Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga - New Moon

It was my friend Julia's birthday yesterday, and I was invited to attend a party in her honor. 'Cause, you know - that's what you often do for people on their birthdays in Western culture, or so I'm told.

The bulk of this party was spent watching New Moon, the second installment of the so-called Twilight "saga," which was recently released to DVD. Of course, you most likely already know this, having no doubt already observed the mobs seventh-grade girls lining up to buy it at Wal-Mart.

The decision to watch this flick immediately made anyone with a Y-chromosome in the room rather uneasy, but our fears were allayed when it was announced that we would be watching it with Rifftrax commentary, featuring Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Mike Nelson from "Mystery Science Theater 3000," one of my favorite all-time TV shows.

So, a compromise had been reached. Thank goodness for the commentary from the MST3K guys, which made us laugh a lot and made a truly terrible movie somewhat bearable. Yes, I have actually seen both Twilight movies now. While the first one was actually halfway decent, the first sequel - and I say this with all due respect - was completely awful.

Watching New Moon was certainly an educational experience for me. Among the things I learned:

- Horse-faced, 109-year-old emo men with Edward Scissorhands hair and skin the tone of a guy who's been playing video games for three straight weeks with the blinds closed are attractive to women.
- Vampires are somewhat co-dependent. Whenever the members of Edward's family are assembled, you always see them standing in pairs, next to their mates.
- Captions would be needed to understand a good third of the dialogue, what with all of the mumbling going on - mostly by Bella and Edward.
- "Evil Harpo" (Jasper, I think?) looks more like a drug addict than a vampire.
- Face Punch, the movie that Bella and her 100-percent human date/rebound relationship go to see, would have made a far-more interesting movie than New Moon.
- The ladies' cue to "ooh" and "ahh" apparently is triggered when the action switches to slow motion or when Jacob takes off his shirt.
- Speaking of which, werewolves are apparently allergic to cotton and cannot physically wear shirts most of the time.
- Speaking of physical impossibilities, Kristen Stewart (Bella) appears to be contractually obligated to deliver each line by either pausing mid-sentence or by biting her lip.
- The scene in which Bella rides off on the motorcycle, keeps seeing Edward's face, and then crashes, is one of the most unintentionally funny things I have ever seen in a movie.
- As the riffers pointed out, the most logical course of action to save your boyfriend who's in trouble thousands of miles away is not to call, text, or e-mail him first but to get on a plane and travel there in person.
- Dakota Fanning has grown up a lot, and it appears that she puts on her eye makeup by looking through those trick binoculars lined with grease paint.

Well! There's more where that come from. I'm told that we have three more movies filled with teenage angst and will-they-or-won't-they to look forward to in the so-called Twilight "Saga."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Respecting the 'Stache

It was "Mustache March" night at Friday night's Improvables show, for which at least four of us (Ian, Jeff, Ryan, and I) went all out for the occasion and each grew mustaches. Those who came wearing mustaches - be they real, fake, drawn on, or otherwise - were let in for half-price, and quite a few people ended up taking us up on this offer.

Ian, Ryan, and I, with our 100-percent real mustaches, were all matched up on the same team, while Biz, Steve, and Guy (playing in just his second show) were on the other squad; Bryan was the M.C. for the night. Who knew that performing Improv while sporting a mustache could be so much fun?

This is what most of our motley crew looked like:


Earlier this week, I spotted a co-worker of mine wearing a t-shirt that promoted Mustache March and included the phrase, "Respect the 'Stache." I think we did a good job of that Friday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Millstream's Got Talent

Last night, the good people in my ward put on another great talent show for our FHE activity. I always look forward to these activities, because they often show me another side of many people's personalities. It was certainly an opportunity for our new bishopric to learn a thing or two about us.

Among the highlights were several musical numbers, either sung or played; Tina and her sister's hula dance; and Brian and Steve’s movie about, well, nothing in particular - kind of like an episode of "Seinfeld" - that was very funny.

I contributed to the evening's activities by singing in a barbershop quartet number, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” with Steve, Pepe, and Dave Lauritzen, as well as by offering a dramatic reading of Hanson’s “Mmmbop” that, I think, went over well with the audience. Lauren snapped a picture of it and was good enough to share it with me:


For the next talent show, when and/or whenever that may be, I'm considering a dramatic reading of the Spice Girls' "Wannabe." We'll see.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Honesty 101

Earlier tonight, following the conclusion of another ward prayer, a few other friends and I had an in-depth and thought-provoking conversation with a very frustrated friend of ours.

He was considering giving up dating altogether, or at least taking a long sabbatical from it, he said, because a frustrating pattern had emerged in his dating experiences: He would meet someone he liked, and they would begin to date. As time passed, however, she would begin to display a disinterested attitude and/or behavior and prolong the relationship only to later break up with him, when she could have done so much earlier in the dating process and could have saved them both time and heartache. It was a cycle that had repeated itself time and time again.


"You can kill someone one of two ways," he concluded, metaphorically speaking. "You can either shoot them in the head, or you can tie them to the back of your car and drag them through town for 25 miles." In other words, you can either hurt someone a little, or you can hurt them a lot; the end result is still the same.

I'm paraphrasing here, but that's essentially what he said in summation.

Well, this kind of treatment would, naturally, make anybody frustrated. What could I tell him but that I could definitely see things from his point-of-view and that I agreed with him wholeheartedly about the idea of hurting others a little over hurting them a lot.

It all boils down to simply being honest, or what we came to call "Honesty 101" in our conversation - something that males and females both often tend to sacrifice in favor of being "polite."

I posted on the subject of honesty recently (http://theepistleofjon.blogspot.com/2010/01/honesty-such-lonely-word.html), and I still believe this to be the number-one problem in our collective failure to communicate - at least, it seems to be the biggest problem between I know and with whom I associate.

I didn't mention this to my friend during our conversation, but I have recently had my own confusing and frustrating experience with dating. I asked out someone for a second date after what I thought was a relatively fun first date. I asked her on this date nearly a week prior to it taking place, and during the course of that week, I ran into her at various ward functions, including one the night before our scheduled date. Throughout the course of the evening, I observed that she was spending a lot of her time hanging around another guy and not really ignoring me but not exactly acknowledging my existence, either.

It was an uncomfortable feeling, to say the least. I have never canceled or called off a date before (other than for reasons of illness), but I was sorely tempted to do so for the first time. Instead, I ignored this temptation. We went on the date, but I still felt uncomfortable throughout the evening.


Any way you look at it, I think honesty would have helped out - both on my part and on hers. I could have been honest and told her I didn't feel like going through with the date under the circumstances, or she could have been honest and told me that the same thing.

Well, hindsight is 20/20, right? Anyway, I have had a lot to think about tonight, and I still believe that "honesty is the best policy." What are your thoughts/comments/questions/complaints, if anyone is still there? If I am wrong, where and how am I wrong? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Becoming Provident Providers"

I really enjoyed this recent Mormon Message by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, titled "Becoming Provident Providers," and thought I would post the link to it here. The video contains a good message about living within our means - something that the people in Washington, D.C. could really use a reminder about these days. It also features a cameo appearance by my ComedySportz colleague Joey Scoma as the young Robert D. Hales.

A few years before he became an Apostle, Elder Hales served as presiding bishop of the Church, and he came to visit our ward in Puerto Rico. I will always remember with fondness the fireside address he gave exclusively for the handful of Young Men and Women in our ward who gathered to hear him speak.



Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

As the Ward Turns . . .

After approximately three years of dedicated and faithful service, Bishop Joe Jensen and his two counselors, Bro. Rick Hanson and Bro. Scott Myers, were released from the bishopric in Sunday's sacrament meeting, and the stake presidency called a new bishopric in their place.

I have previously been through this event a few times before during my sojourn in the Millstream Ward, and it is always a bittersweet experience. These meetings and days are filled with many mixed emotions. The melancholy feeling of seeing three people, with whom we have shared so many experiences, depart is coupled with the anticipation of getting to know a new bishopric.


Bishop Jensen, Bro. Hanson, and Bro. Myers have had a lasting, positive impact on many Millstreamers, and we will miss them a lot. To paraphrase the scripture: "Well done, good and faithful servants."

In addition, we have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know their spouses and some of their families, who have been as much a part of our ward as any other member.

And to think, I almost didn't even make it to this meeting yesterday. In the first place, Daylight Saving Time - need I say more? In the second place, when I turned on my car's engine yesterday, it had apparently become possessed. The dials on the dashboard kept spinning around, and I'm certain that they would have vomited split pea soup, were any available to them.

Anyway, as for our new leadership, the calling of Bishop Alan Lake brings my Millstream Ward experience full circle: He was a counselor in the bishopric years ago when I first began attending. I remember those few months I knew him them with fondness, and I am grateful to have a good man like him at the helm. Additionally, I look forward to getting to know his two counselors, Bro. Wendell Moon and Bro. Greg Lindley.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The End of the Beginning

For the past six weeks, I have been team-teaching a beginning Improv skills workshop at Rodgers Memorial Theatre, along with my Improvables colleagues Steve and Ryan.

(Oh yeah - Steve is also, I suppose, my brother, as well.)

I can't rightly speak for the other guys, but it has definitely been an enjoyable time and an educational experience for me. As is often the case when you teach something, you end up learning as much as the students in your class, if not more. That has definitely been the case with this class.


Additionally, through the process of teaching the class, we have discovered new Improv talent and will be inviting a handful of attendees to move on and join the Improvables troupe. I am looking forward to working with them some more and to seeing their abilities continue to blossom.

Somehow, the folks at RMT continue to let us perform each Friday night and to workshop our skills each Saturday. I consider myself lucky and privileged to be a part of a very talented troupe of performers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Singing Backup

Earlier tonight, I added something new to my résumé: backup singer.

Don't look so shocked. I can sing - in certain arrangements, like, when I'm not singing solos.

Ben, Steve, and their friend/ex-roommate Jeff are in the process of recording a CD of songs directed at Mary Kay marketers and saleswomen, which is, apparently, a very lucrative business for some people. They are giving it their very best efforts, recording spoofs (think "Weird Al" Yankovic) as well as covers of several popular tunes to fill up this disc.

I don't know if I'm legally allowed to say what the names of the songs are at this point or much more about the content of their forthcoming CD, so I will err on the side of caution for now. What I can say is that singing backup lyrics in a recording studio - the same one where Passion Buckets recorded "The Star-Spangled Banner" a few months ago - was a lot of fun. My nieces Kylee and McKenna and my nephew Dallin, likewise, got to record backup lyrics to another one of the guys' songs.

More details will be forthcoming as the project develops, including where and how to obtain a copy of the CD.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ben and Jon's Excellent California Adventure

Chalk it up to another one of those dumb things that boys do - I'm thinking of the McNuggets challenge here - but Ben and I went on a 1,400-mile round-trip road trip to California over the weekend.

It all started when Ben discovered the music of the Wailin' Jennys a year or so ago. He has become a devoted fan of theirs ever since. A few months ago, he learned that they would be on tour, but the closest they would come to visiting Utah would be Napa, California, which is a stone's throw from my Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dexter in Fairfield. So, he reserved a couple of tickets, and after pestering me to join him like an alarm clock commands you to wake up, I agreed to go along.

Other than a brief layover in Los Angeles on my way to the mission field in Peru - for some reason, we first flew west to L.A. before flying southeast to Lima - it had been 20 years (the summer of '89) since I had last been out to California to visit my aunt and uncle. So, I was probably overdue for the trip anyway.

There is a whole lot of nothing, including 410 miles of Nevada, along I-80 on the way out to the Golden State, but Ben and I managed to keep ourselves entertained during the journey by listening to good music and the seventh Harry Potter book on CD. An old, boarded-up house in the middle of nowhere with the words "Bobby Baby Boy Boo-Boo #1" spray painted on it kept us laughing for some time. I had also forgotten how much I liked the view of the Salt Flats and of the Sierra Nevadas.

Once we arrived in Fairfield, Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dexter took good care of us, as they have always done over the years. This morning before we left, they fed us one of the heartiest breakfasts I've eaten in years. They also sent us home with boxes full of oranges and lemons from the trees in their own backyard.

In addition, our cousin Sherrie, who lives just a few blocks away and whom I hadn't seen in several years, and her 13-year-old son Tony (who is almost as tall as I am now) came over to visit with us. Sherrie and I didn't always get along when we were growing up - I remember one particular traumatic event from my childhood when she whitewashed me in the snow outside of our grandpa's house in Smithfield - but fortunately that unfortunate experience never came up, and it was good to see them both.

The concert itself was great. It was held in the very nice Napa Valley Opera House, and in spite of my preconceived notions about the people of Napa being uptight, wine-tasting snobs, they were in actuality very friendly and cordial to us. Before the show, I was not very familiar with the Wailin' Jennys nor their music, which may be best described as a blend of folk, gospel, and bluegrass, but I was nevertheless entertained and now look forward to listening to some more.

After the show, the Jennys met with people in the foyer and signed autographs. Ben was excited to meet all three but was a little more excited to meet Ruth Moody, in particular:


I can't say that I blame him; in addition to being pretty, she is a talented musician and has a beautiful voice. When the Jennys learned that we had come all the way from Utah to see them perform, they were impressed and (off the record) said that we had won the award for traveling the furthest to see them.

Before returning home to Utah, Ben and I stayed in Fairfield long enough to attend sacrament meeting with our aunt and uncle at the Fairfield 3rd Ward. The people there were, likewise, very friendly to us, and we enjoyed hearing their testimonies before hitting the road once more.

We returned from our adventure earlier this evening. I am utterly exhausted from the experience, but I am also glad that I went.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jazz Rowdies

A few weeks ago, it was announced that auditions were being held at the Megaplex 12, which is across the street from EnergySolutions Arena, for Jazz Rowdies: an elite selection of Utah Jazz fans who were the most enthusiastic, loud, entertaining, nutty, and/or mentally disturbed fans out there, or a combination of such - take your pick.

Biz and Jeff gathered a group of family and friends to attend this audition, which took place as the Jazz vs. Clippers game (a road game) was being shown on the big screen at one of the theaters. I was not able to attend this shindig, but from what I hear it was a lot of fun. In fact, Biz and Jeff were both chosen as Jazz Rowdies.

This is my same sister who - flash back to a just a few, short years ago - once called basketball "a pointless game" and said that it was nothing more than "people running up and down the court, doing the same thing over and over again."

I'm paraphrasing, because I don't remember her exact words, but those were essentially the ideas she conveyed. Well, that was before she began dating Jeff, who is now her husband, and these days Biz is a true-blue Jazz fan. Just look at her go:



Biz, Jeff, and the other Jazz Rowdies, according to my understanding, were awarded lower-bowl tickets to eight home games for the remainder of the NBA season, and they will be counted on to provide much-needed energy and support to the Jazz in those games.

In the process, they may also annoy a few of the fans sitting next to or around them. Well, I guess you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Go Jazz!