Thursday, July 31, 2008

Heart Warming or Awkward?

So maybe some of you have seen this video before....I think it's supposed to be heart warming but I couldn't help from cracking up. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had raised a lion. Do you think their hair was inspired by the lion of the got the lion to match their hair?

Why Grad School Can Be Cool

I've been a pretty infrequent visitor to the blog this summer but I always feel at home when I find my way back here. I'm in the midst of preparing for a week's worth of comprehensive essay exams which takes up most of my time but I wanted to share a few pics from my summer travels. For my dissertation I'm working for a non-profit that organizes service learning trip for middle and high school kids. In June I traveled to Peru with a group of 46 kids and 40 adults for two weeks. We spent a week in the Amazon and week hiking to Machu Picchu. I hope you like the slide shows, if you watch very carefully you might notice my celebrity encounter. (Hint: Is Lost going to have an Aztec theme this season?)

Week 1 - The Amazon

Week 2 - Inca Trail

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Finding the Unfindable

Two years ago while Lesley and I were perusing the wares at Anthropology at the Gateway Mall(love that Anthropology even though there's nothing there for me, it's so pleasant and hoity-toity). A song came on over the PA system that blew our minds. It sounded like a mix of Ben Folds and ELO, one of those songs that sounds old other than the high production value and clarity that's lacking in older recordings. Les immediately asked one of the workers what it was, and they looked at the CDs in their collection, all of which were home made mixes and the girl who made them wasn't there.

This started a maddening search for this song, that to this day I haven't been able to find. The closest I've found is "Maplewood" by the The Heavy Blinkers, and while I enjoy the aural confections whipped up by the blinkers, I still yearn for the sweet melodies from the song that we could never find.

Flash forward to Christmas 2007. While in the Halifax Old Navy on December 23rd I heard a song that sampled "It's Over" by ELO. And in that busy Old Navy, with holiday shoppers fighting each other for last minute gifts, this song sounding like something I'd like to hear again.

Another search commenced. This time I had a starting point, I knew the song that was sampled, and went from there. It's alarming how difficult it was to find info by typing "It's Over" into the search engine, and it's also alarming how many crappy songs are called "It's Over".

After looking every now and again online I recently found it. It turns out it's a song, and frankly, it not a very good one. You can listen to it here. I'd embed it on the site, but it's far too embarrassing.

But finding the second song makes me realize two things. 1) my obvious closeted devotion to ELO and 2) that it's probably better if I never find the first song. If I find it, it probably won't be as good as I remember it, and I'll feel dumb for seeking after it for so long. As long as I never find it I'll keep looking for it, for the perfect song that alludes me, and searching for it will keep me listening to music. Always listening, always searching.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Holmes Passes Defense, Wife and Children Depart for Kansas

North Carolina State University graduate student Rob Holmes successfully defended his PhD dissertation Wednesday July 23rd. After delivering an exhilirating and esoteric seminar on corn and fungus that was attended by some of Raleigh's finest minds, he was grilled for two hours by four members of the graduate faculty with questions like, "Why do teenagers like to fly?" and "When will this end so I can go watch Dark Knight?" After the examination candidate Holmes waited, utterly alone and in contemplative silence, on the bench outside the conference room for 15 minutes. The committee was unanimous in there decision to let Holmes move to Kansas and start his real job. They also gave him a week's worth of rewriting and revisions but, to the relief of all, did not require him to perform any more experiments.

Okay, enough of the third person stuff--it takes too much effort to write. Taliatha and the kiddos are on the road to Hutchinson and I will follow behind with our moving truck after I clean up all of my lab notebooks, cell stocks, fungal strains, and any other junk accumulated over the last six years. If I can get the revisions turned around and approved in a timely manner there will be a Holmes sighting in Utah in early August. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Best Weekend Ever? pt. 2

Riddle me this. Three riddles with the same answer.

What has the combined age of 177 years?

What wears a spandex shirt, a Hawaiian shirt, and two golf gloves?

When do three musicians sound like eight musicians?

If you answered The Police, you're right!

July 19th, 2008

So Lesley and I were still just a bit stoned the next day from 'The Dark Knight'. We feared that going to a concert after such a film would be some sort of a let down (wow, what nerds we are.) I was really ready for a great concert due to the fact that I'd had a real stinker of a day at work, let's just say when you're manager is younger than you, not as smart as you, and has little idea what they're doing, sooner or later...BAM! Like a powder keg!

We had intentions of eating somewhere nice before the concert, but that darn USANAAmphitheater, out in the middle of nowhere, I never know quite where to go. Lesley and I always end up at a big mall complex just off the Bangerter Highway. I remember eating at Quiznos there with Les and Jed before Radiohead, and Les and I ate at a crepe place before this time...Crepes it is!

I got an ominous email from the amphitheater saying to 'arrive early due to construction and avoid disappointment.' We were about 5 minutes away from the venue, but it took us twenty five to actually get in and park. I was relieved that it was 7:25 when we got out of our car, and to our horror we heard...


Now let's back up a second, One of the reasons we were so jazzed about this concert, and we were excited about The Police, was that Elvis Costello and the Impostors were the openers. I've been wanting to see Elvis live since High School, so the fact he was playing with The Police made it a must see event. Most concerts if you miss the openers (like Liars, who played with Interpol) It's no big loss, but the fact that we were missing freaking Elvis Costello sent us into panic mode. Lesley was positive that they must have started at 6:30 and we were screwed. We raced down the dirt parking lot, got through security when he started playing "Pump it up" and while it was obnoxious we had to listen to it while we were running to our seats anytime I hear that song I'll remember our mad dash during the concert.

We only missed two songs, only one we knew, but it still couldn't believe they started early! IT STILL BLOWING MY MIND! AHHHH!

Elvis and the boys sounded great, not just great FREAKING GREAT. The guy has about 24,000 songs in his catalogue, so it's stupid for me to think that he'd play ALL or even some of the ones I wanted to hear, but still it would have been nice to hear "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea", "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror", "Spooky Girlfriend" or "Tear Off Your Own Head", but they only played for 45 minutes, so I was a bit buggered.

On the bright side it was cool to hear "Radio, Radio", "Watching the Detectives", "Allison" (sung with Sting no less, that brought the people to their feet!) and "What's so Funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding", which finished the set. The songs that they played that I didn't know where quite good, but I was hoping they'd play at least eight more songs that I knew...

It was a bit of a sin that they went on at 7:30 RIGHT INTO THE TEETH of the sun. They all were wearing sunglasses, but EC looked beet red on the jumbotron. I just hoped he wore some sunblock.

During the break Les and I got some cool Elvis T-shirts and got some water, and BANG! The Police were on. It was refreshing that they got ready, and came on, they didn't make us wait too long, but their old, maybe they wanted to go to bed or something.

I remember when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 they sounded like a shell of themselves and looked grumpy to be around each other, but they sounded amazing and looked happy and smiley on stage. Sting, in a spandex shirt mind you, looked like he could pound out 200 pushups at a moments notice. Stewart Copeland didn't miss a beat (must've been the golf gloves) and Andy Summers, all 65 years of him (that's older than my dad), made that guitar sing. Doing all kinds of crazy crap with that guitar.

Even the songs I don't like (do do do da da da anyone?) sounded great. The highlight for me was 'Don't Stand so Close to me' where Andy actually sang harmony, or at least appeared to. Les's favorite was 'King of Pain' which I thought they may not play, but did in the encore. All the songs I wanted to hear were played EXCEPT synchronicity #2.

Just a fantastic concert. It was interesting how it seemed to cross all gender, age and class lines (not race though, just white people ya'll). Lots of old and young, rich and poor, men and women there to rock out that joint.

So how do you top such a weekend? I don't know, we joked that we'd boo the church speakers because they'd be so horribly boring in comparison, but luckily better sense prevailed. We had weathered the perfect entertainment storm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Best Weekend Ever? pt. 1

Now I'm not one for hyperbole, but when the movie you've been waiting close to three years for opens the same weekend as the concert you've been waiting all summer for, you know it must be the best weekend ever!

July 18th 2008.

Like the true geeks we are, Lesley and I are finally able to see 'The Dark Knight'. We bought our tickets a whopping six days in advance online (ironically we didn't get our first two preferred times) and went to the theater an entire hour early, which for us is as early as...we're willing to go.

But the prep for this movie started WAY before last Friday. To gear up we watched 'Batman Begins' in June, and I bought one of the graphic novels that inspired the Nolan films "Batman: The Long Halloween" last week.

On a side note, there are few things in life better than a really good graphic novel. I'm not really a huge comic book fan, but I loves the graphic novels, and "The Long Halloween" doesn't disappoint. I read all 370 someodd pages in about 20 minutes. I've recently purchased the sequel "Batman: Dark Victory" on and curse the postal service each day it doesn't arrive.

But back to Friday, having watched the three trailers a combined total of at least 35 times each, and having read 116 rave reviews about the film, including Jed's six word review, we were feeling pretty prepared for the dark thrill ride that lay before us.

I'm not going to lie, I was still a little shocked by how dark the film was. I loved the bloody thing, and will probably see it at least one more time in the theater and own it as soon as it comes out on DVD, but MAN! When Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face and is missing a cheek (his whole cheek people!) a nostril and an eyelid I was somewhat appalled. Granted the damaged looked very CG, but c'mon! No eyelid! Lesley wasn't half as disturbed as I was, saying that if his skin looked like it was 3rd degree burned it'd be much grosser in her mind.

I was surprised how challenging the film is to the audience. If we compare it to another summer superhero blockbuster, Iron Man, we get an interesting look at what makes a summer blockbuster a spree of pure entertainment vs. a viable piece of film art, to sound horribly snobby.

Iron Man is pure confection on screen. We are treated with a wise guy handsome protagonist, with neat technology, a pretty assistant, and an evil, if not fear inducing villain. While the protagonist does face some viable danger, we are never in fear for him for we know he will vanquish evil and save the day, all the while having our ribs tickled by his funny jokes and our senses pleased by the stunning action sequences. A very satisfying bit of summer pop-corn moviedom, and if I never see it again, I really don't mind.

And then we have 'The Dark Knight' where every character seems in some sort of mortal danger the entire movie. We have a villain, who while charismatic, is completely terrifying and reeks havoc not only on Gotham City, but our, as an audience, feeling of security the entire film. We're right to feel uneasy, because not only is he completely capable of carrying out horrible things, he actually
succeeds a staggering amount of the time. Our hero is not only vulnerable to this villain, he also battling his own sense of right and wrong, and struggling to maintain a balance with his own morality. We have other main characters whose families are in danger (including children mind you), and another who loses his sense of justice for blind revenge against those who harmed him. Heavy stuff for a summer, comic-book movie.

And yet 'The Dark Knight' pulls it off beautifully. The action was exhilarating without pulling focus from the characters. The climax is satisfying without being 'a happy ending'. Nolan brings the extra weight to a Summer film and has the chops to keep an increasingly demanding and cynical audience satisfied and hungry for more. I'm excited to see this film again, and will probably see it many more times over the years to fully get my mind around it. The themes of true heroism, sacrifice, and what it takes to whether the storms of evil will radiate with me for a long time to come.

Which begs the question 'what next?' I read on a film blog, by an astute film viewer, that the Nolan Batman cycle could follow a traditional three act play. Act one being the beginning and set up. Act two comes the crisis and fall, and Act three brings redemption. I like this idea, and hope that Chris Nolan will lend his auture stylings to Gotham one more time. If for nothing else, to ease the jones of this closeted comic fan.

Friday, July 18, 2008

6-word review: The Dark Knight

Ledger takes the day. Posthumous Oscar?
Bale soars. Ledger kills. Nolan wins.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some other things white people like...

So here's two more things white people like.

1. White people like parlaying highly read snarky blogs into book deals. Which leads me to...

2. White people like buying stuff they can get for free online.

White people also like, having babies, paying too much for car insurance, wearing 'sport' shoes, doing pushups, and eating. Those crazy white people, when will they stop eating. So pretentious.

Monday, July 14, 2008

6-word reviews

Beck, Modern Guilt: French New Wave, without the French.

Hellboy 2, The Golden Army: More like, Hellboy 2: The Golden Suck

Schwinn Electric Bike: Really green? Don't Care. Looks great.

"House of Cards" video by Radiohead: No lights, No camera, haunting action.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand:Godless. Incorrect. Implausible. Misguided. Bloody FANTASTIC.

No TV at home: Loving Hulu the more, every day.

The Home Depot: Power tools = false sense of manhood.

Lowes: Tough not being The Home Depot.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Finish The Conversation

I recently overheard this conversation in the parking lot of Boarder's bookstore. I've made the names up.

Megan: (Looking at her phone) Uh! I'm working with Mike at eight am tomorrow. That's gonna be awkward.

Todd: Awkward?

That's all I heard. Finish the conversation ye readers, and make it good.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Where's Peter Pan when we need him?

Did anybody notice how old we’re getting? And we’re not even that old? Yet, somehow, much of the world that I knew as a five year old is hardly recognizable to my five year old.

Today they will demolish Grandview Elementary school. For all I know, they already have. Granted, Grandview was hardly my favorite educational institution. Truth is, it’s hard to find a lot of fondness in my heart for the edifice at all, beyond what it represents to those of us who plodded its musty halls. Mine was a brief sojourn-- a single year in Mr. Wiscomb’s fourth grade class. But I do sense a loss in its demolition.

When I was at Grandview, Mikey Padeken was a squirrelly youth with an energy like a rubber ball. We met against an orange brick wall, finding ourselves on the same team of a game that married handball and dodge ball. Mikey was freaking brilliant at the sport, and I was lucky to be on his team. Kevin Brimhall was in Mikey’s class down the hall. Kevin lived across the street from me and was always confused as to why I didn’t go to Grandview. I had expected that when I finally did make my public school debut, Kevin and I would be inseparable. That didn’t pan out. I needed to establish a little more clout before Kevin could donate his valuable attention to me and my band of ragamuffin hand ballers. Kathy Jones used to wear leopard print stretch pants, and once she wrote me a longish note confessing her unabashed love for me. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I acted like I never got it. Steve Walters was a very nice, very chubby boy in my little sister’s class. He used to talk to her a lot, and I wasn’t sure if that bugged me. But I don’t think he was a threat. Nick Reineer, Ryan Duncan and Zack Elison became my gang of friends when I finally settled in-- does that make any sense?. After some time, I managed to wrestle the affections of Camille Porter from Tim Law (of the very big head). I proved to be valuable on the soccer field and a blooming genius at kickball, so my place on the playground was never challenged. We never had communist day, I delighted in my shifts in the lunchroom, and I sang a solo in the fourth grade program in May. The song I Like You in said program was held in whispers to be about me and Camille. The thought of it still makes me blush.

And did anyone notice when they started plowing under all the orchards? And the fields where we used to ride our dirt bikes? Remember when they cut a road through the Burningham’s pasture, connecting Ryan Smith’s street with Holmes’ street? Remember how new and black that asphalt was? And when they built the Taylor’s and the Bills’ and the Ridd’s houses how bloody huge they were? We called that cul de sac “Celestial Circle”. Remember how we all moved away but our parents are still there? Remember how Kirk lives where all those orchards used to be?

Remember how Sarah Carter and Lori Hurley are already gone? Does anyone remember what a happy child Allen Taylor was?

I don’t feel like any of us are old enough to say things like, “when I was a kid, this all used to be farm land. I used to ride my big wheel where that house is.” Yet, most of us are. And there have been whole families born and raised in those houses. People who never knew the land as anything different. They don’t know what they took from us.

Our kids will never know us as those kids. It will be quite a while before they want to know what we did and where we did it. I will always be Dad to my little ones. But when will I be Jed Wells, who took a sabbatical leave from private school to attend Grandview elementary for a year, and hated cub scouts, and never played little league, and caught snakes in Lions Park, and spent whole afternoons walking to Minute Man because his mom wouldn’t let him ride his bike off the hill?