Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Peter Orullian's "The Sound Of Broken Absolutes"...A Book Review

Last February I bought a book from an author I've wanted to read for a few years. We were at the LTUE writing symposium and all the authors were hawking their goods. I didn't have enough cash to buy one of his bigger novels, so he suggested I pick up The Sound of Broken Absolutes, and I'm glad I did. It's a great little story.

Peter packs a lot into his novella. It shares the same world as many of his stories so I feel confident I'll enjoy those as well. Peter has an extensive background in music. We were even on a panel at one of the Salt Lake Comic Cons discussing music and writing. It's evident from the first page of this story his musical background greatly affects his writing. The story is basically a tale of two men, a student and a teacher. And it opens with the destruction of a precious instrument. 

As with most quality stories, something like a musical instrument represents more than the obvious. We begin a journey where a man turns his back on his past and prepares for war. Yes, there is a war in this story and the most devastating weapon is the human voice. The student must use his talents to inflict death on the enemy, which he does.

Using the power of a voice to kill as a plot device has been done before, most notably in Frank Herbert's Dune. But Orullian kicks it up a notch by using his vast knowledge of music to make us believe a song can literally inflict death.

I love when authors include personal information in their works. Peter gives us a little background as to how this story came to be. It helped me understand a writer I've admired for some time a little bit better.

This is a fast read, only a hundred or so pages, but like I said earlier, there's a lot in this story. You can order the book: HERE, and it's only a buck on Kindle. If you're not familiar with his work and you'd like to enter a world full of creative possibilities, give this one a shot. I did and I want to read more.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Doodling...And Other Church Time Activities

Yesterday in church we had a discussion about some of the disadvantages (and advantages...) of having electronic devices becoming so prominent in our lives. It's funny because almost all of us were using our phones during the meeting. Actually, they had some good advice. Heaven help us if all our electrics no longer worked.

I looked over and sitting next to me was my seventeen-year old son. Did he have a smartphone? Did he have an iPad or a PS3?

Nope--he had an old fashioned distractive device.

A pad of paper and a pencil.

Son's rocking it old school.

Over the past couple of months, my son has taken up drawing. He's loving it and I know I'm biased, but some of what he's come up with is pretty good. He uses a method where he draws basically a doodle then looks at it a while until something forms. He said a lot of the drawings he's done in church turn out to be animals.

So, pick your poison--pencil or pixel. I choose the latter, but if I had talent (and patience...), I'd prefer the former.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Stephen King's "The Green Mile"...A Book Review


There are some books that just everyone knows. It helps when they make a blockbuster movie based on the book and headline it with one of America's favorite movie stars. It also helps when the author is one of the most successful writers in the world.

But even with all those things going for it, there are still some who haven't read The Green Mile or seen the movie.

I am one of those people, or I was until last week. That's when I finished the book. 

For years I could not figure out why it was called The Green Mile. I knew it was set in a prison and Tom Hanks played a prison employee. I also knew that one inmate was on death row and he possessed some sort of magical abilities. That premise sounds promising so when the book came available at the library, I checked it out.

I found out why the book is named The Green Mile. If you're one of the few who still don't know, it's because the tiles on the floor of the prison are green, and those who are condemned to die must pass over those tiles to reach the electric chair. It's a story of redemption, where criminals aren't the only thing that dies...innocence dies, too.

In graduate school we studied a lot of classic writers. They're held in such high esteem, they're almost untouchable. I know that many of today's successful writers are never put in the same category as writers like Hemingway or Faulkner, Steinbeck or Melville, and the list goes on and on.

I haven't read everything Stephen King has ever written, but I've read enough to know he is a good writer. He creates believable characters that you root for, empathize with, love, and hate. And I think King should be included in any discussion of great American writers, past or present. 

One thing that helps define a good writer is staying power. Of course, no one knows the future, but I'll bet that in one-hundred years people will still be reading these books and they'll be rooting for, emphasizing with, loving, and hating Paul Edgecomb, John Coffey, and all the others.

Yes, this is a fantastic story--something (almost...) everyone knows.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11566.The_Green_Mile?from_search=true&search_version=service

Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day...Earlier Every Year

Both my wife and I heard it was we drove to my part-time gig. A radio message from the DJ wishing us a good Memorial Day.

"Can you believe it?" I said. "I mean, it's only Friday afternoon." I turned to my wife and she was thinking the same thing.

"It comes earlier every year," she said.

I couldn't agree more.

Each year, we just live our lives, fulfill our day-to-day responsibilities and before you know it, it's Memorial Day. It arrives quick enough without the need to hurry it along. Normally, we'd go into the store on the Saturday before and we'd see the flowers and the flags, which is soon enough, but I'll bet you a dozen doughnuts that if I went into any store right now, Friday night, I would see flowers for sale along with barbecue supplies and little flags to adorn the graves.

The way things are going, we'll probably see sales for furniture and the increase in gasoline prices as early as the Thursday before. I mean, when, oh when will this madness end?

We saw kids heading home from school as we drove, kids who will enjoy the holiday by not attending class. Do they realize that only a mile away stores are stocking extra cases of soda and beer for something that won't take place for days...days. It's almost unimaginable.

And then I came home from work and realized I flew the flag today. The draw to celebrate earlier and earlier got to me without me even realizing it.

Yes, I suppose it's the world in which we live, a world where commercialism and the need to sell more stuff trumps common sensibilities. My only hope is those kids will one day see a time when things will make more sense. We can hope.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mom-In-Law's Sweet Rolls...

The other day my mother-in-law stopped by and she brought over a freshly-made tin of sweet rolls. And boy! Were they good! 

That's not a question, but a definitive statement--they were good.

My kids have made sweet rolls for us in the past, and we've even found some sweet rolls that we like--a multi-stacked pack from Costco. If you've had them, you know what I mean. They're pretty tasty, too.

But my kid's grandmother's will give all those others a run for their money. Ever since I met my wife, my mother-in-law has always been a phenomenal baker and cook. Of course, when I met my wife, my mother-in-law (she was my future mother-in-law at that point...) had had a lot of practice. She raised four kids--my wife was the youngest. And she was a working mother, having earned her degree a little later than most.

But cooking and baking weren't her only skills. She also excelled in housekeeping and especially gardening and yard work. Again, if you've seen her yard, you know what I'm talking about. She keeps up those skills to this day. The sweet rolls testified of that.

So, when I met my future mother-in-law she was kind of like a "Super Mother-in-Law."

And she still is! Thanks, Carol--for everything!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Kenneth Branagh's "Wallander"...A Great Show!

The other day we stumbled upon a BBC show called Wallander. It's a British re-boot of an original Swedish show based on a character of the same name in a series of novels written by Henning Mankell.

And it's fantastic!

At least, the British version is. I imagine the Swedish series is good as well, but I don't know. In what I can tell is a collaboration between Kenneth Branagh and several involved in the Swedish television industry this series is so well done. Watching it I'm reminded of why I enjoy dramas produced by the BBC. They're smart. They're engaging, and they are not afraid to allow the story to develop. 

An American television drama is about forty minutes long, sans commercials. The episodes of Wallander we've seen so far are at least ninety minutes without commercials. The commercials, I don't mind. If this series was on here I'd set aside two hours and sit through (or DVR and skip through the commercials at a later time...) this show. It's worth it.

Another plus is the cinematography. The show is set in the southern-most part of Sweden. I'm familiar with the landscape--it's basically the same as Denmark where I lived for a couple of years. But they take time to show you just how beautiful the country is. The close-ups and reactions of the talented actors is great as well. There was one scene where an older woman is being interviewed and she is being asked to think about a difficult time in her life. The shot must have lasted ten seconds and I loved every bit of it.

If I have a criticism it's that many of the women on the show don't necessarily look Swedish. I imagine many of the woman look like the Danes I lived with. I could be wrong, of course, and I realize most, if not all, of the principle actors are British. They just don't look Scandinavian to me, but even this minor point cannot dampen my enthusiasm for the show. Funny, but the men either look Swedish enough, or could pass as such. Maybe we're just sexist.

If you like slow, well-developed crime dramas and you haven't already heard of this one, give Wallander a try. I think you'll agree with me.

All screenshots used without permission from the Wallander series on BBC.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

If You're On Instagram...You SHOULD Follow Jordy Collins!

Back, oh...thirty-one years ago, I met a surfer from California. He was probably the first surfer I had ever met in my life. I did not meet him on the beach or in college, but on a train platform in Odense, Denmark. 

Not a lot of surfing in Denmark, though some do surf there.

The surfer was Daren Collins and he waited for me to get off a train with all my earthly possessions in two suitcases. Both of us wore suits, ties, and black name tags. For the next two months we served together as missionaries for the LDS church, and we've been friends ever since.

Unfortunately, Daren and I haven't seen much of each other in the past thirty-one years. Both of us got married and raised kids. Part of the miracle that is social media is being able to follow your friends and their families and seeing what they're up to.

And on Facebook yesterday my friend asked the digital world to help out his son, who is following in his father's footsteps. Jordy just won the Boys West Coast Champion Under 17 title and he's looking for more Instagram followers.

So, if you're on Instagram (which I know many of you are...), search jordy_collins and give the kid a follow. You're supporting a great surfer and he's posted some beautiful pictures. You know, I've never met Jordy, but if he's anything like his father, he's a total stud!

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Legendarium Podcast And The Legend Of Zelda...Good Stuff!

Zelda Social

If you're a fan of the Zelda video game series, check out this week's The Legendarium Podcast. You will be glad you did.

Personally, I could not fully appreciate this particular episode for a couple of reasons. First, I don't play a lot of video games. The last console I played games on was the Super NES. I know, I know...I'm a goober, but sometimes you must decide between buying/upgrading video game systems and games or feeding your family.

"You chose wisely." Grail Knight

The other reason others will enjoy this podcast episode more than me is because I've only played two Zelda games in my life, the classic, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and the Game Boy version, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. I do know my kids have played several versions of the Zelda franchise and they love them. 

I did play the game enough to appreciate the music the cool dudes at The Legedarium Podcast included in this episode. Even thought I haven't played many versions of the game, when I hear that music, it brings back good memories. I really do like the game.

So, if you have kept up with the game, or if you're like me and haven't played it in a long time, check out their episode. If you want to listen, just click on the link (sorry...) to the podcast: HERE. As always, good job Legendarium guys!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Enjoying Google's Chromecast...Finally

A few years ago we bought a little techie device called the Google Chromecast. We were so excited about the possibilities. And, it was so cheap, $35 back then. We bought it at Best Buy, and plugged it in as soon as we got home. After a little time trying to figure it out, we logged on to a website and hit the rectangle box to start our entertaining enjoyment.

Well, it didn't quite work.

And we were bummed.

The darn video kept buffering. We tried casting the video from my wife's computer first. Her's is not the most current laptop and so we thought her computer might be the cause of the buffering. We tried it with our Kindles--still buffering issues. My laptop's newer, but it didn't fix the problem.

We ended up unplugging the Chromecast and putting it in the drawer. Every now and again we'd try it, but the result stayed the same.

And then one day, we tried it again, last Friday night, actually. And wouldn't you know it--the darn thing worked perfectly. It worked so well, it was still a technological miracle years old even though it was several years old. How many things can you say about that?

Why the difference? Why did it work this time and not all the times before? It seems the Chromecast technology always worked, but our problem was the lack of a decent internet modem. Since the last time we tested it out and last Friday, we replaced our old, out-of-date modem with a shinny new one.

And that (quoting Robert Frost) has made all the difference. I guess having the latest and greatest sometimes isn't everything.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dave Butler's "Devil Sent The Rain"...A Book Review


You know, I thought I knew about the Rock Band that fights evil between gigs--even during gigs--but I was only kidding myself. I've read three Rock Band Fights Evil books so I assumed the fourth installment of the series would be more of the same.

I suppose Devil Sent the Rain possessed some qualities of its fellow books. There's a rock band that fights evil. The band members were all the same and they fight gruesome monsters, but what I didn't see coming was the band fighting monsters while trying to escape from being trapped inside a giant human being, that may or may not be one of the musicians. Then Gods show up to finish off the band, once and for all.

Yeah, it's like that.

But it's so much more. To escape the six-legged creatures that were once music listeners, the band turns to their keyboardist, Adrian, their lovable narcoleptic wizard. He tries a spell that lands everyone inside what is first thought to be a house, but then turns out to be a person. Personally, I don't believe I've wondered what it would be like for a tiny human to try and escape being inside a large human, but Butler's book gives me a taste of what it might be like.

And I thank him for that.

As other books have highlighted a specific character, in this one we learn more about Adrian. We learn about how he became a wizard, the good and the very bad. Butler's ability to make us believe and care for these characters is on full display in this book. 

My advice: pick up the book or download the digital copy and just let the story take you. Don't overthink it, just enjoy. It's a story like you've never read before, a fun ride!

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13608540-devil-sent-the-rain?ac=1&from_search=true

Friday, May 20, 2016

Looking For Work? Panda Express Is Hiring...

Tonight, my wife pointed out a poster in the window of a local business we walked by. Apparently, they're hiring. It's a fast food place, so the fact that they're hiring is not unusual. The poster pointed out (literally...) the company is not just hiring front-line workers, but Assistant Mangers and even General Mangers.

"So I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious." Kip Dynamite

We see the Now Hiring signs everywhere, to the point where we almost don't see them. My oldest son returned from his LDS mission in February. Before he left he worked at a fast food place. The first thing we did the day after he got home was to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After the movie, his grandparents took us all out to eat. I remember we drove past about ten restaurants and every one one of them advertised for help. From the back seat, we'd hear, "Hey, that place is hiring." Followed by, "That place is hiring, too." It made me see the Now Hiring signs possibly for the first time. 

Even at the food preparation establishments where they are not advertising for new employees, just tell them you're interested and a position will open up pretty soon I imagine. The sign we saw tonight said that a General Manager could earn $48K/year.

Is that a lot? Some might say it's too much. Some (especially those who work in the industry...), might say it's not enough. I've worked in a couple of restaurants in my life and I can't even begin to imagine how difficult a job like that actually is.

I don't want you to think I'm saying that all the people not working should rush out and get these jobs. For starters, not everyone can do the job. Some are just not "people people." They'd fail miserably. Others are not organized enough to keep up with the pace. But, the poster gave me information I didn't know, that some of these places are paying a pretty good wage for a pretty tough job.

"That's all I have to say about that." Forrest Gump

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Motivational Posters...What Do They Say To You?

At my full-time job, I recently transferred to a new building. It takes a little getting used to, working at a new place, getting to know the new co-workers, hoping the microwave ovens work with a semblance of reliability.

But the biggest change to this new building is the fact that there are motivational posters EVERYWHERE!

This is a closed-to-the-public building so, unfortunately, you are unable to visit to see exactly what I'm talking about. But I'm assuming that if you've worked in a professional building at any point in your career, there's a good chance you've seen them before. You know what I'm talking about.

Now, I have an opinion about a place that puts up a ton of motivational posters and since this is my employer we're talking about, I'm not going to express that opinion on this blog. I'd be interested, however, to know what any of you might think about those motivational posters.

Do they work?

Are you motivated when you see/read these things?

Or do you see them and dismiss them wishing they were those De-motivational Posters that are hilarious?

Personally, I have an opinion...

And I'm not going to tell you what it is here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Future...How Do You Feel It Will Go?

It's easy to be pessimistic about the future. We're inundated with horror stories about the lack of water, the depletion of resources, of wars, famines, terrorism, disease. And the list goes on and on. One reason (I believe...) is because that's all we hear about. The news gets higher ratings when it spreads stories promoting those topics.

But I watched a Reason.TV podcast today (you can watch it: HERE) that introduced some facts into the discussion of how bad off are we. They talked with several Venice Beach residents and asked them how they felt about certain subjects. Mostly they asked if they felt the future would be better or worse based on their perception of the facts as they knew them. It was interesting to hear how they felt--I imagine many feel the same way. 

Reason.TV debunked the popular opinion that we are worse off and they highlighted several areas in which people are concerned: violent crime, urban population, food production, the sale of guns producing a more violent society, etc. And they talked a little about how life used to be. I know these were only a select number of topics, but the facts showed that our society is doing better than the perception in many areas. We have good reason to be optimistic, rather than the opposite.

We many times forget about the past and how many changes have improved our lives. Maybe it's just human nature to focus on the bad. We live in the most amazing time in human history, and since everything has an opposite, if the bad in the world is extremely bad, then we're failing to see how amazing is the good. Personally, I think I'll just stop watching the news.

All screenshots used without permission from the Reason.TV Podcast Yes, The World is Getting Better; Here's Why