Sunday, October 30, 2011

October in a Pumpkin Shell

Usually the phrase goes "in a nutshell", but seeing as it's Halloween I thought "pumpkin shell" was more fitting!  October was another good month to us... as you will see.
  • Brian celebrated his 24th birthday this month!  He and I had lunch up at Thanksgiving Point where we also tried to do a corn maze only to find out that it didn't open to the public until later that evening.  So no corn maze.  We did do some new clothes shopping and invited some of his friends and family to a birthday dinner at Red Lobster.  Part of Brian's birthday present was a new Wii Console that I allowed him to purchase in September, but I also got him a ten-month subscription to Food Network Magazine.
  • Michelle, Brian and I went to a production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, performed by The Grassroots Shakespeare Company.  It was held at the Castle Amphitheater in Provo, UT and it was fantastic... even if it was a bit chilly outside!  The cast managed to create a very low-key but effective atmosphere for this sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying play.
  • My 20-year-old brother Daniel bought an engagement ring and proposed to his girlfriend of two years, Sofia.  A wedding date has not yet been chosen, but we are all happy for the young lovebirds.
  • I got a 15 cent raise at work... which isn't a whole lot to shout about but I guess it's better than nothing!
  • Brian's sister Amy returned from Florida this month (where she was doing an internship at Disney World) and we are very happy to have her back.  It just wasn't the same without her.
  • My block class Professional Considerations for the English Major started this month, which means I am now taking three classes.  I only take it on Mondays and I just have three writing assignments total, so it shouldn't be too hard.  In my Ethics and Values class I had to give a 30-minute presentation on the issue of pornography, which seemed to go really well.  I currently have a high B in the class and hope to bring it up by the end of the semester.  I'm doing the best in British Literature where I have an A (I've scored a perfect 100% on both a test and a paper, which I am very proud of).  I just finished reading Othello for the first time and it was very good!
  • Michelle, Brian and I have been on a Stephen Sondheim kick and have watched recorded productions of Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Passion and Company (with more shows coming through Netflix).  Michelle even got Brian a book about Sondheim for his birthday!
  • My friend Dyann invited Brian and I to a Halloween party and it was a lot of fun.  We arrived dressed as cowboys which made everybody think instantly of the movie Brokeback Mountain!  The party proved to be a lot of fun and we watched Coraline and played the game Curses... which Brian won.  Oh, and we also managed to spill red cream soda on her beige carpet.  Oops.
  • I was able to have lunch with my friend Ryan from Salt Lake City who I don't get to see often, and Brian's cousin Patrick also stopped by for a quick visit after doing the Halloween Marathon down here.  It's always nice to see those you love, which really makes me want to visit my family!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jack of the Month: Jack of the Lantern

Once upon a time in Ireland, there lived a man named Jack—because he’s always named Jack now isn’t he?  And this Jack was known as “Stingy Jack” or “Drunk Jack” or any other lowly and degrading nickname because he was a very bad guy!  He was deceitful, malicious, conniving and always left the toilet seat up.  He was flat-out evil!

So evil, in fact, that the Devil was jealous.  How could a human be so silver-tongued and despicable?  The Devil set out one night to discover if Jack was really as bad as his reputation, and before too long Jack came stumbling drunkenly into the Devil’s path.  Jack thought for sure the Devil had come to collect his soul and he had just one request before being dragged to the fiery pits of Hell:  a last drink of ale (as if he really needed another one).

The Devil thought this seemed perfectly reasonable, so the two went down to a local pub and boozed the night away, playing drinking games and taking jello shots off of saucy Irish wenches.  When their night of debauchery was done, Jack asked the Devil to kindly pay his tab.  That also seemed perfectly reasonable to the Devil, so he said, “Why the heck not?”  Jack made a suggestion though:  “Why don’t you just turn yourself into a coin.  You can do that can’t you?”

Well, everyone knows the Devil can metamorphose into a coin.  Common knowledge.  And for matters of devilish pride, the Devil proved his powers and transformed into a coin.  Jack then snatched up the Devil—in coin form—and stuffed him into his pocket.  His pocket also happened to house a small crucifix, and when the Devil came into contact with it he lost all ability to transform back!

Holding the Devil hostage in his pocket, Jack negotiated his own terms for his inevitable damnation, giving himself ten more years on earth.  I would have asked for more than a decade, but that’s just me.  The Devil agreed so Jack let him go.

Ten years later, the Devil came to collect Jack’s soul.  Jack was all packed up and ready to go to Hell, but he just wanted a quick snack on their way to the airport.  The Devil—nicer than you might think—agreed to climb up a tree to get Jack an apple.  While the Devil was apple-picking in the high branches, Jack surrounded the base of the tree with many crucifixes.  They must have been in his suitcase or something…

The Devil was once again trapped by the ingenious Jack, and this time Jack made him agree to never take his soul to Hell.  The Devil agreed.

Pretty cool huh?  The only problem is that Jack’s way of life didn’t merit him an eternity in Heaven.  So when he died many years later of alcoholism, God wouldn’t let him in through the Pearly Gates.  And since the Devil had promised not to drag him to Hell, Jack couldn’t go there either!  So where does a soul go when it’s not allowed in Heaven or Hell?

It wanders.  As a way of warning others not to follow in his doomed footsteps, Jack roams the world with a small burning ember inside a turnip, forever trapped between good and evil.  For years the Irish have told Jack of the Lantern’s story and carved turnips or potatoes to ward away the evil spirits.  Today we carve them out of pumpkins and call them Jack-o-lanterns.

Moral of the story?  Don’t make deals with the Devil, unless you really really love pumpkins.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Shit Happens

Brian was already asleep on his couch when I came home, his little feet poking out of the bottom of his red checkered blanket.  I gently kissed him on the forehead and went into the bathroom.  It had been a long day.  My friend Michelle and I had gone to Manti to attend a wedding—where we experienced some car problems and other fun adventures—and I felt extremely tired.

Of course I needed to use the restroom before going to bed.  It is a key part of my nightly ritual.  I poop, brush my teeth, then go to bed.  Plain and simple. 

I left the bathroom and tiptoed quietly to the bedroom where I changed out of my dress clothes and into my comfy pajama bottoms.  I turned out the light, crawled into bed and went to sleep.  Well, I tried to go to sleep, but I had this strange feeling in my stomach like I had to go to the bathroom again.  I tossed and turned for twenty minutes or so, arguing with my body and insisting that it really didn’t need to use the facilities.

Although I debated valiantly, I ultimately lost that argument.  I found myself bolting out the door and into the bathroom.  I sat my bare butt on the toilet just in the nick of time and immediately thought of that scene in Bridesmaids where Megan screams “It’s coming out of me like hot lava!”  At least I wasn’t crapping in a sink…

I went back to bed again feeling very strange.  My stomach seemed to be churning butter like some kind of colonial woman (that’s another Bridesmaids reference for those in the know) and a strange heat seemed to be radiating from my buttocks.  Seriously, strange stuff was happening.  Strange stuff!

I managed to fall asleep for an hour or so at a time, experiencing strange hallucinations which eventually ended in me defecating on something or someone embarrassing.  At that point in the dream I would sit up, wide-eyed and fearful, and book it to the bathroom to shoot out liquid fire all over again.  All night long I continued the cycle of fevered sleep and nightmarish crapping.  It was horrible.  I was up at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am… on and on until it was time to get up for work.

From the all-too-familiar perch of the toilet, I sent Michelle a text complaining about the awful night. Lo and behold, she had experienced one very similar.

“Oh my gosh,” I said.  “Do you think we got sick at the wedding?”

“From what?”

“From the luncheon?  We had those pork burritos…”

Later on, checking Facebook, I discovered that Michelle’s brother-in-law Dustin was also sick.  So sick in fact that he was taken to the hospital.  And one by one through telephone calls, text messages, and Facebook statuses it was confirmed that everyone who ate the pork at the wedding had gotten food poisoning.  Some one hundred people, including children and the elderly, were all sick.

“I’m so sorry,” Michelle said to me later on at work, as I was coming back from the restroom.  “It’s all my fault.”

“No, it’s not.  Don’t worry about it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.  Shit happens… literally.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Manti's Good Samaritan

I sat in the passenger seat; Dustin sat in the driver’s seat.  It was a cold October afternoon and we sat side by side in that small car without saying too much to each other.  Two grown men in a small space with just a console between them.  Waiting.

A phone vibrated suddenly and Dustin quickly answered it.  “Yeah.  I went to turn the car on and it just wouldn’t start.  You’re going to have to come get us.  No, I haven’t asked anyone around here for help.  Yes, we’re in a church parking lot.  Yes, people are here.  It’s a funeral it seems.  I’m not going to walk in during a funeral and ask if somebody has jumper cables.”

The call ended and Dustin turned towards the back and smiled sweetly to the baby girl in the car seat.  “McKenzi, Mommy’s going to come rescue us.”

Dustin and I ended up in this strange stranded situation when my friend Michelle asked if I could go to a wedding with her.  I agreed, partly because it sounded like it could be fun and partly because I knew she didn’t want to go alone.  We drove two hours down to a small town called Manti, Utah where the son of her close family friends, the Jacksons, was getting married.

I, of course, couldn’t go into the sealing ceremony at the LDS Manti Temple for religious reasons.  And although Michelle’s brother-in-law Dustin could go in, he volunteered to stay with the baby so that his wife Tori could attend.  That meant that Dustin, baby McKenzi and I were to hang out for an hour or so.

There wasn’t a lot to do in Manti, so we went to a grocery store and browsed the aisles for a while before buying McKenzi a snack.  Once in the car again we were faced with the question of where we could feed her.  We didn’t see any parks, and besides it was so cold.  Eventually we saw an LDS church building and we thought it would be a good idea to just pull into the parking lot and feed McKenzi in the car.

While Dustin fed his one-year-old daughter her cheese and crackers, I got a phone call from my mother.  I talked to her for about twenty minutes, pacing back and forth in the parking lot thankful for the warmth my pea coat provided me with.

“Well, I’m going to let you go,” my mom said at the end of our conversation.  “I don’t want to ruin your fun day.”

And that’s when we discovered the car wouldn’t start again.  It drove to Manti just fine.  It drove to the grocery store and to the parking lot.  But now it was done.  No more driving.  Kaput.

After finally getting ahold of Tori, we waited.  Eventually a teenage boy that I didn’t know showed up and tried to jumpstart the car.  Turned out he was the brother of the groom.  The attempt wasn’t successful and soon after Michelle and her sister showed up.  They laughed at us as we explained how we got to be stranded in a parking lot in Manti.

We all stared at the engine, pretending like we had any idea what we were doing.  We put in some coolant.  That we could do.  It didn’t help of course.  And so pathetic we must have looked that a complete stranger pulled into the parking lot in a multi-colored car.

“Do you guys need some help?”

“Well,” said Dustin.  “The car won’t start for some reason.  We tried to jumpstart it but it didn’t work.”

“Yeah, we’re supposed to be at a wedding right now,” said Tori.

The man had left his car by this time and was standing with the rest of us.  “I could try to completely charge the battery at my shop.  Do you trust me enough to take the battery with me?  You guys can head back to the wedding.”

We all looked at each other.  A stranger we just met wanted to take something of ours, fix it, and bring it back while we were gone.  A stranger.  A man we just met.  To reiterate, he was somebody we did not know from Adam.

“Sure,” said Tori.

And so the four of us—five including McKenzi—all piled into Michelle’s two-door and drove back to the wedding.  Dustin eventually returned to check on the car while the rest of us enjoyed the luncheon.  It turned out that a spark plug needed to be replaced, which the man bought and installed free of charge.

Manti may not be the most happening town, but it’s probably the last place you will find a kind-hearted person who is willing to help those in need without the slightest thought of what he might get in return.  

To Manti's Good Samaritan, thank you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie Reviews: Courageous Lions Sure Kill Dreams!

More movie reviews!  That’s three consecutive days of movie reviews now and I’m sure you are getting tired of them.  But it’s like a sickness.  I just can’t stop watching movies!  Anyway, I saw The Lion King 3D a few weeks ago but completely forgot about it until now.  I think it’s because it’s not a “new” movie.  But the other three were all within the past week.  In fact, I saw Courageous just yesterday.  Now I can say that I’ve seen every movie currently playing at the theater I work at!  Is that impressive or pathetic?

The Lion King 3D AWESOME!

Who hasn’t seen Disney’s 1994 hit The Lion King?  I’m pretty sure the vast majority probably even owns it on VHS or DVD somewhere.  Yet Disney’s re-release of Simba’s story to the big screen—this time in 3D—was pretty breathtaking to behold!  The 3D was tasteful and really helped me to appreciate the beauty of the animation and the drama of the tale.  Featuring great voice talent (Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg to name a few), spectacular songs by Tim Rice and Elton John and a score by Hans Zimmer, this movie is well worth a revisit!

Dream House AVERAGE

Daniel Craig stars as Will Atenton, a man who has left the city and just bought his dream house with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and two young daughters.  Everything seems perfect, until they discover their new home was once the crime scene of a brutal murder.  The only one who seems to know anything about it is their neighbor Ann (Naomi Watts).  Things get even weirder as the movie progresses, and the final plot twist was completely underwhelming.  Dream House, written by screenwriter David Loucka and directed by Jim Sheridan, isn’t scary or particularly inventive.  It’s kind of like last year’s Shutter Island, just less good.

Killer Elite AVERAGE

Jason Statham plays Danny, a retired special-ops agent, who is forced to kill again when his mentor Hunter (Robert DeNiro) is taken captive by a sheik.  If Danny can assassinate three individuals responsible for the deaths of the man’s three sons, Hunter will be let free.  Things of course get complicated, especially since the leader of a secret military group (Clive Owen) is hot on Danny’s tracks.  The movie wasn’t fantastic by any means, but there was solid action that kept the movie going, especially one particular sequence where Statham manages to fight two guys off while tied to a chair.  Pretty cool stuff if you turn your brain off for a while.

Courageous ADMIRABLE

Alex Kendrick is the writer, director and leading actor of this Christian film about a group of cops who make a pact to become better fathers after Adam (Kendrick’s character) loses his daughter in a terrible accident.  While at times laying on the cheese in cringe-worthy doses—especially with a storyline involving a Hispanic man and his wife, who incidentally cannot act worth a hill of beans—the message was very spiritual and impactful if not subtle.  Overcoming my cynical inclinations, I found myself enjoying this movie greatly despite its flaws.  The film courageously campaigns for more Christlike parenting in the world today, and that’s something I can get behind.

You can read Brian's review of Dream House at his blog Addiction to Film.

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!


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