rant about how "Utah people" always say maybe when what they really mean is no. It was a hasty generalization, to be sure, but experience has led me to believe that she may have been right to a large extent.

Forgive me for going off on my own rant about it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Shameless Plug: Singin' in the Rain

A shameless plug goes out tonight for Singin' in the Rain, now playing at Rodgers Memorial Theatre, which I finally got to see earlier this evening.

My brother Ben (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) and my Improvables colleague Ian (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) share the lead role of Don Lockwood, made famous in the film by Gene Kelly. Like Mr. Kelly, both Ben and Ian actually sing and dance in the rain (sprinklers, or something, installed above the stage make this happen) and tap dance, to boot. (I haven't seen Ian do this yet, but I hope I get the chance.)

I had previously seen the movie version of Singin' in the Rain but not the musical. It is, for all intents and purposes, the same entertaining characters, script, and plot.

Be "happy again"; see Singin' in the Rain before it closes January 30.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Julie & Julia . . . & Jon

Thanks to Netflix, one of the coolest things I have discovered over the course of the past year, Julie & Julia arrived in the mail this week. I was quite entertained by it.

For those not aware of this film or for those who haven't seen it, the plot, in a nutshell, is that new-millennium girl Julie, inspired by the cooking of famed chef Julia Child, decides to prepare the more than 500 recipes from the Julia Child cookbook over the course of a year and to blog about that her experiences and the things that she learns. Both Julie's and Julia's stories are interwoven through their similar experiences, flashbacks, and the like.

In addition to the obvious cooking thing shared by Julie and Julia, they also share the common circumstance of feeling like their lives have been stuck in a rut. Each decides to do something about it and to (gasp!) try something new - what a concept! This leads to exciting and new experiences for both.

The end result is that - skip on to the next paragraph if you still want to see the movie and don't want it spoiled for you - Julie's blog becomes a book and then a movie, and Julia's recipes are turned into a cookbook.

The real Julie, apparently, still blogs and apparently has quite the potty mouth. I don't know that I will be checking out her blog anytime soon, but after watching the film, I have been inspired to continue doing this blogging thing. I have also been inspired to try new things as opportunities to do them may arise.

Like Julie and Julia, I am also going to become an author (co-author, anyway) of a book soon. In fact, three books, of which I have written about two-thirds of the material, will be published this spring. Huzzah!

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but honk honk!

I might also add: I don't care too much about the Golden Globe Awards, which will be held tomorrow, but I hope that Meryl Streep wins for Julie & Julia; both she and Amy Adams are excellent.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Improvables on YouTube: December 12, 2009

Here are two additional Improvables games, "What Are You Doing?" and "Superheroes," that were recently uploaded to YouTube by Josh, taken from our December 12 benefit show performed for a large audience at Bountiful High School.

Notable about this show was that we raised more than $1,000 for a needy family in Bountiful. It was also Ricky's first and last time as M.C. before going into the MTC on December 16 as well as Kevin's final show with us before he, likewise, left for his mission on December 30. It was Josh's first Improvables show with us, to boot. Bryan, Grant, Johnny, Parker, and Shannon rounded out the cast for this evening:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Improvables on YouTube: November 13, 2009 - Part III

Here is the third sampling of Improvables games from our November 13 show at Rodgers Memorial Theatre. I was the M.C. for this show, which also featured regular performers Bryan, Johnny, Keenan, Michael, Parker, and Shannon. The games posted here are: "Superheroes," "Dueling Plays," "Split Screen," "Pieces of Paper," and "Celebrity To-Do Lists":

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Pride TV: Get to Class On Time (Toboggan Montage)"

Here is my cousin Eden's latest filmmaking effort - another award-winning "Pride TV" segment for Lehi High School:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Project 52 Begins

As of today, Project 52 begins.

What is Project 52? you ask? (Yes, I can read your thoughts. I have ESPN.)

I suppose it could mean a lot of things, but for me it will refer to a goal I am setting for myself for the year 2010: losing a pound a week for a total of 52 pounds for the year.

Is it unlikely to happen? Maybe. Will it be difficult? Most definitely. But I feel it is something I need to do, and there's no time like the present. My recent trip to the hospital convinced me that I need to make some major changes in the way I take care of myself if I intend to avoid going back there on a frequent - or even permanent - basis.

At different times in my life, I have struggled with my weight - perhaps not to the same degree as Oprah, but nevertheless it has been a challenge for me. I am not one of those people who never sets foot in a gym because I don't need to - and I truly envy those people who never have to think twice about it. Nevertheless, it is what it is, as people are wont to say.

This goal will also be difficult to reach knowing what I know now, which is that I have had a condition called hypothyroidism for the past five or so years. In other words, my thyroid, which regulates metabolism among its many chores, is essentially shot to h-e-double hockey sticks, and I have to take medication daily to supplement it. Additionally, my current problems were compounded when I had to take a series of steroids and cortisone supplements for health reasons a few years ago. For those who are not familiar with these things, they boost your weight quite a bit in a very short time.

This is a topic that is tough for me to talk about, but I feel that if I get it out there in the open, to some degree, and enlist the aid and moral support of family and friends in accomplishing this somewhat ambitious task, then I will have tools to assist me throughout the process: gym buddies, encouragement, Jiminy Cricket-like consciences when I'm surrounded by junk food at parties, and what-have-you.

Project 52 began today, as I previously stated, with a 24-hour juice cleanse under the direction of my good and nutritionally informed mother. The idea of this juice-a-thon is to wash out impurities and other yucky things in my insides, which admittedly have been through a lot over the years, including two years' worth of South American food and having also once digested a sampling of poi.

This juice cleanse began with downing essentially a half-liter's worth of prune juice - that thing that you always thought people 50 years older than me habitually consume, and you would be right - to start this morning. If you guessed that it tasted quite awful - almost as bad as Diet Coke (I said almost, Jill) - then you would, likewise, be correct.

It's a good thing I work mostly from home. If I had been at the office today, I would have assuredly been sent home - if you catch my drift. That one glass of prune juice, I feel, satisfied my prune juice needs for, well, forever.

Fortunately, the worst was over after that. I have gone on to spend the rest of the day alternating between glasses of water and pure apple juice (freshly squeezed and brewed) every half-hour until I write these very words.

I will periodically be undergoing similar juice and distilled water cleanses in the process of trying to reach my Project 52 goal. Here's a toast of l'chaim to life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Predictions for 2010

With the New Year now having firmly established itself as being here to stay, many people out there are predicting all sorts of things for the next 361 (or so) days. I have been reading all sorts of prophecies on the Web and elsewhere.

As a result, I present to you my own list of predictions for 2010:

- More people will spontaneously combust than will read this blog.

- By the end of the year, at least one of my single brothers will be married. (Can you guess whom?)

- The Utah Jazz will make the NBA playoffs and will once again lose in the first round. (I really hope I'm wrong on this one.)

- For the 102nd straight year, the Chicago Cubs will fail to win the World Series.

- An undercover audit of the construction work on Utah's roads will discover that laborers are actually spending the majority of their time "hauling dirt back and forth across the road."

- The guy who plays Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies - what's his bucket - will not pick up a comb all year. For some unknown reason, women ranging in ages from tweens to those in their 40s will continue to find this absolutely fascinating.

- Vice President Joe Biden, the second-most powerful man in the country, will continue to say and do many foolish things but will still receive far-less media scrutiny than Sarah Palin, who currently holds no public office.

- A group of outraged citizens will sue for discrimination, demanding the right to marry their pet ferrets. (If you think that's ridiculous, so is the very concept of gay marriage.)

- Their spend, spend, spend policies continuing to fail, the Democrats will get clobbered in the November 2010 election. In spite of this, President Barack Obama will hold a press conference to blame it all on Pres. Bush and to announce that because of the economic crisis, he intends to reorganize the United States of America into the first galactic empire. Executive Order 66 will then be issued, ensuring the extermination of anyone and everyone connected with the Fox News channel.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Good Idea/Bad Idea" with the Nennas

For Christmas last week, I gave my brother Dave's family a collection of "Animaniacs" DVDs as a present. Coincidentally, my sister-in-law Jana was also given the same set of "Animaniacs" DVDs as a gift.

Flash forward to this week, and it appears that the "Animaniacs" DVDs have been a hit with both Dave's and Mike's families. Evidence of this: At yesterday's family get-together on New Year's Day, my nieces Jenna and McKenna created their own "Good Idea/Bad Idea" theatrical presentation.

Jenna and McKenna, both six years old and only two months apart in age, are more like identical sisters than cousins even though they spent their first few years on this planet on opposite sides of the country - Utah and Florida, respectively. They really didn't get to know each other well until Mike and his family moved back to Utah in the summer of 2007, and since then, they have been like best friends.

Some people, in fact, mistake Jenna and McKenna for sisters because of their rhyming names. (I'm told by their respective parents that this is also a coincidence.) Each girl also began referring to herself as Nenna before she could learn to pronounce her own name.

At any rate, the Nennas' "Good Idea/Bad Idea" show was quite clever, and it was also a big hit. It went something like this:

Kenna: Good idea - riding on the back of a horse.
Jenna: Bad idea - a horse riding on top of you.

Kenna: Good idea - going swimming on a summer's day.
Jenna: Bad idea - going swimming on a winter's day.

Drawings were included along with their good and bad ideas to illustrate their points.

I'm glad that "Animaniacs" has found fans in a new generation of people. Thanks for the great show, Nennas.