Friday, October 31, 2008

#31: Halloween

It's late in the afternoon. I am twelve. School got out a while ago, and for the last couple of hours, we have been performing a strange annual ritual, for the mother of my best friend, Aaron. She grew up in Virginia, with it's woods, and it's beautiful Autumn leaves. We live in a relatively new subdivision, in Sandy, Utah. Even after almost a decade, there really aren't many trees, to speak of -- and there are no trees in Aaron's yard. So each Autumn, his mom sends us around the neighborhood, with rakes and garbage bags. We rake, and bag leaves, throughout the area, and bring them back, and dump them on Aaron's front lawn - so his mom can have a pile of leaves to play in.

We had the parade and the parties today. Before we left school, we watched The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It would not be Halloween, without Ichabod Crane and Brahm Bones. I wonder if Brahm was really the Headless Horseman? The walk home from school is about a mile. We live at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The foothills are carpeted, in scarlet and rust. The golden light, of the late Autumn afternoon, lights the aspens in the front yard a brilliant lemon. This is my favorite time of Halloween. The wait is almost over. It's like Christmas Eve. The anticipation of what's coming is almost always greater than the payoff. 

I sit in the front room, and watch the sky. In the east, it is becoming cobalt, in the west it is on fire. I'm getting anxious. It's not the candy, really. I'm not opposed to candy, mind you, but I never eat all the candy I get (and we get a lot!). It's the adventure. It's going out without parents (I honestly don't remember parents ever coming with us -- I'm sure I'm wrong). Aaron, and I are ninjas this year. This will be our last year to trick-or-treat. We know this, and we're okay with it. Tonight, it's not about the candy, it's about Brandi Holbrook. The most beautiful girl in the sixth grade. We intend to follow her, in a ninja like manner, for the whole evening. We may pick up a pillow case or two full of candy along the way, but that's just a bonus. This is how boys express their undying love -- by doing the creepiest things that they can think of -- like stalking.

I'm sitting in the living room, pondering all of this, watching the sun slide into the Oquirrh Mountains. I throw on my Legend of Sleepy Hollow record on the turn table, and spend the last half hour with the superstitious folks of Tarry Town.

Our neighborhood is the ideal Trick-or-Treating neighborhood. It is stocked full of kids (literally, hundreds my age, or close to it) and hundreds of houses, lining many long, straight, streets.
The sky is dark, dark blue now. It's almost time. 

I've got my ninja costume on. 

I've got a good, deep, pillow case, (which this year, will only get about half full, when we give up on the candy, in order to concentrate on the twelve year old, girl of our dreams).
I'm waiting for the first knock on the front door. 
That is the signal.

There it is.

And that, my friends, is 31 posts in 31 days.

Have a wonderful Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Photostory Friday: Ritual Sacrifice

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Our American Halloween has come down to us, as an amalgamation of many ancient traditions, and mystic beliefs. Some of those beliefs are more benign, such as trick-or-treating -- a gift from the British celebration of Guy Fawkes Day (a celebration of the overthrow of Oliver Cromwell). Other traditions are more vulgar and disturbing -- like ritual sacrifice.
Autumn is a time of harvest and gathering. It is a time of thanksgiving, for the bounty of the previous year. That thanksgiving was often honored with the killing of the firstlings of the flock, or offering the finest produce of the harvest. At our house, we may not always do it in the spirit of thanksgiving, but we do offer up a ritual sacrifice, right around October 29, every year. 

At our house, we are vulgar and disturbing. 

Here, for the first time, with unprecedented access, is the account of this bizarre and troubling rite:

To be chosen as the victim of sacrifice is a great honor.

Selection is a very long process.


Death is swift. And Brutal.

The cranium of the victim is opened and the innards are removed. The victim has no brain. This ritual must be performed with the most serious of visages.


It is vitally important that you smear said innards all over your jeans and new white shirt, that you just got for the family picture. Over and over and over again. Vitally Important!

The entrails are saved, and later, fortunes are told. I see a new white shirt in your future.

The final aspects of the sacrifice are somewhat bizarre: Hugging the corpse.

Chanting, with the scalp of the victim on your head.

The sacrifice is beautiful, in its gruesome glory. And if done right, in the end, everyone is smiling.

Even the victim.

No children were harmed in the making of this Photostory. The picture of the child with the butcher knife was staged. There were emergency personnel on hand, at all times.

What kind of a father do you think I am?


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

31 Posts in 31 Days: Day 28

On October 1st, I thought it seemed like a great idea to honor the best month of the year, with a post every single day. How hard could it be? It's really not hard -- if you want everyone to stop reading your blog. 

So, here I sit, looking at this screen, I've got the Halloween playlist playing on iTunes (right now it's Michael Jackson's Thriller -- I swear I don't know how that got on there) and I'm thinking about all of the things I'd like to tell you. But I can't. 

You see, I want to tell you about the pumpkins we carved tonight, I want to show you the pictures of my knife wielding five year old daughter. But I can't. That's tomorrow.

You know, Michael Jackson used to be kind of cool. Kind of. I didn't just start "Thriller" over. I swear.

I want to tell you about my favorite Halloween, but that's coming on Friday.

Vincent Price can rap pretty good, for a really old (well, dead now) white guy. Of course I don't listen to rap, so I might not be a reliable witness.

I want to tell you about the weird thing that my best friend's mom used to make us do in the fall, but you'll just have to wait. 

The "Thriller" video was fifteen minutes long, and was directed by John Landis -- the guy who directed "An American Werewolf in London." I know this because I had the extended video, with a "making of" segment. I don't still wish I had this. I swear.

I really want to tell you about my Indiana Jones outfit -- it's more than a costume really. But I should take some pictures, to try and do it justice.

So this post ended up being about all the things I can't tell you. Sorry.

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of 40,000 years...
And grizzly ghouls, from every tomb
Are closing in, to seal your doom!

And though you fight, to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver...
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of...THE THRILLER!!!!

You're heading to the iTunes store right now, aren't you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why do you like Halloween?

I love Halloween. I always have. It's the second biggest holiday of the year, and gaining rapidly on Christmas. But, the last couple of days, I've been trying to figure out what it is that I love so much about the 31st of October.
For kids, the answer seems obvious -- it's the trick-or-treating. And yet, when I really think about it, even when I was a kid, the candy was secondary. I never finished the candy that I got. Besides, we would, periodically, go through one of those hysterical periods, where everyone was afraid of razor blades ending up in the candy -- they would x-ray your bag at school -- so you would end up with a bag half full of tooth brushes, and coupons. I always thought the hysteria was a little over the top. Not only was the "razors in the candy" just an urban legend, but who was dumb enough to keep on eating, once you hit the blade? We were kids, but give us a little credit. So, anyway, it's not the candy.

Dressing up? We all love to dress up. It's fun to be someone else, for a while. But, I don't even do this much, these days. But, I do enjoy the challenge of putting together costumes for my kids, without making them look cheesy. The hardest costume we have had to create, was for my oldest, then 5 year old, daughter, who, after looking around the living room for a good ten seconds, announced that she would be a lamp for Halloween, that year. Yes, that says lamp.

As an aside here, I need to vent. We were ripped off, as kids, when it came to Halloween costumes. Take Superheroes, for example. When I was a kid, a Spiderman costume would have consisted of a stupid plastic mask, that you couldn't see out of, and that the elastic would break off of, before the end of the school Halloween parade, and some kind of cheesy, plastic shirt that said "Spiderman" on it, and may have even had a PICTURE of Spiderman on it. That's not a Spiderman costume, it's a Spiderman billboard! Today the kids look like Spidey, and even have web slingers, that shoot silly string. What a gyp!


Anyway, here's why I think we like Halloween: It's the culmination of Autumn. Fall, of course, lasts, technically, right up until Christmas. But when we think of Autumn, we think of the colors and the leaves, and the cool, but not yet cold weather. By Halloween, most years, it's a good bet that the weather will still be relatively mild, and there's still a lot of the aspects of what we consider a beautiful Autumn around. And mostly, I think we are drawn to Halloween, because it's a community holiday -- even more than Christmas. We gather for parties, and festivals throughout the weeks preceding the 31st, and then on Halloween we literally go out and visit the entire neighborhood. When else in the year are we more closely knit, as neighbors, and friends, than at Halloween? At least that's how it is here.

Well, there's my two cents worth, I'd be curious to hear why you like Halloween?

One more thing.
Have you ever taken a picture that seemed like a mistake at first, but, the more you looked at it... 

I took this shot this afternoon. At first it was just a blurry picture of my girls, and I passed it by, but for some reason I didn't delete it, and I kept coming back. There's something about it that attracts me, and I'm not sure what it is. I'm dangerously close to framing it, and hanging it on the wall.
Am I nuts?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The State of My Mind at 10:33pm...

Random thoughts from a blogaholic:

70 degrees, on October 27. It doesn't get much nicer than that.

I want to address something I wrote Friday (okay, Thursday night). I wrote that photographers capture life's moments, and picture takers simply document existence. I stand by that statement, but I worry that I was unclear about what I was saying. I wasn't trying to define what is, or is not, a good photograph. Unless you are submitting your photograph to specifically be judged against other photographs, by judges with a certain criteria in mind, no one has any business telling you what is, or is not, a good picture. Photography is art, short for articulation.
 It is a mode of self expression. So, you say whatever it is you need to say, in whatever manner you feel is best. 
I believe this: If you like it, it's a good picture. The point I was making, was all about attitude, and frame of mind. Did you take that picture to prove that the event happened, or did you take it, to remember how you felt, when it happened? Frankly, I think a person with a camera can do, and usually does, both.

If your number one topic of conversation is yourself, you might do well to shut your yap. While my wife and I were at Chili's for lunch today, we watched some guy try to pick up the hostess -- who obviously was not interested. But, he was clueless. Apparently, he had tried hitting on this particular woman before. She didn't remember him, but he assured her that he had been to the restaurant before, and she had given him a wrong phone number. He was sure she must have just written it down wrong. Uh huh. She was very nice, but he was so busy telling her about how he loves to watch football, that he didn't grasp that 1. She was still trying to work, and 2. She had practically walked him out the door. He stayed and talked to her, the entire time we were there. Some days it's embarrassing to be a male.

 Yes we were eavesdropping, but the guy talked loud. Besides, we're not talking about me.

Braiding a bullwhip out of boondoggle, for your son's Indiana Jones costume, is harder than you might think. My fingers are killing me. Boondoggle is also known as gimp, for those of you, unfamiliar with the ways of the Boy Scouts.

Finally, I need to get this off my chest. I try to avoid politics, here on the blog (I try to avoid it pretty much everywhere else too). So, I'll just say this once: Vote. It is the greatest muscle a free people possess. And understand this, about living in a constitutional, democratic, republic (did I cover all of them?) -- it is messy. The founders, that we adore, understood this. They did  not design a nation where one side always wins, and the other always loses. They did not envision a peaceful political process. That will never happen. What they have given us, is a system where differing views can be heard, a system where we don't kill each other, every time there is a change of power.

Having said that, after the election next week, we will have a new President of the United States. He may, or may not, be your guy. Your guy will not win every time. But, wouldn't it be nice, if we could remember that he will not be the president of a party, he will be the President of the United States. 

That's all of us.

I'll try to get some good Halloween stuff up tomorrow. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What we saw at the Farmington Pond...

The weather has been so beautiful around here lately, that we've begun taking quiet little excursions, on Sunday afternoons, to the local scenic wonders. 
In the almost eight years that we have lived in Farmington, we have never visited the Farmington Pond. 

Until today.
 Here's what we saw today:

Oak their final death throes

A gorgeous blonde...

Lots of gulls (this shot taken by the gorgeous blonde)

Geese, in attack formation. They had just seen the old couple, with the bread crumbs. They were swift and deadly.

When I looked into the pond...this guy was looking back at me

This was the Alpha Goose -- all the other geese feared him. So did I.

A reflective goose. It's not really the goose that's reflective, it's the water. I was just saying that.

I'm not sure who this poor soul was, but I'm pretty sure the geese got him.

These two pictures remind me of a Neil Diamond album.

I was trying to get a shot of the foliage, and she walked through. Jerk.

And, for good measure:
Here's the tie I wore to church today.

Ciao, Ya'll.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

100 things you're going to wish I'd kept to myself...

So, I did it. I survived to the century mark. And, being the creative and original soul that I am, I've decided to share, with you all, 100 of the most interesting things about myself that I can think of. 
Because I know you're dying to know.
If we both survive this, I'll see you at the bottom...

1. I lack self confidence.
2. I'm a pessimistic optimist.

3. I really identify with Charlie Brown. And Kermit the Frog. And the Scarecrow, from the Wizard of Oz.
4. I've been 36 since my last birthday.
5. My thirties are going much faster than my twenties -- which went pretty fast.
6. I have been married for 14 years.
7. My wife is the love of my life.
8. We met on a pile of laundry.
9. I married up.
10.  I once fell asleep while my wife (then girlfriend) was kissing me. 
11. I will never live that down.
12. Ever.
13. My wife is NOT a boring kisser. 
14. As a newborn, I had a cyst in my chest that kept filling with fluid, and collapsing my lungs -- the doctors couldn't do anything.
15. I nearly died. 
16. I was blessed by my Grandfather, and the cyst vanished.
17. The doctors could not explain it medically. 
18. I honestly believe that my life was saved by a miracle.
19. I feel that, for much of my life, I have not lived up to that miracle.
20. I have known my best friend, Aaron, for about 33 years.
21. I have a three inch scar on my right arm, inflicted by Aaron, in the third grade.
22. Okay, it wasn't ALL his fault. 
23. I love to read.
24. I am LDS.
25. I served a two year mission to Indianapolis.
26. I lived in the inner city of Indianapolis for about a year.
27. We (missionaries) were often mistaken for the police, and people would try to run us over. I don't really understand that.
28. I taught myself to play the piano by ear. I've played for about twelve years.
29. I've been trying to play the guitar for about twenty years. 
30. It doesn't come as easily, but we're getting there.
31. I really want to play the fiddle.
32. And the banjo.
33. I once worked for Taco Bell.
34. It was torn down.
35. I once bagged groceries.
36. They went out of business.
37. I once won first place in a photo contest for a magazine.
38. The magazine went under, the next month.

39. I leave a path of destruction in my wake.
40. When I just wrote #38, I was going to say that the magazine folded - but that seemed cheesy.
41. When I was young I wanted to be a fireman.
42. And a policeman.
43. And an astronaut.
44. And an archaeologist.
45. I am none of those things.
46. Now that I'm "grown up," I want to be a writer.
47. And a photographer.
48. And play a little music on the side.
49. I do all of those things.
50. Nobody pays me to do them.
51. I love cherry pie filling. I like it in pies and on cheesecake, but honestly, I could just eat it right out of the can.

52. And, I do.
53. I have an eleven year old daughter named Jordan. 
54. I named her Jordan, two years before she was born.
55. I've been serious about photography for eleven years. It's not a coincidence.
56. I have a nine year old son named Matthew. The girls like him.
57. I have a five year old daughter named Emma June. 
58. I think she is the smartest five year old on the whole planet.
59. I have two brothers. 
60. My older brother was hit and killed by a car when he was seven. He was being chased by some older boys.
61. I sometimes think about those older boys, and wonder how terrible it must be for them to have lived with that knowledge for the last 33 years. I feel bad for them.
62. I LOVE college football.

63. My younger brother and I root for rival college football teams. BYU is my team, he cheers for the University of Utah.
64. Because he has a sick, sick brain. I pity him. 
65. BYU was annihilated by TCU last week.
66. I don't dare call my brother yet.
67. I love life.
68. I love beauty, wherever it is.
69. God has given me a few talents, with which to capture that beauty.
70. I would rather make people happy, than make money.
71. And, I'm not just saying that.
72. Not that I have anything against money.
73. People tell me everything, they always have.
74. I hope that means I'm a good listener.
75. I think about this blog A LOT.
76. Writing 31 posts in 31 days has been a fun writing exercise. And I've only had writer's block for about twenty one of those days so far.
77. I think I have a couple of books in me. To write, I mean.
78. I once had a root canal without novocaine.

79. It's the most pain I have ever been in.
80. I realize that I have never given birth.
81. I am not a self starter. I need a push.
82. My toes are crooked.
83. I sleep with socks on.
84. And slippers.
85. I stopped drinking Coke, when they stopped putting it in glass bottles.
86. Now that they are putting it in glass bottles again, I can't stand the taste.
87. When I was twenty, I started parting my hair on the other side of my head.
88. I can be eccentric. 
89. I prefer "eclectic."
90. I had a mullet in High School.
91. I am fiercely, unalterably, politically independent.
92. I was once told that I was naturally average at everything. 
93. It was supposed to be a compliment. 
94. I love where I live.
95. I'm going to be Indiana Jones for Halloween.

95. I have the Hat and the Whip.
96. I think my bullwhip scares the neighbors.
97. If you turned my ipod on, right now, you would hear: The Monster Mash.
98. I LOVE Halloween!
99. I wasn't sure that there were 100 interesting things to write about myself.
100. I'm still not sure.

So there you have it. Thanks for coming along for the ride, for the last 100 posts. I have been very grateful for the people that I have met -- your lives and your words are an inspiration to me.

Oh, and to my loyal followers, I'm not sure why all of your profile pictures have gone blank. I didn't do it, I swear!
Never mind. They're back.

Friday, October 24, 2008

As (not) sung by Bob Dylan

I have always been a big fan of singer/songwriters. I believe that the writer of the song, has invested some of his (or her) own personality (spirit, essence, character...pick your term) into that song. It's a part of the writer -- like anything else. 
Therefore, the songwriter sings that song, the way it was intended to be sung. 

With one BIG exception: Bob Dylan.

Don't get me wrong here, I think Bob Dylan is a fantastic song writer. I was not raised listening to Dylan's music, and maybe that's part of it. But, I listen to the lyrics of a song. The music, as important as it is, is secondary to me. And, over the years, it's gotten to the point that when I hear a song with stunningly beautiful lyrics, I am no longer surprised to find that Dylan is the author. In fact, I was introduced to his words, long before I ever heard him sing.
Or whatever it is that he does. What is that, anyway? It sounds like he holds his nose and talks.
I get that he is a folk singer, and that they have a little different sound. I listen to folk music. I am not averse to a singer, with a non traditional voice. In fact, most of the singers that I listen to, have voices that take some getting used to. But Bob Dylan can't sing. I realize that I could be burned at the stake for that statement -- but I must speak truth, where truth must be spoken.
A quick scan through my iTunes music folder turned up eight Bob Dylan songs, all sung by people other than Dylan, himself. If I took the time, I'm sure the list would be much more comprehensive. 

Here's my top five songs, not sung by Bob Dylan:

1. Girl from the North Country: Sam Payne with Peter Breinholt
    This is a beautiful love song, and Sam Payne stays close to the feel of the Dylan original, which is usually, but not always, important.

2. Forever Young: The Pretenders
    I first heard this song, during the end credits of the movie "With Honors." It choked me up, and I didn't even have kids yet. 

3. To Make You Feel My Love: Garth Brooks
    From the soundtrack to the movie "Hope Floats." I'm hot and cold with country music, but when Garth Brooks is on, he is really good.

4. Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Guns 'n' Roses
    This is a spectacularly rockin' version of this song, and it sounds great LOUD! There is one addendum: in the middle of the song they do some lame gun sound effects, and some, freakish, ranting phone call. It's bizarre, but Guns 'n' Roses was spiraling out of control at this point.

5. All Along the Watchtower: U2
    This is a live version, from the Rattle and Hum album. In truth, really it's U2 doing their take on the Jimi Hendrix version of the song (probably the most famous version).
Honorable mentions (from my iTunes files): 

Mr. Bo Jangles: John Denver

The times, they are a changin' and Blowin' in the Wind: Peter, Paul and Mary.

Check out any or all of these. You won't be disappointed. 
In fact, go to the iTunes store, look up Bob Dylan, write down some of the titles, and then run in the opposite direction. 

To anyone but Bob Dylan. 

There, I feel better.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Photostory Friday: Chasing the Moment

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Many years ago, I coined the phrase "A minute lasts for sixty seconds, but a moment is eternal." 
I thought I was so clever and insightful. I wondered how it happened, that no one had ever thought of it before. 

Of course, that phrase -- that idea -- is no more original to me, than it is to anyone else. Or, maybe, it's original to all of us. It's like the invention of the wheel -- no one person can claim to have been the first. The rise of the wheel was, more or less, simultaneous all over the world. I think it's the same with this idea of moments. Many people -- maybe those with a romantic streak, more often -- have this epiphany.
   I believe that the difference between a photographer, and a picture taker is that one seeks, and captures, life's moments, and the other simply documents existence. I believe that many people blog, for the same reason. I think that's what Photostory Friday is -- to me, anyway.

A chance to talk about the moments I've seen, through the lens of my camera:

The family reunion, when two of my littlest nieces, decided that I was a pretty cool guy.

The day  that my son played so hard, on that muddy soccer field.

That day I saw awareness in the eyes of my small nephew.

Our favorite vacation, so far, when we saw an 8,000 pound whale, fly through the air.

The beginning of a new life.

That day, on that road, between the storms, when the whole mountain was lit, with scarlet and gold.

The time I thought I was taking a clever picture, and Emma decided to take matters into her own hands.

These don't even scratch the surface.