Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Weird Al" Predicts the Future

Yesterday, much of the main cast of the new, as-yet-untitled Star Wars Episode VII was revealed, and to the glee of many fans/nerds, myself included, original stars Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) will be back to reprise their iconic roles. The new movie, set to be released in December 2015 (but who's keeping track of that in big bold red letters on their calendars?), will pick up the saga 30 years after the conclusion of Episode VI, Return of the Jedi.

I was seven years old, a second grader at Hannah Holbrook Elementary School in Bountiful, when ROTJ was released, and Dad got my older brother and me out of school for the day to line up with many other fans at something like 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. for the chance to be among the very first group to see the very first showing of the movie at a now-non-existent theater in downtown Salt Lake City. And we made it!

Good times, those. It's a cherished memory and one of the things about Dad that I remember best from my childhood.

At any rate, two years after ROTJ, "Weird Al" Yankovic came out with his Dare to Be Stupid album in 1985. Like the Star Wars franchise, it's also one of the greatest creations of all time. It included the song "Yoda," a parody of the Kinks' "Lola," which "Weird Al" fans once voted their #1 favorite song of his.

"Yoda," however, was originally intended to come out on "Weird Al"'s first album in 1983, before he hit it big and before the release of ROTJ. As such, it tells the story of Yoda only as it recounted as far as the previous Star Wars film, Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, and includes nothing of the story of Yoda in ROTJ nor in the prequels, which didn't come along for more than a decade later anyway.

I listened to "Yoda," which is sung through the point-of-view of Luke, on my iPod today and found myself paying particular attention to the lines: "I know that I'll be coming back (to Dagobah) someday; I'll be playing this part till I'm old and gray. The long-term contract I had to sign says I'll be making these movies till the end of time."

And now, 32 years after ROTJ, and 30 years after Dare to Be Stupid, Mark Hamill, old and gray (at least, he's 30 years older and grayer than he once was) is once again playing the role of Luke Skywalker.

Nailed it, Al.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Love Poetry for Dummies: "Star Gazers"

Star Gazers

Standing in the light of a blood-red moon,
Then bathed by a meteor shower;
It's way too late to be up on a weeknight,
But who's really minding the hour?

I can't tell one star from the next;
Is that dipper big or little?
I don't know.
But one thing stands apart in my mind:
The  skies above put on a pretty great show.

There are bodies celestial, and bodies terrestrial,
Paul once wrote very elegantly.
But the only celestial body that matters right now
Is the one lying here next to me.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Remedial Singles Ward

Tonight, I had a major case of déja vu all over again.

In a meeting filled with many other mid-singles (i.e., 31-to-45-year-old, non-married people my age who have been deemed too old for the regular singles ward, or leprous and highly contagious, or both) congregated in my old stake center in Bountiful, at which the new stake president of my old stake announced the creation of a new mid-singles ward, the first of its kind anywhere in Davis County.

Everybody with me so far?

Not only that, but my former bishop, bishop of the singles ward I used to attend in that very same chapel, was sustained as the new bishop of this new ward.

In a very real sense, things had come full circle for the Angry White Loner. And for many of his friends and associates.

To top it all off, I then got in my car to head over to a family function, and you know what? The tune "Zero Population" started playing on a random shuffle of the Sunday listening playlist on my iPod.

I knew I'd heard that melodious tune somewhere before. And then it hit me . . .

It was (and is) one of the grooviest tracks from literally one of both the silliest and most overplayed (on BYU-TV, at any rate) and arguably greatest* LDS musicals with false doctrine, Saturday's Warrior!

Mind = blown!

*No, it's not. My Turn on Earth wins in that category.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Life Is a Highway

Nobody likes to be stuck in a traffic jamespecially one that keeps you rubbernecking for miles (and sometimes even hours) on end. If there is anyone out there who actually does like it and isn't the bodybuilder flexing his muscles while directing traffic in that one GEICO commercial, I have yet to meet him. Or her.

By contrast, I'm sure we've all experienced times when we're cruising down the freeway and everything around and in front of us is smooth sailing traffic wise, yet due to construction or a collision or whatever reason(s), we can see many, many cars backed up in a traffic jam going the opposite direction. In such moments, I've had the thought occur (or I've said out loud if I have a passenger with me), "I'm glad I'm not going that way."

It's interesting how life itself can often be the same way, isn't it? When we're right in the middle of whatever jam, traffic or otherwise, is giving us grief and testing our patience, it can sure seem pretty difficult to deal with, and it also certainly makes us appreciate those moments when we can set things to cruise control and travel freely the other way. Likewise, we can also have those "glad I'm not going that way" thoughts occur when we learn about another's struggles. Ironically, that same person might even feel the same way about us and something difficult we're enduring at the same time.

What's my point? I'm not sure that I have one. (Do I ever?)

One thing I do know, however, is that today, on this Easter holiday, I'm grateful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He trod the winepress alone and, because of Gethsemane and Golgotha, he understands the difficult roads we've traveled/are traveling/will travel, and He has bourn our burdens. Though the cup to drink was bitter, he has "gone that way."

Throughout the weekend, and especially today, I've had the chance to read many beautiful and inspiring "Because of Him" posts on Facebook and Twitter that have reminded me of the myriad reasons just why He matters so much to me and why the title Savior is so important to us all.

Cadbury eggs are nice, too.

Happy Easter, my friends.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gotta Get Up and Try

"Gotta get up and try, and try, and try"
 -P!nk, "Try"

I recently saw the 2013 movie Ephraim's Rescue, which had been in the #1 spot in my Netflix queue for months. Took ya long enough, huh, Netflix?

For those not familiar with the plot, Ephraim's Rescue is based on the true life story of Ephraim Hanks, who, among other accomplishments, helped lead the rescue of the Martin and Willie handcart companies in the winter of 1856, saving the lives of many of the destitute people stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming.

But I repeat myself. It really isn't too hard to imagine if you've ever driven lengthwise across Wyoming along I-80, which I have done and lived to tell about.

The film also recounts some of the other miracles Ephraim, who was blessed with the gift of healing, carried out during his lifetime of service and sacrifice. It touched me deeply, partly also because I am a descendant of handcart pioneers.

If you haven't seen Ephraim's Rescue yet, then go and buy it. Netflix takes too long. Obviously.

One of the parts that impressed me most, and there were many of them, is a scene in which someone asks Ephraim how he is able to do all of the good that he does. His response is simply, "I try."

It's a simple yet a powerful response, and it contains and important lesson. Sometimes, all it takes is that we try.

Take, for example, the Israelites who were bitten by the poisonous serpents in the desert, as recounted in Chapter 21 of Numbers. To be healed, all they had to do was to look at the brass serpent that Moses held up. Tragically, many of them refused to look and died. (See also Chapter 33 of Alma.)

All they had to do was to try.

If we give our very best effort in lifeif we just trythen the Lord will do the rest. I didn't really understand the concept until a recent Sunday School discussion, but that is the very essence of grace.

If it applies to the big things, it also applies to the little things, or so I am wont to believe. Just trying it out will help us to learn new hobbies or learn new things, to meet new people, to ask out that girl or guy you've known for years and always wondered about, to find out likes/dislikes, and so forth.

Naturally, we need to then follow through and work at many of these things. But the first stepthe initial trying it outis usually the hardest. Obviously, this also doesn't mean trying out things that are clearly stupid and/or dangerous, such as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Or voting for Obama.

That's just not common sense.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Angry Tunes

By definition, one word to describe the Angry White Loner is angry. Without that particular adjective, or the words white or loner, you've got no Angry White Loner. And that would certainly be a doggone shame.

Those who know me, however, know that the term Angry White Loner is something of a misnomer. Unless I'm stuck in traffic and I'm late for a very important date. Or I'm playing Halo with friends and I'm on what you might call a "dying spree." Or I'm mailing my tax payment in to the federal government (which is actually only a few days away now).

But no, not Bruce Banner/Hulk angry. Or Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down angry. Or Katie Kaboom angry. (Anybody out there remember Katie from "Animaniacs"?)

Other than those instances, though, the phrase, as I originally mentioned in my very first post over a year ago, is actually based on a character I am wont to play in an improv game we call "Press Conference."

Speaking of improv, I really enjoyed tonight's troupe workshop. I always enjoy our troupe workshops, though tonight's was especially fun, because it was a music-centric workshop. Performing improvised music is both one of the most challenging and the most rewarding parts of performing live improv. If you've been to one of our performances, then you know from firsthand experience what I mean. If you haven't been to one of our performancesI've been appearing with this group for six years now, for heaven's sakewell, why are we still friends?

Just kidding about that last part. Only partly.

I was given the emotion "anger" in a new singing game that we learned. When it was my turn to sing, this came out:

"Sitting in my room alone, I'm listening to Evanescence;
My woman's left me, yeah, she's the queen of putrescence!"

Sometimes, you surprise even yourself!

Dave Barry refers to heavy metal music as "music to slaughter cattle by." All of the bands/songs in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Angry White Boy Polka" also fit in the category. Even one of my favorite classical music pieces, Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," I would say, fits the bill.

Basically, anything you could punch-dance to, like Andy Samberg in Hot Rod or Kevin Bacon in Footloose, might very well be "angry" music.

What's your favorite piece of angry music? Post them in the comments section. Or don't. Whatever floats your boat.

Be nice about it! Not angry.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The First Law of Heaven

What an amazing, inspiring, and uplifting 10 hours of general conference of the Church we had this weekend! Many great talks were delivered from the Conference Center pulpit both Saturday and today, and I got to watch and listen to most all of them (I'll catch the rest when they're posted to YouTube). Some talks were even somewhat necessarily blunt, addressing more than a few of the hot topics currently being discussed among Church members.

Without going into any of these specific topics, as I have done previously, suffice me to say that an overarching theme I noticed his time around was that of: obedience.

Not blind obedience, certainly. And not because being obedient, as some critics of the Church have charged, is submitting to some sort of slave-like imposition of the Brethren's will upon mindless drones who ask "How high?" when the Brethren tell us to "Jump!" Rather, obedience is crucial to each and every one of us because it, ultimately, is what will help us to progress and grow, to have peace of mind, and to be happy.

As the old Primary song says, "Keep the commandments. In this there is safety and peace." It's all rather simple when it's broken down like that, huh?

In his Saturday afternoon message, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

"At times we may be tempted to practice what I call 'natural man's obedience,' in which we disobediently reject God's law in favor of our wisdom, desires, or popularity (or) 'selective obedience,' claiming to love God and honor God while picking and choosing which of His commandments and teachings—and the teachings and counsel of His prophets—we will fully follow."

Both natural man's obedience and selective obedience sure seem to be happening a lot lately, even among those who claim to be temple recommend-holding Church members. To a larger degree, however, we are all disobedient whenever we knowingly do something wrong. And we all make mistakes.

President Ezra Taft Benson also said:

"When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power."

This is a beautifully stated quote, and one I was reminded of during the talks about obedience in conference. I could sure use some of that extra power right now, or more of it, anyway.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

2 Broke 2 Furious

The Angry White Loner has had the flu for the most of the week. Steaming bowls of chicken soup are currently being accepted on his doorstep.

As a result, I've also had a lot more free time on my hands. Maybe it was the constant pounding headache or a throat that feels like it has swallowed a gallon of battery acid (or Diet Coke, take your pick) that motivated me to do it, but I even watched a recent episode of "2 Broke Girls" last night.

It's nothing to proud of, certainly, but I was rather harsh about the show in a recent post. And up until last night, I had seen only groan-inducing commercials for the alleged "comedy" program. I am a believer in not judging a book by its cover, so I figured I could at least watch one episode in order to give an informed opinion.

And here it is:

Previous assessment of "2 Broke Girls": This is bar-none the worst show currently on TV.

New assessment of "2 Broke Girls": This is bar-none the worst show currently on TV, if not also one of the most lazily written, stupid, and worst TV shows ever produced.

It is not as bad as I feared; it is even worse.

The episode I watched, "And the Not Broke Parents," features the 2 broke girlsdimwitted, upper-class blonde broke girl and dimwitted, white trash (her own assessment of herself) brunette broke girl—facing the closure of their pastry school. Dimwitted, white trash brunette broke girl and her dimwitted current boyfriend express regret at this and reflect with fondness on all of the places where they've fornicated around the room.


Additional episode "highlights": Dimwitted boyfriend keeps wondering where the "weed" is. Dimwitted, white trash brunette broke girl meets dimwitted boyfriend's parents and learns that boyfriend's mother was once a stripper. And just about everything else in this episode, from the to the crude banter to the pathetic acting, indicates that it was most likely written by boys in junior high. (No offense intended, boys in junior high.)

The laugh track for this show is somewhat identical to the laugh track for many unfunny sitcoms currently airing on Disney Channel. The difference between the two? At least Disney Channel shows, though unfunny, are family friendly and teach good moral values.

It's 21 minutes of my life I'll never get back. But if I can steer at least one other person away from watching this train wreck of supposed entertainment, it will not have been in vain. It's the exception rather than the rule, but this is one book you can afford to judge by its cover. Judge, then change the channel.