Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sitting In The Open Air...

I walked passed a restaurant with an open-air section. It was close to the hottest time of the day. I thought it would be crazy for someone to be outside on a day like today.

I was wrong.

There was one person enjoying the heat, at least, I think she was enjoying the heat. I've written a couple of times about people who love the heat. "The hotter the better," seems to be their motto. I just don't know how they do it. They must have some altered D.N.A. or something.

Yesterday I did a show, dressed as a turn-of-the-century snake oil salesman in 100+ degree heat. After the shows I felt a little nauseous and I think I might have suffered a mild case of heat stroke. I'm no doctor so I don't know for sure. All I know is it was so blasted hot. How in the world can people want it to be hotter?

I didn't get a good look at the woman sitting out in the open-air, but she looked content. Well, as far as I could tell. I'm sure there were many places to sit inside the air-conditioned restaurant. But that's the thing about people who love the heat. It's something they choose.

Then again, maybe they don't.

Monday, June 29, 2015

They Resurrected One Of My Favorite Shows...BattleBots!

We found out a few weeks ago that the show BattleBots is coming back. Last night we watched the first episode and I loved it!

But what I didn't expect were all the memories the show brought back. I hadn't realized just how much I had missed that show.

The premise is simple, if not a tad over-dramatized. Teams of battle robot builders pit their creations against the others in a battle to the death (or the death of the machine...). They try, and I guess, succeed, at creating a pro wrestling atmosphere. I'd love to take my kids to see a taping.

Several years ago BattleBots were a common site on TV. Why this latest incarnation brought back so many memories is because many of the same people are competing in this round. And those who were not competing back in the day remember fondly how they used to watch the original BattleBots and dream of one day creating their own fighting machines. I'm glad they now have the chance to do so.

I do worry a little bit that this cannot be more than just a fleeting thing. I don't know if this type of show has staying power. I know it did for a few years anyway, but eventually people got bored and the show was canceled. I'd like to think this time it will be different, that it will last beyond just this summer. I guess time will tell.

But for now, we'll have some epic battles, at least for a couple of weeks. I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Falling Asleep...At Church

So, what does this picture have to do with falling asleep in church?

Good question.

When Sunday afternoon rolls around and I find myself with a couple hundred of my neighbors in a large building designed for worship, I inevitably begin to fall asleep. Maybe not every week, but most weeks. Today was like most weeks. 

As the speakers begin, my eyelids get a little heavy. Of course, I'm still listening to the talks and taking in as much as I can. But then, after a while, I realize that my eyes have been closed for more than a few moments and if anyone asked me what the last speaker said, I'd be hard pressed to give specific details. Sometimes I even catch myself softly snoring. Usually when that happens, my wife gives me a little nudge and I return to the world of the living.

I've had trouble staying awake in church for a while, but recently, it's been even more difficult. Working two jobs, especially when one of those jobs deals with walking around in 100+ degree temperatures during the warmest part of the day dressed as a turn-of-the-century snake oil salesman. That can take a lot out of you.

I should say at this point that the reason I nod off is NOT due to the quality of the speakers. They are usually excellent with important things to learn, so really, my inattention is definitely my loss. And every once in a while I end up staying awake for all of the meetings. Maybe I'll do that next week.

But what does the above picture have to do with falling asleep in church? It's usually the first thing I see when I wake up.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Shoes...My Character Shoes

 On Thursday I went to the theater for our production of Harvey and when I got to the table where I left my character shoes I noticed something. Or, in other words, I noticed nothing.

The nothing I noticed were the lack of the shoes I needed for my scene.

If you're familiar with Harvey, then you know that my character, the role of cabbie, E.J. Loftgren, is only in the show the last few minutes. Because of this, I really don't gave a designated spot in the dressing room, especially since my call time is so much later than everyone else. I don't get ready with the rest of the cast. 

When we started dress rehearsals the shoes that were picked out for me were on a table, as were all the other's character shoes. Also on the table were the names of each cast member. When I got to the theater I get dressed then walk to the table and retriev my shoes. After each show I replaced my shoes, right where I found them an hour earlier.

Until, two days ago, that is.

The reason my shoes were missing is because the costumer thought all of us actors had placed our shoes in the dressing room with the rest of our costumes. Everyone except me. So when I came in on Thursday the costumer had taken the several pairs of shoes and re-stocked them inside the theater's catacombs. Luckily for me, the man playing Harvey in our Harvey is married to the costumer. Yesterday when I went to the show, my character shoes were in the dressing room with everyone else's. 

And all was right with the world!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Camp Kiesel...Just What I Needed

Today, while breaking news hit--news, it appears, that everyone has expressed their opinion on, I was in the mountains, away from it all. No cell phones, no internet access, no distractions.

It was fantastic!

I spent the day at Camp Kiesel, just east of the little town of Huntsville in northern Utah. I went with a contingent of youths from the neighborhood with a couple of other leaders and it was simply beautiful up there. Unfortunately, it was not much cooler in the higher elevations today, but being away from it all did me good.

And the kids had a good time, too. The big three activities, archery, boating and BB gun shooting were the highlights of the day, but other things--learning about first aid, governments, even rocks of the earth were informative and interesting.

So, when big news is about to hit, I recommend heading up to the mountains where there's no phones and no internet access. But be sure to bring your camera along so you can capture some wonderful memories.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ben Mezrich's "The Accidental Billionaires"...A Book Review


A couple of weeks ago I heard Jim Rome interview Ben Mezrich on his latest book about Russian billionaires. The book sounds fascinating. So much so, I logged into my local library and looked at all the audiobooks available from Ben Mezrich. I had read his book on the M.I.T. blackjack players who created a system to beat the house. They made a movie about it and the book was great. His latest book about the Russians was unavailable in audiobook form, but I did see another book called The Accidental Billionaires that was available. I downloaded it and began listening to it this week. I had no idea what the book was about.

Not knowing what a book is about can make the reading/listening to experience better. It did in this case. After listening to the first hour or so I told my wife about the book. I said, it was basically the story you get by watching the movie The Social Network and it explained about the beginning of Facebook.

Turns out, The Social Network was the film version of Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires. Of course, had I just read the book's entire title, I would have known this.

Still, having seen the movie didn't ruin the reading experience. I knew how it ended but Mezrich's style of turning non-fiction into a story that sounds like well-written fiction is fantastic. He's good in the same vein as Laura Hillenbrand is good. And in this case, if you like the movie, try reading the book.

For me, the most interesting thing about the book was how much has happened since this book was published in 2009. Mezrich wows us by explaining how successful Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook were at that point in time. I wonder if any of the story's principle players (as well as the author...) could comprehend just how successful Facebook would become by 2015. I doubt they could. It's difficult to imagine an internet site being worth more than the most successful store chain in the world, Wal*Mart.

But it is.

If you've read other books by Ben Mezrich, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one. Facebook didn't just change the lives of its founders, but pretty much everyone else, too.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6326920-the-accidental-billionaires?from_search=true&search_version=service

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Xchyler's "Steel And Bone"...A Book Bomb

Steel and Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures*

This upcoming Saturday Xchyler Publishing is having a book bomb for their latest steampunk anthology, Steel & Bone. If you're interested in the steampunk genre, I recommend you check this one out. You can access the Facebook page: HERE.

Here's a breakdown of the nine stories:

Steel and Bone, cover and blurb

I have several writer friends in this anthology. Scott "With The Cool Name" Tarbet, Sarah "Awesomeness Writer" Seeley and John "Couldn't Be A Nicer Guy" Olsen are local authors that I've gotten to know over the past few years. Many of the other writers I know as well, although it's through social media.

The book launches Saturday. If you want to check out the Amazon page, click: HERE. Steampunk can be a tricky thing to write. To me, it's one of those "you'll know it when you see it" kind of things. These are proven writers and I can't wait for this book to get out there and fly. I'm looking forward to reading it. I hope you will be, too.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/25489614-steel-and-bone

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Michealbrent Collings's "Twisted"...A Book Review


If you've got an hour (or so...) to kill, and you're on the internet, ending up somewhere that is completely unexpected or seeing something you never knew existed should not be surprising. This really has nothing to do with Michealbrent Collings Twisted, but his story brought back a memory.

Maybe it was a podcast I heard but somehow I ended up on a site where photographer during Victorian times took pictures of dead people in the most disturbing poses. Those who had passed were made to appear as if alive, sometimes standing with siblings or other family members even though they were dead.

Twisted involves a young family. I've read several of this author's books and I feel one of Collings's strengths is his ability to create believable characters with which you can easily empathize. The couple has their struggles and the addition of a newborn with physical issues only adds to the overall despair for the family. 

As they cope with the pitfalls of life, the creepiness comes. And if you're squeamish around centipedes, you may want to not read this book. Because they're in there and there's a lot of them.

The book also deals with abuse. The audiobook version includes some thoughts from the author about abuse and its ugliness--no horror novel can eclipse the real-life stories people experience on a daily basis. Either we've experienced it or know those who have. It brings a somber end to a book about ghosts and evil doings.

Yet, there is hope as well. We all deal with issues--it's part of being human. It's how we act and what we do that makes a difference. 

As stated earlier, I have read several of Collings's books. For me this one wasn't as straight-forward as the others. Perhaps this isn't a fair statement, but I did find my mind wandering at times while I listened to the audiobook, something I don't remember doing while I listened to The Loon, Strangers, or Darkbound. I don't necessarily think the book's to blame either--it might be all my own doing. Just something took me off topic a few times.

Having said that, if you like the horror genre, Collings delivers a thought-provoking story. He's a dependable writer--you know what you're going to get. The same thing applies to Twisted. It's a story of imperfect people trying to survive.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24234926-twisted?ac=1

Monday, June 22, 2015

Announced Today: Book Launch For Johnny Worthen's New Book..."Celeste, The Unseen, Book 2"


Today, as I was checking out my Facebook account (I do that from time to time...), I received a notification, as is prone to happen from time to time. The notification came from a friend and fellow local author Johnny Worthen and he wanted the world to know that in a few short weeks, his latest book, Celeste will be released.

Celeste is the second book in the "Unseen" series. Regrettably, I must admit that I have not yet read Book 1 in the series, Eleanor. I really should rectify that. But even though I haven't read Johnny's books, I have gotten to know him at the various Comic Cons and writing symposiums in the area during the past couple of years. So when I say Johnny is a "colorful character," those you of who are lucky enough to know him know exactly what I mean. You can access Johnny website: HERE. And Johnny even speaks Danish, so you KNOW he's a class act!

Mark your calendars, folks! Celeste launches on Saturday July 18, 2015 at 4pm MDT. The event's being held at The King's English bookstore in Salt Lake City. You can learn more and access the Facebook page to the event: HERE. My life's so crazy right now I don't know what I'm going to be doing at 4pm MDT on Saturday July 18th, 2015 at 4pm MDT. But I'm going to join the party and hope I can make it! I hope you can too!

* Photo used without permission from: http://www.johnnyworthen.com/Celeste.html

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Today I watched "Godzilla" Without Seeing A Lot Of It...

I got an e-mail yesterday saying that for this weekend, I could watch HBO and Cinemax on my computer for free!

Great! I thought.

Until I decided to watch a movie I've wanted to watch for a long time, Godzilla in a sunny room.

I probably should have picked a different movie.

I should say that what I actually saw, I really liked. A large portion of the film's beginning and pretty much all of the ending were so dark that I had to rely on the audio (and closed captions...) to get me from an almost solid black frame to something with light in it.

I'm sure the final fight scene between the giant monsters had some cool visuals, but I only saw the ones where they had close ups of the stars, when they showed huge explosions or when Godzilla breathed his awesome blue death breath and disposed of the hellish beast (sorry for the spoiler...). I saw those scenes and liked them a lot.

If I wait a few months, or maybe sometime next year, I'll be able to watch the show again, this time on a non-HBO channel. I'm pretty sure the rest of the movie--the parts I couldn't see--are really cool, too.

But now that I think about it, maybe that's why the show was free... Hmmm.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Centerpoint Legacy Theatre's "The King And I"...A Review

Becoming culturally aware as an adult is extremely satisfying!

Case in point--a few days ago I saw The King and I for the very first time. I spend a lot of time around theater people and the reaction I get from them when I say that I've never seen either the play or the film, is that they're quite surprised.

I also get a reaction from some of the same people that The King and I is not one of their favorite plays. So, I wasn't sure if I would like the show, but after seeing it for the first time at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre, I can honestly say, I like the show! And that fact that my daughter is in the show helps form my opinion, but it is not the deciding factor.

This particular production had its challenges. First off, we live in a pretty homogeneous community. There's not a lot of performers of Asian persuasion in the area. But, once the curtain rose, the lights came on and the music began flowing, I didn't think about that issue at all. One of the reasons for this was the amazing costuming. It was simply beautiful! I turned to my wife during the show and whispered, "They could have called the show The Dress and I which garnered a chuckle. Just letting you know, Anna's ballroom dress is stunning!

A show consists of many things, but the big ones are costumes, the quality of the singing and the choreography. Costumes--fantastic! The singing--very very good! I noticed that in this show the solos are very unforgiving, meaning, that if their voice falters even a little bit, there's no where for the singer to go. I thought they did a wonderful job.

Choreography--great job! There is a rather long dance number in the second act where a depiction of Uncle Tom's Cabin is performed for the king and other special guests. It was mesmerizing. Again, the fact that I had not seen the musical before and that my daughter was one of the dancers only made me like the number even more. But be warned, it's a little long.

Great show! I think I picked a good version for my first time.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Hot Afternoon At Lagoon...

This afternoon (the hottest day of the year so far...) I went down to Lagoon Amusement Park to watch "The Rainmaker" show and while I was there, I snapped a few pictures. For photographers, the place is a gold mine!

Here's some pictures from today. I only spent twenty or so minutes to take pictures. Maybe on a day when I go down for the specific reason to take pictures, I'll get some better shots. 

For those of you who know the park, you'll recognize the place. For those who've never been, it can be a fun place. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Packsaddle Ranch...And It's For Sale!


Anyone have a spare $700K lying around? 

If so, have I got a view for you!

I love this view! It's intertwined with my childhood like few others. My earliest recollections were my family loading up the big Buick 225 and heading north to the Teton Valley to visit my mom's father and a handful of her relatives located throughout the towns of Driggs, Victor and Tetonia.

We took the route into the valley from Rexburg so we'd cross over the foothills and see the Teton peaks towering into the sky. Once we hit the flats we'd wind through Tetonia and finally stop the car when the view of the mountains turned majestic--that's where the family home stood.

My mom's father and mother are gone and so is my mom. Her brothers haven't used the family farm in years so it's been decided to sell and considering the price per acre, it's a downright steal! If you want more information and to see some absolutely beautiful pictures taken from the site, just click: HERE.

This is the property's write-up on the site:

Located between the towns of Driggs and Tetonia, this spectacular 100 acre property has been owned by the same family for over 100 years. Unmatched Teton views of all 4 peaks from this large parcel with water rights. Ranch, farm, or build your dream home. Rare, large acreage with paved access down the entire North side. This “quiet side” of the Tetons is surrounded by world-class trout fishing, wildlife and year-round recreational opportunities and sits between the majestic Teton range to the East and the Big Hole mountains to the west. A true sportsman’s paradise in a unique mountain valley setting. 3.5 miles to the Driggs airport. 37 miles to Jackson Hole. 14 miles to Grand Targhee ski resort.

The family home was built in 1906. In 2006 we had a family reunion to celebrate. It was the last reunion my mom attended. Now, hopefully, another family--or families--will move it, build more than a physical structure and return to where the mountain's part and the view is spectacular and call it home. If you're interested, just let me know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thanks Sarah...And Dave...And Craig!

About Sarah

I woke up this morning and found I had an e-mail informing me I had received a review for my book of short stories. This one brought the total to three.

I knew the book was not going to get wide-spread exposure and that was okay. Of course, I'd love for it to be wildly successful, but I'm content with how it turned out and the place it serves within the grand scheme of things.

So when I found that a friend had written up a review, it put a smile on my face. When I read the review, the smile grew and just kept on growing. Sarah's review of my little book was so sweet and thoughtful, I knew I needed more than a "Thanks, Sarah!" response on Facebook.

I've had two other reviews of my collection, both from fellow authors I know. I've read and review books from both those authors. Now I need to read and review Sarah's books, Maladaptive Bind, and Blood Oath: An Orc Love Story as well as those published in Xchyler's Anthologies. These will be read, hopefully soon. You can access Sarah's blog: HERE.

Thank you Sarah for those beautiful words! And thank you Dave Butler and Craig Nybo--you're all heroes to me!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Peter Paul Prier...A Great Man


I remember the time I first spoke with Mr. Peter Prier on the telephone. It was almost thirty years ago. The next time I spoke with him was in person when he and two of his sons and I went to lunch at Siegfried's Deli. That was maybe ten years ago. Each time I drove past the violin making school in downtown Salt Lake City that he founded, I thought it was pretty cool that I knew such an amazing man.

Truth is, I knew those two sons better. One served with me on an LDS mission in Denmark. The other (the one pictured above...) and I shared many great times while we sang together in a university choir. I met a sister at a writing conference last year and the more I learn about her, the more impressed I became. You can tell about a father by looking at his children.

I used to spend more time with the Priers. They worked downtown and I worked downtown. We'd try and get together at least once a month. I then moved to different offices and they had things happen to them as well. I miss those days, but things have changed. 

Even though I didn't know him all that well, I always looked up to Peter Prier. I admire anyone who dares to dream then works hard to see those dreams fulfilled. Even if he hadn't immigrated from Germany and established an amazing school that created beautiful works of art, I consider him a great man.

On Monday, the family patriarch passed away and it makes me sad. I didn't realize just how young he was. Maybe some of you don't consider 73 as "young," but I do. And even if he were older, any time a father is taken from his family is painful.

So, another chapter of life closes and those who remain must deal with a new reality, a reality without their father and friend. I can only offer my prayers and sympathies. Then again, maybe I can be a better person, someone who dares to dream. Farewell Peter. God's speed.

* Photo used without permission from: http://img.deseretnews.com/images/article/midres/1552478/1552478.jpg

Monday, June 15, 2015

Philip K. Dick's "Blade Runner"...A Book Review

Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)*

A few months back I was a panelist at a writing symposium. The topic: The works of Philip K. Dick. I had read a couple of his works, one of which was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I spotted Blade Runner at the local library so I dowloaded the audiobook, forgetting I had already read the book.

I'm glad I read it again.

Ever since I was on that panel, I have a new-found respect for an author I already thought was amazing. I hope to read many more of his stories in the future.

Blade Runner is a classic in every sense of the word. It's a study not only in human behavior, but in the philosophy of how a society will interact with artificial intelligent life forms of their own creation. The most fascinating part of the book for me was when the book's protagonist, Rick Deckard is taken to a faux police station for questioning. As a bounty hunter Rick's job is to eliminate an advanced android, the Nexus-6. The conversation between Rick, a human, and the police chief, an android is worth the price of admission. What if an android doesn't know it's an android and believes it's human? There are many philosophical questions found throughout the pages.

The world in which the book is set is dreary and grim where the existence of living animals is a rare exception and Rick's desire to obtain something that is alive causes him to make rash decisions. The animals fetch exorbitant prices and their robotic counterparts are expensive as well. I found it interesting that mankind's desire to have animals in the world continues, even if they're counterfeit. They continue to exist, as if technology can overcome the extinction of many species. It makes sense that androids, so life-like that it requires elaborate tests to identify them, interact and live among humans. At least, in the world Philip K. Dick created, it makes perfect sense.

Reading the novel made me want to watch the 1982 classic, but I did not. In a way I'm glad--I like the written story better, and that's saying a lot because the film is stunning. If you haven't read Blade Runner or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, you really should.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/516036.Blade_Runner

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Parable Of The Ten Talents: Opportunity...

The 1 talent was taken from him*

I saw a Facebook post today from one of my social media friends about opportunities. Of course, they didn't use the word "opportunity" when expressing their opinion. And that's okay. The world is filled with different perspectives and different conclusions to the events that happen in the world.

But, her post got me thinking, and it's something I've thought about a lot in my life. And since I've thought about it so much, I imagine most others have too. I think about it when I get passed over for a promotion or a raise. I think about it when I see others progress in their lives and I don't feel I have.

In short, I think about it when I compare myself to others.

Why do we always compare ourselves to those who earn more, have more things, look better, run faster, have bigger homes, fancier cars, cuter kids (okay--I don't compare myself to them, because they can't compare to mine...), to those who get all the breaks and have none of the problems?

Why don't we compare ourselves to those less fortunate, who have less, who make less, who get even fewer breaks than ourselves? The answer is because it's easy to feel sorry for ourselves. It's easy to think there's a dark cloud residing directly over our heads. And things get really ugly when we blame others for the unfairness of life. There will always be those more talented, more fortunate than you. And if that's true, then there will always be those less talented and less fortunate than you.

Maybe it's because it was Sunday, but as these thoughts swam in my brain today, I thought of Christ's Parable of the Talents. Perhaps you know the story. Three men were given talents. One got many, one got some and one got very few. Two of the men worked hard and increased their talents, but the one who was given only one was ashamed and hid his talent from the world. 

I've learned so much from this story.

I've learned that some are given much and some are given little, but all are given some. I've learned that we all have opportunities if we will but take advantage of them. Most importantly, I've learned that God did not make a perfect world and he made all of us imperfect as well--imperfect beings living in an unfair existence. What I need to do now is stop comparing myself to others, stop blaming others when life doesn't go my way. Then maybe I'll see all those talents/opportunities I've been given and realize I've got a lot of work to do.

* Photo taken from the following website: https://www.lds.org/manual/print/new-testament-stories/chapter-48-the-talents?lang=eng

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I Made The Scene Change...

After each play that I've done over the past fourteen months, I've told myself that things will start to slow down after the particular play that I'm in is over.

Somehow, it never seems to work out that way.

In fact, things have gotten busier.

Case in point, after Shrek ended, I was certain I'd have the rest of the spring and summer not being involved in shows. When my friend asked me if I'd help out with Harvey, I said I would as long as I could play the cabbie. He agreed and I was then in another play. Since the cabbie is only in the last five minutes of the production, rehearsals for me were almost non-existent, at least for the first month. Things picked up int he last few weeks, but still--not very stressful.

Then came another performing opportunity, and this one's a paid gig! I was hired by the local amusement park to do a one-man show. It's a total blast and I've blogged about it a lot since I started. Thankfully the director and stage manager of Harvey  have allowed me to come late to the play. Normally I have time to go home, grab a quick bite to eat, take a shower and show up in time to do my scene change at 7:55pm.

On Saturday things change.

Saturday at Lagoon Amusement Park is the busiest day of the week. On Saturdays we do our Rainmaker show at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm and 7pm, which means I cannot get dinner or a shower if I'm to make it to the theater in time to do my one scene change at 7:55pm.

Tonight was the first Saturday night of the Harvey run and the first time I did four shows at Lagoon. After the last show I hurried and changed, dropped off my son and home and hightailed it to the theater. Once there I got changed in my costume and made my scene change with a few minutes to spare.

I've got three more Saturday nights of Harvey performances, so three more times this will be an issue. At least, this one worked out.