Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Countdown to the Debut

I'm getting kind of excited.  My new band Groove Theorem is playing the Layton Amphitheater next week on the night of September 8th (a Wednesday).  The show is free, and we're going to be joined by my good buddy Paul Timothy.  Here's a taste of what we've been working up for the show:

Hopefully the neighbors won't complain too much...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Fabulous Light Cycle Voyage

Other than knocking out an occasional Tetris game on my outdated cell phone, I'm not what you would call a gamer.  The only substantial game I've ever passed was the original "Super Mario Bro.'s" back in junior high, and the closest I've ever come to joining a LAN party is playing the plastic drums in "Rock Band."  Yet I've recently seen two movies that feature video game themes as a critical part of their stories:

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"

I was a little nervous going into my viewing of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."  The one preview I had seen suggested the film was going to be a bit heavy on the EMO hipster side, but in the aftermath of Pilgrim's epic battle, the only EMO quality of the film that really bothered me was the 75-pound beanie-wearing doofus sitting in front of me who kept texting through the movie.  

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is about a lot of things, but mostly it's about a kid who meets the girl of his dreams, then has to fight his way through a series of her "Evil Ex's" in order to date her.  These fights are illustrated through the use of a video game metaphor.  Each battle is presented like a fight from "Mortal Kombat," with animated point totals that pop up whenever he finishes off an opponent.   Even as a non-gamer, I still think the device is the most astute true-to-life aspect of the entire film.  When the dust clears, the dating game definitely feels like a battle, and along those lines, more like boxing than chess.

In spite of its branding as a box office bomb, I really enjoyed the movie.  It definitely leans on the 18-22 side of the audience spectrum, but not so much that I felt completely alienated (or nauseated).  Instead, the creativity of the film inspired me, and the heart of the story connected to themes and feelings that were universal, even if they were universally painful.  The Beck and T-Rex-fueled soundtrack is great, which shouldn't be a surprise once you learn that the film was directed by the same guy who did "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz."  Plus this movie marks the first time in memory that I've ever found myself attracted to a girl with blue, green, or purple hair.

I guess there's a first time for everything.


The first and only time I had seen "Tron" was at the Davis Drive-In when I was a little kid.  After re-watching it last week--in anticipation of the re-boot/sequel coming out later this year--I know why.  "Tron" is a cool movie, but it sails over the head of a five-year-old.

As simply as I can put it, "Tron" bounces back and forth between the "real world" and the "virtual world," where computer programs are personified by characters in neon suits who run around CGI-generated environments trying to battle a huge evil program (Master Control Program--MCP) that wants to take over the "real world" as well.  At the end of the first act, Jeff Bridges gets assimilated into the virtual world, where he teams up with the programs to fight the MCP.

It makes sense to me now, but there's no way I would have grasped this as a little kid, let alone appreciated its foresight.    But now that I do, I'm excited to see "Tron: Legacy" this December, and not just because the GGI is going to be so much better.  Special effects aside, the philosophical concept of the original film  was pioneering in its exploration of "Matrix"-like virtual reality, and it's especially interesting to note the religious metaphors and parallels that are present.  Namely, the "real world" programmers are called "users" by their personified programs in the virtual world, and one of the primary philosophical battles in the virtual world centers on the debate as to whether the "users" even exist.  One could even take the metaphor a step further when you realize that Jeff Bridges plays a Christ-like role in the film, as the one "user" who enters the digital world on behalf of the programs.  Pretty heady stuff for Disney.

But if that's too out there, just see the new movie for the light cycles.  They look way cool.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Wounded Mosquito Productions Internship!

This week, across the country, hundreds of millions of bright-eyed youngsters are starting a brand-new semester of college, in many cases, for the first time.  But in these days of intense competition and uncertain economic climate changes, a degree will only take you so far, and many employers are looking for something extra in prospective employees.  That is why, in the proud tradition of Dunder Mifflin and Kramerica Industries, Wounded Mosquito Productions has decided to offer its first-ever official internship* for the Fall 2010 semester.


The Wounded Mosquito Internship will give one successful candidate a variety of genuine, real-world professional experiences, including (but not limited to) the vast world of modern media, the behind-the-curtain world of modern academia, and the ever-changing tasty world of local culinary establishments.  The intern will function side-by-side with the company President and CEO to execute and maintain the high quality standards of Wounded Mosquito Productions.  (Specific high quality standards of Wounded Mosquito Productions subject to change).

Specific responsibilities include:
  • Waking President/CEO up in morning
  • Preparing breakfast for President/CEO (or lunch, depending on circumstance)
  • Texting friends/associates of President/CEO to make social plans for weekend
  • Surfing Internet to look for ideas/clients for President/CEO
  • Grading English papers for the President/CEO while he does other stuff
  • Running the iPod while driving to shoots with President/CEO
  • Attending functions with President/CEO, such as Jazz games and afternoon matinees
  • Driving company vehicle if President/CEO is way pooped after a long day
  • Assisting the President/CEO with important scientific experiments, like testing new salsa or smoothie recipes
  • Remembering stuff that President/CEO often forgets, like turning off the stove before leaving the house
Minimum Qualifications

The selected candidate must:
  • Speak/write/recognize English
  • Be high school graduate, or thereabouts
  • Be able to cook pretty well
  • Be able to write stuff fast in case President/CEO starts getting lots of ideas really quick
  • Be able to drive a manual transmission
  • Have a clean driving record, or at least a cleaner one than President/CEO
  • Be able to understand satire
Preferred Qualifications

The ideal candidate will be:
  • Female
  • Single
  • Into cool stuff, like music and food
  • Smart with a cool personality...and hot, too
  • A former athletic trainer (President/CEO needs to lose about 15-20 pounds)
  • Not way taller than President/CEO
  • Willing to put up with President/CEO's eccentric-genius habits
Additional Details 

This is an unpaid internship, and Wounded Mosquito Productions does not offer college credit, at least any that would be accepted by an accredited institution.  (At the same time, candidate does not need to be enrolled at an accredited institution to qualify for internship.  Candidate can be in massage therapy school, for example).  Company will provide successful candidate with her own parking space. At the conclusion of the internship, candidate will receive autographed certificate of completion and photo with President/CEO.  They may go out to dinner or something, too.


If you are interested in applying for this position, please send a resume and head shot to intern_thing@woundedmosquito.com.  A representative of Wounded Mosquito Productions will contact you if the President/CEO wants to bring you in for an interview, or just meet you downtown to grab a burger or something.  President/CEO may decide to bring on multiple candidates depending on professional and social needs.



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Defending Ray

Three years ago my sister and I drove a thousand miles to Comic-Con to meet Ray Bradbury.  His work was that important to us...plus, at 87 years old, we worried that if we missed our chance he might not be around to give us another opportunity.

Three years later, Ray is still alive and well, and back in the news.  Just shy of his 90th birthday, Bradbury is none too pleased with modern technology.  Specifically, he hates the Internet, Kindle, Big Government, and thinks we should go back to the Moon (and on to Mars).  People have been giving him grief for his apparent techno-phobia, especially because his phrasing of terms (IE, referring to "Internets" instead of "Internet") makes him come off like a senile old crank.  But I think his critics are missing the point of his message.

Ray Bradbury may not have a perfect technological understanding of the things he is criticizing, but 90 years old or not, I think he still gets it.  In spite of the futuristic, sci-fi element of much of his work (he defines himself as a fantasy writer, for the record), Bradbury's stories have always found their greatest strength in their humanity.  And for all the obvious advantages that modern technology affords us, over-reliance on it can take a heavy toll on that humanity.  Bradbury understands this, and I think this is why he says the things he says.

Digital technology can open wonderful doors of imagination, whether it comes in the form of a camera or a blog or a software program, but it also lets us be lazy if we want to.  You don't have to be a great photographer to take good-looking photographs, and you don't have to be a great web designer to drop some text into a template and hit "publish."

Cell phones and text messaging can be great for staying in contact with friends, but all too often I see groups of friends ignoring each other while they text the friends that aren't there.  Facebook and other social media allow us to reconnect with friends we've lost touch with over the years, but trolling someone's profile page and making occasional comments on their vacation photos doesn't create a depth of relationship.  It just suggests its presence.

I thought it was interesting that this summer's biggest movie is built around a question about our perception of reality.  "Inception" has plenty of cool special effects and an open-ended plot that keeps you guessing, but the film resonates with me because it points the finger at one of the central issues of our time: are we using technology to make genuine connections with the people around us, or are we letting it alienate us even further by using it to create our own personal cocoons of perceived reality?

Ray Bradbury made his career writing about Martians and dinosaurs, but he can also demonstrate the simple profundity of sitting on a deck with a cold drink while the sounds of nature connect you to the meaning of life.  He champions the genuine article over the synthetic, and in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, he's not alone. When he rants that we have "too many Internets," I think that's what he's afraid we're losing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My 2010 Road Trip By the Numbers

1,800: Approximate mileage of the entire road trip, starting in Bountiful, north to Yellowstone, east to Devils Tower (and then Mount Rushmore), south to Nebraska, and west on I-80 to home.

583: Photos taken on the trip.

867: Number of dead bug bodies that are still blasted across the front of my car.

30+: Gas mileage for the trip.

6: States I covered during the trip, including Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and thanks to my GPS, Nebraska.

3: Fridge magnets I picked up to commemorate the trip.

2: National Parks I drove through (Yellowstone and Wind Cave).

5: Times I wondered if I should have ordered two burgers instead of just one at Maddox on the way up, because they're just so darn good.

15: Mph rate posted on the new speed limit signs along the dirt road by my family cabin.

1: Batch of fresh salsa I made at the family cabin, officially kicking off the fresh salsa season.

1,000: Number of people in attendance at the Island Park Ward sacrament meeting.

650: Pound-weight of the boulder my friends and I rolled into Quake Lake on Sunday afternoon because we got bored with skipping rocks.

1.5: Rainbows that showed up at Devils Tower the evening I arrived.

.42 Percentage of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" that I watched on my laptop inside the borrowed tent I had set up in the dark in a $12 camping spot under the tower while a windstorm tried to blow me away.

9: Deer I encountered at 5:45AM while driving in for some sunrise shots of Devils Tower.

17,000: Bikers I encountered on highways between Devils Tower, Wyoming and Custer, South Dakota, thanks to the annual biker rally in Sturgis which was taking place the same week.

17,000+: Bikers I encountered while cruising the main drag in Sturgis, which is located just off I-90 in-between Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore.

18: Length of the horns (in inches) that were sticking out of the helmet of one of the swarm of bikers that visited Mount Rushmore with me.

7: Times I encountered the Biker Mama of My Dreams at the Mount Rushmore Gift Shop, but failed to speak to hear out of fear that she would stick me with a shiv.

117: Extra miles tacked onto the total trip because my GPS told me to go south into Nebraska after Mount Rushmore instead of cut diagonally across Wyoming like the Google Maps thing suggested.

75: Times I had to hit the brakes, deactivate my cruise control and drop 20MPH because a clump of semis were trying to pass each other and blocking both highway lanes.

8: Times AT&T dropped my call home along I-80 while my parents were trying to help me research room prices for Wyoming motels.

0: Dead bodies under my motel bed in Rawlins, Wyoming.  (If you'd been there, you'd have been excited, too.)

7: Times I wondered whether I should make an extra spin north to Maddox once I emerged from I-84 just south of Ogden before completing the journey home, because their burgers are just so darn good.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Double Rainbow at Devils Tower

Yesterday I finished a road trip that covered 1,800 miles through six states in six days.  Along the way I stayed a night at Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming, and just before I arrived, I caught this off the highway.

I dropped the sound for the first several seconds because a Marvin Gaye song was playing on the car stereo in the background, and YouTube sends me these threatening e-mails whenever I post something that has external music on it.  You know, because YouTube is a champion of copyright honesty.