Friday, February 25, 2011

The confusing land called Friday

Friday is heralded by most people as the best day of the week; we sing ballads, write poems, and dedicate holidays to them. I know I say "Why can't it be Friday?" at least twelve times a week. But Fridays aren't always what we dream them to be. Sometimes, Fridays really suck. And, on the other hand, sometimes Fridays are extremely awesome. I never know when I'm going to have the Friday I've been longing for all week until I wake up early Friday morning. The manner of my waking up usually determines the course of my day.

For me, Fridays usually go in one of two directions:

Wake up cursing the world. When I wake up just as tired as I was when I went to bed, I know I'm in for a rough day. I wake up tired on other days of the week all the time, but for some reason, I hate the world a lot more on Friday mornings. I won't be as particular about my getting-ready routine, I will be too ornery to sing along with my music as I drive to work, and I'll probably glare at my computer screen for 8 hours once I get to the office. I despise anyone who has the audacity to smile, and forcing myself to be productive is a bit like walking the slopes of Mount Doom with a 9-ton ring hanging from my neck. By the time 5:00 FINALLY rolls around, the only thing keeping me going is the thought of putting my pajamas on, watching a major chick flick, and eating junk food when I get home.

Needless to say, I'm not a very fun person when I wake up cursing the world on Fridays. (Unless, of course, my intense orneryness gives way to an emotional breakdown in the form of uncontrollable laughter.) However, option two is a lot more desirable for all who cross my path:

Wake up laughing. I am not a morning person at all, so it is rare for me to actually hop out of bed and acknowledge people while I'm getting ready for my day. But sometimes, Fridays bestow upon me renewed energy and hyperness, making the day so much more entertaining. I might actually contribute to the high-spirited chatter at work, I smile rather than glare at my computer screen, and the energy lasts long enough to get me through legitimate Friday night plans. I'll take a real lunch break that involves actually leaving the office, which will leave me full and content, if a bit distracted, for the rest of the day. Of course, it still takes 5:00 forever to roll around, and I am perhaps even less productive on happy Fridays than I am on mad Fridays because I'm too carefree to take my responsibilities seriously. (Says the person writing an unimportant blog post while she is supposed to be working.)

No matter my mood, however, Fridays are doomed to be long and unproductive. I guess I should stop trying to fight it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The five senses of paper

Bookstores are dangerous. In fact, despite my love for books, I rarely go inside them. There are two reasons for this: (1) it is highly unlikely that I'll walk out of that place with the same amount of money I had when I walked in, and (2) the cozy atmosphere--complete with warm colors, the amazing new-book smell, comfortable recliners, and the sheer magnitude of books--means that I will have no desire to leave, and may possibly become a bookstore hermit who has a special corner and hides in bookcases during closing time.

I recently read that Border's is declaring bankrupcy, and that over 200 of its stores are closing because of the company's failure to keep up with new ebook trends. This is a sad day for those of us who enjoy books with all five of our senses.

Sight. Recent ebook makers like Kindle and Nook think that all we need are words on a page (or rather, a screen) to read a book. This is true to some extent, but reading is more than just reading words off of a screen. When I look at a book, I see more than just the main text; I see headers/footers, pictures, font variations, and maybe even colors. Reading a well-designed book is a lot more satisfying and visually stimulating--and frankly, a heck of a lot easier--than reading one boring screen after another.

And, if something strikes you as interesting and you want to reference it later, you may not know the exact page number, but you will remember where on the page you saw it and about how far through the book you were. If I read something cool on a Kindle, I have no idea where to find it again, unless there is a find-and-search function available, and those aren't always very helpful.

Hearing. It's kind of hard to "hear" paper, but I must admit that the sound of rustling pages makes me strangely happy.

Smell. Whenever I get a new book, one of the first things I do is smell it. It doesn't matter if it's a textbook or a novel--they all smell seductively good. That smell signifies that there are new worlds waiting to be discovered, new knowledge to be gained. For me, there are few challenges more exciting than reading a book cover to cover.

Touch. One of my favorite parts about reading is actually holding the book--don't ask me why. Whenever I read off my iPod, I feel like I'm cheating somehow. Flipping through pages, stretching out the spine, and feeling the wonderful grittiness of recycled paper makes the experience so much more real. The relationship with the book becomes more personal. It's like speaking with someone face-to-face rather than by chatting online.

Taste. No, I do not eat books, nor do I recommend that anyone else eat theirs. I like to think of "taste" in this sense as "good taste" or "style." Ebooks are great for those who have to read something they have no desire visiting ever again, but the serious reader needs something more tangible, something of better taste and quality. Good book taste combines all the senses of paper to create a magical experience that a computer screen can't duplicate.

Now, I will say this: at times, ebooks are better. When I was in college, I would have loved to replace my 12-ton backpack with a mini tablet. True, I probably still would have bought all of my novels in paperback format because I'm a nerd, but putting a ginormous humanities textbook or an evil physical science textbook onto a little screen isn't a bad idea at all. As long as there is a highlighting function.

And there are times when ebooks are easier to handle. When I went to San Diego last week, I could have left my laptop and books home and just used my iPod; then the taxi driver might not have had to bite off an expletive when he loaded my small but dense suitcase into the trunk of the cab. And I am a big fan of reading while eating, and, unless you're reading a hardback fantasy book, it's hard to keep the book open and eat at the same time.

That being said, I still do not that that ebooks should replace physical paper. A reader loses a lot of the magic of reading when the words are projected from a screen. In addition, with the ebook popularity has come another trend: self-publishing. People think that they can write down whatever they're thinking and make money off of it. While self-publishing works for some people on rare occasions, it is usually just a mockery of the written word. It seems that no on knows how to spell or punctuate anymore. Few people understand the power of a comprehensible sentence. People are willing to sacrifice quality for bragging rights, and I think that's a travesty.

So while there is something to be said for the ebook market, I hope it doesn't erase the hardback/paperback market. I want to fill my house with bookcase after bookcase, each stuffed full of books, no matter what condition they are in. The world would lose a considerable amount of culture if everything was digital; there is nothing wrong with keeping some of the old ways with us.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A long list of firsts

I am officially a businesswoman now because--wait for it--I am on a business trip. In San Diego. While this type of thing is pretty standard for most people in the business world, my first 12 hours has brought some interesting (to me) firsts to add to my store of not-so-worldly knowledge.
  • Catching a plane on my own. Actually I didn't do this entirely on my own. Fortunately for me, my dad had to catch a flight this morning too, and his left about 20 minutes before mine did. And, our planes were right next to each other, so after he boarded, I walked 20 feet to my portal and waited until my turn to board. So basically, he drove me to the airport, guided me through the shuttle and security checkpoints, and showed me where to board. And then I joined up with two people that I work with. So most people wouldn't say that I traveled by myself. But for the record, I found my seat all by myself and I sat by a bunch of strangers. And I figured out where to get my bags. AND I didn't grab the guy next to me whenever the plane so much as wobbled. I'm quite proud of myself.
  • My own hotel room. While I didn't get the room with the bunkbeds, I am still pretty stoked that I have 2 tvs, 2 beds, and a couch all to myself. I am the boss of this room, and the fact that we're in a sort-of ghetto hotel doesn't really bother me too much.
  • FREEDOM!!! As long as I show up to work, I can pretty much plan my own schedule. (Granted, that only gives me a few hours of "freedom," but I don't have to be supervised all the time.) But, I pretty much just follow people around like a lost puppy because I don't want to get lost and it's no fun to hang out by myself anyway.
  • Eating out with alcohol drinkers. Yes, I've lived in a bubble my entire life, so it was really weird when people actually contemplated the alcoholic beverages for real and went through a couple of glasses.
  • Spending more than $25 on a dinner. The world of money is entirely foreign to me, so when I opened up my menu and saw that it would cost $45 for a steak meal, I almost had a heart attack. And that wasn't counting the drinks, appetizers, side dishes, or dessert. True, it wasn't MY money I was spending, but I felt so guilty nonetheless that I couldn't really enjoy my meal. And it took 3 hours to get through. Yep, I've definitely been living in a bubble my entire life.
  • Hanging out with people I don't have much in common with. Oh wait, this isn't really a first, but it's one thing that's stuck out to me. I can no longer assume that everyone is Mormon, that the people around me love books and music, etc. I guess what I'm trying to say is . . . I'm the oddball here. I'm one of the younglings, I've never done a trade show before, I haven't been anywhere, and I have very different interests than most everyone who came up with us. It's made for a very intruiging people-watching experience.
Yep--as you can see I am reaping up stores of worldly knowledge. My ascent into adulthood continues to roll forward.
I am going to exercise my "freedom" now by going to bed. In the bed of my choice.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The end of an era

I was upset when the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls last night, but so, apparently, was Jerry Sloan. I doubt his decision to resign had anything (well, at least not everything) to do with 10 losses in 14 games, but the timing still seemed odd to me.

It's a bit ironic to me that Jerry finally pulled the plug after losing to Chicago, of all teams. The team that many are calling "the Jazz of the East," the team that ripped Jazz fans' hearts out 2 years in a row while Michael Jordan was king, the team where Jerry got his start. Even though the NBA is completely different from what it was when he was an All-Star, Jerry essentially ended his NBA career where he began it.

As much as I hate to see him go, however, I will always have deep respect for Jerry Sloan.

I have been watching the Jazz play for as long as I can remember. When I was 10, I could name every player on the team, from Karl Malone all the way down to Adam Keefe. During the games my parents let me stay up to watch, I would often have a notebook beside me so that I could keep track of the Jazz players' points and rebounds and the opposing team's turnovers. It didn't matter that someone a lot smarter than me was keeping track of all the stats; I was invested in the game and I put my heart and soul into it.

After the Jazz lost the finals 2 years in a row, the magic started to dissipate. And then Stockton and Malone left, and I knew that things would never be the same again. However, it was comforting that Jerry Sloan was still there.

After the "dream team" of 1998 trickled into retirement, I slowly lost my interest in the Jazz. My heart was broken to see it all end the way it did without a ring, and I just couldn't bring myself to get into it all again. It wasn't until I had moved out that I really got into the game again. I started watching Jazz games at my apartment because it made me feel like I was at home. It wasn't the same as watching the games with my dad, but it helped abate the homesickness a bit.

By then, we had Deron Williams, a player many fans hoped would one day live up to John Stockton's legacy. I started to get cautiously optimistic again, and soon I was almost as excited about the Jazz as I was when I was 10 years old.

It isn't easy being a Jazz fan, though. Year after year, I see so much potential squandered by stupid decisions and lazy plays. We Jazz fans know that the Jazz have always had it in them to win a championship--the only thing stopping them is, well, themselves, and that is more frustrating than anything.

But still we hoped. Still we had faith in our players. We kept watching the games, cheering on our team. There's a reason why the Energy Solutions Arena is such a hard place for away teams to play in--the fans believe.

After today, though, I'm afraid the Jazz I grew up with is gone for good. I'm sure Tyrone Corbin will do a good job with the Jazz, but the original legends are all gone now. Stockton, Malone, Hornaceck, Hot Rod Hundley--I missed them all when they left, and no one was able to replace them. The only people left now who even played during the glory days are Andrei Kirilenko, who passed his height a long time ago, and Matt Harpring, who entertains us from the sidelines now rather than the field.

But as each person left, Jerry Sloan was always there, and that meant good, fundamental Jazz basketball was still there. Players were still expected to tuck their jerseys in during practice, and cameramen never dared spy on conversations Jerry had with his team. Jerry was old-school, and the Utah community greatly appreciated that. Without Jerry, and his faithful partner Phil, Jazz basketball will become something else. I have never known a the Jazz without Sloan--for me, the two are one and the same.

It's going to be so strange not seeing Jerry catch flies while he watches his team play. I have always wanted him to show a little bit emotion beyond that clueless look that is permanently stuck on his face, and I secretly hoped that winning a championship would put a real smile on his face. Instead, I'm just going to have to live with the teary-eyed expression he had on his face when he informed the press that it was time for him to move on.

I'll probably always have a Jazz team to root for, but I am going to miss Jerry Sloan. He may not have ever gotten a championship ring, but he was the 3rd winningest coach in NBA history. Jazz fans have always been a bit spoiled because the team has won consistently. I still believe that they'll win the championship some day; I'm just sad that Jerry won't be there to witness it. At least not with the Jazz bench.

And who knows--maybe the Jazz won't change drastically. Jerry Sloan basketball is so incorporated throughout the state that it will be hard to snuff out. Or maybe, change will be good.

In short (too late), I don't know what will happen to the Jazz, but I do know this: the Sloan era may be over, but his legacy will live on.

Thank you, Jerry, for giving us something to cheer about for so many years.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mystery + Intensity + Power + Discovery = Music

I just finished watching August Rush with my family; that movie always leaves me feeling inspired. So I thought I would forgo the whole going to bed thing so that I could jot down some of my thoughts. (Besides, there's no falling asleep once my brain hits thinking mode.)

I remember walking out of the dollar theater after seeing August Rush for the first time. We were all unusually quiet; the only people unaffected by the . . . intensity . . . of the movie were Jeremy and Tyrel, neither of whom seemed to think the movie was worth the 50 cents it cost to see it.

The rest of us, however, were having a hard time putting our feelings and thoughts into words.

I've always thought that it must be incredibly intimidating to write the score for a movie about music; for example, The Phantom of the Opera just wouldn't work if the music was simply ordinary--movies like that need music that is truly extraordinary. It is the most crucial element of the story, and without it, the story would fall flat.

The music in August Rush didn't seem extraordinary to me, at least not at first. It didn't have the excitement of John Williams' music or the sing-along-ableness of Alank Menken. It was simply . . . cool, but also a little bit weird. I didn't quite know what to make of it.

Don't get me wrong--I loved the rock/Bach combinations and the way Evan was able to pull music out of the sounds of the streets. And the music certainly was hauntingly beautiful. But still, it left me feeling a little bit unsettled (in a good way), and I couldn't quite put my finger on why.

But today I realized something about the music of this powerful movie. Music, to put it simply, is a mystery; no one can explain why it affects us the way it does, or why it can say things that words can't. The music of August Rush captures that mystery perfectly. It may seem different, even eerie, at times, but within the notes and chord lies a mystery waiting to be discovered.

Kimberly and I have been asked to speak in sacrament meeting in a few weeks, and can you guess what our topic is? Yep--music. We are pretty much the music council of our ward, so it'll surprise no one when we get up there and say, "Today, we were asked to speak about music . . ." However, I've been having a hard time pulling a talk together (the fact that I still have 2 weeks to write it has nothing to do with that . . .). I am more passionate about music than I am about almost anything else, but dedicating 15 or so minutes of sacrament meeting time to what I have to say about music seems like an impossible task. Because music is everywhere--I might as well give a talk about air or something--and it's impossible to know even where to begin or what to focus my time on. As Evan tells everyone who will listen (and even those who don't), the music is all around us, and it does speak to us. It is hard to explain that to someone who doesn't understand the incredible power that music is. Words cannot describe what music is. That is why I haven't tried to blog about music before.

But in August Rush, the producers get a step closer to showing what music really is, and I don't think I've ever seen anyone make it to that step before. Evan has a special gift. That gift wasn't his ability to pick up an instrument and master it in one day, as remarkable as that is. His gift was his ability to capture the mystery, the vast everywhere-ness, of music in his playing and writing. In the rhapsody at the end of the movie, we hear all sorts of sounds that you wouldn't think would go together, but that combine to showcase the unique power that music is. In essense, he captures music in his music, and what better way to describe music than through music itself?

And let me just add a quick word on the sheer brilliance of this movie. All of the characters feel the pull of Evan's music, and in the end it brings them all together. A lot of people complained that the ending was disappointing, but I don't see how it could have been better. As much as I would have loved to see Lyla and Louis (sp?) kiss and see Evan jump off the stage into his parents' arms, the intensity of the moment would have been ruined by such a wonderfully cheesy display of emotion. Instead, we see Evan's face light up with childlike faith and wonder while the parents look on with eyes full of understanding--and the intensity of the moment, capped off by the last few notes of the rhapsody--leaves you almost stunned into silence.

And that's the kind of emotion that makes a good movie.

Music is all around us--it's in the air coming through my rusty vent, in the sound of my fingernails clicking against my keyboard, in the banging of Shannan's nightly dancing (right above me, might I add). As Evan says, all we have to do is listen, and the music will speak to us.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The blech month

Despite the exciting new changes that January brought, I was quite looking forward to the month being over.

With winter dragging on, the smog and clouds refusing to go away, and no new changes in the near future, it is no wonder that January 20ish is heralded as the most depressing day of the year. At this point, we've already failed at all of our New Year's resolutions, the next real holiday isn't until May (that is, if you consider Memorial Day a real holiday), and the cold, dreary atmosphere drains all energy.

However, while I may have been excited for January to come to a close, I most definitely wasn't excited for February to come. February is quite a bit worse than January. It comes with the 3rd term/Winter semester horribleness, and we still have all of the same January problems, only now we have to throw in gross candy and nauseatingly pink-and-red store aisles. People have a bad habit of dying in February, and Valentine's Day is one of the most pointless holidays ever created.

Now I know someone out there is thinking to themselves that my February bitterness stems from not ever having a boy for Valentine's Day. Let me make something clear: MY FEBRUARY ANTAGONISM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BOYS. My feelings about Valentine's Day are very similar to my feelings about Halloween--it's a pointless holiday that should only be celebrated by children. Valentine's Day is outrageously overrated; I've come across too many miserable females and frantic males for this day to ever make sense for me. My philosphy is that if you want to go through some elaborate scheme to show someone that you love them, don't jump on the Valentine's bandwagon to do so. Do it on your anniversary, or, even better, when your significant other isn't expecting it.

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.

So I guess I should issue a warning: my blog entries for the next month will probably be sarcastically pessimistic. Despite the fact that the month is only 28 days long (usually), it drags on for eternities in my mind and nothing good comes from it.

Only 27 days till March . . .