Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is America the Best?

Now that the Olympics are over, and the medal count has been counted up, we see that order is restored in the universe. Kobe, Lebron, CP3, and D-Wayne have brought back gold for USA basketball. Micheal Phelps consumed more calories in a day than a Chinese household does in a week. And the United States won the medal count by 10 medals (110 to China's 100). But wait!!

China won more gold medals than the United States! How can this be? Wait, aren't we supposed to be the gold-medal winning medal-count winning powerhouse? Next thing you know, McDonalds is going to serve healthy food!


In my mind though, this begs a much larger question. Is America the "best?" Are we truly the greatest nation? And what does that all mean?

With our economy being crippled from rising gas prices (I'm trying not to think about the winter, with natural gas prices), and the dollar weakening worse than my willpower when I get a whiff of McDonald's fries, are we really the "greatest," or the "best?"

I'm no scholar or expert...I call it like I see it...and it seems as though this sentiment began after WWII. We entered the 1950's, we were secure, the GI's were beginning their families, and life was happy. As we began a cold war with the USSR, we pushed to be "the best"...the first man on the moon, we were in huge competitions with the Ruskies as to who had the most medal counts, thus giving us bragging rights as the "best" for the next 4 years.

Yet now, there is no more USSR. Russia is still just as scary as it was 25 years ago (even more scary, in my not-so-humble opinion, because I don't think we're paying as close attention to them as we should). We have China, which got a huge love fest from NBC and all the news stations that were invited. India, who are continuing to grow and grow. Korea is becoming more and more of a global player. And there's the United States.

I don't know if we're the best. I do know 3 things (for frequent readers, if you haven't noticed, my mind has to work in threes. If I don't have three reasons for something, I can't write about it...just a heads-up):

1. Without an operational definition of what "The Best" is, we'll never know. Do we have the best education? In grade school, I don't think so, but post-secondary education we are the best.

2. Don't think I'm downplaying the United States. We have the opportunities that might not be afforded in other countries. While living in Korea I ignorantly asked a Korean man, who was complaining about his job, "Why don't you switch jobs?" He told me that Korea isn't like America. You work at one job your entire life. You don't "switch." That's just not the way that careers are. But in America, it's commonplace to switch from job to job (notice the absence of pensions at many jobs as evidence of this).

3. I don't know if I'd say we're the "Best," because I need hard proof and specifics. But I will say we do set up a standard (like it or not, Americans, and like it or not, foreigners). Why do you think Microsoft and Apple are HQ'ed in America? What about Google? WalMart? Why do you think American movies are so popular overseas? Or many international athletes train here? We have an unwritten role to stand up as that standard.

**Random side note - I ALMOST pulled a TAMN and said we aren't the Best, but we are the Blest. Here I am, looking out for your financial well being by not having you smash your face into a computer monitor due to my attempt at being clever**

So no, I don't think we are the best, because we can't define that. But I do think we put forth a standard to the rest of the world. If that makes me a fat American who only thinks about McDonalds and having Chinese labor workers make $0.02 per day while stiching my jeans, so be it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Can't I Hate You?!?!, or, Finishing Twilight

I did it. I finished Twilight, the international phenomenon by Mrs. Meyer. And in all honesty, it wasn't as bad as I thought.

I can hear your gasps now, and hear all of you falling off your chairs

I know, pick yourself up off the floor. I enjoyed a femmy, mushy, love story. Aside from the fact that she decided to take a different view of vampires, I found myself wrapped up in it.

But I won't tell you about the story, or about Belle as a typical 17-year old, or Charlie as the overprotective father...

I do want to talk about WHY it was enjoyable, and answer a question that was posed to me.

I find that there are 3 reasons why I didn't want to rip my eyeballs out while reading.

1. It was a story written about teenagers in high school. While in my mature 24-year old world I scoff at the "first kiss" and holding hands for the first time and the ever present area of crushes, I found this book to be transporting me back to high school. She wrote in from a girl's perspective, which is filled with the mushy details that girls love (and crave, something that my wife is still working on with getting me to participate), and while I did get bored in the middle of the book, the game of cat-and-mouse that they play brought back reminisces of high school love.

2. Vampires rock. That's all I have to say. I found the scenes where he was threading the line between human and vampire to be quite telling of the feelings we all have, doing the right thing compared to doing what we want to do. Not wanting to get all literary (because Ashley would eat me for lunch), but I did enjoy that

3. Going along with the vampires theme, she tried to do something different. Love or hate the character of Bella or Edward, love or hate the story, or the circumstances, she tried to break out of the box. Not a blatantly Mormon book (unless people know), but also not a book where she relies on the cliches of vampires and teenage love.

From Chelsey:

Let's talk about Twilight after you finish it.... I am betting you will find Bella as annoying as I did.

The annoyance I did find with Bella was the immaturity and wishy-washy-ness that goes with teenagers.



What I did find to be the utmost of annoyance is her constantly wanting to be turned into a vampire. For example, the end of the book when she tells Edward that she was kind of hoping that her getting all dressed up was for him turning her into a vampire, I wanted to scream at her. Again, at the time I was thinking "You are so stupid girl, why would you WANT to be a vampire, if other than to be with Edward?"

I thought about it more, and it really does show the immaturity and impulsiveness of teenagers. She took no thought as to how she would survive, how it took Carlisle decades of self-control and perseverance to practice medicine and be around blood, how she has no comprehension of the intoxicating power than humans can put off (according to Edward and James), and has no clue the struggle that Edward goes through.

But is that not a teenager? I did so much stupid crap when I was a teenager, not looking at the effect that it could have on the future. In all honesty, I should be either dead, in jail, or working at a 7-11 (is that really that bad of a career choice? Slurpees every single day? I SUBMIT IT IS NOT!) So while I did get annoyed with her (and her over-emphasis and over-analyzation of ever nuance), in a sense I appreciate it, because I think she captures what every teenage girl thinks. Which would explain why it's such a huge hit for teenies.


What's next on tap for me?

Reading - Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life - The Authorized Biography of Hugh Nibley by Boyd Jay Peterson (his son-in-law)...very good so far, with many anecdotes into his life and many wonderful stories about the man, myth, and legend

Watching - Now that the Olympics are over, I should probably catch up on TV shows for the upcoming fall season, but I'll probably end up being glued to the tube for the Democratic National Convention this week in Denver

Listening To - The newcomers into Radio and Record's Top 20, which include a debut by Archuletta called "Crush," a great diddy by Saving Able called "Addiction," and a rocker by my boy Daughtry called "What About Now." Ashley just told me that Chris has taste...and I was confused. She said that her and Chris Daughtry were so close that they had a first name, not a last name, basis going. Jim Rome is back from vaycay this week, and also I'm going to overload on Glenn, Rush, and Sean with the DNC happening tomorrow.

Questions, suggestions, or opinions that you want addressed can be emailed to brandt(dot)malone(at)gmail.com

Friday, August 22, 2008

Authoritarianism, Politics, Ego, and You!

With all the time off from school, I've been able to catch up on much that I've missed. Most importantly, I've been able to catch up with all the news that I've missed out on being in classes and what not.

For example, the Tigers (barring an improbable comeback a la the 2007 Rockies), they are out of the playoffs. Some guy named Michael Phelps can swim pretty fast. Gas is expensive. Stephanie Meyer is apparently J.K. Rowling's heir apparent. And John McCain is old.

Props to JibJab for the SNL grab.

I've also been able to catch up on all the latest comings and goings of a certain election that's nigh unto vital. And while I've been doing my best to listen to each side's argument (while agreeing with one side in particular), I'm amazed when I listen to people talk politics.

Perhaps I should add a caveat. I'm amazed when I listen to people talk politics AROUND HERE RECENTLY.

CIP - case in point (I've begun to limit my use of words because I find them tedious). Exhibit one occurs in a class I had in school. There was one that would, with his loud voice that would talk over everyone, spout off his political ideals and thoughts, very one-sided (read: conservative republican) while disparaging the other (liberal democrat). It's almost as if he found those who didn't have his same expectations of politics to be sinners!

Exhibit 2: Wednesday night at Coldstone I overheard a man talking to a woman next to him (presumably a date) about ANWR and drilling for oil. He seemed to be reverberating what he'd heard conservatives say (it's a small portion where we want to drill, blah blah blah). But the way he said it sounded so authoritative, as if there could be no other alternatives.

Exhibit 3: A case study - a guy that I worked with had an Obama '08 sticker that he placed on his backpack. When I asked him if he was an Obama supporter, he laughed and told me he wasn't supporting anyone. I asked him why he bought the sticker. He said he wanted to see people's reactions to it. I asked him if he'd gotten any interesting ones, and he told me that he had someone tell him that he wasn't worthy to hold a temple recommend if he supported Obama. Wait...seriously? The best part was he didn't even know the guy...it was some random dude on campus.

Now this isn't about bi-partisanship, or choosing the best for our nation. This is actually about the way people discuss politics. Maybe, due to the 2006 article by Salon.com stating that we were the "Reddest" city in the country, people forget that there are others who might not share their outlook. Or perhaps it's because we have a strong Republican stronghold here (check the numbers for Mitt Romney's visit to Idaho Falls last summer). Or maybe people know that Jesus votes Republican (...that should stir up some comments).

Here's my theory. Ashley's proud of me that I remember what she talks about (reference that one Klondike bar commercial..."Dan listened to his wife's story...give that man a Klondike bar). I mentioned that I think that the problem I have with these people is two-fold. One, they are regurgitating what they've heard on talk-radio and Fox News. I guess I'm a victim of that. I do that a lot, but I try to find what do I think, not what Rush, or Glenn, or Sean, or Michael (Medved), Laura (Ingrahm), or Ann (Coulter).

The second part is about ethos. Oh you didn't know? Ethos is "how the character and credibility of a speaker influence an audience to consider him to be believable. " (thank you Ashley). Basically what credibility does Joe Sixpack have when he states how small of an area that he wants to drill in ANWR is? Or about how he feels that anyone who supports Obama should have his temple recommend revoked? Or any of the republican rhetoric?

There is a flip side to ethos: Rush, Sean, Laura, Glenn, Ann, Michael, they all have ethos. While they might not be poli-sci majors, or political geniuses, they ARE credible because they are given a public medium to state their feelings and opinions, and their credibility comes through their ratings and respect from their constituents.

What's the solution? Easy. Take a page out of Covey's 7 Habits book.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Instead of spouting off Republican responses to talking books, tell me why YOU think drilling in ANWR is right. Answer my questions honestly, not with an agenda, or Republican rhetoric. Tell me why YOU think we should stay in Iraq. Or why you think that universal health care is bad. But you must establish yourself as a credible source. You must have that ethos. If you're spouting off what you've heard others say, without observing all angles, you're ignorant. But if you, after sincerely studying those issues, feel that way, more power to you. This is America. We can do what we want. We have hot dog eating contests broadcast on ESPN. We have the greatest basketball team in the world (I know it's preemptive, but it's true). We have world class swimmers that consume 12,000 calories per day. You can think how you'd like (even though you're wrong...)

And don't worry democrats, you're not off the hook. Just wait till I start posting about the DNC.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Overdue and Undercooked

Let me get the personal stuff out of the way...

#1. We are officially moved into our new place. It's still in Rexburg (sadly), but it's a nice place, a lot more room, air conditioning, a washer/dryer, and FULL UNBRIDLED ACCESS to the INTERNET!

#2. That being said, yours truly transported his entire apartment (which, contrary to what his father thinks, did NOT consist of 3 boxes) with naught but his God-given strength and a Chevy Tracker. That's right, that feeling you have is jealousy, and don't worry, it's normal.

#3. I need to finish some books. Right now, on my iPod, I have:

  • Obama Nation by Jerome R. Corsi
  • The Case Against Obama by David Fredosso
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
  • The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks
  • Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman
  • Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt
  • Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva

and that's not including the radio (Jim Rome, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and sometimes Dr. Laura). Ashley thinks I'm a dork (you need to have more music on there)

Now for the post.

The Introduction of the United States to Swimming?

I'm biased. I will say that first. I swam varsity for 4 years in high school, I played polo for my last 2 years, I swam for a semester here at college, and I'm anxiously awaiting for when I can get out of Rexburg to start swimming USS Masters. With that out of the way, I am very impressed with this year's coverage of swimming.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, I didn't pay much attention. Probably because we didn't have cable, probably because I didn't care that much, but I didn't watch very much. In 2004, I was on my mission in Korea, and it really wasn't feasible to watch swimming. Yet this year, I've been absolutely drawn.

There's many different reasons why I'm drawn. Perhaps its because track doesn't start till later in the year. Or because Peter Vanderkaay, a dude I swam a few meets against (and got my butt slammed in), is in his 2nd straight Olympics. Maybe it's Dara Torres, 41 years old, winning a silver in the 4x100 relay. Maybe it's Brenden Hansen vs. Kosuke Kitajima in the 100m breaststroke for redemption. Or maybe, just maybe, it's one Michael Phelps going for 8 golds this year.

Every time Phelps swims, I'm intrigued. I'm drawn to the charisma he has when he swims, and the dominance he brings to the sport. Do I think he's going to do it? No. I think he'll tie Spitz's record, which is an achievement all in itself, but 8 will be difficult. I think he can do it in the individual events, and while he's got a Gold in the 4x100m relay (which was spec-friggin-tacular), it was a bit close. He's still got 2 more relays (4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100 medley relay). But the problem that's going to happen is the relays take the control out of your hands.

From a former swimmer, here's the perspective. When swimming individually, you have control. If you are Phelps, you can take the pace you want. You can start out fast, try to get people to chase and tire them out. You can have the flip turns the way you want, and when it's individual, you have the control over that last integral 25 meters.

In a relay, all you can do is cheer. You do your part, get out, and watch, and hope that they can keep up the pace you've set or the ground that you've made up. He doens't have control. And what would make me worried (if I were Phelps) was how close the 4x100m relay was.

So my prediction: Phelps will tie the record that Spitz set in the 72 Olympics in Munich, but won't get the 8 golds to give him the record.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On A Happier Note

Just a heads up - we're down in Utah until Wednesday, so my posting is most likely going to be sporadic. I have a few ideas that I'm still working out, but be patient

It's pretty sad out there. I'm looking at the latest headlines from the best news website, The Drudge Report, and here's what he's got on there:

NYC lawyer suing DELTA for $5 million over stressful flight...
Cancer chief sees cell phone risks...
Airport Shock: TSA Agents Force Woman To Remove Nipple Rings; Pull Down Pants Of Disabled Man...
Bank Accused Of Giving Counterfeit Money To Customers...
Man jailed after allegedly stealing 42-cents from mall fountain...
TOYOTA beats GM in worldwide sales... (sad one for my dad, who's a 20 year GM worker)

And that's just a few of them. But I was laying in bed thinking about some happy stories that we as a people need to hear.

1. We bought our kitties from a Four Paws shelter. This woman rescues kittens from pounds, where they would be put to sleep, and nurses them back to health and tries to give them to good homes. She told us about how particular she can be, because these kitties become her babies, and she wants them to have a good life. Luckily we passed her test, but she told us about a trip to Idaho Falls she had taken. She had gotten contacted by someone who was interested in having a kitten. As she got the directions, and drove down there, she noticed it was in kind of a rough area. She looked at her kitty and told her "Don't worry, I'm not going to let him take you, we're going to go back to Rexburg, don't worry, I'm not going to give you to him." She finds his apartment, and before she walks in his door, she notices it's kind of run down. Frankly, it's an apartment that a single man has if he doesn't have a lot going in his life. This man invited her into his apartment, and she immediately noticed that he had a biker's look to him (long hair, scraggly beard, a bit overweight). She talked with him, and as she talked, her heart was softened. He proudly showed her that he went to the store, bought his new kitten a kitty litter box, a food and water dish, a place for the kitty to sleep, and toys. He seemed so worried that the kitty would like it, if there was something that he was missing, and if this would be ok. As she told us this story, she was half in tears as she humbly stated to us that at first glance, she didn't think this guy would be right for her baby. But as she realized how much he cared about this new addition to his family, and how alone he really was (he was 35, dead-end job, and looking for company), she knew that he needed the kitty more than the kitty needed him. He now has totally cleaned up (clean-shaven, short hair), and her statement was "That little kitten saved his life, and gave him something to look forward to every day. That kitty depended on him, which made his life worth something."

Moral: Find something that makes your life worth living. Whether it be a little kitty who depends on you and loves you, or a family who can't wait to see daddy come home, your life is precious to someone

NOTE: This is what was told to me by Ashley, so any mistakes in historical facts can be attributed to her
2. This is an Ashley story. When her younger sister Emily was first learning to ride a bike, she was riding on the neighborhood street. it was the first time she did not wear her helmet. A little girl, on another bike, got in a collision with Emily, knocking her to the ground. She ended up with a concussion, and spent the night at the hospital. She had a stuffed animal that comforted her during the dark lonely hours at the hospital. She was pretty messed up. Her face was scratched and beat up, but that wasn't the hardest part. She kept crying, and one of the things she said was "I don't want to be here! I don't want to eat breakfast here! I want to eat pancakes with peanut butter!" (it's OK to laugh there). Ashley's mom and her were at Young Women's Conference, and everyone was trying to call them, but their cell phone was turned off. Ashley's mom stayed with her all night, and Emily wasn't happy because they kept waking her up every few hours to check her vitals. She was released with a mild concussion, and was allowed to go home the next day. A few years later, Emily (10 years old) still hadn't forgotten how much the teddy bear was comforting to her while she was at the hospital. She earned and collected as much money as she could that year, and went to the dollar store, and bought as many stuffed animals as she could. She took 2 garbage sacks full of stuffed animals to the hospital for other children, so they wouldn't feel lonely in the hospital.

Moral: Don't forget the little things that get you through, and don't forget the impact it could have on others

3. This is one quite dear to my heart. A guy gets shut up in the hospital for 8 days. He's half a country away from his family, can't move his leg, and is being monitored every day for death. He has to learn how to walk again, has to learn how to curl his toes, and flex his ankle. He can't even get up himself to go to the bathroom. A dear friend comes up, and helps him. This friend moves his leg 2 cm when it gets uncomfortable. This friend buys him pizza because he's sick of hopsital food. The friend spends every night sleeping on a couch in his hospital room, wondering if he's ever gonig to have a normal life again. The friend wakes up in the morning, goes to a cousin's to shower and clean up, and drives back to make sure he's all right.

He gets released, and can barely make his way back into his apartment. The friend goes shopping for him. The friend cleans for him. The friend does his laundry, drives him back and forth to physical therepy, and has to watch him get the snot kicked out of him while he tries to walk. The friend has to watch him fight of fatigue and pain for 3 long weeks, all while sleeping on a couch at the cousins because that's the only place that was available.

That friend was my wife Ashely. That person was me. And I will never forget what she did for me.

Moral: When a friend like that comes into your life and makes and life-impacting effect on you, don't let that friend get away.

If you have any stories to add, please email me at brandt(dot)malone(at)gmail(dot)com. I'll try to make a weekly post of three feel-good stories every week.


Sunday, July 20, 2008


Though it's about 16 days after the big celebration in America we call the 4th of July, Patriotism is on my mind.

Ashley and I took our usual walk on Sunday, and as we were walking back we talked about inspiration. With me being an advertising minor and her with layout and graphic design experience, we talked about where our inspiration comes from.

We began talking about different pieces we've done, and the two that stood out most memorable to the both of us involved invoking strong emotion out of our viewers.

This is Ashley's. It's called "The Hero."

Click the picture for a larger view. Here's me being an analytical and critical graphic designer. I find this works very well because you can't see the faces of the soldier and the boy. Faces give away so many emotions that subtleties in body language and posture can be overlooked. But though you can't see the faces, you understand exactly what's going on, and can make some great inferences. For instance, the dad has a look of relief that he made it through alive, that he can hold his boy again. The boy has a look of affection and longing, like having his dad away from him tore him apart every day.

Next is mine. I call this "The Tick of the Clock"

Again, click for a larger view. While this isn't the final design (I cannot believe I didn't save my old stuff!), I tried to show what was, and now what is. I wanted to find a lesser known quote to show people what it felt like. I spent hours (probably about 5-6 hours) making sure everything was correct, because I could see what I wanted in my mind's eye, but it wasn't coming out on paper.

The one thing we talked about was emotion. In hers, I could see thoughts of her brother-in-law, serving in Iraq, and his son Carter waiting for daddy to get home. I can see the fact that many of our armed service men and women really are the simplest and obscurest, and that's what makes them more amazing to me.

With mine, I chose something that is always going to have a soft spot in my heart. 9/11 brings a flood of emotions out of me, probably because I went on my mission right after it happened. I didn't get caught up in the politics or the conspiracies of it all. As a matter of fact, it still has a very soft spot in my heart 7 years later.

But here's what I want to say about patriotism. Again, I'm not wanting to toot my own horns, but we need to remember what is at the core of patriotism. Emotion is at the core. Why don't we celebrate our soldiers more? Why, when they come home from their service, do we not give them parades and celebrate all that they have done? Sure, we can say that we respect and honor them, but could there be more done?

That's the reason why I love the Anheuser-Busch PSA.

Some may not like it, some may say that it purposely manipulates our emotions. Yet every time I see that, I choke up a little bit. We need to remember that emotion is at the root of patriotism. If you don't feel deeply emotional about your country, especially if you're an American, you may want to research why we are they way we are.

Thank you, Kurtis, for your service. Thank you Grandpa Malone and Roy, for your service. Thank you all you brave men and women willing to stand up for what you believe in, and standing up for your country.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Movie Review - The Dark Knight

As the most anticipated movie of the year (yes, even above WALL-E) came out last night, rumors abounded as to the quality of it. Stories were circulating all the major news outlets that many theaters had 100% sold out, critics and other people who got a chance to see the advanced screening were touting this as the best Batman ever made, and that Heath Ledger was bound to get his posthumous Oscar pick for best supporting actor, and people in the know said the storyline was second to none.

I went to see it at the Edwards Theater in Idaho Falls, and was able to get my tickets on Fandago the night before (so the news releases weren’t 100% accurate). As our end of the semester fest, Ash and I decided to go see it. She wanted to see it for the movie; I wanted to see it for the review.

You all know the story – The Caped Crusader versus the Clown Prince of Crime for Gotham City. While this movie has a lot going for it from the previews (such as Heath Ledger’s death, Ledger’s twisted way of playing The Joker, the return of Christopher Nolan as Director and Christian Bale and Michael Caine as Batman and Alfred, respectively), it also had the potential to suffer from one of Hollywood’s ill-fated flaws: too much hype.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 did this. Spiderman 3 did this. Ocean’s 13, The Happening, Shrek 3, Terminator 3 (wow, notice all the sequels?), they all had all this hype and excitement surrounding the franchise (or director, or theme) yet totally dropped the ball.

Ironically, this was a lot tougher for me to review that many other movies. I couldn’t tell if it was an epic masterpiece, or if it was an absolute FUBAR (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition). I’m hoping the rubric will help.

Without further ado, here’s my rubric for The Dark Knight


Stunning would be an understatement for this movie. I found myself, from the very beginning scene, wanting more and more of The Joker. I found his mannerisms to be creepy yet natural, as if in his mind everything normal seemed out of place. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was a good replacement for Katie Holmes (who, as Rachel Dawes, was utterly forgettable), and Adam Eckhart (an LDS buddy) gave a very strong performance. And then there was Christian Bale, who is soon becoming one of the strongest actors of the last 5 years, and his ever faithful butler Alfred (by the always strong Michael Caine).

But with a movie of this magnitude, it would feel like I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t hold a higher standard. The Joker was very strong. While I think it’s one of the best acting jobs done this year, I don’t know if I would go as far to say I think he should win the posthumous Supporting Actor award (which will undoubtedly go to him just because that’s how Hollywood is). I don’t think that’s any fault of Ledger, who did a great job of embodying the creepiness. I think I fault the writers for not giving us more of a back-story to the Joker. I also found myself tiring of Christian Bale’s blatantly obvious attempt to give Batman a different voice from Bruce Wayne. It sounded like he was a 50-year old female smoker, not a menacing Batman. All in all, the characters were very strong.

SCORE – 16


I’m sure you’ve heard of Hans Zimmer (the composer for the Dark Knight), but in case you haven’t, here’s some of his credits: Kung Fu Panda, The Simpsons Movie, Pirates of the Caribbean movie trilogy, The Da Vinci Code, Batman Begins, Matchstick Men, The Ring, Blackhawk Down, Pearl Harbor…I think you get the point.

I am usually not a huge movie soundtrack guy. I would much rather have the soundtrack add to the movie rather than listen to the soundtrack by itself. I LOVED the theme that he used for Batman. Every time I heard it, I got chills. With titles like “Introduce a Little Anarchy” (the best song, in my opinion) and “And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad,” the music really helped to add to the creepiness of the Joker (who, oddly enough, you can feel throughout the entire soundtrack), the tragedy that is Harvey Dent, and the inner struggle our Masked Friend goes through.

SCORE – 20 (perfect)


If anything, the Joker’s laugh could stand on it’s own in this category. I would have liked to hear more of his laugh, but it was really good when he did it. Many of his one-liners were very good, and when I say very good, I mean creepy (not funny, see end)Batman, of course, has some pretty spotty dialogue (Bruce Wayne isn’t that bad), but from what I remember, even in the most stressful situations he can come up with a bad pun (“This time, the joke’s on you”). I would have liked to see more of that. Many of Ledger’s lines were very well written and performed by him. Could have been better by others, though.

SCORE – 17


This is the hard part. My wife, being an analytical and critical English Major, thought this was the weakest part. I think it’s the strongest part. Here’s why.

This movie is 152 minutes long (2 hours 32 minutes for those who don’t want to do the math). While Ash found it to be too long and trying to cram too much stuff into the movie, I found it to be very complex that will take multiple viewings to sort it out. There is no “introduction” of the Joker, no back-story, no nothing. All you know is that he’s a psychopath. Harvey has a bit of a back-story, and we already know Batman’s. While I think they should have given Joker more of a back-story (even if just through a 2-sentence blurb in the police file), I won’t hold this against the writers that much. Batman doesn’t have the history with the Joker that we are used to. As a matter of fact, I see this movie taking place within a matter of weeks, at longest a month. How can one know the back-story and all the intricacies of this nemesis within that amount of time?
But that doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t have its flaws. I didn’t like how Rachel Dawes flip-flops between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. I almost think that this movie could have been two movies (the rise of the Joker, and the fall of the Joker). But I found the story to be strong and complex, and many subtleties that will keep watchers analyzing

SCORE – 18


Because of the complexities of this movie, I feel sheepish in even posting my review without another viewing. I was very immersed in the movie and action as portrayed on the screen, and didn’t get a chance to think during the movie about what is being portrayed. For that reason alone, I give this a high rewatchability rate (I can even see the DVD purchasing and rental numbers breaking records). Yet the one thing holding me back is my wife. She told me she wouldn’t be interested in watching it again, and anyone who’s married knows how much influence the spouse can have on your viewing habits.

SCORE – 19

TOTAL SCORE – 90/100

IMDB Rating – 9.6/10 (#3 IMDB Top 250, but this will come down within a month)

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 94%

Random side note:
PLEASE, whoever reads this, do not go into this movie and laugh at every line that the Joker says. This isn’t meant to be a comedy. There are funny lines, don’t get me wrong, but we had people sitting right next to us that laughed at everything the Joker said, and I found it took away from his character. He’s not trying to make people laugh. He’s twisted. If you were in situations with him, you wouldn’t be laughing. As a matter of fact, you would probably be peeing yourself silly because you wouldn’t think hat a man could be like this. It’s NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY. You’ll know the funny parts.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Movie Review - Lars and the Real Girl

At first glance, “Lars and the Real Girl” seems to be a humorous play on the awkwardness that comes with people making inanimate objects real. Like the little boy who tells you that you’re sitting on his invisible friend at the dinner table, and how you need to give “Tommy” some more Mac and Cheese because it’s his favorite.

But if you watch that movie with the intent of laughing out loud, or having a knee-slapping guffawing good time, go see “Zoolander” or “Dumb and Dumber.” This isn’t that kind of movie. I wouldn’t even put this on par with most intelligent comedies like “Arrested Development” or “The Office.” The humor comes in spurts, and from my point of view, the most humorous parts come when there is no dialogue. I’ll go through and give a blow-by-blow critique, then give additional thoughts that I had.

“Lars and the Real Girl” is about a socially inept man named Lars (played by Ryan Gossling), and the relationship he develops with a full-sized doll, who he names Bianca. Bianca comes from “the tropics, she’s Brazilian,” and both her parents died at her birth. She always likes to hug people, and lost her luggage on the way to America. She actually becomes a character in the movie, though inanimate.


Ryan Gossling, from the first scene, develops an emotional connection with the audience. I think in some sense you could say the creators specifically manipulated it that way. Oddly enough, I’m ok with it. They let you know up front that he’s innocent, that he has some social issues, and that he’s not like everyone else. But Gossling’s character was different in the sense that you don’t pity him. Sure, you can feel sorry for him, but it’s not a pity thing (which I think happens more often than not). As a matter of fact, I found myself pulling for him more and more. I wanted Bianca to be real, because I wanted Lars to be happy. Supporting cast is good, and I think that Gus and Karin (his brother and sister-in-law) could have been stronger from the beginning (they make up for this towards the middle of the movie), but I find that his office workers (Margo and Kurt?) were solid. I actually find the doctor to be well played, as the directors meant her to be the semi-narrator. I think that her caring and her interactions with Lars were great.



Nothing groundbreaking here. Decent music to help set the mood and to help you understand how to feel, but I think that it could have been stronger. I think it’s apparent that it takes place in rural community, and I think they could have brought that out a little bit more. I also think it would have been nice to have more prominent music setting the mood for the times when he was with Bianca and other times.



Again, nothing to write home about. I can’t see this movie being one that is quoted ad nauseam, or one that will have people going for a while. There is humor, don’t get me wrong (“Call 911.” “911?” “I don’t know, why do you always expect me to know what to do?”). But I think what’s going to endear to this movie, and save it, is going to be the quotes among the followers of this movie. Like “The Kings of Kong,” (a VASTLY underrated documentary on competitive classic video gaming), I think the subtle lines will come out. But this isn’t a quoteable movie in the funny sense. I think that many of the lines in this movie (for instance, Karin’s speech to Lars about selfishness, Gus’ speech to Karin about living in the garage and becoming what he does, and the obvious yet intentional emotional speech by the reverend) will be quotable in a sentimental and touching sense, not a knee-slapping sense.



While the premise of a man with a doll for a girlfriend seems like the plot to another lame comedy movie (see “Weekend at Bernies”) and while the cover portrays that humorous comedy, this movie becomes one that warms your heart, and forces you to have a smile almost the entire time. I’ll admit, I was expecting hilarity throughout the movie. I was a little disappointed, but that’s because the packaging on the DVD and the portrayal of the movie lent itself to humor. But you watch the journey of a man come to grips with himself through a doll, and try to overcome himself. You begin to root for him and Bianca. By about ½ way through the movie I could see myself figuring out what was going to happen, yet instead of taking away from the film (which usually does for me), I found it added to it. I could not only prepare myself, but observe what other things were going on. But the other thing that was poignant to me was the story of the community. A small town, a small community, and a place where everybody knows everyone’s business is one I’m unfamiliar with. But the community joining together to help Lars really was beautiful, and a great statement on the potential we as a community can be for one. “It takes a village to raise a child,” or, you could say, it takes a village to help a man. I found it to be a movie I reflected on more and more after it was over. It’s a chick flick, boxed up in a drama, wrapped up in an emotional story with the strangest looking bow, but the meaning and intentions are pure and good



I think that the rewatchability is the strongest factor of this movie. Once you understand what is going on, and once you understand how to view the movie, you appreciate the subtleties, theme, and beauty of it. You realize how much of a daring step it is to have a main character (along the same on-screen potential as Gossling) that is inanimate. I liked this movie, and really can’t wait to introduce it to others who will be able to appreciate the package the creators have left us with.



“Lars and the Real Girl” is great, if you know what you’re getting into. Appreciate the human interactions and the job that the director, Craig Gillespie, focuses on the themes rather than the story. Go in to see a good story. Go in to grow attached to characters, and to feel what all of them feel (Lars, Gus, Karin, Margo, everybody). Doing this will help you to value the story. While it’s not particularly moving, nor is it a breakthrough in cinema, it takes a different path in moviemaking, tries something different, and succeeds.

IMDB Rating – 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 81%

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Seriously, Who Cares!

Satire on the Web, and why it’s so great.

Recently, I came across a website called “Seriously, So Blessed,” and I encourage people to visit and enjoy.

From the “About Me” portion of the site,
“Hi everybody!!! My name is Tiffany/Amber/Megan/Nicole and I am married to Jordan/Jason/Wes/Taylor, and we have non-stop fun all the time and are LOVING married life! We are super busy but we still love to make time for fun stuff and we just love being married and living our awesome lives. I LOVE crafts (especially Stampin' Up! and homemade jewelry) and he loves sports. I went to hair school/teach 2nd grade and we just moved so we could go to law/dental/business/medical school! It is way hard to be away from all our friends and family! But being in law/dental/business/medical school is really fun for me because there are tons of wive's clubs like bridge club, book club, walking club. Pretty awesome! Love you guys!! If you have anything you want me to blog about, puh-LEASE let me know at seriouslysoblessed@yahoo.com.”

That should tell you a little bit about what goes on there.

I should warn you it is a parody of blogging within the LDS world. I sent my dad the link, and he told me he could only read through a few before he couldn’t stand this girl any more. After I told him it wasn’t a real person, just a parody on what’s going on out there, the humor finally hit him.

Yet while this is a humorous site, and I am absolutely addicted to it, and can’t stop reading it (as well as the comments), it effectively shows what I view as a bad trend developing in our culture. It’s a trend of one-upsmanship, materialism, consumerism, and outlandishness. To quote one of the commenters, “K, I laughed my buns off.
This blog is too good to be true. Nice slap in the face, too. Thanks for reminding me to chill out and try not to up one on my perky friends. :)”

Is that last line too true? “Thanks for reminding me to chill out and not try to up one (isn’t it one up?) my perky friends.” I can cite blog after blog after blog (which I do visit, because it’s kind of funny, and because I need my humor in twisted ways), where it seems as if there’s this competition of one-upsmanship and “Keeping up with the Jones’.”

So here’s what I say. RELAX. I’m sure we’d all like to buy new cars while living off our student loans, and be able to see all the new first-run movies, go to the nicest restaurants, have new outfits all the time, and live up to the hype of a fairy-tale marriage. But realistically I think many of these wives who blog about these things are just overcompensating for the reality of being newlywed and married. I think that reality is one of sacrifice and humility, not outdoing your neighbors. I don't know, am I off here?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Movie Review - WALL-E

Ashley and I saw WALL-E on Friday night at the REX Movie Theater in Rexburg, the only first run movie theater in Rexburg. While I usually have some reservations about this theater due to the idiot students, I didn’t feel like driving to IF to see it. Gas is too pricey.

When I saw the previews for WALL-E, I approached it with cautious anticipation. While the visuals looked good, and while the mechanical voice of “WALL-E” was appealing,” I didn’t know if a robot who didn’t have an actual voice and great graphics could stand on it’s own for an entire movie.


While WALL-E has the awkward yet normal social desire to have friends (reminiscient of my teenage years), and while WALL-E was an obvious emotional ploy to get you connected…I think it worked very effectively. While the human characters are likeable, I think the robots steal the film because of the ability for us to relate to them.

Who can’t relate to being 14 years old and wanting a friend? Who can’t relate to being lonely? What about being misunderstood? Or realizing that the one standing in front of your was what you wanted all along?

These characters steal this film because they’re lovable, yet believable. How easy is it for a movie to create an emotional attachment and emotional manipulation with a character, all to leave you feeling kind of empty (a la King Kong 2005)?

Score – 19, but only because they couldn’t have more dialogue/speak


Beauty is an understatement for this masterpiece. Thomas Newman, who also did Finding Nemo, The Green Mile, and The Shawshank Redemption, scores another home run with this score. The robots flying through space, and the score that goes with it, really helps you take in the wonder of the colors that Pixar used.

Score – 20


I think that just the name “WALL-E” is enough to land this, as well as his new buddy “EEEEE-VAAH,” are going to be around until at least the end of the year. While I’m not going to judge a movie soley based on a catchphrase, I really think they could have ahd more. While WALL-E’s Chaplin-esque characteristics really don’t warrant a need to have a catchphrase, I think it could have been better

Score – 18


Wonderful. Perfect. Spectacular. Can I come up with any other adjectives to describe this movie? A story about finding love, about appreciating what we have, about materialism and consumerism, and a story about a little yellow robot. But I feel I need to address one issue in this movie:

Many have talked about how there was an overpowering “Environmentalism” message, and how that would have detracted them. While there is such a message, I don’t see it being as political as people are making it out to be. I came away from that with the message that we need to appreciate what we have. I saw a glaring message of consumerism, and materialism, and what can happen if we don’t care. I don’t think it was a message about “Global Warming,” instead, it was a message about us as a people.

Story synopsis: Robot (WALL-E) is on earth, performing the task he has performed for 700 years…taking waste, compacting it, and stacking it. He loves human trinkets, and watches “Hello Dolly” religiously. Ship comes to earth, with EVE, looking for human life. He and her finally break the awkwardness and begin to form a friendship, all while WALL-E wants to hold her hand, and starts falling in love. They get to the ship, other robots don’t want the plant to get to the captain, and slapstick comedy ensues.

Score – 20+


This is a spectacular movie that will appeal to adults and children alike. What child wouldn’t want to see more WALL-E? What adult doesn’t want to see a happy story? What male wouldn’t want to see a chick flick hidden inside of a slapstick comedy (*GASP!* Did I just say that?)? I can’t wait for it to go to the cheap theater here in town so we can rewatch it over and over.

Score – 20

IMDB Rating – 9.3 (#9 – IMDB Top 250)
Rotten Tomatoes – 97%

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Random Life Updates

Since it's been a while, here's some random life updates from not only my personal view on things, but from the life of the Malone family.

First, we had 2 new additions to the family: our babies. Every time I say that to someone, they automatically think that we are having kids. No, not yet. But we did have kittens.

The black one is named Mowgli, and the grey speckled one is named Chloe. We actually thought of reasons for the names as well, instead of "Oh that sounds cute." Mowgli is a demon-child. She wants things her way, she is very social, and gets frustrated when we won't let her have it her way. For example, she has found out that if she stands on the bottom shelf of the desk and leaps, she can grab on to my leg and climb up it. She then sits perched on my shoulder. But the problem is once's she perches on my shoulder, she's stuck. So I grab her when she's climbing up, put her on the ground, and tell her that she won't be able to get down if she's up there. She looks at me, and in her high pitched squeaky whine, meows like I'm making her life difficult. It's almost as if she's saying "I want to do it! Why won't you let me do it! IT WILL MAKE ME HAPPY!!!!!!!"

And then there's our little Chloe...named after Chloe O'Brian of 24 fame. Awkward and lacking in social skills, she is the happiest little girl around. But Chloe and Mowgli went well together when we got them from Four Paws, the group that rescues animals from shelters. Suprisingly, they love each other, go well together, and they are the little furballs that we can't get enough of.

Second...the NomRom Book Club is working on "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. We need people to get in on it, to get discussions going. Right now there have only been a few posts (My Amazon seller is taking forever and a day to get me my copy of the book), but there are some discussions going on. As soon as I get the book, I'll post a lot more for us to discuss. See the Book Club here

Third...because my mind works in a series of 3...with the movie season coming upon us, I'm going to work on getting more reviews up. While some of the movies I review might be a year old (for instance, I just watched "There Will Be Blood" last night), I still think they need to be reviewed for the people who still haven't seen them. Instead of saying "I liked this, I didn't like that," I'm going to use a ratings system found over here. Props to Lister for letting me rip off his rating system.

He uses a 100 point system, broken down into five 20-point categories:


As well as a personal rating (and why I would agree/disagree with the MPAA rating given)

We're going to see Wall-e this Friday night, probably at the REX here in town (the first-run movie theater). I'll probably be in a bad mood anyways (stupid Mormon college students, that's another post for another day), but I have need to review the following movies:

No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man
and others that are coming out.

So look for the WALL-E review Friday night, Incredible Hulk on Saturday, and Iron Man on Monday...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Evolution of Videos, or, I eat my candy with my Pork and Beans

Three weeks ago, Weezer introduced the world to the first single off their highly anticipated "Red Album," entitled "Pork and Beans." While I'm now old enough to say that I've know Weezer since the Blue Album, rocked out to "Buddy Holly," and remember them from way back when I was in 4th grade (about 9, 10 years old), I must say that this music video, in my opinion, can be looked at as one of the defining videos not only of 2008, not only of the Millenium, not only of the last 10 years, but can be looked at as one of the most pivitol videos in music video history.

Yes, I'm prepared to put them on par with Hendrix burning the guitar on stage at Woodstock, Aha's "Take On Me," The Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star," Fatboy Slim's "Praise You," and yes, even Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Blasphemous as it may seem, this video tells more about our culture and generation than many may think. If you don't believe me, check out Mike's commentary on the video.

I can hear you all through the computer: "Yeah, I remember him, yeah, I remember that, I got that in a forward, etc." But this video does much more than just give us a few laughs. This video will be considered immortalized because it's more of a social commentary than a funny video.

If we were to look at it from a cultural aspect, it's groundbreaking. We, as a society, have become enamored with YouTube and this concept of Web 2.0, where we interact more with the web than (sometimes) with each other. Amazingly, this goes all the way back to the infamous dancing baby, which made the rounds back in 1996.

We've become a society that makes it much easier to get our 15 minutes of fame, and in some senses, our 15 minutes of infamy.

If this video isn't a great cultural commentary that will be preserved much like Thriller, I don't know what is...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ethanol, or, Why I'm Not Payin $5.00 in Gas

Last night, as usual, I was flipping through the news shows to catch up on the pundit’s opinions of the world. Brother Glenn was on vacation, Bill O’Riley was looking for a fight, Keith Obermann is an idiot, and Wolf Blitzer has one of the most beautiful beards I’ve ever seen…though his opinions are ridiculous.

Apparently it was a slower news day, because the news outlets went back to their tried and true hot-topic issues: The Election, the Iraq, and gas prices.

Gas reached a national average of $4.15 yesterday, with the Rexburg prices leveling out around $4.00/gallon. Now I’m not going to reminisce and talk about how when I was a senior back in Michigan, we could get gas around $0.99/gallon. Or how, within the last 2 years, the average price-per-gallon has gone up around $2. Or how GM is getting rid of their Hummer division of their company because nobody is buying the cars, and they are losing more money than a fat kid on McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

What are we talking about? No Mr. Iverson, I’m not talking about practice. I’m talking about Ethanol.

Along with “green,” “organic,” and “John McCain is Old,” “Ethanol” has become the big buzz word the last few years. I’ve noticed a decline, but when gas prices come up, people talk about how Ethanol is the answer.

I’m no scientist, but from what I’ve read, heard, and seen, it is anything but. Using Ethanol for a fix to the gas prices is like using a band aid for a slice across your neck (and I know a little something about that).

Here’s my problem with Ethanol…it reminds me of a Matrix-type scenario, where the entire world becomes overrun with corn because we need the fuel. Farmers aren’t farming like they usually do because they’re so concerned about planting corn to get the added money from selling that to gas companies. They’re not planting or harvesting other plants and animals, which drives the demand up (because the supply is down), which then drives the price up.

Ethanol is not the answer. It’s political. It sounds good. It’s a twinkie…full of sweet goodness, yet does NOTHING for our health. We hear “Ethanol is the solution to our gas crisis” and think that because we eat corn, it seems healthy, it’s cleaner, it must be right!

But answering the gas crisis question with Ethanol is a lot like this answer…it’s funny, but wrong.

What is the answer?

Hydrogen. Fuel Cells. ANWR. Drilling off our coasts. Glenn Beck, one of Keith Olbermann’s most hated people, mentioned that if we get the point where it’s a choice between getting our oil and “saving the bucktooth bunny,” that he would drill through the head of that bucktooth bunny to get the oil in ANWR.

I’m all for saving the environment, and agree that we have a stewardship as humans to take care of God’s creation, and that we need to appreciate the beauty of earth. But to what point do we put up those barriers? India has put out a car called the TATA, running for $1,200 American dollars. They are driving more. China’s gas prices have been driven up because of the earthquake, and they’re driving more. The more these 2nd World countries industrialize and enter the strata of 1st World countries, they demand will go up.

Why is hydrogen and fuel cells the answer? Because, in my opinion, the bubble on gas is about to burst. That’s the vision I keep having in my mind. The bubble on oil is getting bigger and bigger, and it will either explode because it’s too big, or something, some external force, will cause it.

My dad works in the automotive industry, and GM is working feverishly on this technology. GM, one of the most prestigious automotive companies at one point, has lost so much money they can’t see straight. Because of all the government regulations, the technology, and the logistics, they are on the cusp of the breakthrough.

Don’t give me this junk about a conspiracy with the auto companies and the oil companies. I will entertain thoughts about government deals with oil companies, but what car company wouldn’t want to be the one to put out the next big thing as far as automotives go. GM would again set the standard, if they were to get the technology out to the public.

Finally – I’m old enough to remember a day when we had $0.99/gallon gasoline…and old enough to go back on my promise about not reminiscing. While I don’t think that’s going to happen, we need to drill more. How can automotive companies afford to place more money in R&D while they are struggling to sell cars because it’s too expensive? How can we clamor and say “Gas prices are too much” when the amount of drivers isn’t going down? How can one do research on new products if it is more expensive to ship those new parts than the cost of the parts itself?


I like corn. I like corn-on-the-cob for July 4th and corn for Thanksgiving. I don’t like corn in my car. I like gasoline. I like new technology. But if we start thinking ethanol is the answer, our country will turn into a harvesting field for our insatiable desire to drive. Corn is not the answer. Fuel cells (like the batteries in your cell phone) and hydrogen are.

Comment and call me a heartless turd, but at what point does another great depression stand in the way of the buck tooth bunny?

Friday, June 13, 2008


This week has been filled with a lot of laziness for me, and you can obviously tell from my lack of posts. I'm heading down to Utah for a family reunion of the Mrs., so hopefully I'll have some new posts up.

I also think I'm going to drop to 3 per week. Every day is difficult, and once a month isn't fun for anyone reading. So look for new posts Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blogging Part 2

Elder Ballard, in his intriguing speech to BYU-Hawaii graduates, encouraged them to utilize “new media.” He states,

“May I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet…to share the gospel and explain in simple, clear terms the message of the Restoration

We are living in a world saturated with all kinds of voices because now, more than ever, we have a major responsibility…to define ourselves instead of letting others define us

Every disciple of Christ will be most effective, and do the most good by adopting a demeanor worthy of the follower of the Savior of the world.

Your outreach can be international.”

While he never specifically outlined blogging as one of those “new media,” I submit (and I have many associates on the internet that will agree), that blogging is one of those new media.

Now, the issue at hand. While this new trend of blogging is good, it could be much better. I discussed with a girl I work with how she should take the passion she has for politics and debate, and translate that into a blog about those issues, not just about her family life. While Elder Ballard stressed the utilization of blogging for spreading the gospel, I challenge people that I meet to blog not just for gospel-related purposes, but many others as well:

- Apologetics – With the accessibility of anything and everything on the internet, blogging can be beneficial to help defend the church. FAIR does a great job of faithfully discussing many of these difficult subjects, as well as aggressive, bias questions that people can throw at us.

- Honesty – I recently listened to a great presenatation called “Inoculating the Saints,” given at the 2007 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium, found here at Mormon Matters. Among other things, the concept of honesty within the LDS Church came up. While the Church as a body has been very honest, many times the members don’t recognize the honesty. One of the most telling statements involved a teacher who was teaching 16-year olds. He had a student who had never heard of polygamy. Ever. And he states that this is a major problem, which, to an extent, I agree. But the internet has been wonderful to me, because I’ve learned so much about things that aren’t discussed very often. Polygamy, polyandry, Adam-God, Mountain Meadows, Blacks and the Priesthood, Joseph Smith’s translation process…I could go on and on.

- Culture – Or, in my case, the negative aspects of culture. I find many of the things that we do in the Church “cultural.” For example, I’d never even comprehended about praying or thanking God for rain. I’m from Michigan – according to Yahoo Real Estate, we have over 100 “precipitation days” per year. Yet when I came out to Utah/Idaho, they prayed for “precipitation.” Well I got sick of hearing that real quick, and in a religion class recently, I gave thanks in my prayer for the MOISTURE we received…and got many quizzical looks. Cultural things like white shirts at church, caffine (I love my Coke Zero), marking scriptures, Deseret Book’s Fluff, Mormon pop-music, FPR’s, and the like.

- Education – Long gone is the day when scholarship is only to be found in deep intense scholarly journals that take you 2 hours to get thorugh a paragraph. There are spectacular blogs out there with serious scholarship publishing their findings.

- Opinions – I think this is the best part of blogging. We’re all editorial contributors on the internet. And the best part about that is we, the “everyday folk,” can state our “everyday folk” opinions. I don’t write for the Scroll, but I can state my opinion about administration, the state of the school, or anything else. The best part is that I don’t have to answer to authority (or worry that I’m going to get kicked off the paper)…all I have to do is deal with grouchy readers who want me to talk about something other than BYU-Idaho

So please, SAHM, Blonde Haired ditzy 18-year old, or bitter 24-year old who needs to get a life and quit complaining about things…embrace your nerdiness and blog!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Blogging, or, Why I Haven't Been Doing It

Blogging, or, Why I haven’t been doing it

I must apologize. I haven’t been the best at updating my blog, but I have an excuse and a justification!

Excuse: Midterms were last week, and while finishing up my 1 credit Career Exploration class on the block, of course I waited till the last week to finish. I’m a procrastinator, but I’ll do something about it later.

Justification: Though I went on a two-week hiatus, I have returned like the Prodigal Son with a newfound furry and dedication (and a bunch of ideas that I can’t wait to put on paper…screen…in a column…whatever format works for you).

I’ve noticed a trend among college students, and I’ve been racking my brain to figure out if I like the trend or not. I’m going to force myself to take a “yay” or “nay” stance, because it’s too easy to fall into the middle ground. This trend is blogging.

I’m a blogger. I do it on and off, but I blog because I think…(begin sarcasm) no, I know that my opinion is the most correct and the most important (end sarcasm), and I want people to know.

I also feel that I have a personal obligation, not because my opinion is more important than others, or that I’m doing ground-breaking research, but because in an environment like Rexburg, where ultra-conservatism sometimes prohibits discussion, I want to be the voice that examines the harder issues from a logical and rational viewpoint.

There’s others out there who do the same thing. Paul H did a great job of looking at BYU/BYU-Idaho culture. The Voice, a small paper in Rexburg, is another. The BYU-Idaho College Democrats, when they ran their blog on a regular basis, looked on a national level of issues. Mike, from the Mike Experience did this as well. But these are some of the exceptions.

The trend now, especially among married students, is to start a blog for their family. Many times it is a place to post pictures, a place to let people know about what’s been going on with their life, and a place for their married friends to make comments. It’s become almost a community within a community, a ward within a ward, a clique within a clique within a ward within a community.

Sometimes the cheesiness of those blogs bother me. I Googled “BYU-Idaho IBC,” and aside from the 2 results from BYU-Idaho about their IBC program, there were 8 results in the first 5 pages on personal blogs with wives talking about their husbands in the IBC. There’s cheesy posts about lovey-dovey stuff that husbands have done for their wives, with pictures included. I’m not saying that husbands doing that stuff for their wives is a bad thing, but it’s the spirit of competitiveness and unrealistic expectations that I address here that bother me. I’m not trying to protect women. I am trying to protect the sanity of men. “Well Carly posted on her blog about how Tommy bought a dozen roses and picked individual petals and placed in a trail to their bedroom with him lying there in a red satin robe with candles and a bottle of chilled sparkling cider and the 6 hour BBC version of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ All we do is hang out in sweats, eat Jack-in-the-Box, and watch ‘Dumb and Dumber.’”

Can you see the problem?

Here’s my thought: Bravo for blogging. I’m sure my parents would love to see more pictures of Ash and I, and what we’re doing. It’s an opportunity to keep a journal without even knowing it, and being able to have that on the internet (as long as you remember the website address). Blogging is a good thing.

But it could be better.

Look for Blogging part 2 Tomorrow!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Expansion and Construction, or, Me Questioning BYU-Idaho's thought process

I know it's petty for me to discuss construction, traffic, administration, parking, and every other hot topic issue that happens at this university. Whenever I have these thoughts, I immediately start thinking to myself "Is there really nothing better going on in my life," "What makes me and this situation different from any other university," and "I'm running out of topics if I dip into this bag..."

Well, let me explain the sitch (I've learned that is new lingo for "situation"), and I'll tell you why I'm questioning this decision by BYU-Idaho administration.

1. We are now at about full capacity for the summer semester. We have, in any given semester, about 13,000 students attending school here.

2. On Wednesday, when this really bothered me, Sugar City High School was doing their graduation at the BYU-Idaho Hart Gymnasium. I believe we have a lot of different high schools in the area use our Hart building for graduation, like Madison, Sugar City, Rigby, St. Anthony, etc. The students on campus, plus the howevermany family members of the students graduating = grouchy brandt

3. Even though gas prices are increasing (we are at $3.79/gallon here, cheaper than many cities, but still unreasonable), I could almost bet that there are many more people on the roads, including students driving.

4. With all that as the groundwork, here's what's happened. The University has decided to embark on many construction projects around campus (not including the main construction on the addition to the Student Center and the new Conference Center). This construction has included a large block of parking in front of the girls dormatories (which is now available for parking), large sections of parking along the Clark Building (the testing center and the nursing school), a section in front of the Snow Building (performing arts) and now a random patch in front of the Snow Parking lot (which leads to the library, gym, and performing arts building.

The section in the Snow Parking lot was the one that pushed me over the edge. There is a small 3ftx3ft section in which they are working on. It is roped off. This makes it possible for only one car to enter this parking lot at a time (which is a very busy faculty parking lot, and a very busy intersection). I'm waiting for someone to get killed there (and I'm not trying to be dramatic or funny. I'm being serious).

So what's my sitch? What's my issue? Why am I devoting an entire post to construction?

Because of 14-week semesters, we have a break (now called "summer session") between the middle/end of July and the second week in September. They reserve this for freshman who just graduated, with many 100-200 level classes. Here's my question: Couldn't this have waited?

With 80% (my estimation) leaving for this 6-8 week break, and much less students around, this definatley could have waited. I understand construction schedules, and I understand how, depending on the schedule, the cost could go up. But this must have been a major emergency for this to occur.

Now aside from more and more students driving when it's 70 degrees out in the summer (which totally blows my mind), and with all the construction, I must respectfully disagree with the University's decision.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The RM Homecoming, or the Essence of Preparation

Yesterday at church, we had a Sister RM give her homecoming talk. I know that I have a high standard for talks, and I usually give RM's a pass (seeing as how my homecoming talk left a lot to be desired), but yesterday was...I can't think of a nice enough word to say it...pitiful.

Bless this sister. She went on a mission. I have respect for sisters who go on a mission because they want to go, and they want to serve. I don't have a lot of respect for any missionary (sister or elder) who is "compelled" to go because of social pressures or standards, and I don't have respect for missionaries who go for the wrong reasons. That could be anything from going so their "girlfriend will marry them" to "I couldn't get married." Now while missionaries may not admit this to others, they do have to admit it to themselves. In my humble experience, many times the verbal admission doesn't come, but the admission through their actions and attitudes does show.

But this isn't about missionary work. This is about talks, and preparation, and people who give their homecoming talk and fail to prepare. In my talk, I overprepared. I received emails from my parents that said that the previous two missioanries that gave their homecoming talks were given an average of 45 minutes each. I scrupulously prepared, grabbing President Faust's "What I Want my Son to Know Before he Leaves on a Mission" as well as something my Mission President gave me, "What You Should Take Home from your Mission," which I cannot find a source for. I had stories for every single point, and made sure that I put Christ at the center of those stories.

So what happened on Sunday? I think the sister missionary decided to stand up and tell stories. She might have had a gameplan, but it was very distracting when every story was punctuated by second-guessing and getting off track. It sounded a lot like Marlin in Finding Nemo trying to tell a joke:

I have no problem with stories. As a matter of fact, when it comes to missionary homecomings, I actually prefer it. It helps me to envision my mission, and what I was feeling, as well as inspiring others. Hearing about people embracing Christ and Truth are great testimony builders, and can really set the tone for a great Sunday. But I was kind of embarrassed for her. I think she thought that all she had to do was tell stories and it would be ok.

So what would I recommend to her, if I had the chance to talk?


People want to hear your stories. They do. So sit down, think about what stories you want to tell, and think about what gospel principles you want to encorporate into those stories. Then think about how you want to connect them all.


Make sure you're not telling stories for the sake of telling stories. It makes you sound arrogant and petty ("Look at all the good that I did!!!"). But if you tell stories to show how you learned, if you tell stories to make a point, and if you tell stories with a purpose, you can have a lasting effect. President Monson tells his wonderful stories in a way that you can walk away from it feeling inspired, or feel as though you learned something.

PRACTICE IT OUT (or, if you so please, you could Walk it Out like DJ Unk)

Make sure you know how much information you have, how much time you are expecting, and be flexible enough to know how to improv if you have to. There's nothing worse than sitting through a sacrament meeting that's already over time and the speaker is JUST NOW getting into their swing.

Oh, and by the way Returned Sister Missionary...thank you for your service.

SPAM, or, Why the BCC funtion was invented

A bit of controversy happened on BYU-Idaho campus on Thursday. The College of Business and Communication (CBC), in their good-intentioned yet fatally flawed system, sends out multiple emails throughout the week (and throughout the day) concerning internships, career opportunities, and scholarship information. I don’t pay much attention to these emails because of the frequency they are sent out as well as the lack of information they contain (I should write an email about that…).

When I woke up on Thursday, I checked my school email as usual for class cancellations or other important notices. I’m probably one of the few that actually checks it on a regular basis. I noticed that my inbox was filled with about 10-15 new email messages. As I read (and read and read and read) I noticed that the CBC sent out an email about internships, and instead of using the BCC function, the employee accidently made everybody’s email viewable. This meant that the biggest college department on campus, the CBC, with approximately 2,727 students (and yes, I did just do a quick-count through that email list).

But that’s not the best part! The best part is the students, using the wonderful “Reply to All” function, and using it as their personal soap box.

For example:

“That’s one long list of emails”

(Thank you Captain Obvious)

“If you forward this to ten of your friends, you will find good fortune tomorrow,
but if you forward this to a million random email addresses- you might get translated...yay!”

(Only in Mormon Culture would this be sent out)

“i'm fixing to buy a used washer and dryer and sell a 2nd block contract. Anyone? anyone? oh, and i got an old Econ 111 and 112 book they won't take back. Any takers?”

(I love college students. Any platform to buy what they need or sell what they don’t need, they use)

“Enough people, it isn't a joke, some idiot just hit 'reply to all' instead of 'reply'. Okay? Enough sending this email around to everyone. This stupid email chain ends now.”

(Yup, way to stand up for the right thing…except for the fact that you directly contradicted yourself. Way to be the bigger man dude).

After agreeing with above email

“PS. just a quick shout out to (Name withheld to protect the idiot)...i saw you on campus yesterday morning!”

Then there’s the guy soliciting his idea for a sports league in Rexburg…but that’s not the best one…

“So funny, these people goofing off and then some other people like... outraged. Blame the person who was dumb enough to include all these e-mail addresses in a mass e-mail. Anyway, if anyone's looking for a handsome 22 year old young man from Boston, send me a text at (Number withheld to protect the idiot). I wonder if my phone would explode if you all sent me texts today.


(Welcome to Desperatesville…population – too many to count)

My goodness, is this is what we’ve become? I’m sure it isn’t any different from any other campus, but I just laugh at the hypocricy of spamming and saying “QUIT SENDING ME EMAILS! YOU’RE SPAMMING!”

Here’s to actually having something interesting to read in the Scroll today.

brandt’s hate-item of the day:

Having a lesser-known hymn in sacrament meeting that people have really never heard, yet not having the courtesy to play the full song once as an introduction. I’m all for playing the lesser-known hymns, but unless you want people mumbling the hymn throughout the entire song, you have to give a longer introduction so dopes like me can think they know it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Plz dnt h8 my skillz, or, Why Text Messaging is Ruining Us

I admit, I am a texter. I only have about four or five people that I do text, but it happens. Now I'm not textually savvy (yes, I just made up that word), nor do I spend more time texting than talking. But I guess if I had to, I could get by with just texting.

As a m@r of fact, Iv lrnD 2rite a bit n txt lingo. Iv gotten btr @ it as tym hs gon on.
(thanks to the wonderful text-message translator at www.lingo2word.com, I was able to translate "As a matter of fact, I've learned 2rite a bit in text lingo. I've gotten better at it as time has gone on." Don't ask me how that translates. I seriously have no clue.)

Yet something happened today at the reading center that made me wonder if the age of AIM, MSN, Chatrooms, SMS text messaging, people cranking out love notes on their Sidekick and people cranking out novels on their BlackBerry has gotten a bit out of control.

A girl came into the reading center today for her writing class. She talked with a tutor about her note taking methods, especially how she plans out her papers. As he looked (according to him), it was written entirely in text-lingo.

"Please" was spelled "plz."
"Hate" was spelled "h8."
"Later" was spelled "L8er"
Something that was intended to be humorous was exclimated with a "LOL"
and like such as the Iraq etc etc.

Does anyone else see issues with this? I know that the common cry right now of "Microsoft Word is destroying our childrens ability to spell" (which I do not submit to), but I think that this is the issue we should be looking at.

Perhaps in my older age I've become more of a stickler for spelling, but I've never been a bad speller. Heck, I can remember being 14 years old, sending my dad an email at work asking him a question, and being verbally embarrassed because he ripped my email apart. My spelling wasn't correct, my grammar wasn't very good, and like such as etc etc. For some reason, I never forgot that. It always stuck with me. Probably because I never wanted to feel self-conscious about emailing him ever again, but still, it stuck with me.

Call me an email elitist. I'm OK with that. Actually, now that I've had a chance to be in business and professional situations which entail email correspondance, I'm actually suprised sometimes at how...um...well, forgive me for being blunt, but how stupid people can sound.

So let's get back to the issue at hand...text talk...txt lingo...like such as the Iraq...whatever you want to call it. While she was using it for her notes, it makes me worried. I don't take notes by hand if I don't have to. I've noticed that I can take notes a lot faster by typing. I've been doing it long enough where I know how to indent correctly, and I have MS Word translate my shorthand into real words. But when I look at my notes later, they would not only make sense to me, but to others around me. And I will go out on a limb, and say that while note-taking shouldn't be full sentences and ready to turn in, but it should be readable. I'm a tutor. I work with this all day.

The big picture: This isn't a pandemic, epidemic, or plague, like such as the Iraq South Africa the Bubonic plague or measels. But it does give me cause for concern. Like hip-hop lingo has taken the United States by storm (in the worst way possible), I'm worried about that with text lingo. Like, such as, the Iraq, South Africa (I think it's getting funnier the more I reference it).

Stop it. Stop texting and sounding like a fool. Put REAL words together, not gobbly-gook. I shouldn't need to go to a text-language translator to decypher what you are typing. And when 2020 comes, and we wonder why we have gone back to cave-man grunts and pointing, you just remember that I said that this would happen.

US Americans (like there'd be any others?) like such as the Iraq South Africa