Monday, February 28, 2011

Perfect Casting

In America alone there are literally hundreds of thousands of films created every year, and even more if you count You Tube submissions. I've been told that good writing--like cream--rises to the top. The same can be said for films. Over the weekend I saw a film that made me think of perfect casting where the film's main character is perfectly cast for the character he/she plays.
Off the top of my head, I thought of three films that illustrate my point precisely. I've focused on male actors...I'll have to think more about female actors for I know that there are films where the female lead is also perfectly cast. This is the first blog to express these opinions and for my first example, I've chosen perhaps the most perfect of the three that came to mind. The film is "School of Rock" and the actor is Jack Black.
I need to say from the start that I do not know these actors personally. I can only give my opinions of what I think a person is like. Actors and the marketing machines behind them work tirelessly to portray a certain image of the person's personality. They allow us to see what they want us to see and if the marketing machine does their job, that's all the general public sees. Jack Black has spent his entire career showing us a side of him that we think we know, a character that is Dewey Finn.
Watching Black as Finn is simply a treat. Seeing him interact with the young musician actors and actresses convinces the audience (me) that his passion for rock and roll is real, genuine, pure. The filmmakers could have thrown away all the drama of the roommate's issues, the love interest with Joan Cusack's character, and even the battle of the bands storyline where the underdog triumphs over the forces of evil disguised as adult rockers. I would have enjoyed watching Finn spend two hours teaching those talented kids a rock song--that alone--would have been enough for me. And I think if Jack Black opened a music conservatory and that's all he did, he would be a happy man.
Of course, I could be completely wrong with this summation, or my opinion of Black, but on film, the man is so convincing that is casting for that particular film is perfect.

As always, PLEASE tell me what you think.
Am I right/wrong?
Who do you think was perfectly cast?

All photos used w/o permission from IMBd, School of Rock website: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332379/mediaindex

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Flag Rock


Flag Rock

Due to geographical happenstance, the highest point we can see on the mountain behind our house is a large rock and atop that rock sits a flag pole, a professionally installed pole, and on that pole an American flag flies.

This point is not the highest point on the mountain; it's about 1/2 way up. For the past couple of years a group of hikers have trudged their way up the hill on September 11th as a memorial to those who died in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. It's my understanding that the elevation from the valley floor to Flag Rock is the exact hight of the World Trade Center Towers that fell on that terrible day. Those who make the hike hold a service, say words, and remember.

Growing up on our hill, Flag Rock always stood over our heads, a natural rock formation we kids loved to look up at. In those days (I'm sounding older and older as each day passes...) Flag Rock lacked a flag about half the time. When a flag did fly on Flag Rock, it was usually a white bed sheet that one of the neighborhood children stole from their home and stuck on a big stick. Heavy winds would inevitably blow the flag off the mountain and sooner or later, another mother would find another bed sheet missing and the flag would again fly on Flag Rock.

A few years ago (and many in my community know better when this took place...) someone erected a permanent flagpole on Flag Rock, a pole that could withstand the sometimes hurricane-force winds that scream down the mountain's face. Ever since the pole was put up, an American flag has proudly flown above our little town.

The picture below shows our vantage point of Flag Rock from before our house (it's the little bump just right of the power pole). If you're even in my neighborhood, just look up and you'll see what we can see everyday.




Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mom

“Scott, you and your brother and your sister need to figure out what is it you want in my house. If you want it, get a sticker, put your name on it, and label whatever it is you want.” It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m speaking to my mother on the phone. Hardly the type of conversation one has with a parent on a regular basis, but mom doesn’t feel good today, nor did she get a lot of sleep last night. Mom’s doctor, when asked two weeks ago, told my mom she knew what the pain in her stomach was. It wasn’t indigestion, or heartburn, or even gallstones (especially since they removed her gall bladder last summer). “No,” the doctor said to my mother, “Youknow what’s causing the pain.” She did know, and deep down, we all knew he meant mother’s pancreatic cancer was still there, still slowly killing the 75-year old matriarch, still actively seeking to destroy the host in which it lived.


“Oh,” I say with a slight laugh. “I don’t think we need to start doing that, do we?” My choice of treating mom’s almost absurd request with humor may have succeeded in lightening the mood, but if so, the result is temporary at best. “Well,” she says, “I don’t know. I haven’t been feeling well, and you know what the doctor said about that pain.”


Yes, we all knew. Unfortunately no one knew the cause of the pain for several months. Mom had been feeling bad for almost a year before someone thought to do a chest x-ray months after the gall bladder surgery.

“Lung cancer?” mom said. That doesn’t make any sense. Breast cancer, maybe. That’s what took her mother’s life in 1966. Her father died 10 years later from colon cancer. Knowing the family history, mom made sure these cancers would not sneak up on her like they did her parents, but lung cancer was never a consideration.


The news of cancer was bad and the family looked for positives when news of the diagnosis hit. After all, mom was the toughest lady any of us knew. Fifteen years ago mom said she had a little pain in her side, but it wasn’t anything serious. It wasn’t until her appendix finally burst that mom actually went to the hospital. Growing up on a farm in Teton Valley, Idaho, made her tough, so tough she put the rest of us weaklings to shame when it came to personal constitution and the ability to handle pain.

The doctors thought since the tumor in her lung was small, the impact of surgery and recovery would be minimal—as minimal as possible for a woman turning 75 in a matter of weeks. “However...,” said the physician, the healer (we should have known the doctor’s expression of concern would change everything), “since you have no risk factors for this type of growth, I think it would be good to have some tests run, just to make sure we know exactly what we’re dealing with.”

Of course, we all agreed this would be best. Lung cancer didn’t really excuse the continuing stomach pain mom experienced, and maybe mom knew all along lung cancer was only a symptom of a larger problem, even if she never told anyone—not even herself.


A few weeks and a few tests later, it all became clear. The lung cancer was a satellite growth, a spur of a larger infestation emanating from her pancreas. Stage four pancreatic cancer. “How bad is stage four?” we asked one another, for none of us had medical training. Within a few days of speaking with those in possession of such medical knowledge, and of course, Googling “pancreatic cancer stage four” we found the knowledge we sought, but with knowledge comes responsibility, the responsibility to admit mom’s outlook was not good, not good at all.

“Mom,” I try again at comfort. “I know what the doctor said about the pain, but that could be from you not eating.” Life—in general and broken up into tiny bits—is many times described as a roller coaster, for obvious reasons. We’re up—we’re down. The cycle of life continues onward, sometimes things are great, and then things change. Mom started chemotherapy within days of the second—and more serious—diagnosis. Doctors told her to continue her daily routine, and continue she did. Working two days a week cleaning a business at night, as well as the part-time job as an elementary school crossing guard, mom didn’t skip a beat. Few could tell she was battling cancer, and that’s the way mom wanted it.


But as the roller coaster car rattled to its apex, the enviable downward cascade hit an already shaken family. With the cancer in retreat and the treatment end in sight, mom got sick, so sick she couldn’t eat. The very thought of food disgusted her, and mom began to lose weight. The year before the diagnosis mom lost weight, but this time, there was just so little left to lose. A month later mom’s appetite returned, but the damage had been done. Though she began eating, the pounds did not return as easily as they had disappeared. It’s never good for anyone to weigh their own age.


Always the fighter, mom dropped the cleaning job, but returned as a crossing guard. We wanted someone to go with her because now the problem was her strength. If she fell, she lacked the strength to pick herself off the ground. At first she accepted the assistance, but then complained in her own way. “Scott, thanks for sending your son to help, but I don’t think I’ll need him today. I feel better. I’ll be okay.”

These thoughts run through my mind as I talk to my mom. It’s later Sunday afternoon and I’m thinking about actually putting my name on a piece of tape and placing it on some item in her house, some physical object that’s supposed to suddenly change ownership when the previous owner no longer occupies a legal claim to the item. No—I can’t do that. I can’t go into her house, the house where she raised three children on her own after her husband, father to us three, died in 1974 from yet another form of cancer. It’s not right, not proper, not fair.


“I think you’ve just got another bug, and you’ll be gaining weight soon,” I say, unconvinced myself. “You’ve just got to gain that weight back and you’ll be on your way.”


We finish our conversation. I promise to come over later and we can talk. I look out my living room window and see her house. It’s a big house, built by my father. It was the last thing he built before he died. I see the smaller bedroom window, beneath which sits my mother in her bed. Is she thinking about the items in her house that may soon not be hers? Is she thinking about the evening’s sleep and hoping tonight will be different? No, she’s probably sitting up, and though the temperature in the house is probably in the upper 70's, she’s wrapped in her down comforter looking straight ahead at the open door to her walk-in closet and thinking, “I should get in there and clean that room out. That room is such a mess and I’d hate others to go in there when I’m not around.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pics Of The Day, Vol 1

Each day for the past 15 days I have posted a Pic Of The Day. Unlike Facebook, the pictures are not saved (I'm sure there's some fancy blogger gadget out there which would allow me to have these pics saved, but I don't know where to find said gadget...) so I decided to post all the pictures that I've had on my blog, and the captions that I used on those days. I think they make up a great collection, so far...






Yes, That's Bob...









The story's in the details...








Just your normal American family...










Stomper AMC Eagle SX/4











Miss Mary To Chris









Random Items On My Desk...










Snow On Fence











Satan's Elixir











Devil's Slide











Snow!











Rooster At The In-Laws









Patch, The Dog










No Description Needed...











Parking Meter









There Will Be Dancing Later...





Hope you like these. It's been fun thinking of different shots to shoot and finding a picture when it's least expected.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Brilliant Child Artist


When the child we believe to be our last (and since he's now six years old, that's most likely to be the case...) was younger, he was a screamer. Before he could speak, our youngest son screamed.

To some people, I suppose, screaming could be considered a talent and my son was blessed with a very effective delivery system to proclaim that talent to the world--no hiding his voice under a bushel, that's for sure. In fact, my son could scream so loud that my neighbor two houses down once heard our youngest screaming inside our house when he was outside of his.

One day my wife had an idea and that idea involved art. The older kids liked to draw, but I don't believe we let the youngest. But something amazing happened when we put a piece of paper and some crayons in front of our screaming child. He stopped screaming and began to draw. And not only did he draw, but he drew very well (of course, a parent's opinion of anything their own child does is biased in the extreme, and I am no exception...). The above picture was drawn with colored pencils when my son was about two years old and I love it.

We decided to nurture our son's incredible ability so we bought the easel at Christmas and paints when we could find them. But as our son grew, his desire to draw diminished. I think since he could express himself through words, he no longer needed to draw. It's a shame, but it's his decision. Maybe one day he'll pick it up again and take a simple crayon in his hand and create another masterpiece. I guess we'll see...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Patch The Dog

Patch

Patch, the dog...

It was our second child that named the animal that resides with our family.

I remember the day I first saw Patch, a puff of hair surrounding a shih tzu puppy. Our neighbors and good friends had puppies on display at their house and I was the first to see this incredibly cute force of nature (if you've ever seen a shih tzu puppy, you know what I'm talking about...). The neighbors said a puppy was available and I came home and told my wife about the dog.

My wife is a cat person, and since we all know what that means, further clarification is not needed. The kids, however, would love a dog. Kids and dogs go together like kids and mud, or dads and Apple Computer products. I told my wife about the dog and before she went up to experience the first sight of this particular breed of puppy, I warned her. I think I'll remember what I said as long as we have this dog--maybe longer. I said, "You can't go see that dog unless you are prepared to have a dog in our house." I'm glad I said that because the cuteness factor proved to be too powerful for my wife to resist and we got the dog. That, and advise my wife received from her late mother-in-law, which was, "Sometimes you do things for your kids, even if you don't necessarily want to."

So this is Patch, everyone. Perhaps at a later date I will describe what it's like living with Patch, but for now, she's still pretty cute.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mordor

Sunsets from my back porch can be breathtaking. Sometimes, we're fortunate not only catch a brilliant sunset, but record it in digital pictures.

I grew up across the street from where I now live (I'll have to dig up one of those past pictures in my digital shoebox and show you my childhood home...). My father built the house--a home he never finished--and the structure was ahead of it's time. It was ahead of it's time in many respects, but one aspect of the house greatly affected the way we lived. My dad designed the house with huge west-facing windows. And since the house was built in the early 1970's, the windows did a poor job in keeping out the heat in the summers and cold in the winters. So when we had the opportunity to design the house in which we now live, we put hardly any windows facing west.







Tonight while looking out our smallish kitchen window, the bright reds and yellows caught my attention and I thought, "Mordor!" I quickly grabbed the small Kodak and snapped a few shots.



For those of us blessed enough to live on the other side of the highest peak on Antelope Island that is surrounded by an inland sea of salt, on most nights we're given a celestial show as God tells his children goodnight and tucks them in with a blanket of beautiful colors. I love seeing the sunsets from my back porch.



Monday, February 21, 2011

My Day Off



















So, what is a Priesthood Park? It's a term I use that may one day describe a way people (mostly men...) park their cars, trucks and minivans. I'll explain later.














My day off was fantastic, although I did do a few hours of work for the Vertical Challenge--it's only a week away. The kids had a blast sleeping in the front room and they even let us sleep undisturbed. Nice kids, nice...

I snapped a few pictures of the flag we flew in honor of the day in which we honor presidents of our country--past and present. I usually fly the flag every day in the summer unless it rains. And due to the inclement weather common in winter, I rarely fly the flag. But today was beautiful--a flag flying-worthy day.







We went out to eat at Chili's and here's where I observed the Priesthood Park. Here's an example (and the fact that the vehicles are almost
identical--a common occurrence in our state, makes the picture much more interesting, to me, at least...):


My definition of the Priesthood Park is as follows--parking a vehicle by backing into the space. I call it this because at every Priesthood meeting, the men will park this way so they can escape the building and return home, or to the local ice cream parlor as fast as possible. It's like they can't remain at the meeting even a few seconds longer...and it's what I do at almost every Priesthood meeting. What can I say?



Before we made it home, we visited my in-laws to help them with their new computer. The kids were great and we fixed the problem. And while there, I snapped a few pictures (I need fresh views for my Pic Of The Day). We had a great President's Day, 2011.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

President's Day Eve

At work, we're about to enter the office definition of the "horse latitudes," meaning, after tomorrow, it's along time until we have another paid holiday. President's Day marks the beginning of a long paid holiday drought.

There's a rule in our house that when Daddy has a paid day off, the kids don't have school. The last couple of holidays I've worked at Job #2 so we didn't spend the days together. Tomorrow, however--President's Day, 2011--the doors at Job #2 will be closed and I get to both work from home and spend time with the fam. I can't wait.
My #2 Son (and he's not a "#2 son" but it's an easy way to identify my second child) had an idea. He wanted--and therefore, got all the other children to go along with him--to have all the kids sleep on the floor in the living room so they can play video games right when they wake up. That kid thinks of everything.
It snowed today. When the snow melts, winter in northern Utah--at least in the cities--is not a pretty sight. Snow changes that. Snow makes my home heaven on earth.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Camping With The Scouts II, The Sequel...

For the second Saturday morning in as many weeks, I awoke in the Kennard's family cabin in the neighborhood of Smith Moorhouse, a few miles east of Kamas. And, just as last weekend, camping with the scouts proved to be another great time.

I can't believe how brave my 15-year old son is. He actually climbed in a frozen cave at 11:30pm last night and somehow stayed there for several hours, until a wet sleeping bad (a bag, that was not waterproof...bad parent! Bad parent!) and a continuous dripping of water melting from above forced him inside the cabin where his younger brother and his father slept like kings in a room toast-ily heated to a balmy 65ยบ where no water dripped from above and (hopefully...) all who slept inside the cabin has dry sleeping bags.
video
It snowed during the night and the light flakes welcomed a tired troop to a new day. Driving the snowmobiles was a blast, except the cold and snow caused my eyes to water and the tears made it hard to see--fun, though, nonetheless...
video
We left early so some of the leaders could get to work and to their inevitable "honey-do" lists. The early arrival surprised my wife who had just put into the Blu-Ray player the 1995 A&E classic, Pride & Prejudice, starting the dapper but disturbed Colin Firth and that actress who plays Duck Face in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Wow! With recall like that I should totally excel at the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon game...
Home, it's just the best place to be. And, like last Saturday night, I'm glad I'm sleeping in my own bed. I'm pretty sure the scouts won't be visiting the Kennard's family cabin next week, but, of course, next week hasn't happened yet. I guess we'll see...

Friday, February 18, 2011

1/2 Daily Post


In my (hopefully...) never-ending quest to keep a daily blog, I'm writing in the early afternoon hours for when the time comes for me to usually write, I will be cut off from civilization, trudging in newly-fallen snow and on my way to the cabin where the scouts will assemble and sleep in canopies made completely of snow.
I'll have more on the overnighter later. I want to write about an observation I've made over the past couple of days, and that is that caffeine makes me sleepy. From what I understand of the drug, the opposite should happen. But over the last two days (two days since I've indulged in the black magic of Coke products...) I have awaken feeling much less tired than I did when on the sauce. Of course, my results have yet to be verified from a reputable testing facility, but I'm going with it until I find out otherwise.

Yes, Satan's elixir calls me like a siren on a rocky shore, but I resist (for now...). We'll see how long I can remain not sleepy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Darth Vader Invades Driggs, Idaho

A couple of years ago, when the SpudFest Film Festival still operated in Driggs, I entered a film, a film I wrote (with help) and in which my daughter had a speaking part. It was a short film that had won a couple of awards, and the film got me my IMDb page (I'm Scott Taylor XXXII, if you're interested...). For those of you familiar with SpudFest, it was founded by Dawn Wells, or better known by the name of "Mary Ann" of the "Ginger or Mary Ann" fame (see picture below).














My film was shown, it didn't win anything, but we got to meet Ms. Wells--very nice, by the way, as well as meeting former The Price Is Right announcer Rich Fields (see below).

Lou Ferrigno, the former Incredible Hulk, was also in attendance (sorry, no picture). But as we enjoyed lunch, a specter of evil arrived from the south, a vision in black, a personification of pure bad stuff. Yes, Darth Vader arrived, straight from destroying some galaxy, no doubt.

He arrived with a henchman, or henchwoman I suppose... and began mingling with the crowd, reading our minds (I'm sure...) in an attempt to find our weaknesses so he could exploit them at a time convenient to him and him alone.

We all stared as he passed and we said things like, "Hey, that's Darth Vader." I pointed him out to my children, and then he stopped in front of my daughter. Little did she know that the one in which the prophecy was written--the one who was to bring balance to the force--stood ominously before her, his mechanical suit breathing for him, his aura as black as his leather boots.


After some chit chat, Darth, or Lord Vader left and we all exhaled in unison, grateful that his wrath chose to look the other way and spare us. The hors d'ourves, however, did not share our fate. They succumbed bravely, not a sound could be heard as Lord Vader satisfied his hunger.

The sun set and the Spud Drive In came alive with the festival's final film. We chose not to stay, but departed in our minivan, ever grateful to be able to say that we were there the day Darth Vader invaded Driggs, Idaho.