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Monday, November 30, 2009

I Get It Now!


Last week I had a strange experience which puzzled me for a brief time until I brushed it aside and figured it was nothing. I was sitting in the Union Building in between classes(as usual) and reading a book(as usual) when I was approached by a small herd of girls. Yes, girls do travel in herds. Anyway, the leader of the herd had a clipboard. I was all prepared for an awkward interview on a subject I was not particularly interested in. What she said instead surprised me. She said, "I enjoy how focused you are on your book. What's your name?" Slightly suspicious of her intentions, I reluctantly told her my name. She wrote it down on her clipboard and then the herd moved off as quickly as it had approached. I sat there for a moment in quiet vexation, before concluding that it must have been some strange assignment for a class I would never have to take. That was pretty much the last time I thought about the experience until today.
I was perusing one of my friends latest blog posts when I saw a link from her page to an interesting looking blog. I decided to surf on over to that other blog and see what it was about. What it is about is doing little nice things every day to try and make the world a better place. Quickly I discovered THIS recent post which just happened to give an assignment to compliment a total stranger. I have no idea if my experience is in any way related to this blog, but as soon as I saw it, it gave a certain reassurance that perhaps there was some reason behind that girls awkward compliment. Anyway, it's a very "nice" blog with a lot of really neat ideas. I encourage you to give it a read.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner(s)

This Thanksgiving season I had a total of 5, yes five Thanksgiving style dinners. Allow me to list them for you:
1 - Thanksgiving dinner provided by the Non-Trad student center at WSU.
2 - Ward service auction/Thanksgiving Dinner.
3 - Erica's residence hall Thanksgiving party/dinner.
4 - Sunday dinner at Cherie's house.
5 - Actual family Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving day.
I am curious how many Thanksgiving dinners everyone else has had this season. I'm pretty sure this is the most I have ever had. I really like Thanksgiving!

Black Friday

Last night, or early this morning, whichever you prefer; I had my first ever Black Friday experience. My brother Andrew convinced me to wake up at 2:30 AM so we could get to Old Navy's sale starting at 3:00 AM.
Some things were exactly what I expected, but other parts surprised me. When we got there, there was a line going out the door and around the side of the building. Luckily the line moved swiftly so we didn't have to wait out in the cold for very long. Once inside I was surprised that there was none of the pushing, shoving, or arguing over sale items that I was expecting. In fact there was sort of a hushed silence over the store, as if people were well aware of the unholy hour of the morning they had chosen to do their shopping.
Andrew and I both easily found the items we were looking for, tried them on, and then began our 45 minute wait in the check-out line. We got out of the store at 4:10 AM. Besides the long wait for a register, it was a pretty standard Old-Navy experience. I think the effort was well worth the $15 jeans. I don't think I would do it again for just any old sale.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Hiding Place



This afternoon I finished reading a fantastic book! The Hiding Place is about a Dutch Christian family who hides Jews in their home amidst the German occupation of Holland during the second world war. In addition to being a fantastic, true story, it is full of profound examples of people who truly live the teachings of Christ.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, however at times it is difficult to read. It treats the gruesome subject matter delicately, but it is difficult to not physically cringe at some of the atrocities described. Several times while reading, I was overcome with emotion and wanted to cry out, "How could people do such terrible things?"
I had an experience while reading The Hiding Place that was completely new to me. I should first explain that it is very rare for me to have an emotional response due to something I am reading. I love reading, and I get really into books, but I always seem to separate what I read from any sort of real feeling. I suppose I usually read purely for enjoyment. Last week I was in the Union Building on campus, and I had a break between classes, so I decided to read the next chapter in my spare time. The chapter I read happened to be Chapter 5, entitled Invasion. Some hard things are described in this chapter. For the first time in my life, there in the middle of the Union Building, I broke down in tears because of something I had read. I don't think I want to describe why I became so emotional during this particular chapter; I wouldn't want to potentially spoil anything. I imagine that everyone who reads this book has a slightly different reaction to it, but it surprised me how much feeling came through those words.
One of the most wonderful elements of the book, is that despite the horrors that are described, the prevailing theme of the book is gratitude and faith. Gratitude for all things, and in all circumstances. At one point, the barracks of a concentration camp are described as being completely infested with fleas. Upon arriving in the filthy place, one of the imprisoned women kneels down and thanks God for the fleas. It wasn't until much later that they discovered that they had enjoyed a great deal of freedom in those barracks thanks to those fleas. The guards hated going into that particular barracks, so the female inmates were able to get away with a lot of things that otherwise would not have been possible. The women were able to hold religious services and openly teach from The Bible, all thanks to a flea infestation.
It is fitting that I finished reading such an amazing book on Thanksgiving Day. I would like to thank my friend Melanie for recommending it to me. In turn, I recommend The Hiding Place to all my friends.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Midnight Lights

So I had a weird experience last night. I was lying in bed trying unsuccessfully to sleep when all of a sudden(at about 12:05 am) my room is illuminated with a super bright blue light from outside. First I thought to myself, "Is someone shining their headlights into my window?" But then I realized that my window is on the wrong side of the house for that to happen. The light quickly changed from blue to brilliant white. With the changing color I thought to myself, "Is someone lighting fireworks outside?" But of course I realized that I would have heard them if that were the case. Suddenly the light changed to red, and now I jumped out of bed thinking that there was a fire outside. I looked out the window and all I could see were the Christmas lights on my neighbors house. Completely puzzled I laid back down and tried to figure out what I had seen. I couldn't explain it at all. These spectacularly bright lights only lasted maybe three seconds max. I got up several times to look out the window again hoping I would see something that would explain what I had seen. I knew that no Christmas lights could light up my room as if it were day time...so what was it? In my mind I was considering everything from heavenly visitors and UFOs to some prankster with a billion candle power spotlight.
Eventually I fell asleep, and didn't get a chance to investigate further until after school. On my way home I caught the tail end of a radio news program that talked about bright lights in the sky and something the size of an oven.
As soon as I got home I hopped on the computer and quickly found the answer to this amazing experience. A METEOR!
Here is a link to a bunch of good videos.
Here is a link to the news coverage.
This was a pretty incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'm glad I was a awake for it. I just wish I was outside looking up at the sky when it happened. I need to do more star gazing.
So did any of you see the lights? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Willis

For my birthday in October, my brother gave me one of the single greatest gifts of all time. This is something I have wanted for the last nine years. This is something truly amazing. I present to you my new favorite shirt:


That's right! I'm What Willis Was Talking About!!
If you haven't heard the catchphrase that this originates from. Here is a little clip from Diff'rent Strokes.

The Dentist

I LOVE going to the dentist! No really, I do. I always have. I suppose I like it for the same reasons women like going to the spa, or having their nails done. I like the feeling of being carefully cared for. I really enjoy lying back in that comfortable chair, with that bright light shinning above me. I especially like when the dentist uses the little scraper thing on my gums and teeth. I get a sort of all-over tingly sensation that I suppose accompanies anything with a gentle personal touch. I suppose I might feel differently if I were prone to all kinds of complications, but I've never had so much as a cavity. I have pretty awesome teeth.
In honor of my awesome dentist appointment today I thought I would post a link to my favorite song from one of the single greatest musicals of all time...Little Shop of Horrors. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

500 Days of Summer

"This is a story of boy meets girl; but you should know up front, this is not a love story."

The few people who know me really well also know that I have a weakness for romantic movies. I know I'm a guy and I'm supposed to like movies with guns, and explosions, and hot girls driving fast cars...and I do, to a certain extent; but deep down I'm really just a hopeful romantic. (Don't tell anyone, ok?)
Anyway, I recently discovered a new favorite movie; 500 Days of Summer. This movie is absolutely fantastic, and is probably the most realistic film about relationships that I have ever seen. How do I know it's realistic? Well, simply because it describes, almost exactly, the pattern that has been present in all of the significant relationships I have had in my life. I frequently relate to life through the movies I see, and this one is as applicable as they come.
This isn't a fluffy, predictable movie about finding the great love of your life through extraordinary circumstances; this is a down-to-earth story about the relationship struggles we often must pass through in the pursuit of love. The hard truth is that no matter how certain we are of our feelings for someone, often the relationship doesn't turn out the way we want it to. The trick seems to be learning what you can from each relationship, and then moving forward until you finally meet that certain someone who is equally certain about you.
After seeing 500 Days of Summer, it seems as though the last several years of my life have been as if this movie were stuck on repeat. Perhaps one day I will finally learn the necessary lessons, allowing the movie of my dating life to end, and the story of my real life to finally begin.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Seriously?


Four and a half miles per hour? Really? Does this seem even remotely reasonable? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen a car speedometer with one-mile-per-hour increments, let alone half-mile increments.
I can sort of see where they are going with this. I get that they are trying to tell people that they Really, Really, Really don't want them speeding; and I understand how 5 mph turns into 10, and how 10 mph turns into 20, but really? Could this inane speed even be enforced?
I tried really hard to actually drive the 4.5 mph, and it was painfully slow. A suicidal squirrel could have jumped right in front of my tire and I could have stopped in time...
Anyway, I thought the speed limit sign was pretty funny, so I thought I would share it with everyone on the world wide web. You're welcome!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween in Review


I usually don't like Halloween parties because I hate dressing up in costume, and I usually feel really awkward in large groups. I don't know if the parties have changed or if I have changed, but this year...Halloween was awesome! I dawned the gorilla suit for two different parties, and went to a third party where costumes were optional. As for the awkwardness, that vanished as I focused on meeting all the fun new people that were in attendance. I used to feel so out of place when I didn't know many people, but now I've started enjoying getting to know people. I've already made some good friends out of the effort. This was a very good season for me, and I'm really looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I just realized that I never got around to writing a review of this amazing book!
I saw the movie over the summer and was so moved by the story that I immediately hopped online and purchased a copy of the book it is based on.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the real life personal narrative of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor of ELLE magazine in France.
Jean-Do, as he is called by his friends, suffered a stroke which left him completely paralyzed head to toe...except for his left eyelid. Both the book and the movie describe his thoughts and experiences as he comes to terms with his tragic condition.
The story itself, and the events described, are seriously profound; but the real magic of the story comes through understanding how the book was written.
Jean-Dominique wrote the book himself, after suffering this so called "locked-in-syndrome." He did this with the aid of an assistant who would recite the alphabet, beginning with the most frequently used letters, and Jean-Do would blink when she came to the letter he wanted to use. He would compose and memorize entire passages of his book at a time, until he could recite them to the scribe.
Knowing that every single letter of the book was painstakingly blinked out by Jean-Dominique Bauby causes one to literally hang on every word. He died only days after it's publication in France.
It isn't a long book; an average reading could probably read the whole thing in two or three hours; but it is definitely a book that is so profound that it will cause you to view life from a completely different perspective.
I liked the book and the film equally, but for different reasons. I highly recommend them both.

Sweeney Todd

Friday night I had a truly choice experience. I got to take a date up to Logan to see USU's production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!
A pleasantly long drive, followed by pizza at Fredrico's provided an excellent beginning to the evening. We got to double with my brother Andrew and his date Erika, who happens to be one of my favorite people in Logan. Since I moved, I don't get to see my brother as often, so it was nice that we all got to go together.
Going in, I was completely unaware of the characters or story in Sweeney Todd. I never saw the film, or any other production, so in all respects, this was my first ever Sweeney Todd experience. Let me begin by saying that it was amazing!
My date is very well versed not only with Sweeney Todd, but with theater in general, and she thought it was fantastic. We both agreed that it was the best university production either of us had ever seen.
I was really impressed by the nature of the story. It was really a deep and poignant, yet tragic tale. I really loved all of the characters, their individual stories, and the life lessons that were presented through their experiences.
The production was fantastic! I'm really glad we sprang for the good seats on the front row so we could really take in all the little details that might otherwise go unnoticed. We were so close we could see the sweat dripping and the spit flying! It was also thrilling to see my friend Andrea in the ensemble cast. She did a great job!

The music was different than anything I have ever heard in any other musical. I'm still not sure exactly what I thought of it, but it was very good. I thought the drama was excellent. I was surprised at some of the twists and close calls that were present, there were a lot of parts that really surprised me, or had me on the edge of my seat. I was also surprised at how funny it was. Some of the songs portrayed truly vile acts, but I laughed through the whole thing. There were also a lot of more subtle moments that the actors were able to use to generate big laughs. I've definitely never seen anything quite like it before. Overall I thought it was excellent, and well worth the trip to Logan.
The excursion yielded many highlights, not least of which was the disappointingly brief drive back to Bountiful. I had a fantastic evening and wished it could have lasted longer.

The Picture of Dorian Gray


Friday I finished reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I must say that I was extremely impressed by this story.
I already knew Oscar Wilde to be an amazing author because his other famous work, The Importance of Being Ernest, is one of my favorite plays.
Dorian Gray is completely different, but no less amazing. I actually had a difficult time reading Dorian Gray because Oscar Wilde's vocabulary is so immense that I found myself looking up, on average, three words per page. I actually bought a small dictionary to keep with me whenever I was reading this book.
Dorian Gray was a little slow to get going, and it took sort of a boring turn in the middle, but the last third of the novel was very impressive.
The character of Dorian Gray truly is one of the greatest, and most evil villains to ever grace the printed page. As the reader you are both disgusted by him, and fascinated by him. You wonder if he could possibly become more evil, and then he proves that he can. Despite all this, you also hope that somehow he may realize the error of his ways and find redemption.
The last third of the novel really was my favorite. It was thrilling, suspenseful, hopeful, disturbing, shocking, truly terrifying, and immensely satisfying.
I am always nervous when I approach the final pages of a book and there is no clear resolution in sight. This was the case with Dorian Gray. Even up to the last two pages it seemed as though a proper end could not possibly be achieved, but in Oscar Wilde's genius he manages to produce a surprisingly satisfying conclusion in the last few paragraphs of the story.
My initial reaction after finishing a book is always a good overview of what I thought of the book as a whole. After completing The Picture of Dorian Gray, I closed the book, sighed in satisfaction, and verbally declared, "That was very good."